List iconKing John:
Act 4, scene 1
List icon

King John
Act 4, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

The events in King John take place in the thirteenth century, well before Shakespeare’s other English history plays. After the death of…

Act 1, scene 1

John, King of England, is told by a messenger from the King of France that the territories held by John…

Act 2, scene 1

King Philip of France and the Duke of Austria, on behalf of Arthur, begin to lay siege to the city…

Act 3, scene 1

The league between John and Philip is attacked first by Constance, who accuses Philip of treacherously betraying Arthur’s cause, and…

Act 3, scene 2

The Bastard, having killed the Duke of Austria, reports that he has rescued Queen Eleanor. Arthur, captured by John, is…

Act 3, scene 3

John prepares to leave for England with his forces. He tells Hubert that Arthur must die. Hubert promises to kill…

Act 3, scene 4

John’s victories and his capture of Arthur lead the French to despair and Constance to wild grief. Pandulph, predicting Arthur’s…

Act 4, scene 1

Hubert prepares to put out Arthur’s eyes with hot irons. Arthur begs him to show mercy. Hubert plans to tell…

Act 4, scene 2

The nobles express their disapproval of John’s second coronation and urge that he set Arthur free. When Hubert brings word…

Act 4, scene 3

Arthur dies as he attempts to leap from the prison wall. The Bastard reaches the nobles, on their way to…

Act 5, scene 1

King John submits his royal power to the Pope in exchange for Pandulph’s intercession against the French forces. The Bastard…

Act 5, scene 2

The rebellious English nobles swear to support the Dauphin in his attack on England. Pandulph tells the Dauphin to take…

Act 5, scene 3

King John, sick with a fever, is instructed by the Bastard to leave the battle. John receives the good news…

Act 5, scene 4

While the English army continues to fight successfully under the Bastard, the rebel English nobles learn from the wounded French…

Act 5, scene 5

The Dauphin rejoices that his forces have almost defeated the English. He then learns that Count Melun has died, that…

Act 5, scene 6

Hubert brings news to the Bastard that King John has been poisoned by a monk, and that, at the urging…

Act 5, scene 7

As King John lies dying, surrounded by his newly loyal nobles and his son, Prince Henry, the Bastard brings him…

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Scene 1
Enter Hubert and Executioners, with irons and rope.

 Heat me these irons hot, and look thou stand
 Within the arras. When I strike my foot
 Upon the bosom of the ground, rush forth
 And bind the boy which you shall find with me
5 Fast to the chair. Be heedful. Hence, and watch.
 I hope your warrant will bear out the deed.
 Uncleanly scruples fear not you. Look to ’t.
Executioners exit.
 Young lad, come forth. I have to say with you.

Enter Arthur.

 Good morrow, Hubert.
HUBERT 10 Good morrow, little prince.
 As little prince, having so great a title
 To be more prince, as may be. You are sad.
 Indeed, I have been merrier.
ARTHUR  Mercy on me!

King John
ACT 4. SC. 1

15 Methinks nobody should be sad but I.
 Yet I remember, when I was in France,
 Young gentlemen would be as sad as night
 Only for wantonness. By my christendom,
 So I were out of prison and kept sheep,
20 I should be as merry as the day is long.
 And so I would be here but that I doubt
 My uncle practices more harm to me.
 He is afraid of me, and I of him.
 Is it my fault that I was Geoffrey’s son?
25 No, indeed, is ’t not. And I would to heaven
 I were your son, so you would love me, Hubert.
HUBERT, aside 
 If I talk to him, with his innocent prate
 He will awake my mercy, which lies dead.
 Therefore I will be sudden and dispatch.
30 Are you sick, Hubert? You look pale today.
 In sooth, I would you were a little sick
 That I might sit all night and watch with you.
 I warrant I love you more than you do me.
HUBERT, aside 
 His words do take possession of my bosom.
He shows Arthur a paper.
35 Read here, young Arthur. (Aside.) How now,
 foolish rheum?
 Turning dispiteous torture out of door?
 I must be brief lest resolution drop
 Out at mine eyes in tender womanish tears.—
40 Can you not read it? Is it not fair writ?
 Too fairly, Hubert, for so foul effect.
 Must you with hot irons burn out both mine eyes?
 Young boy, I must.

King John
ACT 4. SC. 1

ARTHUR  And will you?
HUBERT 45 And I will.
 Have you the heart? When your head did but ache,
 I knit my handkercher about your brows—
 The best I had, a princess wrought it me—
 And I did never ask it you again;
50 And with my hand at midnight held your head,
 And like the watchful minutes to the hour
 Still and anon cheered up the heavy time,
 Saying “What lack you?” and “Where lies your
55 Or “What good love may I perform for you?”
 Many a poor man’s son would have lien still
 And ne’er have spoke a loving word to you;
 But you at your sick service had a prince.
 Nay, you may think my love was crafty love,
60 And call it cunning. Do, an if you will.
 If heaven be pleased that you must use me ill,
 Why then you must. Will you put out mine eyes—
 These eyes that never did nor never shall
 So much as frown on you?
HUBERT 65 I have sworn to do it.
 And with hot irons must I burn them out.
 Ah, none but in this Iron Age would do it.
 The iron of itself, though heat red-hot,
 Approaching near these eyes, would drink my tears
70 And quench this fiery indignation
 Even in the matter of mine innocence;
 Nay, after that, consume away in rust
 But for containing fire to harm mine eye.
 Are you more stubborn-hard than hammered iron?
75 An if an angel should have come to me
 And told me Hubert should put out mine eyes,

King John
ACT 4. SC. 1

 I would not have believed him. No tongue but
HUBERT stamps his foot and calls Come forth.

Enter Executioners with ropes, a heated iron, and a
brazier of burning coals.

80 Do as I bid you do.
 O, save me, Hubert, save me! My eyes are out
 Even with the fierce looks of these bloody men.
 Give me the iron, I say, and bind him here.
He takes the iron.
 Alas, what need you be so boist’rous-rough?
85 I will not struggle; I will stand stone-still.
 For God’s sake, Hubert, let me not be bound!
 Nay, hear me, Hubert! Drive these men away,
 And I will sit as quiet as a lamb.
 I will not stir nor wince nor speak a word
90 Nor look upon the iron angerly.
 Thrust but these men away, and I’ll forgive you,
 Whatever torment you do put me to.
HUBERT, to Executioners 
 Go stand within. Let me alone with him.
 I am best pleased to be from such a deed.
Executioners exit.
95 Alas, I then have chid away my friend!
 He hath a stern look but a gentle heart.
 Let him come back, that his compassion may
 Give life to yours.
HUBERT  Come, boy, prepare yourself.
100 Is there no remedy?

King John
ACT 4. SC. 1

HUBERT  None but to lose your eyes.
 O God, that there were but a mote in yours,
 A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair,
 Any annoyance in that precious sense.
105 Then, feeling what small things are boisterous
 Your vile intent must needs seem horrible.
 Is this your promise? Go to, hold your tongue.
 Hubert, the utterance of a brace of tongues
110 Must needs want pleading for a pair of eyes.
 Let me not hold my tongue. Let me not, Hubert,
 Or, Hubert, if you will, cut out my tongue,
 So I may keep mine eyes. O, spare mine eyes,
 Though to no use but still to look on you.
He seizes the iron.
115 Lo, by my troth, the instrument is cold,
 And would not harm me.
HUBERT, taking back the iron 
 I can heat it, boy.
 No, in good sooth. The fire is dead with grief,
 Being create for comfort, to be used
120 In undeserved extremes. See else yourself.
 There is no malice in this burning coal.
 The breath of heaven hath blown his spirit out
 And strewed repentant ashes on his head.
 But with my breath I can revive it, boy.
125 An if you do, you will but make it blush
 And glow with shame of your proceedings, Hubert.
 Nay, it perchance will sparkle in your eyes,

King John
ACT 4. SC. 2

 And, like a dog that is compelled to fight,
 Snatch at his master that doth tar him on.
130 All things that you should use to do me wrong
 Deny their office. Only you do lack
 That mercy which fierce fire and iron extends,
 Creatures of note for mercy-lacking uses.
 Well, see to live. I will not touch thine eye
135 For all the treasure that thine uncle owes.
 Yet am I sworn, and I did purpose, boy,
 With this same very iron to burn them out.
 O, now you look like Hubert. All this while
 You were disguisèd.
HUBERT 140 Peace. No more. Adieu.
 Your uncle must not know but you are dead.
 I’ll fill these doggèd spies with false reports.
 And, pretty child, sleep doubtless and secure
 That Hubert, for the wealth of all the world,
145 Will not offend thee.
ARTHUR  O heaven! I thank you, Hubert.
 Silence. No more. Go closely in with me.
 Much danger do I undergo for thee.
They exit.