This is re-posted in its entirety with the permission of nineweaving
Shakespeare at work, play-patching, on Sir Thomas More: we think. The language, both by intuition and sophisticated tests, is his; the quirks of spelling ("scilens," "strainger," "sealf") are his; the idiosyncratic hand is not a copyist's, but someone's who makes running changes as he writes: it matches all the little cluster of quirks we know from Shakespeare's signatures. And as Shakespeare will, this passage goes on speaking, now and now and now.
He pleads for refugees, for strangers.
Here Ian McKellan speaks a bit of the scene, and tells us why it matters. (He slips a little on his history of religion.)
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to th’ ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
O, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam, [on leash]
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.