Henry V "'Tis Not The Balm, The Scepter, And The Ball"
by William Shakespeare

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"'Tis Not The Balm, The Scepter, And The Ball"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The scene is the darkness before the battle of Agincourt. King Henry's troops are surrounded by superior French forces. In walking among his soldiers, Henry is not recognized, and he argues with Williams, a common soldier, about who must bear the responsibility for war. The argument becomes heated, and Williams and Henry promise to have an accounting after the battle if they survive. The two then separate, and Henry muses on the difference in station between Williams and himself. Henry says that the main difference is in ceremony and homage given him. But for this homage he must in return give up peace of mind and easy sleep.

. . . I know,
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on; nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world–
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
. . .