David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 3-6

— 4.3 —

The battle took place, and Sir Humphrey Stafford and William Stafford were slain. Jack Cade and the rebels then discussed their victory.

Jack Cade asked, “Where’s Dick, the butcher of Ashford?”

Dick the Butcher said, “Here, sir.”

“They fell before you like sheep and oxen, and you behaved yourself as if you were in your own slaughterhouse; therefore, I will reward you thus: Lent shall be twice as long as it is now, and you shall have a license to kill for a hundred lacking one.”

During Lent, people did not eat meat unless they were invalids. Special licenses were granted to butchers to kill animals for food during Lent. Many licenses were granted for 99 years. However, Jack Cade was ambiguous. He could have meant that Dick the Butcher could kill 99 animals or that he could kill as many animals as would feed 99 people.

“I desire no more,” Dick the Butcher said.

Jack Cade said, “And, to speak the truth, you deserve no less.”

He pointed to Sir Humphrey Stafford’s helmet and armor and said, “This memorial of the victory I will wear, and the bodies of the Staffords shall be dragged at my horse’s heels until I come to London, where we will have the Mayor’s sword borne before us.”

Dick the Butcher said, “If we mean to thrive and do good, break open the jails and let out the prisoners.”

“Don’t worry about that — I promise I will do that,” Jack Cade said. “Come, let’s march towards London.”

— 4.4 —

In the King’s palace in London, several people were meeting: King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, the Duke of Buckingham, and Lord Say.

The King was holding a document sent to him from Jack Cade. Queen Margaret was holding the Duke of Suffolk’s severed head.

Queen Margaret said, “Often I have heard that grief softens the mind and makes it fearful and degenerate. Think therefore on revenge and cease to weep. But who can cease to weep while looking at this head? Here may his head lie on my throbbing breast, but where’s the body that I would embrace?”

The Duke of Buckingham asked, “What answer does your grace make to the rebels’ written petition?”

King Henry VI said, “I’ll send some holy bishop to entreat them to be peaceful, for God forbid that so many simple souls should perish by the sword! And I myself, rather than allow bloody war to cut them short, will parley with Jack Cade, their General. But wait, I’ll read the written petition over once again.”

Still holding the Duke of Suffolk’s head, Queen Margaret said, “Ah, barbarous villains! Has this lovely face ruled, like a wandering planet, over me, and could it not force them to relent, who were unworthy to behold the same face?”

Astrologers believed that the planets, which wandered the night sky, unlike the fixed stars, ruled human destiny.

King Henry VI said, “Lord Say, Jack Cade has sworn to have your head.”

“Yes, but I hope your highness shall have his,” Lord Say replied.

“What is this, madam!” King Henry VI said to Queen Margaret. “Still lamenting and mourning for Suffolk’s death? I am afraid, love, if I were the one who is dead, you would not mourn so much for me.”

Queen Margaret replied, “No, my love. I would not mourn, but die for you.”

A messenger entered the room.

King Henry VI said, “What is it? What’s the news? Why have you come in such haste?”

“The rebels are in Southwark, just south of the Thames River. They will soon cross London Bridge,” the messenger said. “Flee, my lord! Jack Cade proclaims himself Lord Mortimer, descended from the Duke of Clarence’s house, and he calls your grace a usurper openly and vows to crown himself in Westminster.

“His army is a ragged multitude of rustics and peasants, uncivilized and merciless. The deaths of Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother have given them heart and courage to proceed. They call all scholars, lawyers, courtiers, and gentlemen traitorous parasites, and they intend to kill them.”

“Oh, graceless men!” King Henry VI said. “They lack the grace of God, and they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34 states, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (King James Version).

The Duke of Buckingham said, “My gracious lord, return to Kenilworth, near Warwick, until an army is raised to put them down.”

Queen Margaret said, “Ah, if the Duke of Suffolk were now alive, these Kentish rebels would be soon subdued!”

“Lord Say, the traitors hate you,” King Henry VI said. “Therefore, go away with us to Kenilworth.”

Lord Say replied, “If I go with you, then your grace’s person might be in danger. The sight of me is odious in their eyes, and in seeking to harm me, the rebels may harm you. Therefore, in this city I will stay and live alone as secretly as I may.”

Another messenger arrived and said, “Jack Cade has captured London Bridge. The citizens flee and forsake their houses. The rascal people, thirsting after prey, join with the traitor, and they jointly swear to despoil and plunder the city and your royal court.”

The Duke of Buckingham advised the King, “Don’t linger, my lord. Go away, and take to horse.”

“Come, Margaret,” King Henry VI said. “God, our hope, will succor us.”

Queen Margaret replied, “My hope is gone, now that the Duke of Suffolk is deceased.”

King Henry VI said to Lord Say, “Farewell, my lord. Don’t trust the Kentish rebels.”

“Trust nobody, for fear you will be betrayed,” the Duke of Buckingham advised.

Lord Say said, “The trust I have is in my innocence, and therefore I am bold and resolute.”

— 4.5 —

A commander named Lord Scales walked on top of a wall of the Tower of London, which King Henry VI had ordered him to defend. Two or three citizens arrived and stood below him on the ground.

Lord Scales saw them and asked, “What’s happening? Has Jack Cade been slain?”

“No, my lord,” the first citizen said. “Nor is he likely to be slain, for the rebels have captured London Bridge, killing all those who stood against them. The Lord Mayor begs your honor for aid from the Tower of London to defend the city from the rebels.”

“Such aid as I can spare, you shall command,” Lord Scales said, “but I am troubled here with the rebels myself. The rebels have attempted to capture the Tower of London. But go to Smithfield and gather troops, and thither I will send you the great warrior Matthew Goffe.

“Fight for your King, your country, and your lives. And so, farewell, for I must go away from here again.”

— 4.6 —

On Cannon Street in London, Jack Cade and other rebels, including Dick the Butcher and Smith the Weaver, stood. Jack Cadestruck his staff on London Stone, a historical landmark that is thought to be a remnant of London’s Roman history.

Jack Cade said, “Now I, Mortimer, am lord of this city. And here, sitting upon London Stone, I order and command that, at the city’s cost, the Pissing Conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign.”

The Pissing Conduit was a source of water for London’s poor.

Jack Cade continued, “And from now henceforward it shall be treason for anyone who calls me anything other than Lord Mortimer.”

A soldier came running and shouted, “Jack Cade! Jack Cade!”

Jack Cade said, “Knock him down there.”

His supporters killed the soldier.

Smith the Weaver said, “If this fellow is wise, he’ll never call you Jack Cade again. I think he has had a very fair warning.”

Dick the Butcher said, “My lord, there’s an army gathered together in Smithfield.”

Jack Cade said, “Come, then, let’s go fight with them, but first, go and set London Bridge on fire, and if you can, burn down the Tower of London, too. Come, let’s go.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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