ACT II
Scene 3.
 

London. The palace

Enter ANNE BULLEN and an OLD LADY

ANNE
Not for that neither. Here's the pang that pinches:
His Highness having liv'd so long with her, and she
So good a lady that no tongue could ever
Pronounce dishonour of her-by my life,
She never knew harm-doing-O, now, after
So many courses of the sun enthroned,
Still growing in a majesty and pomp, the which
To leave a thousand-fold more bitter than
'Tis sweet at first t' acquire-after this process,
To give her the avaunt, it is a pity
Would move a monster.

OLD LADY
Hearts of most hard temper
Melt and lament for her.

ANNE
O, God's will! much better
She ne'er had known pomp; though't be temporal,
Yet, if that quarrel, fortune, do divorce
It from the bearer, 'tis a sufferance panging
As soul and body's severing.

OLD LADY
Alas, poor lady!
She's a stranger now again.

ANNE
So much the more
Must pity drop upon her. Verily,
I swear 'tis better to be lowly born
And range with humble livers in content
Than to be perk'd up in a glist'ring grief
And wear a golden sorrow.

OLD LADY
Our content
Is our best having.

ANNE
By my troth and maidenhead,
I would not be a queen.

OLD LADY
Beshrew me, I would,
And venture maidenhead for 't; and so would you,
For all this spice of your hypocrisy.
You that have so fair parts of woman on you
Have too a woman's heart, which ever yet
Affected eminence, wealth, sovereignty;
Which, to say sooth, are blessings; and which gifts,
Saving your mincing, the capacity
Of your soft cheveril conscience would receive
If you might please to stretch it.

ANNE
Nay, good troth.

OLD LADY
Yes, troth and troth. You would not be a queen!

ANNE
No, not for all the riches under heaven.

OLD LADY
'Tis strange: a threepence bow'd would hire me,
Old as I am, to queen it. But, I pray you,
What think you of a duchess? Have you limbs
To bear that load of title?

ANNE
No, in truth.

OLD LADY
Then you are weakly made. Pluck off a little;
I would not be a young count in your way
For more than blushing comes to. If your back
Cannot vouchsafe this burden, 'tis too weak
Ever to get a boy.

ANNE
How you do talk!
I swear again I would not be a queen
For all the world.

OLD LADY
In faith, for little England
You'd venture an emballing. I myself
Would for Carnarvonshire, although there long'd
No more to th' crown but that. Lo, who comes here?

Enter the LORD CHAMBERLAIN

CHAMBERLAIN
Good morrow, ladies. What were't worth to know
The secret of your conference?

ANNE
My good lord,
Not your demand; it values not your asking.
Our mistress' sorrows we were pitying.

CHAMBERLAIN
It was a gentle business and becoming
The action of good women; there is hope
All will be well.

ANNE
Now, I pray God, amen!

CHAMBERLAIN
You bear a gentle mind, and heav'nly blessings
Follow such creatures. That you may, fair lady,
Perceive I speak sincerely and high notes
Ta'en of your many virtues, the King's Majesty
Commends his good opinion of you to you, and
Does purpose honour to you no less flowing
Than Marchioness of Pembroke; to which tide
A thousand pound a year, annual support,
Out of his grace he adds.

ANNE
I do not know
What kind of my obedience I should tender;
More than my all is nothing, nor my prayers
Are not words duly hallowed, nor my wishes
More worth than empty vanities; yet prayers and wishes
Are all I can return. Beseech your lordship,
Vouchsafe to speak my thanks and my obedience,
As from a blushing handmaid, to his Highness;
Whose health and royalty I pray for.

CHAMBERLAIN
Lady,
I shall not fail t' approve the fair conceit
The King hath of you. [Aside] I have perus'd her well:
Beauty and honour in her are so mingled
That they have caught the King; and who knows yet
But from this lady may proceed a gem
To lighten all this isle?-I'll to the King
And say I spoke with you.

ANNE
My honour'd lord!

Exit LORD CHAMBERLAIN

OLD LADY
Why, this it is: see, see!
I have been begging sixteen years in court-
Am yet a courtier beggarly-nor could
Come pat betwixt too early and too late
For any suit of pounds; and you, O fate!
A very fresh-fish here-fie, fie, fie upon
This compell'd fortune!-have your mouth fill'd up
Before you open it.

ANNE
This is strange to me.

OLD LADY
How tastes it? Is it bitter? Forty pence, no.
There was a lady once-'tis an old story-
That would not be a queen, that would she not,
For all the mud in Egypt. Have you heard it?

ANNE
Come, you are pleasant.

OLD LADY
With your theme I could
O'ermount the lark. The Marchioness of Pembroke!
A thousand pounds a year for pure respect!
No other obligation! By my life,
That promises moe thousands: honour's train
Is longer than his foreskirt. By this time
I know your back will bear a duchess. Say,
Are you not stronger than you were?

ANNE
Good lady,
Make yourself mirth with your particular fancy,
And leave me out on't. Would I had no being,
If this salute my blood a jot; it faints me
To think what follows.
The Queen is comfortless, and we forgetful
In our long absence. Pray, do not deliver
What here y' have heard to her.

OLD LADY
What do you think me?

Exeunt