Dead as a doornail Introduction
I'm Jack Cade. I'm pretty devious and I'm always looking for a way to outmaneuver people. Hey, the more violence, the better. And you know what I think?
Brave thee! Ay, by the best blood that ever was
broached, and beard thee too. Look on me well: I
have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and
thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead
as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more. (4.10.35-39)
Who Said It and Where
A plot is afoot in England. See Henry VI really has no business being king. Sure, he inherited it from his dad, the uber-successful, get your hands on as many lands as you possibly can Henry V. But he's a pretty meager leader compared to his old man.
Henry VI doesn't have a lot going for him. He was crowned when he was still quite young. And when he became king, it was prophesized that he would lose all the lands in France that his dad got a hold of during his reign. And then Henry VI went and married a poor French girl in exchange for some of those very same lands. Yeah. Not the guy you want to be reigning in that day in age.
So it's no surprise, then, that not everyone's in love with Henry VI's leadership. York is one of these nobles. He doesn't just dislike Henry VI, he actually believes he has the right to rule. York teams up with some other power hungry nobles and decides to give Henry VI trouble.
But he doesn't want to fight with the king. At least, not yet. There will be time for that later. Instead, York hires Jack Cade to test the waters for him. He doesn't want to stir up trouble and regret it later. So he asks Cade to find out whether the public would even go for York as king. The plan? Cade will pretend to support York openly and then see if people go for it.
It turns out Cade is a huge asset to York. He does his best for ol' York, to the point where he's even betrayed by his own troops and has to go on the run. We catch up with him here, at Alexander Iden's house.
Cade hasn't eaten in five days, so he starts eating the herbs from Iden's garden. When Iden enters and finds him, Cade threatens Iden. That's pretty gutsy when you've barged into someone else's house and stolen their food. But Iden can see that Cade is weak and says he's not interested in fighting.
Of course Cade doesn't listen. He threatens to kill Iden and leave him "dead as a doornail." Real nice guy.