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About this text

  • Title: Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (Modern)
  • Textual editor: Christopher Matusiak
  • Performance editor: Peter Cockett
  • General editor: Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Janelle Jenstad

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Robert Greene
    Editor (Text): Christopher Matusiak
    Editor (Performance): Peter Cockett
    Peer Reviewed

    Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (Modern)

    [Scene 10] [Video Sc.10]
    Enter Friar Bacon, drawing the curtains with a white stick, a book in his hand and a lamp lighted by him, and the brazen head, and Miles with weapons by him.
    Friar Bacon
    Miles, where are you?
    Here, sir.
    Friar Bacon
    How chance you tarry so long?
    Think you that the watching of the brazen head craves no furniture? I warrant you, sir, I have so armed myself that if all your devils come I will not fear them an inch.
    1570Friar Bacon
    Miles, thou knowest that I have dived into hell
    And sought the darkest palaces of fiends,
    That with my magic spells great Belcephon
    Hath left his lodge and kneele}d at my cell.
    The rafters of the earth rent from the poles
    1575And three-formed Luna hid her silver looks,
    Trembling upon her concave continent,
    When Bacon read upon his magic book.
    With seven years' tossing necromantic charms,
    Poring upon dark Hecate's principles,
    1580I have framed out a monstrous head of brass
    That by the enchanting forces of the devil
    Shall tell out strange and uncouth aphorisms,
    And girt fair England with a wall of brass.
    Bungay and I have watched these threescore days,
    1585And now our vital spirits crave some rest.
    If Argus lived and had his hundred eyes,
    They could not overwatch Phobeter's night.
    Now, Miles, in thee rests Friar Bacon's weal;
    The honor and renown of all his life
    1590Hangs in the watching of this brazen head.
    Therefore, I charge thee by the immortal God
    That holds the souls of men within his fist,
    This night thou watch; for ere the morning star
    Sends out his glorious glister on the north,
    1595The head will speak. Then, Miles, upon thy life,
    Wake me; for then by magic art I'll work
    To end my seven years' task with excellence.
    If that a wink but shut thy watchful eye,
    Then farewell Bacon's glory and his fame.
    1600Draw close the curtains. Miles, now for thy life,
    Be watchful and--
    Here he falleth asleep.
    So, I thought you would talk yourself asleep anon; and 'tis no marvel, for Bungay on the days and he on the nights have watched just these ten and fifty days. Now this is 1605the night, and 'tis my task and no more. Now, Jesus, bless me! What a goodly head it is, and a nose! You talk of nos autem glorificare, but here's a nose that I warrant may be called nos autem popelare for the people of the parish. Well, I am furnished with weapons. Now, sir, I will set me down by a post, and make it as 1610good as a watchman to wake me if I chance to slumber. I thought, Goodman Head, I would call you out of your memento-- [He falls asleep and knocks his head.] Passion o' God, I have almost broke my pate! Up, Miles, to your task. Take your brown bill in your hand. Here's some of your master's hobgoblins abroad.
    With this a great noise. 1615The head speaks.
    Brazen Head Time is.
    ‘Time is'? Why, Master Brazen Head, have you such a capital nose, and answer you with syllables? ‘Time is'? Is this all my master's cunning, to spend seven years study about ‘Time is'? 1620Well, sir, it may be we shall have some better orations of it anon. Well, I'll watch you as narrowly as ever you were watched, and I'll play with you as the nightingale with the slow-worm. I'll set a prick against my breast. [He leans against the spear-point of a halberd.] Now, rest there, Miles. [He sleeps again and falls down.] Lord have mercy upon me, I have almost killed myself! [Noise again.] Up Miles! List how they 1625rumble!
    Brazen Head
    Time was.
    Well, Friar Bacon, you spent your seven years' study well that can make your head speak but two words at once. ‘Time was.' Yea, marry, time was when my master was a wise man, 1630but that was before he began to make the brazen head. You shall lie while your arse ache and your head speak no better. Well, I will watch, and walk up and down, and be a peripatetian and a philosopher of Aristotle's stamp. [Noise again.] What, a fresh noise? Take thy pistols in hand, Miles!
    1635Here the head speaks and a lightning flasheth forth, and a hand appears that breaketh down the head with a hammer.
    Brazen Head
    Time is past.
    Master, master, up! Hell's broken loose! Your head 1640speaks, and there's such a thunder and lightning that I warrant all Oxford is up in arms! Out of your bed and take a brown bill in your hand! The latter day is come!
    Friar Bacon
    Miles, I come. Oh, passing warily watched!
    Bacon will make thee next himself in love.
    1645When spake the head?
    When spake the head? Did not you say that he should tell strange principles of philosophy? Why, sir, it speaks but two words at a time.
    Friar Bacon
    Why, villain, hath it spoken oft?
    Oft? Ay, marry, hath it thrice. But in all those three times it hath uttered but seven words.
    Friar Bacon
    As how?
    Marry, sir, the first time he said ‘Time is,' as if Fabius Cumentator should have pronounced a sentence. He said ‘Time was.' 1655And the third time, with thunder and lightning, as in great choler, he said ‘Time is past.'
    Friar Bacon
    'Tis past indeed. Ah, villain! Time is past:
    My life, my fame, my glory, all are past.
    Bacon, the turrets of thy hope are ruined down.
    1660Thy seven years' study lieth in the dust.
    Thy brazen head lies broken through a slave
    That watched, and would not when the head did will.
    What said the head first?
    Even, sir, ‘Time is.'
    1665Friar Bacon
    Villain, if thou hadst called to Bacon then,
    If thou hadst watched and waked the sleepy friar,
    The brazen head had uttered aphorisms
    And England had been circled round with brass.
    But proud Astaroth, ruler of the north,
    1670And Demogorgon, master of the fates,
    Grudge that a mortal man should work so much.
    Hell trembled at my deep commanding spells;
    Fiends frowned to see a man their overmatch.
    Bacon might boast more than a man might boast,
    1675But now the braves of Bacon hath an end;
    Europe's conceit of Bacon hath an end.
    His seven years' practice sorteth to ill end;
    And, villain, sith my glory hath an end,
    I will appoint thee fatal to some end.
    1680Villain, avoid! Get thee from Bacon's sight!
    Vagrant, go roam and range about the world,
    And perish as a vagabond on earth!
    Why then, sir, you forbid me your service?
    Friar Bacon
    My service, villain, with a fatal curse
    1685That direful plagues and mischief fall on thee!
    'Tis no matter. I am against you with the old proverb, ‘The more the fox is curst, the better he fares.' God be with you, sir. I'll take but a book in my hand, a wide-sleeved gown on my back, and a crowned cap on my head, and see if I can want 1690promotion.[Exit Miles.]
    Friar Bacon
    Some fiend or ghost haunt on thy weary steps
    Until they do transport thee quick to hell!
    For Bacon shall have never merry day
    To lose the fame and honor of his head.