mountainish inhumanity

More - Autograph & Print (Actual MS) ThumbnailI continue to be deeply offended by the ignorance and stupidity on display by a certain class of Americans. I can’t keep my mouth shut. More than 57,000 children have come to our borders, for whatever reason (some horrific), dodging violence, abduction, rape, torture, extortion, only to be frightened out of their wits by a rabid mob clothed in the ruff of their opinions — politicians among them. I’d call them hyenas but hyenas possess compassion and overall intelligence.

Along with many other Americans, I can say that they don’t represent what’s good, generous or compassionate in this or any country.

But as anyone in every country knows, there’s no state that doesn’t suffer its own fools. On a scrap of paper long thought to contain the only remaining trace of Shakespeare’s hand, Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Sir Thomas More a scathing rebuke of such lynch mobs. The very thing — an anti-immigration crowd hell-bent on ridding their country of the wretched stranger. Here’s how the Oxford Shakespeare sums up the passage (Shakespeare’s contribution to Sir Thomas More):

“Sir Thomas More is based on Holinshed’s Chronicles and Nicholas Harpsfield’s biography of More. Sheriff More peacefully quells the riots of Londoners against resident foreigners  on the ‘Ill May Day* of 1517, and is appointed Lord Chancellor as a reward. In the Shakespearean Sc. 6, More persuades the rebels to surrender to the King, arguing for obedience to authority and challenging the rebels to consider their own plight if, like the strangers, they were to live in exile.” [Underlining is my own.]

* “…a fortnight before the riot an inflammatory xenophobic speech was made on Easter Tuesday by a Dr. Bell at St. Paul’s Cross at the instigation of John Lincoln, a broker. Bell called on all ‘Englishmen to cherish and defend themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal’. Over the following two weeks there were sporadic attacks on foreigners and rumours abounded that “on May Day next the city would rebel and slay all aliens”. ~ Wikipedia as of July 28th 2014

As concerns the mob mentality untroubled by selfishness or  cruelty, Shakespeare’s More has little patience:

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to th’ ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

And more to the point, says More:

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
shakespeareNay, any where that not adheres to England,–
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.

And what will happen if  these people, these Americans and their children, who call themselves Christian, someday and suddenly find themselves the foreigner or the immigrant?  Who won’t, by their example, spurn them like dogs? Why shouldn’t they suffer the same barbarous temper and hideous violence? — The same refusal of a safe and generous abode on earth? Why should any American, outside the mote of their entitlement, expect to be treated better than dirt?

Shakespeare’s More still asks the same questions and I wonder if another 400 years will pass before history stops repeating itself.

The play, Sir Thomas More, a collaboration between Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, and William Shakespeare (and possibly others) was censored by the Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, and never produced. Apparently, Tilney wanted substantial changes made to the play’s insurrection scenes. The ruling class then was just as timid as the ruling class today.

§

SCENE IV. St. Martin’s Gate.

[Enter Lincoln, Doll, Clown, George Betts, Williamson, others;
and a Sergeant at Arms.]

LINCOLN.
Peace, hear me: he that will not see a red herring at a Harry groat,
butter at elevenpence a pound, meal at nine shillings a bushel, and
beef at four nobles a stone, list to me.

GEORGE.
It will come to that pass, if strangers be suffered. Mark him.

LINCOLN.
Our country is a great eating country; ergo, they eat more in our
country than they do in their own.

CLOWN.
By a halfpenny loaf, a day, troy weight.

LINCOLN.
They bring in strange roots, which is merely to the undoing of poor
prentices; for what’s a sorry parsnip to a good heart?

WILLIAMSON.
Trash, trash; they breed sore eyes, and tis enough to infect the city
with the palsey.

LINCOLN.
Nay, it has infected it with the palsey; for these bastards of dung,
as you know they grow in dung, have infected us, and it is our
infection will make the city shake, which partly comes through the
eating of parsnips.

CLOWN.
True; and pumpkins together.

SERGEANT.
What say ye to the mercy of the king?
Do ye refuse it?

LINCOLN.
You would have us upon this, would you? no, marry, do we not;
we accept of the king’s mercy, but we will show no mercy upon the
strangers.

SERGEANT.
You are the simplest things that ever stood
In such a question.

LINCOLN.
How say ye now, prentices? prentices simple! down with him!

ALL.
Prentices simple! prentices simple!

[Enter the Lord Mayor, Surrey, Shrewsbury, More.]

LORD MAYOR.
Hold! in the king’s name, hold!

SURREY.
Friends, masters, countrymen–

LORD MAYOR.
Peace, how, peace! I charge you, keep the peace!

SHREWSBURY.
My masters, countrymen–

WILLIAMSON.
The noble earl of Shrewsbury, let’s hear him.

GEORGE.
We’ll hear the earl of Surrey.

LINCOLN.
The earl of Shrewsbury.

GEORGE.
We’ll hear both.

ALL.
Both, both, both, both!

LINCOLN.
Peace, I say, peace! are you men of wisdom, or what are you?

SURREY.
What you will have them; but not men of wisdom.

ALL.
We’ll not hear my lord of Surrey; no, no, no, no, no! Shrewsbury,
Shrewsbury!

MORE.
Whiles they are o’er the bank of their obedience,
Thus will they bear down all things.

LINCOLN.
Sheriff More speaks; shall we hear Sheriff More speak?

DOLL.
Let’s hear him: a keeps a plentyful shrievaltry, and a made my
brother Arthur Watchins Seriant Safes yeoman: let’s hear Shrieve
More.

ALL.
Shrieve More, More, More, Shrieve More!

MORE.
Even by the rule you have among yourselves,
Command still audience.

ALL.
Surrey, Surrey! More, More!

LINCOLN:
Peace, peace, silence, peace.

GEORGE.
Peace, peace, silence, peace.

MORE.
You that have voice and credit with the number
Command them to a stillness.

LINCOLN.
A plague on them, they will not hold their peace; the dual cannot
rule them.

MORE.
Then what a rough and riotous charge have you,
To lead those that the dual cannot rule?–
Good masters, hear me speak.

DOLL.
Aye, by th’ mass, will we, More: th’ art a good housekeeper, and I
thank thy good worship for my brother Arthur Watchins.

ALL.
Peace, peace.

MORE.
Look, what you do offend you cry upon,
That is, the peace: not one of you here present,
Had there such fellows lived when you were babes,
That could have topped the peace, as now you would,
The peace wherein you have till now grown up
Had been ta’en from you, and the bloody times
Could not have brought you to the state of men.
Alas, poor things, what is it you have got,
Although we grant you get the thing you seek?

GEORGE.
Marry, the removing of the strangers, which cannot choose but
much advantage the poor handicrafts of the city.

MORE.
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to th’ ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

DOLL.
Before God, that’s as true as the Gospel.

LINCOLN.
Nay, this is a sound fellow, I tell you: let’s mark him.

MORE.
Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
On supposition; which if you will mark,
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears: first, tis a sin
Which oft the apostle did forewarn us of,
Urging obedience to authority;
And twere no error, if I told you all,
You were in arms against your God himself.

ALL.
Marry, God forbid that!

MORE.
Nay, certainly you are;
For to the king God hath his office lent
Of dread, of justice, power and command,
Hath bid him rule, and willed you to obey;
And, to add ampler majesty to this,
He hath not only lent the king his figure,
His throne and sword, but given him his own name,
Calls him a god on earth. What do you, then,
Rising gainst him that God himself installs,
But rise against God? what do you to your souls
In doing this? O, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
Tell me but this: what rebel captain,
As mutinies are incident, by his name
Can still the rout? who will obey a traitor?
Or how can well that proclamation sound,
When there is no addition but a rebel
To qualify a rebel? You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,–
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.

ALL.
Faith, a says true: let’s do as we may be done to.

LINCOLN.
We’ll be ruled by you, Master More, if you’ll stand our friend to
procure our pardon.

MORE.
Submit you to these noble gentlemen,
Entreat their mediation to the king,
Give up yourself to form, obey the magistrate,
And there’s no doubt but mercy may be found,
If you so seek.
To persist in it is present death: but, if you
Yield yourselves, no doubt what punishment
You in simplicity have incurred, his highness
In mercy will most graciously pardon.

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