Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

  Act 1 Scene 1

page Act 1 Scene 1 Page 2

Original Text

Modern Text


25The courses of his youth promised it not.
The breath no sooner left his father’s body
But that his wildness, mortified in him,
Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
Consideration like an angel came
30And whipped th' offending Adam out of him,
Leaving his body as a paradise
T' envelop and contain celestial spirits.
Never was such a sudden scholar made,
Never came reformation in a flood
35With such a heady currance scouring faults,
Nor never Hydra-headed willfulness
So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
As in this king.


You wouldn’t have expected it based on how he acted as a youth. But no sooner had his father stopped breathing than the prince’s wildness died too. Really, at that precise moment he gained a capacity for reflection, which appeared like an angel to chase away the sinful part of him, leaving his body like a paradise, fit to house only lofty thoughts and feelings. You never saw anyone become serious and studious so quickly. You never saw such a total transformation, as though a wild river, rushing through, had swept away his faults. Such a collection of stubborn character flaws was never banished from one place so suddenly as in the case of this king.


We are blessèd in the change.


We are fortunate in the change.


40Hear him but reason in divinity
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish,
You would desire the King were made a prelate.
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You would say it hath been all in all his study.
45List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rendered you in music.
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose
Familiar as his garter; that, when he speaks,
50The air, a chartered libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men’s ears
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences;
So that the art and practic part of life
Must be the mistress to this theoric;
55Which is a wonder how his Grace should glean it,
Since his addiction was to courses vain,
His companies unlettered, rude, and shallow,
His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports,
And never noted in him any study,
60Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity.


If you just listen to him discuss theological matters, you’ll find yourself thinking privately what an excellent bishop he would make. Hear him debate matters of domestic policy, and you’d swear he had made them his constant study. Listen to him talk about war, and you’ll hear elegant and thrilling accounts of the battles. Bring up any political topic, and he’ll untangle it as easily as if it were his own


A garter was a band used to hold up stockings or shirt sleeves.

. And the result is that when he speaks, the very air—which is free to go where it likes—stops dead, and men stand in silent wonder, hoping to catch the benefit of his gorgeous utterances. There must be skill and experience behind all this abstract thought, but it’s anyone’s guess how he obtained it, since in his youth he preferred shallow pursuits, with uneducated, crude and superficial companions. He spent his time drunken, overfed, and constantly seeking out entertainment, with no inclination for learning or quiet contemplation, nor any limit to his tolerance for public haunts and crowds.