Act 1, Scene III

Scene: A Grocer's Shop.

Enter RALPH, as a Grocer, reading Palmerin of England, with TIM and GEORGE.

[Wife.    
Oh, husband, husband, now, now! there's Ralph, there's Ralph.
Citizen.
Peace, fool! let Ralph alone.—Hark you, Ralph; do not strain yourself too much at the first.—Peace!—Begin, Ralph.]
Ralph.
[Reads.] Then Palmerin and Trineus, snatching their lances from their dwarfs, and clasping their helmets, galloped amain after the giant; and Palmerin, having gotten a sight of him, came posting amain, saying, “Stay, traitorous thief! for thou mayst not so carry away her, that is worth the greatest lord in the world;” and, with these words, gave him a blow on the shoulder, that he struck him besides his elephant. And Trineus, coming to the knight that had Agricola behind him, set him soon besides his horse, with his neck broken in the fall; so that the princess, getting out of the throng, between joy and grief, said, “All happy knight, the mirror of all such as follow arms, now may I be well assured of the love thou bearest me.” I wonder why the kings do not raise an army of fourteen or fifteen hundred thousand men, as big as the army that the Prince of Portigo brought against Rosicleer, and destroy these giants; they do much hurt to wandering damsels, that go in quest of their knights.
[Wife.    
Faith, husband, and Ralph says true; for they say the King of Portugal cannot sit at his meat, but the giants and the ettins will come and snatch it from him.
Citizen.
Hold thy tongue.—On, Ralph!]
Ralph.
And certainly those knights are much to be commended, who, neglecting their possessions, wander with a squire and a dwarf through the deserts to relieve poor ladies.
[Wife.    
Ay, by my faith, are they, Ralph; let 'em say what they will, they are indeed. Our knights neglect their possessions well enough, but they do not the rest.]
Ralph.
There are no such courteous and fair well-spoken knights in this age: they will call one “the son of a whore,” that Palmerin of England would have called “fair sir;” and one that Rosicleer would have called “right beauteous damsel,” they will call “damned bitch.”
[Wife.    
I'll be sworn will they, Ralph; they have called me so an hundred times about a scurvy pipe of tobacco.]
Ralph.
But what brave spirit could be content to sit in his shop, with a flappet of wood, and a blue apron before him, selling mithridatum and dragon's-water to visited houses, that might pursue feats of arms, and, through his noble achievements, procure such a famous history to be written of his heroic prowess?
[Citizen.
Well said, Ralph; some more of those words, Ralph!
Wife.    
They go finely, by my troth.]
Ralph.
Why should not I, then, pursue this course, both for the credit of myself and our company? for amongst all the worthy books of achievements, I do not call to mind that I yet read of a grocer-errant. I will be the said knight.—Have you heard of any that hath wandered unfurnished of his squire and dwarf? My elder prentice Tim shall be my trusty squire, and little George my dwarf. Hence, my blue apron! Yet, in remembrance of my former trade, upon my shield shall be portrayed a Burning Pestle, and I will be called the Knight of the Burning Pestle.
[Wife.    
Nay, I dare swear thou wilt not forget thy old trade; thou wert ever meek.]
Ralph.
Tim!
Tim.      
Anon.
Ralph.
My beloved squire, and George my dwarf, I charge you that from henceforth you never call me by any other name but “the right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle;” and that you never call any female by the name of a woman or wench, but “fair lady,” if she have her desires, if not, “distressed damsel;” that you call all forests and heaths “deserts,” and all horses “palfreys.”
[Wife.    
This is very fine, faith.—Do the gentleman like Ralph, think you, husband?
Citizen.
Ay, I warrant thee; the players would give all the shoes in their shop for him.]
Ralph.
My beloved squire Tim, stand out. Admit this were a desert, and over it a knight-errant pricking, and I should bid you inquire of his intents, what would you say?
Tim.      
Sir, my master sent me to know whither you are riding?
Ralph.
No, thus: “Fair Sir, the right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle commanded me to inquire upon what adventure you are bound, whether, to relieve some distressed damsel, or otherwise.”
[Citizen.
Whoreson blockhead, cannot remember!
Wife.    
I'faith, and Ralph told him on't before: all the gentlemen heard him.—Did he not, gentlemen? did not Ralph tell him on't?]
George.
Right courteous and valiant Knight of the Burning Pestle, here is a distressed damsel to have a halfpenny-worth of pepper.
[Wife.    
That's a good boy! see, the little boy can hit it; by my troth, it's a fine child.]
Ralph.
Relieve her, with all courteous language. Now shut up shop; no more my prentices, but my trusty squire and dwarf. I must bespeak my shield and arming pestle.
[Exeunt Tim and George.
[Citizen.
Go thy ways, Ralph! As I'm a true man, thou art the best on 'em all.
Wife.    
Ralph, Ralph!
Ralph.
What say you, mistress?
Wife.    
I prithee, come again quickly, sweet Ralph.
Ralph.
By and by.]
[Exit.