David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scene 2

— 1.2 —

Richard and Edward, who were two of the Duke of York’s sons, and the Marquess of Montague talked together in the Duke of York’s castle: Sandal Castle, located near Wakefield in West Yorkshire.

They were discussing who should talk to the Duke of York.

Richard said to Edward, “Brother, although I am the youngest, allow me to be the one to speak to our father.”

“No, I can better play the orator,” Edward said.

The Marquess of Montague said, “But I have strong and forceful arguments that I can make to him.”

The Duke of York entered the room and said, “Why, what’s going on now, sons and brother! Engaging in a disagreement? What is your quarrel? How did it first begin?”

“No quarrel, but a slight contention,” Edward said.

The contention was the disagreement among the three as well as the contention for the crown of the King of England.

“A contention about what?” the Duke of York asked.

“About that which concerns your grace and us,” Richard said. “The crown of England, father, which is yours.”

“Mine, son?” the Duke of York said. “It’s not mine until King Henry VI is dead.”

“Your right to the crown does not depend on King Henry VI’s life or death,” Richard said.

Edward said, “Now you are heir to the crown, so therefore enjoy the crown now. By giving the House of Lancaster the opportunity to catch its breath and recover, it will outrun you, father, in the end.”

“I took an oath that King Henry VI should quietly reign until his death,” the Duke of York said.

Edward said, “But for a Kingdom any oath may be broken. I would break a thousand oaths to reign one year.”

A proverb stated, “For a Kingdom any law may be broken.”

“No,” Richard said. “God forbid that your grace should be forsworn.”

“I shall be forsworn, if I claim the crown by open war,” the Duke of York said.

“I’ll prove that you will not be forsworn, if you’ll hear what I have to say,” Richard said.

“You cannot, son,” the Duke of York said. “It is impossible.”

Richard said, “An oath is of no importance, if it was not made before a true and lawful magistrate who has authority over the man who swears the oath.

“Henry VI had no authority because he usurped his Kingdom. So then, seeing that it was Henry VI who made you swear an oath, your oath, my lord, is worthless and groundless.

“Therefore, to arms! Fight for your crown! And, father, think how sweet a thing it is to wear a crown. Within the crown’s circumference is the classical paradise known as Elysium, and within the crown’s circumference is all that poets depict of bliss and joy.

“Why do we linger like this? I cannot rest until the white rose that I am wearing is dyed in the lukewarm blood of Henry VI’s heart.”

The Duke of York said, “Richard, enough; I will be King, or die.”

“Marquess of Montague, my brother, you shall go to London immediately and encourage Warwick to do his part in this enterprise.

“You, Richard, shall go to the Duke of Norfolk, and tell him secretly and privately what we intend to do.

“You, Edward, shall go to my Lord Cobham, with whom the Kentishmen will willingly rise up in rebellion against Henry VI. In them I trust, for they are soldiers who are intelligent, courteous, generous, and full of spirit.

“While you are thus employed, what is left to be done other than for me to seek an opportunity to rise without Henry VI and any of the House of Lancaster being aware of my intention?”

A messenger ran into the room.

The Duke of York said, “But wait.”

He said to the messenger, “What is the news? Why have you come in such haste?”

The messenger replied, “The Queen with all the northern Earls and lords intends to besiege you here in your castle. She is close by with twenty thousand men; therefore, fortify your stronghold, my lord.”

“Yes, with my sword,” the Duke of York said. “What! Do you think that we fear them?

“Edward and Richard, you shall stay with me.

“My brother Montague shall hurry to London. Let noble Warwick, Cobham, and the rest, whom we have left as Protectors of the King, strengthen themselves with powerful political sagacity and not trust simple, foolish Henry or his oaths.”

“Brother, I go now,” the Marquess of Montague said. “I’ll win the Londoners over to your side — don’t fear that I won’t! And thus most humbly I take my leave.”

He exited.

Sir John Mortimer and Sir Hugh Mortimer entered the room. They were uncles of the Duke of York.

The Duke of York said, “Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, my uncles, you have come to Sandal Castle in a happy hour. It is good that you are here because the army of Queen Margaret intends to besiege us.”

“She shall not need to,” Sir John Mortimer said. “We’ll meet her in the battlefield.”

“What, with five thousand men?” the Duke of York asked.

“Yes, with five hundred, father, if need be,” Richard said. “A woman is the General; what should we fear?”

Marching drums sounded in the distance.

“I hear their drums,” Edward said. “Let’s set our men in order, and issue forth and offer them battle at once.”

“Five men to twenty!” the Duke of York said. “Although the odds are great, I don’t doubt, uncle, that we will be victorious. Many battles have I won in France, when the enemy has outnumbered my soldiers ten to one. Why should I not now have the same success and victory that I have enjoyed before now?”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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