David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “HENRY IV, PART 2”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 4

— 5.4 —

On a street in London, some Beadles — officers of the law who handled and punished petty offences — had arrested Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, who were not happy about being arrested.

“No, you arrant good-for-nothing,” Mistress Quickly shouted at a Beadle. “I wish to God that I would die, so that I might have you hanged for causing my death. You have dislocated my shoulder!”

The first Beadle said, “The Constables have delivered her — Doll Tearsheet — over to me; and she shall be whipped soon enough, I promise her. She will get a bellyful of whipping. There has been a man or two lately killed about her.”

Apparently, he meant that two men had been fighting over Doll Tearsheet, and one man had killed the other. Also apparently, the murder had taken place in Mistress Quickly’s tavern. Whipping was a common punishment for prostitutes.

“Nut-hook, nut-hook, you lie!” Doll Tearsheet said.

A nut-hook was a slang term for a Beadle. Nut-hooks were used to hook the branches of a nut tree and pull them down so that the nuts could be harvested. Nut-hooks caught the branches, and Beadles caught petty criminals.

Doll Tearsheet continued to shout: “Come on! I will tell you what, you damned sallow-faced rascal, if the child I am pregnant with miscarries, you will wish that you had hit your own mother instead of harassing me, you paper-faced villain!”

“Oh, Lord,” Mistress Quickly said, “I wish that Sir John were here! He would make this a bloody day for somebody.”

Mistress Quickly thought that Falstaff would be a powerful man in England now Prince Hal was King. So did Falstaff.

Mistress Quickly added, “But I pray to God that the fruit of her womb does miscarry!”

The first Beadle replied, “If it does miscarry, you shall have a dozen cushions again; you have only eleven now.”

The Beadles — and Mistress Quickly — knew that Doll Tearsheet was not pregnant. She had stuffed a cushion under her dress in order to appear pregnant. She was hoping for better treatment and a lesser punishment from the Beadles.

The first Beadle added, “Come, I order you both to go with me; for the man is dead that you and Pistol beat in your midst.”

“I’ll tell you what, you thin man in a censer,” Doll Tearsheet shouted, “I will have you soundly beaten for this — you blue-bottle rogue, you filthy famished correctioner. If you are not beaten, I’ll forswear skirts.”

The first Beadle was a very thin man. By “thin man in a censer,” Doll Tearsheet was referring to a figure engraved on a perfuming pan. By “blue-bottle rogue,” she meant that the first Beadle was a rogue wearing a blue coat — police officers wore blue. A “correctioner” was an officer in charge of whipping prostitutes.

“Come, come, you she-knight-errant, come,” the Beadle ordered.

Doll Tearsheet was a female night-errant. She committed sins at night.

“Oh, God, that right should thus overcome might!” Mistress Quickly mourned.

She frequently erred in her speech; she meant to bewail might overcoming right. However, her statement really did have some degree of accuracy — right was winning.

Mistress Quickly added, “Well, of sufferance comes ease. Suffering builds character.”

“Come, you rogue, come,” Doll Tearsheet said to the first Beadle. “Take me to a justice.”

“Yes, come, you starved bloodhound,” Mistress Quickly added.

“You are death! You are bones!” Doll Tearsheet said to the first Beadle.

Mistress Quickly added, “You are a skeleton!”

“Come, you thin thing,” Doll Tearsheet said. “Come, you rascal.”

“Very well,” the first Beadle said, and he led them to a Justice of the Peace.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

This entry was posted in Books, Retellings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s