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

— 5.5 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soldiers arrived, bringing Prince Edward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince Edward died.

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

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

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

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

Queen Margaret fainted.

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

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

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

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

He exited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guards forcibly carried her away.

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

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

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

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

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

— 5.6 —

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

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

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

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

The Lieutenant exited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 5.7 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

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

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

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

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

“Sound, drums and trumpets!

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


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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

— 5.2 —

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

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

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

King Edward IV exited.

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

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

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

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

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

“And who dared to smile when Warwick frowned?

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

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

The Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset arrived.

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

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

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

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

He died.

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

— 5.3 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 5.4 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All these are enemies to our poor ship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The battle started.


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

— 5.1 —

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

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

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

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

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

Sir John Somerville arrived.

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

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

They heard the sound of a drum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dukes outrank Earls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He and his army entered the city of Coventry.

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

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

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

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

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

He and his troops entered the city.

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

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

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

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

He and his troops entered the city.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The trumpet sounded, requesting a parley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pardon me, Edward. I will make amends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

— 4.7 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He threw down his gauntlet.

Everyone shouted, “Long live Edward IV!”

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

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

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

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

— 4.8 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Farewell, my sovereign.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

— 4.5 —

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

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

King Edward IV and a huntsman arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 4.6 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A messenger arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

— 4.2 —

The Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Oxford talked together on a plain in Warwickshire. French soldiers were also present.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Trust me, my lord, everything has gone well up to now. The common people in great numbers swarm to us.”

Duke George of Clarence and the Duke of Somerset arrived.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “But see where Somerset and Clarence come!

“Tell me quickly, my lords, are we all friends?”

Duke George of Clarence replied, “Don’t be afraid that we are not your friends, my lord, for I assure you that we are.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Then, gentle Clarence, Warwick welcomes you, and welcome to you, Somerset. I regard it as cowardice to remain mistrustful where a noble heart has pledged an open hand in sign of love and friendship. Otherwise I might think that Clarence, Edward IV’s brother, were only a feigned friend to our proceedings.

“But welcome, sweet Clarence; my daughter shall be yours. And now, because your brother Edward IV is carelessly encamped, his soldiers are idling in the nearby towns, and he is attended only by a minimal guard, what remains to be done but under the cover of night, we ambush and capture him at our pleasure?

“Our scouts have determined that the venture will be very easy to accomplish. Just as Ulysses and brave Diomedes with cunning and manliness stole to King Rhesus’ tents, and brought away the Thracian steeds of fate, so we, well covered with the night’s black mantle, without warning may beat down Edward IV’s guard and seize the King himself.”

During the Trojan War, the Greeks Ulysses and Diomedes made a night raid on King Rhesus of Thrace and slaughtered him and many of his men and captured his horses and drove them back to the Greek camp. Some sources state that the raid was made because of a prophecy that if the horses grazed on the grass and drank from a river at Troy, then Troy would never fall, and so Ulysses and Diomedes made the raid before the Thracian horses could graze on Trojan grass and drink Trojan water.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “I say that we will not slaughter him, for I intend only to surprise and capture him.

“You who will follow me in this attempt, applaud the name of Henry VI with your leader.”

They all cried, “Henry!”

The Earl of Warwick continued, “Why, then, let’s go on our way silently. We fight for Warwick and his friends, for God, and for Saint George!”

— 4.3 —

Three watchmen who were assigned to guard King Edward IV’s tent talked together outside the tent.

The first watchman said, “Come on, my masters; each man take his stand. The King by this time has set himself down in a chair to sleep.”

“Won’t he go to bed?” the second watchman said.

“Why, no,” the first watchman replied, “for he has made a solemn vow never to lie and take his natural rest until either Warwick or himself is quite suppressed.”

The second watchman said, “Tomorrow then shall likely be the day we see who is suppressed if Warwick is as near as men report he is.”

The third watchman said, “But tell me, please, which nobleman is that who with the King here rests in his tent?”

“He is the Lord Hastings, the King’s chiefest friend,” the first watchman replied.

“Oh, is that him?” the third watchman said. “But why does the King command that his chief followers lodge in nearby towns, while the King himself lodges in the cold field?”

“It is more honorable,” the second watchman said, “because it is more dangerous.”

The third watchman said, “Yes, but give me dignified ease, comfortable dignity, and quietness. I like those things better than a dangerous honor. If Warwick knew in what circumstances King Edward IV is lodging, I fear that Warwick would awaken the King.”

“Unless our halberds prevented his attempt to go to and awaken King Edward IV,” the first watchman said.

“Yes,” the second watchman said. “Why else do we guard King Edward IV’s royal tent but to defend his person from night-foes?”

The Earl of Warwick, Duke George of Clarence, the Earl of Oxford, the Duke of Somerset, and some French soldiers silently crept up on the watchmen.

“This is his tent,” the Earl of Warwick said quietly. “See where stand his guards. Courage, my masters! Acquire honor now or never! Just follow me, and Edward IV shall be ours.”

The first watchman asked, “Who goes there?”

“Stop, or you die!” the second watchman said.

The Earl of Warwick and the others with him all cried, “Warwick! Warwick!” and set upon the watchmen, who fled, crying “Arm! Arm!” The Earl of Warwick and the others pursued them.

The cry “Arm!” meant, “Supporters of King Edward IV, arm yourselves! Get your weapons!”

In the turmoil, Duke Richard of Gloucester and Lord Hastings fled.

Soon, the Earl of Warwick and the others with him captured King Edward IV.

The Duke of Somerset asked, “Who were the men who fled?”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “They were Richard and Hastings, but let them go. Here we have captured the Duke of York.”

“‘The Duke of York!’” King Edward IV said. “Why, Warwick, when we parted,you called me King.”

“Yes, but the case is altered,” the Earl of Warwick replied. “When you disgraced me in my embassy to the French King,then I degraded you from being the English King,and I have come now to make you Duke of York.Too bad! How could you govern any Kingdom,you who do not know how to treat ambassadors, and do not know how to be contented with one wife, and do not know howto treat your brothers brotherly, and do not know howto take pains for the people’s welfare, and do not know how to shroud yourself from enemies?”

King Edward IV said, “Brother of Clarence, are you here, too?Then I see that Edward IV must necessarily fall as King.

“Yet, Warwick, in defiance of all misfortune, and in defiance of you yourself and all your accomplices, Edward will always bear himself as King of England. Although the malice of Lady Fortune overthrows my Kingship, my mind exceeds the compass of her Wheel of Fortune that lowers and raises men.”

“Then, let Edward be England’s King, but only in his own mind,” the Earl of Warwick said.

He took off Edward IV’s crown and said, “But Henry VI now shall wear the English crown, and be the true King of England indeed, while you are only the shadow of a King.

“My Lord of Somerset, at my request, see that Duke Edward of York is immediately conveyed to my brother: the Archbishop of York. After I have fought a battle against the Earl of Pembroke and his soldiers, I’ll follow you and tell what answer King Louis XI and the Lady Bona have sent to Duke Edward of York.

“Now, for a while farewell, good Duke Edward of York.”

King Edward IV said, “What the Fates, goddesses of destiny, impose, men must necessarily abide; it is useless to resist both wind and tide.”

Soldiers forcibly led away Duke Edward of York.

The Earl of Oxford asked, “What now remains, my lords, for us to do but march to London with our soldiers?”

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Yes, that’s the first thing that we have to do: We need to free King Henry VI from imprisonment and see him seated on the regal throne.”

— 4.4 —

Queen Elizabeth and her brother Earl Rivers talked together in a room in the palace in London.

Earl Rivers asked, “Madam, what is the reason for this sudden change?”

Queen Elizabeth replied, “Why, brother Rivers, are you yet to learn what recent misfortune has befallen King Edward IV?”

“Is it the loss of some pitched battle against Warwick?” Earl Rivers asked.

“No,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “It is the loss of his own royal person.”

“Then is my sovereign slain?” Earl Rivers asked.

“Yes, he is almost slain, for he has been taken prisoner,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “He was either betrayed by the treachery of his guards or was surprised and captured without warning by his foe, and as I understand further, he has been recently committed to the custody of the Archbishop of York, who is cruel Warwick’s brother and therefore our foe.”

“This news I must confess is full of grief, gracious madam,” Earl Rivers said, “yet bear it as you may. Warwick may lose, although for now he has won the day.”

“Until then fair hope must hinder life’s decay,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “And I would rather wean myself from despair because of my love for Edward IV’s offspring in my womb. My pregnancy is what makes me bridle passion and bear with mildness the cross of my misfortune. Yes, yes, because of my pregnancy I draw in many a tear and stop the rising of health-destroying sighs, lest with my sighs or tears I blight or drown King Edward IV’s fruit, the true heir to the English crown.”

“But, madam, what has become of Warwick?” Earl Rivers asked.

“I am informed that he is coming towards London in order to set the crown once more on Henry VI’s head,” Queen Elizabeth replied. “You can guess the rest. King Edward IV’s friends must fall, but to prevent the tyrant Warwick’s violence — for we ought not to trust a man who has once broken his vow — I’ll go immediately away from here and to the sanctuary, to save at least the heir of Edward’s rightful claim to the crown of England. There I shall rest secure and safe from force and fraud. Come, therefore, let us flee while we may flee. If Warwick should capture us, we are sure to die.”


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— 4.1 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duke George of Clarence and the Duke of Somerset exited.

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

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

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

The Earl of Pembroke and Lord Stafford exited.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

— 3.3 —

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

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

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

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

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

“Albion” is an ancient name for Britain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Earl of Warwick entered the room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They all read their letters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A willow garland is a symbol of unrequited love.

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

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

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

The messenger exited.

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

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

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

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

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

He and the Earl of Warwick shook hands.

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

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

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


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


— 3.1 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gamekeepers came out of hiding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

— 2.6 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He fainted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Clifford groaned and died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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