Sunday, March 27, 2011

Parallel - King's humour as a warrant - King John

Now, from Shake-Speare's King John 4.2.203-15, 237 & 242

KING JOHN. Why seek'st thou to possess me with these fears?
    Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
    Thy hand hath murd'red him. I had a mighty cause
    To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
  HUBERT. No had, my lord! Why, did you not provoke me?
  KING JOHN. It is the curse of kings to be attended
    By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
    To break within the bloody house of life,
    And on the winking of authority
    To understand a law; to know the meaning
    Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
    More upon humour than advis'd respect.
  HUBERT. Here is your hand and seal for what I did.
King John. But thou didst understand me by my signs,
     Out of my sight, and never see me more!

now Bacon:
  "These ministers, being by nature cruel, and knowing well enough what they are wanted for, apply themselves to this kind of work with wonderful diligence; till from want of caution and from over eagerness to ingratiate themselves, they at one time or another (taking a nod or ambiguous word of the prince for a warrant) perpetrate some execution that is odious and unpopular. Upon which the prince, not willing to take envy [blame] of it upon himself, throws them overboard".  Wisdom of the Ancients (Spedding 6(2).704)

Also by Bacon: "Kings hate, when uttered, the very words they have ordered to be uttered: [Latin: Odere reges dicta quae dici jubent]. The Promus 367 (included here because it partners the above passage).

Note: These Bacon and Shake-Speare passages follow each other uncannily, even to the minister being thrown overboard. And their treatment of these matters only partly accords with Holinshed (see Arden edition p. 154).

King John was written by 1598 at the very latest. So Shake-Speare cannot have borrowed from The Wisdom of the Ancients which was not published till 1609; nor Bacon from the published play which did not appear till 1623.

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