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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > Art & Literature > Play 2 > Act 4, scene 3

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Scene 4.3 A plain near Salisbury

Enter Hengist, Gentleman [Saxon], and Saxons.

HENGIST
If we let slip this opportuneful hour,
Take leave of fortune, certainty or thought
Of ever fixing, we are loose at root,
And the least storm may rend us from the bosom
Of this land's hopes forever. But, dear Saxons,
Fasten we now, and our unshaken firmness
Will assure after ages.

SAXON
We are resolv'd, my lord.

HENGIST
Observ'd you not how Vortiger the king,
Base in submission, threat'ned our expulsion,
His arm held up against us? Is't not time
To make our best preventions? What should check me?
H'as perfected that great work in our daughter
And made her queen; she can ascend no higher.
Nor can the incessant flow of his love['s] praises,
Which yet still sways
[1] , take from that height it raises;
She's sure enough. What rests then but that I
Make happy mine own hopes, and policy
[Forbids] no way, noble or treacherous ended:
What best effects is of her best commended.
Therefore be quick, dispatch; here, every man
Receive into the service of his vengeance
An instrument of steel, which will unseen
Lurk like the snake under the innocent shade
Of a spread summer's leaf, and as great substance
Blocks itself up into less room in gold
Than other metals, and less burthensome,
So in the other hand lies all confin'd
Full as much death as ever chang'd mankind.
'Tis all the same time that a small watch shows
As great church dials, and as true as those.
[2]
Take heart: the commons love us; those remov'd
That are the nerves
[3], our greatness stands improv'd.

GENTLEMAN [SAXON]
Give us the word, my lord, and we are perfect.

HENGIST
That's true, the word; I lose myself. Nemp your sexes:
[4]
It shall be that.

GENTLEMAN [SAXON]
Enough, sir, then we strike.

HENGIST
But the king's mine; take heed you touch him not.

GENTLEMAN [SAXON]
We shall not be at leisure, never fear't;
We shall have work enough of our own, my lord.

[Enter Vortiger and British Lords.]

HENGIST
They come. Calm looks but stormy souls possess you.

VORTIGER
We see you keep your word in all points firm.

HENGIST
No longer may we boast of so much breath
As goes to a word['s] making, than of care
In the preserving of it when 'tis made.

VORTIGER
Y'are in a virtuous way, my Lord of Kent,
And since w'are both sides well met like sons of peace,
All other arms laid by in sign of favour
If our conditions be embrac'd--

HENGIST
[Th'are, th'are].

VORTIGER
[Preparing to embrace him] We'll use no other but these only here.

HENGIST
Nemp your sexes!

[The Saxons seize the Britons.]

BRITISH LORDS
Treason, treason!

HENGIST
Follow to th' heart,
My trusty Saxons, 'tis your liberty,
Your wealth and honour! Soft, y'are mine, my lord.

VORTIGER
Take me not basely, when all sense and strength
Lies bound up in amazement at this treachery.
What devil hath breath'd this everlasting part
Of falsehood into thee?

HENGIST
Let it suffice
I have you and will hold you prisoner,
As fast as death holds your best props
[5] in silence.
We know the hard conditions of our peace,
Slavery or diminution, which we hate
With a joint loathing: may all perish thus
That seek to subjugate or lessen us.

VORTIGER
Oh, you strange nooks of guile or subtlety,
Where man so cunningly lies hid from man!
Who could expect such treason from [your] breast,
Such thunder from your voice? Or take you pride
To imitate the fair uncertainty
Of a bright day, that teems the sudden'st storm,
When the world least expects one? But of all
I'll never trust fair sky in a man again;
There's the deceitful weather. Will you heap
More guilt upon you by detaining me,
Like a cup taken after a full surfeit,
Even in contempt of health and heaven together?
What seek you?

HENGIST
Ransom for your liberty
As I shall like of, or you ne'er obtain 't.

VORTIGER
Here's a most headstrong, dangerous ambition.
Sow you the seeds of your aspiring hopes
In blood and treason, and must I pay for 'em?
Have not I rais'd you to this height?

HENGIST
My lord,
A work of mine own merit, since you enforce it.

VORTIGER
There's even the general thanks of all aspirers:
When they have all the honours kingdoms can impart,
They write above it still their own desert.

HENGIST
I have writ mine true, my lord.

VORTIGER
That's all their sayings.
Have I not rais'd your daughter to a queen?

HENGIST
Why, y'have the harmony of your pleasure for't;
Y'have crown'd your own desires! What's that to me?

VORTIGER
And what will crown yours, sir?

HENGIST
Faith, things of reason:
I demand Kent.

VORTIGER
Why, y'have the earldom on't!

HENGIST
The kingdom on't, I mean, without control,
The full possession.

VORTIGER
This is strange in you.

HENGIST
It seems y'are not acquainted with my blood yet
To call this strange.

VORTIGER
Never was king of Kent yet
But who was general king.

HENGIST
I'll be the first then;
Everything has beginning.

VORTIGER
No less title?

HENGIST
Not if you hope for liberty, my lord.
So dear a happiness would be wrong'd by slighting.

VORTIGER
Well, take 't, I resign 't.

HENGIST
Why, I thank your grace.

VORTIGER
Is your great thirst suffic'd yet?

HENGIST
Faith, my lord,
There's yet behind a pair of teeming sisters,
Norfolk and Suffolk, and I have done with you.

VORTIGER
Y'have got a fearful thirst, my lord, of late,
Howe'er you came by't.

HENGIST
It behooves me then
For my blood's health to seek all means to quench it.

VORTIGER
Them too?

HENGIST
There's nothing will be abated, sir,
Put your assurance in't.

VORTIGER
You have the advantage;
He whom fate captivates
[6] must yield to all.
Take 'em.

HENGIST
And you your liberty and peace, my lord,
With our best love and wishes. Here's an hour
Begins us Saxons in wealth, fame and power.

Exit [with all save Vortiger].

VORTIGER
Are these the noblest fruits and fair'st requitals
From works of our own raising?
Methinks the murther of Constantius
Speaks to me in the voice on't, and the wrongs
Of our late queen, slipp'd both into one organ.
Here is no safety for me but what's most doubtful;
The rank rout
[7] love me not, and the strength I had
This foul, devouring treachery has demolish'd.

Enter Horsus.

Ambition, hell, mine own undoing, lust,
And all the brood of plagues conspire against me.
[I have not a friend left me.]

HORSUS
My lord, he dies
That says it but yourself, were't that thief-king
That has so boldly stol'n his honours from you,
A treason that wrings tears from honest manhood.

VORTIGER
So rich am I now in thy love and pity,
I feel no loss at all; but we must part,
My queen and I, to Cambria
[8].

HORSUS
My lord,
And I not nam'd, that have vow'd lasting service
To life's extremest minute to your fortunes?

VORTIGER
Is my ruin'd fate bless'd with so dear a friend?

HORSUS
My lord, no space in earth nor breadth in sea
Shall divide me from you.

VORTIGER
Oh, faithful treasure!
All my lost happiness is made up in thee.

Exit.

HORSUS
I'll follow you through the world to cuckold you;
That's my way now. Everyone has his toy
While he lives here: some men delight in building
A trick of Babel
[9] and will ne'er be left,
Some in consuming what was rais'd with toiling,
Hengist in getting honour, I in spoiling.

Exit.

NOTES

[1] sways: rules.
[2] As great substance...true as those: a series of metaphors: i.e., that just as it takes much less gold than other metal to reach a certain price, and that just as a small watch tells time as effectively as a large church clock, so in their hidden hands (as opposed to the ones extended in friendship) should lie just as much destruction as if they had openly encountered Vortiger with swords drawn.
[3] nerves: sinews.
[4] Nemp your sexes: take your knives (from OE nimath eowra seaxas) .
[5] props: stage properties. Middleton, like many other dramatists of this time, frequently uses theatrical metaphors.
[6] captivates: takes prisoner .
[7] rout: rabble, herd.
[8] Cambria: Wales
[9] Babel: in Genesis xi.1-9, the high tower built to reach heaven. God punished its builders by changing their language into new and different languages, after which they could not understand one another and left the tower unfinished.

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