— 4.1 —

In a room of the palace in London were Duke Richard of Gloucester, Duke George of Clarence, the new Duke of Somerset (son of the Duke of Somerset whom Richard had killed in battle), and the Marquess of Montague.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said sarcastically, “Now tell me, brother Clarence, what do you thinkof this new marriage of Edward IV with the Lady Elizabeth Grey?Hasn’t our brother made a worthy choice?”

“Alas, as you know, it is far from here to France,” Duke George of Clarence said sarcastically.“How could he wait until Warwick made his return?”

The Duke of Somerset said, “My lords, don’t talk like that; here comes the King.”

“And his well-chosen bride,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

Duke George of Clarencesaid, “I intend to tell him plainly what I think.”

King Edward IV and Lady Elizabeth Grey — who was now Queen Elizabeth, the Queen consort of the King of England — entered the room, along with the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Stafford, Lord Hastings, and others.

A Queen consort is the wife of a King and does not rule. A Queen regnant, such as Queen Elizabeth I of Shakespeare’s time, does rule.

King Edward IV said, “Now, brother Clarence, how do you like our choice of a wife? I can see that you stand pensively, thinking deep thoughts, as if you were half malcontent.”

Duke George of Clarence replied sarcastically, “I like it as well as do the French King Louis XI and the English Earl of Warwick, who are so weak of courage and so weak in judgment that they’ll take no offence at our insult to Lady Bona and to them.”

“Suppose they take offence without a cause,” King Edward IV said. “They are only Louis XI and Warwick. I am Edward, your King and Warwick’s, and I must have my will.”

The word “will” meant desire, including sexual desire.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “And you shall have your will because you are our King. Yet hasty, impulsive marriages seldom turn out well.”

“Brother Richard, are you offended, too?” King Edward IV asked.

“Not I,” Duke Richard of Gloucester replied. “No, God forbid that I should wish them severed whom God has joined together. Yes, and it would be a pity to sunder them who yoke so well together.”

The word “yoke” meant both joined in marriage and joined in sex.

King Edward IV said, “Setting your scorns and your dislike aside, tell me some reason why Lady Elizabeth Grey should not be my wife and England’s Queen. And you, too, Somerset and Montague, speak freely what you think.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “Then this is my opinion: King Louis XI of France will become your enemy because you have mocked him by asking for marriage with the Lady Bona but marrying someone else.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “And Warwick, by doing what you ordered him to do, is now dishonored by this new marriage of yours.”

King Edward IV replied, “What if both Louis XI and Warwick should be appeased by some scheme that I devise?”

The Marquess of Montague said, “Still, to have joined with France in an alliance would have strengthened this our commonwealth more against foreign storms than any home-bred marriage. By marrying Lady Elizabeth Grey, you have dashed the hope of an alliance by marriage with the King of France.”

Lord Hastings said, “Why, doesn’t Montague know that of itself England is safe, if true within itself?”

The Marquess of Montague said, “But England is safer when it is allied with France.”

Lord Hastings said, “It is better to use France than to trust France. Let us be allied with God and with the seas that He has given us to serve as an impregnable fence. Using only God’s and the seas’ help, we can defend ourselves: In God and the seas and in ourselves our safety lies.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “For this one speech Lord Hastings well deserves to have the heir of the Lord Hungerford as a wife.”

King Edward IV said, “Yes, and what of that? It was my will and grant, and for this once my will shall stand for law.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “And yet I think your grace has not done well to give the heir and daughter of Lord Scales to the brother of your loving bride. She would have better fitted Clarence or me. But in your bride you bury brotherhood.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “Or else you would not have bestowed the heir of the Lord Bonville on your new wife’s son, and left your brothers to go and find prosperity elsewhere.”

King Edward IV had been raising the status and wealth of Queen Elizabeth’s relatives by arranging good marriages for them.

“Alas, poor Clarence!” King Edward IV said sarcastically. “Is it for a wife that you are malcontent? I will provide a wife for you.”

Duke George of Clarence replied, “In choosing for yourself, you showed your judgment, which was shallow; therefore, give me permission to play the marriage broker in my own behalf, and to that end — the end of getting a wife — I intend to leave you shortly.”

King Edward IV said, “Whether you leave or stay, I, Edward, will be King, and not be bound by his brother’s will.”

Queen Elizabeth now spoke up: “My lords, before it pleased his majesty to raise my state to the title of a Queen, you must all confess — if you do me right — that I was not ignoble of descent and that women of lower rank than I have had like fortune.

“But as this title honors me and mine, so your dislike of my marriage, dislike by those whom I would like to please, clouds my joys with danger and with sorrow.”

King Edward IV said to her, “My love, don’t fawn upon their frowns. What danger or what sorrow can befall you as long as Edward is your constant friend and their true sovereign, whom they must obey?

“They shall obey, and they shall love you, too, unless they seek for hatred at my hands, which if they do, I will still keep you safe, and they shall feel the vengeance of my wrath.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester thought, I hear, yet I don’t say much, but I think much more.

The messenger who had gone to France with letters for the King of France, the Earl of Warwick, and Queen Margaret entered the room.

King Edward IV recognized him and asked, “Now, messenger, what letters or what news do you have from France?”

The messenger replied, “My sovereign liege, no letters, and few words, but such words as I, without your special pardon, dare not tell you.”

King Edward IV said, “Go on, for we pardon you; therefore, briefly tell me their words as accurately as you can remember them. What answer does King Louis XI make to our letter?”

“At my departure, he said these very words, ‘Tell false Edward IV, your supposed King, that Louis XI of France is sending over ‘entertainers’ — troops of soldiers — to revel with him and his new bride.’”

“Is Louis XI so daring?” King Edward IV said. “Perhaps he thinks that I am Henry VI.

“But what did Lady Bona say about my marriage to Lady Elizabeth Grey?”

The messenger replied, “These were her words, uttered with mad disdain: ‘Tell him, in hope he’ll prove a widower shortly, I’ll wear the willow garland for his sake.’”

“I don’t blame her,” King Edward IV said. “She could say little less; she had wrong done to her.

“But what did Henry VI’s Queen Margaret say? For I have heard that she was there in person.”

The messenger replied, “She said, ‘Tell him that I have laid aside my mourning clothing, and I am ready to put on armor.’”

“Perhaps she intends to play the role of an Amazonian woman-warrior,” King Edward IV said. “But what did the Earl of Warwick say concerning these insults?”

The messenger replied, “He, more incensed against your majesty than all the rest, discharged me with these words: ‘Tell him from me that he has done me wrong, and therefore I’ll uncrown him before long.’”

“Ha!” King Edward IV said. “Does the traitor dare breathe out such proud words?

“Well, I will arm myself, being thus forewarned. They shall have wars and pay for their presumption.

“But tell me, is Warwick friends with Queen Margaret?”

“Yes, gracious sovereign,” the messenger replied. “They are so linked in friendship that young Prince Edward will marry Warwick’s daughter.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “He will probably marry Warwick’s elder daughter. I, Clarence, will have and marry Warwick’s younger daughter.

“Now, brother King, farewell, and sit yourself firmly on the throne, for I will go from here to Warwick’s other daughter, so that, although I lack a Kingdom, yet in marriage I may not prove to be inferior to yourself.

“Anyone who loves and respects me and Warwick, follow me.”

Duke George of Clarence and the Duke of Somerset exited.

Duke Richard of Gloucester thought, Not I; I won’t exit. My thoughts aim at a further matter; I stay not because of love for Edward, but because of love for the crown.

King Edward IV said, “Both the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Somerset have gone to join Warwick! Yet I am armed against the worst that can happen, and haste is necessary in this desperate case.

“Lord Pembroke and Lord Stafford, you two go and levy men in our behalf, and make preparations for war. The enemy soldiers are already or quickly will be landed. I myself in person will immediately follow you.”

The Earl of Pembroke and Lord Stafford exited.

King Edward IV continued, “But, before I go, Lord Hastings and the Marquess of Montague, resolve and remove my doubt. You two, of all the rest, are close to Warwick by blood and by alliance. Tell me whether you love and respect Warwick more than me. If you do, then both of you depart and go to him. I would rather wish you to be my foes than to be my hollow, insincere friends. But if you intend to hold and maintain your true obedience to me, your lawful King, give me assurance with some friendly vow, so that I may never be suspicious of you.”

“May God help Montague only to the extent that he proves true and loyal to you!” the Marquess of Montague said.

“And may God help Hastings only to the extent that he favors Edward’s cause!” Lord Hastings said.

King Edward IV then said, “Now, brother Richard, will you stand by us?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Yes, in defiance of all who shall stand against you.”

“Why, good!” King Edward IV said. “Then I am sure of victory. Now therefore let us go from here, and waste no hour, until we meet Warwick with his foreign power.”


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

— 3.3 —

A number of people were meeting in a room of King Louis XI’s palace in Paris: King Louis XI of France, his sister-in-law Lady Bona, the French Admiral Bourbon, Prince Edward of England, Queen Margaret, and the Earl of Oxford, one of King Henry VI’s supporters.

King Louis XI said, “Fair Queen of England, worthy Margaret, sit down with us. It ill befits your royal position and lineage that you should stand while I, Louis, sit.”

“No, mighty King of France,” Queen Margaret replied. “Now Margaret must strike her sail and learn for a while to serve where Kings command.”

A lowlier vessel would strike — lower — its sail in deference to a mightier ship. Striking the sail was also used as a sign that the ship was surrendering.

Queen Margaret continued, “I was, I must confess, great Albion’s Queen in former golden days.”

“Albion” is an ancient name for Britain.

She continued, “But now misfortune has trodden my title of Queen down, and with dishonor laid me on the ground, where I must take a low seat that is like my low fortune, and I must bring myself into conformity with my humble seat.”

“Tell me, fair Queen, from what springs this deep despair?” King Louis XI asked.

“From such a cause as fills my eyes with tears and stops my tongue, while my heart is drowned in cares,” Queen Margaret said.

“Whatever that cause is, always be royalty like yourself, and sit yourself by our side,” he said, using the royal plural.

They sat down, and the King of France added, “Don’t allow your neck to yield to the yoke of fortune, but instead let your dauntless mind always ride in triumph over all misfortune.

“Be plainspoken, Queen Margaret, and tell me about your grief. It shall be eased, if the King of France can yield relief.”

Queen Margaret replied, “Those gracious words revive my drooping thoughts and give my tongue-tied sorrows permission and the ability to speak. Now, therefore, be it known to noble Louis, that Henry VI, sole possessor of my love, from being a King has become a banished man, and he is forced to live in Scotland as a forlorn man, while proud, ambitious Edward, Duke of York, usurps the regal title and the seat of England’s truly anointed and lawful King.

“This is the reason that I, poor Margaret, with this my son, Prince Edward, King Henry VI’s heir, have come to request your just and lawful aid, and if you fail us, all our hope is over.

“Scotland wants to help, but cannot help. Our common people and our noble peers are both misled, our treasury has been seized, our soldiers put to flight, and as you see, we ourselves are in a heavy plight.”

“Renowned Queen, use patience to calm the storm of your emotions, while we think about a means to bring the storm to an end,” King Louis XI said.

“The more we delay, the stronger grows our foe,” Queen Margaret said.

“The more I delay, the more I’ll help you,” King Louis XI said.

“Oh, but impatience waits on and serves true sorrow,” Queen Margaret said.

The Earl of Warwick entered the room.

 Queen Margaret said, “And see where comes the breeder — the cause — of my sorrow!”

“What is the rank of that man who boldly approaches our presence?” King Louis XI said.

Queen Margaret replied, “He is England’s Earl of Warwick, Edward IV’s greatest friend.”

“Welcome, brave Warwick! What brings you to France?” King Louis XI said.

Both King Louis XI and Queen Margaret stood up, but only King Louis XI stepped down from the dias to greet the Earl of Warwick.

Queen Margaret thought, Yes, now a second storm begins to rise, for this is the man who moves both wind and tide.

The Earl of Warwick said to King Louis XI, “From worthy Edward IV, King of Albion, who is my lord and sovereign and your vowed friend, I come in kindness and unfeigned love, first to greet your royal person and then to ask for a league of friendship, and lastly to confirm that friendship with a nuptial knot, if you will grant that the virtuous Lady Bona, your fair sister-in-law, be given to England’s King Edward IV in lawful marriage.”

Queen Margaret thought, If that happens, Henry VI’s hope of regaining his crown is finished.

The Earl of Warwick said to Lady Bona, “And, gracious madam, in our English King’s behalf, I am commanded, with your permission and favor, humbly to kiss your hand, and with my tongue to tell you about the passion of my sovereign’s heart, where reports about you, recently entering at his heedful ears, has placed your beauty’s image and your virtue.”

Queen Margaret said, “King Louis XI and Lady Bona, hear me speak before you give your answer to Warwick. His request does not spring from Edward IV’s supposed well-meant honest love, but instead from deceit bred by necessity, for how can tyrants safely govern at home, unless they acquire great alliances abroad? To prove that Edward IV is a usurper, this may suffice: Henry VI is still alive, but even if he were dead, yet here Prince Edward, King Henry’s son, stands.

“Be careful, therefore, Louis XI, that by this league and marriage you do not bring on yourself danger and dishonor, for although usurpers may rule for a while, yet the Heavens are just, and time suppresses wrongs.”

“Insulting, slandering Margaret!” the Earl of Warwick said.

“And why do you not call her Queen?” Prince Edward asked.

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Because thy father, Henry VI, usurped the crown, and thou are Prince no more than she is Queen.”

He deliberately used the — in this context — insulting “thy” and “thou” rather than the respectful “your” and “you.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “Then Warwick makes null and nothing great John of Gaunt, who subdued the greatest part of Spain, and after John of Gaunt, King Henry IV, whose wisdom was a model of excellence to the wisest, and after wise King Henry IV, King Henry V, who by his prowess conquered all France. From these our King Henry VI lineally descends.”

In his anger, the Earl of Oxford had brought up King Henry V’s French conquests, something that King Louis XI did not want to hear about.

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Oxford, how does it happen that in this smooth discourse of yours, you did not mention that Henry VI has lost all that which Henry V had gotten? I think these peers of France should smile at that.

“But as for the rest, you tell a pedigree of threescore and two years.”

Henry IV became King in 1399; Edward IV became King in 1461.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “That is a short time to make prescription for a Kingdom’s worth.”

The word “prescription” was used in a legal sense to mean “claim founded on long and uninterrupted use or possession.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “Why, Warwick, can you speak against your liege, whom you obeyed for thirty-six years, and not reveal your treason with a blush?”

“Can Oxford, who always protected the right, now shield and protect falsehood with a pedigree? For shame! Leave Henry VI, and call Edward IV King.”

The Earl of Oxford replied, “Call him my King by whose unjust and harmful order my elder brother, the Lord Aubrey Vere, was executed? And worse than that, he had my father killed — my father who was then in his old age and whom Nature had brought to the door of death?”

King Edward IV had executed them on a charge of treason.

The Earl of Oxford continued, “No, Warwick, no; while life upholds this arm, this arm upholds the House of Lancaster.”

“And I uphold the House of York,” the Earl of Warwick said.

King Louis XI said, “Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, and Oxford, please, at our request, stand aside while I have further conversation with Warwick.”

Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, and the Earl of Oxford moved away far enough that they could not hear the French King’s and Warwick’s conversation.

Queen Margaret said to Prince Edward and the Earl of Oxford, “May the Heavens grant that Warwick’s words do not bewitch King Louis XI!”

King Louis XI said, “Now Warwick, tell me, on your conscience, is Edward IV your true King? For I am loath to link myself with a King who was not lawfully chosen.”

“On my reputation and my honor, I say that Edward IV is my true and lawfully chosen King,” the Earl of Warwick replied.

“But is he popular and esteemed in the people’s eye?” King Louis XI asked.

“The more that Henry VI is unfortunate, the more that Edward IV is esteemed.”

“Tell me further — with all possible dissembling set aside — tell me truthfully the measure of Edward IV’s love for our sister-in-law Lady Bona,” King Louis XI said, using the royal plural.

“It is such as may befit a monarch like himself,” the Earl of Warwick replied. “I myself have often heard him say and swear that this his love is an eternal plant, whereof the root is fixed in virtue’s ground, the leaves and fruit maintained with beauty’s Sun. His love will not feel the effects of malice because Lady Bona has no malice, but his love will feel the effects of disdain and rejection unless the Lady Bona removes his pain by returning his love.”

King Louis XI said to Lady Bona, “Now, sister-in-law, let us hear your clear decision regarding marriage to the English King Edward IV.”

“Your decision is my decision,” Lady Bona replied. “Your agreement to, or your denial of, the marriage proposal will also be mine.”

She then said to the Earl of Warwick, “Yet I confess that often before this day, when I have heard about your King Edward IV’s merits, my ear has tempted my judgment to desire him.”

King Louis XI, picking up on the implicit statement that she was willing to marry King Edward IV, said, “So then, Warwick, this is my decision: Our sister-in-law shall be Edward’s wife, and now without delay the articles of the agreement shall be drawn up concerning the marriage settlement that your King must make. Her dower — what she will get if your King dies before she does — shall be matched by her dowry — what she brings to your King by marrying him.”

He then said, “Draw near us, Queen Margaret, and be a witness that Lady Bona shall be the wife of the English King.”

Prince Edward said, “She shall be married to Edward, who is called Edward IV, but not to the English King, who is my father.”

“Deceitful Warwick!” Queen Margaret said. “It was your plot to make void my petition to Louis XI by making this alliance with him. Before you came here, Louis XI was Henry VI’s friend.”

King Louis XI said, “And he still is friends to Henry VI and Margaret, but if your claim to the crown is weak, as may appear by Edward IV’s good success in obtaining the crown, then it is only reasonable that I be released from giving you the aid that just now I promised. Yet you shall have all kindness at my hand that your high rank requires and my estate can yield.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Henry VI now lives in Scotland at his ease, where since he has nothing, he can lose nothing. And as for you yourself, our former Queen, you have a father who is able to maintain you, and it would be better if you troubled him rather than the King of France.”

“Be quiet, impudent and shameless Warwick, be quiet,” Queen Margaret said. “Proud setter up and puller down of Kings! I will not leave from here until, with my talk and tears, both full of truth, I make King Louis XI see your sly trickery and your lord’s false love, for both of you are birds of the same feather.”

A horn sounded to announce the arrival of an express messenger.

King Louis XI said, “Warwick, this is some messenger to us or to you.”

The messenger entered the room and gave a letter to the Earl of Warwick, saying, “My lord ambassador, this letter is for you, sent from your brother, the Marquess of Montague.”

He gave King Louis XI a letter and said, “This letter is from our English King Edward IV to your majesty.

He gave Queen Margaret a letter and said, “This letter is for you; from whom it comes I don’t know.”

They all read their letters.

The Earl of Oxford said to Prince Edward, “I like it well that our fair Queen and leader smiles at her news, while the Earl of Warwick frowns at his.”

Prince Edward replied, “Look at how King Louis XI stamps his foot as he were angry. I hope all’s for the best.”

King Louis XI asked, “Warwick, what is your news? And yours, fair Queen?”

Queen Margaret said, “My news is such as fills my heart with unhoped-for and unanticipated joys.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “My news is full of sorrow and heart’s discontent.”

King Louis XI said, “Your King Edward IV has married the Lady Elizabeth Grey! And now, to smooth over your deceit and his, he has sent me a letter to persuade me to be calm and patient! Is this the alliance that he seeks with the King of France? Does he dare to presume to scorn us in this manner?”

“I told your majesty as much before,” Queen Margaret said. “This proves Edward’s ‘love’ and Warwick’s ‘honesty.’”

The Earl of Warwick said, “King Louis XI, I here protest, in the sight of Heaven and by the hope I have of Heavenly bliss after I am dead that I am blameless in this misdeed of Edward IV’s. He is no more my King, for he dishonors me, but he dishonors himself most of all, if he could see his shame.

“Did I forget that because of the House of York my father came to his untimely death?”

The Earl of Warwick’s father had fought against the House of Lancaster and had been captured and killed by Lancastrians, but the Earl of Warwick was so angry that he was blaming the Yorkists for his father’s death: If the Yorkists had not rebelled against King Henry VI, his father would still be alive.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “Did I let pass the abuse done to my niece?”

Rumor had it that King Edward IV had tried to take the virginity of the Earl of Warwick’s niece.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “Did I encircle the head of Edward IV with the regal crown? Did I take from Henry VI his right by birth to be King of England? And am I rewarded at the end with shame? Shame on Edward IV! What I deserve is honor.

“And to repair my honor that I lost for Edward IV, I here renounce him and return to Henry VI.

“My noble Queen, let former grudges pass, and henceforth I am your true servant. I will revenge Edward IV’s wrong to Lady Bona, and I will replant Henry on the throne in his former high rank as King of England.”

Queen Margaret replied, “Warwick, these words have turned my hate to love, and I forgive and quite forget old faults, and I rejoice that you have become King Henry VI’s friend.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “I am so much King Henry VI’s friend, yes, his unfeigned friend, that, if King Louis XI will agree to furnish us with some few troops of chosen soldiers, I’ll undertake to land them on our coast and force the usurper from the throne by war. His newly made marriage will not result in support for him. And as for Clarence, as my letters tell me, he’s very likely now to fall away from him and support Henry VI because Edward IV married more for wanton lust than for honor or for the strength and safety of our country.”

Lady Bona said to King Louis XI, “Dear brother-in-law, how shall I, Lady Bona, be revenged except but by your help to this distressed Queen?”

Queen Margaret said to King Louis XI, “Renowned Prince, how shall poor Henry VI live, unless you rescue him from foul despair?”

“My quarrel and this English Queen’s quarrel with Edward IV are one and the same,” Lady Bona said.

“And my quarrel with Edward IV, fair Lady Bona, joins with yours,” the Earl of Warwick said.

King Louis XI replied to the Earl of Warwick, “And my quarrel with Edward IV joins with hers, and yours, and Margaret’s.”

He said to Queen Margaret, “Therefore, at last I am firmly resolved that you shall have aid.”

“Let me give humble thanks for all at once,” Queen Margaret replied.

King Louis XI said, “So then, England’s messenger, return in haste, and tell false Edward IV, your supposed King, that Louis XI of France is sending over ‘entertainers’ — troops of soldiers — to revel with him and his new bride. You witnessed what has happened here; go and frighten your King with what you have witnessed.”

Lady Bona said, “Tell him that in hope he’ll become a widower shortly, I’ll wear the willow garland for his sake.”

A willow garland is a symbol of unrequited love.

Queen Margaret said, “Tell him that I have laid aside my mourning clothing, and I am ready to put on armor.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Tell him from me that he has done me wrong, and therefore I’ll uncrown him before long.”

He gave the messenger some money and said, “There’s your reward. Leave now.”

The messenger exited.

King Louis XI said, “But, Warwick, you and Oxford, with five thousand men, shall cross the seas, and bid false Edward IV to a battle, and when the time is right, this noble Queen and Prince shall follow you with a fresh supply of troops. But before you go, resolve for me my doubt: What pledge do we have of your firm loyalty? How can I be certain that you won’t again support Edward IV?”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “This shall assure you of my constant loyalty: If our Queen Margaret and this young Prince Edward agree, I’ll join my eldest daughter and my joy to him forthwith in holy wedlock bands. Prince Edward and my eldest daughter shall be married.”

Queen Margaret said, “Yes, I agree, and I thank you for your proposed offer.

“Son Edward, Warwick’s eldest daughter is beautiful and virtuous. Therefore, don’t delay, but give your hand to Warwick, and with your hand and your irrevocable faith, vow that only Warwick’s daughter shall be yours and unlike Edward IV, you will marry no one else in her place.”

Prince Edward said, “Yes, I accept her, for she well deserves it, and here, to pledge my vow, I give you my hand.”

He and the Earl of Warwick shook hands.

King Louis XI said, “Why are we delaying now? These soldiers shall be levied, and you, Lord Bourbon, our high Admiral, shall waft them over the English Channel with our royal fleet. I am impatient for Edward IV to fall by war’s misfortune because he mocked making a marriage with a lady of France.”

Everyone exited except the Earl of Warwick, who said to himself, “I came from Edward IV as an ambassador, but I return as his sworn and mortal foe. To arrange a marriage was the charge he gave to me, but dreadful war shall be the answer to the request he wanted me to make on his behalf.

“Had he no one else to make a dupe but me? Then no one but I shall turn his jest to sorrow. I was the chief person who raised him to the crown, and I’ll be the chief person to bring him down again. It’s not that I pity Henry VI’s misery, but that I seek revenge on Edward’s mockery of me.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Edgar Lee Masters: Silas Dement (Spoon River Anthology)

It was moon-light, and the earth sparkled
With new-fallen frost.
It was midnight and not a soul abroad.
Out of the chimney of the court-house
A gray-hound of smoke leapt and chased
The northwest wind.
I carried a ladder to the landing of the stairs
And leaned it against the frame of the trap-door
In the ceiling of the portico,
And I crawled under the roof and amid the rafters
And flung among the seasoned timbers
A lighted handful of oil-soaked waste.
Then I came down and slunk away.
In a little while the fire-bell rang—
Clang! Clang! Clang!
And the Spoon River ladder company
Came with a dozen buckets and began to pour water
On the glorious bon-fire, growing hotter
Higher and brighter, till the walls fell in
And the limestone columns where Lincoln stood
Crashed like trees when the woodman fells them.
When I came back from Joliet
There was a new court house with a dome.
For I was punished like all who destroy
The past for the sake of the future.


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


— 3.1 —

In a rural area in the north of England, two gamekeepers carrying crossbows were talking.

The first gamekeeper said, “Under this thickly grown thicket, we’ll shroud and hide ourselves, for through this glade the deer will soon come, and in this covert we will make our hiding place and choose the best of all the deer.”

“I’ll stay higher up the hill, so both of us may shoot,” the second gamekeeper said.

“That cannot be,” the first gamekeeper said. “The noise of your crossbow will scare the herd of deer, and so my shot will be lost. Here we both will stand, and we will aim at the best deer. So that the time shall not seem tedious, I’ll tell you what befell me on a day in this same place where now we intend to stand.”

The second gamekeeper looked up and said, “Here comes a man; let’s wait until he has passed by.”

King Henry VI, disguised and carrying a prayer book, was the man the second gamekeeper had seen.

King Henry VI said, “From Scotland I have stolen, purely out of love, to greet my own land with my wistful sight. No, Harry, Harry, it is no land of yours. Your place is filled, your scepter has been wrung from you, and the balm with which you were anointed has been washed off. No bending knee will call you Caesar now, no humble petitioners will press forward to speak to you and ask you for justice. No, not a man comes to you for redress of wrongs, for how can I help them, when I cannot help myself?”

The first gamekeeper said, “Aye, here’s a deer whose skin’s a gamekeeper’s fee. This is the former King; let’s seize him.”

Gamekeepers received the skin and head of a deer in payment for their services.

“Let me embrace you, sour adversity,” King Henry VI said, “for wise men say it is the wisest course.”

“Why do we linger?” the second gamekeeper said. “Let us lay hands on him.”

“Wait awhile,” the first gamekeeper said. “We’ll listen a little longer.”

King Henry VI said, “My Queen and son have gone to the King of France to seek aid, and I hear that the great commanding Earl of Warwick has also gone thither to request the French King’s sister-in-law as a wife for Edward. If this news is true, then, the labor of my poor Queen and son is only lost, for Warwick is a subtle orator and King Louis XI is a Prince soon won with moving words.

“However, by this second point — King Louis XI is a Prince soon won with moving words — Margaret may win him, for she’s a woman to be much pitied. Her sighs will make an assault on his breast. Her tears will pierce into a marble heart. The tiger will be mild while she mourns, and even a cruel tyrant such as the Roman emperor Nero will be affected by remorse when he hears her complaints and sees her brinish tears.

“Yes, but she’s come to beg, while Warwick has come to give. Margaret, on the French King’s left side, will beg for aid for me, Henry. Warwick, on his right side, will ask for a wife for Edward — a good marriage for the French King’s sister-in-law.

“Margaret will weep and say that her Henry has been deposed. Warwick will smile and say that his Edward has been formally installed as King of England.

“She, poor wretch, will be able to speak no more because of grief, while Warwick will tell the French King about Edward’s claim to be King of England. Warwick will smoothly pass over the wrong that Edward has done in claiming the crown and he will put forth arguments of mighty strength, and in conclusion he will win the King of France away from Margaret with the promise of a good marriage for his sister-in-law, and who knows what else he will say to strengthen and support King Edward IV’s place on the throne.

“Oh, Margaret, thus it will be, and you, poor soul, will then be forsaken because you went forlorn to the King of France!”

The gamekeepers came out of hiding.

The second gamekeeper said, “Tell us who you are who talks of Kings and Queens.”

King Henry VI said, “I am more than I seem, and less than I was born to. I am a man at least, for less I should not be. Men may talk of Kings, and so why not I?”

The second gamekeeper said, “Yes, but you talk as if you were a King.”

“Why, so I am, in my mind, and that’s enough,” King Henry VI said.

“But, if you are a King, then where is your crown?” the second gamekeeper asked.

“My crown is in my heart, not on my head,” King Henry VI said. “My crown is not decorated with diamonds and jewels from India, nor is it to be seen. My crown is called contentment: It is a crown that Kings seldom enjoy.”

The second gamekeeper said, “Well, if you are a King crowned with contentment, your crown of contentment and you must be contented to go along with us, for we think that you are the King whom King Edward IV has deposed, and we his subjects sworn in all allegiance will apprehend you as his enemy.”

“Haven’t you ever sworn and broken an oath?” King Henry VI asked.

“No, I never have, and I will not now,” the second gamekeeper said.

“Where did you dwell when I was King of England?”

“Here in this country, where we now remain,” the second gamekeeper replied.

“I was anointed King at nine months old,” King Henry VI said. “My father and my grandfather were Kings, and you were sworn true subjects to me. Tell me, then, haven’t you broken your oaths?”

“No, for we were your subjects only while you were King,” the first gamekeeper said.

“Am I dead?” King Henry VI said. “Don’t I breathe as a living man? Ah, simple men, you know not what you swear!”

He picked up a feather from the ground and said, “Look as I blow this feather from my face, and look as the air blows it to me again; the feather obeys my wind when I blow, and yields to another wind when it blows, commanded always by the greater gust. Such is the lightness and fickleness of you common men.

“But do not break your oaths, for of that sin my mild entreaty shall not make you guilty. Go where you will; the King shall be commanded. You two be the Kings: Command, and I’ll obey.”

The first gamekeeper said, “We are true and loyal subjects to the King of England: King Edward IV.”

“So would you be again to Henry VI, if he were seated on the throne as King Edward IV is,” King Henry VI said.

“We order you, in God’s name, and the King’s, to go with us to the officers of the peace,” the first gamekeeper said.

“In God’s name, lead,” King Henry VI said. “May your King’s name be obeyed, and whatever God wills, let your King perform, and whatever he wills, I humbly yield to.”


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling — Act 2, Scene 6

— 2.6 —

In another part of the battlefield, an injured Lord Clifford knew he was dying.

Alone, he said, “Here burns my candle out; yes, here it dies. My candle, while it lasted, gave the Lancastrian King Henry VI light.

“Oh, House of Lancaster, I fear your overthrow more than my body’s parting with my soul! Love and fear of me glued many friends to you, and now that I am falling, your tough commixture melts — your strong alliances dissolve.

“Impairing Henry and strengthening wickedly proud York, the common people swarm like summer flies; and where do gnats fly but to the Sun? And who shines now but Henry’s enemies?

“Oh, Phoebus Apollo — Henry — if you had never given consent that Phaethon — the Duke of York — should control your fiery steeds, your burning Sun-chariot would never have scorched the Earth!

“And, Henry, had you ruled as Kings should do, or as your father and his father did, giving no ground to the House of York, they never then had sprung up like summer flies. I and ten thousand other men in this luckless realm would not have left any widows mourning for our death, and you this day would have kept your throne in peace.

“For what nourishes weeds but gentle air? And what makes robbers bold but too much lenity?

“But useless are my complaints, and incurable are my wounds. I have no way to flee, nor do I have the strength to sustain flight.

“The foe is merciless, and will not pity me, for at their hands I have deserved no pity. The air has gotten into my fatal wounds, and much shedding of blood makes me faint.

“Come, York and Richard, Warwick and the rest. I stabbed your fathers’ bosoms; now split my breast.”

He fainted.

A trumpet called the Lancastrian army to retreat, leaving the Yorkist army triumphant.

The Yorkists Edward, George, Richard, the Marquess of Montague, and the Earl of Warwick arrived. Some Yorkist soldiers were with them.

Edward said, “Now we rest, lords. Good fortune bids us pause and smooth the frowns of war with peaceful looks.

“Some troops pursue the bloodthirsty-minded Queen, who led calm Henry, although he were a King, as a sail, filled with a fretting gust, commands and forces an argosy — a large merchant ship — to make headway against the waves.

“But, lords, do you think that Lord Clifford fled with them?”

“No, it is impossible that he should escape,” the Earl of Warwick said, “for although before your brother Richard’s face I speak the words, Richard marked him for the grave, and wherever Lord Clifford is, he’s surely dead.”

Lord Clifford groaned and died.

Edward said, “Whose soul is that which takes its sorrowful departure?”

Richard said, “A deadly groan, like life departing and leaving death.”

“See who it is,” Edward said, “and now the battle’s ended, whether he is friend or foe, let him be gently treated.”

Richard looked at the corpse and said, “Revoke that sentence of mercy, for it is Clifford, who not contented that he lopped the branch in hewing Rutland when his leaves put forth, set his murdering knife to the root from whence that tender spray did sweetly spring. I mean that Lord Clifford murdered our Princely father, the Duke of York.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “From off the gates of York fetch down your father’s head, which Clifford placed there. Instead, let this head take its place. Measure must be repaid with measure. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.”

Edward said about Lord Clifford’s body, “Bring forth that fatal screech owl to our house, that owl that sang nothing but death to us and ours. Now death shall stop his dismal threatening sound, and his ill-boding tongue no more shall speak.”

The Earl of Warwick looked at Lord Clifford’s body and said, “I think his understanding has left him.

“Speak, Clifford, do you know who is speaking to you?

“Dark, cloudy death casts a gloom over his beams of life, and he neither sees us nor hears what we say.”

“Oh, I wish he did!” Richard said. “And so perhaps he does. Perhaps it is just his trick and he is pretending to be dead because he wants to avoid such bitter taunts as those that he gave our father in his time of death.”

George said, “If you think so, then vex him with sharp, cutting words.”

“Clifford, ask for mercy and obtain no grace,” Richard said.

“Clifford, repent in unavailing penitence,” Edward said.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Clifford, make excuses for your crimes and sins —”

“— while we devise cruel tortures for your crimes and sins,” George said.

“You ‘loved’ York,” Richard said, “and I am a son of the old Duke of York.”

“You ‘pitied’ Rutland,” Edward said. “I will ‘pity’ you.”

“Where’s Captain Margaret, to protect you now?” George asked.

“They mock you, Clifford,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Swear as you were accustomed to swear.”

“What, no oath!” Richard said. “The world goes hard when Clifford cannot spare his ‘friends’ an oath. I know by that he’s dead, and by my soul, if this right hand could buy two hours of life for him, so that I in all contempt might rail at him, this hand would chop off my other hand, and with the blood that spurts out I would choke and strangle and drown this villain whose unquenchable thirst for blood the deaths of the old Duke of York and young Rutland could not satisfy.”

“Yes, he’s dead,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Off with the traitor’s head, and put it in the place where your father’s head now stands. And now triumphantly march to London, where you will be crowned England’s royal King: Edward IV. From London I, Warwick, will cut the sea to France, and ask for the Lady Bona, sister-in-law of the King of France to be your Queen. With that marriage, you shall strongly join, as with a sinew, both these lands — England and France — together. And, having the King of France as your friend, you shall not dread the scattered foes — the Lancastrians — who hope to rise again. For although they cannot greatly sting to hurt, yet look to have them buzz to offend your ears. They will circulate rumors about you.

“First I will see the coronation, and then I’ll cross the sea to Brittany to bring about this marriage, if it pleases my lord.”

“Do as you will, sweet Warwick,” Edward said. “Let it be done, for with your strong shoulder as my support I build my throne, and I will never undertake the thing for which your counsel and consent are lacking.

“Richard, I will make you Duke of Gloucester, and George, I will make you Duke of Clarence.”

Using the royal plural, he said, “Warwick, with the consent of and acting as ourself, shall do and undo as pleases him best.”

Richard joked, “Let me be the Duke of Clarence, and let George be the Duke of Gloucester because Gloucester’s Dukedom is too ominous. The previous three Dukes of Gloucester have died violent deaths.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Tut, that’s a foolish observation. Richard, you will be the Duke of Gloucester. Now let’s go to London to see to the rituals that will give all of you possession of these honors.”


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

— 2.3 —

The Battle of Towton was taking place on 29 March 1461 on a battlefield near Leeds in Yorkshire. An exhausted Earl of Warwick stood alone.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Exhausted with toil, as runners with a race, I lay me down a little while to rest, for strokes received, and many blows repaid, have robbed my strongly knit musclesof their strength, and come what may I must rest awhile.”

Duke Edward of York arrived, running, and said, “Smile, gentle, noble Heaven! Or strike, ungentle, ignoble death! For this world frowns, and Edward’s sun is clouded.”

“What is it, my lord!” the Earl of Warwick asked. “What has happened? What hope of good fortune do we have?”

George arrived and said, “Our fortune is loss, and our hope is only sad despair. Our ranks are broken, and ruin follows us. What counsel can you give? Whither shall we flee?”

“Fight is useless,” Edward said. “They follow us with wings, and we are weak and cannot avoid pursuit.”

Richard arrived and said, “Ah, Warwick, why have you withdrawn yourself? Your bastard brother’s blood — not the blood of the Marquess of Montague — the thirsty earth has drunk after the steely point of Clifford’s lance pierced him like a wine cask. And in the very pangs of death he cried, like a dismal clangor heard from afar, ‘Warwick, revenge! Brother, revenge my death!’ So, underneath the belly of their steeds that stained their fetlocks in his steaming blood, the noble gentleman gave up the ghost.”

Enraged, the Earl of Warwick cried, “Then let the earth become drunken with our blood! I’ll kill my horse because I will not flee! Why do we stand here like soft-hearted women, bewailing our losses, while the foe rages? Why do we look upon these events as if the tragedy were played in jest by counterfeiting, feigning actors?”

He knelt and said, “Here on my knee I vow to God above, I’ll never pause again, never stand still, until either death has closed these eyes of mine or Lady Fortune has given me my measure — my share — of revenge.”

Duke Edward of York knelt and said, “Oh, Warwick, I bend my knee with yours, and in this vow I chain my soul to yours!

“And, before my knee rises from the earth’s cold face, I throw my hands, my eyes, my heart to You, God, You setter up and plucker down of Kings. I beseech You that if with Your will it stands that this body must be prey to my foes, yet may your strong gates of Heaven open and give sweet passage inside to my sinful soul!

Daniel 2:21 states, “And he changeth the times and seasons: he taketh away kings: he setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and understanding to those that understand” (1599 Geneva Bible).

Duke Edward of York continued, “Now, lords, let us take leave until we meet again, wherever it be, in Heaven or on Earth.”

Richard said, “Brother, give me your hand, and gentle Warwick, let me embrace you in my weary arms. I, who never did weep, now melt with woe that winter should cut off our springtime so.”

“Let’s go! Let’s go!” the Earl of Warwick said. “Once more, sweet lords, farewell.”

George said, “Yet let us all together go to our troops and give permission to flee to those who will not stay. And let us call them pillars who will stand by and support us; we will promise them such rewards as victors wear at the Olympian games if we thrive. This may plant courage in their quailing breasts, for yet there is hope of life and victory. Delay no longer; let’s go away from here at full speed.”

— 2.4 —

In another part of the battlefield, Richard and Lord Clifford met.

Richard said, “Now, Clifford, I have singled you out of the herd so that you are alone and I can hunt you. Suppose this arm of mine is for the Duke of York, and this arm of mine is for Rutland. Both of my arms are under an obligation to get revenge even if you were surrounded by a strong bronze wall.”

“Now, Richard, I am with you here alone,” Lord Clifford replied. “This is the hand that stabbed your father York, and this is the hand that slew your brother Rutland, and here’s the heart that triumphs and exults in their death and cheers these hands that slew your sire and brother to execute the same slaughter upon yourself. And so, let’s fight!”

They fought, but the Earl of Warwick arrived. Unwilling to fight both Richard and the Earl of Warwick, one against two, Lord Clifford fled.

Richard said, “No, Warwick, single out some other game to hunt, for I myself will hunt this wolf to death.”

Richard ran after Lord Clifford.

— 2.5 —

In another part of the battlefield, King Henry VI said to himself, “This battle fares like the morning’s war, when dying clouds contend with growing light at that time the shepherd, blowing on his fingernails to warm his hands, can call it neither perfect day nor perfect night.

“Now sways the morning’s war this way, like a mighty sea forced by the tide to combat with the wind. Now sways it that way, like the selfsame sea forced to retire by the fury of the wind. Sometimes the flood prevails, and then the wind prevails. Now one is the better, and then another is best. Both are tugging to be victors, breast to breast, yet neither is conqueror nor conquered, and so the morning’s war is the equal of this deadly war.

“Here on this molehill I will sit down.

“To whom God will, there be the victory! My Queen Margaret and Clifford, too, have scolded me and shooed me away from the battle, both of them swearing that they prosper best of all when I am absent.

“I wish that I were dead — if God’s good will would have it so — for what is in this world but grief and woe?

“Oh, God! I think it would be a happy life to be no better than a simple shepherd, to sit upon a hill, as I do now, to artfully carve out sundials in the turf of a hillside, point by point, thereby to see how the minutes run, how many minutes make the hour fully complete, how many hours bring about the day, how many days will finish up the year, and how many years a mortal man may live.

“When this is known, then to divide the times: So many hours must I tend my flock, so many hours must I take my rest, so many hours must I contemplate and pray, so many hours must I entertain myself, so many days my ewes have been with young, so many weeks before the poor fools will give birth, and so many years before I shall shear the fleece.

“In this way, minutes, hours, days, months, and years would pass over to the purpose for which they were created, and they would bring white hairs to a quiet grave.

“Ah, what a life would this be! How sweet! How lovely!

“Doesn’t the hawthorn bush give a sweeter shade to shepherds looking on their defenseless sheep than a rich embroidered canopy does to Kings who fear their subjects’ treachery? Oh, yes, it does — a thousand-fold it does.

“And to conclude, the shepherd’s homely curds, his cold, thin drink out of his leather bottle, his usual sleep under a fresh tree’s shade, all of which he enjoys securely and sweetly, is far beyond a Prince’s delicacies, his food sparkling in a golden cup, his body couched in a finely wrought bed, when care, mistrust, and treason lie in wait for him.”

A trumpet sounded a battle call.

Two soldiers arrived and fought. The younger soldier killed the older soldier.

The younger soldier said, “Ill blows the wind that profits nobody. This man, whom hand to hand I slew in fight, may be possessed with some store of coins, and I, who happen to take them from him now, may yet before night yield both my life and the coins to some other man, as this dead man does to me.”

He took the older soldier’s helmet off and said, “Who’s this? Oh, God! It is the face of my father, whom in this conflict I have killed without knowing who he was.

“Oh, heavy, sorrowful times, begetting such events! From London I was impressed by the King into the King’s army. My father, being the Earl of Warwick’s man, came here to fight on the side of the Duke of York after being impressed by his master into the Duke’s army.

“And I, who at my father’s hands received my life, have by my hands bereaved him of life.

“Pardon me, God. I knew not what I did! And pardon me, father, for I did not know who you were!

“My tears shall wipe away these bloody marks on my father’s face, and I will say no more words until my tears have flowed their fill.”

King Henry VI said, “Oh, piteous spectacle! Oh, bloody times! While lions war and battle for their dens, poor harmless lambs endure their enmity.

“Weep, wretched man, I’ll aid you tear for tear, and let our hearts and eyes, like civil war, be blind with tears, and break overburdened with grief.”

Two more soldiers arrived and fought. The older soldier killed the younger soldier.

The older soldier said, “You who so bravely have resisted me, give me your gold, if you have any gold, for I have bought it with a hundred blows.”

He took the younger soldier’s helmet off and said, “But let me see. Is this our foeman’s face? Ah, no, no, no, it is the face of my only son!

“Ah, boy, if any life is left in you, open your eyes! See, see what showers arise, blown with the windy tempest of my heart, upon your wounds that kill my eyes and heart!

“Oh, pity, God, this miserable age! What bloodthirsty deeds, how deadly, how butcherly, criminal, mutinous and unnatural and abnormal, this deadly quarrel daily begets!

“Oh, boy, your father gave you life too soon, and he has bereft you of your life too late!

“Oh, boy, your father gave you life too soon because you are old enough to be a soldier, and he has lived too long — because he lived long enough to bereft you of your life!”

King Henry VI said, “Woe above woe! Grief more than common grief! I wish that my death would stop these piteous deeds! Oh, pity, pity, gentle Heaven, have pity!

“The red rose and the white rose are on his face, the fatal colors of our striving Houses. The one his red blood very well resembles; the other his pale cheeks, I think, present. May one rose wither and let the other rose flourish. If the red rose and the white rose fight, a thousand lives must wither.”

The son who had killed his father said, “How my mother will be angry with me because of a father’s death and never be happy again!”

The father who had killed his son said, “How my wife will shed seas of tears because of the slaughter of my son and never be happy again!”

King Henry VI said, “How the country because of these woeful occurrences will think ill of the King and not be happy!”

The son who had killed his father said, “Has a son ever so rued a father’s death?”

The father who had killed his son said, “Has a father ever so mourned his son?”

King Henry VI said, “Has a King ever so grieved for subjects’ woe? Much is your sorrow; mine is ten times as much.”

The son who had killed his father said, “I’ll carry you away to a place where I may weep my fill.”

He exited, carrying his father’s corpse.

The father who had killed his son said, “These arms of mine shall be your shroud. My heart, sweet boy, shall be your sepulcher, for from my heart your image shall never go. My sighing breast shall be your funeral bell, and so dutiful in performing your funeral rites will your father be, even for the loss of you, my only son, as Priam was for all his valiant sons.”

Priam, King of Troy, lost many of his fifty sons during the Trojan War.

The father who had killed his son continued, “I’ll carry you away from here, and let them fight who will, for I have murdered where I should not kill.”

He exited, carrying his son’s corpse.

King Henry VI said, “Sad-hearted men, much overcome with cares and concerns, here sits a King more woeful than you are.”

Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, and the Duke of Exeter arrived.

Prince Edward said to King Henry VI, “Flee, father, flee! For all your friends have fled, and Warwick rages like an angry bull! Run away! Death pursues us!”

“Mount on horseback, my lord,” Queen Margaret said. “Ride towards Berwick-on-Tweed in Northumberland as quickly as you can. Edward and Richard, like a pair of greyhounds that have the fearful, fleeing hare in sight, with their fiery eyes sparkling with thorough-going wrath, and bloody steel swords grasped in their angry hands, are at our backs, and therefore you need to go away from here as quickly as possible.”

The Duke of Exeter said, “Run away! For vengeance comes along with them. No, don’t cause delay by speaking; make a speedy exit now, or else follow me later. I’m going now.”

“No, take me with you, good sweet Exeter,” King Henry VI said. “Not that I fear to stay, but that I love to go wherever the Queen journeys. Forward; let’s go!”


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

— 2.2 —

King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, Lord Clifford, and the Earl of Northumberland stood in front of the town of York. With them were soldiers, including a drummer and a trumpeter.

Queen Margaret said to her husband, King Henry VI, “Welcome, my lord, to this brave town of York. Yonder is the head of that archenemy, the Duke of York, who sought to have your crown encircle his head. Doesn’t the object cheer your heart, my lord?”

“Yes,” King Henry VI said, “as much as the rocks cheer those who fear their ship will wreck on them. To see this sight irks my very soul. Withhold revenge, dear God! It is not my fault, for I have not deliberately infringed my vow.”

King Henry VI was worried that he had violated his oath. He had sworn to allow the Duke of York and the Duke’s heirs to have the crown after he died, but Queen Margaret and Lord Clifford had been waging war to have the oath annulled.

Lord Clifford said, “My gracious liege, this excessive mildness and gentleness and harmful pity must be laid aside. To whom do lions cast their gentle looks? Not to the beast that would usurp their den. Whose hand does the wild forest bear lick? Not his who carries away her young before her face. Who escapes the lurking serpent’s deadly sting? Not he who sets his foot upon her back. The smallest snake will attack after being trodden on, and doves will peck to safeguard their brood.

“The ambitious York aimed at your crown, and you smile while he knits his angry brows. He, who was only a Duke, wanted his son to be a King, and he wanted to elevate in rank his offspring, like a loving sire.

“You, who are a King, blest with an excellent son, gave your consent to disinherit him, which argued that you are a very unloving father.

“Creatures that are incapable of reason feed their young, and although man’s face is frightening to their eyes, yet who has not seen them protect their tender ones with those wings that sometimes they have used in fearful flight and make war against that person who climbed to their nest, and offer their own lives in their young’s defense?

“For shame, my liege, make them your precedent! Wouldn’t it be a pity that this excellent boy should lose his birthright by his father’s fault, and long hereafter say to his child, ‘What my great-grandfather and grandfather got, my heedless father foolishly gave away’?”

The great-grandfather and grandfather of Edward, Prince of Wales, were King Henry IV, who took the crown from King Richard II, and King Henry V, who became a national hero because of his victories in France.

Lord Clifford continued, “Ah, what a shame that would be! Look on the boy, and let his manly face, which promises a successful fortune, steel your melting heart to hold your own and leave your own with him. Look at your son and resolve to be King and let him be King after you.”

King Henry VI replied, “Very well has Clifford played the orator, making arguments of mighty force. But, Clifford, tell me, did you never hear that things ill gotten always have bad outcomes? And were things always happy for that son whose father went to Hell because of his hoarding? I’ll leave behind my virtuous deeds for my son, and I wish that my father had left me no more than that! For all the rest is held at such a rate as brings a thousand-fold more care to keep than possession brings jot of pleasure.”

He then said to the Duke of York’s decapitated head, “Ah, kinsman York! I wish your best friends knew how much it grieves me that your head is here!”

Queen Margaret said to him, “My lord, cheer up your spirits. Our foes are near, and this soft courage makes your followers fainthearted. You promised knighthood to our early-maturing son. Unsheathe your sword, and dub him a knight immediately.

“Edward, Prince of Wales, kneel down.”

Prince Edward knelt, and King Henry VI tapped his shoulders with a sword and then said, “Edward Plantagenet, arise a knight, and learn this lesson: Draw your sword in justice.”

The House of Lancaster and the House of York were both descended from King Edward III, whose family name was Plantagenet.

Prince Edward said, “My gracious father, by your Kingly leave, I’ll draw my sword as heir apparent to the crown, and in that cause use it to the death.”

Lord Clifford said, “Why, that is spoken like a promising Prince.”

A messenger arrived and said, “Royal commanders, be in readiness, for with a band of thirty thousand men comes Warwick, with the support of Edward, the new Duke of York, and in the towns, as they march along, people proclaim him King, and many run to him. Arrange your troops in fighting position, for the enemy soldiers are near at hand.”

Lord Clifford said to King Henry VI, “I wish that your highness would depart from the battlefield. The Queen has best success when you are absent.”

Queen Margaret said, “Yes, my good lord, depart and leave us to our fortune.”

King Henry VI replied, “Why, that’s my fortune, too; therefore, I’ll stay.”

The Earl of Northumberland said, “If you stay, stay with resolution then to fight.”

“My royal father,” Prince Edward said, “cheer these noble lords and hearten those who fight in your defense. Unsheathe your sword, good father; cry ‘Saint George!’”

A marching drum sounded, and the three surviving sons of the Duke of York — Edward, George, and Richard — arrived. With them were the Earl of Warwick, the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquess of Montague, and some soldiers. They had come for a parley.

Edward said, “Now, perjured Henry, will you kneel for grace and set your diadem upon my head, or will you endure the deadly fortune of the battlefield?”

Queen Margaret said, “Go and berate your minions, proud insulting boy! Is it becoming for you to speak so boldly before your sovereign and lawful King?”

“I am his King, and he should bow his knee to me,” Edward said. “I was adopted heir by his consent. Since that time, his oath has been broken, for as I hear, you, Margaret, who are King although he wears the crown, have caused him by a new act of Parliament to blot me out of the succession and put his own son in.”

“And with good reason, too,” Lord Clifford said. “Who should succeed the father but the son?”

Richard said, “Are you there, butcher? Oh, I cannot speak!”

Richard was calling Lord Clifford a butcher because he had killed young Rutland.

Lord Clifford replied, “Yes, crookback, here I stand to answer you or any man who is the proudest of your gang.”

“It was you who killed young Rutland, wasn’t it?” Richard asked.

“Yes, and the old Duke of York, and I am not yet satisfied,” Lord Clifford replied.

“For God’s sake, lords, give the signal to begin the battle,” Richard said.

“What do you say, Henry?” the Earl of Warwick asked. “Will you yield the crown?”

Queen Margaret said, “Why, what is this, long-tongued, chattering Warwick! Do you dare to speak? When you and I last met at Saint Albans, your legs did better service for you than your hands.”

“Then it was my turn to flee, and now it is yours,” the Earl of Warwick said.

“You said that before,” Lord Clifford said, “and yet you fled.”

“It was not your valor, Clifford, that drove me away,” the Earl of Warwick said.

“No,” the Earl of Northumberland said, “nor was it your manhood that dared to make you stay.”

“Northumberland, I regard you with great esteem,” Richard said.

He added, “Break off the parley; for I can scarcely refrain from putting into action the passions of my big-swollen heart against Clifford, that cruel child-killer.”

“I slew your father,” Lord Clifford said. “Do you call him a child?”

Richard ignored that comment, but he said, “Like a dastardly and treacherous coward, you killed our young brother Rutland, but before sunset I’ll make you curse the deed.”

“Have done with words, my lords, and hear me speak,” King Henry VI said.

“Defy them then, or else close your lips,” Queen Margaret said to him.

“Please, put no limits on my tongue. I am a King, and I have the privilege of speaking,” Henry VI said.

“My liege,” Lord Clifford said, “the wound that bred this meeting here cannot be cured by words; therefore, be still and quiet.”

“Then, executioner, unsheathe your sword,” Richard said. “By Him Who made us all, I am resolved that Clifford’s manhood lies upon his tongue. His tongue is more manly than his sword.”

“Tell me, Henry, shall I have my rights, or not?” Edward asked King Henry VI. “A thousand men have broken their fasts today who shall never eat the evening meal unless you yield the crown to me.”

The Earl of Warwick said to King Henry VI, “If you deny Edward the crown, the blood of the soldiers who will die is upon your head because Edward, the new Duke of York, puts his armor on for a just cause.”

Prince Edward said, “If that is right which Warwick says is right, then there is no wrong, but everything is right.”

Richard said to Prince Edward, “Whichever man begot you, there your mother stands, for I know well that you have your mother’s tongue.”

Queen Margaret said to Richard, “But you are like neither your sire nor your dam.”

This was an insult because “dam” is a word used for an animal’s mother.

She continued, “But you are like a foul misshapen deformed individual, marked by the destinies as a person to be avoided just like venomous toads or lizards’ dreadful stings.”

Richard replied, “You are iron of Naples hidden with a covering of English gilt, and your father bears the title of a King — as if a gutter should be called the sea. Aren’t you ashamed, knowing from whom you are descended, to let your tongue reveal your basely born heart?”

Richard was pointing out that Margaret had married above her social rank. Her father was a titular King with little money, and yet she had married the King of England.

Edward, Duke of York, said, “A wisp of straw would be worth a thousand crowns if it were possible to make this shameless whore know herself.

“Helen of Greece was fairer far than you, although your husband may be Menelaus, and never was Agamemnon’s brother wronged by that false woman, as this King has been wronged by you.”

Edward, Duke of York, thought little of Helen of Greece, who became Helen of Troy. He believed that she had cuckolded Menelaus, her lawful husband, by running away with the Trojan Prince Paris.

Edward, Duke of York, continued, “Henry VI’s father reveled in the heart of France, and tamed the King of France, and made the French King’s oldest son — the Dauphin — stoop.

“And if Henry VI had married according to his rank and position, he might have kept that glory of being King of England to this day. But when he took a beggar to his bed, and graced your poor father by marrying you, even then that sunshine brewed a shower for him — a shower that washed away the victories that his father — Henry V — had won in France.

“That shower also heaped sedition on his crown at home. For what has broached this tumult but your pride? Had you been meek, our title to the crown would have continued to sleep because we, in pity of the gentle King Henry VI, would have not asserted our claim to the crown until another age.”

George said, “But when we saw our sunshine made your spring, and we saw that your summer bred us no growth, we set the axe to your usurping root, and although the edge of the axe has to some extent hit ourselves, yet you should know that since we have begun to strike, we’ll never stop until we have hewn you down, or bathed and fertilized your growth with our heated blood.”

Duke Edward of York said, “And with that resolution, I defy you. I am not willing any longer to engage in talk, since you will not allow the gentle King to speak.

“Let the trumpets sound! Let our bloodthirsty battle flags wave! And let us get either victory, or else a grave.”

“Stay, Edward,” Queen Margaret said.

“No, wrangling woman, we’ll no longer stay,” Duke Edward of York said. “These angry words we have exchanged will cost ten thousand lives this day.”


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

— 2.1 —

Edward and Richard, two of the Duke of York’s three surviving sons, talked together on a plain near Mortimer’s Cross in Herefordshire, not far from the border with Wales.Also present were some of their soldiers.

Edward said, “I wonder how our Princely father escaped, or whether he escaped away from Clifford’s and Northumberland’s pursuit. If he had been captured, we should have heard the news. If he had been slain, we should have heard the news. Or if he had escaped, I think we should have heard the happy tidings of his good escape.

“How are you, my brother? Why are you so sad?”

Richard replied, “I cannot feel joy until I know what has become of our very valiant father. I saw him in the battle ranging about, and I watched how he singled Clifford out as if he were hunting him. I thought our father bore himself in the thickest troop of enemy soldiers as a lion does in a herd of cattle, or as a dog-surrounded bear, having bitten a few dogs and made them cry, makes the remaining dogs stand at a distance and bark at him. So our father fared with his enemies, and so his enemies fled my warlike father.

“I think that it is prize enough to be his son. See how the morning opens her golden gates, and takes her farewell of the glorious Sun! Aurora, goddess of dawn, says farewell to the Sun! How well the Sun resembles the prime of youth, dressed like a young man prancing to his love!”

“Are my eyes dazzled, or do I see three Suns?” Edward asked.

Richard said, “Three glorious Suns, each one a perfect Sun. They are not separated by the wind-driven clouds, but severed in a pale, clear-shining sky.”

The three Suns began to join together.

Richard continued, “Look, look! They join, embrace, and seem to kiss, as if they vowed some inviolable alliance. Now are they but one lamp, one light, one Sun. In this, Heaven prefigures some event. This is an omen.”

The Sun was the emblem — the distinctive badge — of the House of York.

Edward said, “It is wondrously strange; the like was never heard of so far. I think it incites us, brother, to go to the battlefield, so that we, the sons of brave Plantagenet, Duke of York, each one already blazing by our merited deserts, should notwithstanding join our lights together and shine over the earth as this Sun shines over the world. Whatever it bodes, henceforward I will bear three fair-shining Suns as a heraldic device on my shield.”

Richard said, “No, bear three daughters. If you don’t mind my saying so, I say that you love the breeder better than the male. You love women.”

A messenger arrived, and Richard asked, “Who are you, whose sorrowful looks foretell some dreadful story hanging on your tongue?”

The messenger replied, “I am one who was a woeful looker-on when the noble Duke of York, your Princely father and my loving lord, was slain!”

Edward said, “Oh, speak no more, for I have heard too much.”

Richard said, “Say how he died, for I will hear it all.”

The messenger said, “Many foes surrounded him, and he stood against them, as the hope of Troy — Hector — stood against the Greeks who would have entered Troy. But even Hercules himself must yield to odds, and many strokes, although made with a little axe, will hew down and fell the hardest-timbered oak.

“By many hands your father was subdued, but he was slaughtered only by the angry arms of unrelenting Clifford and Queen Margaret, who crowned the gracious Duke in great scorn, laughed in his face, and when with grief he wept, the ruthless Queen gave him to dry his cheeks a handkerchief steeped in the harmless blood of sweet young Rutland, who was slain by violent Clifford.

“And after many scorns and many foul taunts, they took off his head, and on the gates of the town of York they set the head, and there it remains, the saddest spectacle that I ever viewed.”

Edward said, “Sweet Duke of York, our prop to lean upon, now that you are gone, we have no staff, no support.

“Oh, Clifford, savage Clifford! You have slain a man who for his chivalry was the flower of Europe, and you have vanquished him by treachery, for he would have vanquished you if you had fought him hand to hand.

“Now my soul’s palace has become a prison. I wish that my soul would break from my body, so that this body of mine might be enclosed in the ground and rest! For never henceforth shall I enjoy life again, never, oh, never shall I see enjoyment any more!”

Richard said, “I cannot weep, for all my body’s moisture scarcely serves to quench my heart that burns like a furnace. Nor can my tongue unload my heart’s great burden, for that same wind that I should speak with is kindling coals that fire all my breast, and burns me up with flames that my tears would quench.

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief. Tears then are for babes; blows and revenge are what I want.

“Richard, Duke of York, I bear your name; I am also a Richard. I’ll avenge your death, or die renowned by attempting it.”

Edward said, “His name that valiant Duke has left with you. His Dukedom and his chair — his ducal seat — he left with me.”

As the oldest son, Edward was now the new Duke of York and held the Dukedom.

Richard said, “If you are that Princely eagle’s fledgling, show your descent by gazing at the Sun. Say ‘For ducal seat and Dukedom’ and ‘For throne and Kingdom.’ Either those things are yours, or else you are not our father’s son.”

This society believed that the eagle was the King of the birds, and as such was able to look directly at the Sun.

A drum sounded a march, and the Earl of Warwick, the Marquess of Montague, and some soldiers arrived.

“How are you, fair lords?” the Earl of Warwick asked. “How do you fare? What is the news from abroad?”

“Great Lord of Warwick,” Richard said, “if we would recount our baleful news, and at each word’s deliverance stab daggers in our flesh until all were told, the words would add more anguish than the wounds.

“Oh, valiant lord, the Duke of York has been slain!”

“Oh, Warwick, Warwick!” Edward said, “that Plantagenet, who held you as dearly as his soul’s redemption, has been killed by the stern Lord Clifford.”

“Ten days ago I drowned this news with my tears,” the Earl of Warwick replied, “and now, to add even more to your woes, I have come to tell you things since then befallen.

“After the bloody fray we fought at Wakefield, where your brave father breathed his last gasp, tidings, as swiftly as the messengers could travel, were brought to me of your loss and his departure from this life.

“I, who was then in London as keeper of King Henry VI, mustered my soldiers, gathered flocks of friends, and very well armed and equipped, so I thought, marched toward Saint Albans to intercept Queen Margaret, and I brought the King along as I thought his presence might be useful.

“I did all this because my scouts informed me that Queen Margaret was coming with a full intention to rescind our recent decree in Parliament concerning King Henry VI’s oath and your succession as King after his death.

“To make it a short tale, we met on 17 February 1461 and at Saint Albans fought the Second Battle of St. Albans.

“Our armies joined in battle,and both sides fiercely fought, but whether it was the coldness and lack of passion of the King, who looked very gently on his warlike Queen, that robbed my soldiers of their inflamed spirit, or whether it was the report of the Queen’s success, or whether it was the more than common fear of the harshness of Clifford, who thunders blood and death to his captives, I cannot judge, but to conclude with the truth, the enemies’ weapons struck as if they were lightning as they came and went. Our soldiers’ weapons struck like the night owl’s lazy flight, or like an idle thresher with a flail for reaping grain. Our soldiers’ weapons fell gently down, as if they were striking their friends.

“I revived them by telling them of the justice of our cause, and with the promise of high pay and great rewards, but all in vain. They had no heart to fight, and we had no hope in them to win the day.

“And so we fled. The King fled to the Queen. Your brother Lord George, as well as the Duke of Norfolk and I, fled in haste, as quickly as we could, to come to join with you, for we heard you were here in the marches — the Welsh borders — gathering another army with which to fight again.”

“Where is the Duke of Norfolk, noble Warwick?” Edward asked. “And when did George come from Burgundy to England?”

“The Duke of Norfolk is some six miles away with the soldiers,” the Earl of Warwick said. “And as for your brother, your kind aunt, the Duchess of Burgundy, recently sent him here with the aid of soldiers to this war because you need reinforcements.”

“The odds must have been against our side, most likely, when valiant Warwick fled,” Richard said. “Often have I heard his praises in pursuit, but never until now have I heard the scandalous imputations of his retiring from the battle.”

“And you do not now hear of any scandal affecting me, Richard,” the Earl of Warwick said, “for you shall learn that this strong right hand of mine can pluck the diadem from fainthearted Henry VI’s head, and wring the awe-inspiring scepter from his fist, even if he were as famous and as bold in war as he is famed for mildness, peace, and prayer.”

“I know it well, Lord Warwick,” Richard said. “Don’t blame me. It is the love I bear your glories that makes me speak. But in this troublous time what’s to be done?

“Shall we throw away our coats of steel, and wrap our bodies in black mourning gowns, and count our Ave-Maries with our beads?

“Or shall we on the helmets of our foes count with our blows our devotion with revengeful weapons?

“If you vote for the last alternative, say yes, and let’s go to it, lords.”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Why, that is the reason that I, Warwick, came to seek you. And for that same reason my brother Montague came to seek you.

“Listen to me, lords. The proud insulting Queen Margaret, with Clifford and the haughty Northumberland, and many more proud birds of the same feather, have molded the easily pliable and persuadable King like wax.

“Previously, he swore consent to your succession and he recorded his oath in the Parliament, but now to London all that crew have gone to annul both his oath and to do in addition whatever may make trouble against the House of Lancaster.

“Their army, I think, is thirty thousand strong. Now, if the help of the Duke of Norfolk and myself, with all the friends that you, Edward, who are the brave Earl of March, can procure among the friendly Welshmen, will at least amount to twenty-five thousand, why, Via!”

Via!” is Italian for “Forward!”

The Earl of Warwick continued, “To London we will march at full speed, and once again we will bestride our foaming steeds, and once again cry, ‘Charge upon our foes!’ But never will we once again turn our backs and flee.”

Richard said, “Yes, now I think I hear great Warwick speak. May that man never live to see a sunshiny day who cries ‘Retreat,’ if Warwick orders him to stay and fight.”

“Lord Warwick, I will lean on your shoulder,” Edward said, “and when you fail — may God forbid the hour! — then Edward must fall, which peril may Heaven forbid!”

The Earl of Warwick said, “No longer Earl of March, you are the Duke of York. The next step up is England’s royal throne, for you shall be proclaimed King of England in every borough as we pass along, and that man who does not throw his cap up in the air for joy shall for that crime make forfeit of his head.

“King Edward IV, valiant Richard, Marquess of Montague, let’s stay no longer, dreaming of renown, but let the trumpets sound, and go about achieving our task.”

Richard said, “Lord Clifford, even if your heart were as hard as steel, as you have shown it to be flinty by your deeds, I am coming to you to pierce it, or to give you mine.”

Edward said, “Then strike up drums. God and Saint George for us!”

Saint George is the patron saint of England.

A messenger arrived.

The Earl of Warwick asked, “What is it? What is the news?”

The messenger replied, “The Duke of Norfolk sends you word by me that Queen Margaret is coming with a powerful army. He requests your company for speedy counsel.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Why, then everything is working out well. Brave warriors, let’s go.”


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 1, Scenes 3-4

— 1.3 —

On 30 December 1460, the Battle of Wakefield was taking place. One of the Duke of York’s sons, young Rutland, and his tutor were in danger.

Rutland asked, “Where shall I flee to escape their hands?”

Lord Clifford and some soldiers arrived.

Seeing them, Rutland said, “Tutor, look where bloodthirsty Clifford comes!”

Lord Clifford said to the tutor, who, like many teachers of the time, was also a religious man and therefore knew Latin, “Chaplain, away! Your priesthood saves your life. As for this accursed Duke of York’s brat, this brat whose father slew my father, he shall die.”

The tutor replied, “And I, my lord, will bear him company.”

Lord Clifford ordered, “Soldiers, take him away!”

The tutor pleaded, “Clifford, don’t murder this innocent child, lest you be hated both by God and by men!”

The soldiers dragged away the tutor.

Rutland shut his eyes in fear.

Lord Clifford said, “What is this! Is he dead already? Or is it fear that makes him close his eyes? I’ll open them.”

Rutland opened his eyes and said, “So looks the confined, ravenous lion over the wretch that trembles under his devouring paws, and so the lion walks, exulting over his prey, and so the lion comes, to rend his limbs asunder.

“Ah, noble Clifford, kill me with your sword, and not with such a cruel threatening look. Sweet Clifford, hear me speak before I die. I am too mean a subject for your wrath: Be revenged on men, and let me live.”

“You speak in vain, poor boy,” Clifford said. “My father’s blood has stopped the passage where your words should enter.”

“Then let my father’s blood open it again,” Rutland pleaded. “He is a man, and so, Clifford, fight him.”

“If I had all your male relatives here, their lives and yours would not be sufficient revenge for me. No, if I dug up your forefathers’ graves and hung their rotten coffins up in chains, it would not slake my anger, nor would it ease my heart. The sight of any of the House of York is like a Fury — an ancient avenging goddess — to torment my soul, and until I root out York’s accursed family and leave not one alive, I live in Hell. Therefore —”

He lifted his sword.

Rutland pleaded, “Oh, let me pray before I take my death! To you I pray: Sweet Clifford, pity me!”

He knelt.

“I will give you such pity as my rapier’s point affords,” Lord Clifford said.

“I never did you harm,” Rutland said. “Why will you slay me?”

“Your father has done me harm,” Lord Clifford replied.

“But it was before I was born,” Rutland said. “You have one son; for his sake pity me, lest in revenge for your murdering me, since God is just, your son will be as miserably slain as I am. Let me live in prison for all my days, and when I give you a reason to be offended, then let me die, for now you have no cause to kill me.”

“No cause!” Lord Clifford said. “Your father slew my father; therefore, die.”

Lord Clifford stabbed the boy.

Dying, Rutland said, “Di faciant laudis summa sit ista tuae!”

This is Latin for “May the gods grant that this be your crowning praise!”

In other words, “May you be most remembered for murdering a boy!”

“Plantagenet! I am coming for you, Plantagenet!” Lord Clifford said, referring to the Duke of York. “And this your son’s blood that cleaves to my blade shall rust upon my weapon until your blood, congealed with this blood of your son, makes me wipe off both.”

— 1.4 —

In another part of the battlefield, the Duke of York mourned the loss of the battle.

He said to himself, “The army of Queen Margaret has won the battle and controls the battlefield. Both of my uncles the Mortimers were slain as they rescued me, and all my followers turn their back to the fierce foe and flee, like ships before the wind or lambs pursued by hunger-emaciated wolves.

“God knows what has happened to my sons, but this I know: They have behaved like men born to be renowned either because of their life or because of their death. Three times Richard made a lane of dead enemy soldiers as he cut a path to me, and three times he cried, ‘Courage, father! Fight it out!’ And just as often Edward came to my side, with a red sword, painted to the hilt with the blood of those enemies who had encountered him.

“And when our hardiest warriors retreated, Richard cried, ‘Charge! And give no foot of ground!’ And he cried, ‘A crown, or else a glorious tomb! A scepter, or an earthly sepulcher!’

“With this, we charged again, but alas! We retreated again, as I have seen a swan with useless labor swim against the tide and expend her strength against overwhelming waves.”

He heard a call to arms.

He said, “Listen! The fatal followers pursue my soldiers and me, and I am faint and cannot flee from their fury. Even if I were strong, I would not shun their fury. The grains of sand in the hourglass that make up my life are so few in number that they can be counted. Here I must stay, and here my life must end.”

Queen Margaret, Lord Clifford, the Earl of Northumberland, Prince Edward, and some soldiers arrived.

The Duke of York said, “Come, bloodthirsty Clifford. Come, cruel Northumberland, I dare your quenchless fury to more rage. I am your target, and I await your shot.”

The Earl of Northumberland said to the Duke of York, “Yield to our mercy, proud Plantagenet.”

“Yes,” Lord Clifford said, “yield to such mercy as the Duke of York’s ruthless arm, with downright payment — directed straight down, in the form of a sword — showed to my father. Now Phaethon has tumbled from his car, and made an evening at the noontide prick — the mark on the Sun-dial that indicates noon.”

Phaethon was the son of Apollo the Sun-god. He asked Apollo to prove that he was his father by giving him a gift. Apollo swore an inviolable oath to give him any gift he asked for, and Phaethon asked to be allowed to drive the Sun-chariot across the sky. Having sworn an inviolable oath, Apollo had no choice but to allow him to do it. Phaethon was unable to control the immortal horses that pulled the Sun-chariot, and at times the Sun-chariot came too close to the Earth, making everything too hot, and at other times it went too far away from the Earth, causing darkness. The King of the gods, Jupiter, saved the Earth by hurling a thunderbolt at Phaethon, killing him and causing him to fall out of the Sun-chariot. Apollo took his place in the Sun-chariot and restored order.

The Duke of York said, “My ashes, as happens with the Phoenix, may bring forth a bird that will get revenge on you all.”

The Phoenix was a mythical bird of Arabia that lived for 500 years and then died in a burst of fire but was regenerated from its ashes. In fact, the Duke of York’s sons Edward and Richard would get revenge for their father’s death.

The Duke of York continued, “And in that hope I throw my eyes — I look — to Heaven, scorning whatever you can afflict me with.

“Why don’t you attack me? What! There are multitudes of you, and you are afraid to attack me?”

Lord Clifford said, “So cowards fight when they can flee no further. So doves peck the falcon’s piercing talons. So desperate thieves, completely despairing of saving their lives, vehemently speak invectives against the officers who will give them capital punishment.”

A proverb stated, “Despair makes cowards courageous.”

The Duke of York said, “Clifford, think once again, and in your thoughts review my past, and then see if you can avoid blushing and biting your tongue, which slanders me with cowardice as you view this face, whose frown has made you lose heart and flee before this time!”

Lord Clifford replied, “I will not exchange words with you word for word, but I will exchange blows with you, giving you four blows for each blow you give me.”

He made a move toward the Duke of York, but Queen Margaret cried, “Wait, valiant Clifford! For a thousand reasons, I want to prolong for a while this traitor’s life.”

Lord Clifford was still angry and kept moving toward the Duke of York, and Queen Margaret said, “Wrath makes him deaf.”

Others restrained Lord Clifford, and Queen Margaret said, “Speak, Earl of Northumberland.”

He said, “Stop, Clifford! Don’t honor him so much by pricking your finger, although it would wound his heart. What valor would one get, when a cur bares its teeth, if one were to thrust his hand between the cur’s teeth, when he might kick him away with his foot? War allows one to take all advantages, and ten against one is no impeachment of valor. In times of war, one ought not to fight an enemy one against one when enough soldiers are available to fight an enemy ten against one.”

They fought the Duke of York, who struggled against them but was subdued.

Clifford said, “Yes, yes, like this the woodcock strives with the trap.”

A woodcock is a proverbially stupid and easily caught bird.

The Earl of Northumberland said, “Like this the rabbit struggles in the net.”

The Duke of York said, “Like this thieves gloat upon their conquered booty. Like this true men yield, when so outnumbered by robbers.”

The Earl of Northumberland said to Queen Margaret, “What would your grace have done to him now?”

“You brave warriors, Clifford and Northumberland, come, make him stand upon this molehill here,” Queen Margaret replied. “He reached out for mountains with outstretched arms, yet with his hand took as his own only their shadow.”

She said to the Duke of York, “Was it you who would be England’s King? Was it you who rioted in our Parliament and made a sermon about your high descent? Where is your mess of sons — your four sons — to back you now? Where are the wanton Edward, and the vigorous George? And where’s that valiant hunchback monster, your boy Dicky, who with his grumbling voice was accustomed to cheer his dad in mutinies?

“And, along with the rest, where is your darling Rutland? Look, York: I stained this handkerchief with the blood that valiant Clifford with his rapier’s point made flow from the bosom of the boy. And if your eyes can water for his death, I give you this handkerchief to dry your cheeks with.

“Alas, poor York! Except that I so deadly hate you, I would lament your miserable state. I ask you to grieve so you can make me merry, York.

“Has your fiery heart so parched your entrails that not a tear can fall for Rutland’s death? Why are you patient, man? You should be mad, and I, to make you mad, mock you. Stamp your feet, rave, and fret so that I may sing and dance.

“You want to be paid, I see, to entertain me. York cannot speak, unless he wears a crown. Here’s a crown for York!

“Lords, bow low to him. Restrain his hands while I set the crown on his head.”

She placed a paper crown on the Duke of York’s head.

She continued, “Yes, by the Virgin Mary, sir, now he looks like a King! Yes, this is the man who took King Henry VI’s throne, and this is the man who was his adopted heir.

“But how is it that great Plantagenet has been crowned so soon, and has broken his solemn oath? As I remember, you should not be King until our King Henry VI has shaken hands with Death.

“And will you encircle your head with Henry’s glory, and rob his temples of the diadem, now, during his life, against your holy oath?

“Oh, it is a crime too, too unpardonable!

“Off with the crown, and with the crown take off his head. While we breathe, let’s take time to do him dead. While we’re alive, let’s kill him.”

“That is my job, for my father’s sake,” Lord Clifford said.

“No, wait,” Queen Margaret said. “Let’s hear the prayers he makes.”

The Duke of York said, “She-wolf of France, but worse than the wolves of France. Your tongue is more poisonous than the adder’s tooth!

“How ill-beseeming is it for one of your sex to triumph, like an Amazonian warrior-woman whore, upon the woes of men whom Lady Fortune has made captives!

“Except that your face, mask-like and unchanging, has been made impudent with the habitual practice of evil deeds, I would attempt, proud Queen, to make you blush.

“To tell you where you came from and who are your parents would be shame enough to shame you, if you were not shameless.

“Your father bears the title of King of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem, yet he is not as wealthy as an English farmer.

“Has that poor monarch taught you to be insolent? Showing insolence is not necessary, nor does it help you, proud Queen, unless this adage must be verified: Beggars, once mounted, run their horse to death.

“Beauty often makes women proud, but God knows that your share of beauty is small.

“Virtue makes women most admired, but your lack of virtue makes people look at you with wonder.

“Self-government — self-control — makes women seem divine, but your lack of self-control makes you abominable.

“You are as opposite to every good as the Antipodes — the people who live on the other side of the world — are to us, or as the south is to the Septentrion.”

The Septentrion is the north. The name derives from the Latin septentriōnēs, which means “seven plowing oxen.” This refers to the seven stars that make up the asterism known as the Plow, also referred to as the Big Dipper, which is part of the constellation Ursa Major, or Great Bear.

The Duke of York continued, “Oh, tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide! How could you drain the life-blood of the child so you could bid the father wipe his eyes with a handkerchief stained with that blood, and yet be seen to bear a woman’s face?

“Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible, but you are stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, and remorseless.

“You want me to rage? Why, now you have your wish. You want me to weep? Why, now you have what you want.

“For raging wind blows up incessant showers, and when the rage allays, the rain begins. These tears I shed are my sweet Rutland’s obsequies and funeral rites, and every drop cries out for vengeance for his death, against you, cruel Clifford, and you, false Frenchwoman.”

The Earl of Northumberland thought, Curse me, but his passion moves me so that I can hardly keep my eyes from shedding tears.

The Duke of York continued speaking to Queen Margaret, “The hungry cannibals would not have touched Rutland’s face, would not have stained this handkerchief with his blood, but you are more inhuman, more inexorable, oh, ten times more, than the tigers of Hyrcania.

“See, ruthless Queen, a hapless father’s tears. You dipped this handkerchief in the blood of my sweet boy, and I wash the blood away with my tears.

“Keep the handkerchief and go boast about this; if you tell the sorrowful story correctly, I swear upon my soul that the hearers will shed tears. Yes, even my enemies will shed fast-falling tears, and they will say, ‘Alas, it was a piteous deed!’”

He shook the paper crown from his head and said, “There, Queen Margaret, take the crown, and, with the crown, take my curse. And in your need may such comfort come to you as I reap now at your too cruel hand!

“Hard-hearted Clifford, take me from the world. My soul will go to Heaven, and my blood is upon your heads!”

His eyes watering, the Earl of Northumberland thought, Had he been the executioner of all my kinfolk, I would not for my life be able to avoid weeping with him when I see how inwardly sorrow grips his soul.

Queen Margaret said to him, “What, ready to weep, my Lord Northumberland? Only think upon the wrong he did us all, and that will quickly dry your melting tears.”

Lord Clifford said as he stabbed the Duke of York, “Here’s for my oath, and here’s for my father’s death.”

Queen Margaret said as she stabbed the Duke of York, “And here’s to redress the injuries of our gentle-hearted King.”

“Open your gate of mercy, gracious God!” the Duke of York cried. “My soul flies through these wounds to seek out You.”

He died.

Queen Margaret said, “Cut off his head, and set it on the town of York’s gates, so that the Duke of York may look out over the town of York.”


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 1, Scene 2

— 1.2 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A messenger ran into the room.

The Duke of York said, “But wait.”

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

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

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

“Edward and Richard, you shall stay with me.

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

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

He exited.

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

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

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

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

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

Marching drums sounded in the distance.

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

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


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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