Description

This is part of the only surviving play script to contain Shakespeare's handwriting. Three pages of the manuscript, ff. 8r, 8v and 9r, have been identified as Shakespeare’s, based on handwriting, spelling, vocabulary and the images and ideas expressed.

The play is about the life of Sir Thomas More, the Tudor lawyer and polymath who was sentenced to death for refusing to recognise Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church in England. The work was initially written by Anthony Munday between 1596 and 1601. The Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, whose role included stage censorship, refused to allow Sir Thomas More to be performed, perhaps because he was worried that the play’s depiction of riots would provoke civil unrest on the streets of London.

After the Queen’s death in 1603, Shakespeare was brought in to revise the script, along with three other playwrights. Shakespeare’s additions include 147 lines in the middle of the action, in which More is called on to address an anti-immigration riot on the streets of London. He delivers a gripping speech to the aggressive mob, who are baying for so-called ‘strangers’ to be banished:

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth.
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But charter’d unto them? What would you think
To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.  

More relies on human empathy to make his point: if the rioters were suddenly banished to a foreign land, they would become ‘wretched strangers’ too, and equally vulnerable to attack. In the words of critic Jonathan Bate: ‘More asks the on-stage crowd, and by extension the theatre audience, to imagine what it would be like to be an asylum-seeker undergoing forced repatriation.’ Though proving that More’s words were indeed written by Shakespeare is not straightforward, in their keen sympathy for the plight of the alienated and dispossessed they seem to prefigure the insights of great dramas of race such as The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Whoever wrote them had a fine ear for the way rhetoric can sway a crowd – it’s hard not to think of Julius Caesar, too – but also a sharp eye for the troubled relationship between ethnic minorities and majorities.

Tilney’s instructions to the authors can be seen in the margin of f. 3r (the first page shown here):

Leave out the insurrection wholly and the cause thereof, and begin with Sir Thomas More at the Mayor’s sessions, with a report afterwards of his good service done being Sheriff of London upon a mutiny against the Lombards – only by a short report, and not otherwise, at your own perils. E. Tilney.

As well as Shakespeare, there are additions in the hands of Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood and an anonymous copyist. There is no evidence that the play was ever performed or published.

Label written by Andrew Dickson and British Library curators

Transcript

  1. Transcript

    There are two versions of the transcript below. The first has been updated to use modern spellings. The second follows the spellings on the manuscript.

    Transcript One (modern spelling):

    Enter LINCOLN, DOLL, CLOWN [RALPH BETTS], GEORGE BETTS, WILLIAMSON, others [PRENTICES].

    Lincoln.

    Peace, hear me! He that will not see a red herring at a Harry
    groat, butter at alevenpence a pound, meal at nine shillings a
    bushel, and beef at four nobles a stone, list to me.

    Other Betts.

    It will come to that pass if strangers be suffer'd. Mark him.

    Lincoln.

    Our country is a great eating country, argo they eat more in

    our country than they do in their own.

    Other Clown.

    By a halfpenny loaf a day, troy weight.

    Lincoln.

    They bring in strange roots, which is merely to the undoing of poor

    prentices, for what's a watery a sorry parsnip to a good heart?

    Oth Williamson.

    Trash, trash; they breed sore eyes and 'tis enough to infect the

    city with the palsy.

    Lincoln.

    Nay, it has infected it with the palsy, for these bastards of dung —

    as you know they grow in dung — have infected us, and it is our

    infection will make the city shake, which partly comes through

    the eating of parsnips.

    O Clown.

    True, and pumpions together.

    Enter Sergeant-At-Arms.

    Sergeant.

    What say you to the mercy of the King? Do you refuse it?

    Lincoln.

    You would have us upon th' hip, would you? No, marry, do we not; we

    accept of the King's mercy, but we will show no mercy upon

    the strangers.

    Sergeant.

    You are the simplest things that ever stood in such a question.

    Lincoln.

    How say you now, [prentices]? Prentices simple! Down with him!

    All.

    Prentices simple, prentices simple!

    Enter the LORD MAYOR, SURREY, SHREWSBURY, [MORE, PALMER, and CHOLMELEY].

    Sher Mayor.

    Hold, in the King's name hold!

    Surrey.

    Friends, masters, countrymen—

    Mayor.

    Peace ho, peace, I sh charge you keep the peace!

    Shrewsbury.

    My masters, countrymen—

    Sher Williamson.

    The noble Earl of Shrewsbury, let's hear him.

    Betts.

    We'll hear the Earl of Surrey.

    Lincoln.

    The Earl of Shrewsbury.

    Betts.

    We'll hear both.

    All.

    Both, both, both, both!

    Lincoln.

    Peace, I say, peace! Are you men of wisdom ar or what are you?

    Surrey.

    But What you will have them, but not men of wisdom.

    All.

    We'll not hear my Lord of Surrey, all no, no, no, no, no! Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury!

    More.

    Whiles they are o'er the bank of their obedience, Thus will they

    bear down all things.

    Lincoln.

    Shrieve More speaks. Shall we hear Shrieve More speak?

    Doll.

    Let's hear him. A keeps a plentiful shrievaltry, and 'a made my

    brother Arthur Watchins Sergeant Safe's yeoman. Let's hear

    Shrieve More.

    All.

    Shrieve More, More, More, Shrieve More!

     

    Transcript Two (manuscript spelling):

    Enter Lincoln • Doll • Clown • Georg betts williamſon others And A ſergaunt at armes

    Lincolne

    Peace heare me, he that will not see ‹a red› hearing at a harry

    grote, butter at a levenpence a pou ‹nde meale at› nyne ſhillinge a

    Buſhell and Beeff at fower nob ‹les aftone lyf›t to me

    ________________________________________

    other Geo bett

    yt will Come to that paſſe yſ ſtrain ‹gers be ſu›fferd mark him

    ________________________________________

    Linco

    our Countrie is a great eating Country, argo they eate more in

    our Countrey then they do in their owne

    ________________________________________

    other betts clow

    by a halfpenny loff a day troy waight

    ________________________________________

    Linc

    they bring in ſtraing rootes, which is meerly to the vndoing of poor
    prentizes, for whate -a-watrie- a ſorry pſnyp to a good hart

    ________________________________________

    oth willian

    traſh traſh,: they breed ſore eyes and tis enough to infect the
    Cytty wt palſey

    ________________________________________

    Lin

    may yt has infected yt wt the palſey, for theiſe baſterde of dung
    as you knowe they growe in Dvng haue infected vs, and yt is our
    infeccion will make the Cytty sſake which ᵱtly Coms through
    the eating of ᵱſnyps

    ________________________________________

    o Clown • betts

    trewe and pumpions togeather

    Enter ________________________________________

    ſeriant

    what ſay you to t‹he› mercy of the king do you refuſe yt

    ________________________________________

    Lin

    you woold haue ‹vs› vppon thipp woold you no marry do we not, we
    accept of the kinge mercy but wee will ſhowe no mercy vppõ
    the ſtraingers

    ________________________________________

    ſeriaunt

    you ar the ſimpleſt thinge that eu ſtood in such a queſtion

    ________________________________________

    Lin

    how say you ˄now prenty prentiſſes ſymple downe wth him

    ________________________________________

    all

    prentiſſes ſymple prentiſſes ſymple

    Enter the L maier Surrey

    Shrewsbury

    Sher Maior

    hold in the kinge name hold

    ________________________________________

    Surrey

    ſrende maſters Countrymen

    mayer

    peace how peace I ſh Charg you keep the peace

    ________________________________________

    Shro•

    my maſters Countrymen

    ________________________________________

    Sher Williamson

    The noble Earle of Shrewſbury lette hear him

    ________________________________________

    Ge bette

    weele heare the Earle of Surrey

    ________________________________________

    Linc

    the earle of Shrewſbury

    ________________________________________

    bette

    weele heare both

    ________________________________________

    all

    both both both both

    ________________________________________

    Linc

    Peace I say peace ar you men of Wiſdome ar or what ar you

    ________________________________________

    Surr

    But what you will haue them but not men of Wiſdome

    ________________________________________

    all

    weele not heare my L of Surrey, all no no no no no

    Shrewſbury ſhr

    ________________________________________

    moor

    whiles they ar ore the banck of their obedyenc
    thus will they bere downe all thinge

    ________________________________________

    Linc

    Shreiff moor ſpeakes ſhall we heare ſhreef moor ſpeake

    ________________________________________

    Doll

    Lette heare him a keepes a plentyfull ſhrevaltry, and a made my

    Brother Arther watchin ‹s› Seriant Safes yeoman lete heare

    ſhreeve moore

    ________________________________________

    all

    Shreiue moor moor more Shreue moore

  2. Transcript

    There are two versions of the transcript below. The first has been updated to use modern spellings. The second follows the spellings on the manuscript.

    Transcript One (modern spelling):

    More.

    Even by the rule you have among yourselves,
    Command still audience.

    All [1].

    Surrey, Surrey!

    All [2].

    More, More!

    Lincoln, Betts.

    Peace, peace, silence, peace!

    More.

    You that have voice and credit with the mv number,
    Command them to a stillness.

    Lincoln.

    A plague on them, they will not hold their peace. The dev'l
    cannot rule them.

    More.

    Then what a rough and riotous charge have you
    To lead those that the dev'l cannot rule.
    Good masters, hear me speak.

    Doll.

    Ay, by th' mass, will we, More. Th' art a good house-keeper and
    I thank thy good worship for my brother Arthur Watchins.

    All.

    Peace, peace!

    More.

    Look what you do offend you cry upon,
    That is the peace; not one of you here present,
    Had there such fellows liv'd when you were babes,
    That could have topp'd the peace, as now you would,
    The peace wherein you have till now grown up
    Had been ta'en from you, and the bloody times
    Could not have brought you to these the state of men.
    Alas, poor things, what is it you have got
    Although we grant you get the thing you seek?

    D Betts.

    Marry, the removing of the strangers, which cannot choose but
    much help advantage the poor handicrafts of the city.

    More.

    Grant them removed and grant that this your y noise
    Hath chid down all the majesty of England,
    Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
    Their babies at their backs, and with their poor luggage
    Plodding to th’ ports and coasts for transportation,
    And that you sit as kings in your desires,
    Authority quite silenc'd by your brawl,
    And you in ruff of your ye opinions cloth'd,
    What had you got? I'll tell you: you had taught
    How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
    How [order] should be quell'd, and by this pattern
    Not one of you should live an aged man,
    For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
    With self-same hand, self reasons, and self right,
    Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
    Would feed on one another.

    Doll.

    Before God, that's as true as the gospel.

    Betts Lincoln.

    Nay, this a sound fellow, I tell you, let's mark him.

    More.

    Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
    [One] supposition, which if you will mark
    You shall perceive how horrible a shape
    Your innovation bears: first, 'tis a sin
    Which oft th' apostle did forewarn us of urging obedience to authority,
    And 'twere in no error if I told you all you were in arms 'gainst God.

     

    Transcript Two (manuscript spelling):

    moor

    ‹ev›en by the rule you haue among yor ſealues
    Comand ſtill audience

    ________________________________________

    all

    ‹S›urrey Sury all moor moor

    ________________________________________

    Lincolne bette

    peace peace ſcilens peace

    ________________________________________

    Moor

    You that haue voyce and Credyt wt the mv nvmber
    Comaund them to a stilnes

    ________________________________________

    Lincolne

    a plaigue on them they will not hold their peace the deule
    Cannot rule them

    ________________________________________

    Moor

    Then what a rough and ryotous charge haue you
    to Leade thoſe that the deule Cannot rule
    good maſters heare me ſpeake

    ________________________________________

    Doll

    I byth mas will we moor thart a good howſkeeper and I
    thanck thy good worſhip for my Brother Arthur watchins

    ________________________________________

    All

    реасе реace

    ________________________________________

    Moor

    look what you do offend you Cry vppõ
    that is the peace; not ‹on› of you heare preſent
    had there ſuch fellowes lyvd when you wer babes
    that coold haue topt the peace, as nowe you woold
    the peace wherin you haue till nowe growne vp
    had bin tane from you, and the bloody tymes
    coold not haue brought you to theiſe the state of men
    alas poor thinge what is yt you haue gott
    although we graunt you geat the thing you seeke

    ________________________________________

    D Bett

    marry the removing of the ſtraingers wch cannot chooſe but
    Much helpe advauntage the poor handycraftes of the Cytty

    ________________________________________

    Moor

    graunt them remoued and graunt that this yor y noyce
    hath Chidd downe all the matie of Ingland
    ymagin that you ſee the wretched ſtraingers
    their babyes at their backe, and ˄wt their poor lugage
    plodding tooth porte and coſte for tranſportacion
    and that you ſytt as kinge in your deſyres
    aucthoryty quyte ſylenct by yor braule
    and you in ruff of yor ye opynions clothd
    what had you gott;. Ile tell you, you had taught
    how inſolenc and ſtrong hand ſhoold prevayle
    how orderd ſhoold be quelld, and by this patterne
    not on of you ſhoold lyve an aged man
    for other ruffians as their fancies wrought
    wth ſealf ſame hand ſealf reaſons and ſealf right
    woold ſhark on you and men lyke ravenous fiſhes
    woold feed on on another

    ________________________________________

    Doll

    before god thate as trewe as the goſpell

    ________________________________________

    Bette Lincoln

    nay this a ſound fellowe I tell you lets mark him

    ________________________________________

    Moor

    Let me sett vp before yor thoughts good freinde
    on ſuppoſytion, which if you will marke
    you shall ᵱceaue howe horrible a ſhape
    your ynnovation beres, firſt tis a finn
    which oft thappoſtle did forwarne vs of vrging obedienc to aucthory‹ty›
    and twere in no error yf I told you all    you wer in armes gainſt g‹od›

  3. Transcript

    There are two versions of the transcript below. The first has been updated to use modern spellings. The second follows the spellings on the manuscript.

    Transcript One (modern spelling):

    All.

    Marry, God forbid that!

    More.

    Nay, certainly you are,
    For to the King God hath his office lent
    Of dread, of justice, power and command,
    Hath bid him rule, and will'd you to obey;
    And to add ampler majesty to this
    He god hath not le only lent the King his figure,
    His throne his and sword, but given him his own name,
    Calls him a god on earth. What do you then,
    Rising 'gainst him that God himself installs,
    But rise 'gainst God? What do you to your souls
    In doing this, O desperate ar as you are?
    Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands
    That you like rebels lift against the peace
    Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
    That Make them your feet. To kneel to be forgiven
    Is safer wars than ever you can make,
    Whose discipline is riot. In, in to your obedience! Why, even your hurly
    Cannot proceed but by obedience.
    Tell me but this what rebel captain,
    As mutines are incident, by his name
    Can still the rout? Who will obey th a traitor?
    Or how can well that proclamation sound
    When there is no addition but a rebel
    To qualify a rebel? You'll put down strangers,
    Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
    And lead the majesty of law in lyam
    To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, saying say now the King,
    As he is clement if th' offender mourn,
    Should so much come too short of your great trespass
    As but to banish you, whither would you go?
    What country by the nature of your error
    Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
    To any German province, Spain or Portigal,
    Nay, any where why you that not adheres to England,
    Why, you must needs be strangers; would you be pleas'd
    To find a nation of such barbarous temper
    That breaking out in hideous violence
    Would not afford you an abode on earth,
    Whet their detested knives against your throats,
    Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
    Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements
    Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
    But charter'd unto them? What would you think
    To be thus us'd? This is the strangers' case
    And this your [mountainish] inhumanity.

    All.

    Faith, 'a says true. Let's us do as we may be done by.

    All Lincoln.

    We'll be rul’d by you, Master More, if you'll stand our friend to procure our pardon.

    More.

    Submit you to these noble gentlemen,
    Entreat their mediation to the King,
    Give up yourself to form, obey the magistrate,
    And there's no doubt but mercy may be found if you so seek it.

     

    Transcript Two (manuscript spelling):

    All

    marry god forbid that

    ________________________________________

    moo

    nay certainly you ar
    for to the king god hath his offyc lent
    of dread of Iuſtyce, power and Comaund
    hath bid him rule, and willd you to obay
    and to add ampler matie to this
    he god hath not le only lent the king his figure
    his throne his & ſword, but gyven him his owne name
    calls him a god on earth, what do you then
    ryſing gainſt him that god himſealf enſtalls
    but ryſe gainſt god, what do you to yor ſowles
    in doing this o deſperat ar as you are
    waſh your foule mynds wt teares and thoſe fame hande
    that you lyke rebells lyft againſt the peace
    lift vp for peace, and your vnreuerent knees
    that make them your feet    to kneele to be forgyven
    is ſafer wars, then euer you can make
                                           in in to yor obedienc
    whoſe diſcipline is ryot; why euen yor warrs hurly
    cannot ᵱceed but by obedienc ˄tell me but this what rebell captaine
    as muty˄nes ar incident, by his name
    can ſtill the rout who will obay th a traytor
    or howe can well that ᵱclamation ſounde
    when ther is no adicion but a rebell
    to quallyfy a rebell, youle put downe ſtraingers
    kill them cutt their throts poſſeſſe their howſes
    and leade the matie of lawe in liom
    to flipp him lyke a hound; ˄alas alas ſayeng ſay nowe the king
    as he is clement,. yf thoffendor moorne
    ſhoold ſo much com to ſhort of your great treſpas
         as but to banyſh you, whether woold you go
    what Country by the nature of yor error
    ſhoold gyve you harber go you to ffraunc or flanders
    to any Iarman ᵱvince, to ſpane or portigall
    may any where why you that not adheres to Ingland
    why you muſt neede be ſtraingers; woold you be pleasd
    to find a nation of ſuch barbarous temper
    that breaking out in hiddious violence
    woold not afoord you, an abode on earth
    whett their deteſted knyves againſt yor throtes
    ſpurne you lyke dogge, and lyke as yf that god
    owed not nor made not you, nor that the elamente
    wer not all appropriat to ˄yor their Comforte
    but Charterd vnto them, what woold you thinck to be thus vſd, this is the ſtraingers caſe
    and this your momtaniſh inhumanyty

    _______________________________________

    all

    fayth a ſaies trewe letts vs do as we may be doon by

    ________________________________________

    all Linco

    weele be ruld by you master moor yf youle ſtand our
    freind to ᵱcure our ᵱdon

    ________________________________________

    moor

    Submyt you to theiſe noble gentlemen
    entreate their mediation to the kinge
    gyve vp yor ſealf to forme obay the maieſtrate -
    and thers no doubt, but mercy may be found yf you ſo ſeek ‹yt›