David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 1 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 3

— 5.3 —

The battle was taking place before Angiers.

Joan la Pucelle, alone, said, “The Regent — the English Duke of York — conquers, and the Frenchmen flee. Now help, you magic spells and amulets and you excellent spirits who forewarn me and give me signs of future events.”

Thunder sounded as the fiends came closer.

Joan la Pucelle said, “You speedy helpers, who are subordinates of the lordly monarch of the north, appear and aid me in this enterprise.”

Lucifer is “the lordly monarch of the north,” according to Isaiah 14:12-14  (King James Version):

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

The fiends arrived.

Joan la Pucelle said, “This speedy and quick appearance argues proof of your accustomed diligence to me. You have always served me well. Now, you familiar spirits, who are culled out of the powerful regions under the earth, help me this once so that France may gain control of the battlefield.”

The fiends walked around; they did not speak to Joan la Pucelle.

She said, “Oh, don’t hold me here with your silence very long! I used to be accustomed to feed you with my blood, but now I’ll lop a limb off and give it to you as a down payment of a further benefit — if you condescend to help me now.”

In this culture, witches were thought to have an extra nipple that they used to feed the witches’ human blood to attendant fiends.

The fiends hung their heads.

Joan la Pucelle said, “I have no hope to have help? My body shall pay the recompense, if you will grant my request for help.”

The fiends shook their heads.

She said, “Can’t my body or my blood-sacrifice persuade you to give me your usual help? Then take my soul, my body, soul and all, before England defeats the French.”

The fiends exited.

She said, “See, they forsake me! Now the time has come that France must cast down her lofty-plumed crest and let her head fall into England’s lap. My ancient incantations are too weak, and Hell is too strong for me to fight. Now, France, your glory droops to the dust.”

The battle continued.

The Duke of York and the Duke of Burgundy fought, the French fled, and the Duke of York took Joan la Pucelle captive.

The Duke of York said, “Damsel of France, I think I have you fast. Unchain your spirits now with incantatory charms and see if they can gain for you your liberty. You are a splendid prize, fit for the Devil’s respect! Look at how the ugly wench bends her brows and frowns, as if like Circe she would change my shape!”

Circe is an enchantress who in Homer’s Odysseychanges Odysseus’ men into swine.

“Changed into a worse shape you cannot be,” Joan la Pucelle said.

“Charles the Dauphin is a proper man,” the Duke of York said. “No shape but his can please your dainty eye.”

“May a plaguing misfortune light both on Charles and on you!” Joan la Pucelle said. “And may both of you be suddenly surprised by bloody hands as you lie sleeping in your beds!”

“Cruel, cursing hag, enchantress, hold your tongue!” the Duke of York said.

“I ask you to give me permission to curse for awhile,” Joan la Pucelle said.

“Curse, miscreant, when you are tied to the stake and burned,” the Duke of York said.

He dragged her away.

The battle continued, and the Earl of Suffolk, aka William de la Pole, captured Margaret, the daughter of Reignier, and held her by the hand.

“Whoever you are, you are my prisoner,” he said.

Looking at her, he said, “Oh, fairest beauty, do not fear or flee, for I will touch you only with reverent hands. I kiss these my fingers as a pledge of eternal peace,and lay them gently on your tender cheek.Who are you? Tell me, so that I may honor you.”

She replied, “Margaret is my name, and I am daughter to a King — the King of Naples — whoever you are.”

“I am anEarl, and I am called Suffolk,” he said. “Don’t be offended, nature’s miracle,you were destined to be captured by me. So does the swan her downy cygnets — her offspring — protect,keeping them prisoner underneath her wings.Yet, if this servile usage should offend you, go and be free again, as Suffolk’s friend.”

She began to leave.

“Wait!” he said. “Stay here! I have no power to let her leave. My hand would free her, but my heart says no.Just like the sunshine plays upon the smooth, mirrory streams,twinkling another counterfeited, reflected, mirrored beam,so seems this gorgeous beauty to my eyes. She is as beautiful as sunshine gleaming on a smooth stream of water. I would like to woo her, yet I dare not speak. I’ll call for pen and ink, and write my mind.

“Stop, de la Pole! Don’t disparage yourself! Don’t you have a tongue? Isn’t she here in front of you? Will the sight of a woman daunt you?

“Yes, beauty’s Princely majesty is such that it confuses the tongue and makes the senses rough.”

Margaret said, “Tell me, Earl of Suffolk — if that is your name — what ransom must I pay before I can leave? For I perceive that I am your prisoner.”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “How can you know that she will deny my wooing of her, before you make a trial of her love?”

Margaret said, “Why don’t you speak? What ransom must I pay?”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “She is beautiful, and therefore to be wooed. She is a woman, and therefore to be won.”

Margaret said, “Will you accept a ransom? Yes, or no?”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “Foolish man, remember that you have a wife. How then can Margaret be your paramour?”

Margaret said to herself, “It is best for me to leave him, for he will not hear what I say to him.”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “There all is marred; there lies a cooling card.”

A cooling card is something that cools all your hopes.

Margaret said to herself, “He talks at random; surely, the man is mad.”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “And yet a dispensation may be had.”

The dispensation he meant was an annulment of his marriage.

Margaret said to herself, “And yet I wish that you would answer me.”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “I’ll win this Lady Margaret. For whom? Why, for my King! Tush, that’s a wooden thing!”

The wooden — stupid and insane — thing was the action of winning Margaret for someone other than himself.

Margaret said to herself, “He talks of wood. He is some carpenter.”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “Yet even so my fancy for her may be satisfied, and peace can be established between these realms. But there remains a difficulty in that, too, for although her father is the King of Naples, as well as the Duke of Anjou and Maine, yet he is poor, and our English nobles will scorn the match. She can bring King Henry VI no dowry.”

“Can you hear me, Captain?” Margaret asked. “Aren’t you at leisure? Don’t you have time to speak to me?”

She was angry, and so she called him by the lower military title “Captain” rather than the higher noble title “Earl.”

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “A marriage between King Henry VI and Margaret shall take place, no matter how much our English nobles disdain it. Henry is young and will quickly agree to the marriage.”

He then said to Margaret, “Madam, I have a secret to reveal.”

Margaret ignored him and said to herself, “What though I am a captive? He seems to be a knight, and he will not in any way dishonor me.”

The Earl of Suffolk said, “Lady, please listen to what I have to say.”

Margaret ignored him and said to herself, “Perhaps the French shall rescue me, and then I need not beg his courtesy.”

The Earl of Suffolk said, “Sweet madam, give me a hearing in a cause —”

Margaret ignored him and said to herself, “Tush, women have been made captives before now.”

The Earl of Suffolk said, “Lady, why do you talk so?”

“I beg your pardon,” Margaret said, “but it is Quid for Quo. You ignored me as I tried to talk to you, and so now I ignored you as you tried to talk to me.”

“Tell me, gentle Princess, would you not suppose that your bondage is happy, if you were to be made a Queen?”

Margaret replied, “To be a Queen in bondage is more vile than to be a slave in base servility, for Princes, Princesses, and nobles should be free.”

“And so shall you, if happy England’s royal King is free.”

Was King Henry VI free? Or was he in bondage to the many people who wanted to manipulate him?

“Why, what concern is his freedom to me?” Margaret asked. “What does his freedom have to do with me?”

“I’ll undertake to make you King Henry VI’s Queen, put a golden scepter in your hand, and set a precious crown upon your head, if you will agree to be my —”

He paused.

Margaret asked, “What?”

The Earl of Suffolk said, “Hislove.”

Margaret replied, “I am unworthy to be King Henry VI’s wife.”

“No, gentle madam; I am unworthy to woo so fair a dame to be his wife and have no portion in the choice myself.”

“The choice” is the thing chosen, aka Margaret. The Earl of Suffolk felt that he was worthy of having a share of Margaret; to woo her and nothave a share of her was beneath him.

He added, “What do you say, madam? Does this content you? Are you happy with what I have said?”

“If it pleases my father, then it pleases me.”

“Then let’s call our Captains and our battle flags forth. And, madam, at your father’s castle wall we’ll crave a parley, so we can confer with him.”

A parley sounded. Reignier appeared on the castle wall.

The Earl of Suffolk said, “Look, Reignier, look, your daughter has been taken prisoner!”

“To whom is she prisoner?” Reignier asked.

“To me,” the Earl of Suffolk replied.

“Earl of Suffolk, why do you tell me this? I am a soldier, and I am not suited to weep or to complain about Lady Fortune’s fickleness.”

“There is a remedy for this situation your daughter is in, my lord,” the Earl of Suffolk said. “Consent, and for your honor give consent, that your daughter shall be wedded to my King. You will benefit from the marriage. Your daughter I have taken pains to woo, and I have won her for King Henry VI. And this her easily endured imprisonment has gained your daughter Princely liberty.”

“Is the Earl of Suffolk saying what he really thinks to be the truth?” Reignier asked.

If Margaret were to marry King Henry VI of England, she would be marrying out of her league.

The Earl of Suffolk replied, “Fair Margaret knows that I, the Earl of Suffolk, do not flatter, make a false face, or feign.”

“Upon your noble guarantee of my safety, I will descend to give you the answer to your just question,” Reignier said.

The Earl of Suffolk nodded to assure Reignier that he would be safe, and he said, “Here I will await your coming.”

Reignier came down from his castle wall.

Reignier said, “Welcome, brave Earl of Suffolk, into our territories. Command in Anjou whatever your honor pleases.”

“I thank you, Reignier. You are happy and fortunate to have so sweet a child, a child suitable to be made marital companion to a King. What answer does your grace make to my petition?”

“Since you deign to woo her little worth to be the Princely bride of such a lord, my daughter shall be Henry VI’s, if he wants her, on the condition that I may quietly enjoy what is my own, the territories of Maine and Anjou, free from oppression or the stroke of war.”

From the English perspective, the territories of Maine and Anjou actually belonged to England, not to Reignier.

“That is her ransom,” the Earl of Suffolk said. “I release her to you, and I will make sure that your grace shall well and quietly enjoy those two territories.”

“And in Henry VI’s royal name, I again give her hand to you, who are acting as that gracious King’s deputy. This action is a sign of plighted faith, a sign that the two are engaged to be married.”

The Earl of Suffolk replied, “Reignier of France, I give you Kingly thanks because this business has been performed for a King.”

He thought, And yet, I think, I could be well content to be my own attorney in this case; I would like to woo Margaret for myself and make her mine.

He said, “I’ll go over then to England with this news, and make this marriage solemnized. So farewell, Reignier. Set this diamond — your daughter — safe in golden palaces that are suitable for it.”

“I embrace you, as I would embrace the Christian Prince, King Henry VI, if he were here,” Reignier said.

Margaret said to the Earl of Suffolk, “Farewell, my lord. You, Earl of Suffolk, shall always have good wishes, praise, and prayers from me, Margaret.”

Reignier left, and Margaret started to go after him, but the Earl of Suffolk said, “Farewell, sweet madam, but listen, Margaret, have you no noble greetings for my King?”

“Tell him such greetings from me as are suitable for a maiden, a virgin, and his servant to say to him.”

“These are words sweetly placed and modestly directed,” the Earl of Suffolk said, “But madam, I must trouble you again. Have you no loving token for his majesty?”

“Yes, my good lord, I send to the King a pure unspotted heart, never yet affected by love.”

“Also send him this,” the Earl of Suffolk said, kissing her.

“That you yourself can send him,” Margaret said. “I will not be so presumptuous as to send such peevish, silly, foolish tokens to a King.”

Margaret exited.

The Earl of Suffolk said to himself, “Oh, I wish that you were mine! But, Suffolk, stop. You must not wander in that labyrinth; there Minotaurs and ugly treasons lurk.”

The labyrinth was where the mythological Minotaur of Crete was kept. The Cretan Princess Pasiphaëhad sex with a bull and gave birth to the half-human, half-bull monster known as the Minotaur. Such sex was illicit, and the Earl of Suffolk, attracted as he was to Margaret, knew that sex with her would be illicit, and since she would be married to King Henry VI, his having an affair with her could be regarded as treason.

He continued, “This is what I will do: Solicit Henry with praise of her wonders. Think about her virtues that outshine the virtues of others. Think about her natural graces that eclipse art. Remember the image of these good qualities of hers often on the seas. I will do all these things so that, when I come to kneel at Henry VI’s feet, I may dispossess him of his wits as he is astonished with wonder at Margaret.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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