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Bearing their birthrights proudly on their backs",
To make a hazard of new fortunes here.
In brief, a braver choice of dauntless spirits,
Than now the English bottoms have waft o'er1,
Did never float upon the swelling tide,
To do offence and scath 2 in Christendom.
The interruption of their churlish drums

[Drums beat. Cuts off more circumstance: they are at hand, To parley, or to fight; therefore, prepare. K. PHI. How much unlook'd for is this expedition!

AUST. By how much unexpected, by so much We must awake endeavour for defence; For courage mounteth with occasion: Let them be welcome then, we are prepar❜d.

Enter King JOHN, ELINOR, BLANCH, the Bastard, PEMBROKE, and Forces.

K. JOHN. Peace be to France; if France in peace permit

Our just and lineal entrance to our own!

If not; bleed France, and peace ascend to heaven!
Whiles we, God's wrathful agent, do correct
Their proud contempt that beat his peace to

9 Bearing their birthrights, &c.] So, in King Henry VIII. :


O, many

"Have broke their backs with laying manors on them."


I Than now the English bottoms have WAFT o'er.] Waft, for wafted. So again in this play :

"The iron of itself, though heat red hot-." i. e. heated. STEEVENS.

2-scath] Destruction, harm. JOHNSON.

So, in How to Chuse a Good Wife from a Bad, 1602 : "For these accounts, 'faith it shall scath thee something." Again :

"And it shall scath him somewhat of my purse."

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K. PHI. Peace be to England; if that war return From France to England, there to live in peace! England we love; and, for that England's sake, With burden of our armour here we sweat: This toil of ours should be a work of thine; But thou from loving England art so far, That thou hast under-wrought 3 his lawful king, Cut off the sequence of posterity, Outfaced infant state, and done a rape Upon the maiden virtue of the crown. Look here upon thy brother Geffrey's face ;These eyes, these brows, were moulded out of his: This little abstract doth contain that large,


Which died in Geffrey; and the hand of time
Shall draw this brief into as huge a volume.
That Geffrey was thy elder brother born,
And this his son; England was Geffrey's right,
And this is Geffrey's: In the name of God,
How comes it then, that thou art call'd a king,
When living blood doth in these temples beat,
Which owe the crown that thou o'ermasterest?

K. JOHN. From whom hast thou this great commission, France,

To draw my answer from thy articles"?

3-under-wrought-] i. e. underworked, undermined.


4this BRIEF-] A brief is a short writing, abstract, or description. STEEvens.

So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream :

"Here is a brief how many sports are ripe." MALONE. 5 England was Geffrey's right,

And THIS is Geffrey's:] I have no doubt but we should read"And his is Geffrey's." The meaning is, "England was Geffrey's right, and whatever was Geffrey's, is now his," pointing to Arthur. M. MASON. 6 To draw my answer FROM thy articles ?] I think we should read :

"To draw my answer to thy articles ?"
From seems to have been caught from the preceding_line.


K. PHI. From that supernal judge, that stirs good thoughts

In any breast of strong authority,
To look into the blots and stains of right".
That judge hath made me guardian to this boy :
Under whose warrant, I impeach thy wrong;
And, by whose help, I mean to chastise it.

K. JOHN. Alack, thou dost usurp authority.
K. PHI. Excuse; it is to beat usurping down.
ELI. Who is it, thou dost call usurper, France ?
CONST. Let me make answer;-thy usurping


ELI. Out, insolent! thy bastard shall be king; That thou may'st be a queen, and check the world!

7 To look into the BLOTS and stains of right.] Mr. Theobald reads, with the first folio, blots, which being so early authorized, and so much better understood, needed not to have been changed by Dr. Warburton to bolts, though bolts might be used in that time for spots so Shakspeare calls Banquo "spotted with blood, the blood-bolter'd Banquo." The verb to bolt is used figuratively for to disgrace, a few lines lower. And, perhaps, after all, bolts was only a typographical mistake. JOHNSON.

Blots is certainly right. The illegitimate branch of a family always carried the arms of it with what, in ancient heraldry, was called a blot or difference. So, in Drayton's Epistle from Queen Isabel to King Richard II. :

"No bastard's mark doth blot his conquering shield."

Blots and stains occur again together in the first scene of the third Act. STEEVENS.

Blot had certainly the heraldical sense mentioned by Mr. SteeBut it here, I think, means only blemishes. So again, in Act III. Sc. I. :


"Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains."


8 That thou may'st be a queen, and check the world!] "Surely (says Holinshed) Queen Eleanor, the kyngs mother, was sore against her nephew Arthur, rather moved thereto by envye conceyved against his mother, than upon any just occasion, given in the behalfe of the childe; for that she saw, if he were king, how his mother Constance would looke to beare the most rule within the realme of Englande, till her sonne should come to a lawfull age

CONST. My bed was ever to thy son as true,
As thine was to thy husband: and this boy
Liker in feature to his father Geffrey,
Than thou and John in manners; being as like,
As rain to water, or devil to his dam.

My boy a bastard! By my soul, I think,

His father never was so true begot;

It cannot be, an if thou wert his mother 8

ELI. There's a good mother, boy, that blots thy father.

CONST. There's a good grandam, boy, that would
blot thee.

AUST. Peace!

Hear the crier 9.


What the devil art thou? BAST. One that will play the devil, sir, with you, An 'a may catch your hide and you alone 1.

to governe of himselfe. So hard a thing it is, to bring women to agree in one minde, their natures commonly being so contrary." MALONE.


an if THOU wert his mother;] Constance alludes to Elinor's infidelity to her husband, Lewis the Seventh, when they were in the Holy Land; on account of which he was divorced from her. She afterwards (1151) married our King Henry II. MALONE

9 Hear the CRIER.] Alluding to the usual proclamation for silence, made by criers in courts of justice, beginning Oyez, corruptly pronounced O-Yes. Austria has just said Peace!


1 One that will play the devil, sir, with you,

An 'a may catch your HIDE and you alone.] The ground of the quarrel of the Bastard to Austria is no where specified in the present play. But the story is, that Austria, who killed King Richard Coeur-de-lion, wore, as the spoil of that prince, a lion's hide, which had belonged to him. This circumstance renders the anger of the Bastard very natural, and ought not to have been omitted. POPE.

See p. 220, n. 7, and p. 221, n. 8. MALONE.

The omission of this incident was natural. Shakspeare having familiarised the story to his own imagination, forgot that it was obscure to his audience; or, what is equally probable, the story was then so popular, that a hint was sufficient, at that time, to bring it

You are the hare 2 of whom the proverb goes, Whose valour plucks dead lions by the beard; I'll smoke your skin-coat, an I catch you right; Sirrah, look to't; i' faith, I will, i̇' faith.

BLANCH. O, well did he become that lion's robe, That did disrobe the lion of that robe!

BAST. It lies as sightly on the back of him, As great Alcides' shoes upon an ass 3:

to mind; and these plays were written with very little care for the approbation of posterity. JOHNSON.

2 You are the HARE] So, in The Spanish Tragedy : "He hunted well that was a lion's death;

"Not he that in a garment wore his skin: "So hares may pull dead lions by the beard." See p. 198, n. 3. STEEVENS.

The proverb alluded to is, "Mortuo leoni et lepores insultant." Erasmi Adag. MALONE.

3 It lies as sightly on the back of him,

As great Alcides' SHOES upon an ass :] But why his shoes, in the name of propriety? For let Hercules and his shoes have been really as big as they were ever supposed to be, yet they (I mean the shoes) would not have been an overload for an ass. I am persuaded I have retrieved the true reading [shows]; and let us observe the justness of the comparison now. Faulconbridge, in his resentment, would say this to Austria: "That lion's skin, which my great father King Richard once wore, looks as uncouthly on thy back, as that other noble hide, which was borne by Hercules, would look on the back of an ass." A double allusion was intended; first, to the fable of the ass in the lion's skin; then Richard I. is finely set in competition with Alcides, as Austria is satirically coupled with the ass. THEOBALD.

This endeavour to make our author's similes exactly correspond on both sides, is, as has been more than once observed, the source of many errors. MALONE.


The shoes of Hercules are more than once introduced in the old comedies, on much the same occasions. So, in The Isle of Gulls, by J. Day, 1606: are as fit, as Hercules's shoe for the foot of a pigmy." Again, in Greene's Epistle Dedicatory to Perimedes the Blacksmith, 1588: “ and so, lest I should shape Hercules' shoe for a child's foot, I commend your worship to the Almighty." Again, in Greene's Penelope's Web, 1601: "I will not make a long harvest for a small crop, nor go about to pull a Hercules' shoe on Achilles foot." Again, ibid. : "Hercules' shoe will never serve a child's foot." Again, in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse,

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