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Full Online Book HomePlaysJohn Woodvil; A Tragedy - Act 1
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John Woodvil; A Tragedy - Act 1 Post by :atisa Category :Plays Author :Charles Lamb Date :May 2012 Read :1556

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John Woodvil; A Tragedy - Act 1

ACT I

(SCENE.--A Servants' Apartment in Woodvil Hall.)

(Servants drinking--Time, the morning.)


A Song by DANIEL

"When the King enjoys his own again."


PETER
A delicate song. Where did'st learn it, fellow?

DANIEL
Even there, where thou learnest thy oaths and thy politics--at
our master's table.--Where else should a serving-man pick up
his poor accomplishments?


MARTIN
Well spoken, Daniel. O rare Daniel!--his oaths and his politics!
excellent!


FRANCIS
And where did'st pick up thy knavery, Daniel?


PETER
That came to him by inheritance. His family have supplied the shire of Devon, time out of mind, with good thieves and bad serving-men. All of his race have come into the world without their conscience.


MARTIN
Good thieves, and bad serving-men! Better and better.
I marvel what Daniel hath got to say in reply.


DANIEL
I marvel more when thou wilt say any thing to the purpose, thou shallow serving-man, whose swiftest conceit carries thee no higher than to apprehend with difficulty the stale jests of us thy compeers. When was't ever known to club thy own particular jest among us?


MARTIN
Most unkind Daniel, to speak such biting things of me!


FRANCIS
See--if he hath not brought tears into the poor fellow's
eyes with the saltness of his rebuke.


DANIEL
No offence, brother Martin--I meant none. 'Tis true, Heaven gives gifts, and with-holds them. It has been pleased to bestow upon me a nimble invention to the manufacture of a jest; and upon thee, Martin, an indifferent bad capacity to understand my meaning.

MARTIN
Is that all? I am content. Here's my hand.

FRANCIS
Well, I like a little innocent mirth myself, but never could endure bawdry.

DANIEL
_Quot homines tot sententiae._

MARTIN
And what is that?

DANIEL
'Tis Greek, and argues difference of opinion.

MARTIN
I hope there is none between us.

DANIEL
Here's to thee, brother Martin. (_Drinks._)

MARTIN
And to thee, Daniel. (_Drinks._)

FRANCIS
And to thee, Peter. (_Drinks._)

PETER
Thank you, Francis. And here's to thee.

(_Drinks._)

MARTIN
I shall be fuddled anon.

DANIEL
And drunkenness I hold to be a very despicable vice.

ALL
O! a shocking vice.

(_They drink round._)

PETER
In as much as it taketh away the understanding.

DANIEL
And makes the eyes red.

PETER
And the tongue to stammer.

DANIEL
And to blab out secrets.

(During this conversation they continue drinking.)

PETER
Some men do not know an enemy from a friend when they are drunk.

DANIEL
Certainly sobriety is the health of the soul.

MARTIN
Now I know I am going to be drunk.

DANIEL
How can'st tell, dry-bones?

MARTIN
Because I begin to be melancholy. That's always a sign.

FRANCIS
Take care of Martin, he'll topple off his seat else.

(_Martin drops asleep._)

PETER
Times are greatly altered, since young master took
upon himself the government of this household.

ALL
Greatly altered.

FRANCIS
I think every thing be altered for the better since
His Majesty's blessed restoration.

PETER
In Sir Walter's days there was no encouragement given
to good house-keeping.

ALL
None.

DANIEL
For instance, no possibility of getting drunk before
two in the afternoon.

PETER
Every man his allowance of ale at breakfast--his quart!

ALL
A quart!!

(_in derision_.)

DANIEL
Nothing left to our own sweet discretions.

PETER
Whereby it may appear, we were treated more like beasts
than what we were--discreet and reasonable serving-men.

ALL
Like beasts.

MARTIN
(_Opening his eyes_.) Like beasts.

DANIEL
To sleep, wag-tail!

FRANCIS
I marvel all this while where the old gentleman has found
means to secrete himself. It seems no man has heard of him
since the day of the King's return. Can any tell why our
young master, being favoured by the court, should not have
interest to procure his father's pardon?

DANIEL
Marry, I think 'tis the obstinacy of the old Knight,
that will not be beholden to the court for his safety.

MARTIN
Now that is wilful.

FRANCIS
But can any tell me the place of his concealment?

PETER
That cannot I; but I have my conjectures.

DANIEL
Two hundred pounds, as I hear, to the man that shall apprehend him.

FRANCIS
Well, I have my suspicions.

PETER
And so have I.

MARTIN
And I can keep a secret.

FRANCIS
(_To Peter_.)

Warwickshire you mean.

(_Aside_.)

PETER
Perhaps not.

FRANCIS
Nearer perhaps.

PETER
I say nothing.

DANIEL
I hope there is none in this company would be mean enough to betray him.

ALL
O Lord, surely not.

(_They drink to Sir Walter's safety_.)

FRANCIS
I have often wondered how our master came to be excepted by name in the
late Act of Oblivion.

DANIEL
Shall I tell the reason?

ALL
Aye, do.

DANIEL
'Tis thought he is no great friend to the present happy establishment.

ALL
O! monstrous!

PETER
Fellow servants, a thought strikes me.--Do we, or do we not,
come under the penalties of the treason-act, by reason of our
being privy to this man's concealment.

ALL
Truly a sad consideration.

(To them enters Sandford suddenly.)

SANDFORD
You well-fed and unprofitable grooms,
Maintained for state, not use;
You lazy feasters at another's cost,
That eat like maggots into an estate,
And do as little work,
Being indeed but foul excrescences,
And no just parts in a well-order'd family;
You base and rascal imitators,
Who act up to the height your master's vices,
But cannot read his virtues in your bond:
Which of you, as I enter'd, spake of betraying?
Was it you, or you, or, thin-face, was it you?

MARTIN
Whom does he call thin-face?

SANDFORD
No prating, loon, but tell me who he was,
That I may brain the villain with my staff,
That seeks Sir Walter's life?
You miserable men,
With minds more slavish than your slave's estate,
Have you that noble bounty so forgot,
Which took you from the looms, and from the ploughs,
Which better had ye follow'd, fed ye, cloth'd ye,
And entertain'd ye in a worthy service,
Where your best wages was the world's repute,
That thus ye seek his life, by whom ye live?
Have you forgot too,
How often in old times
Your drunken mirths have stunn'd day's sober ears,
Carousing full cups to Sir Walter's health?--
Whom now ye would betray, but that he lies
Out of the reach of your poor treacheries.
This learn from me,
Our master's secret sleeps with trustier tongues,
Than will unlock themselves to carls like you.
Go, get you gone, you knaves. Who stirs? this staff
Shall teach you better manners else.

ALL
Well, we are going.

SANDFORD
And quickly too, ye had better, for I see
Young mistress Margaret coming this way.
(_Exeunt all but Sandford._)

(Enter Margaret, as in a fright, pursued by a Gentleman,
who, seeing Sandford, retires muttering a curse.
Sandford, Margaret.)

SANDFORD
Good-morrow to my fair mistress. 'Twas a chance
I saw you, lady, so intent was I
On chiding hence these graceless serving-men,
Who cannot break their fast at morning meals
Without debauch and mis-timed riotings.
This house hath been a scene of nothing else
But atheist riot and profane excess,
Since my old master quitted all his rights here.

MARGARET
Each day I endure fresh insult from the scorn
Of Woodvil's friends, the uncivil jests,
And free discourses, of the dissolute men,
That haunt this mansion, making me their mirth.

SANDFORD
Does my young master know of these affronts?

MARGARET
I cannot tell. Perhaps he has not been told.
Perhaps he might have seen them if he would.
I have known him more quick-sighted. Let that pass.
All things seem chang'd, I think. I had a friend,
(I can't but weep to think him alter'd too,)
These things are best forgotten; but I knew
A man, a young man, young, and full of honor,
That would have pick'd a quarrel for a straw,
And fought it out to the extremity,
E'en with the dearest friend he had alive,
On but a bare surmise, a possibility,
That Margaret had suffer'd an affront.
Some are too tame, that were too splenetic once.

SANDFORD
'Twere best he should be _told of these affronts.

MARGARET
I am the daughter of his father's friend,
Sir Walter's orphan-ward.
I am not his servant maid, that I should wait
The opportunity of a gracious hearing,
Enquire the times and seasons when to put
My peevish prayer up at young Woodvil's feet,
And sue to him for slow redress, who was
Himself a suitor late to Margaret.
I am somewhat proud: and Woodvil taught me pride.
I was his favourite once, his playfellow in infancy,
And joyful mistress of his youth.
None once so pleasant in his eyes as Margaret.
His conscience, his religion, Margaret was,
His dear heart's confessor, a heart within that heart,
And all dear things summ'd up in her alone.
As Margaret smil'd or frown'd John liv'd or died:
His dress, speech, gesture, studies, friendships, all
Being fashion'd to her liking.
His flatteries taught me first this self-esteem,
His flatteries and caresses, while he loved.
The world esteem'd her happy, who had won
His heart, who won all hearts;
And ladies envied me the love of Woodvil.

SANDFORD
He doth affect the courtier's life too much,
Whose art is to forget,
And that has wrought this seeming change in him,
That was by nature noble.
'Tis these court-plagues, that swarm about our house,
Have done the mischief, making his fancy giddy
With images of state, preferment, place,
Tainting his generous spirits with ambition.

MARGARET
I know not how it is;
A cold protector is John grown to me.
The mistress, and presumptive wife, of Woodvil
Can never stoop so low to supplicate
A man, her equal, to redress those wrongs,
Which he was bound first to prevent;
But which his own neglects have sanction'd rather,
Both sanction'd and provok'd: a mark'd neglect,
And strangeness fast'ning bitter on his love,
His love which long has been upon the wane.
For me, I am determined what to do:
To leave this house this night, and lukewarm John,
And trust for food to the earth and Providence.

SANDFORD
O lady, have a care
Of these indefinite and spleen-bred resolves.
You know not half the dangers that attend
Upon a life of wand'ring, which your thoughts now,
Feeling the swellings of a lofty anger,
To your abused fancy, as 'tis likely,
Portray without its terrors, painting _lies_
And representments of fallacious liberty--
You know not what it is to leave the roof that shelters you.

MARGARET
I have thought on every possible event,
The dangers and discouragements you speak of,
Even till my woman's heart hath ceas'd to fear them,
And cowardice grows enamour'd of rare accidents.
Nor am I so unfurnish'd, as you think,
Of practicable schemes.

SANDFORD
Now God forbid; think twice of this, dear lady.

MARGARET
I pray you spare me, Mr. Sandford,
And once for all believe, nothing can shake my purpose.

SANDFORD
But what course have you thought on?

MARGARET
To seek Sir Walter in the forest of Sherwood.
I have letters from young Simon,
Acquainting me with all the circumstances
Of their concealment, place, and manner of life,
And the merry hours they spend in the green haunts
Of Sherwood, nigh which place they have ta'en a house
In the town of Nottingham, and pass for foreigners,
Wearing the dress of Frenchmen.--
All which I have perus'd with so attent
And child-like longings, that to my doting ears
Two sounds now seem like one,
One meaning in two words, Sherwood and Liberty.
And, gentle Mr. Sandford,
'Tis you that must provide now
The means of my departure, which for safety
Must be in boy's apparel.

SANDFORD
Since you will have it so
(My careful age trembles at all may happen)
I will engage to furnish you.
I have the keys of the wardrobe, and can fit you
With garments to your size.
I know a suit
Of lively Lincoln Green, that shall much grace you
In the wear, being glossy fresh, and worn but seldom.
Young Stephen Woodvil wore them, while he lived.
I have the keys of all this house and passages,
And ere day-break will rise and let you forth.
What things soe'er you have need of I can furnish you;
And will provide a horse and trusty guide,
To bear you on your way to Nottingham.

MARGARET
That once this day and night were fairly past!
For then I'll bid this house and love farewell;
Farewell, sweet Devon; farewell, lukewarm John;
For with the morning's light will Margaret be gone.
Thanks, courteous Mr. Sandford.--

(Exeunt divers ways.)

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