the Annotated Popular Edition of






by John Ford

c. 1634




Annotations and notes © Copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2017
This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.







The English

Perkin Warbeck may be the greatest historical play of the Elizabethan era written by somebody not named Shakespeare. This drama is comprehensive, referencing, if not acting out, the entire story of the most famous of the Pretenders to the throne in Henry VII's time. Pay particular attention to the refreshingly genial Earl of Huntley, one of the most endearing characters of the Elizabethan stage.

Henry VII., King of England

Lord Dawbeney.

Sir William Stanley, Lord Chamberlain.

Earl of Oxford.

Earl of Surrey.

Fox, Bishop of Durham.


Urswick, Chaplain to the King.

Sir Robert Clifford.

The text of Perkin Warbeck is taken from John Ford,

Lambert Simnel.

edited by Havelock Ellis, as part of The Mermaid Series,

published by Vizetelly & Co., London, 1888.

Hialas, a Spanish Agent.


The Scottish

     References in the annotations to "Dyce"  refer to the

notes supplied by editor A. Dyce to Perkin Warbeck in his

James IV., King of Scotland.

1869 collection of Ford's work, cited at #11 below.

     References in the annotations to "Bacon" refer to

Earl of Huntley.

Francis Bacon's History of the Reign of King Henry VII,

      Lady Katherine Gordon, his daughter.

published in 1622.

            Jane Douglas, Lady Katherine's Attendant.

     Biographical notes are adapted from the Dictionary of

Earl of Crawford.

National Biography, edited by Leslie Stephen and Sydney

      Countess of Crawford, his wife.

Lee (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1885-1900).

Lord Dalyell.

     Historical background is adapted from James Lardner's

Marchmont, a Herald.

History of the Life and Reign of Richard the Third, to

Which is Added the Story of Perkin Warbeck (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1898), as well the Dictionary

The Rebels

of National Biography and Bacon's History.

     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the

Perkin Warbeck.

footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes

appears at the end of this play.

Warbeck's followers:

     Footnotes in the text correspond as follows:

     Stephen Frion, his secretary.

     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

     John A-Water, Mayor of Cork.

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

     Heron, a Mercer.

London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

     Skelton, a Tailor.

     3. Ellis, Havelock, ed. The Best Plays of the Old

     Astley, a Scrivener.

Dramatists: John Ford. London: Viztelly & Co., 1888.

     8. The Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th edition. New

Sheriff, Constable, Officers, Messenger, Guards,

York: 1911.

Soldiers, Masquers, and Attendants.

     11. Dyce, Alexander. The Works of John Ford, Vol. II.

London: Robson and Son, 1869.


     Historical and biographical notes which are not strictly

Partly in England, partly in Scotland.

necessary to understand the play, but provide background

of possible interest, are supplied in italics.






c. 1634

Brief Historical Background

     The War of the Roses (1455-1485) was a long, thirty-year war over possession of the throne of England, fought between the descendents of two of Edward III's sons: the Lancastrians, descended from John of Gaunt, and the Yorkists, whose ancestor was John's younger brother Edmund of Langley (we may mention that the Yorkists were also descended from Edward's son Lionel, who was older than both John and Langley, but through Lionel's daughter Philippa of Clarence, which complicates the question of which side had the better claim).

     Shakespeare's Richard III dramatizes the rise of Richard, the Earl of Gloucester, to the throne (Richard and his family were Yorkists). After Richard's brother, Edward IV, died in April 1483, the throne technically passed to Edward's oldest son, also named Edward. In Shakespeare's tragedy, Richard one-by-one eliminates all those who are ahead of him in line for the throne, starting with his older brother George, the Earl of Clarence, and then Edward IV's two young sons. In July 1483, Richard finally was crowned king himself.

     Meanwhile, the leading Lancastrian claimant for the throne, Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, had been biding his time in France. Having raised an army, Henry invaded England in 1485, and, in the climactic battle of the war, defeated and killed Richard at the Battle of Bosworth (1485). Richmond seized the throne and was crowned Henry VII. Henry then married Elizabeth of York (Edward IV's daughter), thus uniting the two fractious houses, officially ending the long and bloody war, and commencing England's Tudor Dynasty.

Perkin Warbeck's Story So Far

     Perkin Warbeck (1474-1499) was born in the Belgian city of Tournai to one John Osbeck, a controller of the city. In his youth, Warbeck spent time in Antwerp, Bergen-op-Zoom and Middleburg. In the late 1480's he lived in both Portugal and Breton in the service of a pair of knights. From Breton he sailed to Ireland for the first time, landing in Cork in 1491. There he was acclaimed first to be Edward, the son of Richard III's luckless brother Clarence (Edward was still living, though in the Tower of London), and then as the son of Richard III (Edward, who died in 1484, while Richard was still king). Finally, with the support and encouragement of the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, Warbeck agreed to take on the role of Edward IV's younger son, Richard, the Duke of York (Richard had disappeared in the Tower along with his elder brother, Edward V, in 1483).

     After a period of training in the language and manners of a king's son, Warbeck traveled to France at the invitation of King Charles VIII, but was quickly evicted from that country when Charles signed a treaty with England's Henry VII. Warbeck returned to Flanders, where he was received by the disaffected Margaret of Burgundy, sister of Richard III and Edward IV, who completed his "education". In November, 1493, Warbeck traveled to Vienna, where he presented himself to the Holy Roman Empire's Emperor Maximilian, who was Margaret's son-in-law. Meanwhile, the conspiracy began to grow, as Yorkists in England and Flanders joined up in the hopes of reviving their fortunes.




c. 1634




The royal Presence-chamber.

Enter King Henry, supported to the throne by the

Bishop of Durham and Sir William Stanley;

Earls of Oxford and Surrey, and Lord Dawbeney.

A Guard.


King Hen.  Still to be haunted, still to be pursued,

1-7: Henry opens the play by bemoaning the seemingly endless parade of Pretenders to his throne.
     Henry VII (1457-1509), reigned 1485-1509. Despite having been the ultimate victor in the War of the Roses, Henry's reign was a troubled one. The long years of bitter Civil War had created resentments on both sides, especially, naturally, for the losing Yorkists. Henry had to deal with repeated rebellions and Pretenders in his quarter-century on the throne.


Still to be frightened with false apparitions

Of pageant majesty and new-coined greatness,

= illusory, without substance.1  = newly-made.


As if we were a mockery king in state,

= imitation or travesty1, or subject to ridicule.2

Only ordained to lavish sweat and blood,


In scorn and laughter, to the ghosts of York,

= York is Richard, third Duke of York (1411-1460). York served King Henry VI in a number of capacities, including Lord Protector (which made him technically head of England's government) during Henry's occasional bouts of insanity. York's rivalries with other factions led gradually to open war, the conflict known today as the War of the Roses (1455-1485). Though initially claiming to be only defending himself, his family and his interests, York eventually sought the crown itself, asserting his right as a descendent of Edward III through Edward's son Edward Langley. York was slain at the Battle of Wakefield (December 30, 1450).
     York's son Edward seized the throne as Edward IV in 1461, then lost it in 1470 before regaining it permanently in 1471.
     Henry's reference to the ghosts of York alludes to the Pretenders to the crown who appeared during his reign by claiming to be various descendents of Richard, 3rd Duke of York: the first was Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be the still-living Edward, Earl of Warwick (Edward IV's brother Clarence's son); then came Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Edward's son Richard, Duke of York. Our play begins in 1495, when Warbeck is at large, and seemingly still on the ascendant.

Is all below our merits: yet, my lords,

= "what I deserve".


My friends and counsellors, yet we sit fast

In our own royal birthright; the rent face

9-12: the rent…safety = Henry compares himself to a doctor,  who has cured England after the long, bloody civil war, the War of the Roses.


And bleeding wounds of England's slaughtered people

Have been by us as by the best physician,

= the "royal we", meaning "me".  = as if.


At last both throughly cured and set in safety;

= common Elizabethan usage for "thoroughly".

And yet, for all this glorious work of peace,


Ourselves is scarce secure.

= "I am"


Dur.                                   The rage of malice

16-17: a brief magic metaphor, with conjures, spirits and

Conjures fresh spirits with the spells of York.

     spells; the spirits are the ghosts of York of line 6.


For ninety years ten English kings and princes,

= Durham reaches back in time to the civil war and

Threescore great dukes and earls, a thousand lords

     rebellions, which lasted through 1408, that erupted


And valiant knights, two hundred fifty thousand

     after Henry of Bolingbroke seized the crown from

Of English subjects have in civil wars

     Richard II in 1399 as Henry IV. Given that the Hundred


Been sacrificed to an uncivil thirst

     Years' War with France had also engulfed England from
     1337 to 1453, Durham's point will be that it is only under
     the current Henry's reign that true peace has finally
     returned to England.

Of discord and ambition: this hot vengeance


Of the just powers above to utter ruin

= ie. God or Providence.

And desolation had rained on, but that

= would have.


Mercy did gently sheathe the sword of justice,

In lending to this blood-shrunk commonwealth

=  withered1, ie. from being drained of its blood.


A new soul, new birth, in your sacred person.

26-28: Durham's flattery of course conveniently ignores
     the strife that has continuously attended his own king's


Daw.  Edward the Fourth, after a doubtful fortune,

30-33: King Edward IV (1442-1483) had 10 children, 7 of whom survived to adulthood; only 2 were boys, who were thus regarded as potential heirs to the throne: Edward (b. November 4, 1470); and Richard (b. August 17, 1473), styled the Duke of York. Edward IV died of perhaps natural causes April 9, 1483. His son Edward briefly reigned in name as Edward V, with the dead king's brother, Richard of Gloucester, acting as Protector. The young king and his brother the Duke of York disappeared sometime in 1483. It is believed by many that the two boys were murdered on the orders of Richard of Gloucester, who had himself crowned Richard III, King of England, on July 6, 1483.

Yielded to nature, leaving to his sons,


Edward and Richard, the inheritance

Of a most bloody purchase: these young princes,

33-35: these young…grave = note the typically convoluted
     structure of the sentence: King Richard III forced the
     young princes to their graves. Richard was unnatural
     (line 34) because he lacked any emotional connection
     to his own family.


Richard the tyrant, their unnatural uncle,

= Richard of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III, would
     have had a motive to have the two young princes killed:
     he wanted to be king, but the two boys, as Edward IV's
     children, would have had a superior claim to the throne.

Forced to a violent grave: − so just is Heaven,

= in the 17th century, workmen in the Tower found a set of
     children's bones, which were widely believed at the time
     to belong to the two young princes. King Charles II had
     the bones reburied in Westminster Abbey. The Church of
     England refuses to allow the remains to be disinterred
     and examined to try to determine their identities.


Him hath your majesty by your own arm,

= ie. Richard III.

Divinely strengthened, pulled from his boar's sty,

= the boar was Richard III's armorial symbol; he is referred
     to frequently as the boar in Shakespeare's Richard III.


And struck the black usurper to a carcass.

 38: in 1485, Henry, the Earl of Richmond, invaded England
     and defeated and killed Richard III at the Battle of
     Bosworth, taking the throne for himself as our play's

Nor doth the house of York decay in honours,

     Henry VII.


Though Lancaster doth repossess his right;

For Edward's daughter is King Henry's queen, −

41: the rival claims to the throne during the War of the Roses, represented by the two factions known as the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, were finally settled when our King Henry (a Lancastrian) married Elizabeth of York (a Yorkist), a daughter of Edward IV.


A blessèd union, and a lasting blessing

For this poor panting island, if some shreds,


Some useless remnant of the house of York

44-45: a reference to any living distantly-related members 

Grudge not at this content.

of the House of York. There was always the fear that an unreconciled Yorkist might rebel or claim the throne for himself; after all, this is how Henry himself, as the leading surviving member of the House of Lancaster, gained the throne!


Oxf.                                  Margaret of Burgundy

Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy (1446-1503). Margaret


Blows fresh coals of division.

was a sister of Edward IV and Richard III, and a supporter of the Pretenders to the throne against Henry, and hence a persistent thorn (I suppose that is a rose pun) in his side.
     In 1468, she married Charles, Duke of Burgundy, and as a result of her marriage lived the rest of her life in the Netherlands. She was widowed in 1477. She was a particular source of aggravation to Henry, as she supported both Pretenders, Simnel and Warbeck, against him. Her dissent may have been caused in some part by the fact that Henry, when he came to the throne, had confiscated most of the dowry Edward IV had previously bestowed on her. In 1500, after the Warbeck rebellion had ended, she was forced to apologize to Henry "for her factiousness". She died in 1503.


Sur.                                        Painted fires,

= artificial, false.2

Without or heat to scorch or light to cherish.

= either.


Daw.  York's headless trunk, her father; Edward's fate,

53-57: read this speech as beginning with "Neither York's…", with "nor" appearing in line 56; York here refers to her father, ie. Margaret's father, Richard, 3rd Duke of York (and therefore also the father of Edward IV and Richard III). York's army, fighting in the War of the Roses, was destroyed at the Battle of Wakefield (December 30, 1460), and his head cut off and displayed at York, with a paper crown upon it.


Her brother, king; the smothering of her nephews

By tyrant Gloster, brother to her nature;

= ie. Richard III; note how Henry and his faction never refer
     to Richard as "king", as that would legitimize him.


Nor Gloster's own confusion, − all decrees

= overthrow.2

Sacred in Heaven, − can move this woman-monster,


But that she still, from the unbottomed mine

Of devilish policies, doth vent the ore


Of troubles and sedition.


Oxf.                                In her age −

62-72: in this speech, Oxford mocks Margaret, who, though

Great sir, observe the wonder − she grows fruitful,

     near 50 years of age, seems to be producing more


Who in her strength of youth was always barren:

     children, and furthermore, that they are born fully-grown:

Nor are her births as other mothers' are,

     he is of course referring to the Pretenders she supports


At nine or ten months' end; she has been with child

     (though technically they are claiming to be her nephews).

Eight, or seven years at least; whose twins being born, −


A prodigy in nature, − even the youngest

= abnormal birth2

Is fifteen years of age at his first entrance,


As soon as known i' the world; tall striplings, strong

And able to give battle unto kings,


Idols of Yorkish malice.


Daw.                             And but idols;

A steely hammer crushes 'em to pieces.

= meaning Henry


K. Hen.  Lambert, the eldest, lords, is in our service,

= Lambert Simnel (c. 1475-1525?). Simnel's story is a remarkable one. His father was perhaps a baker. He was described as a "comely youth, and well favoured." Sometime in the 1480's an "ambitious and unscrupulous" priest named Richard Simon had the idea of passing Lambert off as one of the missing princes. He brought Lambert to Oxford to educate him, and eventually his plan took on a number of Yorkist adherents.
     Now, at this time, the Earl of Warwick (son of the long-dead Duke of Clarence), was escaped from the Tower, where he had been held since 1485. Simon took Lambert to Ireland, which had always been a Yorkist stronghold, and declared Lambert to be the Earl of Warwick instead! Many leading Irishmen, including the archbishop of Dublin and the lord chancellor, believed them. Margaret of Burgundy also supported the cause, and convinced her son-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor, to send 1500 German soldiers to Ireland in his support. Amazingly, Lambert was actually crowned Edward VI at Dublin Cathedral in 1487!
     Finally, in June of that year, Lambert and his supporters crossed to England
this was the second year of Henry VII's reign. On June 16th, at Stoke-on-Trent, the royal forces destroyed the Yorkist army. Although considered a footnote in the War of the Roses, the Battle of Stokes Field was actually quite a large fight, with many thousands of casualties.
     Henry, either out of contempt or compassion, pardoned the young Lambert, and gave him a job first in the royal kitchens, and then later as a falconer.


Preferred by an officious care of duty

= promoted.

From the scullery to a falconer; strange example!

79: scullery = the department of the royal household in
     charge of kitchen utensils and plates.1
         example = precedent.


Which shows the difference between noble natures

And the base-born: but for the upstart duke,

= Perkin Warbeck, a new Pretender, is on the scene. Warbeck is claiming to be Edward IV's younger son, Richard, the Duke of York. First claiming the throne of England in 1490, he entered Scotland in 1495. This is where we are now in the play.


The new-revived York, Edward's second son,

Murdered long since i' the Tower, − he lives again,


And vows to be your king.

= as king, Henry will normally use "thee" when addressing

the nobles individually, as is expected, since he is at the top of the social ladder; in return, the nobles will always address Henry with the deferential "you." Here, however, Henry may be using "your" in the older plural sense, addressing all of his attending nobles.


Stan.                                The throne is filled, sir.


K. Hen.  True, Stanley; and the lawful heir sits on it:

A guard of angels and the holy prayers


Of loyal subjects are a sure defence

Against all force and council of intrusion. −


But now, my lords, put case, some of our nobles,

= suppose.1

Our great ones, should give countenance and courage

= support or good will.1


To trim Duke Perkin; you will all confess

= prepare, equip, or ornament.1

Our bounties have unthriftily been scattered

95-96: Henry is bitter that so many of those he pardoned


Amongst unthankful men.

     or gave offices or titles to have turned against him.


Daw.                                Unthankful beasts,

Dogs, villains, traitors!


K. Hen.                       Dawbeney, let the guilty


Keep silence; I accuse none, though I know

Foreign attempts against a state and kingdom


Are seldom without some great friends at home.


Stan.  Sir, if no other abler reasons else

106-111: "even if duty or allegiance cannot keep these

Of duty or allegiance could divert

     nobles loyal to you, they should at least be kept in


A headstrong resolution, yet the dangers

     check by the memory of what happened to those
     conspirators who supported Lambert Simnel."

So lately passed by men of blood and fortunes


In Lambert Simnel's party must command

= Below, Stanley lists some of the men who joined the

More than a fear, a terror to conspiracy.

     Simnel conspiracy:


The high-born Lincoln, son to De la Pole,

= John De La Pole, Earl of Lincoln (1464?-1487). His mother was Elizabeth, a sister of Richard III. When Richard's son died in 1484, Richard selected Lincoln to be his heir, over the Earl of Warwick, son of Richard's brother Clarence, who, though having perhaps a superior claim, was still only a boy. Richard was very generous to Lincoln, who fought with him at Bosworth. Although appointed offices by Henry VII, Lincoln remained ambitious for the crown, and fled to Ireland to support the plot in support of Simnel. Lincoln was killed at the Battle of Stokes Field.

The Earl of Kildare, − the Lord Geraldine, −

= Gerald Fitzgerald, eighth Earl of Kildare (d. 1513). Kildare was appointed deputy governor of Ireland by Richard III, where her served on and off for the rest of his life. Although he supported Warbeck, Henry VII pardoned him, though he remained under suspicion, which led to two years in the Tower in the 1490's. Pardoned again in 1496, he married a first cousin of Henry VII. He continued serving as deputy of Ireland under Henry VIII, finally dying of injuries after a military operation in 1513.


Francis Lord Lovell, and the German baron

= Francis Lovell, Viscount (1454-1487?). A supporter of Richard III, he fought at Bosworth. He survived the Battle of Stokes Field, and escaped, but then disappeared, perhaps dying of starvation while hiding in a vault in his house. In 1708 a skeleton was found in the vault during a renovation, which quickly crumbled to dust at first contact with fresh air.

Bold Martin Swart, with Broughton and the rest, −

= Martin Schwartz (d. 1487). Captain of the 1500 mercenaries sent by Margaret of Burgundy to support Simnel. Schwartz was killed at the Battle of Stokes Field.
     Broughton was one Sir Thomas Broughton.


Most spectacles of ruin, some of mercy, −

116: ie. some of the rebels were executed, some pardoned.

Are precedents sufficient to forewarn


The present times, or any that live in them,

What folly, nay, what madness, 'twere to lift


A finger up in all defence but yours,

Which can be but imposturous in a title.

= of the nature of an imposter1


K. Hen.  Stanley, we know thou lov'st us, and thy heart

123-4: thy heart…tongue = "what you feel is represented


Is figured on thy tongue; nor think we less

     by what you say".

Of any's here. − How closely we have hunted


This cub, since he unlodged, from hole to hole,

= in this speech, Henry reviews Warbeck's travels: he had first landed in Cork, Ireland, in 1491, where the conspiracy took shape.

Your knowledge is our chronicle: first Ireland,


The common stage of novelty, presented

= a reference to Ireland as being a frequent source of

This gewgaw to oppose us; there the Geraldines

= a thing or person of no value or account.1


And Butlers once again stood in support

Of this colossic statue: Charles of France

= in October, 1492 (the same month Christopher Columbus


Thence called him into his protection,

     first sighted land in the Western Hemisphere), Warbeck

Dissembled him the lawful heir of England;

     arrived in France at the invitation of Charles VIII of


Yet this was all but French dissimulation,

     France, who was anticipating war with England. Henry

Aiming at peace with us; which being granted

     did in fact invade, and besieged Boulogne; Charles made


On honourable terms on our part, suddenly

     a quick peace with Henry (the Treaty of Étaples), and

This smoke of straw was packed from France again,

     expelled Warbeck from France.


T' infect some grosser air: and now we learn −

Maugre the malice of the bastard Nevill,

= shame on, dishonour to1


Sir Taylor, and a hundred English rebels −

They're all retired to Flanders, to the dam

141: Flanders = from France, Warbeck retired to Flanders, where Margaret received him as her nephew. There they were joined by many disaffected Yorkists. 
     dam = mother (contemptuous), but with whelp, also meaning an animal's mother.1


That nursed this eager whelp, Margaret of Burgundy.


But we will hunt him there too; we will hunt him.



Hunt him to death, even in the beldam's closet,

144: beldam = an aged woman, but also used in a
     depreciatory sense, meaning a loathsome old hag.1
         closet = private rooms.

Though the archduke were his buckler!

145: archduke = ie. Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor,
     who held Flanders (which was in Burgundy) as part of
     his domain; archduke was Maximilian's title before
     becoming Emperor.
         buckler = small, round shield.2


Sur.                                                She has styled him


“The fair white rose of England."

148: the white rose was the symbol of the Yorkists in the

     War of the Roses; the red was that of the Lancastrians.


Daw.                                           Jolly gentleman!

More fit to be a swabber to the Flemish

= deckhand2


After a drunken surfeit.


Enter Urswick with a paper.

Christopher Urswick (1448-1522). In 1482, the Earl of Richmond's mother, Margaret Beaufort, took Urswick, a young cleric, to be her chaplain and confessor. Urswick thereafter became part of Henry's scheme to revolt against Richard III, and he accompanied Henry in his invasion of England and victory over Richard at Bosworth (1485). Urswick was rewarded with a steady stream of ecclesiastic positions, which he continued to accumulate throughout his long life. Urswick outlived Henry, dying in 1522 at the ripe old age of 74.


Urs.                             Gracious sovereign,

Please you peruse this paper.


[The King reads.]


Dur.                                     The king's countenance


Gathers a sprightly blood.


Daw.                                Good news; believe it.


K. Hen.  Urswick, thine ear. Thou'st lodged him?

= "you have given him temporary quarters?"


Urs.                                                 Strongly safe, sir.


 K. Hen.  Enough: − is Barley come too?

170: by now, the lords realize Henry has something up his



Urs.                                                      No, my lord.


K. Hen.  No matter − phew! he's but a running weed,

= OED cites the first use of phew as 1604.1

At pleasure to be plucked-up by the roots:


But more of this anon. − I have bethought me,

= in a little while

My lords, for reasons which you shall partake,


It is our pleasure to remove our court

= that is, himself and his retinue.

From Westminster to the Tower: we will lodge

= the Tower of London, in addition to serving as a prison,
     had apartments for the king and his guests.


This very night there; − give, Lord Chamberlain,

= Henry addresses Stanley: the Lord Chamberlain was

A present order for 't.

     the chief officer of the royal household1; William Stanley
     had held the position since Henry's ascension in 1485.


Stan. [Aside]          The Tower! − I shall, sir.

183: note that the long dash can be used to indicate a change of addressee, as in line 180 above, or a switch between an aside and a line spoken to another character.


K. Hen.  Come, my true, best, fast friends: these clouds
     will vanish,


The sun will shine at full; the heavens are clearing.


[Flourish. Exeunt.]

= fanfare, usually announcing the entrance, or in this

     case exit, of persons of importance.1



Scene II: note how the scene switches to Scotland; the

An Apartment in the Earl of Huntley's House.

     play will regularly alternate between the English and
     Scottish characters.

Enter Earl of Huntley and Lord Dalyell.

Entering Characters: Though Huntley calls himself "Alexander" later in this play, the Huntley portrayed here is actually George Gordon, second Earl of Huntly (d. 1524). On the occasion of the rebellion against James III in 1488, Huntly ostensibly was on the side of the king, but may have been actually helping the king's son, afterwards James IV, as evidenced by his being named to the privy council immediately upon young James' ascension to the crown of Scotland. Huntly had married James I's daughter Annabella in 1459, but in 1471 the marriage was annulled, as Annabella had been related too closely in blood to Huntly's first wife. Among his children was Lady Katherine, who though portrayed here as the daughter of Annabella, and thus of royal blood, she may actually have been the daughter of Huntly's subsequent and third wife.
     Lord Dalyell could be, as Dyce points out, either William or Robert Dalzell, grandsons of Sir John Dalzell; of the former, nothing is known; Robert was killed in a skirmish in 1508.


Hunt.  You trifle time, sir.

= waste


Dal.                                 O, my noble lord,


You construe my griefs to so hard a sense,

4-7: "whereas my suffering suggests you should feel pity
     for me, you instead interpret (gloss) my feelings as a
     source of humour."

That where the text is argument of pity,

= evidence of (deserving).


Matter of earnest love, your gloss corrupts it

= ie. being a matter.  = interpretation.

With too much, ill-placed mirth.


Hunt.                                   Much mirth! Lord Dalyell;


Not so, I vow. Observe me, sprightly gallant.

I know thou art a noble lad, a handsome,

= interesting use as a noun


Descended from an honourable ancestry,

Forward and active, dost resolve to wrestle


And ruffle in the world by noble actions

= deeds.

For a brave mention to posterity:

15: ie. which history will record for future generations to
     read about.


I scorn not thy affection to my daughter,

= note that while Dalyell, in speaking to the elder Huntley,
     addresses him with the respectful and deferential
     "you", Huntley, in speaking to the younger Dalyell,
     appropriately uses "thee"; but "thee" also signifies
     his great affection for the young man.

Not I, by good Saint Andrew; but this bugbear,

17: Saint Andrew = Scotland's patron saint. Huntley
     regularly swears by him.
         bugbear = bogeyman.2


This whoreson tale of honour, − honour, Dalyell! −

18-24: Huntley's wife, Annabella, was the daughter of the
     Scottish King James I; since their daughter Katherine is
     of royal blood, she would be expected to avoid marrying
     beneath her social level, as a point of honour. Huntley
     is saddened by this unwritten rule, as he genuinely
     would be glad to have her marry the noble, but not royal,

So hourly chats and tattles in mine ear

= Honour is personified as causing Huntley to hesitate in


The piece of royalty that is stitched-up

     letting Dalyell marry Katherine.

In my Kate's blood, that 'tis as dangerous


For thee, young lord, to perch so near an eaglet

As foolish for my gravity to admit it:

= allow.


I have spoke all at once.

24: "there, I said what had to be said"; Huntley cannot,
     without harming his reputation and family honour,
     openly acknowledge his desire to have Dalyell become
     his son-in-law, due to the discrepancy in rank between
     Katherine and Dalyell.


Dal.                              Sir, with this truth

You mix such wormwood, that you leave no hope

= a plant used in medicine, known for its bitter taste; hence,


For my disordered palate e'er to relish

     used to refer to anything that is bitter.

A wholesome taste again: alas, I know, sir,


What an unequal distance lies between

Great Huntley's daughter's birth and Dalyell's fortunes;


She's the king's kinswoman, placed near the crown,

A princess of the blood, and I a subject.


Hunt.  Right; but a noble subject; put in that too.

= "don't leave that out."


Dal.  I could add more; and in the rightest line


Derive my pedigree from Adam Mure,

38-40: Adam Mure's daughter Elizabeth married Robert, High Steward of Scotland, who after her death sometime before 1355, went on to become King Robert II of Scotland in 1370. Their son, born in 1337, became Robert III, whose son was James I, who reigned 1406-1437.5 Dalyell tries to tie himself into the royal family, but his connection is clearly tenuous at best.

A Scottish knight; whose daughter was the mother


To him who first begot the race of Jameses,

That sway the sceptre to this very day.


But kindreds are not ours when once the date

Of many years have swallowed up the memory


Of their originals; so pasture-fields

Neighbouring too near the ocean are swooped-up,


And known no more; for stood I in my first

46-48: for stood…servant = "if my rank were as high now as it once was, and still Katherine refused me"

And native greatness, if my princely mistress


Vouchsafed me not her servant, 'twere as good

= acknowledged.1

I were reduced to clownery, to nothing,

= ie. being a clown.


As to a throne of wonder.


Hunt.  [Aside]                Now, by Saint Andrew,

A spark of mettle! he has a brave fire in him:


I would he had my daughter, so I knew't not.

54: Huntley toys with the pleasing idea that Dalyell marry his daughter, so long as it is done outside his knowledge.
     Note how Huntley quickly rejects the notion, then immediately suggests to Dalyell that he elope with Katherine, so long as they leave Scotland!

But 't must not be so, must not. − Well, young lord,


This will not do yet: if the girl be headstrong,

And will not hearken to good counsel, steal her,

= listen.


And run away with her; dance galliards, do,

= lively dances.1

And frisk about the world to learn the languages:


Twill be a thriving trade; you may set up by't.

= begin housekeeping1; but also can refer to setting up a
     business, hence with trade, a commercial metaphor.


Dal.  With pardon, noble Gordon, this disdain

62-63: Dalyell, like Katherine (as we shall see), has no sense

Suits not your daughter's virtue or my constancy.

     of humour. They are oddly stuffy characters, both
     emotionally bound up in the pursuit of honourable


Hunt.  You're angry. −

= Huntley briefly switches to the more formal "you",
     suggesting a momentary break in the intimate connection
     with Dalyell.


          [Aside]  Would he would beat me, I deserve it. −

= "I wish he would"; Huntley is easily the most genial and

Dalyell, thy hand; we're friends: follow thy courtship,

     likeable character in the play.


Take thine own time and speak; if thou prevail'st

With passion more than I can with my counsel,


She's thine; nay, she is thine: 'tis a fair match,

Free and allowed. I'll only use my tongue,

71-72: I'll only…thine = Huntley's plan is that he will discourage Katherine from marrying Dalyell, but he won't force his will on her; it will be up to Dalyell to talk her into marrying him.


Without a father's power; use thou thine:

Self do, self have: no more words; win and wear her.

73: Huntley, perhaps out of words of advice, concludes his


     speech with a string of weak aphorisms.

Dal.  You bless me: I am now too poor in thanks


To pay the debt I owe you.


Hunt.                                Nay, thou'rt poor

Enough. − [Aside] I love his spirit infinitely. −


Look ye, she comes: to her now, to her, to her!


Enter Lady Katherine and Jane.


Kath.  The king commands your presence, sir.


Hunt.                                                      The gallant −

This, this, this lord, this servant, Kate, of yours,

= servant was a complex and subtle word; for a man to let
     a woman know he is her servant could express his desire
     to be her follower, devotee, wooer or lover.


Desires to be your master.

= Huntley's use of "you" to address Katherine indicates a
     formal and ritualistic moment: a father introducing a
     suitor to his daughter.


Kath.                                 I acknowledge him

A worthy friend of mine.

= another loaded word: friend could mean well-wisher, suitor, or lover; she may deliberately be ambiguous.


Dal.                               Your humblest creature.

= admirer


Hunt. [Aside] So, so! the game's a-foot; I'm in cold

95-96: Huntley realizes the two youngsters may already
     have an understanding outside his knowledge.


The hare and hounds are parties.

= in league, on the same side.1


Dal.                                            Princely lady,

How most unworthy I am to employ


My services in honour of your virtues,

= Dalyell's use of "you" to address Katherine suggests (1)

How hopeless my desires are to enjoy

     his deliberate formality when speaking to her in front of


Your fair opinion, and much more your love, −

     her father; and (2) their relationship has not yet reached a

Are only matter of despair, unless

     more intimate stage.


Your goodness give large warrant to my boldness,

My feeble-winged ambition.

98-105: note how awkwardly stilted Dalyell's wooing is.


Hunt.  [Aside]                    This is scurvy.

107: Huntley is annoyed that Dalyell is not more aggressive.


Kath.  My lord, I interrupt you not.

109: Huntley's comment was an aside, so Katherine would not have heard him; rather, Dalyell has probably paused awkwardly in his wooing, and she is indirectly encouraging him to continue.


Hunt.  [Aside]                               Indeed!


Now, on my life, she'll court him. − Nay, nay, on, sir.

= "she will likely be more aggressive than he will!"


Dal. Oft have I tuned the lesson of my sorrows

To sweeten discord and enrich your pity;

= pity is often used to describe the sympathy a pursued


But all in vain: here had my comforts sunk,

     but unresponsive man or woman should feel for his

And never risen again to tell a story

     or her agonizing wooer.


Of the despairing lover, had not now,

Even now, the earl your father −


Hunt.  [Aside]                         He means me, sure.


Dal.  After some fit disputes of your condition,

= ie. rank


Your highness and my lowness, given a license

Which did not more embolden than encourage


My faulting tongue.


Hunt.                     How, how? how's that? embolden!

128f: although Huntley's speech is open to interpretation,
     I believe, based on the subsequent lines, that he is
     annoyed that Dalyell has revealed his encouragement
     to Katherine, when it was supposed to be kept secret
     between them.

Encourage! I encourage ye! d'ye hear, sir? −

129: "What! I said that?!?"


A subtle trick, a quaint one: − will you hear, man?

130: a subtle…quaint one: also an ambiguous line: in this
     aside, Huntley is suggesting (1) that Dalyell revealing,
     yet understating, Huntley's encouragement was quaintly
     clever, or (2) Huntley himself will have to be clever here
     to undo the damage Dalyell has done. This interpretation
     is supported by Huntley's next speech, in which he
     explicitly warns Katherine about marrying below her.

What did I say to you? come, come, to the point.

= likely an indirect reference to his comment in line 23, in
     which he warned Dalyell that he, Huntley, could not
     have it known that he supports Dalyell's suit to marry


Kath.  It shall not need, my lord.


Hunt.                                        Then hear me, Kate. −

135ff: Huntley decides to take over the conversation.


Keep you on that hand of her, I on this. −

Thou stand'st between a father and a suitor,

= Huntley switches to the natural and intimate "thee" that


Both striving for an interest in thy heart:

     he would normally use with his daughter.

He courts thee for affection, I for duty;


He as a servant pleads, but by the privilege

= lover, courter

Of nature though I might command, my care


Shall only counsel what it shall not force.

Thou canst but make one choice; the ties of marriage


Are tenures not at will, but during life.

= legal term for holding property; the metaphor of the line
     instructs Katherine marriage is for life, and cannot be
     broken at will.

Consider whose thou art, and who; a princess,

145f: Huntley's entire speech is wonderfully endearing: by


A princess of the royal blood of Scotland,

     warning Katherine not to marry below her station, he

In the full spring of youth and fresh in beauty.

     preserves his honour; but he also, multiple times, subtly
     lets her know that she is free to do as she pleases, thus
     giving her a chance to fulfill his desire that she marry


The king that sits upon the throne is young,


And yet unmarried, forward in attempts

149-151: forward…person = ie. the Scottish king James,


On any least occasion to endanger

     because of his youth, too eagerly engages in dangerous

His person: wherefore, Kate, as I am confident

     behavior which could cost him his life.


Thou dar'st not wrong thy birth and education

By yielding to a common servile rage

= outburst or folly2


Of female wantonness, so I am confident

Thou wilt proportion all thy thoughts to side

= ie. match1


Thy equals, if not equal thy superiors.

My Lord of Dalyell, young in years, is old


In honours, but nor eminent in titles

= neither

Nor in estate, that may support or add to


The expectation of thy fortunes. Settle

160-6: Settle…thine own = Huntley hilariously swings

Thy will and reason by a strength of judgment;

     rapidly back and forth between his opposing pieces of
     advice: "marry to your station, but do as you wish"!


For, in a word, I give thee freedom; take it.


If equal fates have not ordained to pitch

= fix or plant1


Thy hopes above my height, let not thy passion

Lead thee to shrink mine honour in oblivion:


Thou art thine own; I have done.

= ie. "you are authorized to decide things for yourself"


Dal.                                           O, you're all oracle,

168-169: "You speak the truth!" This is not meant to be

The living stock and root of truth and wisdom!

     sarcastic; Dalyell is too serious and honourable to be so.


Kath.  My worthiest lord and father, the indulgence


Of your sweet composition thus commands

= personal qualities, generally, or referring to the speech 

The lowest of obedience; you have granted

     he has just recited.1


A liberty so large, that I want skill

= lack.

To choose without direction of example:

= precedent.


From which I daily learn, by how much more

You take off from the roughness of a father,


By so much more I am engaged to tender

The duty of a daughter. For respects


Of birth, degrees of title, and advancement,

I nor admire nor slight them; all my studies

= neither


Shall ever aim at this perfection only,

To live and die so, that you may not blush


In any course of mine to own me yours.


Hunt. Kate, Kate, thou grow'st upon my heart like peace,

186-7: the effect of Huntley's previous speech has been to

Creating every other hour a jubilee.

cause Katherine, in her gratitude, to promise never to do
anything to shame him; though in rejecting Huntley's tacit permission to marry Dalyell she goes against what Huntley really wants, he cannot help but be proud of her.


Kath.  To you, my lord of Dalyell, I address


Some few remaining words: the general fame

That speaks your merit, even in vulgar tongues

= common, public2


Proclaims it clear; but in the best, a precedent.


Hunt.  Good wench, good girl, i' faith!


Kath.                                         For my part, trust me,

I value mine own worth at higher rate


Cause you are pleased to prize it: if the stream

= note the metaphor with run in line 200.

Of your protested service − as you term it −

= professed.


Run in a constancy more than a compliment,

= mere show or ceremony.2

It shall be my delight that worthy love

201-2: It shall be…actions = like a maiden in an ancient tale
     of chivalry, she hopes his love for her will inspire him to
     commit great and noble deeds.


Leads you to worthy actions, and these guide ye

202-3: and these guide…name = and that through his great

Richly to wed an honourable name:

     deeds he will be rewarded with a marriage into a great


So every virtuous praise in after-ages

Shall be your heir, and I in your brave mention


Be chronicled the mother of that issue,

= ie. motivation.  = child, ie. outcome: metaphor with mother.

That glorious issue.


Hunt.                     O, that I were young again!


Sh'd make me court proud danger, and suck spirit

210-1: suck…reputation = draw power and motivation from

From reputation.

     the fame and honour (reputation) to be gained by


     serving her.

Kath.                 To the present motion


Here's all that I dare answer: when a ripeness

214-7: when a…troths = "when I am older or more

Of more experience, and some use of time,

     mature and experienced, and fate has decided it is
     time for me to exchange vows to marry"


Resolves to treat the freedom of my youth

Upon exchange of troths, I shall desire

217-8: I shall desire…in you = "I will be satisfied if I can


No surer credit of a match with virtue

     marry one whose virtue matches yours", though she

Than such as lives in you: mean time my hopes are

     may indirectly be alluding to marrying Dalyell himself.


Preserved secure in having you a friend.


Dal.  You are a blessèd lady, and instruct

222f: Dalyell's emotions are mixed and complex: though he

Ambition not to soar a farther flight

     loves Katherine, he nonetheless admires the proper
     attitude she takes to his courtship; he is so serious and
     earnest that he would likely have been even more
     disappointed if she had been any more receptive and
     forward to him than she was.


Than in the perfumed air of your soft voice. −

My noble Lord of Huntley, you have lent

225-7: Dalyell expresses gratitude to Huntley for being so


A full extent of bounty to this parley;

     generous (bounty = generosity) in allowing him,

And for it shall command your humblest servant.

     Dalyell, to have this full and intimate conversation
     (parley) with his daughter.


Hunt.  Enough: we are still friends, and will continue


A hearty love. − O, Kate, thou art mine own! −

No more: − my Lord of Crawford.


Enter Earl of Crawford.

John Lindsay, sixth Earl of Crawford (d. 1513). Lindsay had an elder brother, Alexander, whom he mortally wounded in a quarrel. John was killed at the Battle of Flodden (1413).


Craw.                                           From the king

235-7: Katherine, at line 84, had previously told Huntley


I come, my Lord of Huntley, who in council

     of the king's desire to see him. One must not keep the

Requires your present aid.

     sovereign waiting.


Hunt.                                Some weighty business?


Craw.  A secretary from a Duke of York,


The second son to the late English Edward,

Concealed, I know not where, these fourteen years,

243: dryly ironic.


Craves audience from our master; and 'tis said

The duke himself is following to the court.

= ie. Perkin Warbeck


Hunt. Duke upon duke; 'tis well, 'tis well; here's bustling

= stirring fussily.1


For majesty. − My lord, I will along with ye.

= "I will go along with you." Note the common grammatical
     construction of this phrase: in the presence of a verb of
     intent (will), the verb of action (go) is omitted.


Craw.  My service, noble lady!


Kath.                                       Please ye walk, sir?

= the Scottish, and Ford, will use "ye" for "you" on occasion.



Dal.  [Aside]

Times have their changes; sorrow makes men wise;

255-6: a rhyming couplet, used typically to end a scene,


The sun itself must set as well as rise;

     expressing a pithy sentiment.

Then, why not I? − Fair madam, I wait on ye.





An Apartment in the Tower.

Enter the Bishop of Durham, Sir Robert Clifford,

and Urswick. Lights.


Dur.  You find, Sir Robert Clifford, how securely

= Robert Clifford was a Yorkist who had gone to Flanders to support Warbeck; Henry had sent spies to Flanders, who offered Clifford and William Barlow (the mysterious man mentioned by Henry in Scene I, 170 above) pardons if they turned informers. Clifford immediately accepted. Barlow waited two years before submitting to Henry.


King Henry, our great master, doth commit

His person to your loyalty; you taste


His bounty and his mercy even in this,

= even is usually pronounced as a one-syllable word for purposes of meter.

That at a time of night so late, a place



So private as his closet, he is pleased

= private chamber or bedroom

T' admit you to his favour. Do not falter


In your discovery; but as you covet

= revealing (the conspiracy)

A liberal grace, and pardon for your follies,


So labour to deserve 't by laying open

All plots, all persons that contrive against it.


Urs. Remember not the witchcraft or the magic,


The charms and incantations, which the sorceress

14-15: the sorceress / Of Burgundy = ie. Margaret

Of Burgundy hath cast upon your reason:


Sir Robert, be your own friend now, discharge

= common sentiment for "do what is best for yourself".

Your conscience freely; all of such as love you


Stand sureties for your honesty and truth.

= guarantees

Take heed you do not dally with the king;


He's wise as he is gentle.


Clif.                                I am miserable,

If Henry be not merciful.


Urs.                                The king comes.


Enter King Henry.


K. Hen.  Clifford!


Clif.  [Kneels]   Let my weak knees root on the earth,


If I appear as leperous in my treacheries

Before your royal eyes, as to mine own


I seem a monster by my breach of truth.


K. Hen.  Clifford, stand up; for instance of thy safety,

= evidence1

I offer thee my hand.


Clif.                         A sovereign balm


For my bruised soul, I kiss it with a greediness.


[Kisses the King's hand, and rises.]


Sir, you're a just master, but I −


K. Hen.                                  Tell me,

Is every circumstance thou hast set down


With thine own hand within this paper true?

Is it a sure intelligence of all

= accurate information


The progress of our enemies' intents

Without corruption?

= ie. veering from what is true.


Clif.                        True, as I wish Heaven,


Or my infected honour white again.

= punning on corruption.  = free from evil, morally pure.1


K. Hen.  We know all, Clifford, fully, since this meteor,

= comet, ie. Warbeck; the meteor metaphor is developed
     extensively through line 63.

This airy apparition first discradled

57: airy = existing in the air; but also referring to an
     insubstantial person1, meaning Warbeck.
          discradled = a great word, and a Ford original.1


From Tournay into Portugal, and thence

58: Tournay = Warbeck's city of birth, located in Belgium.
         Portugal = Warbeck had spent a year in Portugal in 
     the service of a one-eyed knight named Peter Vacz de
     Cogna in the 1480's.

Advanced his fiery blaze for adoration



To the superstitious Irish; since the beard

= tail

Of this wild comet, conjured into France,


Sparkled in antic flames in Charles his court;

= grotesque or ludicrous1

But shrunk again from thence, and, hid in darkness,


Stole into Flanders flourishing the rag

= perhaps disparagingly referring to the standard1 Warbeck
     would be waving or flying.

Of painted power on the shore of Kent,

= counterfeit.
     Line 65 makes no sense: a line appears to have been omitted by the early printer: of painted power could conclude the image of the flourishing rag, but perhaps was originally followed by a line whose sense was "then made for England, landing on the shore of Kent, etc."
     65-66: in July of 1495, Warbeck made his first direct attempt to enter England, arriving with a small fleet on July 3 at Deal. He sent some of his men on shore. Unfortunately for him, the loyal citizens of the neighborhood attacked his little army, slaying 150 of his men, and capturing 80 more. From here he sailed to Ireland again (as Clifford mentions in line 70 below), where he fruitlessly besieged the southern port of Waterford for 11 days, his fleet again attacked by loyal citizens. It was from here that Warbeck finally sailed to Scotland to be received by James IV in November, 1495.


Whence he was beaten back with shame and scorn,

Contempt, and slaughter of some naked outlaws:


But tell me what new course now shapes Duke Perkin?

= Warbeck will repeatedly be referred to sarcastically as

     duke by the English.


Clif.  For Ireland, mighty Henry; so instructed

By Stephen Frion, sometimes secretary

71: Frion = Frion was indeed a former secretary of Henry, but now, as an agent of Margaret's, serves Warbeck.
     sometimes = former.


In the French tongue unto your sacred excellence,


But Perkin's tutor now.


K. Hen.                       A subtle villain,


That Frion, Frion, − You, my Lord of Durham,

Knew well the man.


Dur.                        French both in heart and actions.

= typical Elizabethan disparagement of the French as


K. Hen.  Some Irish heads work in this mine of treason;

81-82: "there are some Irishmen who are supporting


Speak 'em.

     Perkin; name them."


Clif.         Not any of the best; your fortune

Hath dulled their spleens. Never had counterfeit

85: spleens = believed to be the source of passion; hence, meaning "spirit".
     counterfeit = a fraud.


Such a confusèd rabble of lost bankrupts

For counsellors: first Heron, a broken mercer,

= bankrupt dealer in textiles.1


Then John a-Water, sometimes Mayor of Cork,

= John Water or Walters, mayor of Cork in 1490 and 1494.

Skelton a tailor, and a scrivener

89: Skelton = his name evokes skeleton, suggesting he is
     scrivener = professional writer or scribe.


Called Astley: and whate'er these list to treat of,

= care, choose.2  = speak about.

Perkin must hearken to; but Frion, cunning

91: hearken = listen. 
         91-92  cunning…capacities: Frion is more clever than
     these stupid others.


Above these dull capacities, still prompts him

To fly to Scotland to young James the Fourth,


And sue for aid to him: this is the latest

Of all their resolutions.


K. Hen.                       Still more Frion!


Pestilent adder, he will hiss-out poison

As dangerous as infectious: we must match him.

= meet with equal power or cunning1


Clifford, thou hast spoke home; we give thee life:

But, Clifford, there are people of our own


Remain behind untold; who are they, Clifford?

= ie. Clifford has not yet named any conspirators still

Name those, and we are friends, and will to rest;

     living in England


'Tis thy last task.


Clif.                  O, sir, here I must break

A most unlawful oath to keep a just one.


K. Hen.  Well, well, be brief, be brief.


Clif.                                                  The first in rank

111f: Clifford reveals the conspirators who are supporting


Shall be John Ratcliffe, Lord Fitzwater, then

     Warbeck. All the laymen were executed.

Sir Simon Mountford and Sir Thomas Thwaites,


With William Dawbeney, Chessoner, Astwood,

= not to be confused with Lord Giles Dawbeney, who

Worseley the Dean of Paul's, two other friars,

     was a supporter of Henry, and appears in this play.


And Robert Ratcliffe.


K. Hen.                     Churchmen are turned devils.

These are the principal?