— 3.2 —
Some murderers entered a room of state at Bury St. Edmund’s. They had just murdered the Duke of Gloucester by strangling him.
The first murderer said, “Run to my Lord of Suffolk; let him know that we have dispatched the Duke of Gloucester, as he commanded.”
“Oh, that it were not yet done so that we could decide not to do it!” the second murderer said. “What have we done! Did you ever hear a man so penitent?”
The Duke of Suffolk entered the room.
The murderer said, “Here comes my Lord of Suffolk.”
“Now, sirs, have you dispatched this thing?” the Duke of Suffolk asked. “Have you murdered him?”
“Yes, my good lord, he’s dead,” the first murderer said.
“Why, that’s well done,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Go to my house; I will reward you for this venturous, dangerous deed. The King and all the peers are here at hand. Have you remade the bed? Is everything done well, in accordance with the directions I gave you?”
“Yes, it is, my good lord,” the first murderer said.
“Leave! Be gone!” the Duke of Suffolk ordered.
The murderers exited.
Trumpets sounded, and several people entered the room: King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, and some attendants.
King Henry VI said, “Go, call our uncle the Duke of Gloucester to come into our presence immediately. Say that we intend to try his grace today to determine whether he is guilty, as charged publicly.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “I’ll call him to you immediately, my noble lord.”
King Henry VI said, “Lords, take your places, and I ask you all to proceed no stricter against our uncle the Duke of Gloucester than from true evidence of good value he is proven to be guilty of treachery. Let true evidence of good value show whether he is guilty or innocent.”
Queen Margaret said, “May God forbid that any malice should prevail that would condemn an innocent nobleman! I pray to God that the Duke of Gloucester may acquit himself of suspicion!”
“I thank you, Meg,” King Henry VI said. “These words much content me. They make me very happy.”
The Duke of Suffolk reentered the room.
Seeing him, King Henry VI said, “What’s going on! Why do you look pale? Why are you trembling? Where is our uncle the Duke of Gloucester? What’s the matter, Suffolk?”
“He is dead in his bed, my lord,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “The Duke of Gloucester is dead.”
“By the Virgin Mary, God forbid!” Queen Margaret said.
Cardinal Beaufort said, “This is God’s secret judgment. I dreamt last night that the Duke of Gloucester was mute and could not speak a word.”
King Henry VI fainted.
“How is my lord?” Queen Margaret said. “Help, lords! The King is dead.”
“Raise his body,” the Duke of Somerset said. “Wring his nose.”
This was thought to help someone regain consciousness.
“Run, go, help, help!” Queen Margaret said. “Henry, open your eyes!”
“He is regaining consciousness,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Madam, be calm.”
“Oh, Heavenly God!” King Henry VI said.
“How is my gracious lord?” Queen Margaret asked.
“Take comfort, my sovereign!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Gracious Henry, take comfort!”
“Is my Lord of Suffolk comforting me?” King Henry VI said sarcastically to him. “He came just now to sing a raven’s ominous note of death, whose dismal tune took away from me my vital powers, and does he think that the chirping of a wren, crying ‘take comfort’ from a hollow, false, insincere breast, can chase away the first-heard sound — that of the raven?
“Don’t hide your poison with such sugared words. Lay not your hands on me; stop and forbear, I say. The touch of your hands frightens me as much as a serpent’s bite.
“You baleful messenger, get out of my sight! Upon your eyeballs murderous tyranny sits in grim majesty and frightens the world.
“Don’t look upon me — your eyes wound me.
“Yet do not go away. Come, basilisk, and kill the innocent gazer with your sight, for in the shadow of death I shall find joy. In life I find only double death, now that the Duke of Gloucester is dead.”
A basilisk is a mythological serpent that could kill people simply by looking at them.
Queen Margaret said, “Why do you berate my Lord of Suffolk thus? Although the Duke of Gloucester was his enemy, yet Suffolk like a Christian laments his death. And as for myself, foe as the Duke of Gloucester was to me, if liquid tears or heart-offending groans or blood-consuming sighs could recall his life, I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans, and look as pale as a primrose with blood-drinking sighs, and all to have the noble Duke of Gloucester alive.”
She was referring to the belief that each sigh or groan would take a drop of blood away from the heart.
Queen Margaret continued, “What do I know about how the world may judge of me? It is known that the Duke of Gloucester and I were only hollow friends — we were enemies. It may be judged I killed the Duke, and so shall my name be wounded by the tongue of slander, and Princes’ courts be filled with the reproach of me. This is what I get by his death — unhappy me! To be a Queen, and crowned with infamy!”
King Henry VI said, “Ah, woe is me for Gloucester, wretched man! I am grieved because of his death.”
Queen Margaret said, “Be woe for me — be sorry for me — because I am more wretched than he is. Do you turn away from me and hide your face? I am no loathsome leper; look at me.
“What! Are you, like the adder, grown deaf? Be poisonous like the adder and kill your forlorn Queen.”
In this culture, snakes were thought to be able to stop one ear with their tail and hold the other ear to the ground, thereby not hearing any sounds.
Psalm 58:3-5 (King James Version) states this:
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
5 Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.
Queen Margaret continued, “Is all your comfort shut in the Duke of Gloucester’s tomb? Why, then, Dame Margaret was never your joy. Erect his statue and worship it, and make my image just a cheap alehouse sign.
“Was I for this almost wrecked upon the sea and twice by adverse winds from England’s bank driven back again to my native land? What foretold this, but a well-meaning and accurately prophesizing forewarning wind that seemed to say ‘Don’t seek a scorpion’s nest, and don’t set foot on this unkind shore’?
“What did I then, but cursed the gentle gusts and Aeolus, the god of winds, who loosed them forth from their strong bronze caves. And I bade the winds to blow towards England’s blessed shore, or turn our stern upon a dreadful rock and wreck the ship and drown me.
“Yet Aeolus would not be a murderer, but left that hateful office to you. The pretty vaulting — rising and falling — sea refused to drown me, knowing that you would have me drowned on shore, with tears as salty as sea water, through your unkindness. The rocks that split ships in pieces cowered in the sinking sands and would not dash me with their jagged sides so that your flinty heart, harder than they, might in your palace destroy me, Margaret.
“As long as I could see your chalky cliffs at Dover, when from your shore the tempest beat us back, I stood upon the deck in the storm, and when the dusky sky began to rob my eagerly peering sight of the view of your land, I took a costly jeweled ornament from my neck — a heart it was, surrounded by diamonds — and threw it towards your land. The sea received it, and so I wished your body might receive my heart. And even with this I lost sight of fair England and bade my eyes to depart with my heart and called my eyes blind and dusky spectacles because they lost sight of Albion’s — England’s — wished-for coast.
“How often have I tempted Suffolk’s tongue, the agent of your foul inconstancy, the one who convinced me to marry you, to sit and bewitch me, as Ascanius did when he to Dido, maddened by love, would unfold his father’s acts commenced in burning Troy!”
In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas’ son, Ascanius (actually Venus’ disguised son Cupid took his place) sat on the lap of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and told her about the exploits of Aeneas, who had survived the fall of Troy and rescued his father and son from the burning city.
Queen Margaret continued, “Am I not bewitched like her? Are you not false like him?”
Aeneas and Dido had a love affair in Carthage, but Aeneas left her in order to go to Italy and achieve his destiny of being an important ancestor of the Roman people.
Queen Margaret continued, “Woe is me. I can say or do no more! Die, Margaret, because Henry weeps that you live so long.”
Noises were heard, and the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Salisbury entered the room. Many commoners stood outside the room.
The Earl of Warwick said to King Henry VI, “It is reported, mighty sovereign, that the good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, has been traitorously murdered by the means of the Duke of Suffolk and Cardinal Beaufort. The commoners, like an angry hive of bees that want their leader, scatter up and down and care not whom they sting in seeking revenge for his death. I myself have calmed their spleenful mutiny, until they hear the manner of his death.”
“That he is dead, good Warwick, is too true,” King Henry VI said. “But how he died God knows, not I, Henry. Enter his chamber, view his breathless corpse, and then tell us your opinion of his sudden death.”
“That I shall do, my liege,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Stay, Salisbury, with the unrefined multitude until I return.”
The Earl of Warwick exited and joined the commoners.
King Henry VI said, “Oh, You Who judges all things, keep back my thoughts, my thoughts that labor to persuade my soul that some violent hands were laid on Humphrey’s life! If my suspicion is false, forgive me, God, because judgment belongs only to You.
“Gladly would I go to warm the Duke of Gloucester’s pale lips with twenty thousand kisses, and to rain upon his face an ocean of salt tears, to tell my love and friendship for him to his silent deaf body, and with my fingers feel his unfeeling hand. But all in vain are these mean funeral obsequies, and to survey his dead and Earthly image, what would it accomplish except to make my sorrow greater?”
The Earl of Warwick and some others came into the room, carrying the bed on which lay the corpse of the Duke of Gloucester.
The Earl of Warwick said to King Henry VI, “Come here, gracious sovereign, and view this body.”
“That is to see how deep my grave is made,” King Henry VI said, “for with his soul fled all my worldly solace. When I see him, I see my life in death.”
The Earl of Warwick said, “As surely as my soul intends to live with that revered King — Jesus, our Lord and Savior — Who took our state upon him to free us from His Father’s wrathful curse as recounted in Genesis, I believe that violent hands were laid upon the life of this much-famed Duke of Gloucester.”
Genesis 3:17-19 (King James Version)states this:
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
“That is a dreadful oath, sworn with a solemn tongue!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “What evidence does Lord Warwick give for his vow?”
The Earl of Warwick said, “See how the blood is settled in his face. Often I have seen a body that has died a natural death have an ashy appearance, pale and bloodless, because the blood has all descended to the laboring heart. The heart, in the conflict that it wages with death, attracts the blood for aid against the enemy — death. The blood stays in the heart after death and there cools and never returns to blush and beautify the cheek again.
“But look, the Duke of Gloucester’s face is black and full of blood. His eyeballs are further out than when he lived; he is staring very ghastly like a strangled man. His hair is standing on end, his nostrils are stretched with struggling; his hands are displayed wide apart, like those of a man who grasped and tugged for life and was by strength subdued.
“Look, you can see his hair is sticking on the sheets. His well-proportioned beard has been made rough and rugged, like the summer’s wheat that has been beaten down by a tempest.
“It cannot be otherwise than that he was murdered here. The least of all these signs makes that probable.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Why, Warwick, who would murder the Duke of Gloucester? I myself and Cardinal Beaufort had him in our protection, and we, I hope, sir, are no murderers.”
“But both of you were Duke Humphrey’s vowed foes,” the Earl of Warwick said.
He then said to Cardinal Beaufort, “And you, certainly, had the good Duke of Gloucester in your custody to guard. It is likely you would not feast him like a friend, and it is easily and clearly seen he found an enemy.”
Queen Margaret said, “Then you, it seems, suspect these noblemen to be guilty of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s untimely death.”
The Earl of Warwick said, “A person who finds the heifer dead and freshly bleeding and sees close by a butcher with an axe will definitely suspect it was the butcher who made the slaughter. A person who finds the partridge in the nest of a bird of prey will definitely imagine how the bird died, although the bird of prey soars with an unbloody beak. Even so suspicious is this tragedy.”
Queen Margaret asked, “Are you the butcher, Duke of Suffolk? Where’s your knife? Is Cardinal Beaufort being called a bird of prey? Where are his talons?”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “I wear no knife to slaughter sleeping men, but here’s a vengeful sword, rusted with disuse, that shall be scoured in the rancorous heart of any man who slanders me with murder’s crimson badge.
“Say, if you dare, proud Lord of Warwickshire, that I am guilty of the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.”
Cardinal Beaufort’s face had become pale at the sight of the corpse of the Duke of Gloucester. Now he was close to fainting, and so the Duke of Somerset and some others assisted him in leaving the room.
The Earl of Warwick replied to the Duke of Suffolk, “What doesn’t Warwick dare to do, if false, treacherous Suffolk dares him?”
Queen Margaret said, “He dares not calm his arrogant, insolent, contentious spirit nor cease to be an arrogant critic, although Suffolk dare him twenty thousand times.”
“Madam, be quiet,” the Earl of Warwick said. “With reverence may I say that every word you speak in Suffolk’s behalf is slander to your royal dignity.”
“Blunt-witted lord, ignoble in demeanor!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “If ever a lady wronged her lord so much, your mother took into her blameworthy bed some coarse untutored peasant, and noble stock was grafted with a slip from a crabapple tree, whose fruit you are — you were never of the Nevilles’ noble family.”
The Earl of Warwick said, “Except that the guilt of murder protects you like a buckler, aka a shield, and except that I would rob the deathsman of his fee for executing you for murder, in which act of me killing you I would be acquitting you thereby of ten thousand shames, and except that my sovereign’s presence makes me mild, I would, you false murderous coward, make you beg pardon on your knee for your just now expressed speech, and I would make you say it was your mother that you meant and that you yourself were born a bastard. And after all this fearful homage was done, I would give you your hire, aka wages — death — and send your soul to Hell, you pernicious bloodsucker of sleeping men!”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “You shall be awake while I shed your blood, if away from the presence of King Henry VI you dare go with me.”
The Earl of Warwick replied, “Let’s go away from the King’s presence right now, or I will drag you away. Unworthy though you are, I’ll fight you and do some service to Duke Humphrey’s ghost.”
The Duke of Suffolk and the Earl of Warwick exited.
King Henry VI said, “What is a stronger breastplate than an untainted heart! Thrice is that man armed who has a just quarrel, and that man whose conscience is corrupted with injustice is naked, although he is locked up in steel armor.”
Noise was heard coming from outside.
Queen Margaret said, “What noise is this?”
The Duke of Suffolk and the Earl of Warwick reentered the room. Both of them had drawn their weapons, which was a serious offense. Drawn weapons were not allowed in the presence of the King.
King Henry VI said, “Why, what are you doing, lords! You have your wrathful weapons drawn here in our presence! Do you dare be so bold? Why, what tumultuous clamor do we have here?”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “The traitorous Warwick with the men of Bury St. Edmunds all set upon me, mighty sovereign.”
The Earl of Salisbury and several commoners entered the room.
The Earl of Salisbury said to the commoners, “Sirs, stand outside; the King shall know your mind.”
The commoners exited.
He then said to King Henry VI, “Dread lord, the commoners send you word by me that unless Lord Suffolk is immediately executed, or banished from fair England’s territories, they will by violence tear him from your palace and torture him with a grievous lingering death. They say that by him the good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, died. They say that in him they fear your highness’ death; and their pure instinct of love and loyalty, free from a stubborn hostile intent, which might be thought to contradict your liking, makes them thus insistent on his banishment.
“They say out of concern for your most royal person that if your highness would intend to sleep and would order that no man should disturb your rest on pain of your dislike or on pain of death, they still, notwithstanding such a strict edict, would wake you if it were necessary to protect your life.
“For example, if there were a serpent seen, with forked tongue, that slyly glided towards your majesty, and it were necessary to awaken you lest your remaining in that slumber would allow the deadly snake to make your sleep eternal, they therefore would cry out and awaken you, although you forbid them to.
“They say that they will guard you, whether you want them to or not, from such cruel serpents as false Suffolk, with whose envenomed and fatal sting your loving uncle Gloucester, who was worth twenty times the worth of Suffolk, they say, is shamefully bereft of life.”
The commoners shouted from outside, “We want an answer from the King, my Lord of Salisbury!”
The Duke of Suffolk said to the Earl of Salisbury, “It is likely that the commoners, rude unpolished peasants, could send such a message to their sovereign. But you, my lord, were glad to be employed, to show how clever an orator you are. But all the honor you, Salisbury, have won is that you are the lord ambassador sent from a gang of tinkers to the King.”
In this society, one meaning of the word “tinker” was “beggar.”
The commoners shouted from outside the room, “We want ananswer from the King, or we will all break in!”
King Henry VI ordered, “Go, Salisbury, and tell them all from me that I thank them for their tender loving care, and even if I had not been incited by them, yet I intended and intend to do what they entreat me to do, for surely my thoughts do hourly prophesy misfortune to my well-being by Suffolk’s means.
“And therefore, I swear by His majesty Whose much unworthy deputy I am that Suffolk shall not breathe infection into this air for more than three days longer, on the pain of death.”
The Earl of Salisbury left to inform the commoners that the Duke of Suffolk would be exiled from England within three days.
Queen Margaret said, “Oh, Henry, let me plead for gentle Suffolk!”
“Ungentle Queen, to call him gentle Suffolk!” King Henry VI said. “Unkind Queen, to call him kind Suffolk! Plead no more, I say. If you plead for him, you will only increase my wrath.
“Had I but pronounced the sentence, but not sworn to it, I would have kept my word, but when I swear, it is irrevocable.”
He said to the Duke of Suffolk, “If, after three days’ space, you are found here on any ground that I am ruler of, the world shall not be the ransom for your life.”
King Henry VI then said, “Come, Warwick. Come, good Warwick, and go with me. I have great matters to impart to you.”
Everyone exited except for Queen Margaret and the Duke of Suffolk.
Queen Margaret said in the direction in which King Henry VI and the Earl of Warwick had departed, “May misfortune and sorrow go along with you! May heart’s discontent and sour affliction be playfellows to keep you company! There are two of you; may the Devil make a third! And may threefold vengeance escort your steps!”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Gentle Queen, stop these imprecations and let your Suffolk take his sorrowful leave.”
“Damn, you coward woman and soft-hearted wretch! Haven’t you the spirit to curse your enemy?” Queen Margaret said.
“May a plague fall upon them!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Why should I curse them? If curses would kill, as does the poisonous mandrake’s cry when it is pulled from the ground, I would invent as bitter-wounding terms, as angry, as harsh and as horrible to hear, delivered as strongly through my clenched teeth, with as very many signs of deadly hate as the curses that the lean-faced, emaciated hag Envy delivers in her loathsome cave.
“My tongue would stumble as it sought to say my earnest words. My eyes would sparkle like the beaten flint. My hair would be fixed on end, as if I were deranged. Yes, every joint would seem to curse and excommunicate. And even now my burdened heart would break, should I not curse them.
“May poison be their drink! May gall — no, worse than gall — be the most delicious thing that they taste! May their sweetest shade be a grove of cypress trees in a cemetery! May their chief vista be murdering basilisks — either the large cannon known by that name or the snake that kills with a glance! May the softest thing they touch be as painful as a lizard’s sting! May their music be as frightful as the serpent’s hiss! And may foreboding screech owls make the band of musicians full! May all the foul terrors in dark-situated Hell —”
Queen Margaret interrupted, “Enough, sweet Suffolk. You are tormenting yourself, and these dread curses, like the Sun shining against a mirror, or like a gun filled too full of powder, recoil, and turn their force upon yourself.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “You bade me curse, and will you now tell me to stop? Now, by the ground that I am banished from, I say that I could curse away a winter’s night, although I were standing naked on a mountain top, where biting cold would never let grass grow, and I would think it but a minute spent in entertainment.”
Queen Margaret said, “Oh, let me entreat you to cease cursing. Give me your hand so that I may dew it with my mournful tears; don’t let the rain of Heaven wet this place, to wash away my woeful monuments — the tracks of my tears.
“I wish that this kiss could be printed in your hand so that by the seal you might think upon these lips of mine, through which a thousand sighs are breathed for you!
“So, leave so that I may know my grief, which is only imagined while you are standing by me, as if I were a person who overindulges while thinking about what she wants.
“I will get a repeal of your exile for you, or you can be well assured that I will do what it takes to be banished myself. And I am banished if I am apart from you.
“Go; don’t speak to me. Even now be gone.”
The Duke of Suffolk started to leave.
Queen Margaret changed her mind: “Oh, don’t go yet! Even like this, two friends who are condemned to die will embrace and kiss and take ten thousand leaves, both of them a hundred times loather to part from each other than to die.
“Yet now I say farewell to you; and I say farewell to life as well as to you!”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “Thus is poor Suffolk banished ten times: once by the King, and three times thrice by you. It is not the land I care for, if you were away from here. A wilderness is populous enough, as long as I, Suffolk, would have your Heavenly company. For where you are, there is the world itself, with all the many pleasures in the world, and where you are not, there is desolation.
“I can say and do no more. Live to enjoy your life. I myself find joy in nothing except knowing that you live.”
A lord named Vaux arrived.
Queen Margaret asked, “Where is Vaux going so fast? What is your news, please?”
Vaux replied, “To report to his majesty that Cardinal Beaufort is at the point of death, for suddenly a grievous sickness took him that makes him gasp and stare and struggle for breath, blaspheming God and cursing men on Earth.
“Sometimes he talks as if Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s ghost were by his side; sometimes he calls to the King, and whispers to his pillow, as if he were speaking to him, the secrets of his overwrought soul. And I have been sent to tell his majesty that even now he cries aloud for him.”
Queen Margaret said, “Go tell this solemn message to the King.”
Queen Margaret said, “Ay, me! What a world is this! What news is this!
“But why am I grieving about an hour’s poor loss? Cardinal Beaufort was an old man, and he would have lived only a short time — call it an hour! — more. Why am I omitting Suffolk’s exile, the exile of my soul’s treasure? That is the real grief.
“Why don’t I mourn only for you, Suffolk, and compete in tears with the southern clouds that bring rain? The southern clouds’ tears are for the Earth’s crops, while my tears are for my sorrows.
“Now go away from here. The King, you know, is coming. If you are found beside me, you will die.”
The Duke of Suffolk replied, “If I depart from you, I cannot live, and what would dying in your sight be like other than taking a pleasant slumber in your lap?”
In this culture, one meaning of “dying” was “orgasming,” and one meaning of “lap” was “pudendum.”
The Duke of Suffolk continued, “Here I could breathe my soul into the air, as mild and gentle as the cradle-babe dying with its mother’s nipple between its lips.
“In contrast, away from your sight, I would be raging mad, and cry out for you to close my eyes — the eyes of a dead man — and to have you with your lips stop my mouth.
“That way, you would either send back my flying soul, or I would breathe my soul into your body and then it would live in sweet Elysium.
“To die beside you would be only to die in jest. To die away from you would be a torture more than death.
“Oh, let me stay, befall what may befall! Let me stay, no matter what happens!”
Queen Margaret said, “Leave! Although parting is a fretful, corrosive cure, it is applied to a deadly wound. If you stay, you die. If you go into exile, you live.
“Go to France, sweet Suffolk. Let me hear from you, for wherever you are in this world’s globe, I’ll have an Iris — a messenger — who shall find you.”
Iris was a messenger for the classical gods.
The Duke of Suffolk said, “I am going.”
Queen Margaret said, “And take my heart with you.”
The Duke of Suffolk said, “It is a jewel, locked to the most woeful casket that ever did contain a thing of worth.
“Just like a ship that has split in two, so we split up. This way I go and fall to death.”
Queen Margaret said, “And this way I go and fall to death.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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