David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose —Act 4, Scenes 5-6

— 4.5 —

Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and Sir William Stanley talked together in a park — a hunting ground — near Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. Some soldiers were with them.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Now, my Lord Hastings and Sir William Stanley, stop wondering why I drew you hither into this most densely wooded thicket of the park. Thus stands the case: You know our King, my brother, is prisoner to the Archbishop of York here, at whose hands he has received good treatment and great liberty, and, often attended only by a weak guard, he comes hunting in this area to entertain himself. I have informed him by secret means that if about this hour he would make his way here under the pretense of his usual entertainment, he shall here find his friends with horses and men to set him free from his captivity.”

King Edward IV and a huntsman arrived.

The huntsman said, “This way, my lord, for this way lies the quarry.”

King Edward IV replied, “No, this way, man. See where the huntsmen stand.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, Sir William Stanley, and the soldiers showed themselves. King Edward IV’s guard, the huntsman, was outnumbered and unable to resist.

King Edward IV said, “Now, brother of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and the rest, do you stand thus close in order to steal the Archbishop’s ‘deer’?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester replied, “Brother, the time and case require haste. Your horse stands ready at the corner of the park.”

“But whither shall we go afterward?” King Edward IV asked.

“To Lynn, my lord,” Lord Hastings replied, “and ship from thence to Flanders.”

“Well guessed, believe me,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “for that was my intention.”

King Edward IV said, “Sir William Stanley, I will reward your zeal.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “But why do we stay here? This is no time to talk.”

King Edward IV said, “Huntsman, what do you say? Will you come along with us?”

The huntsman replied, “It is better to do that than to tarry here and be hanged.”

“Come then, let’s go,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “Let’s have no more ado.”

“Archbishop, farewell,” King Edward IV said, facing the direction of the Archbishop’s home. “May God shield you from Warwick’s frown, and may you pray that I repossess the crown.”

— 4.6 —

In a room of the Tower of London, many people stood: King Henry VI, Duke George of Clarence, the Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Somerset, Earl Henry of Richmond, the Earl of Oxford, the Marquess of Montague, and the Lieutenant of the Tower. The Marquess of Montaguehad switched sides and now supported King Henry VI and the Earl of Warwick.

King Henry VI said, “Master Lieutenant, now that God and friends have shaken Edward from the regal seat, and turned my captive state to liberty, my fear to hope, my sorrows to joys, what are the fees I owe you now that I am free?”

Wealthy prisoners paid for their food and keep after being released from prison. Of course, King Henry VI, if he were a different kind of person, could have the Lieutenant of the Tower executed.

The Lieutenant of the Tower replied, “Subjects may demand as a right nothing from their sovereigns, but if a humble person who prays to you may prevail, then I crave the pardon of your majesty.”

“Pardon for what, Lieutenant?” King Henry VI said. “For treating me well? You can be sure I’ll well repay your kindness because it made my imprisonment a pleasure. Yes, such a pleasure as caged birds feel when after many melancholy thoughts, they at last because of the harmonic sounds of the household quite forget their loss of liberty.

“But, Warwick, after God, you are responsible for setting me free, and chiefly therefore I thank God and you. God was the author and instigator; you were the instrument and agent of His plan.

“Therefore, so that I may conquer Lady Fortune’s spite by living low on the Wheel of Fortune, where Lady Fortune cannot hurt me, and so that the people of this blessed land may not be punished with my perverse stars that bring misfortune, Warwick, although my head shall still wear the crown, I here resign my government to you, for you are fortunate in all your deeds while I am unfortunate in all my deeds.”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Your grace has always been famed for being virtuous, and now you may be seen to be as wise as virtuous because you have spied on and avoided Lady Fortune’s malice, for few men rightly conform their temperament with the stars. Few men can rightly react to what the stars bring them. Yet in this one thing let me blame your grace: for choosing me when Clarence is present and available.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “No, Warwick, you are worthy of the position of authority. To you the Heavens in your nativity gave an olive branch and a laurel crown because you were likely to be blest both in peace and in war, and therefore I give you my free consent for you to hold this high office.”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “And I choose only Clarence for Lord Protector.”

King Henry VI said, “Warwick and Clarence, both of you give me your hands. Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts, so that no dissension may hinder government and the proper exercise of authority over Britain. I make you both Lord Protectors of this land, while I myself will lead a private life and spend my final days in devotion to rebuke sin and to praise my Creator.”

“What does Clarence answer to his sovereign’s will?” the Earl of Warwick asked.

Duke George of Clarence replied, “He answers that he consents, if Warwick will also yield his consent, for on your fortune I myself happily rely.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Why, then, although I am loath to wield this power, yet I must be content. We’ll yoke together, like a double shadow to Henry’s body, and occupy his place as his substitutes — I mean, in bearing the weight of government and certainly not as usurpers — while he enjoys the honor of being King and enjoys his ease.

“And, Clarence, it is more than necessary that immediately Edward IV be pronounced a traitor, and all his lands and goods be confiscated.”

“Of course. What else?” Duke George of Clarence replied. “And it is necessary that the succession be determined.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Yes, and therein Clarence shall not lack his part.”

When Henry VI died, his son was next in time to be King. But if both Henry VI and Prince Edward died before Prince Edward had children, then Duke George of Clarence would be next in line to be King because Edward IV was a traitor.

King Henry VI said, “But, with the first of all your chief affairs, let me entreat you, for I no longer command you, that Margaret your Queen and my son, Prince Edward, be sent for to return from France quickly because until I see them here my joy in my liberty is half eclipsed by disquieting fear and dread.”

Duke George of Clarence replied, “It shall be done, my sovereign, with all speed possible.”

Seeing a young man nearby, King Henry VI asked, “My Lord of Somerset, what youth is that, of whom you seem to take so tender care?”

The Duke of Somerset replied, “My liege, it is young Henry, Earl of Richmond.”

King Henry VI said, “Come hither, England’s hope.”

In a traditional gesture of prophecy, King Henry VI laid his hand on the head of the young Henry, Earl of Richmond.

King Henry VI said, “If secret powers suggest the truth to my divining and future-foretelling thoughts, this pretty lad will prove to be our country’s bliss. His looks are full of peaceful majesty, his head by nature framed to wear a crown, his hand to wield a scepter, and himself likely in time to bless a regal throne. Make much of him, my lords, for this is the one who must help you more than you are hurt by me.”

Young Henry, Earl of Richmond, would become King Henry VII. He would end the Wars of the Roses and begin the Tudor Dynasty.

A messenger arrived.

The Earl of Warwick asked, “What is your news, my friend?”

The messenger replied, “That Edward IV has escaped from your brother, and fled, as your brother has heard since, to Burgundy.”

“This is unsavory news!” the Earl of Warwick said. “But how did he make his escape?”

The messenger replied, “He was conveyed away by Duke Richard of Gloucester and Lord Hastings, who waited for him in secret ambush at the side of the forest and rescued him from the Archbishop’s huntsmen, for hunting was Edward IV’s daily exercise.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “My brother was too careless of his charge. He was too careless in doing his duty. But let us go from here, my sovereign, in order that we may provide a salve for any sore that may happen.”

Everyone exited except the Duke of Somerset, young Earl Henry of Richmond, and the Earl of Oxford.

The Duke of Somerset said to the Earl of Oxford, “My lord, I don’t like this flight of Edward IV’s, for doubtless the Duke of Burgundy will give him help, and we shall have more wars before long. As Henry VI’s recent presaging prophecy gladdened my heart with hope concerning this young Earl Henry of Richmond, so does my heart make me apprehensive about what may happen to him in these conflicts, to his harm and ours. Therefore, Lord Oxford, to prevent the worst, immediately we’ll send him hence to Brittany, until the storms of civil enmity have passed.”

“Yes,” the Earl of Oxford said, “for if Edward IV repossesses the crown, it is likely that young Earl Henry of Richmond along with the rest shall fall.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “It shall be so; the young Earl Henry of Richmond shall go to Brittany. Come, therefore, let’s set about doing it speedily.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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