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Art. VIII.—Remarks on some discrepancies in the Character
of Jack Cade, Henry VI., Part II.
Although the reader cannot fail to agree with Mr. Knight in his remarks on the accuracy with which the historical details of Cade's insurrection, as given by Hall and Holinshed, have been followed in the play of Henry VI., Part II., yet this
very circumstance seems to render more remarkable the fact, that many of the speeches put into the mouths of Cade and his followers may be found almost verbatim in the Chronicle of St. Alban's, as quoted by Stow in his account of Wat Tyler's and Jack Straw's rebellion. These appear to me so numerous as to be worth directing the attention of the student of Shakespeare to them, in the belief that the subject has never before been brought forward by the commentators.
In the first instance, act iv., scene 2, Cade and his followers are represented as entertaining an inveterate hatred against the higher orders, the learned, and more especially the lawyers, thus :
“ It was never merry world in England since gentlemen came up.
“ The nobility think scorn to go in leathern aprons."
“ Labour in thy vocation, which is as much as to say, let the magistrates be labouring men, therefore should we be magistrates."
“ The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
Of Wat Tyler's followers, the Chronicle says“ They began to show some such desperate acts as they had rashly considered in their minds, and took in hand to behead all men of law, as well apprentices as utter barristers and old justices, with all the jurors of the country whom they might get into their
hands. They spared none whom they thought to be learned, especially if they found any to have a pen and ink-horn about him, they all with one voice crying, “ Hale him out, cut off his head.” The latter part of this sentence must bring the Clerk of Chatham to the mind of the reader.
“ Cade. What is thy name? “ Clerk. Emmanuel."
“ Dick. They use to write it on the top of letters: it shall go hard with thee.
“ Cade. Let me alone.—Dost thou use to write thy name, or hast thou a mark to thyself, like an honest, plain-dealing man ?
“ Clerk. I thank God I have been so well brought up that I can write my name.
“ All. He hath confessed-away with him! he's a villain and a traitor !
“ Cade. Away with him, I say ! hang him with lis pen and ink-horn about his neck."
In another part of this scene Stafford says to Cade
“ Villain ! thy father was a plasterer ; And thou thyself a shearman, art thou not ?"
And Cade replies-
“ And Adam was a gardener."
May not this speech of Cade's be derived from the following source ?.-.
“ These commons had to their chaplain, or preacher, a wicked priest called Sir John Ball, who counselled them to destroy all
1 The commentators appear to me to have taken unnecessary pains to explain this passage. Is it not merely a play upon the word manual, or sign manual, to this day written at the top of king's or queen's letters ? VOL. III.
the nobility and clergy. That his doctrine might infect the more number of the people, at Blackheath, where were many thousands of the commons assembled, he began his sermon in this manner
" When Adam dolve and Eve span,
In act iv., scene 7, Cade says
“Now go some and pull down the Savoy, others to the Inns of Court; down with them all."
We find the following passage in the Chronicle—“Going to the Savoy, the Duke of Lancaster's house, to the which there was none in the realm to be compared for beauty and stateliness, they mought set fire on it and burn it. This talk pleasing the commons, they straight came thither, and setting fire on it round about, applied their travail to destroy that place. They defaced the beauty of Fleet Street; from thence they went to the Temple, to destroy it, and plucked down the houses, took off the tiles of the other buildings left. Went to the church, took out all the books and remembrances that were in hatches of the practicers of the law, carried them into the high street, and there burned them."
Again, in the same scene, Dick thus addresses Cade
“ I have a suit unto your lordship . That the laws of England may come out of your mouth.
“ Cade. I have thought upon it; it shall be so. Away! burn all the records of the realm. My mouth shall be the Parliament of England."
In the Chronicle thus—“ It was said that he (Wat Tyler) had but the day before (his death) made his vaunt, putting his hand to his own lips, That before four days came to an end, all the laws of England should proceed from his mouth.'
1 In the “Contention of the two Houses," &c., Cade says, “There shall be no laws but such as come from my mouth.”
Perhaps the grounds are too slight for the following theory, yet, as it is impossible not to be struck with some discrepancies in Cade's accusation of the Lord Treasurer Say, and Say's reply, there may he some excuse for inquiring whether this scene may not partly be derived from the account of the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Cade's charges appear partly as if addressed to a promoter of learning: this character is far more consonant with our ideas of a churchman than a layman of those times, when literature was almost exclusively limited to the ecclesiastical body.
“ Cade. Thou hast most traiterously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school. It will be proved to thy face that thou hast men about thee that usually talk of a noun and a verb,” &c.
After some strangely unconnected lines, Say thus addresses
Large sums have I bestowed on learned clerks,
His last words are the following :
“Ah, countrymen ! if when you make your prayers
Simon of Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, murdered by Tyler, is spoken of as “an eloquent man, and wise beyond all the wise men of the realm." He was the son of Nicholas Tibald of Sudbury, doctor of both laws, was eighteen years bishop of London; in the which time he built a goodly college in the place where his father's house stood, and endowed it with great possessions, furnishing the same with secular clerks and other ministers. Immediately before his murder, he is said to have addressed the rebels in the following words :
1 This resemblance is noticed by Tyrwhitt.
“ What is it, dear brethren, you purpose to do? What is mine offence committed against you for which you will kill me? You were best to take heed that if I be killed, who am your pastor, there come not on you the indignation of the just Avenger, or at the least, for such a fact all England be not put under interdiction.”
There is also perhaps some faint resemblance in the passages descriptive of Cade and his followers, in act iv., scene 2, to the riddles or libels of Jack Miller, John Trueman, Hob Carter, &c., executed at the same time as Jack Straw. Thus
“Jack Cade the clothier means to dress the commonwealth, and turn it, and set a new nap upon it. “ There's Best's son, the tanner of Wingham
Bevis. He shall have the skins of our enemies to make dog's leather of.
“ Holland. And Dick the butcher
“ Bevis. Then is sin struck down like an ox, and iniquity's throat cut like a calf.
“ Holland. And Smith the weaver-
The following is the libel of Jack Miller:
“ Jack Miller asketh help to turn his mill aright. He hath ground small, small. The King's Son of Heaven shall pay for all. Look thy mill go right with four sails, and the post stand in steadfastness, with right and might, with skill and