David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 1 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters and Act 1: Scene 1

CAST OF CHARACTERS

English Male Characters

King Henry VI.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, uncle to the King, and Lord Protector. The Lord Protector, aka Protector of the Realm,is the individual ruler of England while the King is still a minor.

Duke of Bedford, uncle to the King, and Regent of France. The Regent rules France while the King is still a minor.

Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, great-uncle to the King.

Henry Beaufort, great-uncle to the King, Bishop of Winchester, and afterwards Cardinal of Winchester.

John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

Richard Plantagenet, son of Richard, late Earl of Cambridge; afterwards Duke of York.

Earl of Warwick.

Earl of Salisbury.

Earl of Suffolk.

Lord Talbot, afterwards Earl of Shrewsbury.

John Talbot, his son.

Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March.

Sir John Fastolfe.

Sir William Lucy.

Sir William Glansdale.

Sir Thomas Gargrave.

Mayor of London.

Woodville, Lieutenant of the Tower of London.

Vernon, of the White-Rose, aka York faction.

Basset, of the Red-Rose, aka Lancaster faction.

A Lawyer.

Mortimer’s jail keepers.

French Male Characters

Charles, Dauphin, and afterwards King of France. The Dauphin is the eldest son of the King of France; in this play/book, the person who is King of France is disputed.

Reignier, Duke of Anjou, and titular King of Naples.

Duke of Burgundy. His sister Anne married the Duke of Bedford, one of King Henry VI’s uncles. King Henry VI refers to the Duke of Burgundy as an uncle.

Duke of Alencon.

Bastard of Orleans, aka Jean du Dunois, the illegitimate son of Louis I, the Duke of Orleans.

Governor of Paris.

Master Gunner of Orleans, and his Son.

General of the French forces in Bordeaux.

A French Sergeant.

A Porter.

An old Shepherd, father to Joan la Pucelle.

Female Characters

Margaret, daughter to Reignier, afterwards married to King Henry VI.

Countess of Auvergne, a Frenchwoman.

Joan la Pucelle, commonly called Joan of Arc; “Pucelle” means “Maiden” or Virgin”; her father’s name is Jacques d’Arc.

Minor Characters

Lords, Warders of the Tower, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and Attendants.

Fiends appearing to Joan la Pucelle.

Scene: England and France.

Nota Bene:

King Henry V was born on 9 August 1386 and died on 31 August 1422.

King Henry VI (born 6 December 1421; died 21 May 1471) began his reignin 1422, but he was deposed on 1461; he briefly returned to the throne in 1470-1471.

The Hundred Years War, which lasted from 1337-1453 (116 years), was not fought continuously. The Edwardian War took place in 1337-1360; the Caroline War took place in 1369-1389; the first phase of the Lancastrian War took place in 1415-1420, and the second phase of the Lancastrian War took place in 1420-1453.

After the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses took place from 1455-1487. In those wars, the Yorkists and the Lancastrians fought for power in England in the famous Wars of the Roses. The emblem of the York family was a white rose, and the emblem of the Lancaster family was a red rose.

We read Shakespeare for drama, not history. He invents scenes and changes the ages of historical personages in his plays. He also changes the order in which historical events occur.

CHAPTER 1

— 1.1 —

The funeral of King Henry V was being held at Westminster Abbey. As funeral music played, pallbearers carried the coffin of the King. Present were the Duke of Bedford, who was also the Regent of France; the Duke of Gloucester, who was also the Lord Protector; the Duke of Exeter, the Earl of Warwick, the Bishop of Winchester, heralds, and attendants.

The Duke of Bedford said, “Let the Heavens be hung with black, and let day yield to night!Comets, predicting change of times and states,brandish your crystal-bright tresses in the sky,and with them scourge the bad mutinous starsthat have consented to Henry’s death!”

When a comet comes close to the Sun, it heats up and its gases form a tail. Because of that, comets were known in earlier ages as longhaired stars. The Greek word kometesmeans “longhaired.” 

He continued, “King Henry V was too famous to live long!”

A proverb stated, “Those whom God loves do not live long.”

He continued, “England has never lost a King of so much worth.”

The Duke of Gloucester said, “England never had a true King until the time of Henry V. Virtue, courage, and ability he had, and he deserved to command.His brandished sword blinded men with its reflected beams of Sunlight. His arms spread wider than a dragon’s wings. His sparking eyes, replete with wrathful fire,dazzled and drove back his enemiesmorethan the mid-day Sun fiercely turned against their faces.What should I say? His deeds exceed all speech; words fail me.He never lifted up his hand without conquering.”

The Duke of Exeter said, “We mourn while wearing black. Why don’t we mourn while covered in blood?Henry V is dead and never shall revive and come back to life. Upon a wooden coffin we attend,and Death’s dishonorable victorywe with our stately presence glorify,like captives bound to a triumphant chariot.”

The ancient Romans held triumphal processions for conquering heroes. The conqueror would ride in a chariot with important captives bound and walking behind the chariot. In the Duke of Exeter’s image, Death was the conqueror and the lords were the captives trailing behind Death’s triumphal chariot.

He continued, “Shall we curse the planets of mishap — planets that plotted thus our glory’s overthrow?”

This society believed in astrology, which held that planets had an effect on Earth and its inhabitants. Some planets were malignant and could cause bad things — such as the death of King Henry V — to occur.

He continued, “Or shall we think the subtle-witted, cunning French are conjurers and sorcerers, who because they were afraid of him have contrived his end by the use of magic verses?”

This society also believed in magic that could be malignant and cause death. Since the English and the French were enemies, each side regarded the other side as employing conjurers and sorcerers.

The Bishop of Winchester said, “He was a King blessed by the King of Kings. The dreadful Judgment Day will not be as dreadful to the French as was the sight of him. The battles of the Lord of Hosts he fought; the church’s prayers made him so prosperous.”

Isaiah 13:4 states, “The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle” (King James Version).

To “muster troops” means to “assemble troops.” A “host” is an army.

“The church!” the Duke of Gloucester exclaimed. “Where is it? If churchmen had not prayed, his thread of life had not so soon decayed.”

He believed that the churchmen had disliked King Henry V and had prayed for his death; he believed that they had preyed on him. He also was referring to the three Fates when he mentioned the thread of life. The three Fates spun the thread of life, measured it, and cut it. When an immortal Fate cut the thread of life, the mortal human died.

He continued, “You like none except an effeminate, weak, controllable Prince, whom, like a schoolboy, you may overawe.”

All too often, people engage in power struggles. Many churchmen are not exempt from engaging in power politics. The reign of King Henry VI would be marked by many such political struggles, including this one between the Duke of Gloucester and the Bishop of Winchester.

The Bishop of Winchester replied, “Duke of Gloucester, whatever we like, you are the Lord Protector and you intend to command both the Prince and the realm. Your wife is proud; she makes you afraid of her more than God or religious churchmen can make you afraid.”

“Don’t talk about religion, for you love the flesh,” the Duke of Gloucester said, “and never throughout the year do you go to church except to pray against your foes.”

The Duke of Bedford said, “Stop! Stop these quarrels and rest your minds in peace. Let’s go to the altar. Heralds, wait on us. Instead of gold, we’ll offer up our weapons, since weapons are of no use to us now that King Henry V is dead. Posterity, expect wretched years, during which babes shall suck at their mothers’ moist eyes, our isle shall be made a nurse of salt tears, and none but women shall be left to wail the dead.

“Henry V, your ghost I call upon. Make this realm prosper, keep it from civil broils, combat the malignant planets in the Heavens! A far more glorious star your soul will make than Julius Caesar or bright —”

In mythology, after Julius Caesar’s death, his soul became a star.

A messenger entered Westminster Abbey and interrupted the Duke of Bedford: “My honorable lords, good health to you all! Sad tidings I bring to you from France, tidings of loss, of slaughters and utter defeat. The French cities of Guienne, Champagne, Rheims, Orleans, Paris, Guysors, and Poictiers are all quite lost.”

“What are you saying, man, in front of dead King Henry V’s corpse?” the Duke of Bedford asked. “Speak softly, or the loss of those great towns will make him burst out of his lead-lined coffin and rise from death.”

“Is Paris lost? Has Rouen surrendered?” the Duke of Gloucester asked. “If Henry V were recalled to life again, this news would cause him once more to yield the ghost and die.”

“How were they lost?” the Duke of Exeter asked. “What treachery was used?”

“No treachery,” the messenger said, “but lack of men and money led to their loss. The soldiers mutter among themselves that here you maintain several factions, and while a field — an army and a battle — should be dispatched and fought, you are disputing about your Generals. One would have lingering wars with little cost. Another would fly swiftly, but lacks wings. A third thinks, with no expense at all, peace may be obtained by the use of guileful, pretty words.

“Awake, awake, English nobility! Don’t let sloth dim your newly begotten honors — those French cities that King Henry V won for you! Cropped are the flower-de-luces in your arms; one half of England’s coat of arms is cut away.”

Flower-de-luces were French heraldic lilies; King Henry V and his son both had a claim to the French throne, and so one half of the coat of arms of the King of England displayed French lilies, the royal symbol of France.

The Duke of Exeter said, “If we lacked tears for this funeral, these tidings would call forth their flowing tides.”

“These losses are my concern,” the Duke of Bedford said. “I am the Regent of France: I rule there in the absence of the King of England. Give me my steeled coat of armor. I’ll fight to regain France.

“Away with these disgraceful wailing robes! I will lend the French wounds, instead of eyes, to weep their intermittent miseries. Let their wounds cry bloody tears.”

The miseries were intermittent because England and France fought intermittently. The Hundred Years War, which lasted from 1337-1453 (116 years), was not fought continuously. The Edwardian War took place in 1337-1360; the Caroline War took place in 1369-1389; the first phase of the Lancastrian War took place in 1415-1420, and the second phase of the Lancastrian War took place in 1420-1453.

After the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses took place from 1455-1487.

Another messenger arrived and said, “Lords, view these letters full of bad mischance. Except for some petty towns of no importance, France has quite revolted from the English. Charles the Dauphin has been crowned King of Rheims. The Bastard of Orleans has joined with him. Reignier, Duke of Anjou, is on the Dauphin’s side. The Duke of Alencon also flies to his side.”

“The Dauphin has been crowned King of Rheims!” the Duke of Exeter exclaimed. “All fly to join him! Oh, where shall we fly from this disgrace?”

“We will not fly anywhere, except to our enemies’ throats,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Duke of Bedford, if you are slack, I’ll fight it out.”

“Duke of Gloucester, why do you doubt my zeal to fight the French?” the Duke of Bedford asked. “I have mustered in my thoughts an army with which France is already overrun.”

Another messenger arrived and said, “My gracious lords, to add to your laments, with which you now bedew with tears King Henry’s hearse, I must inform you of a dismal fight between the brave, valiant Lord Talbot and the French.”

The Bishop of Winchester said, “Talbot conquered the French, right?”

“Oh, no,” the messenger replied. “In the battle Lord Talbot was defeated. I’ll tell you the details at some length. On the tenth of August this dread-inspiring lord, retiring from the siege that we English were making of Orleans, having barely six thousand troops, was surrounded by twenty-three thousand French troops and set upon. He had no time to form his soldiers into battle formations. He lacked defensive ironbound pikes to set in the ground before his archers to protect them; instead, he used sharp stakes plucked out of hedges and set them in the ground confusedly and erratically to keep the enemy horsemen from breaking in and attacking the archers.

“The fight continued more than three hours, during which time valiant Talbot beyond what humans think possible enacted wonders with his sword and lance. Hundreds he sent to Hell, and none dared to face him. Here, there, and everywhere, he flew enraged. The French exclaimed that the Devil was fighting them. All the army stood and stared at him. His soldiers spying his undaunted spirit shouted forcefully the rallying cry ‘To Talbot! To Talbot!’ and rushed into the bowels — the midst — of the battle.

“Here the English would have fully defeated the French, if Sir John Fastolfe had not played the coward. He, placed just behind the front ranks with orders to relieve and follow them, instead cowardly fled, without having struck even one stroke.

“Henceforth grew the general destruction and massacre. Their enemies surrounded them. A base Belgium soldier, to win the French Dauphin’s grace, thrust a spear into the back of Talbot, whom all the French soldiers with their finest assembled troops dared not look even once in the face.”

“Has Talbot been slain?” the Duke of Bedford asked. “If he has, then I will slay myself for living idly here in pomp and ease while such a worthy leader, lacking aid, was betrayed to his despicable enemy.”

“Oh, no, he lives,” the messenger said, “but he was taken prisoner, along with Lord Scales and Lord Hungerford. Most of the rest were slaughtered or were also taken prisoner.”

“His ransom none but I shall pay,” the Duke of Bedford said. “I’ll drag the Dauphin headlong from his throne. The Dauphin’s crown shall be the ransom of my friend. Four of their lords I’ll exchange for one of ours. For each English soldier killed, I’ll four French soldiers.

“Farewell, my masters; to my task I go. I intend to make bonfires in France without delay in order to keep our great Saint George’s feast that customarily follows great military victories. Ten thousand soldiers I will take with me, and their bloody deeds shall make all Europe quake with fear and awe.”

The messenger said, “You need to do that. We are besieging the city of Orleans, which the French are holding. The English army has grown weak and faint. The Earl of Salisbury craves reinforcements and is hardly able to keep his men from mutinying since they, who are so few, look out over such a multitude of enemy soldiers.”

“Remember, lords, your oaths you swore to King Henry V when he was on his deathbed,” the Duke of Exeter said. “If the Dauphin rebelled, you swore either to utterly conquer him or to bring him in obedience to your yoke.”

“I remember,” the Duke of Bedford said, “and I here take my leave to go about my preparation for war.”

He exited.

The Duke of Gloucester said, “I’ll go to the Tower of London with all the haste I can to view the artillery and munitions, and then I will proclaim young Prince Henry our new King. He will be King Henry VI.”

He exited.

The Duke of Exeter said, “I will go to Eltham, the royal residence, where the young King is. I have been appointed his special governor and am in charge of his education, and I’ll make the best arrangements I can devise for his safety there.”

He and everyone except the Bishop of Winchester exited.

Alone, the Bishop of Winchester said to himself, “Each of the other important persons has his place and function to attend, but I am left out; for me nothing remains. But not for long will I be Jack-out-of-office and have no influence on national and international affairs. I intend to steal the King from Eltham and sit at the chiefest stern of public weal. I intend to be the most important man in England.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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