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"Beard The Lion In His Den"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Marmion, though a respected sixteenth century English knight, is actually a scoundrel who in the past seduced a young nun from her convent and then abandoned her to pursue wealthy Clare Fitz-Clare. Marmion not only forged evidence that Clare's preferred suitor, de Wilton, was a traitor but also thought he had slain him. Clare fled into hiding in a convent. Now Marmion is sent on an embassy from Henry VIII of England to James IV of Scotland. Determined to attack the English, James entrusts the ambassador to the protection of the aging warrior Archibald, head of the ancient and powerful house of Douglas. Unknown to Marmion, the still-living de Wilton is also at the Douglas castle, in disguise. De Wilton reveals himself, proves the charge of treachery against him to be false, and is sent by Douglas to join his country's forces at Flodden Field. Douglas belittles Marmion, who retorts in furious scorn before leaping with his horse across the closing drawbridge to join King Henry. Enraged, the mighty Douglas thunders:

. . . "And dar'st thou then
To beard the lion in his den,
The Douglas in his hall?"