I remember reading several lines from what I think was a Shakespearean type play. It was between a villain and one of his henchman, and I think they were discussing the murder of someone referred to as “He”. The villain was trying to keep the conversation vague, and I think he was annoyed by the henchman, who referred to him as “My lord”. It seemed like it was by Shakespeare, but I did some searches and couldn’t find anything.

I know this is kind of a long shot due to the lack of information I have, because I only read a little excerpt of it, a while ago, but I would appreciate any help I can get.


This might be a scene from the Shakespeare play King John, in which the eponymous king commands his henchman Hubert to kill his nephew Arthur. There are two passages which might be what you're thinking of, although neither exactly fits since the king isn't completely vague about the topic. (I found these by searching the full text for "my lord".)

  1. HUBERT: So well, that what you bid me undertake,
    Though that my death were adjunct to my act,
    By heaven, I would do it.

    KING JOHN: Do not I know thou wouldst?
    Good Hubert, Hubert, Hubert, throw thine eye
    On yon young boy: I'll tell thee what, my friend,
    He is a very serpent in my way;
    And whereso'er this foot of mine doth tread,
    He lies before me: dost thou understand me?
    Thou art his keeper.

    HUBERT: And I'll keep him so,
    That he shall not offend your majesty.

    KING JOHN: Death.

    HUBERT: My lord?

    KING JOHN: A grave.

    HUBERT: He shall not live.

    KING JOHN: Enough.
    I could be merry now. Hubert, I love thee;
    Well, I'll not say what I intend for thee:
    Remember. Madam, fare you well:
    I'll send those powers o'er to your majesty.

  2. HUBERT: My lord, they say five moons were seen to-night;
    Four fixed, and the fifth did whirl about
    The other four in wondrous motion.

    KING JOHN: Five moons!

    HUBERT: Old men and beldams in the streets
    Do prophesy upon it dangerously:
    Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths:
    And when they talk of him, they shake their heads
    And whisper one another in the ear;
    And he that speaks doth gripe the hearer's wrist,
    Whilst he that hears makes fearful action,
    With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
    I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,
    The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
    With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;
    Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
    Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste
    Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet,
    Told of a many thousand warlike French
    That were embattailed and rank'd in Kent:
    Another lean unwash'd artificer
    Cuts off his tale and talks of Arthur's death.

    KING JOHN: Why seek'st thou to possess me with these fears?
    Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
    Thy hand hath murder'd him: I had a mighty cause
    To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.

    HUBERT: No had, my lord! why, did you not provoke me?

    KING JOHN: It is the curse of kings to be attended
    By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
    To break within the bloody house of life,
    And on the winking of authority
    To understand a law, to know the meaning
    Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
    More upon humour than advised respect.

    HUBERT: Here is your hand and seal for what I did.

    KING JOHN: O, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth
    Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
    Witness against us to damnation!
    How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
    Make deeds ill done! Hadst not thou been by,
    A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd,
    Quoted and sign'd to do a deed of shame,
    This murder had not come into my mind:
    But taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
    Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
    Apt, liable to be employ'd in danger,
    I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death;
    And thou, to be endeared to a king,
    Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.

    HUBERT: My lord--

    KING JOHN: Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause
    When I spake darkly what I purposed,
    Or turn'd an eye of doubt upon my face,
    As bid me tell my tale in express words,
    Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,
    And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:
    But thou didst understand me by my signs
    And didst in signs again parley with sin;
    Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
    And consequently thy rude hand to act
    The deed, which both our tongues held vile to name.
    Out of my sight, and never see me more!
    My nobles leave me; and my state is braved,
    Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers:
    Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
    This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
    Hostility and civil tumult reigns
    Between my conscience and my cousin's death.

Or it could be the very last scene from the Shakespeare play Richard II, in which the new king Henry IV (Bolingbroke) rebukes his follower Exton for murdering the old king Richard II in prison.

  1. EXTON: Great king, within this coffin I present
    Thy buried fear: herein all breathless lies
    The mightiest of thy greatest enemies,
    Richard of Bordeaux, by me hither brought.

    HENRY BOLINGBROKE: Exton, I thank thee not; for thou hast wrought
    A deed of slander with thy fatal hand
    Upon my head and all this famous land.

    EXTON: From your own mouth, my lord, did I this deed.

    HENRY BOLINGBROKE: They love not poison that do poison need,
    Nor do I thee: though I did wish him dead,
    I hate the murderer, love him murdered.
    The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labour,
    But neither my good word nor princely favour:
    With Cain go wander through shades of night,
    And never show thy head by day nor light.
    Lords, I protest, my soul is full of woe,
    That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow:
    Come, mourn with me for that I do lament,
    And put on sullen black incontinent:
    I'll make a voyage to the Holy Land,
    To wash this blood off from my guilty hand:
    March sadly after; grace my mournings here;
    In weeping after this untimely bier.

If none of these are right, then a useful tool to search for a better match is Open Source Shakespeare, where you can perform an advanced search on the full texts of all Shakespeare's plays. (I tried searching for the exact phrases my lord and he and his, in History and Tragedy plays only, and got 97 results none of which matched your description. If you can remember any more exact phrases from the passage you're looking for, it would be really helpful.) King John just came to mind because one of the major plot points in it is a villain commanding a henchman to kill another character, and similarly Richard II.

  • Thanks, it was King John. I own Richard II and checked a while ago, but that wasn't it. The only lines I remembered were the "Death. My lord. A grave" part May 11 '19 at 17:58

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