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

— 5.2 —

The first battle of St. Albans was taking place on 22 May 1455. At this particular location, a sign of the Castle, an inn at St. Albans, was displayed.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Lord Clifford of Cumberland, it is Warwick who is calling for you, and if you don’t hide yourself from the bear, then now, as the angry trumpet sounds the battle call and dying men’s cries fill the empty air, Clifford, I say, come forth and fight me.

“Proud northern lord, Clifford of Cumberland, the Earl of Warwick is hoarse with calling you to arms.”

The Duke of York arrived, on foot.

Seeing him, the Earl of Warwick said, “How are you now, my noble lord? What! You are on foot!”

The Duke of York explained, “The deadly handed, death-dealing Lord Clifford slew my steed, but foe to foe I have encountered him and made a prey for carrion kites and crows out of the fine, bonny beast he loved so well.”

Lord Clifford arrived.

The Earl of Warwick said to him, “For one or both of us, the time to die has come.”

“Stop, Warwick,” the Duke of York said, “seek out some other prey, for I myself must hunt this deer to death.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Then do so nobly, York; you are fighting for a crown.

“I intend, Lord Clifford, to thrive in battle today, and so it grieves my soul to leave you unassailed by me.”

The Earl of Warwick exited.

The Duke of York looked at Lord Clifford instead of immediately fighting him.

“What is it you are seeing in me, York?” Lord Clifford asked. “Why do you pause and not begin to fight?”

“I should love your brave bearing, except that you are so firmly my enemy,” the Duke of York replied.

“Your prowess ought not to lack praise and esteem,” Lord Clifford said, “except it is used ignobly and treasonably.”

The Duke of York said, “So let my prowess help me now against your sword as I in justice and legitimate claim to the throne express and use it.”

Lord Clifford said, “I put both my soul and my body in the fight!”

“A dreadful wager! Prepare to fight immediately,” the Duke of York replied.

The two fought, and the Duke of York mortally wounded Lord Clifford.

La fin couronne les oeuvres,” Lord Clifford said just before dying.

The French sentence meant, “The end crowns the works.”

Lord Clifford meant that he had lived an honorable life and died an honorable death.

The Duke of York said, respectfully, “Thus war has given you peace, for you are still.

“May peace be with his soul, Heaven, if it be your will!”

The Duke of York exited, and young Clifford arrived.

Young Clifford said, “Shame and confusion! All the forces of King Henry VI are being routed. Fear frames disorder, and disorder wounds where it should guard — in all the confusion, we are killing our own soldiers.

“Oh, war, you son of Hell, whom the angry Heavens make their minister of vengeance, throw hot coals of vengeance in the frozen-by-fear bosoms of our army! Let no soldier flee.

“He who is truly dedicated to war has no self-love, and he who loves himself doesn’t have in his own essence but only by circumstance the reputation of being a courageous person. A person who has self-love wants to stay alive.”

He saw his father’s corpse and said, “Oh, let the vile world end, and the preordained flames of the last day knit Earth and Heaven together! Now let the general trumpet blow its blast and proclaim that the end of the world and Doomsday — the Day of Judgment — have arrived. Let personal matters and petty sounds cease!

“Were you fated, dear father, to lose your youth in peace, and to achieve the silver livery — grey hair — of judicious, wise old age, and in your respected state and during your days in which you should be sitting in a chair, thus to die in ruffian battle?

“Now, at this sight of your corpse, my heart has turned to stone, and as long as it is mine, it shall be stony.

“The Duke of York does not spare our old men, and no more will I spare his side’s babes. The tears of virgins shall be to me just like the dew is to fire.”

This culture believed that drops of water made a fire hotter by turning flames into burning coals.

Young Clifford continued, “And beauty, which often subdues the tyrant, shall to my flaming wrath be oil and flax.”

Oil and flax are highly flammable.

He continued, “Henceforth I will have nothing to do with pity. If I meet an infant of the House of York, I will cut it into as many pieces as wild Medea did young Absyrtus, her brother.”

While fleeing in a ship with Jason, Medea murdered her young brother and cut his corpse into pieces that she dropped into the sea. Her father, who was pursuing them, stopped to collect the pieces of his son’s corpse. Through this stratagem, Medea and Jason were able to escape.

Young Clifford continued, “In cruelty I will seek my fame.”

He picked up the body of his father and said, “Come, you new ruin of old Clifford’s house. As Aeneas bore his old father, Anchises, on his shoulders as he fled burning Troy, so I bear you upon my manly shoulders. But then Aeneas bore a living load, who was not as heavy as these woes of mine.”

He exited, carrying the corpse of his father.

Richard and the Duke of Somerset arrived and began to fight.

Richard killed the Duke of Somerset and said, “So, lie there. For underneath an alehouse’s paltry sign, that of the Castle in St. Albans, you, Somerset, have died and made the wizard who predicted your death famous.”

Much earlier, the Duchess of Gloucester, in the presence of a witch, a conjuror (wizard), and two priests, had consulted a spirit about the Duke of Somerset. The spirit had replied, “Let him shun castles. Safer shall he be upon the sandy plains than where castles mounted stand.”

Richard then said, “Sword, hold your temper. Keep your edge; stay sharp. Heart, continue to be wrathful. Priests pray for enemies, but Princes kill.”

The battle continued.

King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, and their attendants knew that they had lost the battle.

Queen Margaret said to King Henry VI, “Flee, my lord! You are slow; for shame, flee away!”

“Can we outrun the Heavens and escape what God sends us?” King Henry VI asked. “Good Margaret, stay.”

“What are you made of?” Queen Margaret asked, exasperated. “You’ll neither fight nor flee. Manhood, wisdom, and defense all agree that the wise thing to do now is to retreat from the enemy and keep ourselves safe by whatever means we can. All we can do is flee.

“If you are captured, then we would see the lowest point of all our fortunes, but if we happen to escape, as well we may, unless your neglect and indifference to taking action keeps us from escaping, we shall go to London, where you are loved and where this breach now made in our fortunes may readily be stopped. We can recover from this defeat.”

Young Clifford arrived and said, “Except that my heart is set on causing future trouble for our enemy, I would speak blasphemy before I would advise you to flee, but flee you must. Hopeless defeat reigns in the hearts of all the remaining fragments of our army.

“Flee, for your deliverance and safety! If you do so, we will live to see their day and give them our misfortune. We will live to have a day of victory like theirs and they will have a day of misfortune like ours.

“Flee, my lord, flee!”

— 5.3 —

The battle was over. Victorious, the Duke of York met with his son Richard and the Earl of Warwick. Soldiers, including a drummer and a soldier holding a battle flag, were present.

The Duke of York said, “Who can report what happened to the Earl of Salisbury, that lion in the winter of old age who in his rage forgets the bruises of old age and all the attacks of time, and who, like a fine fellow with the unwrinkled forehead of youth, restores himself with the opportunity to fight in a battle? This happy day is not itself — not happy — nor have we won one foot of land, if Salisbury is lost to us through death.”

Richard said, “My noble father, three times today I helped him to his horse, and three times today I bestrode him to defend him. Three times today I led him away and persuaded him not to undertake any further action in the battle.

“But still, wherever danger was, there I always met him. And like rich hangings in a plain, simple, homely house, so was his will in his old feeble body.

“But, noble as he is, look at where he is coming here.”

The Earl of Salisbury arrived and said to those present, “Now, by my sword, well have you fought today. By the Mass, so did we all fight well today.

“I thank you, Richard. God knows how long it is I have to live, and it has pleased Him that three times today you have defended me against imminent death.

“Well, lords, we have not got that which we have. We have won a victory, but we have not won a complete victory. It is not enough that our foes have fled this time because they are enemies who are able to regroup and to fight again.”

The Duke of York said, “I know our safest course of action is to follow them, for, as I hear, the King has fled to London, to call an immediate court of Parliament. Let us pursue him before the formal orders to attend Parliament go forth.

“What does Lord Warwick advise? Shall we go after them?”

“After them?” the Earl of Warwick said. “No, before them, if we can.

“Now, by my faith, lords, it was a glorious day. St. Albans’ battle won by famous York shall be famous in all ages to come.

“Let the drums and trumpets sound, and let all of us go to London, and may more such days of victory like these befall us!”


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 1

— 5.1 —

In the fields between Dartford and Blackheath, the Duke of York and his army of Irish soldiers stood. Drummers and soldiers holding battle flags were present.

The Duke of York said to himself, “From Ireland thus come I, York, to claim my right to be King of England, and pluck the crown from feeble Henry VI’s head. Ring, bells, aloud, and burn, bonfires, clear and bright, to welcome great England’s lawful King.

“Ah! Sancta majestas— sacred majesty — who would not buy you at a high price?

“Let them obey who don’t know how to rule. This hand was made to handle nothing but gold. I cannot give due action to my words, unless a sword or scepter balance my hand. My hand shall have a scepter, I swear as I have a soul, and on that scepter I’ll impale the flower-de-luce — the heraldic lily — of France.”

He saw the Duke of Buckingham coming toward him.

“Whom have we here?” the Duke of York asked. “Buckingham, to disturb me? The King has sent him, I am sure. I must dissemble and deceive him.”

“York, if you mean well, I greet you well,” the Duke of Buckingham said.

“Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, I accept your greeting. Are you a messenger, or have you come at your own pleasure?”

“I am a messenger from King Henry VI, our dread-inspiring liege in order to learn the reason for these weapons in a time of peace, and the reason why you, being a subject as I am, against your oath and the true and loyal allegiance you have sworn, should raise so great an army without your King’s leave, and the reason why you dare to bring your army so near the King’s court.”

The Duke of York thought, I can scarcely speak because my anger is so great. Oh, I could hack up rocks and fight with flint because I am so angry at these abject terms he used to describe me — am I a subject! And now, like Ajax Telamonius, I could expend my fury on sheep or oxen the way he did after the armor of Achilles was awarded to Odysseus instead of to him, the rightful claimant, during the Trojan War. I am far better born than is King Henry VI. My claim to the throne is better. I am more like a King and more Kingly in my thoughts, but I must make fair weather and pretend to be friendly yet a while longer, until Henry is weaker and I am stronger.

He said out loud, “Buckingham, I ask you to pardon me because I have given you no answer all this while. My mind was troubled with deep melancholy. The reason why I have brought this army here is to remove proud Somerset from the King. The Duke of Somerset is seditious to his grace the King and to the state.”

“That is too much presumption on your part,” the Duke of Buckingham said. “But if your weapons have no other purpose, know that the King has yielded to your demand: The Duke of Somerset is imprisoned in the Tower of London.”

“Upon your honor, is he really a prisoner?” the Duke of York asked.

“Upon my honor, he is really a prisoner,” the Duke of Buckingham replied.

The Duke of York said, “Then, Buckingham, I dismiss my army.

“Soldiers, I thank you all. Disperse yourselves. Meet me tomorrow in St. George’s field. You shall have pay and everything you wish.

“And Buckingham, let my sovereign, virtuous Henry VI, be entrusted with my eldest son — no, with all my sons — as pledges of my obedience and love. I’ll send them all to him as willingly as I am willing to live. Lands, goods, horses, armor, anything I have, are the King’s to use, as long as the Duke of Somerset dies.”

The Duke of Buckingham replied, “York, I commend and praise your kind submission. We two will go into his highness’ tent.”

The two men locked arms together.

King Henry VI and some attendants arrived.

The King said, “Buckingham, does York intend no harm to us? I see that he is marching with you arm in arm.”

The two men unlocked arms, and the Duke of York said, “In all submission and humility, I, York, present myself to your highness.”

King Henry VI said, “Then what is the purpose of these soldiers you have brought?”

The Duke of York replied, “To heave the traitor Somerset away from here, and to fight against that monstrous rebel Cade, who since I arrived I have heard to be defeated and overthrown.”

Alexander Iden arrived; he was carrying Jack Cade’s head.

Alexander Iden said to King Henry VI, “If one so uncultivated and of such a low condition may pass into the presence of a King, here I present to your grace a traitor’s head, the head of Cade, whom I in combat slew.”

“The head of Cade!” King Henry VI said. “Great God, how just You are! Oh, let me view his visage, now dead, that while living wrought me such exceeding trouble.

“Tell me, my friend, are you the man who slew him?”

“I was, if it please your majesty.”

“What is your name?” King Henry VI asked. “What rank are you?”

“My name is Alexander Iden. I am a poor esquire of Kent, and I love and honor my King.”

The Duke of Buckingham said, “So please it you, my lord, it is not amiss that he be created a knight as a reward for his good service.”

King Henry VI said, “Iden, kneel down.”

He knelt.

King Henry VI tapped Alexander Iden’s shoulders with a sword and said, “Rise up a knight, Sir Alexander Iden. We give you a thousand marks as a reward, and we command that you henceforth serve us.”

“May Iden live to merit such a bounty and never live otherwise than as loyal to his liege!” Sir Alexander Iden said.

Queen Margaret arrived with the Duke of Somerset, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Seeing them, King Henry VI whispered to the Duke of Buckingham, “Look, Buckingham, Somerset is coming here with the Queen. Go, tell her to hide him quickly from the Duke of York.”

Queen Margaret, who had heard him, said, “He shall not hide his head on account of a thousand Yorks, but instead he will boldly stand and face him.”

The Duke of York said, “What is this? Is Somerset at liberty? Then, York, unloose your long-imprisoned thoughts, and let your tongue be equal with your heart. Shall I endure the sight of Somerset?

“Lying King! Why have you broken your word to me, knowing how badly I can endure being deceived?

“Did I call you King? No, you are not a King. You are not fit to govern and rule multitudes — not you, who dare not, and cannot, rule a traitor such as the Duke of Somerset.

“That head of yours does not become a crown. Your hand was made to grasp a palmer’s staff — the staff of a religious pilgrim — and not to grace an awe-inspiring Princely scepter.

“That gold crown you are wearing must round engirt these brows of mine. My smile and frown, like Achilles’ spear, is able with the change to kill and cure. Achilles’ spear could inflict a mortal wound and according to folklore, cure the mortal wound it inflicted. Achilles’ spear wounded Telephus, and then the rust of the spear cured Telephus. My frown can kill; my smile can cure.

“Here is a hand worthy to hold a scepter up and with the same to enact controlling laws.

“Give way to me. By Heaven, you shall rule no more over me, whom Heaven created to be your ruler.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “You monstrous traitor! I arrest you, York, on a charge of capital treason against the King and crown. Obey, audacious traitor; kneel for grace and mercy.”

“Would you have me kneel?” the Duke of York said. “First let me ask these knees of mine if they can endure my bowing a knee to any man.

“Sirrah, call in my sons to be my bail.”

One of his attendants exited.

The Duke of York continued, “I know that before they will have me go into custody, they’ll pawn their swords for my freedom.”

Queen Margaret ordered, “Call Clifford here! Tell him to come in all haste to say if the bastard boys of York shall be the surety for their traitor father.”

The Duke of Buckingham exited.

The Duke of York said to Queen Margaret, “Oh, blood-besotted Neapolitan, outcast of Naples, England’s bloody scourge!”

Queen Margaret’s father was the titular King of Naples.

The Duke of York continued, “The sons of York, your betters in their birth, shall be their father’s bail, and they shall be bane — ruination — to those who will refuse to allow the boys to be my surety!”

Two of his sons — Edward and Richard — entered the room. In the future, they would be King Edward IV and King Richard III.

The Duke of York said, “See where my sons are coming here. I’ll warrant they’ll make it good.”

“Make it good” was ambiguous. It could mean 1) “be their father’s bail” or 2) “be bane — ruination — to those who will refuse to allow the boys to be my surety.”

Lord Clifford and his son, young Clifford, entered the room.

Queen Margaret said, “And here comes Lord Clifford to deny their bail for you.”

Lord Clifford knelt before King Henry VI and said, “Health and all happiness to my lord the King!”

The Duke of York said, “I thank you, Clifford. What news do you have?”

Clifford was loyal to King Henry VI, and so he became angry when he heard the Duke of York’s words.

Using the royal plural, the Duke of York said, “No, do not frighten us with an angry look. We are your sovereign, Clifford, so kneel again. We pardon you for mistakenly kneeling to Henry.”

“Henry VI is my King, York,” Lord Clifford angrily replied. “I have not made a mistake, but you are much mistaken if you think that I have made a mistake.

“Take this man — York — to Bedlam, the Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane in London! Has the man grown mad?”

“Yes, Clifford,” King Henry VI replied. “A bedlam — insane — and ambitious disposition makes the Duke of York oppose himself against his King.”

“He is a traitor,” Lord Clifford said. “Let him be taken to the Tower of London, and chop away that rebellious head of his.”

“He has been arrested, but he will not obey,” Queen Margaret said. “His sons, he says, shall give their words and be the surety for him.”

“You will, won’t you, sons?” the Duke of York said to his two sons who were present.

Edward replied, “Yes, noble father, if our words will serve.”

Richard added, “And if our words will not serve, then our weapons shall.”

“Why, what a brood of traitors have we here!” Lord Clifford said.

“Look in a glass, and call your image a traitor,” the Duke of York said. “I am your King, and you are a false-heart traitor.”

He then ordered, “Call here to the stake my two brave bears, who with just the shaking of their chains may fill these dangerous-lurking curs with wonder.

“Tell Salisbury and Warwick to come to me.”

The Duke of York called the Earl of Salisbury and his son, the Earl of Warwick, bears because their heraldic crest was a rampant — standing with its forefeet in the air — bear. The bear was chained to a knobby staff.

The Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Warwick were very near and arrived immediately.

Lord Clifford said to the Duke of York, “Are these your bears? We’ll bait your bears to death and manacle the bear-keeper — you — in their chains, if you dare to bring them to the baiting place.”

Bear-baiting was a “sport” in which a bear was tied to a stake and then tormented by dogs.

Richard replied, “Often I have seen a hot overweening cur run back and bite its owner, because the owner was holding him back from the bear. The dog, once loose, got wounded by the bear’s deadly paw and clapped its tail between its legs and yelped, and the same thing will happen to you if you oppose yourselves to and try to fight Lord Warwick.”

Lord Clifford replied to Richard, “Go away, you heap of wrath, you foul improperly formed lump, you who are as crooked in your manners as in your shape!”

Richard’s back was crooked as a result of scoliosis.

The Duke of York said, “We shall heat you thoroughly soon.”

The heat would be the heat of battle.

“Take care, lest by your heat you burn yourselves,” Lord Clifford replied.

King Henry VI said, “Why, Earl of Warwick, has your knee forgotten to bow?

“Old Earl of Salisbury, shame to your silver hair, you mad misleader of your brain-sick son! Will you on your deathbed play the ruffian, and seek for sorrow with your eyes? You are an old man and soon to die, so why seek trouble through the eyeglasses of an old man?

“Oh, where is faith? Oh, where is loyalty? If it has been banished from the frosty-haired head of an old man, where shall it find a harbor on the Earth?

“Will you go and dig a grave in seeking out war, and shame your honorable age with blood?

“Why are you old, and lack wisdom? Or why do you abuse your wisdom, if you have it?

“For shame! Out of your duty to me, bend your knee to me — your knee that is bowing to the grave with great old age.”

The Earl of Salisbury said, “My lord, I have carefully considered the title and claim of this most renowned Duke of York to the throne, and in my conscience I do consider his grace to be the rightful heir to England’s royal seat.”

“Haven’t you sworn allegiance to me?” King Henry VI asked.

“I have,” the Earl of Salisbury replied.

“Can you get forgiveness from Heaven for breaking such an oath?” King Henry VI asked.

“It is a great sin to swear a sinful oath, but it is a greater sin to keep a sinful oath,” the Earl of Salisbury replied. “Who can be bound by any solemn vow to do a murderous deed, to rob a man, to rape a spotless virgin and take her chastity, to bereave the orphan of his patrimony, to wring from the widow her right that is in accordance with custom to inherit part of her husband’s estate, and have no other reason for this wrong except that he was bound by a solemn oath?”

Queen Margaret said, “A subtle and cunning traitor needs no sophist — no specious reasoner.”

King Henry VI ordered, “Call the Duke of Buckingham, and tell him to arm himself.”

The Duke of York said, “Call Buckingham and all the friends you have. I am resolved to have either death or the dignity of high office. Either I will die, or I will be King.”

“The first — death — I promise you, if dreams prove to be true,” Lord Clifford said.

“It is best for you to go to bed and dream again,” the Earl of Warwick said. “You ought to keep yourself from the tempest of the battlefield.”

Lord Clifford said, “I am resolved to bear a greater storm than any you can conjure up today, and that I’ll write upon your burgonet, if I might know you by your household badge — your distinctive emblem.”

A burgonet is a helmet with a visor. On top of the helmet is the family crest — the distinctive emblem of the family.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Now, by my father’s badge, old Neville’s crest, which is a rampant bear chained to a ragged staff, this day I’ll wear it on top of my burgonet, just as on a mountain top the cedar — a symbol of royalty — stands and keeps its leaves in spite of any storm. I will do this in order to frighten you when you see my crest.”

Lord Clifford replied, “And from your burgonet I’ll rend your bear and tread it under foot with all contempt, despite the bear-keeper who protects the bear.”

Young Clifford said, “And so let’s go to arms, victorious father, to quell the rebels and their accomplices.”

“Ha!” Richard said. “Show some charity! Don’t be shameful! Don’t speak spitefully, for you shall eat with Jesus Christ tonight.”

“You foul and misshapen individual, that’s more than you can know and tell,” young Clifford said.

“If not in Heaven, you’ll surely eat in Hell,” Richard replied.

The two sides exited in different directions.


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling — Act 4, Scenes 8-10

— 4.8 —

A battle was being fought at Southwark, a district of London.

Jack Cade ordered, “Up Fish Street! Down Saint Magnus’ Corner! Kill and knock down! Throw them into the Thames River!”

Fish Street was a major approach to London Bridge. Saint Magnus’ Corner was at the lower end of Fish Street and the place where Saint Magnus’ Church stood.

A parley sounded. The Duke of Buckingham and Lord Clifford, who were representatives of King Henry VI, wished to talk to the rebels.

“What noise is this I hear?” Jack Cade said. “Does anyone dare to be so bold to sound either a retreat or a parley, when I command them to kill?”

The Duke of Buckingham and Lord Clifford arrived with many soldiers.

The Duke of Buckingham, who had heard Jack Cade’s second question, replied, “Yes, here are those who dare and will disturb you.

“Know, Cade, we come as ambassadors from the King to the commoners whom you have misled, and here we officially declare free pardon to all who will forsake you and go home in peace.”

Lord Clifford said, “What do you say, countrymen? Will you relent, and will you yield to mercy while it is offered to you? Or will you let a rebel lead you to your deaths?

“Whoever loves the King and will embrace his pardon, let him fling up his cap and cry, ‘God save his majesty!’

“Whoever hates the King and does not honor his father, Henry V, who made all France quake, let him shake his weapon defiantly at us and pass by.”

All of the rebels except Jack Cade flung their caps up in the air and cried, “God save the King! God save the King!”

Jack Cade said, “Buckingham and Clifford, are you so daring? And you, base peasants, do you believe him? Will you have to be hanged with your worthless pardons about your necks? Has my sword broken through London gates so that you would leave me at the White Hart Inn where I am residing in Southwark? I thought you would never have surrendered these weapons until you had recovered your ancient freedom, but you are all recreants and despicable people, and you delight to live in slavery to the nobility.

“Let them break your backs with burdens, take your houses over your heads, and rape your wives and daughters in front of your faces. As for me, I will look out for myself, and so may God’s curse fall upon you all!”

All of the rebels shouted, “We’ll follow Cade! We’ll follow Cade!”

Lord Clifford asked, “Is Cade the son of Henry V? Is that why you exclaim you’ll go with him? Will he conduct you through the heart of France, and make the lowest born of you Earls and Dukes?

“Alas, he has no home, no place to fly to, nor does he know how to live except by pillaging, unless he makes his living by robbing your friends and us.

“Wouldn’t it be a shame, if while you live as rebels, the fearsome French, whom you recently vanquished, would make a start over seas and vanquish you? I think already in this civil broil I see them lording it in London streets, crying ‘Villiago!’ — ‘Villain!’ — at all whom they meet.

“It is better that ten thousand lowly born Cades die than that you should kneel to a Frenchman’s mercy.

“Go to France, go to France, and get what you have lost. Spare England, for it is your native coast. King Henry VI has money, you are strong and manly, and God is on our side, so don’t doubt that you will be victorious.”

All the rebels except Jack Cade shouted, “Clifford! Clifford! We’ll follow the King and Clifford.”

Jack Cade thought, Was a feather ever so lightly blown to and fro as this multitude? The name of King Henry V drags them to a hundred deeds I don’t like, and it makes them leave me desolate. I see them lay their heads together as they plot to capture me. My sword must make a way for me, for there is no staying here.

He said out loud, “In despite of the Devils and Hell, I will make my way through the middle of you! May the Heavens and honor be my witnesses that no lack of resolution in me, but only my followers’ base and ignominious treasons, makes me take myself to my heels.”

He dashed through the crowd of rebels and escaped.

The Duke of Buckingham said, “Has he fled? Go, some of you, and follow him. Whoever brings his head to the King shall have a thousand crowns for his reward.”

Some of the rebels exited.

The Duke of Buckingham added, “Follow me, soldiers. We’ll devise a way to reconcile you all to King Henry VI.”

— 4.9 —

Trumpets sounded, and King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, and the Duke of Somerset, plus some attendants, appeared on the wall of Kenilworth Castle.

King Henry VI said, “Was there ever a King who enjoyed an Earthly throne and could command no more content than I? As soon as I had crept out of my cradle at nine months old, I was made a King. Never has a subject longed to be a King as I long and wish to be a subject.”

The Duke of Buckingham and Lord Clifford arrived.

The Duke of Buckingham shouted to King Henry VI, “Health and glad tidings to your majesty!”

King Henry VI asked, “Buckingham, has the traitor Cade been captured? Or did he make a strategic retreat to make himself strong?”

The rebels, wearing nooses around their necks as a sign of submission, arrived.

Lord Clifford said, “Jack Cade has fled, my lord, and all his soldiers yield, and humbly so, with nooses on their necks. They await your highness’ judgment of life or death.”

King Henry VI said, “Then, Heaven, set open your everlasting gates to entertain my vows of thanks and praise!

“Soldiers, this day you have redeemed your lives, and showed how well you love your Prince and country. Continue always in this so good a mind, and assure yourselves that Henry, although he is unfortunate, will never be unkind. And so, with thanks and pardon to you all, I dismiss you so you can return to your different counties.”

The rebels shouted, “God save the King! God save the King!”

The rebels exited.

A messenger arrived and said, “If it pleases your grace to be informed, know that the Duke of York has just come from Ireland, and with a powerful and mighty army of gallowglasses, aka heavily armed Irish soldiers, and fierce kerns, aka lightly armed Irish soldiers, he is marching here in proud array, and he continually proclaims as he comes along that his weapons are only to be used to remove from you the Duke of Somerset, whom he calls a traitor.”

King Henry VI said, “Thus stands my distressed country, between Cade and York. It is like a ship that, having escaped a tempest, is immediately calmed and then boarded by a pirate.

“Just now Cade was driven back and his men dispersed, and now York has come with weapons to take Cade’s place.

“I request that you, Buckingham, go and meet him, and ask him what’s the reason for these weapons of his. Tell him I’ll send Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, to the Tower of London.

“Duke of Somerset, we’ll commit you to the Tower until the Duke of York’s army is dismissed from him.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “My lord, I’ll yield myself to prison willingly, or to death, to do my country good.”

King Henry VI said to the Duke of Buckingham, “In any case, don’t be too harsh in the discussion you have with the Duke of York, for he is fierce and cannot endure hard language.”

“I will do as you say, my lord,” the Duke of Buckingham replied, “and I don’t doubt that I will arrange matters so that they shall turn out to be for your good.”

King Henry VI said to Queen Margaret, “Come, wife, let’s go in, and learn to govern better, for England may yet curse my wretched reign.”

— 4.10 —

Jack Cade stood in the garden of Alexander Iden in Kent.

He said to himself, “Damn ambition! Damn myself, who has a sword, and yet is almost starved to death! These five days I have hidden in the woods outside this garden and have not dared to peep out, for all the country is looking for me, but now I am so hungry that even if I might have a lease of my life for a thousand years I still could stay no longer in the woods and starve.

“Because of my hunger, I have climbed over a brick wall into this garden to see if I can eat plants, or pick a sallet again, which is not amiss to cool a man’s stomach this hot weather.”

Despite his hunger, Jack Cade was still able to engage in word play. The phrase “a sallet” meant both 1) a salad, and 2) a type of helmet.

He said to himself, “I think this word ‘sallet’ was born to do me good, for many a time, except for a sallet, my brainpan would had been cleft with a halberd, and many a time, when I have been thirsty and bravely marching, it has served me instead of a quart pot to drink in; and now the word ‘sallet’ must serve me to feed on.”

Alexander Iden entered his garden.

Not seeing Jack Cade, he said to himself, “Lord, who would live troubled in the court, when he instead may enjoy such quiet walks as these? This small inheritance my father left me makes me content and happy, and to me it is worth a monarchy. I don’t seek to grow great by other people’s waning, or to gather wealth by any evil means possible. It is enough that what I have maintains my well-being and sends the poor from my gate well pleased with the alms I have given them.”

Jack Cade said to himself, Here’s the lord of the soil come to seize me for a stray, for entering his fee-simple without leave.

Alexander Iden owned the estate in fee-simple. It was his private possession in perpetuity unless he sold it. The owner of a private estate was permitted to take possession of any stray animals that wandered onto his property.

Jack Cade said to Alexander Iden, “Ah, villain, you will betray me, and get a thousand crowns from the King for carrying my head to him, but I’ll make you eat iron like an ostrich, and swallow my sword like a great pin, before you and I part.”

People in this culture believed that ostriches swallowed iron nails.

Alexander Iden said, “Why, rude fellow, whoever you are, I don’t know you. Why, then, should I betray you? Isn’t it enough to break into my garden, and, like a thief, to come to rob my grounds, climbing over my walls in spite of me the owner? Must you also defy me with these insolent words?”

Jack Cade replied, “Defy you! Yes, by the best blood — that of Christ — that ever was shed, and I will pull your beard, too. Look well at me. I have eaten no food these five days, yet if you and your five men attack me, if I do not leave you all as dead as a doornail, then I pray to God I may never eat plants anymore.”

The phrase “your five men” was an insult. Jack Cade was implying that Alexander Iden had no more than five men working on his estate.

Alexander Iden said, “It shall never be said, while England stands, that Alexander Iden, an esquire of Kent, took advantage of superiority of numbers to combat a poor famished man.”

An esquire held the rank of a gentleman just below that of a knight.

He continued, “Oppose your steadfast-gazing eyes to mine, and see if you can stare me down with your looks. Compare us limb to limb, and you will see that you are far the lesser. Your hand is only a finger compared to my fist. Your leg is only a stick compared with this truncheon — thick club — that is my leg. My foot shall fight with all the strength you have, and if my arm is lifted in the air, then your grave is already dug in the earth.

“As for words, whose greatness answers words, let this my sword report what speech forbears. Big words answer big words, but I will let my sword say what words cannot say.”

Jack Cade replied, “By my valor, you are the most complete champion whom I ever heard!”

He then said to his sword, “Steel, if you blunt your edge, or don’t cut the burly boned country boor into joints of beef before you sleep in your sheath, I will beg God on my knees that you may be melted down and turned into hobnails for shoes.”

The two men fought with swords, and Alexander Iden mortally wounded Jack Cade.

Jack Cade cried, “Oh, I am slain! Famine and no one else has slain me. Let ten thousand Devils come against me, and give me just the ten meals I have not eaten the past five days, and I’ll defy them all. Wither, garden, and be henceforth a cemetery to all who dwell in this house because the unconquered soul of Cade is fleeing.”

Alexander Iden said, “Is it Jack Cade whom I have slain, that monstrous traitor?

“Sword, I will hallow and glorify you for this deed of yours, and I will have you hung over my tomb when I am dead. Never shall this blood be wiped from your point, but you shall wear it like a herald’s red coat to emblaze and proclaim publicly like a coat of arms the honor that your master has gotten.”

“Iden, farewell, and be proud of your victory,” Jack Cade said. “Tell the region of Kent from me that she has lost her best man, and exhort all the people in the world to be cowards, for I, who never feared anyone, have been vanquished by famine, not by valor.”

He died.

Alexander Iden said, “How much you have wronged me, let Heaven be my judge. Die, damned wretch, the curse of her who gave birth to you, and as I pierce your body with my sword” — he did just that — “so wish I that I might thrust your soul to Hell.

“I drag your corpse by the heels with your head dragging from here to a dunghill that shall be your grave, and there I will cut off your most graceless and wicked head, which I will bear in triumph to the King, leaving your trunk for crows to feed upon.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 7

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N5C7W2V/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i74— 4.7 —

In Smithfield, London, the battle had taken place. The rebels were victorious and had killed the great warrior Matthew Goffe.

Jack Cade said, “So, sirs, now some of you go and pull down the Savoy — the residence of the Duke of Lancaster. Others of you go to the Inns of Court — the London law schools and the place where London lawyers work and reside. Down with them all!”

Dick the Butcher said, “I have a suit — a formal request — for your lordship.”

Jack Cade replied, “If you want a lordship, you shall have it for calling me ‘my lordship.’”

Dick the Butcher said, “I request only that the laws of England may come out of your mouth.”

John Holland said, “By the Mass, it will be sore — poor and painful — law, then, for he was thrust in the mouth with a spear, and the wound has not healed yet.”

Smith the Weaver said, “John, it will be stinking law because his breath stinks from eating toasted cheese.”

Jack Cade replied to Dick the Butcher, “I have thought about it, and it shall be so. All laws will come from my mouth. Leave, and burn all the records of the realm. My mouth shall be the Parliament of England.”

John Holland said, “Then we are likely to have biting — severe — statutes, unless his teeth are pulled out.”

Jack Cade said, “And henceforward all things shall belong to the whole community — they shall be owned in common.”

A messenger arrived and said, “My lord, a prize, a prize! Here’s the Lord Say, who sold the towns in France; he is the man who made us pay one and twenty fifteens, and one shilling to the pound, the last subsidy.”

The messenger was exaggerating how much taxes the commoners paid. One and twenty fifteens totaled 140 percent.

Jack Cade said, “Well, he shall be beheaded for it ten times.”

Lord Say, guarded by the rebel George Bevis, arrived.

Jack Cade then said to Lord Say, “Ah, you say, you serge — no, you buckram lord!”

“Say” was a fine-textured cloth, “serge” was a woolen cloth, and “buckram” was a cloth that was stiffened with glue.

Jack Cade continued, “Now you are within point-blank range of our regal jurisdiction. What can you answer to my majesty for the giving up of Normandy to Mounsieur Basimecu, the Dauphin of France?”

“Mounsieur” was an uneducated pronunciation of the French “Monsieur,” and “Basimecu” was an uneducated pronunciation of the French “Baise mon cul,” aka “F**k my *ss.”

Jack Cade continued, “Be it known to you by these presence, even the presence of Lord Mortimer, that I am the besom — broom — that must sweep the court clean of such filth as you are. “

He was confusing the Latin “per has literas presents,” aka “by these present documents,” and “in this presence.”

Jack Cade continued, “You have most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm by erecting a grammar school, and whereas our forefathers previously had no other books but the score and the tally, which are a way of recording debts, you have caused printing to be used, and, contrary to the King, his crown, and his dignity, you have built a paper mill.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates taught the youth of Athens, for which activity he was accused in a lawsuit of “corrupting the youth of Athens.”

Jack Cade continued, “It will be proved to your face that you have men about you who usually talk of a noun and a verb, and these are such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure to hear. You have appointed justices of peace to call poor men before them about matters they were not able to answer satisfactorily. Moreover, you have put them in prison, and because they could not read, you have hanged them; when, indeed, for just that reason they have been most worthy to live.”

In this culture, priests were exempt from being tried in a criminal court, although they could be tried in an ecclesiastical court. Priests were able to read Latin and anyone who could prove that he could read Latin could avoid a sentence of capital punishment given in a criminal court by claiming benefit of clergy.

Jack Cade continued, “You ride in a footcloth, don’t you?”

He meant that Lord Say rode a horse that was decorated with a footcloth — a richly ornamented cloth that was draped over the horse’s back.

“What of that?” Lord Say asked.

Jack Cade said, “By the Virgin Mary, you ought not to let your horse wear a cloak, when men who are more honest than you go about in their tights and jackets.”

Dick the Butcher added, “And work in their shirt, too, as for example I myself, who am a butcher, do.”

Jack Cade’s point was that animals ought not to be better dressed than human beings.

Lord Say began, “You men of Kent —”

Dick the Butcher interrupted, “What do you say about Kent?”

Knowing that the rebels did not know Latin, Lord Say replied, “Nothing but this: It is ‘bona terra, mala gens.’”

Bona terra, mala gens” is Latin for “a good land, a bad people.”

“Away with him, away with him!” Jack Cade said, “He speaks Latin.”

Lord Say said, “Hear me speak, and then take me where you will.

“Julius Caesar, in his Commentaries on the Gallic War, wrote that Kent is the most civil place of this isle. Sweet is the country, because full of riches. The people are liberal, valiant, active, and wealthy, which makes me hope you are not devoid of pity.

“I did not sell Maine, I did not lose Normandy, yet I am willing to lose my life to recover them.

“As a judge, I have always given justice with mercy. Prayers and tears have moved me, but gifts never could. I did not accept bribes.

“When have I exacted any tax at your hands, except in order to maintain the King, the realm, and you?

“I have bestowed large gifts on learned clerks because my education preferred me to the King. Seeing that ignorance is the curse of God, while knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to Heaven, unless you are possessed with Devilish spirits, you cannot but refrain from murdering me.

“This tongue has parleyed with foreign Kings for your benefit —”

Jack Cade said, “Tut, when have you struck even one blow on the battlefield?”

Lord Say said, “Great men have hands that reach far. Often have I struck those whom I never saw and struck them dead.”

George Bevis said, “Oh, monstrous coward! To come up behind folks and then strike them dead!”

Lord Say said, “These cheeks of mine are pale because I spent so much time watching out for your good.”

Jack Cade said, “Give him a box on the ear and that will make his cheeks red again.”

Lord Say said, “Long sitting as a judge to rule in poor men’s law cases has made me full of sickness and diseases.”

Jack Cade said, “You shall have a hempen caudle, then, and the help of hatchet.”

A caudle is a warm drink intended to restore invalids to health. A hempen caudle is a hangman’s noose. The word “hatchet” refers to an executioner’s ax. After being hung and then beheaded so that one’s head can be displayed on a pole, no one has to worry about sickness and disease.

Dick the Butcher asked Lord Say, who was trembling, “Why are you quivering, man?”

“The palsy, and not fear, affects me, an old man, and makes me tremble,” Lord Say replied.

Jack Cade said, “He nods at us, as if to say, ‘I’ll get even with you.’ I’ll see if his head will stand steadier on a pole, or not. Take him away, and behead him.”

Lord Say said, “Tell me in what I have offended most? Have I sought wealth or honors? Tell me. Are my chests filled up with gold that I have extorted from others? Is my apparel sumptuous to behold? Whom have I injured with the result that you seek my death? These hands are free from the shedding of guiltless blood. This breast is free of harboring foul deceitful thoughts. Oh, let me live!”

John Cade thought, I feel remorse in myself because of his words, but I’ll bridle my remorse. He shall die, even if it be only for pleading so well for his life.

He said out loud, “Away with him! He has a familiar spirit under his tongue; he speaks not in God’s name.”

Witches had familiars — spirits that served them.

Jack Cade continued, “Go, take him away, I say, and strike off his head immediately; and then break into the house of his son-in-law, Sir James Cromer, and strike off his head, and bring both heads on two poles here.”

The rebels said, “It shall be done.”

“Ah, countrymen!” Lord Say said. “If when you make your prayers, God would be so obdurate as yourselves, how would it fare with your departed souls? Therefore relent now, and save my life.”

Jack Cade ordered, “Take him away! And do as I command you.”

Some rebels, including Dick the Butcher, exited with Lord Say.

Jack Cade said, “The proudest peer in the realm shall not wear a head on his shoulders, unless he pays me tribute. Not a maid shall be married, but she shall pay to me her maidenhead before her husband can have it. Men shall hold land from me in capite.”

In capite” was a Latin phrase meaning “from the head.” The Latin legal phrase referred to land held directly from the King, who was the head of the country.

Jack Cade continued, “And we order and command that husbands’ wives be as free and sexually available as heart can wish or tongue can tell — you will get as much sex as you could want or ask for.”

A rebel arrived and said, “Captain, London Bridge is on fire!”

Jack Cade said, “Run to Billingsgate and fetch pitch and flax and quench it.”

Pitch and flax would make the fire burn more fiercely.

Dick the Butcher and a Sergeant arrived.

The Sergeant said, “Justice, justice, I ask you for justice, sir. Let me have justice on this fellow Dick the Butcher here.”

Jack Cade asked, “Why? What has he done?”

“Sir, he has raped my wife,” the Sergeant said.

Dick the Butcher said to Jack Cade, “Why, my lord, he would have arrested me and so I went and entered my action in his wife’s proper house.”

“Arrested” also meant “stopped.”

“Entered my action in his wife’s proper house” meant 1) “stated my law case in his wife’s house,” and 2) “entered my penis and its action in his wife’s body.”

Jack Cade said, “Dick, follow your suit in her common place.”

This meant 1) “Dick, pursue your law case in her common meetinghouse,” and 2) “Dick, pursue your sexual desire in her vagina, which is open to all.”

John Cade then said to the Sergeant, “You whoreson villain, you are a Sergeant — you’ll take any man by the throat for twelve pence, and arrest a man when he’s at dinner, and have him in prison before the food is out of his mouth.”

He then said to Dick the Butcher, “Go, Dick, take him away from here. Cut out his tongue for deception, cripple him for running, and, to conclude, brain him with his own mace.”

Dick the Butcher took the Sergeant away.

A rebel asked Jack Cade, “My lord, when shall we go to Cheapside and take up commodities upon our bills?”

“Take up commodities upon our bills” meant 1) “Buy goods [commodities] on credit [bills],” 2) “Take women’s sexual organs [commodities] upon our penises [bills],” aka rape women, and 3) “Steal [Take] goods [commodities] by using our bills [long-handled weapons with blades].”

Jack Cade said, “By the Virgin Mary, right away. He who will lustily stand to it shall go with me and take up these commodities following — item, a gown, a kirtle [outer petticoat], a petticoat, and a smock [ladies’ undergarment].”

“Stand to it” meant “get an erection.”

The rebels shouted, “Oh, splendid!”

Two rebels arrived, carrying Lord Say’s head and Sir James Cromer’s head on two poles.

Jack Cade said, “But isn’t this more splendid? Let them kiss one another, for they loved each other well when they were alive.”

The two rebels holding the poles brought the heads together as if the heads were kissing.

Jack Cade continued, “Now part them again, lest they consult about the giving up of some more towns in France.

“Soldiers, defer the despoiling and plundering of the city until night, for with these heads borne before us, instead of maces — staffs of office — we will ride through the streets, and at every corner we will have them kiss. Away! Let’s go!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 3-6

— 4.3 —

The battle took place, and Sir Humphrey Stafford and William Stafford were slain. Jack Cade and the rebels then discussed their victory.

Jack Cade asked, “Where’s Dick, the butcher of Ashford?”

Dick the Butcher said, “Here, sir.”

“They fell before you like sheep and oxen, and you behaved yourself as if you were in your own slaughterhouse; therefore, I will reward you thus: Lent shall be twice as long as it is now, and you shall have a license to kill for a hundred lacking one.”

During Lent, people did not eat meat unless they were invalids. Special licenses were granted to butchers to kill animals for food during Lent. Many licenses were granted for 99 years. However, Jack Cade was ambiguous. He could have meant that Dick the Butcher could kill 99 animals or that he could kill as many animals as would feed 99 people.

“I desire no more,” Dick the Butcher said.

Jack Cade said, “And, to speak the truth, you deserve no less.”

He pointed to Sir Humphrey Stafford’s helmet and armor and said, “This memorial of the victory I will wear, and the bodies of the Staffords shall be dragged at my horse’s heels until I come to London, where we will have the Mayor’s sword borne before us.”

Dick the Butcher said, “If we mean to thrive and do good, break open the jails and let out the prisoners.”

“Don’t worry about that — I promise I will do that,” Jack Cade said. “Come, let’s march towards London.”

— 4.4 —

In the King’s palace in London, several people were meeting: King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, the Duke of Buckingham, and Lord Say.

The King was holding a document sent to him from Jack Cade. Queen Margaret was holding the Duke of Suffolk’s severed head.

Queen Margaret said, “Often I have heard that grief softens the mind and makes it fearful and degenerate. Think therefore on revenge and cease to weep. But who can cease to weep while looking at this head? Here may his head lie on my throbbing breast, but where’s the body that I would embrace?”

The Duke of Buckingham asked, “What answer does your grace make to the rebels’ written petition?”

King Henry VI said, “I’ll send some holy bishop to entreat them to be peaceful, for God forbid that so many simple souls should perish by the sword! And I myself, rather than allow bloody war to cut them short, will parley with Jack Cade, their General. But wait, I’ll read the written petition over once again.”

Still holding the Duke of Suffolk’s head, Queen Margaret said, “Ah, barbarous villains! Has this lovely face ruled, like a wandering planet, over me, and could it not force them to relent, who were unworthy to behold the same face?”

Astrologers believed that the planets, which wandered the night sky, unlike the fixed stars, ruled human destiny.

King Henry VI said, “Lord Say, Jack Cade has sworn to have your head.”

“Yes, but I hope your highness shall have his,” Lord Say replied.

“What is this, madam!” King Henry VI said to Queen Margaret. “Still lamenting and mourning for Suffolk’s death? I am afraid, love, if I were the one who is dead, you would not mourn so much for me.”

Queen Margaret replied, “No, my love. I would not mourn, but die for you.”

A messenger entered the room.

King Henry VI said, “What is it? What’s the news? Why have you come in such haste?”

“The rebels are in Southwark, just south of the Thames River. They will soon cross London Bridge,” the messenger said. “Flee, my lord! Jack Cade proclaims himself Lord Mortimer, descended from the Duke of Clarence’s house, and he calls your grace a usurper openly and vows to crown himself in Westminster.

“His army is a ragged multitude of rustics and peasants, uncivilized and merciless. The deaths of Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother have given them heart and courage to proceed. They call all scholars, lawyers, courtiers, and gentlemen traitorous parasites, and they intend to kill them.”

“Oh, graceless men!” King Henry VI said. “They lack the grace of God, and they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34 states, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (King James Version).

The Duke of Buckingham said, “My gracious lord, return to Kenilworth, near Warwick, until an army is raised to put them down.”

Queen Margaret said, “Ah, if the Duke of Suffolk were now alive, these Kentish rebels would be soon subdued!”

“Lord Say, the traitors hate you,” King Henry VI said. “Therefore, go away with us to Kenilworth.”

Lord Say replied, “If I go with you, then your grace’s person might be in danger. The sight of me is odious in their eyes, and in seeking to harm me, the rebels may harm you. Therefore, in this city I will stay and live alone as secretly as I may.”

Another messenger arrived and said, “Jack Cade has captured London Bridge. The citizens flee and forsake their houses. The rascal people, thirsting after prey, join with the traitor, and they jointly swear to despoil and plunder the city and your royal court.”

The Duke of Buckingham advised the King, “Don’t linger, my lord. Go away, and take to horse.”

“Come, Margaret,” King Henry VI said. “God, our hope, will succor us.”

Queen Margaret replied, “My hope is gone, now that the Duke of Suffolk is deceased.”

King Henry VI said to Lord Say, “Farewell, my lord. Don’t trust the Kentish rebels.”

“Trust nobody, for fear you will be betrayed,” the Duke of Buckingham advised.

Lord Say said, “The trust I have is in my innocence, and therefore I am bold and resolute.”

— 4.5 —

A commander named Lord Scales walked on top of a wall of the Tower of London, which King Henry VI had ordered him to defend. Two or three citizens arrived and stood below him on the ground.

Lord Scales saw them and asked, “What’s happening? Has Jack Cade been slain?”

“No, my lord,” the first citizen said. “Nor is he likely to be slain, for the rebels have captured London Bridge, killing all those who stood against them. The Lord Mayor begs your honor for aid from the Tower of London to defend the city from the rebels.”

“Such aid as I can spare, you shall command,” Lord Scales said, “but I am troubled here with the rebels myself. The rebels have attempted to capture the Tower of London. But go to Smithfield and gather troops, and thither I will send you the great warrior Matthew Goffe.

“Fight for your King, your country, and your lives. And so, farewell, for I must go away from here again.”

— 4.6 —

On Cannon Street in London, Jack Cade and other rebels, including Dick the Butcher and Smith the Weaver, stood. Jack Cadestruck his staff on London Stone, a historical landmark that is thought to be a remnant of London’s Roman history.

Jack Cade said, “Now I, Mortimer, am lord of this city. And here, sitting upon London Stone, I order and command that, at the city’s cost, the Pissing Conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign.”

The Pissing Conduit was a source of water for London’s poor.

Jack Cade continued, “And from now henceforward it shall be treason for anyone who calls me anything other than Lord Mortimer.”

A soldier came running and shouted, “Jack Cade! Jack Cade!”

Jack Cade said, “Knock him down there.”

His supporters killed the soldier.

Smith the Weaver said, “If this fellow is wise, he’ll never call you Jack Cade again. I think he has had a very fair warning.”

Dick the Butcher said, “My lord, there’s an army gathered together in Smithfield.”

Jack Cade said, “Come, then, let’s go fight with them, but first, go and set London Bridge on fire, and if you can, burn down the Tower of London, too. Come, let’s go.”


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

— 4.2 —

At Blackheath, Kent, two people named George Bevis and John Holland talked together. They were carrying staves — wooden boards, and they were waiting for Jack Cade and his rebels to arrive.

George Bevis said, “Come, and get yourself a sword, although it is made of thin wood. The rebels have been up these past two days.”

George Bevis meant “up in arms,” but Holland pretended he meant “up and out of bed.”

Holland said, “They have the more need to sleep now, then.”

George Bevis said, “I tell you, Jack Cade the clothier means to dress the commonwealth, and turn it, and set a new nap upon it.”

A clothier makes woolen cloth. George Bevis was saying that Jack Cade was going to reform the commonwealth the way that a tailor could make old clothing seem new: turn it inside out, and give it a new surface, aka nap.

“He needs to do that, for the commonwealth is threadbare,” Holland said. “Well, I say it was never a merry world in England since gentlemen rose in rank and power.”

“Oh, what a miserable age!” George Bevis said. “Virtue is not regarded in handicraftsmen. We skilled workers are not valued.”

“The nobility think it is degrading to wear leather aprons,” Holland said.

“What’s more, the King’s Council are not good workmen,” George Bevis said.

“True,” Holland said, “and yet it is said, labor in your vocation, which is as much to say as, let the magistrates be laboring men; and therefore we laboring men should be magistrates.”

“You have hit the target,” George Bevis said, “for there’s no better sign of a fine, splendid mind than a hard, calloused hand.”

Seeing the rebels approaching, Holland said, “I see them! I see them! There’s the son of Best, the tanner of Wingham —”

“He shall have the skin of our enemies, to make dog’s-leather of,” George Bevis said.

Dog’s-leather was dogskin, a kind of leather used to make gloves.

“And there’s Dick the Butcher —” Holland said.

“Then is sin struck down like an ox, and iniquity’s throat cut like a calf,” George Bevis said.

“And there’s Smith the Weaver —” Holland said.

Argo, their thread of life is spun,” George Bevis said.

Argo” was an uneducated person’s way of saying “Ergo,” which is Latin for “Therefore.”

“Come, come, let’s fall in with them,” Holland said.

Jack Cade, Dick the Butcher, Smith the Weaver, a sawyer — a person who saws wood — and many other rebels arrived.

Using the royal plural, Jack Cade said, “We, John Cade, so named for our supposed father —”

Dick the Butcher and the other rebels knew who Jack Cade was. He was a man just like them, a rebel who was not royalty, although he was pretending to be royalty — and he and they knew that he was pretending.

Dick the Butcher said, “Or rather, so named for stealing a cade of herrings.”

A “cade” is a barrel.

Jack Cade said, “For our enemies shall fall before us, inspired with the spirit of putting down Kings and Princes.

He then ordered, “Command silence.”

Dick the Butcher shouted, “Silence!”

Jack Cade said, “My father was a Mortimer —”

Mortimer was supposed to have a better claim to the throne than King Henry VI, but Jack Cade’s father was a mortarer, a person who laid bricks. Jack Cade’s father was not a Mortimer.

Dick the Butcher said, “He was an honest man, and a good bricklayer.”

Jack Cade said, “My mother was a Plantagenet —”

A “jennet” is a lance, so his mother was a woman who knew about planting a particular phallic-shaped object, an act that sometimes results in the production of babies when an actual phallus is used.

Dick the Butcher said, “I knew her well; she was a midwife.”

Jack Cade said, “My wife was descended from the family known as the Lacies —”

Dick the Butcher said, “She was, indeed, a peddler’s daughter, and sold many laces.”

Smith the Weaver said, “But now of late, not able to travel with her furred pack, she washes bucks here at home.”

A “furred pack” is a peddler’s pack with the fur on the outside. To “wash bucks” meant to wash loads of soiled clothing. ” The word “buck” means “laundry.”

Smith the Weaver’s words had a bawdy sense. To “travel with a furred pack” meant to “labor as a prostitute.” A “pack” is a container, and a “furred pack” is a vulva (including the opening of the vagina) with pubic hair; a vagina can be a container for a penis. A “buck” is a strapping young man, and to “wash bucks” means to get them — that is, a certain part of their body — wet.

Jack Cade said, “Therefore I am of an honorable house.”

Dick the Butcher said, “Yes, by my faith, the field is honorable, and there was he born, under a hedge, because his father never had a house except the cage.”

The “cage” is a prison for petty criminals.

“Valiant I am,” Jack Cade said.

Smith the Weaver said, “He must needs be valiant; for beggary is valiant.”

“Valiant beggars” were able-bodied beggars; it was against the law to give alms to them. The penalty for able-bodied people who were caught begging was a whipping.

Jack Cade said, “I am able to endure much.”

Dick the Butcher said, “There is no question about that; for I have seen him whipped three market-days without intermission.”

“I fear neither sword nor fire,” Jack Cade said.

Smith the Weaver said, “He need not fear the sword; for his coat is of proof. His coat has had so much liquor spilled on it that it is obvious that Jack Cade is always too drunk to fear anything.”

Dick the Butcher said, “But I think he should stand in fear of fire because he was burnt on the hand for the stealing of sheep. His hand was branded with a ‘T’ for ‘Thief.’”

Jack Cade said, “Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation of the commonwealth. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny — you will get more bread for your money. The three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops — you shall get more beer. I will make it a felony to drink small beer; instead of small beer, which is weak, you shall drink strong beer. All the realm shall be common property. In Cheapside — London’s main market area — my horse shall go to eat grass, and when I am King, as King I will be —”

All the rebels present shouted, “God save your majesty!”

“I thank you, good people,” Jack Cade said. “There shall be no money; all shall eat and drink at my expense, and I will clothe them all in one livery so that they may agree like brothers and worship me their lord.”

Dick the Butcher said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Jack Cade said, “I intend to do that. Isn’t this a lamentable thing, that the skin of an innocent lamb should be made into parchment, which, being scribbled over, should undo and ruin a man? Some say the bee stings, but I say that it is the bee’s wax that is used to seal legal documents that stings because I signed and sealed a legal document only once, and I have never been my own man since.”

He heard a noise and said, “What’s happening! Who’s there?”

Some rebels came forward, bringing with them a prisoner: the Clerk of Chatham. Clerks were learned men who could read, write, and do arithmetic. Clerks were also often schoolteachers.

Smith the Weaver said, “This is the Clerk of Chatham: He can write and read and do arithmetic.”

“Oh, monstrous!” Jack Cade said.

Smith the Weaver said, “We captured him while he was preparing samples of handwriting for schoolboys to copy.”

“Here’s a villain!” Jack Cade said.

Smith the Weaver said, “He has a book in his pocket with red letters in it.”

Almanacs, which were consulted by astrologers, had certain dates printed in red. Schoolbooks had capital letters printed in red.

Jack Cade said, “So then he is a conjurer.”

Dick the Butcher said, “He can make obligations, aka bonds, and write court-handwriting, which is used for legal documents.”

“I am sorry to hear it,” Jack Cade said. “The man is a proper man, a good-looking man, on my honor; unless I find him guilty, he shall not die.

“Come here, sirrah, I must examine you. What is your name?”

“Sirrah” was used to address a person of lower social standing than the speaker.

The Clerk replied, “Emmanuel.”

Dick the Butcher said, “They write ‘Emmanuel’ on the top of letters. It will go hard with you.”

Emmanuelis a Hebrew word that means “God is with us.”

“Don’t interrupt me,” Jack Cade said.

Then he asked the Clerk, “Do you write your name? Or do you sign your name with a mark, like an honest plain-dealing man?”

The Clerk said, “Sir, I thank God that I have been so well brought up that I can write my name.”

The rebels shouted, “He has confessed. Away with him! He’s a villain and a traitor.”

“Away with him, I say!” Jack Cade shouted. “Hang him with his pen and inkhorn about his neck.”

The inkhorn was used to hold ink for writing.

A rebel took the Clerk away.

A rebel named Michael arrived and asked, “Where’s our General?”

Jack Cade replied, “Here I am, you particular fellow.”

“Flee, flee, flee!” Michael said. “Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother are close by, with the King’s forces.”

“Stand, villain, stand, or I’ll fell you down,” Jack Cade said. “He shall be encountered with a man as good as himself. He is only a knight, isn’t he?”

Michael replied, “He is no better.”

Jack Cade said, “To equal him, I will make myself a knight right now.”

He knelt and then said, “Rise up, Sir John Mortimer.”

He stood up and said, “Now let me at him!”

Sir Humphrey Stafford and William Stafford arrived, along with a drummer and some soldiers.

Sir Humphrey Stafford said to the rebels, “Rebellious peasants, the filth and scum of Kent, marked from birth for the gallows, lay your weapons down; go home to your cottages, forsake this servant named Jack Cade. The King is merciful, if you revolt against Jack Cade and again swear allegiance to your King.”

William Stafford said, “But the King will be angry, wrathful, and inclined to blood, if you go forward and continue to rebel against him; therefore yield, or die.”

Jack Cade said, “As for these silken-coated slaves, the Staffords, I care not. It is to you, good people, whom I speak, and over whom, in time to come, I hope to reign, for I am the rightful heir to the crown.”

Sir Humphrey Stafford said, “Villain, your father was a plasterer, and you yourself are a shearman, aren’t you?”

A shearman cuts off the extra nap from wool cloth.

Jack Cade said, “And Adam was a gardener.”

A proverb stated, “When Adam delved and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?”

Adam and Eve were the first human beings. After being cast out of the Garden of Eden, they had to work in order to survive.

To “delve” is to plow. “Span” is the past tense of “spin.” Spinning is part of the process of making cloth.

William Stafford asked, “And what of that?”

Jack Cade replied, “By the Virgin Mary, this: Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, married the Duke of Clarence’s daughter, didn’t he?”

Sir Humphrey Stafford replied, “Yes, sir.”

“By her he had two children at one birth,” Jack Cade said.

“That’s false,” William Stafford said.

“There’s the question,” Jack Cade said, “but I say that it is true. The elder of them, being put to nurse, was by a beggar-woman stolen away, and, ignorant of his birth and parentage, he became a bricklayer when he came to age. I am his son. Deny it, if you can.”

Dick the Butcher said, “It is very true; therefore, he shall be King.”

Smith the Weaver said, “Sir, he made a chimney in my father’s house, and the bricks are alive at this day to testify to it; therefore, don’t deny it.”

Sir Humphrey Stafford said, “And will you credit the words of this base drudge, who doesn’t know what he is saying?”

The rebels said, “By the Virgin Mary, we will; therefore, get you gone. Leave.”

William Stafford said, “Jack Cade, the Duke of York has taught you to say this.”

Jack Cade said quietly so only the rebels could hear, “He lies, for I invented it myself.”

He then said out loud, “Bah, sirrah, tell the King from me that for the sake of his father, King Henry V, in whose time boys went to span-counter for French crowns, I am content that he shall reign, but I’ll be Lord Protector over him.”

King Henry V won many notable victories over the French. The English and the French fought man to man.

Span-counter is a game in which boys throw counters with the object of throwing their counter close to — within a hand-span — of the other boy’s counter.

Dick the Butcher said, “And furthermore, we’ll have the Lord Say’s head for selling the Dukedom of Maine.”

Jack Cade said, “And for good reason; for thereby is England mained — I mean, maimed — and obliged to go about with a staff, except that my power holds it up.”

He said to the rebels, “Fellow Kings, I tell you that the Lord Say has gelded the commonwealth, and made it a eunuch, and more than that, he can speak French, and therefore he is a traitor.”

Sir Humphrey Stafford said, “Oh, gross and miserable ignorance!”

Jack Cade said, “Answer this, if you can: The Frenchmen are our enemies. And so, then, I ask only this: Can he who speaks with the tongue of an enemy be a good counselor, or not?”

The rebels shouted, “He cannot, and therefore we’ll have his head.”

William Stafford said to his brother, “Well, seeing that gentle words will not prevail, assail them with the army of the King.”

Sir Humphrey Stafford ordered, “Herald, go; and throughout every town proclaim to be traitors those who are up in arms with Jack Cade so that those who flee before the battle ends may, even in their wives’ and children’s sight, be hanged up at their doors as an example to others.

“Those of you who are the King’s friends, follow me.”

Sir Humphrey Stafford and William Stafford exited with their drummer and soldiers.

Jack Cade said to the rebels, “And you who love the commoners, follow me. Now show yourselves to be men; it is for liberty. We will not leave one lord, one gentleman, alive. Spare none except such men as go about in shoes with hobnails, for they are thrifty and honest men, and such as would, except that they dare not, take our parts.”

Dick the Butcher said, “They are all in order and march toward us. They are drawn up in military formation.”

Jack Cade said, “But then we are in order when we are most out of order.”

He and the rebels were most in order — in military formation — when they were most out of order — rebelling against the King.

Jack Cade ordered, “Come, march forward.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 2 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene – Act 4, Scene 1

— 3.3 —

Cardinal Beaufort lay mortally ill and delirious in bed. By him were King Henry VI, the Earl of Salisbury, and the Earl of Warwick.

“How is my lord?” King Henry VI asked. “Speak, Cardinal Beaufort, to your sovereign.”

Cardinal Beaufort replied, “If you are Death, I’ll give you England’s treasure, enough to purchase another such island, if you will let me live, and feel no pain.”

King Henry VI said, “Ah, what a sign it is of evil life, where death’s approach is seen as being so terrible!”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Beaufort, it is your sovereign who speaks to you.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “Bring me to my trial when you will. Didn’t he — the Duke of Gloucester — die in his bed? Where else should he die? Can I make men live, whether they will or no?

“Oh, torture me no more! I will confess.

“Alive again? Then show me where he is. I’ll give a thousand pounds to look at him.

“He has no eyes, the dust has blinded them. Comb down his hair. Look, look! It stands upright, like twigs smeared with birdlime — like a trap to catch my winged soul.

“Give me some drink; and tell the apothecary to bring the strong poison that I bought from him.”

King Henry VI prayed, “Oh, Thou eternal Mover of the Heavens, look with a gentle eye upon this wretch! Oh, beat away the busy meddling fiend that lays strong siege to capture this wretch’s soul. And, Thou eternal Mover of the Heavens, purge this black despair from his bosom!”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Look at how the pangs of death make him grin and bare his teeth!”

The Earl of Salisbury said, “Don’t disturb him; let him pass peaceably.”

King Henry VI said, “May he have peace to his soul, if that is God’s good pleasure!

“Lord Cardinal Beaufort, if you are thinking about Heaven’s bliss, hold up your hand; make a signal — a sign — of your hope.”

Cardinal Beaufort died.

King Henry VI said, “He dies, and makes no sign. Oh, God, forgive him!”

“So bad a death is evidence of a monstrous life,” the Earl of Warwick said.

“Forbear to judge, for we all are sinners,” King Henry VI said. “God will be the judge.

“Close his eyes and draw closed the curtain around his bed; and let us all go to pray.”

— 4.1 —

Off the coast of Kent, a battle between two ships had taken place. The losing ship was the one carrying the disguised Duke of Suffolk as he attempted to sail to France. The Captain, a Master, a Master’s-Mate, a man named Walter Whitmore, and others were meeting to decide what to do with the prisoners. Evening was falling. The Captain was the highest-ranking officer, while the Master was a high-ranking officer who was responsible for navigation.

The Captain said, “The showy, blabbing, and compassionate day has crept into the bosom of the sea, and now loud-howling wolves arouse the jades — dragons pulling the night-chariot — that drag the tragic melancholy night. These jades, with their drowsy, slow, and flagging wings, embrace dead men’s graves and from their misty jaws breathe foul contagious darkness into the air.”

Day is showy because it is bright with sunshine. It is blabbing because the daylight reveals what a criminal would prefer to be covered up by darkness, and it is compassionate because dirty — not-compassionate — deeds prefer to be done in the dark.

The Captain said, “Therefore bring forth the soldiers of our prize — the ship we captured. For, while our pinnace, aka small, light ship, anchors in the Downs, aka the sea off Kent’s east coast, they shall make their ransom here on the sand, or stain and discolor with their blood this shore.

“Master, this prisoner freely I give to you, and you who are his Master’s-Mate, take this second prisoner and make a profit from him. Walter Whitmore, this third prisoner is your share.”

The first gentleman prisoner asked, “What is my ransom, Master? Let me know.”

The Master replied, “A thousand crowns, or else lay down your head.”

To lay down one’s head was to be beheaded.

The Master’s-Mate said to the second gentleman prisoner, “And so much shall you give, or off goes your head.”

The Captain said to the two gentleman prisoners, “Do you think it too much to pay two thousand crowns, you who bear the name and bearing of gentlemen?”

Walter Whitmore advised, “Cut both the villains’ throats.”

He looked at his prisoner and said, “For die you shall.”

He then said to the Captain and the other pirates, “Shall the lives of those whom we have lost in the fight be counterbalanced with such a petty sum!”

The first gentleman prisoner said, “I’ll pay the ransom, sir; and therefore spare my life.”

The second gentleman prisoner said, “And so will I, and I will write home for it immediately.”

Walter Whitmore said to the third gentleman prisoner, who was the Duke of Suffolk in disguise, “I lost my eye in attacking the prize at close quarters, and therefore in order for me to get revenge for it, you shall die — and so would these other gentleman prisoners, if I might have my will.”

The Captain advised, “Don’t be so rash; take a ransom, and let him live.”

The disguised Duke of Suffolk said, “Look at my George; I am a gentleman. Rate me at whatever you will; you shall be paid.”

A George is a figure of St. George killing a dragon; it is part of the insignia of the Order of the Garter.

Walter Whitmore said, “And so I am and will be; the ransom I want is your life. My name is Walter Whitmore.”

He pronounced “Walter” without the L: “Water.” In this culture, this pronunciation was common.

Hearing this, and remembering the prophecy that he would die “by water,” the Duke of Suffolk flinched, aka started.

Walter Whitmore said, “What! Why did you start? Does death frighten you?”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Your name frightens me because in its sound is death. A cunning man who could foretell the future cast my horoscope and told me that by water I would die. Yet don’t let this make you be bloody-minded. Your name is the medieval French Gaultier, if it were rightly pronounced.”

“Gaultier or Walter, whichever it is, I don’t care,” Walter Whitmore said, “Never yet did base dishonor blur our name, but with our sword we wiped away the blot. Therefore, when merchant-like I sell my revenge by accepting a ransom, then let my sword be broken, my coat of arms be torn and defaced, and I be proclaimed a coward throughout the world!”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Wait, Whitmore; for your prisoner is a Prince. I am the Duke of Suffolk, William de la Pole.”

Walter Whitmore said, “The Duke of Suffolk muffled up in rags!”

The Duke of Suffolk replied, “Yes, but these rags are no part of the Duke. The Roman King of the gods, Jove, sometimes went disguised, and so why not I?”

Unfortunately for the Duke of Suffolk, he was greatly disliked by the people of England.

The Captain said, “But Jove was never slain, as you shall be.”

Recognizing the Captain, the Duke of Suffolk said, “You obscure and lowly yokel, King Henry VI’s blood, the honorable blood of the House of Lancaster, must not be shed by such a jaded groom as you.

“Haven’t you kissed your hand to show respect to me and haven’t you held my stirrup?

“Haven’t you bare-headed plodded by my mule as it wore a decorative cloth and thought yourself happy when I shook my head?

“How often have you waited at my cup, fed from my serving-dish, and kneeled down at the table when I have feasted with Queen Margaret?

“Remember it and let it make you crestfallen, yes, and abate your abhorrent and ill-timed pride.

“How often in our waiting-room lobby have you stood and duly waited for me to come forth?

“This hand of mine has written legal testimonials in your behalf, and therefore it shall charm your riotous tongue.”

Such words were insulting, and they were spoken in an insulting voice.

Walter Whitmore said, “Speak, Captain, shall I stab this forlorn swain?”

“First let my words stab him, as he has me,” the Captain said.

“Base, lowly born slave, your words are blunt and harmless and so are you,” the Duke of Suffolk said.

The Captain said, “Convey him away from here and on our longboat’s side strike off his head.”

“You don’t dare, for fear of losing your own head,” the Duke of Suffolk, William de la Pole, said.

“Yes, I do dare, Pole,” the Captain said.

“Pole!” the Duke of Suffolk said, outraged at not being addressed by his title. He regarded as an insult the Captain’s addressing him by his family name.

In this culture, “Pole” was pronounced “Pool.” The Captain made a series of insults, some of them punning on the name. The word “poll” means “head.” The head of a beheaded man was displayed on a pole. “Sir Pol” was a common name for a parrot. A kennel is an open gutter. A sink is a cesspool.

The Captain said, “Pool! Sir Pool! Lord! Yes, kennel, puddle, sink — whose filth and dirt muddies the silver spring where England drinks.

“Now I will dam up your gaping, greedy mouth because it swallowed the treasure of the realm.

“Your lips that kissed the Queen shall sweep the ground.

“And you who smiled at good Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s death shall grin in vain against the unfeeling winds.”

The Duke of Suffolk’s head would be displayed on a pole in a place open to the weather.

The Captain continued, “These winds in contempt shall hiss at you again, and you shall be wedded to the hags of Hell — the Furies — because you dared to betroth a mighty lord — Henry VI —to the daughter of a worthless King — Reignier — who lacks subjects, wealth, and a diadem.

“By means of Devilish and cunning political intrigue, you have grown great, and, like ambitious Sulla, you have gorged yourself with gobbets — pieces of raw flesh — of your mother country’s bleeding heart.”

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was a Roman General who used his power as Dictator of Rome to kill his enemies.

The Captain continued, “Anjou and Maine were sold to France by you.

“Because of you, the false revolting Normans disdain to call us lord, and the citizens of Picardy have slain their governors, surprised our forts, and sent the ragged soldiers wounded home.

“The Princely Warwick, and all the Nevilles, whose dreadful swords were never drawn in vain, are rising up in arms because they hate you, and now the House of York, thrust from the crown by the shameful murder of the guiltless King Richard II and by lofty proud encroaching tyranny, burns with revenging fire. Their hopeful colors, aka battle flags, raise our half-faced Sun — a Sun bursting through clouds, aka the symbol of Richard II — striving to shine, under which is written ‘Invitis nubibus.’”

The Latin “Invitis nubibus” means “Despite the clouds.”

The Captain continued, “The commoners here in Kent are up in arms.

“And, to conclude, reproach and beggary have crept into the palace of our King Henry VI, and all because of you.

“Take him away! Take him to his death!”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Oh, I wish that I were a god, to shoot forth thunder upon these paltry, servile, abject drudges! Small things make basely born men proud: This villain here, who is the Captain of a mere pinnace, threatens more than Bargulus, the strong Illyrian pirate.

“Drones don’t suck the blood of eagles, but they do rob beehives. It is impossible that I should die by such a lowly vassal as yourself. Your words move rage and not remorse in me.

“I am carrying a message from Queen Margaret to the King of France. I order you to waft — transport by water — me safely across the Channel.”

The Captain said, “Walter —”

Knowing what the Captain was going to order him to do, Walter Whitmore said, “Come, Suffolk, I must waft you to your death.”

He was identifying himself with Chiron, the mythological figure who ferried souls to the Land of the Dead.

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Gelidus timor occupat artus. It is you I fear.”

Gelidus timor occupat artus” is Latin for “Cold fear seizes my limbs.”

Walter Whitmore said, “You shall have reason to fear before I leave you. Are you daunted now? Now will you stoop to me?”

The first gentleman prisoner said, “My gracious lord, beg him for your life. Speak respectfully to him.”

The Duke of Suffolk replied, “Suffolk’s imperial tongue is stern and rough, used to command, untaught to plead for favor.”

Using the royal plural, he said, “Far be it that we should honor such as these with humble entreaties. No, I would rather let my head stoop to the chopping block than let these knees bow to anyone except to the God of Heaven and to my King. And I would sooner have my chopped-off head dance upon a bloody pole than stand uncovered — with my hand holding my hat in respect — to honor the vulgar groom, aka servant.

“True nobility is exempt from fear. I can bear more than you dare execute.”

The Captain ordered, “Haul him away, and let him talk no more.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Come, soldiers, show me what cruelty you can, so that this my death may never be forgotten!

“Great men often die at the hands of vile scoundrels.

“A Roman sword-fighter and outlaw slave murdered sweet Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman orator.

“Brutus’ bastard hand stabbed Julius Caesar.

“Savage islanders murdered Pompey the Great.

“And now Suffolk dies at the hands of pirates.”

The Duke of Suffolk’s education was lacking. Cicero was actually killed by two of Marcus Antony’s soldiers: a centurion named Herennius and a tribune named Pompilius Laena. Brutus was incorrectly thought to be Julius Caesar’s bastard son. Pompey was actually killed by some of his former centurions on the coast of Egypt.

Centurions and tribunes are commanders of the ancient Roman army.

Walter Whitmore and others took the Duke of Suffolk away to be killed.

The Captain said, “And as for these whose ransom we have set, it is our pleasure that one of them depart.

“Therefore come you with us and let him” — he pointed to the first gentleman prisoner — “go.”

Everyone exited except for the first gentleman prisoner.

Walter Whitmore returned, carrying the Duke of Suffolk’s head and body.

He threw them on the ground and said, “There let his head and lifeless body lie, until the Queen his mistress bury them.”

The first gentleman prisoner said, “Oh, barbarous and bloody spectacle! I will carry his corpse to the King. If he doesn’t revenge this death, his friends will. So will the Queen, who regarded him dearly when he was alive.”

He carried away the head and body.


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

— 3.2 —

Some murderers entered a room of state at Bury St. Edmund’s. They had just murdered the Duke of Gloucester by strangling him.

The first murderer said, “Run to my Lord of Suffolk; let him know that we have dispatched the Duke of Gloucester, as he commanded.”

“Oh, that it were not yet done so that we could decide not to do it!” the second murderer said. “What have we done! Did you ever hear a man so penitent?”

The Duke of Suffolk entered the room.

The murderer said, “Here comes my Lord of Suffolk.”

“Now, sirs, have you dispatched this thing?” the Duke of Suffolk asked. “Have you murdered him?”

“Yes, my good lord, he’s dead,” the first murderer said.

“Why, that’s well done,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Go to my house; I will reward you for this venturous, dangerous deed. The King and all the peers are here at hand. Have you remade the bed? Is everything done well, in accordance with the directions I gave you?”

“Yes, it is, my good lord,” the first murderer said.

“Leave! Be gone!” the Duke of Suffolk ordered.

The murderers exited.

Trumpets sounded, and several people entered the room: King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, and some attendants.

King Henry VI said, “Go, call our uncle the Duke of Gloucester to come into our presence immediately. Say that we intend to try his grace today to determine whether he is guilty, as charged publicly.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “I’ll call him to you immediately, my noble lord.”

He exited.

King Henry VI said, “Lords, take your places, and I ask you all to proceed no stricter against our uncle the Duke of Gloucester than from true evidence of good value he is proven to be guilty of treachery. Let true evidence of good value show whether he is guilty or innocent.”

Queen Margaret said, “May God forbid that any malice should prevail that would condemn an innocent nobleman! I pray to God that the Duke of Gloucester may acquit himself of suspicion!”

“I thank you, Meg,” King Henry VI said. “These words much content me. They make me very happy.”

The Duke of Suffolk reentered the room.

Seeing him, King Henry VI said, “What’s going on! Why do you look pale? Why are you trembling? Where is our uncle the Duke of Gloucester? What’s the matter, Suffolk?”

“He is dead in his bed, my lord,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “The Duke of Gloucester is dead.”

“By the Virgin Mary, God forbid!” Queen Margaret said.

Cardinal Beaufort said, “This is God’s secret judgment. I dreamt last night that the Duke of Gloucester was mute and could not speak a word.”

King Henry VI fainted.

“How is my lord?” Queen Margaret said. “Help, lords! The King is dead.”

“Raise his body,” the Duke of Somerset said. “Wring his nose.”

This was thought to help someone regain consciousness.

“Run, go, help, help!” Queen Margaret said. “Henry, open your eyes!”

“He is regaining consciousness,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Madam, be calm.”

“Oh, Heavenly God!” King Henry VI said.

“How is my gracious lord?” Queen Margaret asked.

“Take comfort, my sovereign!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Gracious Henry, take comfort!”

“Is my Lord of Suffolk comforting me?” King Henry VI said sarcastically to him. “He came just now to sing a raven’s ominous note of death, whose dismal tune took away from me my vital powers, and does he think that the chirping of a wren, crying ‘take comfort’ from a hollow, false, insincere breast, can chase away the first-heard sound — that of the raven?

“Don’t hide your poison with such sugared words. Lay not your hands on me; stop and forbear, I say. The touch of your hands frightens me as much as a serpent’s bite.

“You baleful messenger, get out of my sight! Upon your eyeballs murderous tyranny sits in grim majesty and frightens the world.

“Don’t look upon me — your eyes wound me.

“Yet do not go away. Come, basilisk, and kill the innocent gazer with your sight, for in the shadow of death I shall find joy. In life I find only double death, now that the Duke of Gloucester is dead.”

A basilisk is a mythological serpent that could kill people simply by looking at them.

Queen Margaret said, “Why do you berate my Lord of Suffolk thus? Although the Duke of Gloucester was his enemy, yet Suffolk like a Christian laments his death. And as for myself, foe as the Duke of Gloucester was to me, if liquid tears or heart-offending groans or blood-consuming sighs could recall his life, I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans, and look as pale as a primrose with blood-drinking sighs, and all to have the noble Duke of Gloucester alive.”

She was referring to the belief that each sigh or groan would take a drop of blood away from the heart.

Queen Margaret continued, “What do I know about how the world may judge of me? It is known that the Duke of Gloucester and I were only hollow friends — we were enemies. It may be judged I killed the Duke, and so shall my name be wounded by the tongue of slander, and Princes’ courts be filled with the reproach of me. This is what I get by his death — unhappy me! To be a Queen, and crowned with infamy!”

King Henry VI said, “Ah, woe is me for Gloucester, wretched man! I am grieved because of his death.”

Queen Margaret said, “Be woe for me — be sorry for me — because I am more wretched than he is. Do you turn away from me and hide your face? I am no loathsome leper; look at me.

“What! Are you, like the adder, grown deaf? Be poisonous like the adder and kill your forlorn Queen.”

In this culture, snakes were thought to be able to stop one ear with their tail and hold the other ear to the ground, thereby not hearing any sounds.

Psalm 58:3-5 (King James Version) states this:

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;

Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

Queen Margaret continued, “Is all your comfort shut in the Duke of Gloucester’s tomb? Why, then, Dame Margaret was never your joy. Erect his statue and worship it, and make my image just a cheap alehouse sign.

“Was I for this almost wrecked upon the sea and twice by adverse winds from England’s bank driven back again to my native land? What foretold this, but a well-meaning and accurately prophesizing forewarning wind that seemed to say ‘Don’t seek a scorpion’s nest, and don’t set foot on this unkind shore’?

“What did I then, but cursed the gentle gusts and Aeolus, the god of winds, who loosed them forth from their strong bronze caves. And I bade the winds to blow towards England’s blessed shore, or turn our stern upon a dreadful rock and wreck the ship and drown me.

“Yet Aeolus would not be a murderer, but left that hateful office to you. The pretty vaulting — rising and falling — sea refused to drown me, knowing that you would have me drowned on shore, with tears as salty as sea water, through your unkindness. The rocks that split ships in pieces cowered in the sinking sands and would not dash me with their jagged sides so that your flinty heart, harder than they, might in your palace destroy me, Margaret.

“As long as I could see your chalky cliffs at Dover, when from your shore the tempest beat us back, I stood upon the deck in the storm, and when the dusky sky began to rob my eagerly peering sight of the view of your land, I took a costly jeweled ornament from my neck — a heart it was, surrounded by diamonds — and threw it towards your land. The sea received it, and so I wished your body might receive my heart. And even with this I lost sight of fair England and bade my eyes to depart with my heart and called my eyes blind and dusky spectacles because they lost sight of Albion’s — England’s — wished-for coast.

“How often have I tempted Suffolk’s tongue, the agent of your foul inconstancy, the one who convinced me to marry you, to sit and bewitch me, as Ascanius did when he to Dido, maddened by love, would unfold his father’s acts commenced in burning Troy!”

In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas’ son, Ascanius (actually Venus’ disguised son Cupid took his place) sat on the lap of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and told her about the exploits of Aeneas, who had survived the fall of Troy and rescued his father and son from the burning city.

Queen Margaret continued, “Am I not bewitched like her? Are you not false like him?”

Aeneas and Dido had a love affair in Carthage, but Aeneas left her in order to go to Italy and achieve his destiny of being an important ancestor of the Roman people.

Queen Margaret continued, “Woe is me. I can say or do no more! Die, Margaret, because Henry weeps that you live so long.”

Noises were heard, and the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Salisbury entered the room. Many commoners stood outside the room.

The Earl of Warwick said to King Henry VI, “It is reported, mighty sovereign, that the good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, has been traitorously murdered by the means of the Duke of Suffolk and Cardinal Beaufort. The commoners, like an angry hive of bees that want their leader, scatter up and down and care not whom they sting in seeking revenge for his death. I myself have calmed their spleenful mutiny, until they hear the manner of his death.”

“That he is dead, good Warwick, is too true,” King Henry VI said. “But how he died God knows, not I, Henry. Enter his chamber, view his breathless corpse, and then tell us your opinion of his sudden death.”

“That I shall do, my liege,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Stay, Salisbury, with the unrefined multitude until I return.”

The Earl of Warwick exited and joined the commoners.

King Henry VI said, “Oh, You Who judges all things, keep back my thoughts, my thoughts that labor to persuade my soul that some violent hands were laid on Humphrey’s life! If my suspicion is false, forgive me, God, because judgment belongs only to You.

“Gladly would I go to warm the Duke of Gloucester’s pale lips with twenty thousand kisses, and to rain upon his face an ocean of salt tears, to tell my love and friendship for him to his silent deaf body, and with my fingers feel his unfeeling hand. But all in vain are these mean funeral obsequies, and to survey his dead and Earthly image, what would it accomplish except to make my sorrow greater?”

The Earl of Warwick and some others came into the room, carrying the bed on which lay the corpse of the Duke of Gloucester.

The Earl of Warwick said to King Henry VI, “Come here, gracious sovereign, and view this body.”

“That is to see how deep my grave is made,” King Henry VI said, “for with his soul fled all my worldly solace. When I see him, I see my life in death.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “As surely as my soul intends to live with that revered King — Jesus, our Lord and Savior — Who took our state upon him to free us from His Father’s wrathful curse as recounted in Genesis, I believe that violent hands were laid upon the life of this much-famed Duke of Gloucester.”

Genesis 3:17-19 (King James Version)states this:

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

“That is a dreadful oath, sworn with a solemn tongue!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “What evidence does Lord Warwick give for his vow?”

The Earl of Warwick said, “See how the blood is settled in his face. Often I have seen a body that has died a natural death have an ashy appearance, pale and bloodless, because the blood has all descended to the laboring heart. The heart, in the conflict that it wages with death, attracts the blood for aid against the enemy — death. The blood stays in the heart after death and there cools and never returns to blush and beautify the cheek again.

“But look, the Duke of Gloucester’s face is black and full of blood. His eyeballs are further out than when he lived; he is staring very ghastly like a strangled man. His hair is standing on end, his nostrils are stretched with struggling; his hands are displayed wide apart, like those of a man who grasped and tugged for life and was by strength subdued.

“Look, you can see his hair is sticking on the sheets. His well-proportioned beard has been made rough and rugged, like the summer’s wheat that has been beaten down by a tempest.

“It cannot be otherwise than that he was murdered here. The least of all these signs makes that probable.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Why, Warwick, who would murder the Duke of Gloucester? I myself and Cardinal Beaufort had him in our protection, and we, I hope, sir, are no murderers.”

“But both of you were Duke Humphrey’s vowed foes,” the Earl of Warwick said.

He then said to Cardinal Beaufort, “And you, certainly, had the good Duke of Gloucester in your custody to guard. It is likely you would not feast him like a friend, and it is easily and clearly seen he found an enemy.”

Queen Margaret said, “Then you, it seems, suspect these noblemen to be guilty of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s untimely death.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “A person who finds the heifer dead and freshly bleeding and sees close by a butcher with an axe will definitely suspect it was the butcher who made the slaughter. A person who finds the partridge in the nest of a bird of prey will definitely imagine how the bird died, although the bird of prey soars with an unbloody beak. Even so suspicious is this tragedy.”

Queen Margaret asked, “Are you the butcher, Duke of Suffolk? Where’s your knife? Is Cardinal Beaufort being called a bird of prey? Where are his talons?”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “I wear no knife to slaughter sleeping men, but here’s a vengeful sword, rusted with disuse, that shall be scoured in the rancorous heart of any man who slanders me with murder’s crimson badge.

“Say, if you dare, proud Lord of Warwickshire, that I am guilty of the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.”

Cardinal Beaufort’s face had become pale at the sight of the corpse of the Duke of Gloucester. Now he was close to fainting, and so the Duke of Somerset and some others assisted him in leaving the room.

The Earl of Warwick replied to the Duke of Suffolk, “What doesn’t Warwick dare to do, if false, treacherous Suffolk dares him?”

Queen Margaret said, “He dares not calm his arrogant, insolent, contentious spirit nor cease to be an arrogant critic, although Suffolk dare him twenty thousand times.”

“Madam, be quiet,” the Earl of Warwick said. “With reverence may I say that every word you speak in Suffolk’s behalf is slander to your royal dignity.”

“Blunt-witted lord, ignoble in demeanor!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “If ever a lady wronged her lord so much, your mother took into her blameworthy bed some coarse untutored peasant, and noble stock was grafted with a slip from a crabapple tree, whose fruit you are — you were never of the Nevilles’ noble family.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Except that the guilt of murder protects you like a buckler, aka a shield, and except that I would rob the deathsman of his fee for executing you for murder, in which act of me killing you I would be acquitting you thereby of ten thousand shames, and except that my sovereign’s presence makes me mild, I would, you false murderous coward, make you beg pardon on your knee for your just now expressed speech, and I would make you say it was your mother that you meant and that you yourself were born a bastard. And after all this fearful homage was done, I would give you your hire, aka wages — death — and send your soul to Hell, you pernicious bloodsucker of sleeping men!”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “You shall be awake while I shed your blood, if away from the presence of King Henry VI you dare go with me.”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Let’s go away from the King’s presence right now, or I will drag you away. Unworthy though you are, I’ll fight you and do some service to Duke Humphrey’s ghost.”

The Duke of Suffolk and the Earl of Warwick exited.

King Henry VI said, “What is a stronger breastplate than an untainted heart! Thrice is that man armed who has a just quarrel, and that man whose conscience is corrupted with injustice is naked, although he is locked up in steel armor.”

Noise was heard coming from outside.

Queen Margaret said, “What noise is this?”

The Duke of Suffolk and the Earl of Warwick reentered the room. Both of them had drawn their weapons, which was a serious offense. Drawn weapons were not allowed in the presence of the King.

King Henry VI said, “Why, what are you doing, lords! You have your wrathful weapons drawn here in our presence! Do you dare be so bold? Why, what tumultuous clamor do we have here?”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “The traitorous Warwick with the men of Bury St. Edmunds all set upon me, mighty sovereign.”

The Earl of Salisbury and several commoners entered the room.

The Earl of Salisbury said to the commoners, “Sirs, stand outside; the King shall know your mind.”

The commoners exited.

He then said to King Henry VI, “Dread lord, the commoners send you word by me that unless Lord Suffolk is immediately executed, or banished from fair England’s territories, they will by violence tear him from your palace and torture him with a grievous lingering death. They say that by him the good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, died. They say that in him they fear your highness’ death; and their pure instinct of love and loyalty, free from a stubborn hostile intent, which might be thought to contradict your liking, makes them thus insistent on his banishment.

“They say out of concern for your most royal person that if your highness would intend to sleep and would order that no man should disturb your rest on pain of your dislike or on pain of death, they still, notwithstanding such a strict edict, would wake you if it were necessary to protect your life.

“For example, if there were a serpent seen, with forked tongue, that slyly glided towards your majesty, and it were necessary to awaken you lest your remaining in that slumber would allow the deadly snake to make your sleep eternal, they therefore would cry out and awaken you, although you forbid them to.

“They say that they will guard you, whether you want them to or not, from such cruel serpents as false Suffolk, with whose envenomed and fatal sting your loving uncle Gloucester, who was worth twenty times the worth of Suffolk, they say, is shamefully bereft of life.”

The commoners shouted from outside, “We want an answer from the King, my Lord of Salisbury!”

The Duke of Suffolk said to the Earl of Salisbury, “It is likely that the commoners, rude unpolished peasants, could send such a message to their sovereign. But you, my lord, were glad to be employed, to show how clever an orator you are. But all the honor you, Salisbury, have won is that you are the lord ambassador sent from a gang of tinkers to the King.”

In this society, one meaning of the word “tinker” was “beggar.”

The commoners shouted from outside the room, “We want ananswer from the King, or we will all break in!”

King Henry VI ordered, “Go, Salisbury, and tell them all from me that I thank them for their tender loving care, and even if I had not been incited by them, yet I intended and intend to do what they entreat me to do, for surely my thoughts do hourly prophesy misfortune to my well-being by Suffolk’s means.

“And therefore, I swear by His majesty Whose much unworthy deputy I am that Suffolk shall not breathe infection into this air for more than three days longer, on the pain of death.”

The Earl of Salisbury left to inform the commoners that the Duke of Suffolk would be exiled from England within three days.

Queen Margaret said, “Oh, Henry, let me plead for gentle Suffolk!”

“Ungentle Queen, to call him gentle Suffolk!” King Henry VI said. “Unkind Queen, to call him kind Suffolk! Plead no more, I say. If you plead for him, you will only increase my wrath.

“Had I but pronounced the sentence, but not sworn to it, I would have kept my word, but when I swear, it is irrevocable.”

He said to the Duke of Suffolk, “If, after three days’ space, you are found here on any ground that I am ruler of, the world shall not be the ransom for your life.”

King Henry VI then said, “Come, Warwick. Come, good Warwick, and go with me. I have great matters to impart to you.”

Everyone exited except for Queen Margaret and the Duke of Suffolk.

Queen Margaret said in the direction in which King Henry VI and the Earl of Warwick had departed, “May misfortune and sorrow go along with you! May heart’s discontent and sour affliction be playfellows to keep you company! There are two of you; may the Devil make a third! And may threefold vengeance escort your steps!”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Gentle Queen, stop these imprecations and let your Suffolk take his sorrowful leave.”

“Damn, you coward woman and soft-hearted wretch! Haven’t you the spirit to curse your enemy?” Queen Margaret said.

“May a plague fall upon them!” the Duke of Suffolk said. “Why should I curse them? If curses would kill, as does the poisonous mandrake’s cry when it is pulled from the ground, I would invent as bitter-wounding terms, as angry, as harsh and as horrible to hear, delivered as strongly through my clenched teeth, with as very many signs of deadly hate as the curses that the lean-faced, emaciated hag Envy delivers in her loathsome cave.

“My tongue would stumble as it sought to say my earnest words. My eyes would sparkle like the beaten flint. My hair would be fixed on end, as if I were deranged. Yes, every joint would seem to curse and excommunicate. And even now my burdened heart would break, should I not curse them.

“May poison be their drink! May gall — no, worse than gall — be the most delicious thing that they taste! May their sweetest shade be a grove of cypress trees in a cemetery! May their chief vista be murdering basilisks — either the large cannon known by that name or the snake that kills with a glance! May the softest thing they touch be as painful as a lizard’s sting! May their music be as frightful as the serpent’s hiss! And may foreboding screech owls make the band of musicians full! May all the foul terrors in dark-situated Hell —”

Queen Margaret interrupted, “Enough, sweet Suffolk. You are tormenting yourself, and these dread curses, like the Sun shining against a mirror, or like a gun filled too full of powder, recoil, and turn their force upon yourself.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “You bade me curse, and will you now tell me to stop? Now, by the ground that I am banished from, I say that I could curse away a winter’s night, although I were standing naked on a mountain top, where biting cold would never let grass grow, and I would think it but a minute spent in entertainment.”

Queen Margaret said, “Oh, let me entreat you to cease cursing. Give me your hand so that I may dew it with my mournful tears; don’t let the rain of Heaven wet this place, to wash away my woeful monuments — the tracks of my tears.

“I wish that this kiss could be printed in your hand so that by the seal you might think upon these lips of mine, through which a thousand sighs are breathed for you!

“So, leave so that I may know my grief, which is only imagined while you are standing by me, as if I were a person who overindulges while thinking about what she wants.

“I will get a repeal of your exile for you, or you can be well assured that I will do what it takes to be banished myself. And I am banished if I am apart from you.

“Go; don’t speak to me. Even now be gone.”

The Duke of Suffolk started to leave.

Queen Margaret changed her mind: “Oh, don’t go yet! Even like this, two friends who are condemned to die will embrace and kiss and take ten thousand leaves, both of them a hundred times loather to part from each other than to die.

“Yet now I say farewell to you; and I say farewell to life as well as to you!”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Thus is poor Suffolk banished ten times: once by the King, and three times thrice by you. It is not the land I care for, if you were away from here. A wilderness is populous enough, as long as I, Suffolk, would have your Heavenly company. For where you are, there is the world itself, with all the many pleasures in the world, and where you are not, there is desolation.

“I can say and do no more. Live to enjoy your life. I myself find joy in nothing except knowing that you live.”

A lord named Vaux arrived.

Queen Margaret asked, “Where is Vaux going so fast? What is your news, please?”

Vaux replied, “To report to his majesty that Cardinal Beaufort is at the point of death, for suddenly a grievous sickness took him that makes him gasp and stare and struggle for breath, blaspheming God and cursing men on Earth.

“Sometimes he talks as if Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s ghost were by his side; sometimes he calls to the King, and whispers to his pillow, as if he were speaking to him, the secrets of his overwrought soul. And I have been sent to tell his majesty that even now he cries aloud for him.”

Queen Margaret said, “Go tell this solemn message to the King.”

Vaux exited.

Queen Margaret said, “Ay, me! What a world is this! What news is this!

“But why am I grieving about an hour’s poor loss? Cardinal Beaufort was an old man, and he would have lived only a short time — call it an hour! — more. Why am I omitting Suffolk’s exile, the exile of my soul’s treasure? That is the real grief.

“Why don’t I mourn only for you, Suffolk, and compete in tears with the southern clouds that bring rain? The southern clouds’ tears are for the Earth’s crops, while my tears are for my sorrows.

“Now go away from here. The King, you know, is coming. If you are found beside me, you will die.”

The Duke of Suffolk replied, “If I depart from you, I cannot live, and what would dying in your sight be like other than taking a pleasant slumber in your lap?”

In this culture, one meaning of “dying” was “orgasming,” and one meaning of “lap” was “pudendum.”

The Duke of Suffolk continued, “Here I could breathe my soul into the air, as mild and gentle as the cradle-babe dying with its mother’s nipple between its lips.

“In contrast, away from your sight, I would be raging mad, and cry out for you to close my eyes — the eyes of a dead man — and to have you with your lips stop my mouth.

“That way, you would either send back my flying soul, or I would breathe my soul into your body and then it would live in sweet Elysium.

“To die beside you would be only to die in jest. To die away from you would be a torture more than death.

“Oh, let me stay, befall what may befall! Let me stay, no matter what happens!”

Queen Margaret said, “Leave! Although parting is a fretful, corrosive cure, it is applied to a deadly wound. If you stay, you die. If you go into exile, you live.

“Go to France, sweet Suffolk. Let me hear from you, for wherever you are in this world’s globe, I’ll have an Iris — a messenger — who shall find you.”

Iris was a messenger for the classical gods.

The Duke of Suffolk said, “I am going.”

Queen Margaret said, “And take my heart with you.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “It is a jewel, locked to the most woeful casket that ever did contain a thing of worth.

“Just like a ship that has split in two, so we split up. This way I go and fall to death.”

Queen Margaret said, “And this way I go and fall to death.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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

— 3.1 —

In the Abbey at Bury St. Edmund’s, several people walked into the Parliament: King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of Suffolk, the Duke of York, the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Salisbury, and the Earl of Warwick. Attendants and guards were also present.

King Henry VI said, “I wonder why my Lord of Gloucester has not come. It is not his custom to be the last man to arrive, whatever reason keeps him from us now.”

“Can you not see?” Queen Margaret said. “Or will you not observe the aloofness of his altered countenance? With what majesty he bears himself? How insolent and disdainful he has recently become? How proud, how peremptory and dictatorial, and unlike himself?

“We know the time when he was mild and affable, and if we did but cast a far-off look at him, immediately he was upon his knee, so that all the court admired him for his submission.

“But meet him now, and if it is in the morning, when everyone will give each other the time of day and exchange greetings, he knits his brow and shows an angry eye, and passes by with stiff unbowed knee, disdaining to do the respect that belongs to us.

“Small curs are not regarded when they grin — snarl and show their teeth — but great men tremble when the lion roars, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, is no little man in England.

“First note that he is near you in descent, and should you fall, he as the next of kin will mount the throne. To me it seems not to be politically wise, considering what a rancorous mind he bears toward us and his advantage that would follow your decease, that he should come about your royal person or be admitted to your highness’ council.

“By using flattery the Duke of Gloucester won the hearts of the common people, and when he pleases to stir up insurrection, it is to be feared they all will follow him.

“Now it is the spring, and weeds are shallowly rooted. Tolerate them now, and they’ll overgrow the garden and choke the herbs for want of husbandry and good management.

“The reverent care I bear unto my lord — you, Henry VI — made me see these dangers in the Duke of Gloucester.

“If this is foolish, call it a woman’s fear. If better reasoning and evidence can supplant this fear, I will concur and say I wronged the Duke of Gloucester.

“My Lords of Suffolk, Buckingham, and York, disprove my allegation, if you can, or else conclude that my words are to the point.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Well has your highness seen into this Duke of Gloucester, and if I had been the first to speak my mind, I think I would have told your grace’s tale — I would have said what you said.

“The Duchess of Gloucester, I swear upon my life, began her Devilish practices because of his subornation. Or, if he were not privy to those sins and crimes, yet through his holding in esteem his high descent, as being next of kin to the King he is next in succession to the throne if the King dies without children, and through his high boasts about his nobility, he instigated the bedlam — insane — brain-sick Duchess by wicked means to plan our sovereign’s fall.

“Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep, and in his simple show — appearance of being an honest man — he harbors treason. The fox does not bark when it wants to steal the lamb.

“No, no, my sovereign. The Duke of Gloucester is a man unsounded and with still unrevealed depths, and he is full of deep deceit.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “Didn’t he, contrary to the form of law, order strange, cruel, and unusual deaths as punishment for small offences?”

The Duke of York said, “And didn’t he, in his Lord Protectorship, levy great sums of money through the realm of England for soldiers’ pay in France, and never sent it? Because of this, the towns each day revolted.”

The Duke of Buckingham said, “Tut, these are petty faults in comparison to faults unknown. Time will bring to light these unknown faults that lie in smooth Duke Humphrey.”

Using the royal plural, King Henry VI said, “My lords, I will say at once that the concern you have about us that makes you want to mow down thorns that would annoy our foot is worthy of praise, but I shall speak my conscience and say that our kinsman the Duke of Gloucester is as innocent of intending treason to our royal person as is the sucking lamb or harmless dove.

“The Duke of Gloucester is virtuous, mild, and too well disposed to dream about evil or to work toward my downfall.”

Queen Margaret said, “Ah, what’s more dangerous than this foolish confidence and trust!

“Does the Duke of Gloucester seem to be a dove? His feathers are only borrowed, for his disposition is that of the hateful raven.

“Does he seem to be a lamb? His skin is surely lent him, for his inclination is that of the ravenous wolf.

“Who cannot steal a shape that means deceit? The deceitful man can assume a fake appearance.

“Take heed, my lord; be careful. The welfare of us all hangs on the cutting short that fraudulent man.”

One way to cut a man short is to behead him; this will shorten him by a head.

The Duke of Somerset entered and said, “I wish all health to my gracious sovereign!”

“Welcome, Lord Somerset,” King Henry VI said. “What is the news from France?”

As Regent of France, the Duke of Somerset was responsible for ruling and protecting the King’s territories in France.

“That all your interest in those territories is utterly taken away from you; all is lost.”

“This is cold news, Lord Somerset,” King Henry VI said, “but God’s will be done!”

The Duke of York thought, This is cold news for me, for I had hope of obtaining France as firmly as I hope to obtain fertile England. Thus are my blossoms blasted in the bud and caterpillars eat my leaves away, but I will remedy this business before long, or sell my title for a glorious grave.

The Duke of Gloucester arrived and said, “All happiness unto my lord the King! Pardon me, my liege, for having stayed away so long.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “No, Duke of Gloucester, know that you have come too soon, unless you were more loyal than you are. I arrest you on a charge of high treason here.”

The Duke of Gloucester replied, “Well, Duke of Suffolk, you shall not see me blush or change my countenance as a result of this arrest.

“A heart unspotted by sin or crime is not easily daunted. The purest spring is not so free from mud as I am clear from treason to my sovereign.

“Who can accuse me? Of what am I supposed to be guilty?”

The Duke of York said, “It is thought, my lord, that you took bribes from the King of France, and as Lord Protector, you kept back the soldiers’ pay with the result that his highness has lost France.”

“Is it only thought so?” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Who are they who think it?

“I never robbed the soldiers of their pay, nor ever had even one penny as a bribe from the King of France.

“So help me God, I have stayed awake all night, yes, night after night, in studying how to do good for England.

“May any doit — small coin — that ever I wrested from the King, or any groat — another small coin — I hoarded to my use, be brought against me on the Day of Judgment!

“No; many pounds of my own personal money, because I would not tax the needy common people, have I disbursed to the garrisons, and I have never asked for restitution.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “It serves you well, my lord, to say so much.”

“I say no more than what is the truth, so help me God!” the Duke of Gloucester said.

The Duke of York said, “In your Lord Protectorship, you devised strange tortures never heard of for offenders, with the result that England was defamed and dishonored by your tyranny.”

The Duke of Gloucester replied, “Why, it is well known that, while I was Lord Protector, pity was the only fault that was in me, for I would melt at an offender’s tears, and humble, submissive words were the ransom for the offenders’ crime.

“Unless it were a bloody murderer, or a foul, felonious thief who fleeced poor travelers, I never gave them their deserved punishment. Murder indeed, that bloody sin, I tortured more than other felonies or crimes.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “My lord, these faults are easily and quickly answered, but mightier crimes are laid to your charge, whereof you cannot easily purge yourself. I arrest you in his highness’ name, and here I commit you to my lord Cardinal Beaufort to keep under guard until your future time of trial.”

King Henry VI said, “My lord of Gloucester, it is my special hope that you will clear yourself from all suspicion. My conscience tells me you are innocent.”

“Ah, gracious lord, these days are dangerous,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Virtue is choked with foul ambition and charity is chased away from here by rancor’s hand. Foul subornation is in the ascendant and justice has been exiled from your highness’ land.

“I know that their plot is to have my life, and if my death might make this island happy, and prove to be the end of their tyranny, I would expend my life with all willingness. But my death is made the prologue to their play, for the deaths of thousands more, who yet suspect no peril, will not conclude their plotted tragedy.

“Cardinal Beaufort’s red sparkling eyes blab and betray his heart’s malice, and the Duke of Suffolk’s cloudy appearance blabs and betrays his stormy hate. Sharp Buckingham unburdens with his tongue the envious load that lies upon his heart, and dogged, spiteful York, who reaches at the moon and at other things it is impossible to get, whose overweening arm I have plucked back, by false accusation aims at my life. And you, my sovereign lady, my Queen, along with the rest, without justification have laid disgraces on my head, and with your best efforts have stirred up my most cherished liege — Henry VI — to be my enemy.

“Yes, all of you have laid your heads together — I myself had notice of your secret meetings — all to take away my guiltless life.

“I shall not lack false witnesses to condemn me, nor shall I lack an abundance of ‘treasons’ attributed to me to augment my guilt.

“The ancient proverb will be well fulfilled: ‘A staff is quickly found to beat a dog.’”

Cardinal Beaufort said to King Henry VI, “My liege, his railing is intolerable. If those who care to keep your royal person from treason’s secret knife and traitors’ rage be thus upbraided, criticized, and berated, and the offender be granted scope of speech, it will make them cool in zeal toward your grace.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Has he not taunted our sovereign lady the Queen here with ignominious words, though clerkly couched — learnedly expressed — as if she had suborned some to swear false allegations to overthrow his greatness?”

Queen Margaret said, “But I can give the loser permission to chide and scold.”

The Duke of Gloucester said, “That is far truer spoken than meant. I lose, indeed. Damn the winners, for they have played me false! They have betrayed me! And well such losers may have permission to speak.”

The Duke of Buckingham said, “He’ll twist the meaning of whatever we say and hold us here all day.

“Lord Cardinal Beaufort, he is your prisoner.”

Cardinal Beaufort ordered, “Sirs, take away the Duke of Gloucester, and guard him securely.”

The Duke of Gloucester said, “Ah! Thus King Henry VI throws away his crutch before his legs are robust enough to bear his body. Thus is the shepherd beaten from your side, and wolves are snarling over who shall gnaw you first. Ah, I wish that my fear were false! Ah, I wish that it were! For, good King Henry, I fear that you will be destroyed.”

Guards took away the Duke of Gloucester.

King Henry VI said, “My lords, whatever your wisdoms think to be best, do or not do, just as if we ourself were here.”

Queen Margaret asked, “Will your highness leave the Parliament?”

“Yes, Margaret,” King Henry VI said. “My heart is drowned with grief, whose flood begins to flow within my eyes. My body is engirdled by misery, for what’s more miserable than discontent?

“Ah, uncle Humphrey! In your face I see the embodiment of honor, truth, and loyalty. Good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the hour is yet to come that ever I experienced you being traitorous or I feared your loyalty. What louring, ominous star now envies your high rank and standing, with the result that these great lords and Margaret our Queen seek the destruction of your harmless life? You never did them wrong, nor did you ever do any man wrong.

“Just like the butcher takes away the calf and binds the wretch, and beats it when it strays, bearing it to the bloody slaughterhouse, even so remorselessly have they borne the Duke of Gloucester away from here, and as the mother of the calf runs lowing up and down, looking in the direction her harmless young one went, and can do nothing but bewail her darling’s loss, even so I myself bewail good Gloucester’s case with sad, unhelpful tears, and with dimmed eyes look after him and cannot do him any good, so mighty are his vowed enemies.

“His fortunes I will weep, and in between each groan I will say, ‘Who’s a traitor? Gloucester is not a traitor.’”

Everyone exited except Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of Suffolk, and the Duke of York. The Duke of Somerset stayed, but he watched the others and did not take place in their plotting.

Queen Margaret said, “Free, honorable, worthy lords, cold snow melts with the Sun’s hot beams. My lord — Henry VI — is cold in great affairs. He is too full of foolish pity, and the Duke of Gloucester’s performance beguiles him as the mournful crocodile with its crocodile tears of sorrow snares soft-hearted travelers — it cries to entice travelers to come near it, and then it snatches at them — or as the snake coiled in a flowering bank, with shining, multicolored skin, bites a child who thinks the snake is excellent because of its beauty.

“Believe me, lords, if no one were wiser than I — and yet herein I judge my own intelligence to be good — this Duke of Gloucester would be quickly rid — removed from — the world, in order to rid — free — us of the fear we have of him.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “That the Duke of Gloucester should die is a sensible policy and good statesmanship, but yet we need a pretext for his death. It is a good idea for him to be condemned by the course of law.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “But, in my mind, that would not be a good idea; it won’t work. The King will labor always to save the Duke of Gloucester’s life. The common people perhaps will rise to save the Duke of Gloucester’s life. As of yet we have only trivial evidence, other than mistrust of him, that shows him to deserve a death sentence.”

The Duke of York said, “Judging by what you say, you would not have him die.”

“Ah, York, no man alive is as eager as I am to see him dead!” the Duke of Suffolk said.

The Duke of York said, “It is I, the Duke of York, who has more reason to want the Duke of Gloucester to die.

“But, my lord Cardinal Beaufort, and you, my Lord of Suffolk, say what you think, and speak it from your souls, isn’t it the same thing to set a hungry eagle to guard the chicken from a hungry kite — a bird of prey — and to make Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the King’s Protector?”

Queen Margaret said, “Either way, the poor chicken would be sure to die.”

“Madam, it is true,” the Duke of Suffolk said, “and isn’t it madness, then, to make the fox the guardian of the sheepfold? Should a person accused of being a crafty murderer have his guilt only frivolously looked at because his purpose is not executed and he has not yet committed the murder? No. Let him die. Why? Because he is a fox. And therefore his nature proves him to be an enemy to the flock even before his jaws are stained with crimson blood. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as proven by this reasoning, is like a fox to my liege: King Henry VI.

“And so we ought not to insist on niceties when it comes to slaying him. The main thing is that he die, whether it be by traps, by snares, by treacherousness, whether sleeping or awake, none of that matters as long as he dies, for good deceit checkmates first the man who first intends deceit.”

“Thrice-noble Suffolk, you have resolutely spoken your mind,” Queen Margaret said.

The Duke of Suffolk replied, “What I have said is not resolute, except in so much that is done, for things are often spoken about and seldom meant.

“But because my heart accords with my tongue, seeing the deed is meritorious and deserves to be rewarded by God because it will preserve my sovereign the King from his foe, say but the word, and I will be his priest. I will metaphorically give him his last rites — by literally making his last rites necessary.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “But I want him dead, my Lord of Suffolk, before you can take due orders for and become a priest. Say that you consent and judge the deed to be good, and I’ll provide an executioner to kill the Duke of Gloucester because I care so much for the safety of my liege the King.”

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Here is my hand. The deed is worthy and worth doing.”

They shook hands.

Queen Margaret said, “And I also say the deed is worthy and worth doing.”

The Duke of York said, “And so do I, and now that we three have agreed with Cardinal Beaufort to have the Duke of Gloucester murdered, it does not much matter who disputes the validity of what we have decided.

A messenger entered the room and said, “Great lords, from Ireland I have come at full speed to report that rebels there are up in arms and have put the Englishmen to the sword. Send reinforcements, lords, and stop the rage quickly before the wound grows incurable because since the rebellion is fresh and green, there is great hope that help can stop it.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “This is a rebellion that needs a quick and expeditious stop!

“What advice do all of you give in this important affair?”

The Duke of York said, “I advise that the Duke of Somerset be sent as Regent there in Ireland. It is fitting that this lucky ruler be employed there. Just look at the fortune he has had in France.”

The Duke of York was being sarcastic. While the Duke of Somerset had been Regent in France, all the French regions controlled by England had been lost to the French.

The Duke of Somerset said, “If the Duke of York, with all his scheming and cunning political policy had been the Regent there instead of me, he never would have stayed in France so long.”

“No, not to lose it all, as you have done,” the Duke of York replied. “I would have lost my life speedily rather than bring a burden of dishonor home by staying there a long time and losing all the English-controlled French territories.

“Show me one scar engraved on your skin. Men whose flesh is preserved so whole seldom win.”

Queen Margaret said, “Don’t engage in this wrangling. This spark will prove to become a raging fire, if wind and fuel are brought to feed it with.

“Say no more, good York; sweet Somerset, be still and quiet. Your fortune, York, if you had been Regent there, might perhaps have proven to be far worse than his.”

“What, worse than nothing?” the Duke of York said. “In that case, then, may a shame take all!”

The Duke of Somerset said, “And among that number of people shamed, count yourself — you who wish shame on others!”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “My Lord of York, try what your fortune is. The uncivilized kerns of Ireland — lightly armed Irish foot soldiers — are in arms and moisten clay with blood of Englishmen. Will you lead a band of men, collected and chosen carefully, some from each county, and try your fortune against the Irishmen?”

“I will, my lord, if it pleases his majesty,” the Duke of York said.

The Duke of Suffolk said, “Why, our authority is his consent: Whatever we decide to do he will confirm. So then, noble York, take this task in hand. Take an English army to Ireland.”

“I am content,” the Duke of York said. “I agree. Provide soldiers for me, lords, while I make arrangements for my own affairs.”

“This charge, Lord York, I will see performed,” the Duke of Suffolk said. “I will see that you get soldiers. But now we return to the false and traitorous Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.”

Cardinal Beaufort said, “We need talk no more about him, for I will deal with him in such a way that henceforth he shall trouble us no more.

“And so let us break off our meeting; the day is almost spent.

“Lord Suffolk, you and I must talk of that event. I will get the murderers and you will tell them what to do and how to do it.”

The Duke of York said, “My Lord of Suffolk, within fourteen days I will expect my soldiers to be at Bristol because from there I’ll ship them all to Ireland.”

“I’ll see it truly done, my Lord of York,” the Duke of Suffolk said.

Everyone exited except the Duke of York, who began speaking to himself:

“Now, York, or never, steel your fearful thoughts, and change doubtfulness to resolution. Be what you hope to be, or resign to death what you are — it is not worth the enjoying. Let pale-faced fear stay with the lowly born man, and find no harbor in a royal heart.

“Faster than springtime showers comes thought on thought, and every thought thinks about high rank. My brain more busily than the laboring spider weaves wearyingly intricate snares to trap my enemies.

“Well, nobles, well, it is shrewdly done, to send me packing with an army of men. I fear that you are only warming the frozen snake that, once warmed against your chests, will sting your hearts.

“It was men I lacked and you will give them to me. I take this army kindly; and yet be well assured that you are putting sharp weapons in a madman’s hands.

“While I in Ireland nourish a mighty band of soldiers, I will stir up in England some black storm that shall blow ten thousand souls to Heaven or Hell, and this fell tempest shall not cease to rage until the golden circle is placed on my head — a crown like the glorious Sun’s transparent beams will calm the fury of this mad-bred squall. This squall will be produced by a madman — me.

“And, for the agent of my intention, I have persuaded a headstrong Kentish man, John Cade of Ashford, whose nickname is Jack, to make a rebellion, as he very well is capable of doing, while pretending to be John Mortimer.

“In Ireland I have seen this stubborn, ruthless, fierce Cade oppose himself against a troop of Irish kerns, and he fought so long that his thighs with darts — arrows and light spears — were almost like a sharp-quilled porcupine.

“And, after he was finally rescued, I have seen him caper upright like a wild Morris dancer, shaking the bloody darts as the Morris dancer shakes his bells.

“Very often, disguised as a shaggy-haired crafty Irish kern, he has conversed with the enemy, and undiscovered come back to me again and given me notice of their villainies.

“This Devil — John Cade — here shall be my substitute because John Cade resembles in face, in gait, and in speech John Mortimer, who now is dead.

“By this I shall perceive the commoners’ minds, how they think about the House and claim of York to the crown. If they follow John Cade, they will follow me.

“Let’s say that John Cade is captured and tortured on the rack. I know that no pain they can inflict upon him will make him say I persuaded him to take up those weapons.

“Let’s say that he thrives, as it is very likely he will, why, then from Ireland I will come with my strong army and reap the harvest that the rascal John Cade has sowed.

“With Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, dead, as he shall be, and Henry VI put aside, then the next King of England will be me.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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

— 2.4 —

The Duke of Gloucester and his servingmen stood on a street. They were wearing hooded cloaks that were customarily worn by mourners.

The Duke of Gloucester said, “Thus sometimes the brightest day has a cloud; and after summer always and forevermore succeeds barren winter with its wrathful and nipping cold. So worries and joys abound, as seasons pass quickly.

“Sirs, what’s the time?”

The servants replied, “Ten o’clock, my lord.”

“Ten is the hour that was appointed to me to watch the coming of my punished Duchess. She is scarcely able to endure the flinty streets as she treads on them with her unshod and tender-feeling feet.

“Sweet Nell, your noble mind can ill endure the mean-spirited people gazing on your face with their malicious looks, laughing at your shame. These mean-spirited people formerly followed your proud chariot-wheels when you rode in triumph through the streets.

“But, wait! I think she is coming, and I’ll prepare my tear-stained eyes to see her miseries.”

The Duchess of Gloucester arrived. She was barefoot and wearing a white sheet. In her hand she carried a lit candle. On her back were pinned papers listing the crimes for which she was being punished. With her were Sir John Stanley, the Sheriff, and some officers. Sir John Stanley would take her to the Isle of Man after her public humiliation.

A servant said to the Duke of Gloucester, “If it would please your grace, we’ll take her by force from the Sheriff.”

“No, don’t do that, for your lives; let her pass by,” the Duke of Gloucester said.

Seeing him, the Duchess of Gloucester said, “Did you come, my lord, to see my public shame? Now you do penance, too. Look at how they gaze at you! See how the giddy multitude point, and nod their heads, and throw their eyes on you! Ah, Gloucester, hide yourself from their hateful looks, and, pent up in your private chamber, rue my shame, and ban your enemies — both my and your enemies!”

“Be patient and calm, gentle Nell,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Forget this grief.”

“Ah, Gloucester, teach me to forget myself!” the Duchess of Gloucester replied. “For while I think I am your married wife and you are a Prince, the Lord Protector of this land, I think I should not thus be led along, wrapped in a white sheet in shame, with papers on my back, and followed by a rabble who rejoice to see my tears and hear my deep-fetched groans. The ruthless flint of the street cuts my tender feet, and when I flinch from the pain, the malicious people laugh and tell me to be careful how I walk.

“Ah, Humphrey, can I bear this shameful yoke? Do you think that I’ll ever look upon the world or count people happy who enjoy the Sun?

“No. Dark shall be my light and night shall be my day; to think upon my nobility shall be my Hell.

“Sometimes I’ll say that I am Duke Humphrey’s wife and he is a Prince and the ruler of the land, yet he so ruled and he was such a Prince that he stood by while I, his forlorn Duchess, was made a spectacle and a pointing-stock to every idle rascal follower.

“But be mild and do not blush at my shame, and do not stir at anything until the axe of death hangs over you, as, surely, it shortly will.

“The Duke of Suffolk, who can do all in all with her, Margaret, who hates you and hates us all, and the Duke of York and impious Cardinal Beaufort, that false priest, have all limed bushes to betray your wings, and, flee however you can, they’ll entangle you — they have set a trap for you.”

Sarcastically, she added, “But don’t be afraid until your foot is snared, and do not seek to prevent your foes from acting.”

“Ah, Nell, stop!” the Duke of Gloucester said. “Your aim is all awry; you are mistaken. I must offend before I can be accused and condemned. And if I had twenty times as many foes, and each of them had twenty times their power, all these could not procure for me any harm as long as I am loyal, true, and crimeless.

“Do you want me to rescue you from this reproach? Why, if I did, your scandal would still not be wiped away, but I would be in danger for the breach of law.

“The thing that can best help you is patience and calmness, gentle Nell. Please, make your heart be patient. These few days’ wonder will be quickly worn away and exhausted.”

A herald arrived and said to the Duke of Gloucester, “I summon your grace to his majesty’s Parliament, which will be held at Bury St. Edmunds the first of this next month.”

The Duke of Gloucester said, “And I was not asked in advance if I consented to attend the Parliament! I am ordered to be there! This is underhanded plotting! Well, I will be there.”

The herald exited.

The Duke of Gloucester said, “My Nell, I take my leave of you, and, master Sheriff, don’t let her penance exceed what the King ordered.”

The Sheriff replied, “If it pleases your grace, here my orders end, and Sir John Stanley is appointed now to take her with him to the Isle of Man.”

The Duke of Gloucester asked, “Must you, Sir John, be the escort of my lady here?”

“So are my orders, may it please your grace,” Sir John Stanley replied.

“Don’t treat her worse because I ask you to treat her well,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “The world may laugh again and look favorably upon me, and I may live to treat you kindly if you treat her kindly, and so, Sir John, farewell!”

The Duchess of Gloucester said, “Are you going, my lord, and without telling me farewell!”

“Witness my tears,” the Duke of Gloucester said. “I cannot stay to speak to you.”

The Duke of Gloucester and his servingmen exited.

The Duchess of Gloucester said, “Have you gone, too? May all comfort go with you! For none abides with me. My joy is death — death, at whose name I often have been afraid because I wished to enjoy this world for eternity.

“Stanley, please, go, and take me away from here. I care not where we go, for I beg no favor. Just convey me where you have been commanded to escort me.”

“Why, madam, that is to the Isle of Man,” Sir John Stanley said. “There you will be treated according to your state.”

“That’s bad enough, for I am only a source of shame, a person who deserves reproach. Shall I then be treated reproachfully?”

Sir John Stanley replied, “You will be treated like a Duchess, and like Duke Humphrey’s lady and wife. According to that state, you shall be treated.”

The Duchess of Gloucester said, “Sheriff, farewell, and may you fare better than I fare, although you have been the guide of my walk of shame.”

“It was my duty,” the Sheriff said, “and, madam, pardon me.”

She said, “Yes, yes, farewell, your duty has been discharged.

“Come, Stanley, shall we go?”

Sir John Stanley replied, “Madam, your penance is done, so you will throw off this sheet; we will go to where you can dress yourself for our journey.”

“My shame will not be shifted with my sheet,” the Duchess of Gloucester said. “I can change what I wear, but my shame will hang upon my richest robes and show itself, no matter how I dress.

“Go, lead the way. I long to see my prison.”


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