David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 7-8

— 4.7 —

Before the town of York stood King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and some soldiers.

King Edward IV said, “Now, brother Richard, Lord Hastings, and the rest, so far Lady Fortune is making us amends and says that once more I shall exchange my diminished state for Henry VI’s regal crown. Well have we passed and now again passed the seas and brought desired help from Burgundy. What then remains, we being thus arrived from Ravenspurgh Haven before the gates of York, but that we enter York, as into our Dukedom? I am, after all, the Duke of York.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “The gates are firmly bolted against us! Brother, I don’t like this, for many men who stumble at the threshold are well given notice that danger lurks within.”

Superstition held that stumbling at the threshold was an omen of bad luck.

King Edward IV said, “Tush, man. Omens must not now frighten us. By fair or foul means, we must enter York, for here our friends will come to join us.”

Lord Hastings said, “My liege, I’ll knock once more to summon them.”

He knocked, and on the city walls appeared the Mayor of York and the Aldermen of York.

The Mayor of York said, “My lords, we were forewarned of your coming, and we shut the gates for our own safety because now we owe allegiance to King Henry VI.”

King Edward IV said, “But, master Mayor, if Henry VI is your King, Edward at the least is still the Duke of York.”

“That is true, my good lord,” the Mayor of York said. “I know you to be no less.”

King Edward IV said, “Why, I demand nothing but my Dukedom, for I am well content with that alone.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said quietly, “But when the fox has once got in his nose, it’ll soon find a way to make the body follow.”

Lord Hastings said, “Master Mayor, why do you stand there and doubt what you hear? Open the gates; we are King Henry VI’s friends.”

The Mayor of York said, “Do you say so? The gates shall then be opened.”

The Mayor of York and the Aldermen of York descended from the walls in order to open the gates.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said sarcastically, “He is a wise and brave Captain, and soon persuaded!”

Lord Hastings said, “The good old man would fain that all were well, so it were not ’long of him.”

This meant both 1) “The good old man would like that all were well, so long as all being well — opening the gates — were not along — associated — with him,” and 2) “The good old man would like that all were well, so long as all being well — opening the gates — would not belong to him.”

In other words, “The good old man would like that all were well, so long as the blame for opening the gates was not his.”

Lord Hastings continued, “But once we pass through the gates and enter the city, I don’t doubt that we shall soon persuade both him and all his brothers, aka the Aldermen, to see reason — to see that Edward IV is King of England.”

The Mayor and the two Aldermen opened the gates and came out of the city.

King Edward IV said, “So, master Mayor, these gates must not be shut except in the nighttime or in the time of war. Don’t be afraid, man, but give me the keys to the gates.”

He took the keys and added, “For I, Edward, will defend the town and you, and all those friends who deign to follow me.”

The sound of a military drummer was heard and Sir John Montgomery arrived along with the drummer and some soldiers.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Brother, this is Sir John Montgomery, our trusty friend, unless I am deceived.”

King Edward IV said, “Welcome, Sir John! But why have you come in arms?”

Sir John Montgomery replied, “To help King Edward IV in his time of storm, as every loyal subject ought to do.”

“Thanks, good Montgomery,” King Edward IV said, “but we now forget our title to the crown and we claim only our Dukedom until God is pleased to send the rest.”

“Then fare you well, for I will go away from here again,” Sir John Montgomery said. “I came to serve a King and not a Duke.

“Drummer, strike up, and let us march away.”

“No, Sir John,” King Edward IV said. “Stay awhile, and we’ll debate and discuss by what safe means the crown may be recovered.”

“Why do you talk of debating?” Sir John Montgomery said. “In few words, I say to you that if you’ll not here proclaim yourself our King, I’ll leave you to your fortune and leave to keep back anyone who comes to succor you. Why shall we fight, if you claim no title of Kingship?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said to Edward IV, “Why, brother, do you dwell on trivial details?”

King Edward IV said, “When we grow stronger, then we’ll make our claim. Until then, it is wise to conceal our intentions.”

“Away with scrupulous wit!” Lord Hastings said. “Now arms must rule.”

“And fearless minds climb soonest to crowns,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “Brother, we will proclaim you King immediately. The report of this will bring you many friends.”

“Then be it as you will,” King Edward IV said, “for it is my right, and Henry VI only usurps the diadem.”

Sir John Montgomery said, “Yes, now my sovereign speaks like himself, and now I will be Edward IV’s champion and defender.”

Lord Hastings ordered, “Blow, trumpeter. Edward shall be here proclaimed King.

“Come, fellow-soldier, you make the proclamation.”

The trumpet sounded, and the soldier read, “Edward IV, by the grace of God, King of England and France, and lord of Ireland, and etc.”

Sir John Montgomery said, “And whosoever denies Edward IV’s right to be King of England, by this I challenge him to single combat.”

He threw down his gauntlet.

Everyone shouted, “Long live Edward IV!”

King Edward IV said, “Thanks, brave Montgomery, and thanks to you all. If Lady Fortune serves me well, I’ll repay this kindness.

“Now, for this night, let’s harbor and lodge here in York, and when the morning Sun shall raise his chariot above the border of this horizon and dawn arrives, we’ll go forward to meet Warwick and his mates, for I know well that Henry VI is no soldier.

“Ah, perverse, obstinate Clarence! How evil it is for you to flatter Henry and forsake your brother! Yet, as we may, we’ll meet both you and Warwick.

“Come on, brave soldiers. Don’t doubt that we will win the day, and, don’t doubt that you will receive large pay once the day is won.”

— 4.8 —

A number of people met in a room in the Bishop’s Palace in London: King Henry VI, the Earl of Warwick, the Marquess of Montague, Duke George of Clarence, the Duke of Exeter, and the Earl of Oxford.

“What advice can you give, my lords?” the Earl of Warwick said. “Edward from Flanders in Belgium, with rash Germans and rough, uncivilized Hollanders, has passed in safety through the narrow seas, and with his troops he marches at full speed to London, and many inconstant, fickle people flock to him.”

“Let’s levy men, and beat him back again,” King Henry VI said.

Duke George of Clarence said, “A little fire is quickly trodden out, but if the fire is allowed to grow, rivers cannot quench it.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “In Warwickshire I have true-hearted friends who are not mutinous in peace yet are bold in war. Those I will muster up.

“You, my son-in-law Clarence, shall stir the knights and gentlemen in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Kent to come with you.

“You, brother Marquess of Montague, in Buckingham, Northampton, and Leicestershire shall find men well inclined to hear what you command.

“And you, brave Oxford, who is wondrously well beloved in Oxfordshire, shall muster up your friends.

“My sovereign, King Henry VI, with the loving citizens, like his island girdled by the ocean, or like modest, chaste Diana encircled by her nymphs, shall rest in London until we come to him.

“Fair lords, take leave and do not delay in order to reply.

“Farewell, my sovereign.”

“Farewell, my Hector, and my Troy’s true hope,” King Henry VI said.

Hector was the foremost warrior for Troy during the Trojan War. London was thought of as Troia Nova, or New Troy, because a grandson of Aeneas, another important Trojan warrior, was believed to have founded it.

Kissing Henry VI’s hand, Duke George of Clarence said, “In sign of my truth and loyalty to you, I kiss your highness’ hand.”

King Henry VI replied, “Well-minded, loyal Clarence, may you be favored by Lady Fortune!”

The Marquess of Montague said, “Take comfort, my lord, and so I take my leave.”

“And thus I seal my truth, and bid adieu to you,” the Earl of Oxford said.

“Sweet Oxford, and my loving Montague, and everyone all at once, once more I say to you a happy farewell,” King Henry VI said.

“Farewell, sweet lords,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Let’s meet at Coventry.”

Everyone exited except King Henry VI and the Duke of Exeter.

“Here at the palace I will rest awhile,” King Henry VI said. “Cousin of Exeter, what does your lordship think? I think the army that Edward IV has in the field should not be able to oppose and defeat mine.”

“The fear is that he will persuade others to desert their allegiance to you,” the Duke of Exeter said.

“That’s not my fear,” King Henry VI said. “My merit has gotten me a good reputation. I have not stopped my ears so I can’t hear my subjects’ requests, nor have I put off their petitions with slow delays. My pity has been balm to heal their wounds. My mildness has allayed their swelling griefs. My mercy has dried their water-flowing tears. I have not been desirous of their wealth, nor have I much oppressed them with great taxation. Nor am I eager for or inclined to revenge, although my subjects have much erred. So why then should they love Edward more than me?

“No, Exeter, these virtues of mine lay claim to my subjects’ goodwill. And when the lion fawns upon the lamb, the lamb will never cease to follow him.”

Shouts were heard from outside: “Protect Lancaster! Protect Lancaster!”

The Duke of Exeter said, “Listen! Listen, my lord! What shouts are these?”

The shouts were due to King Edward IV’s Yorkist soldiers attacking the palace in order to capture the Lancastrian King Henry VI.

King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, and some Yorkist soldiers entered the room.

King Edward IV said, “Seize the shy, retiring Henry VI and carry him away from here, and once again proclaim us King of England.

“You, Henry VI, are the spring that makes small brooks flow. Now your spring stops; my sea shall suck your brooks dry and swell so much the higher by their ebb.

“Take Henry VI to the Tower of London; don’t let him speak.

“And, lords, we will bend our course towards Coventry, where peremptory Warwick now remains.

“The sun shines hot, and if we delay, cold biting winter will mar our hoped-for hay.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Let’s leave at once, before the Earl of Warwick’s forces join, and let’s take the greatly grown traitor unawares.

“Brave warriors, march at full speed towards Coventry.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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