List iconKing John:
Act 4, scene 3
List icon

King John
Act 4, scene 3



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 3
Enter Arthur on the walls, dressed as a shipboy.

 The wall is high, and yet will I leap down.
 Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not.
 There’s few or none do know me. If they did,
 This shipboy’s semblance hath disguised me quite.
5 I am afraid, and yet I’ll venture it.
 If I get down and do not break my limbs,
 I’ll find a thousand shifts to get away.
 As good to die and go as die and stay.
He jumps.
 O me, my uncle’s spirit is in these stones.
10 Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones.
He dies.

Enter Pembroke, Salisbury with a letter, and Bigot.

 Lords, I will meet him at Saint Edmundsbury;

King John
ACT 4. SC. 3

 It is our safety, and we must embrace
 This gentle offer of the perilous time.
 Who brought that letter from the Cardinal?
15 The Count Melun, a noble lord of France,
 Whose private with me of the Dauphin’s love
 Is much more general than these lines import.
 Tomorrow morning let us meet him, then.
 Or rather then set forward, for ’twill be
20 Two long days’ journey, lords, or ere we meet.

Enter Bastard.

 Once more today well met, distempered lords.
 The King by me requests your presence straight.
 The King hath dispossessed himself of us.
 We will not line his thin bestainèd cloak
25 With our pure honors, nor attend the foot
 That leaves the print of blood where’er it walks.
 Return, and tell him so. We know the worst.
 Whate’er you think, good words I think were best.
 Our griefs and not our manners reason now.
30 But there is little reason in your grief.
 Therefore ’twere reason you had manners now.
 Sir, sir, impatience hath his privilege.
 ’Tis true, to hurt his master, no man’s else.

King John
ACT 4. SC. 3

 This is the prison.
He sees Arthur’s body.
35 What is he lies here?
 O Death, made proud with pure and princely beauty!
 The Earth had not a hole to hide this deed.
 Murder, as hating what himself hath done,
 Doth lay it open to urge on revenge.
40 Or when he doomed this beauty to a grave,
 Found it too precious-princely for a grave.
SALISBURY, to Bastard 
 Sir Richard, what think you? You have beheld.
 Or have you read or heard, or could you think,
 Or do you almost think, although you see,
45 That you do see? Could thought, without this object,
 Form such another? This is the very top,
 The height, the crest, or crest unto the crest,
 Of murder’s arms. This is the bloodiest shame,
 The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke
50 That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage
 Presented to the tears of soft remorse.
 All murders past do stand excused in this.
 And this, so sole and so unmatchable,
 Shall give a holiness, a purity,
55 To the yet unbegotten sin of times
 And prove a deadly bloodshed but a jest,
 Exampled by this heinous spectacle.
 It is a damnèd and a bloody work,
 The graceless action of a heavy hand,
60 If that it be the work of any hand.

King John
ACT 4. SC. 3

 If that it be the work of any hand?
 We had a kind of light what would ensue.
 It is the shameful work of Hubert’s hand,
 The practice and the purpose of the King,
65 From whose obedience I forbid my soul,
 Kneeling before this ruin of sweet lifeHe kneels.
 And breathing to his breathless excellence
 The incense of a vow, a holy vow:
 Never to taste the pleasures of the world,
70 Never to be infected with delight,
 Nor conversant with ease and idleness,
 Till I have set a glory to this hand
 By giving it the worship of revenge.
PEMBROKE, BIGOT, kneeling 
 Our souls religiously confirm thy words.
They rise.

Enter Hubert.

75 Lords, I am hot with haste in seeking you.
 Arthur doth live; the King hath sent for you.
 O, he is bold and blushes not at death!—
 Avaunt, thou hateful villain, get thee gone!
 I am no villain.
SALISBURY, drawing his sword 80 Must I rob the law?
 Your sword is bright, sir. Put it up again.
 Not till I sheathe it in a murderer’s skin.
 Stand back, Lord Salisbury, stand back, I say.
 By heaven, I think my sword’s as sharp as yours.
He puts his hand on his sword.

King John
ACT 4. SC. 3

85 I would not have you, lord, forget yourself,
 Nor tempt the danger of my true defense,
 Lest I, by marking of your rage, forget
 Your worth, your greatness, and nobility.
 Out, dunghill! Dar’st thou brave a nobleman?
90 Not for my life. But yet I dare defend
 My innocent life against an emperor.
 Thou art a murderer.
HUBERT  Do not prove me so.
 Yet I am none. Whose tongue soe’er speaks false,
95 Not truly speaks. Who speaks not truly, lies.
PEMBROKE, drawing his sword 
 Cut him to pieces.
BASTARD, drawing his sword  Keep the peace, I say.
 Stand by, or I shall gall you, Faulconbridge.
 Thou wert better gall the devil, Salisbury.
100 If thou but frown on me, or stir thy foot,
 Or teach thy hasty spleen to do me shame,
 I’ll strike thee dead. Put up thy sword betime,
 Or I’ll so maul you and your toasting-iron
 That you shall think the devil is come from hell.
105 What wilt thou do, renownèd Faulconbridge?
 Second a villain and a murderer?
 Lord Bigot, I am none.
BIGOT  Who killed this prince?
 ’Tis not an hour since I left him well.
110 I honored him, I loved him, and will weep
 My date of life out for his sweet life’s loss.
He weeps.

King John
ACT 4. SC. 3

 Trust not those cunning waters of his eyes,
 For villainy is not without such rheum,
 And he, long traded in it, makes it seem
115 like rivers of remorse and innocency.
 Away with me, all you whose souls abhor
 Th’ uncleanly savors of a slaughterhouse,
 For I am stifled with this smell of sin.
 Away, toward Bury, to the Dauphin there.
120 There, tell the King, he may inquire us out.
Lords exit.
 Here’s a good world! Knew you of this fair work?
 Beyond the infinite and boundless reach
 Of mercy, if thou didst this deed of death,
 Art thou damned, Hubert.
HUBERT 125Do but hear me, sir.
BASTARD Ha! I’ll tell thee what.
 Thou ’rt damned as black—nay, nothing is so black—
 Thou art more deep damned than Prince Lucifer.
 There is not yet so ugly a fiend of hell
130 As thou shalt be, if thou didst kill this child.
 Upon my soul—
BASTARD  If thou didst but consent
 To this most cruel act, do but despair,
 And if thou want’st a cord, the smallest thread
135 That ever spider twisted from her womb
 Will serve to strangle thee; a rush will be a beam
 To hang thee on. Or wouldst thou drown thyself,
 Put but a little water in a spoon
 And it shall be as all the ocean,
140 Enough to stifle such a villain up.
 I do suspect thee very grievously.

King John
ACT 4. SC. 3

 If I in act, consent, or sin of thought
 Be guilty of the stealing that sweet breath
 Which was embounded in this beauteous clay,
145 Let hell want pains enough to torture me.
 I left him well.
BASTARD  Go, bear him in thine arms.
 I am amazed, methinks, and lose my way
 Among the thorns and dangers of this world.
Hubert takes up Arthur’s body.
150 How easy dost thou take all England up!
 From forth this morsel of dead royalty,
 The life, the right, and truth of all this realm
 Is fled to heaven, and England now is left
 To tug and scamble and to part by th’ teeth
155 The unowed interest of proud-swelling state.
 Now for the bare-picked bone of majesty
 Doth doggèd war bristle his angry crest
 And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace.
 Now powers from home and discontents at home
160 Meet in one line, and vast confusion waits,
 As doth a raven on a sick-fall’n beast,
 The imminent decay of wrested pomp.
 Now happy he whose cloak and cincture can
 Hold out this tempest. Bear away that child,
165 And follow me with speed. I’ll to the King.
 A thousand businesses are brief in hand,
 And heaven itself doth frown upon the land.
They exit, with Hubert carrying Arthur’s body.