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

— 4.2 —

The Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Oxford talked together on a plain in Warwickshire. French soldiers were also present.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Trust me, my lord, everything has gone well up to now. The common people in great numbers swarm to us.”

Duke George of Clarence and the Duke of Somerset arrived.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “But see where Somerset and Clarence come!

“Tell me quickly, my lords, are we all friends?”

Duke George of Clarence replied, “Don’t be afraid that we are not your friends, my lord, for I assure you that we are.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Then, gentle Clarence, Warwick welcomes you, and welcome to you, Somerset. I regard it as cowardice to remain mistrustful where a noble heart has pledged an open hand in sign of love and friendship. Otherwise I might think that Clarence, Edward IV’s brother, were only a feigned friend to our proceedings.

“But welcome, sweet Clarence; my daughter shall be yours. And now, because your brother Edward IV is carelessly encamped, his soldiers are idling in the nearby towns, and he is attended only by a minimal guard, what remains to be done but under the cover of night, we ambush and capture him at our pleasure?

“Our scouts have determined that the venture will be very easy to accomplish. Just as Ulysses and brave Diomedes with cunning and manliness stole to King Rhesus’ tents, and brought away the Thracian steeds of fate, so we, well covered with the night’s black mantle, without warning may beat down Edward IV’s guard and seize the King himself.”

During the Trojan War, the Greeks Ulysses and Diomedes made a night raid on King Rhesus of Thrace and slaughtered him and many of his men and captured his horses and drove them back to the Greek camp. Some sources state that the raid was made because of a prophecy that if the horses grazed on the grass and drank from a river at Troy, then Troy would never fall, and so Ulysses and Diomedes made the raid before the Thracian horses could graze on Trojan grass and drink Trojan water.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “I say that we will not slaughter him, for I intend only to surprise and capture him.

“You who will follow me in this attempt, applaud the name of Henry VI with your leader.”

They all cried, “Henry!”

The Earl of Warwick continued, “Why, then, let’s go on our way silently. We fight for Warwick and his friends, for God, and for Saint George!”

— 4.3 —

Three watchmen who were assigned to guard King Edward IV’s tent talked together outside the tent.

The first watchman said, “Come on, my masters; each man take his stand. The King by this time has set himself down in a chair to sleep.”

“Won’t he go to bed?” the second watchman said.

“Why, no,” the first watchman replied, “for he has made a solemn vow never to lie and take his natural rest until either Warwick or himself is quite suppressed.”

The second watchman said, “Tomorrow then shall likely be the day we see who is suppressed if Warwick is as near as men report he is.”

The third watchman said, “But tell me, please, which nobleman is that who with the King here rests in his tent?”

“He is the Lord Hastings, the King’s chiefest friend,” the first watchman replied.

“Oh, is that him?” the third watchman said. “But why does the King command that his chief followers lodge in nearby towns, while the King himself lodges in the cold field?”

“It is more honorable,” the second watchman said, “because it is more dangerous.”

The third watchman said, “Yes, but give me dignified ease, comfortable dignity, and quietness. I like those things better than a dangerous honor. If Warwick knew in what circumstances King Edward IV is lodging, I fear that Warwick would awaken the King.”

“Unless our halberds prevented his attempt to go to and awaken King Edward IV,” the first watchman said.

“Yes,” the second watchman said. “Why else do we guard King Edward IV’s royal tent but to defend his person from night-foes?”

The Earl of Warwick, Duke George of Clarence, the Earl of Oxford, the Duke of Somerset, and some French soldiers silently crept up on the watchmen.

“This is his tent,” the Earl of Warwick said quietly. “See where stand his guards. Courage, my masters! Acquire honor now or never! Just follow me, and Edward IV shall be ours.”

The first watchman asked, “Who goes there?”

“Stop, or you die!” the second watchman said.

The Earl of Warwick and the others with him all cried, “Warwick! Warwick!” and set upon the watchmen, who fled, crying “Arm! Arm!” The Earl of Warwick and the others pursued them.

The cry “Arm!” meant, “Supporters of King Edward IV, arm yourselves! Get your weapons!”

In the turmoil, Duke Richard of Gloucester and Lord Hastings fled.

Soon, the Earl of Warwick and the others with him captured King Edward IV.

The Duke of Somerset asked, “Who were the men who fled?”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “They were Richard and Hastings, but let them go. Here we have captured the Duke of York.”

“‘The Duke of York!’” King Edward IV said. “Why, Warwick, when we parted,you called me King.”

“Yes, but the case is altered,” the Earl of Warwick replied. “When you disgraced me in my embassy to the French King,then I degraded you from being the English King,and I have come now to make you Duke of York.Too bad! How could you govern any Kingdom,you who do not know how to treat ambassadors, and do not know how to be contented with one wife, and do not know howto treat your brothers brotherly, and do not know howto take pains for the people’s welfare, and do not know how to shroud yourself from enemies?”

King Edward IV said, “Brother of Clarence, are you here, too?Then I see that Edward IV must necessarily fall as King.

“Yet, Warwick, in defiance of all misfortune, and in defiance of you yourself and all your accomplices, Edward will always bear himself as King of England. Although the malice of Lady Fortune overthrows my Kingship, my mind exceeds the compass of her Wheel of Fortune that lowers and raises men.”

“Then, let Edward be England’s King, but only in his own mind,” the Earl of Warwick said.

He took off Edward IV’s crown and said, “But Henry VI now shall wear the English crown, and be the true King of England indeed, while you are only the shadow of a King.

“My Lord of Somerset, at my request, see that Duke Edward of York is immediately conveyed to my brother: the Archbishop of York. After I have fought a battle against the Earl of Pembroke and his soldiers, I’ll follow you and tell what answer King Louis XI and the Lady Bona have sent to Duke Edward of York.

“Now, for a while farewell, good Duke Edward of York.”

King Edward IV said, “What the Fates, goddesses of destiny, impose, men must necessarily abide; it is useless to resist both wind and tide.”

Soldiers forcibly led away Duke Edward of York.

The Earl of Oxford asked, “What now remains, my lords, for us to do but march to London with our soldiers?”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Yes, that’s the first thing that we have to do: We need to free King Henry VI from imprisonment and see him seated on the regal throne.”

— 4.4 —

Queen Elizabeth and her brother Earl Rivers talked together in a room in the palace in London.

Earl Rivers asked, “Madam, what is the reason for this sudden change?”

Queen Elizabeth replied, “Why, brother Rivers, are you yet to learn what recent misfortune has befallen King Edward IV?”

“Is it the loss of some pitched battle against Warwick?” Earl Rivers asked.

“No,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “It is the loss of his own royal person.”

“Then is my sovereign slain?” Earl Rivers asked.

“Yes, he is almost slain, for he has been taken prisoner,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “He was either betrayed by the treachery of his guards or was surprised and captured without warning by his foe, and as I understand further, he has been recently committed to the custody of the Archbishop of York, who is cruel Warwick’s brother and therefore our foe.”

“This news I must confess is full of grief, gracious madam,” Earl Rivers said, “yet bear it as you may. Warwick may lose, although for now he has won the day.”

“Until then fair hope must hinder life’s decay,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “And I would rather wean myself from despair because of my love for Edward IV’s offspring in my womb. My pregnancy is what makes me bridle passion and bear with mildness the cross of my misfortune. Yes, yes, because of my pregnancy I draw in many a tear and stop the rising of health-destroying sighs, lest with my sighs or tears I blight or drown King Edward IV’s fruit, the true heir to the English crown.”

“But, madam, what has become of Warwick?” Earl Rivers asked.

“I am informed that he is coming towards London in order to set the crown once more on Henry VI’s head,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “You can guess the rest. King Edward IV’s friends must fall, but to prevent the tyrant Warwick’s violence — for we ought not to trust a man who has once broken his vow — I’ll go immediately away from here and to the sanctuary, to save at least the heir of Edward’s rightful claim to the crown of England. There I shall rest secure and safe from force and fraud. Come, therefore, let us flee while we may flee. If Warwick should capture us, we are sure to die.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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