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ACT II, SCENE i
THE ENGLISH CHURCH, PATIENCE, STEADFASTNESS
CHURCH Why this downcast expression? Why do I shamefully befoul my breast? Why am I crying these rivers of tears, always brooding over new sorrows? Whose helping hand am I beseeching? The cruel king oppresses, out of fear my astonished Fathers are abandoning me. Our freedom perishes, and whoever dislikes us is fiercely trampling on the Church’s rights. Oh Lord of heaven, Whose awesome divinity a trembling heaven reveres,and Whose balls of fire the earth dreads, will you permit this, and will fate always and forever be driving me to new downfalls with its slaughters? Wherever I come bearing heaven’s sacraments, either where the world shivers thanks to chill snow or where with his blazing chariot Phoebus heats heats our planet, bringing back the daylight with his well-combed hair, every nation has greeted me with open arms and freely-given affection. But, alas this joyful experience is short-lived. Constantly impotent Hell’s mad fury has arisen against me. I am banished, I am tormented, I am oppressed, and bloodshed has besmirched this breast of mine. How welcome have I recently been to England? Now I am a burden, now the king’s yoke has been fitted to my neck. What now? Hardships forever?
PAT. You are always accustomed to grow where death is to be feared. For suffering, lamentation and grief enhance your power and slaughters glorify you. Whoever sheds blood in your embrace imparts a holy rosiness. You lift up your dust-stained head and, no matter how serious they may be, your setbacks beautify you.
CHURCH And yet fear often overcomes my ministers and crafty men attack me by means of them.
PAT. They may overcome these of them or those, but no power can subdue them all. The prospect of a beautiful death gives many the courage to endure sufferings.
CHURCH The prospect of a hard death steals the courage of many.
PAT. Whenever you die you are reborn and they who uphold your glory rise up from their slaughter.
CHURCH The power of kings is great. A tyrant’s frown often overwhelms men, and a man who loves something cannot be sufficiently steadfast. Threats terrify, the love of good men recedes and fear of death steals away their courage.
CONST. Strength is heaven-sent. To feel fear is human, but the Lord is favorable when a man lately afraid shakes off this dread and scorns his fate. He who can withstand arises from his death yet more beautiful. Being reborn from death is not to die. Let scepters make murder widespread, you will become fruitful.
CHURCH May the everlasting Lord enable one manly heart to overcome his threats!
CONST. Thomas will surpass the glory of all the bishops. See how he has a forboding of evil, and with with stout courage disdains this evil. Although downcast, his mind is steeling itself. He steadfastly resists and desires to defend your honor by suffering hijs fate.
CHURCH I am eager and yet I am afraid.
ACT II, SCENE ii
THOMAS OF CANTERBURY, THE ENGLISH CHURCH
THOM. Not thus, Henry, will you glorify the throne of England. He who oppresses it by scoffing at its rights becomes God’s enemy and, forgetful of himself, perishes. Henry, if you furiously dare this crime, you will soon bring heaven down upon your head. Henry, the clergy will not yield, even though it is hidden within its heart lurks the will to resist. Here, here is the heat willing to sacrifice its fleeting life. If you cruelly persist, hot blood exists within its limbs, we will give it up. In your folly will you ever destroy the honor of your Church? Will our sacred liberty perish thanks to you? Either it will fall, conquered by the death of this body, or it will not perish.
CHURCH Here you have my lamentations, holy Archbishop, I mourn that you are now fearful. So does it remain for me to bear the king’s yoke?
THOM. Thus a strange madness enrages his heart. He who was my defender has now become my enemy and rages with his new laws.
CHURCH And perhaps he will prevail.
THOM. He can never prevail.
CHURCH He will compel, under compulsion my bishops will yield.
THOM. No power is that great, he cannot compel this heart.
CHURCH What if he threatens?
THOM. I scorn the king’s threats.
CHURCH And if he compels them by death.
THOM. It is glory to die on your behalf.
CHURCH And if he attacks by means of flattery?
THOM. Flattery cannot deceive.
CHURCH Royal power is great.
THOM. My passion for you is greater.
CHURCH And if he removes your emblems of office?
THOM. I shall resign them if he wishes, I am unconcerned.
CHURCH What if he drives you into exile?
THOM. I shall endure exile. Heaven is everywhere where a sky exists.
CHURCH And if perchance he should rage against your flock?
THOM. If there is a Christian flock anywhere, it is mine.
CHURCH Bloodshed can move a heart of steel.
THOM. I’ll even sacrifice my own blood on your behalf.
CHURCH The king will slaughter your adherents.
THOM. As many as he wishes, he will not make me have a change of heart.
CHURCH Your kindred souls will overcome you with their weeping.
THOM. A man undaunted by fear of violent death cannot be moved by weeping. Let him drive me away, let he debar me, let him oppress me, by my death I’ll steadfastly defend your rights.
CHURCH My hope lies in you.
THOM. If possible, I shall either preserve you and your rights or fall by a harsh death. I shall visit the king, perhaps I can sway him.
ACT II, SCENE iii
KING HENRY, THOMAS OF CANTERBURY, RICHARD
HEN. Slow discussions about affairs rarely have a happy ending. Whatever has a good outcome cannot be sluggish. Now there are delays and I loathe delays. Let the Parliament convene, the bishops should take a second oath in favor of my laws.
RICH. They will appear presently. Here’s Canterbury.
THOM. Behold, I have come to you, great king. Now, if you are at leisure, I wish a few words with you.
HEN. Come then, say what you wish, Archbishop. I am at liberty.
THOM. The power of kings when they brandish weapons in their hands and when they shake the earth with their stern nod, dispensing the fate of death by their law, is great. It is supreme. Nevertheless the Ruler of heaven, Who strikes the world with His fulminating fireball, the Master of life and death, managing time’s passage by His own law, in His justice holds sway over kings themselves. He avenges the criminality of sovereigns, often overwhelming insolent fortune. The stars of the thundering skies fear Him, He makes the sea tremble. The lord of the Underworld dreads Him when justified wrath overcomes His divine heart, no man ever escapes the fires of His thunderbolts. Hence his rule over all kings is assured. Your majesty, you possess England, someone else controls Africa’s faraway climes, and another governs Asia. But wherever the broad earth spreads its fields, wherever the sea encircles islands and wherever it surges, He alone rules all things with His government. Here on earth He possesses ministers created by His Son, and has made them His chosen people. It is a great sin to lay hands on them, it is a crime to insult them with words. I beseech you not to steal that which the Ruler of the celestials has bestowed upon His men. For you deprive heaven of its rights when you take away ours.
HEN. Is this your settled opinion of royal justice? Everywhere crimes committed by your clergymen are rife and you wish them to rule? Do you want the guilty to be disturbed by any punishment?
THOM. It is for us to punish.
HEN. Justice demands royal hands and swords.
THOM. True, when the guilty party is not ordained.
HEN. You ought to make no distinction among the guilty, it behooves all men to obey great kings.
THOM. But it does not behoove kings to punish all men. We all honor your throne and scepter, but none of us acknowledge the power of your avenging hand over us.
HEN. This I provide and you ought to acknowledge it, The single law of this realm is to heed the will of its king.
THOM. Heaven’s fixed law is to honor consecrated men.
HEN. Allow me, the king, to punish the guilty and honor good men.
THOM. You should punish when invited.
HEN. I am unconcerned about your entreaties. Now the law I desire has been enacted, let the clergy approve it. See, the Parliament is convened, and the bishops are present.
THOM. Would that you would revere heaven, great king!
ACT II, SCENE iv
KING HENRY, THE LORDS, THOMAS OF CANTERBURY, THE BISHOPS
HEN. Once more, my lords, solicitous concern inspires me and preys upon my mind. A ruler enjoys no peace unless the security of his nation is assured. Since such is m y wish and I am interested only in the welfare of my subjects, this law of the realm has been enacted. My lords, I desire that this law receive a second reading and that the bishops vote aye.
FIRST LORD This law of the realm is that the king commands and the realm grants it its approval. No priest shall depart the realm save by royal command. Let it be a crime to lodge an appeal with the Holy See. No bishop shall exercise authority over the royal household. Whoever may chance to be accused of treason shall submit to the king’s court and likewise the entire clergy must submit to it. Let the royal will constitute supreme law for all men, whether secular or religious.
HEN. You, primate, must indicate your approval of what these laws command.
THOM. Would that I could, but it would be sinful to endorse such a law. Your majesty, allow me a few words of explanation. No priest shall depart the realm save by royal command. What if the Pope should issue a summons? What if the College of Cardinals should do the same? I would be sure to obey, whether by your law you allowed or forbade. Let it be a crime to lodge an appeal with the Holy See. This should be a crime? So should the Pope defer to your royal self? This law is unfair, for by such a law you deprive Rome of a court and wish to set yourself up as head of the world. You continue No bishop shall exercise authority over the royal household. Thus you deprive Christ our God of His rights. This power has been granted Him, why take it away? This right has been given to us, bishops impose penalties and wield the sacred thunderbolt. The Church is the mother of all men. If your servants acknowledge this applies to them, then our punishment should be binding on them too. Whoever may chance to be accused of treason shall submit to the king’s court and likewise the entire clergy must submit to it. So tell me:“ now I’m the Lord, I understand wrongdoings, so let me thrust my way into heaven’s home. Whoever worships Christ here should worship my scepter.” This law is wrongheaded. No monarch is head of the clergy. Remain being a king, so that no error sweep you away. The Lord did not appoint you judge over His people. Let the royal will constitute supreme law for all men, whether secular or religious. Let the royal will constitute supreme law for all men, whether secular or religious. Such is your law’s arrogant claim. What is the basis of this power? Are you, the king, the Pope and head of the English Church? Your majesty, you are incompetent to pass judgment on the clergy. That is a different power, to which you ought to bow your head and not judge bishops.
HEN. You will not vote aye for my law?
THOM. I do not. Heaven forbids it.
FIRST LORD Holy prelate, your mind is disturbed and you’re being carried away in your passion. By this law our prince is seeking peace for his nation, and he reveres the clergy. The king only wants to set a limit on wrongdoings.
SECOND LORD The courtrooms of the realm do not abolish your authority. Let you be the primate and let there be as many s as they want, but a monarch imposes the law on his subject, such is royal power.
THOM. Let him impose it on his own subjects. a sovereign cannot dictate the law to clergyman or pass judgment on them.
THIRD LORD He who possesses political power also possesses the courtroom, the same power has made him both judge and king.. Vote aye for this, prelate, do not hold the law in contempt.
THOM. The clergy excepted, I vote aye. Let the king be judge of his subjects and the prelate judge of his.
FOURTH LORD Doubtless you vote nay for f this law, why fence with words?
THOM. The clergy excepted, I vote aye.
FOURTH LORD Why press the point? We can dispense with circumlocution. Let your clergy be saved but approve the king’s law. And you vote aye, you bishops.
HEN. The same thing occurs to me and my mind is quite settled on this point. The clergy excepted, I vote aye. Let heaven be my witness that the care for holy things is entrusted to nobody else. A king cannot govern souls nor pass judgment on them.
LUC. My conscience is clear, the Lord sees into the inmost recesses of the heart (let Him bear witness to this Himself). The clergy excepted, I vote aye. The king cannot sit as judge over our order.
FIRST LORD Whoever is king over everyone is your king. The realm has a single people, let it also have a single head. Purge your minds of treacherous doubts: let there be a single kind.
CONR. Inasmuch as the realm has a single head, by that right let him serve as the protector of his subjects and dictate its laws. The clergy excepted, I vote aye to what he has commanded. Amidst my concerns your ardent support e gives me warmth. A stubborn mind never supplies good counsel. Now, since you vote aye for the law I have introduced, at the same time you should confirm this with your seals.
FIRST LORD Here’s the law, add your seals. Your support needs to be confirmed with your seals. You be the first, primate.
THOM. What? Add my seal here? Allow me to retract my statement. Would that it could be unsaid. Do not ask for m y seal.
FIRST LORD Your passion is always arising against the king. If you vote aye, ratify it with your seal.
THOM. I do not vote aye for it thus written, but only with “the clergy excepted.”
LUC. You delete whatever is harmful to our order. Peace must be respected. What I vote aye for I attest by my seal. But let the king always be mindful of equity and always respect the dignity of our order.
ALARD. Nor do I refuse your request. Receive my seal. I set my seal with the same intention that I vote aye.
CONR. For the sake of peace I shall grant what you are now demanding, but with no other intention. So receive my seal.
SECOND LORD So all men should obey their king. Always be mindful of your bishops, your majesty, they desire peace for their nation.
THIRD LORD This peace is assured since the king governs all men by a single law.
THOM. This is a novel danger. A single law undermines faith in the Church and destroys the Christian honor of the realm.
FOURTH LORD You should calm your agitated mind and angry heart. This law that has been enacted does not destroy faith in our realm, it is a law of public peace and a standard for our life, the king will avenge crime wherever it crops up.
THOM. But the king will crush faith by a law which mixes together laymen and clergy. This will incur God’s wrath. This is not fitting, I shall never vote aye.
HEN. So this is how you honor your king? You still will vote aye. You trouble this heart of mine since you penetrate everything I have in mind.
ACT II, SCENE v
THOMAS OF CANTERBURY, THE OTHER BISHOPS
THOM. This was unfitting, my bishops. Fear changed your minds. Now the honor of our order will perish, and perhaps the Lord in heaven will wreak punishment.
ALARD. Whatever this is, it has been granted for the sake of peace. The king’s power is great. He who sometimes yields to the times sometimes better serves the public interest.
THOM. It never befits a man to adapt himself to the times, since the public interest requires a man to be steadfast.
LUC. The anger of rulers does damage, one should always beware of it. Sometimes sailors yield to the stormy southerlies, for it is a good idea to cling to the shore when a gale a stirs up the troubled waters.
THOM. That’s the time when one should resist the sea with a manly heart. When kings desire hurtful things it is better to die than give ones approval. We have lost our sacred rights, this courtroom will surely bring about the downfall of the clergy.
CONR. Possibly we can hope for better, and the king will not act as he desires. Sovereigns often change their minds.
THOM. Kings always cling to the rights they acquire. At this point, at this point it behooved us stoutheartedly to disdain death and whatever his royal heart spews forth, and whatever his royal wrath may spew, our fear discarded. Oh you light-minded men! Oh you hearts, faithless towards Christ! Lord, have you not brought down the beclouded heavens on this earth? Earth, have you not yet yawned open and revealed the pits of Hell? Christ, give me the strength. I do not wish to obey the king, help my mind. With Your aid no death will overwhelm it.
THE CHURCH, ENGLISH VIRGINS
CHURCH. Assuredly I feared what I now lament, that among so many bishops only one prelate supports my rights. A single word of the king has my power than the firm faith of my priests.
VIRG. So now our lamentations are new, we shall make ready new tears. This is always the fate of virgins, to devote their time to novel lamentations.
CHURCH Alas, manly stoutheartedness fails when a king threatens or presses. When his enticing gifts seduce, then all strength fails.
VIRG. For what then can we hope? Now the glory of England is perishing and no liberty remains. Oh Lady, where shall we virgins follow you? A single fate remains for us as exiles.
CHURCH If my prophetic mind sees something, if my amazed mind dreads anything, there will be no death for us all. Rather, the death of a single excellent primate will bless everything.
VIRG. Oh blessed prelate, oh Thomas! In you England’s hope is justified. You are always your nation’s anchor, you are always our glory.
CHURCH A single prelate can achieve something so great when he steels his mind. He who is holy fears nothing and his faith confirms him in his boldness. He has no forethought for his life since he desires glory for his Church. Because of his faith life and death are all the same.
VIRG. How great is our fear! Perhaps the king will overwhelm him. Then faith and a sense of shame will abandon our England.
CHURCH Ease your minds, my virgins, for since we have Thomas we always have hope.
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