David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 1 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 1-2

— 5.1 —

In the palace in London, King Henry VI was meeting with the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Exeter.

He asked the Duke of Gloucester, “Have you perused the letters from the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Earl of Armagnac?”

“I have, my lord,” the Duke of Gloucester replied, “and their purpose is this: They humbly petition your excellence to have a godly peace brought into existence between the realms of England and of France.”

“How does your grace like their proposal?”

“I like it well, my good lord, and I think it is the only way to stop the spilling of our Christian blood and establish peace on every side.”

“Yes, that is true, by the Virgin Mary, uncle,” King Henry VI said, “for I always thought it was both impious and unnatural that such inhuman, atrocious savagery and bloody strife should reign among professors of one faith. The English and the French are Christian.”

“In addition, my lord, the sooner to effect and the surer to bind this knot of amity, the Earl of Armagnac, who is closely related to Charles the Dauphin and who is a man of great authority in France, offers his only daughter to your grace in marriage, along with a large and sumptuous dowry. This is a marriage that will advance peace between England and France.”

“Marriage, uncle!” King Henry VI said. “Alas, my years are young! And it is more suitable for me to devote myself to my study and my books than to engage in wanton dalliance with a paramour.

“Yet call the ambassadors, and as you please, let every one of them have their answers. I shall be well content with any choice that tends to God’s glory and my country’s well-being.”

The Bishop of Winchester had officially become the Cardinal of Winchester. Dressed in the clothing of a Cardinal, he entered the room, along with the three ambassadors representing the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Earl of Armagnac. The ambassador representing the Pope was a Papal Legate.

Seeing the Cardinal of Winchester, the Duke of Exeter said to himself, “Has my Lord of Winchester been officially installed as a Cardinal and been given a Cardinal’s rank? Then I perceive that what King Henry V once prophesied will be verified as true: ‘If once Winchester comes to be a Cardinal, he’ll make his Cardinal’s cap equal to the crown.’”

King Henry VI said, “My lords ambassadors, your several petitions have been considered and debated. And therefore we are for certain resolved to draft the conditions of a friendly peace, which we intend shall be transported immediately to France by my Lord of Winchester.”

The Duke of Gloucester said to the ambassador of the Earl of Armagnac, “And as for the offer to my lord from your master, I have informed at length his highness of it, and as he likes the lady’s virtuous gifts, her beauty, and the value of her dowry, he intends that she shall be his wife and the Queen of England.”

King Henry VI said, “As evidence and proof of this marriage contract, take to her and give her this jewel as a pledge of my affection, and so, my Lord Protector, see them safeguarded and safely brought to Dover, where after they board a ship, commit them to the fortune of the sea.”

Everyone exited except for the Cardinal of Winchester and the Papal Legate.

“Wait, my lord Legate,” the Cardinal of Winchester said. “You shall first receive the sum of money that I promised would be delivered to his holiness for clothing me in these grave ornaments — this habit of a Cardinal.”

“I will attend upon your lordship’s leisure,” the Papal Legate said. “I am ready when you are ready.”

The Cardinal of Winchester said to himself, “Now I, Winchester, will not submit, I think, or be inferior to the proudest peer. Duke of Gloucester, you shall well perceive that, neither in birth nor in authority, I the Bishop will be put down or overruled by you. I’ll either make you stoop and bend your knee to me, or sack this country with a mutinous rebellion.”

Although he had become a Cardinal, he had not ceased being a Bishop.

— 5.2 —

On the plains of Anjou, France, Charles the Dauphin was meeting with the Duke of Burgundy, the Duke of Alençon, the Bastard of Orleans, Reignier, and Joan la Pucelle. Soldiers were present. Charles the Dauphin held a letter in his hand.

Charles the Dauphin said, “This news, my lords, may cheer our drooping spirits. It is said that the brave Parisians are revolting against the English and are turning again into the warlike French.”

The Duke of Alençon said, “Then march to Paris, royal Charles of France, and don’t keep back your armies in dalliance.”

Joan la Pucelle said, “May peace be among the Parisians, if they turn to us and join us; otherwise, let devastation battle against their palaces!”

A scout arrived and said, “Success to our valiant General, and happiness to his accomplices!”

“What news do our scouts send?” Charles the Dauphin said. “Please, speak.”

The scout said, “The English army, which was divided into two parties, is now joined into one, and it intends to fight you soon.”

“Somewhat too sudden, sirs, the warning is,” Charles the Dauphin said, “but we will soon provide for them.”

The Duke of Burgundy said, “I trust that the ghost of Lord Talbot is not there. Now that he is gone, my lord, you need not fear.”

“Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed,” Joan la Pucelle said. “Command the conquest, Charles, it shall be yours. Let Henry VI fret and all the world complain.”

She sounded positive that the French would defeat the English.

“Then let’s go on, my lords,” Charles the Dauphin said, “and may France be fortunate!”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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