William Shakespeare: Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s KING JOHN: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 1-3

— 5.1 —

King John, Cardinal Pandulph, and some attendants were in a room of the King’s palace. Cardinal Pandulph was holding King John’s crown.

King John said to Cardinal Pandulph, “Thus have I yielded into your handthe circle — the crown — of my glory.”

Cardinal Pandulph gave the crown to King John and said, “Take againfrom this my hand — as a grant from the Pope— your sovereign greatness and authority.”

King John put the crown on his head and said, “Now keep your holy word. Go and meet the French,and use all your power from his Holiness to stop their marches before we are engulfed with fire.

“Our discontented counties — shires and lords — revolt;our people refuse to practice obedience,instead swearing allegiance and the love of their soulto foreign blood, to foreign royalty.

“This inundation of diseased dispositions can be made healthy again only by you. So don’t pause, for the present time is so sick that medicine must be immediately ministered, or else an incurable destruction will ensue.”

Cardinal Pandulph replied, “It was my breath that blew this tempest up, following your stubborn treatment of the Pope, but since you are a gentle convert and are again obedient to the church, my tongue shall hush again this storm of war and make fair weather in your blustering land.

“On this Ascension Day, remember well that I, following upon your oath of service to the Pope, go and make the French lay down their arms.”

He exited.

King John said, “Is this Ascension Day? Didn’t the prophet say that before Ascension Day at noon I should give up my crown? And so I have. I thought that I should give it up on constraint and force, but Heaven be thanked, I gave it up only voluntarily.”

The Bastard entered the room and delivered this bad news: “All Kent has yielded; nothing there holds out except Dover Castle. London has received, like a kind host of an inn, the Dauphin and his armies. Your nobles will not listen to you, but have gone to offer their service to your enemy, and wild amazement and bewilderment hurry up and down the small number of your worried, fearful friends — friends whose loyalty to you can be doubted.”

“Wouldn’t my lords return to me and be loyal again, after they heard that young Arthur was alive?” King John asked.

“They found him dead and cast into the streets,” the Bastard said. “He was an empty casket, where the jewel of life by some damned hand was robbed and taken away.”

“That villain Hubert told me that young Arthur lived,” King John said.

“So, on my soul, Arthur did live, for anything Hubert knew,” the Bastard said. “Hubert sincerely thought that Arthur was alive. But why do you droop? Why do you look sad? Be great in act, as you have been in thought. Don’t let the world see fear and serious doubt govern the motion of a Kingly eye. Be as stirring as the time; be fire with fire; threaten the threatener and defy and intimidate the brow of threatening horror. If you do this, inferior eyes, which borrow their behaviors from the great, will grow great by your example and put on the dauntless spirit of resolution.

“Go, and glisten like Mars, the god of war, when he intends to grace and honor the battlefield. Show boldness and aspiring confidence.

“What, shall they seek the lion in his den — the King in his country — and frighten him and make him tremble there? Oh, let it not be said. Range abroad and seek the enemy, and run to meet displeasure farther from the doors, and grapple with him before he comes so near.”

King John said, “The legate of the Pope has been with me, and I have made a happy peace with him: He has promised to dismiss the armies led by the Dauphin.”

“Oh, what an inglorious, shameful, and humiliating league and alliance!” the Bastard said. “Shall we, upon the footing of our own land, send fair-play orders and make compromise, insinuation, parley, and base truce to an invading army?

“Shall a beardless boy — the Dauphin, who is a pampered, spoiled child — confront our battlefields, and flesh his spirit in a warlike soil, mocking the air with colors idly spread, and find no check?”

“To flesh a sword” meant “to cover it with an enemy’s blood.” Here the Bastard was complaining that a representative of the Pope would make peace when the Bastard preferred to fight.

The Bastard continued, “Let us, my liege, go to arms. Let’s prepare to fight. Perhaps Cardinal Pandulph cannot make your peace, or if he does, let it at least be said that the French saw that we intended to defend ourselves against their invasion.”

“You have the management of this present time,” King John said. “Do what you said you want to do. Prepare an army.”

“Let’s leave, then, with good courage!” the Bastard said. “Yet, I know, our party may well meet a prouder foe.”

His last words were ambiguous and could mean 1) Our army could very well meet a prouder and more courageous army than our army is, or 2) Our army could very well fight off a prouder and more courageous army than the one the Dauphin has brought.

— 5.2 —

Louis the Dauphin, the Earl of Salisbury, Lord Melun, the Earl of Pembroke, and Lord Bigot met in Louis the Dauphin’s camp at Saint Edmundsbury. Some French soldiers were present.

Louis the Dauphin handed Lord Melun a document and said, “My Lord Melun, let this be copied out,and keep it safe for our memory. Return the original to these English lords again, so that, having our fair and equitable agreement written down,both they and we, perusing over these notes,may know why we took the sacramentand keep our faiths firm and inviolable.”

In this culture, people would take communion in order to sanctify a treaty or agreement.

The Earl of Salisbury said, “Upon our sides our agreement never shall be broken. Noble Dauphin, although we swearavoluntary zeal and an uncompelled faithto your proceedings, yet believe me, Prince,I am not glad that such a sore of the present timeshould seek a healing bandage by despised revolutionand heal the inveterate corruption of one wound — Arthur’s death— by making many. The present time is ill and must be healed — unfortunately — by rebellion against King John.

“It grieves my soul that I must draw this metal sword from my sideto be a widow-maker therewhere honorable rescue and defensecries out upon the name of Salisbury!”

The Earl of Salisbury was conflicted. He believed that he was honorably rescuing England by rebelling against King John and so honorable rescue cried out in support of the name of Salisbury, but he was also supporting a French army’s invasion of England and so honorable defense cried out against the name of Salisbury.

He continued, “But such is the infection of the time that, for the health and medicine of our right, we cannot act except with the very hand of stern injustice and confused wrong. And isn’t it a pity, my grieved and unhappy friends, that we, the sons and children of this isle, were born to see so sad an hour as this, wherein we step after a foreigner, march upon her gentle bosom, and fill up our country’s enemies’ ranks? I must withdraw and weep upon the stain of this cause forced upon us — to favor the gentry of a remote land and follow unfamiliar battle flags here.

“What, here? Oh, my nation, I wish that you could move yourself away from here! I wish that Neptune’s arms, which hug you, could bear you away from the knowledge of yourself, and grapple you to a pagan shore, where these two Christian armies might join the blood of malice in a vein of league, and not spend it so unneighborly!”

Neptune is the Roman god of the ocean. By saying that Neptune’s arms hug England, the Earl of Salisbury meant that it was an island country.

“You show a noble temperament in this emotion of yours,” Louis the Dauphin said. “Great emotions wrestling in your bosom make an earthquake of nobility.”

In this culture, people believed that violent winds under the surface of the earth caused earthquakes.

He continued, “Oh, what a noble combat you have fought between compulsion and a worthy, excellent respect — between what you have been forced to do and the brave consideration of your true duty!”

Wiping away the tears from the Earl of Salisbury’s face, Louis the Dauphin said, “Let me wipe off this honorable dew that with a silvery appearance trickles down your cheeks. My heart has melted at a lady’s tears, which are an ordinary inundation, but this effusion of such manly drops, this shower, blown up by a tempest in the soul, startles my eyes, and makes me more amazed than if I had seen the domed top of Heaven decorated all over with burning meteors.

“Lift up your brow, renowned Salisbury, and with a great heart heave and thrust away the storm. Hand over these waters to those eyes of a baby who never saw the giant adult world enraged, nor met with fortune other than at feasts, completely full of warm emotions, of mirth, and of merrymaking.

“Come, come; for you shall thrust your hand as deep into the purse of rich prosperity as I — Louis myself — do. And so, nobles, shall you all, all you who knit your sinews to the strength of my sinews.

“And even there, I think, an angel spoke.”

One kind of angel was a coin. Louis the Dauphin had promised to pay the English lords for their support. Here he may have been contemptuous of the English lords, although he would have been careful not to show it.

Cardinal Pandulph arrived.

Seeing him, Louis the Dauphin said, “Look where the holy legate is coming in order to give us authorization from the hand of Heaven and on our actions to set like a seal on a warrant the name of right with holy breath.”

“Hail, noble Prince of France!” Cardinal Pandulph said to Louis the Dauphin. “The news is this: King John has reconciled himself with Rome; his spirit has submitted that so stood out against the holy church, the great metropolis and jurisdiction of Rome.

“Therefore, now wind up your threatening battle flags, and tame the savage spirit of wild war, so that like a lion reared by hand, it may lie gently at the foot of peace, and be no further harmful except in appearance.”

“Your grace must pardon me,” Louis the Dauphin said. “I will not go back to France. I am too highly born to be treated like a piece of property, to be a second-in-command, or a useful serving man and instrument to any sovereign state throughout the world.

“Your breath first enflamed the dead embers of wars between this chastised Kingdom and myself and brought in matter that should feed this fire, and now it is far too huge to be blown out with that same weak wind which inflamed it.

“You taught me how to know the face of right, you acquainted me with my interest in — my valid claim to — this land. Yes, you thrust this enterprise into my heart, and now you come to tell me that King John has made his peace with Rome? What is that peace to me?

“I, by the honor of my marriage bed, after the death of young Arthur, claim this land for mine. As the husband of Blanche, I am next in line to the English throne.

“And, now that England is half-conquered, must I go back to France because King John has made his peace with Rome? Am I Rome’s slave? What penny has Rome spent on this military expedition, what men has Rome provided, what munitions has Rome sent to prop up and support this military action? Isn’t it I who take on this expense? Who else but I, and such as to my claim are liable, sweat in this business and maintain this war?

“Haven’t I heard these islanders shout out, ‘Vive le Roi!’ — ‘Long live the King! — as I have traveled past their towns? Haven’t I here the best cards for the game, to win this easy match played for a crown? And shall I now give up all that has already been conceded to me? This is a game that I have almost won and that I will win.

“No, no, on my soul, it never shall be said that I gave up such an easy victory.”

“You look only on the outside of this work,” Cardinal Pandulph said. “You are looking only at the surface.”

Louis the Dauphin replied, “Outside or inside, I will not return to France until my attempt so much is glorified as was promised to my ample hope before I gathered this gallant army of war, and selected these fiery spirits from the world to stare down conquest and to win renown even in the jaws of danger and of death.”

A trumpet sounded to announce an important visitor.

“What robust trumpet thus summons us?” Louis the Dauphin asked.

The Bastard arrived, accompanied by attendants.

“Let me have audience in accordance with the fair play and rules of chivalry of the world,” the Bastard said to the Dauphin. “I have been sent to speak to you.”

He then said to Cardinal Pandulph, “My holy lord of Milan, I have come from King John to learn how you have done on his behalf. And, as you answer, I know the scope and warrant limited to my tongue. As you answer, I know what I can and I cannot say in my position as King John’s ambassador.”

Cardinal Pandulph said, “The Dauphin is too obstinately hostile, and he will not conform to my entreaties. He flatly says he’ll not lay down his arms.”

Referring to young Lewis the Dauphin, the Bastard said, “By all the blood that fury ever breathed, the youth says well.”

The Bastard preferred warfare to diplomacy.

He then said to Lewis the Dauphin, “Now hear our English King, for thus his royalty speaks through me.

“He is prepared, as is reasonable he should be prepared.

“King John smiles at this apish and unmannerly approach, this armed masquerade and unadvised revelry, this unbearded sauciness and these boyish troops, and he is well prepared to whip this dwarfish war, these pigmy arms, from out of the circle of his territories.

“Think of that hand which had the strength, even at your door, to cudgel you and make you leap over the bottom half of a two-part stable door, to dive like buckets in concealed wells, to crouch in the straw covering your stable floors, to lie like pawned articles locked up in chests and trunks, to cuddle with swine, to seek sweet safety in vaults and prisons, and to shiver and shake even at the crying of your nation’s crow, thinking that the crow’s voice comes from an armed Englishman.

“Shall that victorious hand be enfeebled here in England, that victorious hand which in your own chambers in France chastised you?


“Know the gallant monarch is in arms and like an eagle over his aery soars in order to swoop down on and drive away any annoyance that comes near his nest.

“And you degenerate, you ingrate rebels, you bloody Neroes, ripping up the womb of your dear mother England the way that Emperor Nero of Rome ripped up his mother’s womb after he murdered her, blush for shame, for your own ladies and pale-faced maidens like Amazonian warrior-women come tripping after drums, their thimbles changed to armed gauntlets, their needles changed to lances, and their gentle and peaceful hearts changed to fierce and bloody inclination.”

Louis the Dauphin said, “There end your bravado, and turn your face away in peace. We grant that you can out-scold us.

“Fare you well. We regard our time as too precious to be spent with such a braggart.”

“Give me permission to speak,” Cardinal Pandulph said.

“No, I will speak,” the Bastard said.

Using the royal plural, Louis the Dauphin said, “We will listen to neither of you.”

He ordered, “Strike up the drums, and let the tongue of war plead for our interest and our being here.”

The Bastard said, “Indeed your drums, being beaten, will cry out, and so shall you, when you are beaten. Do but start an echo with the clamor of your drum, and even at hand a drum is ready braced that shall reverberate entirely as loudly as your drum. Sound another drum of yours, and another drum of ours shall sound as loud as your drum and rattle the sky’s ear and mock the deep-mouthed thunder.

“Now at hand, close by, not trusting to this dilatory, shifting legate here, whom he has used for entertainment rather than need is warlike John, and on his forehead sits a bare-ribbed death — a skeleton — whose duty this day is to feast upon whole thousands of the French.”

“Strike up our drums so we can find this danger,” Louis the Dauphin said.

“And you shall find it, Dauphin,” the Bastard said. “Do not doubt it.”

— 5.3 —

King John and Hubert talked together on the battlefield as the battle raged.

“How goes the day with us?” King John asked. “Who is winning? Tell me, Hubert.”

“It goes badly for us, I fear,” Hubert replied. “How fares your majesty? How are you?”

“This fever, which has troubled me so long, lies heavy on me,” King John said. “My heart is sick!”

A messenger arrived and said, “My lord, your valiant kinsman, Faulconbridge, wants your majesty to leave the battlefield and send him word by me which way you go.”

Faulconbridge was Sir Richard, aka the Bastard.

“Tell him that I am going toward Swinstead, to the abbey there,” King John said.

“Be of good comfort because the great supply of reinforcement troops that was expected by the Dauphin here was wrecked three nights ago on Goodwin Sands,” the messenger said. “This news was brought to Sir Richard just now. The French fight coldly, and they are retreating.”

“Ay, me!” King John said. “This tyrant fever burns me up, and it will not let me welcome this good news. Let’s set on toward Swinstead. Take me immediately to my litter. Weakness possesses me, and I am faint.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scene 1

— 2.1 —

Brutus was alone in his garden. He called for his young servant to come to him, “Lucius!”

He said to himself, “Tonight is stormy, so I cannot, by looking at the progress of the stars, tell how close to dawn it is.”

Again he called, “Lucius, I say!”

He said to himself, “I wish that I were able to sleep as soundly as he does.”

Again he called, “When are you coming, Lucius, when? Wake up, I say! Lucius!”

A sleepy Lucius went to Brutus and asked, “Did you call, my lord?”

“Get me a candle for my study, Lucius. When you have lit it, let me know.”

“I will, my lord.”

Lucius departed.

Brutus considered the reasons for assassinating Julius Caesar: “He will have to be killed. As for myself, I have no personal reason to kill him. I would kill him only for the general good. Caesar wants to be crowned as King. How that might change his nature, there’s the question. Adders come out of hiding and sun themselves on a sunny day — and then you must be careful where you walk. Crown him as King? If we do that, we give him power — we give him a sting that he may use to hurt people at his discretion. Power is abused when the powerful lack compassion. To speak the truth about Caesar, I have never known him to be swayed by his emotions more than by his reason. But it is well known that people change after they acquire power. When a man starts to climb and acquire power, he starts low on the ladder. When he reaches the top of the ladder, he turns his back on those who are lower than himself. He looks at the clouds, scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend. Caesar may become like such men. To prevent that, we can kill him. We cannot justify killing him because of what he is now. We can justify killing him only because of what he may become later. Caesar, if he were given increased power, would begin to perform excesses of tyranny. We should think about Caesar the way we think about a serpent’s egg. After the serpent is hatched, it will become dangerous, as is its nature. Therefore, it is best to kill the serpent while it is still in the eggshell.”

Lucius came back and said, “The candle is burning in your study, sir. Searching the window for a flint to light the candle with, I found this letter, thus sealed up. I am sure that it did not lie there when I went to bed.”

Lucius handed Brutus the letter.

“Go back to bed. It is not yet day. Isn’t tomorrow, boy, the Ides of March — March 15?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Look at the calendar, and tell me the date.”

“I will, sir.”

Lucius left to consult the calendar.

Brutus said to himself, “The meteors whizzing in the air give off so much light that I may read by them.”

He opened the letter and read out loud, “Brutus, you are sleeping. Wake up and see yourself. Shall Rome, et cetera. Speak, strike, and correct political abuses!”

He repeated some words from the letter: “Brutus, you are sleeping. Wake up!”

He said, “Such calls to action have been often dropped where I have picked them up. I must try to understand what is meant by ‘Shall Rome, et cetera.’ I need to fill in the gaps. Shall Rome submit to the power of one man? What, Rome? My ancestors did from the streets of Rome drive the last King of Rome out. ‘Speak, strike, and correct political abuses!’ Am I being entreated to speak and to strike? Rome, I make you a promise: If the correction of political wrongs will follow the speaking and the striking, Brutus will do everything that is asked of him here.”

Lucius came back and said, “Sir, tomorrow is the Ides of March.”

Brutus said, “Good.”

Knocks sounded on the gate.

Brutus said, “Go to the gate; somebody is knocking.”

Lucius left to go to the gate and see who was knocking.

Brutus said to himself, “Since Cassius first did incite me to oppose Caesar, I have not slept. Between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first thought of doing it, the entire interim is like a hallucination or a hideous dream. The person is conflicted and debates within himself, and he is like a little Kingdom that suffers from civil war.”

Lucius came back and said, “Sir, your brother-in-law Cassius is at the gate, and he wants to see you.”

“Is he alone?”

“No, sir. Some men are with him.”

“Do you know them?”

“No, sir. Their hats are pulled down about their ears, and half of each man’s face is buried in his cloak, and so I was not able to recognize any of the men.”

“Let them in.”

Lucius left to let the men in to see Brutus.

Brutus said to himself, “They are the faction of conspirators. Conspiracy, are you ashamed to show your dangerous brow by night, when evils are most common and free to roam about? By day, where will you find a cavern dark enough to hide your monstrous face? You need not seek a cave, conspiracy. You can hide your monstrous faces behind smiles and friendliness. If you were to go on your way with your monstrous face revealed, not even the darkness of Erebus, a part of the Underworld, could hide you enough to keep your plot from being detected and stopped.”

The conspirators entered the garden: Cassius, Casca, Decius Brutus, Cinna, Metellus Cimber, and Trebonius.

Cassius said, “I am afraid that we have come too early and disturbed your rest. Good morning, Brutus. Do we trouble you?”

“I have been up for an hour; I have been awake all night,” Brutus said. “Do I know these men who have come along with you?”

“Yes, you know all of them,” Cassius said. “Every man here respects you, and everyone wishes that you had that opinion of yourself that every noble Roman has of you.”

Cassius began to name the men who had come with him: “This is Trebonius.”

“He is welcome here,” Brutus said.

“This is Decius Brutus.”

“He is welcome, too.”

“This is Casca, this is Cinna, and this is Metellus Cimber.”

“They are all welcome,” Brutus said. “What cares have kept you awake all night?”

Cassius replied, “Can I speak to you privately?”

Cassius and Brutus moved away a little and whispered to each other.

Decius Brutus said to the conspirators with him, “This way lies the East. Isn’t this the point where the Sun rises?”

“No,” Casca said.

“Pardon me,” Cinna said, “but the Sun does rise there. The gray lines that streak the clouds show that the Sun is rising there.”

“You shall confess that you are both deceived,” Casca said. “Here, where I am pointing my sword, the Sun rises. It is further to the South because we are still so early in the year. Two months from now, the Sun will rise at a point further North. Due East is here, where the Capitol stands.”

An impartial observer might think that if the conspirators did not even know where the Sun rose that this might be an ominous omen of their future.

Brutus and Cassius had finished their private conversation.

Brutus said to the conspirators, “Let me shake your hands, each of you.”

“And let us swear our commitment,” Cassius said.

“No, let us not swear an oath,” Brutus said. “We do not need to. We have the sad looks on citizens’ faces, the suffering of our own souls, and the evil abuses of our times. If these are weak motives for what we are planning to do, then let us stop now and every man go home to his bed of idleness. If these are weak motives for what we are planning to do, then let the tyranny that looks down on us from a great height continue its reign until each man of us drops like men chosen to be punished at a tyrant’s whim. But if we have good motives, as I am sure that we do, motives that bear enough fire to kindle cowards and to steel with valor the melting spirits of women, then, countrymen, what else do we need to spur us to action? We have good motives that lead us to correct the errors of our times. What other bond do we need than that of Romans who are capable of keeping secrets and have given their word and will not back down from what they have said that they will do? What other oath do we need than that of one honest man to another that we will do what we promised to do or die while trying to do it? Let priests swear and cowards and men who are overly cautious and old and feeble carcass-like men and such suffering souls as welcome wrongs. Let untrustworthy men swear oaths for bad causes. We ought not to stain the impartial virtue of our enterprise or our indomitable will with the belief that either our cause or our actions require an oath. All of us know that every drop of blood that a noble Roman has would be guilty of an act of baseness if the Roman would break the smallest particle of any promise that he had made.”

“What about Cicero?” Cassius said. “Shall we talk to him and see if he wants to join our conspiracy? I think he will stand very strong with us.”

“Let us not leave Cicero out,” Casca said.

“No, by no means,” Cinna said.

“Let us have him as a member of our conspiracy,” Metellus Cimber said, “for his silver hairs will buy for us a good reputation and persuade people to commend our deeds. People will say that he came up with the conspiracy and we followed his lead. Our youth and wildness shall in no way be mentioned; people will instead talk about Cicero’s maturity.”

“Don’t mention Cicero,” Brutus said. “Let us not tell him about our plot because he will never follow anything that other men begin.”

Brutus had much influence with the other conspirators.

“Then we will leave him out of our conspiracy,” Cassius said.

“Indeed, he is not fit to be in our conspiracy,” Casca said.

“Shall only Caesar be killed?” Decius Brutus asked.

“Decius, that is an important question,” Cassius said. “I don’t think it is wise to allow Mark Antony, who is so well beloved by Caesar, to outlive Caesar. We shall find that Antony is a dangerous plotter. He has resources, and if he adds to them, they may be great enough to hurt all of us. To prevent Antony from becoming a great enemy to us, we should kill both Caesar and Antony.”

“If we do that, our actions will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,” Brutus said. “To cut the head off and then hack the limbs will make it seem like we killed at first with anger and subsequently killed with envy. Antony is but a limb of Caesar. Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius. We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar. His spirit is tyrannous. In the spirit of men there is no blood, and I wish that we could kill Caesar’s spirit without dismembering Caesar’s body! Unfortunately, Caesar’s body must bleed! Gentle friends, let us kill Caesar’s body boldly, but not wrathfully. When we kill, it ought to be like we are making a sacrifice to the gods, not like we are butchering an animal and throwing pieces of meat to the dogs. Let’s carve Caesar as a sacrificial dish fit for the gods, not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds. And let our hearts, our subtle masters, stir up our limbs to an act of rage, and afterward be seen to chide them. This shall make our purpose appear to be necessary — and not envious. If the commoners understand that, we shall be called purgers of an evil, not murderers of a man. As for Mark Antony, let us not worry about him because he can do no more than Caesar’s arm can do after Caesar’s head is cut off.”

“Still, I fear him,” Cassius said. “For in the deeply rooted love that Antony bears to Caesar —”

“Good Cassius, do not worry about Antony,” Brutus said. “If he loves Caesar, all that he can do is what he can do to himself. He can mourn Caesar and commit suicide. Even that is too much to ask him to do because he spends his time enjoying entertainments, wild pleasures, and too much company.”

“We need not fear Antony,” Trebonius said, “so we need not kill him. Let Antony live, and later he will laugh at what we do.”

A clock struck.

“Quiet!” Brutus said. “Count the number of times the clock strikes.”

They listened.

“The clock struck three times,” Cassius said.

“It is time to go,” Trebonius said.

“It is not certain whether Caesar will go to the Capitol today or not,” Cassius said, “because he has grown superstitious lately. His opinion now is much different from what he formerly and strongly believed about visions, dreams, and omens. It may be the case that these apparent omens of disaster, the unusual terror of this night, and the persuasion of his fortune tellers may keep him from going to the Capitol today.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Decius Brutus said. “If he decides not to go to the Capitol, I can persuade him to go. He loves to hear about tales of traps — how unicorns can be trapped by charging at a man who moves aside and lets the unicorn’s horn deeply penetrate a tree, how bears can be trapped by being fascinated with a mirror, how elephants can be trapped when they fall into holes, how lions can be trapped in nets, and how men can be trapped by flatterers. But when I tell Caesar that he hates flatterers, he agrees with me, and he is then most flattered. Let me work on him. I can persuade him to act the way we want him to act, and I will bring him with me to the Capitol.”

“No, not you alone,” Cassius said. “All of us will be there to bring him to the Capitol.”

“By eight o’clock?” Brutus said. “Is that the hour we decided on?”

“That is the hour,” Cinna said. “Do not fail to be there by then.”

“Caius Ligarius bears a grudge against Caesar because Caesar berated him for speaking well of Pompey,” Metellus Cimber said. “I am surprised that none of you has thought of inviting him to join our conspiracy.”

“Metellus Cimber, go and visit him,” Brutus said. “He respects me, and I have done favors for him. Send him to visit me, and I will persuade him to join our conspiracy.”

“Morning is coming,” Cassius said. “We will leave now, Brutus. Friends, scatter yourselves; do not walk in a group. Everyone, remember what you have promised to do, and show yourselves true Romans.”

“Good gentlemen, look fresh and merry,” Brutus said. “Don’t let your faces reveal our plot. Instead, act as our Roman actors act. Act with unflagging spirits and your usual dignified behavior. Good night to each of you.”

The conspirators departed, leaving Brutus alone in his garden.

Brutus called, “Boy! Lucius! Fast asleep? It does not matter. Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber. You have no problems or fantasies of the imagination that worry the brains of men under stress and therefore you are able to sleep so soundly.”

Portia, Brutus’ wife, now walked up to him.

“Brutus, my lord!”

“Portia, is something wrong? Why are you up now? It is not good for your health to expose yourself to the raw and cold morning.”

“It is not good for your health, either,” Portia said. “You are acting strangely and ignoring me. You abruptly got out of our bed, Brutus, and yesterday, at supper, you suddenly arose, and walked about, musing and sighing, with your arms folded across your chest, and when I asked you what the matter was, you stared at me rudely. I asked you again, and then you scratched your head and very impatiently stamped your foot. Again I asked you, yet you would not answer my question. Instead, with an angry wave of your hand, you gave me a sign to leave you, and so I did. I was afraid to strengthen your impatience and anger that already seemed too much enflamed, and I hoped that you were simply in a bad mood, which sometimes happens to every man. But your bad mood will not let you eat, talk, or sleep. If your bad mood could change your face and body as much as it has changed your personality, I would not be able to recognize you, Brutus. My dear husband, tell me what is bothering you.”

“I am ill. That is all,” Brutus said.

“Brutus, you are wise, and if you were suffering from ill health, you would do something to restore yourself to good health.”

“Why, so I do,” Brutus said. “Good Portia, go to bed.”

“Is my Brutus sick? Is it healthy to walk around uncovered and breathe the unhealthy vapors of a dank morning? What, is my Brutus sick, and therefore he steals out of his wholesome bed to dare the vile contagion of the night and give the diseased and unpurified-by-the-Sun air a chance to add to his sickness? No, my Brutus. You do not normally act like that. You have some sickness inside your mind, which, by the right and virtue of my position as your wife, I ought to know about.”

Portia knelt before her husband and said, “Upon my knees, I urge you, by my once-commended beauty, by all your vows of love and that great vow that married us and made us one, that you tell me, who is yourself and your half, why you are burdened by trouble. I also urge you to tell me about the men tonight who came to talk to you — the some six or seven men who kept their faces hidden even from darkness.”

“Do not kneel before me, gentle Portia,” Brutus said.

“I would have no reason to kneel before you,” Portia, still kneeling, said, “if you still acted like the gentle Brutus whom I married. Tell me, Brutus, why aren’t you telling me your secrets? Shouldn’t a wife know them, or is there some exception to a marriage contract? Am I made one with you only partially — only when it comes to eating meals with you, to be a comfort to you in bed and sleep with you, and to talk to you sometimes? Do I dwell only in the suburbs of your good pleasure? The Roman suburbs are where the whorehouses are, and if I dwell only in the suburbs of your good pleasure, then I, Portia, am only Brutus’ harlot and not his wife.”

“You are my true and honorable wife, and you are as dear to me as are the ruddy drops of blood that visit my sad heart.”

“If what you are saying is true, then I ought to know your secrets. I grant I am a woman; but I am a woman whom Lord Brutus took to be his wife. I grant I am a woman, but I am a woman who is well reputed — I am the daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato, who fought for Pompey in the civil war and who chose to commit suicide rather than be captured by Julius Caesar. Can you think that I am no stronger than other women when I have such a father and such a husband? Tell me your secrets; I will not reveal them. I have done something to prove my trustworthiness — I have given myself a voluntary wound here in my thigh. Can I bear that pain with patience, and yet not be able to keep my husband’s secrets?”

“Oh, you gods, make me worthy of this noble wife!”

Knocks sounded on the gate.

Brutus said, “Listen! Someone is knocking! Portia, go inside for a while. Soon, I will tell you the secrets of my heart. Everything that I have promised to do I will tell you. I will tell you everything that has been affecting the way I look and act. For now, quickly leave me.”

Brutus asked, “Lucius, who was knocking?”

Lucius and Caius Ligarius, who held a handkerchief against his nose and mouth, walked up to Brutus.

Lucius said, “Here is a sick man who would speak with you.”

Brutus said, “He is Caius Ligarius, whom Metellus Cimber spoke about.”

He told Lucius, “Boy, go back inside.”

Then he said, “Caius Ligarius! How are you?”

“Please accept my ‘good morning’ from my feeble and ill tongue,” he replied.

“What a time have you chosen to be ill, brave Caius, and use a handkerchief as a protection against drafts!” Brutus said. “I wish that you were not sick!”

“I am not sick, if Brutus has in mind an exploit that is worthy of the name of honor.”

“Such an exploit have I in mind, Ligarius, if you have a healthy ear to hear it.”

“By all the gods that Romans bow before, I here discard my sickness!” Ligarius said. “Soul of Rome! Brave son, derived from honorable loins! You, like an exorcist, have raised my deadened spirit. Tell me what to do, and I will try to do impossible things — and I will do them, too. What needs to be done?”

“A piece of work that will make sick men whole.”

“But are not some men whole whom we must make sick?”

“That must we also do,” Brutus said. “What must be done, Caius Ligarius, I shall tell you as we are walking to the person to whom it must be done.”

“Start walking,” Ligarius said, “and with a heart newly fired, I will follow you. I don’t know yet what needs to be done, but I am happy nevertheless because it is Brutus who is leading me.”

“Follow me, then,” Brutus said.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved






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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scene 2

 — 1.2 —

In a public place in Rome were standing Julius Caesar, Calpurnia (Caesar’s wife), Brutus, Portia (Brutus’ wife), Mark Antony, Decius Brutus, Cicero, Caius Cassius, and Casca. A great crowd of people, among them a soothsayer (fortune teller), were around them. Trumpets occasionally sounded. Marullus and Flavius now came walking up to the group of people; they had arrived too late to keep the commoners from gathering around Caesar.

Caesar said, “Calpurnia!”

Casca ordered, “Everyone, be quiet. Caesar is speaking.”

Caesar said again, “Calpurnia!”

Calpurnia replied, “Here I am, my lord.”       

“Mark Antony will be one of the young men running naked through the streets and touching spectators with leather thongs to celebrate the Feast of Lupercal,” Caesar said. “Make sure that you stand directly in Mark Antony’s way when he runs.”

He then called, “Antony!”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Do not forget when you are running naked through the streets to touch Calpurnia because our wise men say that barren women, when touched in this holy chase, will be cured of the curse of sterility.”

“I shall remember to do so,” Antony replied. “When Caesar says, ‘Do this,’ it will be done.”

“Let us proceed,” Caesar said. “We will observe all the rites.”

The soothsayer in the crowd called, “Caesar!”

“Who is calling me?” Caesar asked.

Casca ordered, “Let all noise stop. Again, be quiet!”

“Who in the press of people is calling my name? I hear a voice, shriller than all the music, crying, ‘Caesar!’ Speak to me. Caesar is ready to listen to you.”

The soothsayer called, “Beware the Ides of March — beware March 15.”

“Which man is saying that?” Caesar asked.

One of Caesar’s friends, Brutus, replied, “A soothsayer tells you to beware the Ides of March.”

“Set him before me; let me see his face.”

“Soothsayer, come from the crowd,” Cassius said. “Look at Caesar.”

“What have you to say to me now?” Caesar asked. “Speak once again.”

“Beware the Ides of March.”

“He is a dreamer,” Caesar said. “Let us leave him. Let us pass him.”

Everyone departed except for Brutus and Cassius. The two men were brothers-in-law. Cassius was married to one of Brutus’ three sisters.

Cassius asked Brutus, “Will you go and see the progress of the race?”

“No,” Brutus replied.

“Please, do so.”

“I am not a merry fellow who is fond of games,” Brutus said. “I lack the quick and lively spirit that Mark Antony has in abundance. But do not let me stop you from enjoying the race, Cassius.”

“Brutus, I have lately been observing you. You no longer look at me with that gentleness and show of friendship that you used to have for me. You are intent on having your own way, and you are treating me less than as a friend although I still love and respect you.”

“Cassius, do not be deceived. If I have veiled my face and not shown my true feelings, I do so because I turn my troubled looks only upon myself. Recently, I have been vexed with greatly conflicting emotions that concern only myself. This perhaps has changed my behavior. But my good friends should not therefore grieve — and I count you, Cassius, among my good friends. Do not interpret my neglect of my friends as meaning anything more than that I am at war with myself and therefore I forget to show my friendship to my friends.”

“Then, Brutus, I have much misunderstood your feelings. Because of that, I have not told you certain important thoughts of great value — they are worthy cogitations. Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your own face?”

“No, Cassius, I cannot. The eye cannot see itself unless it is reflected by something such as a mirror or a calm surface of water.”

“That is true, and it is very much to be lamented, Brutus, that you have no such mirrors as will reflect your hidden worthiness to your eye, so that you might see your reflection. I have heard many people of the highest importance in Rome, except for immortal Caesar, speak about you and wish that noble Brutus could see what they see.”

“Into what dangers are you trying to lead me, Cassius, that you want me to seek within myself for qualities that are not in me?”

“Good Brutus, listen to me. Since you know that the best way to see yourself is by reflection, I will be your mirror and without exaggeration reveal to yourself things about yourself that you do not know. Do not be suspicious of me, noble Brutus. Regard me as dangerous if you know that I am a common laughingstock, or if you know that I am accustomed to cheapen my friendship by promising it with clichéd oaths to every new person who comes along, or if you know that I pretend to be friends with men and hug them hard and afterwards slander them, or if you know that I make professions of friendship to everyone after I have had a few drinks.”

A great shout arose in the distance.

“What does this shouting mean?” Brutus asked. “I am afraid that the Roman people have chosen Caesar to be their King.”

“Are you afraid of that?” Cassius asked. “Then I have to think that you do not want Julius Caesar to be King.”

“I do not want Caesar to be King, Cassius, although I love and respect Caesar. But why are you keeping me here so long? What is it that you want to say to me? If you want me to do something for the general good — the public welfare — then I would do it even if it meant that I would die. I pray that the gods help me only as long as I love the name of honor more than I fear death.”

“I know that virtue is in you, Brutus, as well as I know your outward appearance,” Cassius said. “Honor is what I want to talk to you about. I cannot tell what you and other men think about this life, but speaking for myself, I would rather be dead than live in awe of someone who is just a man like myself. I was born as free as Caesar; so were you. We both have eaten as well as Caesar, and we both can endure the winter’s cold as well as he. I remember that once, on a raw and gusty day, when the troubled Tiber River was raging against the restraint of her banks, Caesar said to me, ‘Do you dare, Cassius, to now leap in with me into this angry flood, and swim to that point over there?’ Hearing that, fully dressed as I was, I plunged in and bade him to follow me. He also jumped into the river. The torrent roared, and we fought against it with strong arms, throwing it aside and making progress and competing against each other and the river. But before we could arrive at the point that Caesar had proposed, he cried, ‘Help me, Cassius, or I will sink and drown!’ Aeneas, our great ancestor, had put his aged father upon his shoulder and carried him away from the flames of Troy. I did the same thing: I put the tired Caesar upon my shoulder and carried him out of the Tiber River. And this man — Caesar — has now become a god, and Cassius is only a wretched creature who must bend his body and bow whenever Caesar carelessly nods at him. Caesar had a fever when he was in Spain, and when the fit was on him, I noticed how he shook. It is true: This god did shake. He went pale, color fled from his coward lips, and that same eye whose glance awes the world lost its luster. I heard him groan — indeed, I did — and that tongue of his that makes the Romans take notice of him and even copy his speeches into their books cried, ‘Give me something to drink, Titinius,’ as if he were a sick girl. By the gods, it amazes me that a man of such a feeble constitution has outraced the world and seized power and carried away the victor’s crown of palm leaves.”

The crowd of people around Caesar shouted again.

“I hear another great shout!” Brutus said. “I do believe that these shouts are for some new honors that are heaped on Caesar.”

“Caesar straddles the world like the Colossus of Rhodes — a huge statue that is said to have spanned the entrance to the harbor of the Greek island of Rhodes,” Cassius said. “We petty menwalk under Caesar’s huge legs and peep about and find ourselves dishonorable graves.Men at some time are masters of their fates:The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,but in ourselves, if we find that we are only underlings.

“Think of the names Brutus and Caesar. What is special about that ‘Caesar’? Why should that name be sounded more than yours? Write them together. Your name is as fair a name as his name. Say the two names. Your name fills the mouth as well as his name. Weigh the two names. Your name is as heavy as his name. Conjure up spirits with the two names. The name ‘Brutus’ will raise a spirit as quickly as will the name ‘Caesar.’

“Now, in the names of all the gods at once, what meat has this Caesar eaten that he is grown so great? Our era should be ashamed! Rome, you have lost the breed of noble-blooded men! You are not raising men of notable worth! Since the great flood that Zeus, King of gods and men, sent to punish Humankind — a great flood that only one man and only one woman survived — when has there ever been an era in which only one man was considered great! When could people say until now, when they talked about Rome, that her wide walls contained only one man? Now Rome indeed has plenty of room, because only one man is in it.

“You and I have heard our fathers say that there was a Brutus once who would have allowed the eternal devil to rule Rome exactly as much as he would have allowed a King to rule Rome!”

Cassius was referring to an ancestor of Brutus — Lucius Junius Brutus — who had driven the last King out of Rome in the 6th century BCE and had founded the Roman Republic.

Brutus replied, “That you do love and respect me, I have no doubt. What you would persuade me to do, I have some idea. How I have thought of this and of these times, I shall tell you at a later time; at present, I will not, so respectfully I ask you not to try to persuade me to do anything. I will think about what you have said. What you have to say to me later, I will patiently listen to, and I will find a suitable time when we can meet and discuss such important matters.

“Until then, my noble friend, think about this: Brutus would prefer to be a villager than to be known as a son of Rome under the hard conditions that this time is likely to lay upon us.”

“I am glad that my weak words have struck even this much show of fire from Brutus,” Cassius said.

“The games are done and Caesar is returning,” Brutus said.

“As Caesar and the others walk by us, grab Casca’s sleeve,” Cassius said. “He will, after his sour fashion, tell you what has happened that is worthy of note today.”

Caesar and his band of followers walked toward Brutus and Cassius.

“I will do as you say,” Brutus said. “But, look, Cassius, an angry spot glows on Caesar’s brow, and all the rest look like they have been scolded. Calpurnia’s cheek is pale; and Cicero looks around with fiery and angry eyes like a ferret hunting rats. We have seen him look this way in the Capitol after some Senators have opposed him in debate.”

“Casca will tell us what has happened.”

Caesar said, “Antony!”

“Caesar?” Antony answered.

“Let me have men about me who are fat, who smoothly comb their hair, and who sleep throughout the night. Cassius over there has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.”

“Do not fear him,” Antony said. “He is not dangerous. He is a noble Roman and has a good reputation.”

“I wish that he were fatter!” Julius Caesar replied. “But I do not fear him. Yet if I had any tendency to be afraid, I do not know the man I would avoid as quickly as that lean Cassius. He reads much. He is a great observer, and he looks at the deeds of men and understands the men’s motives. He does not love to watch plays the way that you do, Antony. He does not listen to music. He seldom smiles, and when he does smile, he smiles as if he is mocking himself because he is smiling at something. Such men as he are never comfortable when they see a greater man than themselves, and therefore they are very dangerous.

“I am telling you what ought to be feared rather than what I fear; for always I am Caesar and I am afraid of nothing.

“Come over to my right side because my left ear is deaf, and tell me truly what you think about Cassius.”

Everybody left except for Brutus, Cassius, and Casca, who said to Brutus, “You pulled me by my cloak. Do you want to speak to me?”

“Yes, Casca. Tell us what happened just now. Why does Caesar look so serious?”

“Why, you were with him, weren’t you?”

Brutus replied, “If I had been with him, I would not now be asking you what happened.”

“Why, the crown of a King was offered to Caesar, who pushed it away with the back of his hand, and then people began to shout.”

“What was the second shout we heard for?”

“Why, that was for the same reason. Caesar was offered the crown a second time.”

Cassius said, “The people shouted three times. What was the last cry for?”

“Why, for that same reason, too.”

Brutus asked, “Was the Kingly crown offered to Caesar three times?”

“Yes, it was,” Casca answered. “Caesar pushed it away three times, each time gentler than the previous time. Each time he pushed it away, the crowd of respectable people around me shouted.”

Cassius asked, “Who offered Caesar the crown?”

“Why, Antony,” Casca replied.

“Tell us how everything happened, noble Casca,” Brutus requested.

“I can as well be hanged as tell you how it happened,” Casca said. “It was mere foolery, and so I did not pay attention to it. I saw Mark Antony offer Caesar a crown — and yet it was not a crown — it was one of these coronets. As I told you, Caesar pushed it away the first time Antony offered it to him — but, for all that, I think that Caesar wanted to have it. Then Antony offered it to him again, and again Caesar pushed it away — and again I think that he hated to let go of it. And then Antony offered it the third time, and Caesar pushed it away the third time. Each time he refused the crown, the rabble hooted and clapped their chapped hands and threw into the air their sweaty caps and breathed out a huge amount of stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown. Their stinking breath almost choked Caesar — he fainted and fell down at it. As for myself, I dared not laugh for fear of opening my lips and breathing in the bad air.”

“Did you say that Caesar fainted?” Cassius asked.

“He fell down in the marketplace, and foamed at the mouth, and was speechless.”

“It is very likely that he has the falling sickness — epilepsy,” Brutus said.

Cassius said, “No, Caesar does not have the falling sickness, but you and I and honest Casca, we have the falling sickness. We have fallen.”

“I do not know what you mean by that, but I am sure that Caesar fell down,” Casca said. “If the rag-tag people did not applaud him and hiss him, accordingly as he pleased or displeased them, as they are accustomed to treat the actors in the theater, I am no true man.”

“What did Caesar say when he regained consciousness?” Brutus asked.

“Before he fell down, when he perceived that the common herd was glad that he refused the crown, he opened his jacket and offered them his throat to cut. If I had been a common laborer, I wish I would go to Hell among the rogues if I had not taken him at his word. If I had been a common laborer, I would have cut his throat. Caesar fell then. When he came to himself again, he said that if he had done or said anything amiss, he wanted the crowd of people to think it was because of his infirmity. Three or four young women who were standing near me cried, ‘Alas, good soul!’ and forgave him with all their hearts, but we do not need to pay any attention to them. If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done the same thing.”

“And after that, he went away, sad and serious?” Brutus asked.


“Did Cicero say anything?” Cassius asked.

“Yes, he spoke Greek.”

“To what purpose? What was the content of what he said?”

“I don’t know. If I could tell you that, I would never look you again in the face; however, those who understood Greek smiled at one another and shook their heads. As for myself, it was Greek to me and I did not understand it. But I can tell you some news: Marullus and Flavius, because they pulled decorations off the statues of Caesar, have been deprived of their positions as Tribunes who speak for the people — they have been silenced. Farewell. There was more foolery, if I could remember it.”

“Will you eat with me tonight, Casca?” Cassius asked.

“No, I have promised to eat with someone else.”

“Will you dine with me tomorrow?”

“Yes, if I am still alive and you haven’t changed your mind and your dinner is worth eating.”

“Good. I will expect you tomorrow.”

“Do so. Farewell, both of you.”

He left.

“What a blunt fellow has Casca grown to be!” Brutus said. “He had a quick mind when he was going to school.”

“He still has a quick mind when it comes to taking action in any bold or noble enterprise,” Cassius said. “However, he pretends to be insensitive and careless. This rudeness of his is a sauce to his good intelligence; it gives men the stomach to digest his words with better appetite.”

“You know him well,” Brutus said. “At this time I will leave you. Tomorrow, if you want to speak with me, I will go to your house, or, if you prefer, you can come to my house. I will stay there until you come.”

“I will come to your house tomorrow,” Cassius said. “Until then, think of the state of the world.”

Brutus left.

Cassius said to himself, “Well, Brutus, you are noble, yet I see that your honorable metal and mettle may be bent into a new shape. Because such a thing can happen, it is fitting that noble minds keep company always with other noble minds because who is so firm and incorruptible that he cannot be seduced and corrupted? Caesar has a grudge against me and barely tolerates my presence, but he loves and respects Brutus. If I were Brutus and he were Cassius, he would not be able to manipulate me. I will this night throw through his windows several letters, written in different kinds of handwriting so that they look like they have come from several citizens. The letters will testify to the great opinion that Roman citizens hold of you, Brutus, and your name. They will also hint at the ambition of Caesar. Soon, Caesar had better brace himself because we will shake him and undermine him or suffer the consequences of failure. If we do not stop Julius Caesar from becoming King, worse days will follow.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved






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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 5-7 (Conclusion)

— 5.5 —

The battle was over, and King Edward IV was triumphant. King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, and Duke George of Clarence stood together with their prisoners: Queen Margaret, the Earl of Oxford, and the Duke of Somerset. Many Yorkist soldiers were present.

King Edward IV said, “Now here ends our tumultuous broils. Take the Earl of Oxford away to Hames Castle immediately. As for the Duke of Somerset, cut off his guilty head. Go, take them away; I will not hear them speak.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “For my part, I’ll not trouble you with words.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “Nor will I, but I bow with patience to my ill fortune.”

Queen Margaret said to the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset, “So part we sadly in this troublous world, but we will meet with joy in the sweet city of Jerusalem in Heaven.”

Guards took away the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset.

King Edward IV said, “Has the proclamation been made that whoever finds Prince Edward, Queen Margaret’s son, shall have a large reward, and Prince Edward shall keep his life?”

“The proclamation has been made,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “and look, here comes the youthful Prince Edward!”

Soldiers arrived, bringing Prince Edward.

King Edward IV said, “Bring forth the gallant, and let us hear him speak. What! Can so young a thorn begin to prick? Prince Edward, what penalty can you pay for bearing arms, for stirring up my subjects to rebel against me, and for all the trouble you have caused me?”

Prince Edward replied, “Speak like a subject, proud ambitious York! Suppose that I am now my father’s mouthpiece. Resign your throne, and where I stand kneel before me, while I say the same questions to you, traitor, which you would have me answer.”

Queen Margaret said, “I wish that your father had been so resolute!”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “If he had been, then you might always have worn the petticoat, and never have stolen the pants from your husband, Henry VI, and worn them.”

Prince Edward said, “Let Aesop tell false fables during a winter’s night; Richard’s currish riddles are not suitable for this place.”

Aesop was popularly supposed to be hunchbacked like Richard. The word “currish” meant “like a cur, aka a mean-spirited dog.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “By Heaven, brat, I’ll plague you for that word.”

Queen Margaret said, “True, you were born to be a plague to men.”

“For God’s sake, take away this captive scold,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

“No,” Prince Edward said. “Instead, take away this scolding hunchback.”

“Be quiet, willful boy, or I will put a charm on your tongue to make it silent,” King Edward IV said.

“Untutored, badly raised lad, you are too malapert and impudent,” Duke George of Clarence said.

“I know my duty,” Prince Edward said. “You are all undutiful. Lascivious Edward, and you perjured George, and you misshapen Dick, I tell you all that I am your better, traitors as you are, and you have usurped my father’s right and mine.”

King Edward IV stabbed Prince Edward and said, “Take that, you likeness of this railer — Queen Margaret — here.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester stabbed Prince Edward and said, “Are you suffering your death throes? Take that, to end your agony.”

Duke George of Clarence stabbed Prince Edward and said, “And this is for twitting me with perjury.”

Prince Edward died.

Queen Margaret said, “Oh, kill me, too!”

“By Mother Mary, I shall,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

King Edward IV stopped him by saying, “Don’t, Richard, don’t; for we have already done too much.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester asked, “Why should Queen Margaret live? She will fill the world with words.”

Queen Margaret fainted.

King Edward IV said, “Does she swoon? Help her.”

During the commotion, Duke Richard of Gloucester said quietly to his brother Duke George of Clarence, “Clarence, excuse me to the King my brother. I’ll leave here and go to London on a serious matter. Before you come there, you will be sure to hear some news.”

“What? What?” Duke George of Clarence asked.

“The Tower! The Tower!” Duke Richard of Gloucester replied.

He exited.

Brought back to consciousness, Queen Margaret said, “Oh, Ned, sweet Ned! Speak to your mother, boy! Can’t you speak?

“Oh, traitors! Murderers! They who stabbed Julius Caesar shed no blood at all, did not offend, and did not deserve blame, if this foul deed were nearby to be compared to it. Julius Caesar was a man; this, in comparison, is a child. And men never expend their fury on a child.

“What’s worse than being a murderer, so that I may name it? No, no, my heart will burst, if I speak. And I will speak, so that my heart may burst. Butchers and villains! Bloody cannibals! How sweet a plant you have untimely cut!

“You have no children, butchers! If you had, the thought of them would have stirred up remorse. But if you ever chance to have a child, look in his youth to have him so cut off as, you deathmen and executioners, you have killed this sweet young Prince!”

King Edward IV said, “Take her away! Go and bear her forcibly away from here.”

Queen Margaret said, “No, never carry me away from here; instead, kill me here and now. Here in my chest sheathe your sword; I’ll pardon you for killing me. What, Edward IV, you will not? Then, Clarence, you do it.”

“I swear by Heaven that I will not cause you so much comfort,” Duke George of Clarence replied.

Queen Margaret said, “Good Clarence, do it; sweet Clarence, please do it.”

“Didn’t you hear me swear I would not do it?” Duke George of Clarence replied.

“Yes, I did, but you are used to committing perjury,” Queen Margaret said. “Committing perjury was a sin before, but now it is a charitable deed. Won’t you kill me?

“Where is that Devil’s butcher, ugly Richard? Richard, where are you? You are not here. Murder is your good deed. You never refuse those who petition you to shed other people’s blood.”

King Edward IV ordered, “Take her away, I say; I order you, carry her away from here.”

Queen Margaret said, “May what happened to my son the Prince happen to you and yours!”

Guards forcibly carried her away.

King Edward IV asked, “Where has Richard gone?”

Duke George of Clarence said, “To London, in all haste.”

He thought, And, I guess, to make a bloody supper in the Tower of London.

King Edward IV said, “Richard acts quickly, if an idea comes into his head.

“Now we will march away from here. Discharge the common soldiers with pay and thanks, and let’s go away to London and see how well our gentle Queen fares. By this time, I hope, she has given birth to a son for me.”

— 5.6 —

King Henry VI and a Lieutenant were in a room of the Tower of London when Duke Richard of Gloucester arrived. King Henry VI was reading a religious book.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Good day, my lord. Studying your book so hard?”

“Yes, my good lord,” King Henry VI said. “I should say rather ‘my lord’ because it is a sin to flatter; ‘good’ is a ‘little’ better than you deserve and so it is flattery. ‘Good Gloucester’ and ‘good Devil’ are alike, and both are contrary to the way things should be; therefore, I ought not to call you ‘good lord.’”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said to the Lieutenant, “Sirrah, leave us to ourselves. We must confer.”

The Lieutenant exited.

King Henry VI, who suspected what was about to occur, and who may have had the gift of prophecy, said, “So flees the reckless shepherd from the wolf. So the harmless sheep first yields his fleece and next yields his throat to the butcher’s knife. What scene of death has the famous Roman tragedian Roscius now to act? How am I to die?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester replied, “Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind. The thief is afraid that each bush is an officer of the law.”

King Henry VI said, “After being trapped in a bush, with trembling wings a bird fears every bush. And I, the hapless father to one sweet bird, the Prince, now have the fatal object in my eye where my poor young bird was trapped, caught, and killed. I need not fear every bush because in front of me I see the bush that I ought to fear.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Why, what a peevish fool was that father of Crete, who taught his son the function of a foolish fowl! And yet, for all his wings, the fool was drowned.”

He was referring to the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Imprisoned by King Minos on the island of Crete, they escaped after Daedalus fashioned wings made of wax and feathers. Icarus, however, flew too close to the hot Sun, which melted the wax of his wings, and he fell into the sea and drowned.

King Henry VI said, “I am Daedalus; my poor boy is Icarus; your father, the old Duke of York, is King Minos, who would not allow us to freely leave Crete; the sun that seared the wings of my sweet boy is your brother Edward; and you yourself are the sea whose malicious whirlpool swallowed up my son’s life. Ah, kill me with your weapon, not with words! My breast can better endure feeling your dagger’s point than my ears can endure hearing that tragic history.

“But why have you come? Have you come to take my life?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester asked, “Do you think that I am an executioner?”

“I am sure you are a persecutor,” King Henry VI said. “If murdering innocents is executing, why, then you are an executioner.”

“I killed your son for his presumption,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

“If you had been killed when you first presumed, then you would not have lived to kill a son of mine,” King Henry VI said. “And thus I prophesy that many a thousand people, who now mistrust no part of what I fear, and many an old man’s and many a widow’s sigh, and many an orphan’s tear-filled eye — men for their sons, wives for their husbands, and orphans for their parents’ untimely death — shall bitterly regret the hour that you were born.

“The owl shrieked at your birth — an evil sign. The night-crow cried, foretelling a luckless time. Dogs howled, and a hideous tempest shook down trees. The raven crouched on the chimney’s top, and chattering magpies sang dismal discords.

“Your mother felt more than a mother’s pain of childbirth, and yet brought forth less than a mother’s hope. I mean that she gave birth to an incomplete and deformed lump, not like the fruit expected from such a splendid tree as your mother.

“You had teeth in your head when you were born to signify that you came to bite the world. And, if the rest be true that I have heard, you came —”

“I’ll hear no more,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “Die, prophet, in the middle of your speech.”

He stabbed King Henry VI and said, “For this deed among the rest of my deeds, I was ordained. For such deeds I was born.”

“Yes, and for much more slaughter after this,” King Henry VI said.

As he died, King Henry VI said, “May God forgive my sins, and may God pardon you!”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said over King Henry VI’s corpse, “Will the ambitious, soaring blood of Lancaster sink into the ground? I thought it would have mounted into the sky. See how my sword weeps for the poor King’s death! Oh, may such bloody tears be always shed from those who wish the downfall of our House of York!

“If any spark of life is yet remaining, go down, down to Hell — and say I sent you there.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester stabbed King Henry VI’s corpse.

He continued, “I, who haven’t pity, love, or fear, sent you there. Indeed, what Henry VI told me is true, for I have often heard my mother say that I came into the world with my legs and feet first. Didn’t I have reason, you think, to make haste and seek the ruin of those who usurped our right? The midwife wondered and the women cried, ‘Oh, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!’ And so I was, which plainly signified that I would snarl and bite and play the mean dog.

“So then, since the Heavens have misshaped my body, let Hell make my mind crooked to correspond to my crooked body.

“I have no brother, I am like no brother, and this word ‘love,’ which graybeards call divine, is resident in men who are like one another, but it is not resident in me: I am myself alone.

“Clarence, beware, for you are keeping me from the light, from my golden-crowned goal. But I will arrange a pitch-black day for you, for I will buzz abroad rumors of such prophecies that Edward IV shall fear for his life, and then, to purge his fear by lancing and bloodletting, I’ll be your death.

“King Henry VI and his son — the Prince — are dead and gone. Clarence, your turn is next, and then the rest who are in line ahead of me to be King of England. I regard myself as worthless until I am the best and highest-ranking person in England.

“I’ll throw your body in another room and triumph, Henry VI, in your day of doom.”

— 5.7 —

In a room of the palace in London were King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth, Duke George of Clarence, Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, a nurse holding the recently born Prince, and some attendants.

Using the royal plural, King Edward IV said, “Once more we sit on England’s royal throne,repurchased with the blood of enemies.What valiant foemen, similar to autumn’s wheat,have we mown down, at the peak of all their pride!

“We have mown down three Dukes of Somerset, who were threefold renowned as hardy and undoubted champions; two Cliffords, both the father and the son; and two Northumberlands — two braver men never spurred their warhorses at the military trumpet’s sound.

“Along with them, we have mown down the two brave bears, Warwick and Montague, who in their chains fettered the Kingly lion and made the forest tremble when they roared.”

The Earl of Warwick, the Marquess of Montague, and the Earl of Warwick’s father were members of the Neville family, whose crest depicted a rampant — standing — bear chained to a knobby post.

King Edward IV continued, “Thus have we swept suspicion and anxiety from our seat and made our footstool out of security.”

King Edward IV thought that he was safe and secure on the throne, but already Duke Richard of Gloucester was plotting to become King of England. A now rare meaning of “security” is “overconfidence.”

He continued, “Come here, Bess — my Queen — and let me kiss my boy.

“Young Ned, your uncles and I have in our armors stayed awake during the winter’s night and gone on foot in the summer’s scalding heat, so that that you could possess the crown in peace and so that you shall reap the gain of our labors.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester thought, I’ll blast your son’s harvest, if your head were laid in the grave, the way that a storm can blight a harvest by driving the tops of the wheat into the ground, for I am not yet respected in the world. This shoulder of mine was created so thick so that it could heave, and it shall either heave some bodies out of my way, or break my back.

He touched his head and thought, You work out the way to accomplish my goals.

Then he touched his shoulder and thought, And you shall execute the plan.

King Edward IV continued, “Clarence and Gloucester, love my lovely Queen, and kiss your Princely nephew, both of you brothers of mine.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “The duty that I owe to your majesty I seal upon the lips of this sweet babe.”

“Thanks, noble Clarence,” Queen Elizabeth said, “Worthy brother, thanks.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “And, because I love the tree from whence this babe sprang, witness the loving kiss I give the fruit.”

He kissed the recently born Prince and thought, And Judas cried ‘all hail!’ when he meant all harm.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Matthew 26:48-49 states, “Now he that betrayed him, had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, lay hold on him. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, God save thee, Master, and kissed him” (1599 Geneva Bible).

King Edward IV said, “Now am I seated as my soul delights because I have my country’s peace and my brothers’ loves.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “What does your grace want to do with Queen Margaret? Reignier, her father, has pawned Sicily, Naples, and Jerusalem to the King of France and has sent here the money raised for her ransom.”

“Send her away, and waft her over the sea to France,” King Edward IV said. “And what remains to be done now but that we spend the time with stately triumphs and mirthful comic shows such as are suitable for the pleasure of the court?

“Sound, drums and trumpets!

“Farewell, sour, bitter annoyances! For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 2-4

— 5.2 —

On 14 April 1471, the Battle of Barnet was being fought on a battlefield near Barnet. King Edward IV met the Earl of Warwick, who was mortally wounded and whose eyesight was failing.

King Edward IV said to him, “So, lie there. Die, you, and with you die our fear, for Warwick was a terror who frightened us all.

“Now, Marquess of Montague, sit fast, I seek you, so that Warwick’s bones may keep your bones company.”

King Edward IV exited.

Alone, the blinded Earl of Warwick said, “Who is near? Come to me, friend or foe, and tell me which General is the victor: York or Warwick?

“But why do I ask that? My mangled body shows, my blood shows, my lack of strength shows, my sick heart shows that I must yield my body to the earth, and by my fall, I must yield the victory to my foe.

“Thus yields the cedar to the axe’s edge, although the cedar’s arms gave shelter to the Princely eagle, and although under the cedar’s shade the ramping lion slept, and although the cedar’s topmost branch peered over Jove’s spreading oak tree and protected low shrubs from winter’s powerful wind.

“These eyes, which now are dimmed with death’s black veil, have been as piercing as the mid-day Sun as they perceived the secret treasons of the world.

“The wrinkles in my brows, now filled with blood, were often likened to Kingly sepulchers, for who lived as King, except a person whose grave I could dig?

“And who dared to smile when Warwick frowned?

“But look, now my glory is smeared in dust and blood! My hunting grounds, my walks, my manors that I had just now have forsaken me, and of all my lands there is nothing left to me except my body’s length — land enough for a grave.

“Why, pomp, rule, and reign are nothing but earth and dust! And, live us how we can, yet die we must.”

The Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset arrived.

The Duke of Somerset said, “Ah, Warwick, Warwick! If you were still uninjured, like us, we might recover all our losses. Queen Margaret has brought from France a powerful army. Just now we heard the news. I wish that you could flee!”

“Why, even if I could, I would not flee,” Warwick said. “Ah, Marquess of Montague, if you are there, sweet brother, take my hand and with your lips kiss me and keep my soul in my body awhile! Your kiss will keep my soul from exiting my body through my lips. You don’t love me because, brother, if you did, your tears would wash this cold, congealed blood that glues my lips and will not let me speak. Come quickly, Montague, or I will be dead before you get here.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “Warwick, the Marquess of Montague has breathed his last, and to the last gasp he cried out for Warwick and said, ‘Commend me to my valiant brother.’ And he would have said more, and he did speak more that sounded like a clamor in a vault that could not be understood, but at last I heard him say clearly, delivered with a groan, ‘Oh, farewell, Warwick!’”

The Earl of Warwick said, “May his soul sweetly rest! Flee, lords, and save yourselves, for Warwick bids you all farewell until we meet in Heaven.”

He died.

The Earl of Oxford said, “Let’s go, so we can meet the Queen’s great army!”

— 5.3 —

On another part of the battlefield, King Edward IV celebrated his victory. With him were his brothers Duke Richard of Gloucester and Duke George of Clarence. Also present were many soldiers.

King Edward IV said, “Thus far our fortune keeps an upward course, and we are graced with wreaths of victory. But, in the midst of this brightly shining day, I spy a black, suspicious, threatening cloud that will battle our glorious Sun before it attains its easeful, comfortable western bed. I mean, my lords, those troops whom Queen Margaret has raised in France have arrived at our coast and, so we hear, march on to fight us.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “A little gale will soon disperse that cloud and blow it to the source from whence it came. The very beams of the Sun will dry those vapors up, for not every cloud generates a storm.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “The Queen’s forces are estimated to be thirty thousand strong, and both the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Oxford have fled to her. If she is given time before she has to fight, be well assured that her faction will be fully as strong as ours.”

King Edward IV said, “We are informed by our loving friends that Queen Margaret and her troops hold their course toward Tewksbury. We, having now the victory at Barnet battlefield, will go to Tewksbury immediately, for willingness makes for progress on the journey. And as we march, our strength will be augmented in every county as we go along.”

He ordered the drummer, “Strike up the drum,” and then he ordered everyone, “Cry ‘Courage!’ and let’s go.”

— 5.4 —

On the plains near Tewksbury, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, the Duke of Somerset, and the Earl of Oxford were meeting. With them were many soldiers.

Queen Margaret said, “Great lords, wise men never sit and bewail their loss, but cheerfully seek how to repair their misfortunes.

“What though the mast is now blown overboard, the cable broken, the holding-anchor lost, and half our sailors swallowed in the flood? Our pilot — King Henry VI — still lives.

“Is it suitable that a pilot should leave the helm and like a fearful lad with tearful eyes add water to the sea and give more strength to that which has too much, while as he moans the rock splits the ship, which toil and courage might have saved?

“What a shame, what a fault that would be!

“Say Warwick was our anchor — what of that? And the Marquess of Montague was our topmost sail — what of him? Our slaughtered friends were the ship’s tackles — what of these?

“Why, isn’t Oxford here another anchor? And Somerset another goodly mast? The friends from France our sail-ropes and tacklings?

“And, although we are unskillful, why shouldn’t my son Ned — Prince Edward — and I for once be allowed to perform the skillful pilot’s duty?

“We will not leave the helm in order to sit and weep, but we will instead keep our course, although the rough wind says no, and we will avoid the sandbanks, shoals, and rocks that threaten us with wreck.

“It is as good to scold the waves as to speak well of them. And what is Edward but ruthless sea? What is Clarence but a quicksand of deceit? And what is Richard but a jagged, deadly rock?

“All these are enemies to our poor ship.

“Say you can swim — but you can swim only for a while! Tread on the quicksand; why, there you quickly sink. Bestride the rock; the tide will wash you off, or else you will starve. That’s a threefold death: You can drown in the sea, sink in quicksand, or die of starvation on a rock.

“This speak I, lords, to let you understand, in case one of you would flee away from us, that there’s no hoped-for mercy coming from the brothers — Edward, Clarence, and Richard — no more than the mercy you would get from the ruthless waves, quicksand, and rocks.

“Why, be courageous then! It is childish weakness to lament or fear what cannot be avoided.”

Prince Edward said, “I think a woman of this valiant spirit would, if a coward heard her speak these words, infuse his breast with greatness of heart and nobleness of spirit and make him, without armor and weapons, defeat an armed warrior.

“I don’t say this because I doubt the courage of anyone here, for if I did suspect a man to be fearful he would have my permission to go away right now, lest when we need him to fight he might infect another man and make him of similar fearful spirit as himself.

“If any such be here — God forbid! — let him depart before we need his help.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “Women and children have so high a courage — and warriors are faint-hearted! Why, for warriors to have faint hearts is perpetual shame.

“Oh, brave young Prince! Your famous grandfather — King Henry V — lives again in you. Long may you live to bear his image and renew his glories!”

The Duke of Somerset said, “And may he who will not fight for such a hope as the young Prince go home to bed, and like an owl that is seen during the day, be mocked and wondered at if he arise.”

Queen Margaret said, “Thanks, gentle Somerset; sweet Oxford, thanks.”

Prince Edward said, “And take thanks from me, who as of yet has nothing else to give you.”

A messenger arrived and said, “Prepare yourselves, lords, for Edward IV is at hand and ready to fight; therefore, be resolute.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “I thought no less. It is his military strategy to hasten so quickly in order to find us unprepared to fight.”

“But he’s deceived,” the Duke of Somerset said. “We are ready to fight.”

“Seeing your eagerness to fight cheers my heart,” Queen Margaret said.

“Here we will pitch our battle formation,” the Earl of Oxford said. “From here we will not budge.”

King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, Duke George of Clarence, and many soldiers arrived.

King Edward IV said, “Brave followers, yonder stands the metaphorical thorny wood, which by the Heavens’ assistance and your strength must by the roots be hewn up before night. I need not add more fuel to your fire, for well I know you blaze to burn them out. Give the signal for the battle, and let’s go to it, lords!”

Queen Margaret said, “Lords, knights, and gentlemen, my tears contradict what words I should say because as you see, for every word I speak I drink the water of my eyes. Therefore, I will say no more but this: Henry VI, your sovereign, is held prisoner by the foe; his Kingship is usurped, his realm is a slaughterhouse, his subjects are being slain, his laws and statutes are cancelled, and his treasure is spent. And yonder is the wolf that makes this spoil. Your fight is just, and so then, in God’s name, lords, be valiant and give the signal for the battle.”

The battle started.


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling — Act 5, Scene 1

— 5.1 —

The Earl of Warwick, the Mayor of Coventry, two messengers, and some others stood upon the walls of Coventry.

The Earl of Warwick asked, “Where is the messenger who came from the valiant Earl of Oxford? How far away is your lord, my honest fellow?”

The first messenger replied, “By this time, he is at Dunsmore, marching to here.”

The Earl of Warwick then asked, “How far away is our brother the Marquess of Montague? Where is the messenger who came from Montague?”

The second messenger replied, “By this time, he is at Daintry, with a powerful troop of soldiers.”

Sir John Somerville arrived.

The Earl of Warwick asked, “Tell me, Somerville, what says my loving son-in-law? And, by your guess, how near is Duke George of Clarence now?”

Sir John Somerville replied, “At Southam I left Duke George of Clarence with his forces, and I expect him to be here some two hours from now.”

They heard the sound of a drum.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Clarence is at hand. I hear his drum.”

“It is not his, my lord,” Sir John Somerville said. He pointed and said, “In this direction Southam lies. The drum your honor hears is marching from Warwick.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Who would they be? Probably, unlooked-for friends.”

Sir John Somerville said, “They are at hand, and you shall quickly know who they are.”

King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, and many soldiers arrived.

King Edward IV ordered, “Go, trumpeter, to the walls, and sound a parley.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “See how the surly Warwick mans the wall!”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Oh, unbidden, spiteful annoyance! Has lascivious Edward IV come? Where did our scouts sleep, or how were they seduced, that we could hear no news of Edward IV’s coming here?”

King Edward IV said, “Now, Warwick, will you open the city gates, speak gentle words and humbly bend your knee, call me your King, and at my hands beg mercy? If you do, we shall pardon you these outrages.”

“No,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Rather, will you withdraw your forces from here, confess who set you up and plucked you down, call Warwick your patron, and be penitent? If you do, you shall continue to be the Duke of York.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester joked, “I thought, at least, he would have said, ‘You shall continue to be the King,’ or is he jesting against his will?”

“Is not a Dukedom, sir, a goodly gift?” the Earl of Warwick asked.

Duke Richard of Gloucester replied, “Yes, by my faith, for a poor Earl to give.”

Dukes outrank Earls.

Duke Richard of Gloucester continued, sarcastically, “I’ll serve you for so good a gift.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “It was I who gave the Kingdom to your brother.”

“Why, then it is mine, if only by Warwick’s gift,” King Edward IV said.

“You are no Atlas for so great a weight,” the Earl of Warwick said.

Atlas is the mythological Titan who holds up the sky on his shoulders.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “And, you weakling, Warwick takes his gift back again. Henry VI is my King, and Warwick is his subject.”

King Edward IV said, “But Warwick’s King Henry VI is Edward IV’s prisoner. And, gallant Warwick, just answer this: What is the body when the head is off?”

“It’s a pity that Warwick had no more foresight,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “While he thought to steal the poor, feeble ten, the King was slyly stolen from the deck of cards!”

A ten is not a court card; court cards are the Jack, Queen, and King. Duke Richard of Gloucester was saying that when the Earl of Warwick was rescuing Henry VI from captivity, he was not rescuing a legitimate member of the royal court.

He continued, “You left poor Henry VI at the Bishop’s Palace, and, ten to one, you’ll meet him in the Tower of London.”

“All this is true,” King Edward IV said, “yet you are still the same old Warwick. This news will not change your opposition to me.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Come, Warwick, adjust yourself to the time; kneel down, kneel down. No? If not now, when? Strike now, or else the iron cools.”

“Strike” could mean 1) Strike a blow, or 2) Strike — lower — your topsail in deference or in surrender. Richard wanted Warwick to take action quickly.

The Earl of Warwick raised his hand and replied, “I would rather chop this hand off at a blow, and with the other hand fling it at your face, than bear so low a sail as to strike and lower my topsail to you.”

King Edward IV raised his hand and said, “Sail however you can, have wind and tide as your friends, this hand, fast wound about your coal-black hair shall, while your head is warm and newly cut off, write in the dust this sentence with your blood, ‘Changing-with-the-wind Warwick now can change sides no more.’”

The Earl of Oxford arrived with a drummer and his colors — battle flags — and his army.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Oh, cheerful colors! Oh, cheerful battle flags! See where Oxford is coming!”

The Earl of Oxford cried, “Oxford, Oxford, for the House of Lancaster!”

He and his army entered the city of Coventry.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “The gates are open; let us enter, too.”

King Edward replied, “If we do that, other foes may attack our backs. Instead, we will stand here in good array, for they no doubt will issue out again and challenge us to battle them. If they don’t, since the city has only a weak defense, we’ll quickly rouse the traitors out of their den.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “You are welcome, Oxford, for we need your help.”

The Marquess of Montague arrived with his troops, drummer, and battle flags.

He cried, “Montague, Montague, for the House of Lancaster!”

He and his troops entered the city.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “You and your brother both shall pay for this treason even with the dearest blood your bodies bear.”

King Edward IV said, “The more powerful the enemies, the greater the victory. My mind foretells happy gain and conquest.”

The Duke of Somerset arrived with his troops, drummer, and battle flags.

He cried, “Somerset, Somerset, for the House of Lancaster!”

He and his troops entered the city.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Two of your name, both of them Dukes of Somerset, have lost their lives to the House of York, and you shall be the third if my sword continues to hold its edge.”

Duke George of Clarence arrived with his troops, drummer, and battle flags.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Look where George of Clarence sweeps along with forces enough to challenge his brother to battle; with George of Clarence, an upright zeal for justice prevails more than the nature of a brother’s love!”

Duke George of Clarence said, “Clarence for the House of Lancaster!”

King Edward IV said, “Et tu, Brute? Will you stab Caesar, too?”

Et tu, Brute?” is Latin for “You, too, Brutus?” Julius Caesar said these words to Brutus, whom he thought was his friend, when Brutus, with many other Romans, stabbed him to death.

Edward IV ordered, “Call a parley, sir, to Duke George of Clarence.”

The trumpet sounded, requesting a parley.

Duke Richard of Gloucester and Duke George of Clarence talked together.

The Earl of Warwick called,“Come, Clarence, come; you will, if Warwick calls for you to.”

Duke George of Clarence replied, “Father-in-law Warwick, do you know what this means?”

He took the red rose — symbol of the House of Lancaster — out of his hat and threw it toward the Earl of Warwick. Duke George of Clarence had been reconciled to his brother the King; once more, he was a Yorkist. He placed a white rose — symbol of the House of York — in his hat.

He continued, “Look here, I throw my infamy at you. I will not ruin my father’s House — his family — by giving blood to cement the stones together and set up Lancaster.

“Do you think, Warwick, that Clarence is so harsh, so blunt, and so unnatural as to bend the fatal instruments of war against his brother and his lawful King?

“Perhaps you will raise as an objection my holy oath. To keep that oath would be more impious than Jephthah keeping his oath, when he sacrificed his daughter.”

In Judges 11, Jephthah had vowed to sacrifice the first thing that came out of the door of his house when he returned home if God would grant him a military victory; unfortunately, the first thing to come out of the door was his only child: a daughter, whom he sacrificed.

Judges 11:30-34(1599 Geneva Bible) states this:

“30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,

“31 Then that thing that cometh out of the doors of mine house to meet me, when I come home in peace from the children of Ammon, shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it for a burnt offering.

“32 And so Jephthah went unto the children of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands.

“33 And he smote them from Aroer even till thou come to Minnith, twenty cities, and so forth to Abel of the vineyards, with an exceeding great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were humbled before the children of Israel.

“34 Now when Jephthah came to Mizpah unto his house, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and dances, which was his only child: he had none other son, nor daughter.”

Duke George of Clarence continued, “I am so sorry for the trespass I made that, to deserve well at my brother’s hands, I here proclaim myself your mortal foe, and I resolve that wherever I meet you — and I will meet you, if you stir abroad — to plague you for foully misleading me.

“And so, proud-hearted Warwick, I defy you, and to my brother I turn my blushing cheeks.

“Pardon me, Edward. I will make amends.

“And, Richard, do not frown upon my faults, for I will henceforth be no more inconstant and disloyal.”

King Edward IV said to him, “Now you are more welcome, and ten times more beloved, than if you had never deserved our hate.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Welcome, good Clarence; this is brotherlike.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Oh, unsurpassed traitor; you are perjured and unjust!”

King Edward IV said, “Warwick, will you leave the town and fight? Or shall we beat the stones about your ears?”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Unfortunately for you, I am not cooped up here for defense! I will leave and go towards Barnet immediately, and I challenge you to battle me there, Edward, if you dare.”

King Edward IV replied, “Yes, Warwick, Edward dares, and he leads the way.

“Lords, let’s go to the battlefield! Saint George and victory!”

King Edward IV and his troops marched to the battlefield. The Earl of Warwick and his troops followed.


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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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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.”


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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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