Richard III: A Comedy of Genetic Errors


As a very wise man in antiquity once stated:

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players”

With that in mind, what follows will attempt to live up to this dictum. The play below takes the guise of a senatorial satire, or a congressional caricature if you will, that seeks to provide some wry observations of the melodrama that is contemporary American politics, embellished still further with a smattering of glib insights into the internal machinations of the most influential political offices in the entire Western world.

It is undeniable,  from even the most cursory sideways glance, that the current American political situation has devolved of late into such high farce that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for any budding author to exaggerate sufficiently to give these events enough satirical edge, or to lampoon such bizarre circumstances with the requisite vigour and piquancy to be worthy of more than one’s passing attention, let alone amusement. Therefore, I have elected instead to adopt a more tangential approach to depicting the humour of the situation, in preference to a more direct, and perhaps less subtle parody- something that would epitomise the standard comedic fare being currently directed from all quarters at the rather hapless, incumbent American President.

The following play is my Shakespeare-inspired interpretation of these recent and current events, providing sardonic commentary on those unrelenting battles being fought over recent decades between the American Democrats (as represented by the House of Lancaster) and their Republican counterparts (as represented by the House of York). I hope to rather pointedly reference some of the main political players and their respective roles in these presidential proceedings, as seen through the lens of Shakespearean drama, as circumstances have unfolded with an air of inevitability during the more recent political history of the good ol’ U.S of A.

On a final point of interest, you may notice that I have utilised a number of literary allusions derived from some of my favourite English poets, with some of their most influential works interspersed liberally throughout the play. I have particularly referenced works by such luminaries as John Donne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, John Dryden, John Keats, William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as including some of those wonderful sonnets penned by Shakespeare himself. Each poetic reference has been used, often with subversive intent, not only to give greater context to the action of the narrative, but also to highlight what I believe to be a common thread of cognition that links these creative icons together, forming an uniquely English literary perspective on life and love. I believe this shared perspective further enhances those themes that I had hoped to develop most prominently in adapting Shakespeare’s play, “Richard III”, for my politically-inspired purpose.

Thus, without further ado, herewith I present for your edification, entertainment and reading pleasure, the story of the remarkable rise and precipitous fall of a ruthlessly ambitious and utterly venal man. A man hellbent on the remorseless acquisition of power and influence for its own sake; a power he would obtain mainly through subterfuge, collusion and murderous villainy of the highest order.

It is also the story of his thoroughly deserved comeuppance, whereupon the forces of progressive morality, nobility of purpose and cultural enlightenment eventually prevail over the rapacious greed, mendacity and reactionary behaviour of a leader who was entirely unfit to assume the obligations and mantle of the offices to which he so gracelessly aspired.

Dramatis personae:

Richard, Duke of Gloucester (soon to be King Richard III):

Deformed in body through a severe scoliosis, and twisted in mind not only by his hatred of his own hideous form, but also of those near and supposedly dear to him. In response to this self-loathing, he finds refuge and solace in aggressive bluster, topped off by an over-weaning self-confidence verging on narcissism. He is inherently evil and fatally corrupt, sadistic and manipulative, and so will stop at nothing to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming King. His undoubted (though often under-appreciated) intelligence, his political savvy, and his at times dazzling use of blunt language keep his audience of loyal followers suitably enthralled—and thus his subjects and rivals are kept firmly under his thumb, or perhaps more fittingly, his boot-heel … Donald Trump


Richard’s right-hand man in his schemes to gain power. The Duke of Buckingham is almost as ruthless, amoral and ambitious as the much maligned King whose interests he dutifully serves … Steve Bannon

King Edward IV:

The older brother to Richard (Donald Trump) and Clarence (Jeb Bush), and the King of England at the start of the play. Edward was the driving force behind the Yorkists’ brutal overthrow of the Lancastrian regime, but as King he soon sought to unify the various political factions that had initially epitomised his reign, turning them instead against those common enemies from beyond England’s shore, a tactic that seemed quite successful at first, at least up until the Black Prince’s rebellion came to fruition. He is, however, blissfully unaware of his youngest brother Richard’s scheming ways and, more tellingly, his none-too-subtle designs on assuming Edward’s throne … George.W.Bush

George, Duke of Clarence:

The gentle and naively trusting brother, born between Edward (George W Bush) and Richard (Donald Trump) in the York family, and thus a classic embodiment of middle child syndrome. Richard eventually has Clarence murdered before he can achieve the mantle of his older sibling (King Edward), since he stood squarely between Richard and his attainment of the ultimate prize: the British Crown … Jeb Bush

Queen Margaret:

Widow of the recently deceased King Henry VI (Bill Clinton), and mother of the slain Black Prince Edward (Barack Obama). In medieval times, when kings were deposed, their children were often killed to remove any threat from the royal line of descent—but their wives were frequently left alive because they were considered somewhat harmless, if not inconsequential. Margaret’s husband was deposed and murdered (along with their children) by the family of King Edward IV (George W Bush) and Richard of Gloucester (Donald Trump). As a result, she is consumed with bitterness and detests both Richard and his fellow Yorkists, all of whom were complicit in not only the destruction of the House of Lancaster, but also in usurping their God-given right to rule … Hillary Clinton

Lady Anne:

The young widow of Edward, the Black Prince (Barack Obama), who in turn was the son of the former King, Henry VI (Bill Clinton), and Margaret of Anjou (Hillary Clinton). Lady Anne hates Richard (Donald Trump) with a passion for his part in the death of her husband. For reasons of politics—and no doubt for his own sadistic and sexual pleasure—Richard attempts to persuade Anne to marry him, against not only her own better judgement, but also the wave of nausea and dread that would surely envelope her with his every fond caress … Michelle Obama 

Queen Elizabeth (aka Lady Gray):

The wife of King Edward IV (George W Bush) and the mother of the two Young Princes (at that time the would-be heirs to the English throne) and their older sister, young Elizabeth (Ivanka Trump). After Edward’s death, Queen Elizabeth (also known as Lady Gray) is at Richard’s mercy. Richard rightly views her as an enemy not only because she opposes his ruthless rise to power, but also because she is an intelligent and strong-willed woman who represents a potential threat to him. Elizabeth is part of the Woodeville family; her kinsmen—Dorset, Rivers, and Gray—are her allies in court … Condoleezza Rice

Dorset, Rivers, and Gray: 

The aforementioned kinsmen and allies of Queen Elizabeth, and members of the Woodeville and Gray families. Rivers is Elizabeth’s brother, while Gray and Dorset are her sons from her first marriage. Richard eventually executes Rivers and Gray, but Dorset flees and manages to survive … John Kasich,  Paul Ryan, John McCain (The Never Trump Chorus)

Duchess of York:

Widowed mother of Richard, Clarence, and King Edward IV. The Duchess of York is Queen Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, and she is very protective of Elizabeth and her children, who are the Duchess’s grandchildren. She becomes very angry with Richard for his repeated heinous and treasonous actions as the play unfolds … Nancy Pelosi

The Young Princes:

The two young sons of King Edward IV (George W Bush) and his wife, Elizabeth (Condoleezza Rice). Notably, their names are actually Prince Edward and the young Duke of York, but they are often referred to collectively as “the Young Princes”. Agents of Richard murder these boys—Richard’s own nephews—in the Tower. Young Prince Edward, the rightful heir to the throne, should not be confused with the elder Edward, Prince of Wales (known as the “Black Prince”: first husband of Lady Anne, and the son of the former King Henry VI.) … Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio

Young Elizabeth:

The former Queen Elizabeth’s daughter. Young Elizabeth enjoys the fate of many a Renaissance noblewoman. She thus becomes a mere pawn in political power-brokering, and is promised in marriage at the end of the play to Richmond (Hunter Biden), the Lancastrian rebel leader, in order to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster … Ivanka Trump

Ratcliffe, Catesby:

Two of Richard’s flunkies among the nobility, who generally do his bidding in matters of a delicate, or even a contentious nature … Scott Pruitt and Rex Tillerson (Acts 1-4), John Bolton and Mike Pompeo (Acts 5-7)


A murderer whom Richard hires to kill his cousins, the Young Princes in the Tower … Dick Cheney

Earl of Richmond (or “Henry Tudor”, soon to be King Henry VII):

A member of a branch of the Lancaster royal family, the Earl of Richmond gathers a force of rebels to challenge King Richard for the throne. As portrayed in William Shakespeare’s play at least, Richmond embodies all the regal qualities of goodness, justice, and fairness—all those things that Richard so sorely lacks. He is portrayed in such a glowing light, not least as a consequence of his founding of the Tudor dynasty that still ruled England during Shakespeare’s time. As we are all well aware, “history” is often written (or perhaps re-written would be more accurate) by the victors, and a modicum of airbrushing away any of one’s past profligacy, moral indiscretion or sundry other personality flaws is only to be expected in the circumstances, for the benefit of maintaining social order and the aura of authority of the Crown … Hunter Biden

Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke:

Uncle of Henry Tudor, the above-mentioned Earl of Richmond and future King Henry VII. After the death of Henry Tudor’s father (Edmund Tudor, the 1st Earl of Richmond), just prior to the future King’s birth, Jasper then acted as the young boy’s principal father figure and mentor, protecting and guiding him when his personal deficiencies and questionable lifestyle choices threatened to undermine his planned ascension to the throne … Joe Biden

Helen Tudor:

Illegitimate daughter of Jasper Tudor, and Lady-in-waiting to Henry Tudor’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. In spite of her conspicuous lack of legitimacy to any claims to rule, she hoped instead to rule vicariously through shamelessly manipulating her somewhat addled father to her various whims, whilst her cousin Henry Tudor was otherwise “indisposed” … Kamala Harris

Lord Hastings:

A lord who maintains his integrity, remaining loyal to the family of King Edward IV (George W Bush). Hastings loses his life for making the mistake of trusting Richard … Mike Flynn

Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby:

The stepfather of Richmond. Lord Stanley secretly helps Richmond (Hunter Biden), although he is under Richard’s constant and watchful gaze … Al Gore

The Bishop of Ely (John Morton):

The ultimate fence-sitter in the War of the Roses conflict as it evolves. Although a closet Lancastrian sympathiser by inclination, he ends up playing both sides against the middle in this bitter factional dispute. Ultimately, the Bishop’s feeble attempts at reconciliation between the Yorkist leaders and the Lancastrians lead to nothing but failure, and as a consequence he becomes a sworn enemy to both sides in the conflict. His colourful and controversial memoirs, currently being transcribed at the calligrapher (and creatively entitled “A Canterbury Tale”), are surely destined to become one of the most widely read works of the High Middle Ages, and will no doubt take pride of place in the fiction section of the Libraries at the Monastery of Ely, Merton College in Oxford and at Gloucester Cathedral … James Comey

Lord Mayor of York City:

A once popular and influential, if somewhat unsophisticated fellow whom Richard and Buckingham dupe and then use as a pawn in their ploy to help Richard become King … Boris Johnson

The Archbishop of York (Thomas Rotherham):

An ally of Edward IV (George W Bush), who appointed him Keeper of the Privy Seal, and then Lord Chancellor, and even more so of his wife, Queen Elizabeth (Condeleeza Rice). The Archbishop of York helps to provide sanctuary in Westminster Abbey for the recently widowed Queen, by releasing the Great Seal of England to her for her and her young son’s protection from Richard, who had just assumed the role of Lord Protector for the heir to the throne … Mike Pence

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Cardinal Bourchier):

A man of considerable power within the church hierarchy, whom Buckingham convinces to enable the release of the young Duke of York from sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, thereby facilitating his unfortunate murder at the hands of his devious uncle, the Duke of Gloucester … Nigel Farage 


A friend of Queen Elizabeth (Condeleeza Rice), Dorset, Rivers, and Gray (John Kasich, Paul Ryan and John McCain), who is executed by Richard along with Rivers and Gray at Pontefract (“Pomfret”) Castle … Mitt Romney

Gramm, Leach & Bliley:

Moneylenders of nefarious purpose, and dubious repute … Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke

Baroness Lewinsky:

A Russian-born former courtesan, turned secret agent for the wily Grand Prince of Moscow: Ivan III (Vladimir Putin). She would soon become the highly favoured mistress of the former King Henry VI (Bill Clinton), who was blissfully unaware of her rather sordid past and her foreign affiliations. Her surprising emotional vulnerability eventually leads to her downfall, leaving her with an unenviable reputation as a scarlet woman, who soon becomes a pariah across the entire kingdom … Monica Lewinsky

Countess Melania:

A one-time Habsburg countess, and former niece to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III. Her betrothal in an arranged marriage to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Donald Trump) soon followed, although her new husband remained stubbornly determined to keep their liaison secret once they returned to England. She is currently locked high in the Tower in York City, where she remains his prisoner, at (among other things) his sexual beck and call … Melania Trump

Generals loyal to King Richard III: John Kelly, Jim Mattis and H.R.McMaster

Kjim-Jone Maddadsson: 

The Mormear of Caithness, the northernmost region of the Scottish highlands, who sets himself against the hegemony of the British Crown, going rogue and recklessly threatening his neighbouring earldoms and fiefdoms with destruction … Kim Jong Un

Elias Monk: 

Mystic and seer, a renowned alchemist whose technical wizardry can bewilder the most cynical onlooker, not only dumbfounding various members of the aristocracy, but also bewitching and beguiling the common throng with his mesmerising presence, and his preternatural skills in the finer aspects of that darkest of the dark arts: “Science” … Elon Musk

Madwoman of Cheapside:

Escaped lunatic from the asylum at “Bedlam”, who accosts King Richard in the street, threatening to embark on a relentless campaign of harassment against both the King and his followers, only to meet a sticky end once Richard’s patience finally runs out … Maxine Waters

Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow (“Ivan the Great”):

Supreme leader of the Russian people. Fiercely patriotic, and utterly ruthless in the protection of his own interests and those of his people, but who also continues to work tirelessly in broadening his sphere of influence beyond his own borders by either invading neighbouring lands, or through his vast network of spies and agents who have systematically infiltrated the Royal courts of those nations on friendly terms, and particularly of those who would otherwise consider themselves his mortal enemies … Vladimir Putin

Monsignore Segugio Faucini:

One time trusted physician and confidant to Pope Sixtus IV, and later appointed Apothecary Royal in the Court of King Richard III after he fled Italy in the aftermath of the Pazzi conspiracy, having invoked the wrath of many of the followers of Lorenzo de’ Medici for his role in the plot. When a mysterious plague comes to England’s shores with catastrophic effect, rocking the very foundations of his sovereign’s reign, he returned to the spotlight to guide the nation in its fight against the utter devastation of the disease, tasked with finding medical solutions to bring the plague to an end, using all of his undoubted skill and craft as a physician to maximum effect … Anthony Fauci

The Russian Bear Hunt:

Herr Mueller:

Master of the Hounds to the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan the Great … Robert Mueller

Carter, the page boy:

A poor, unfortunate page boy, mauled to death after being attacked by an enormous Russian bear just prior to Grand Prince Ivan’s Royal Hunt … Carter Page

Actors/Cast of Characters in the Russian play within a play (known as “Much Ado About Nothing”):

Eugene Ohr/Claudio … Bruce Ohr

Manforte … Paul Manafort

McCabe/Conrad … Andrew McCabe

Don John … John Brennan

Stefan Halper/Dogberry the Watchman … Stefan Halper

Countess Veselnitz … Natalia Veselnitskaya

Claudio’s wife … Nellie Ohr

Conrad’s wife … Jeannie Rhee

Post Play performances:

Kavanaugh the Poet:

A Gaelic poet, whose wit and whimsical turn of phrase concerning the vagaries of relations with the fairer sex leaves his audience rolling in the aisles … Brett Kavanaugh

Russian folk balladeers, dancers and poets:

A collection of local Muscovite artists, who each give the evening’s theatrical performances a tantalising taste of the traditional Russian culture and aesthetic … Emin Agalarov, Aras Agalarov, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Oleg Deripaska, Sergei Gorkov, Sergei Kislyak, Kirrill Dmitriev, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Viktor Yanukovych.

Miscellaneous walk ons and bit part players:

Supporters of King Richard III- Norfolk, Surrey, Lovell … Newt Gingrich, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell.

Supporters of the Earl of Richmond (Henry Tudor) – Pembroke, Oxford, Talbot, Savage, Blount, Rhys ap Thomas … John Brennan, Adam Schiff, Charles Schumer, Jerry Nadler, Jim McGovern, James Clapper.

Various ruffians, scoundrels, spies, toadies, minions and liegemen – all of whom are somewhat incidental to the central drama of the play, but who otherwise flesh out the mise en scene at the periphery of the play’s action … Rod Rosenstein and the Deep State Players.

Characters not appearing in the play proper, but integral to the plot and/or action: 

Richard II: … John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Henry Bolingbroke/Henry IV: … Lyndon Baines Johnson

Henry V: … John Fitzgerald Kennedy (in a dual role)

Richard, Duke of York: … George Bush Snr.

King Henry VI: Bill Clinton

Edward, The Black Prince: Barack Obama


Our story begins in the year 1478, during the reign of the Yorkist King Edward IV. The “War of the Roses” has been raging on and off for over two decades, with the two rival branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet, the Houses of York and Lancaster, fighting tooth and claw for ultimate supremacy, and hoping to wrest absolute control of the English throne for their posterity. However, it is King Edward’s youngest brother, the hunchbacked Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who is at the forefront of our narrative, with his aspirations to procure the throne, whether by hook or by crook, on through until his eventual well-earned demise, being the primary focus of our twisted tale.

The Duke of Gloucester is a thoroughly misbegotten creature who represents the very culmination of centuries of royal inbreeding, deformed in both body and mind. His pervasive self-loathing has been sublimated into a cruel and sadistic personality, that not only lusts remorselessly for power, but also has an utter disdain for the health and welfare of others. Richard simultaneously projects an inflated sense of his own self-importance, with an air of unabashed entitlement that inevitably leads him to covet the throne of his eldest brother.

His envy and ruthless ambition is destined to soon be sated, therefore, with firstly the brutal murder of his elder brother (the Duke of Clarence), and then still further by the death (from ostensibly “natural” causes) of his eldest sibling King Edward, leaving only Edward’s very young sons (“the Young Princes”) as the nominal heirs to the throne. Sadly for them, the young lads find themselves the final remaining obstacles in the path of their uncle’s remorseless scheme to becoming the supreme ruler of all England.

But, before we delve further into the action of the play, some background details are essential for those unfamiliar with the history of this bitter and notorious rivalry:

The House of Lancaster’s claim to the English throne originally stems from a rather dubious usurper by the name of Henry Bolingbroke, a not-so-delightful rogue who would ultimately become King Henry IV after defeating and deposing his cousin, Richard II, in 1399. Upon the assassination of this erstwhile monarch, the new King would soon embark on a massive program of expenditure to curry favour with his somewhat disaffected peasantry, promising to build a “Great Society” to elevate every downtrodden soul in the kingdom from their privations, a scheme that was meant to promote the welfare even of those denizens at the very lowest echelons of civil society. This cunning, and ultimately futile scheme would come to serve the dual purpose of ostensibly being seen, superficially at least, to improve the lot of the poor serfs (a noble aim without doubt), whilst simultaneously ensuring that these self same peasants would form an indomitable bulwark against any future uprising or rebellion being fomented against Lancastrian rule, being left forever indebted therefore to the largesse of the Crown. This was destined to be an ongoing tactic employed thereafter by the Lancastrian Kings down through the ages, whereupon the championing of the poor soon became nothing more than a mere political tool, albeit one of noteworthy effectiveness, to ensure the relative stability of their reigns, unmatched by any semblance of prosperity amongst the peasants. Needless to say, the rub so to speak of this tactical masterpiece was that it required the peasants to remain as peasants, and for the poor to remain poor in perpetuity, since the establishment of a “middle class” of burghers and other bourgeois upstarts was entirely anathema to maintaining the emotional blackmail of this alleged, and some would suggest largely illusory, compassion.

Upon his death, King Henry IV was then succeeded to the throne by his young son, who as Henry V came to embody all that a king should be in his all-too-brief tenure as monarch. A renowned miscreant in his youth, the young “Prince Hal” would mingle seamlessly with the lowlifes of the demimonde in the various gaming houses, taverns and bordellos of the city, but then suddenly reformed completely upon the death of his father by becoming a paragon of virtue (in the public eye at least) during his highly successful reign. After a famous and rousing victory over the French forces at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V became the supreme ruler of England and France, only for him to die suddenly and unexpectedly from dysentery at the age of 36.*

*As an aside, at the tender age of 16, a young Prince Hal had managed to survive an arrow shot by a rebel soldier that pierced just under his left eye, penetrating the skull backward to the occiput; a wound incurred during the torrid Battle of Shrewsbury. Purpose built tongs had to be specially designed, then forged to carefully insert them nearly six inches into his wound, to grip and then extract the metal arrowhead from his cranium. It then took a further three weeks to cleanse and close up the hole left behind. A miraculous recovery indeed, but one that stood in stark contrast to the rather mundane nature of his eventual demise.

Henry V’s untimely death thus elevated the heroic King’s infant son to the throne, who thereafter became King Henry VI. After ruling through a series of regents throughout the remainder of his childhood, the younger Henry’s reign was destined to be compromised by his tendency to mental instability, but even more so by the compulsive womanising he undertook with almost every one of those sundry scullery maids, domestics, flower sellers and other lowly attendants who were unfortunate enough to cross his path. Ultimately, it was a rather indiscreet illicit affair he maintained with a former Russian courtesan, Baroness Lewinsky, that would come to compromise his rule to its utmost, as it not only reflected poorly on his lack of discretion and political judgement, but also it cast doubt in the minds of his subjects on his ability to keep all of his irons in the fire, figuratively speaking, without constantly getting his fingers burnt.

Lamentably, King Henry VI would further compound this perception by coming under the undue influence of three thoroughly unscrupulous money lenders in Gramm, Leach and Bliley, who persuaded the degenerate King to make various financial decisions that would eventually come to fatally compromise the wealth of his entire kingdom. These decisions ultimately favoured the nefarious usurers mightily, but many of the most vulnerable of his subjects were either left homeless or destitute, even many years after his demise, while perhaps fortuitously the majority of the most wealthy land barons remained largely unscathed by (or even on occasions profited from) the King’s financial profligacy and neglect.

King Henry VI’s throne was soon challenged by the Duke of Gloucester’s father Richard, Duke of York, leading to an initial defeat of the Lancastrian forces in the Battle of St Albans in 1455, a defeat that marked the beginning of the “War of the Roses” between these two noble houses. Henry’s Queen, a formidable woman formerly known as Margaret of Anjou, further stoked the embers of this nascent conflict between the upstart Yorkists and the Lancastrians by publicly labelling all of her husband’s rivals and their followers as “a basket of deplorables”, an unnecessarily provocative comment that predictably led to a loss of some popular support for the Lancastrian cause, and an even more deadly turn in their feud with their Yorkist foes.

The ensuing conflicts she fomented would eventually result in the capture of her husband at the Battle of Northampton in 1459, and subsequently to a period of King Henry and his Queen living in exile for the best part of a decade after Henry had been miraculously rescued by loyalist forces. Ultimately, an uprising of these Lancastrian loyalists led firstly to her husband’s brief restoration to the crown in 1470, before he was once again overthrown, imprisoned and then ultimately murdered in the Tower shortly thereafter at the hands of his Yorkist rivals. As was the custom at the time, Queen Margaret’s life was mercifully spared, having been political neutered in Yorkist eyes upon the death of her husband, a decision they would later no doubt come to regret, as she remained a thorn in their collective side thereafter, harbouring ambitions for the crown herself in spite of seemingly having no likely or legitimate claim to the throne by right of ascension.

Upon the defeat of Henry VI, his erstwhile rival’s eldest son ascended to the throne, becoming King Edward IV, where an albeit short-lived peace and stability was soon achieved. However, the new Yorkist King was soon to meet many almost insurmountable challenges, principal among which was the first ever successful attack on English soil by barbarous Andalusian Berbers and Moors from the continent. These Islamic invaders managed to mount a decisive incursion into the northern city of York, wherein they sacked and destroyed the two tallest castle keeps in the entire city, leading to hundreds of peasants and soldiers being burned to death or crushed as these two symbols of Yorkist supremacy were razed unceremoniously to the ground.

King Edward took little time in setting about planning and then executing reprisals for this impudence, sending forth crusaders to Granada (in the southern most regions of the Iberian peninsula), and also to the Maghreb in North Africa to hunt down the various caliphs and their generals who were thought to be responsible for this vicious and unexpected attack. Edward’s crusaders even made their way to the Holy Lands, in the very heart of Ottoman Caliphate, but these latter forays became not only hideously expensive to finance, but they also led to a great deal of needless bloodshed, with the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives. This vengeful crusade provided little if any worthwhile gain for England’s security, particularly as the crusaders failed to find any of the legendary (or some might even suggest mythical) weapons of mass destruction responsible for the York City devastation, but nonetheless the fruitless search for this particular Holy Grail placed an appalling strain upon the solvency of the King’s ever-dwindling treasury.

Other notable incidents that characterised King Edward’s eventful reign included the establishment of El Castillo Guantánamo on the island of Majorca to house those Islamic fighters captured by his crusaders, and who were brought back from Africa and the Middle East for some friendly persuasion in those picturesque surroundings, and where they could enjoy the endless variety of water-sports on offer there.

Of course, King Edward’s largesse was not merely confined to enemy combatants in far off lands, but also extended to his own subjects, who were soon to benefit from a vastly improved homeland security, whereupon the populace were made to feel protected from any repetition of the York City attacks through a great broadening of the powers of the constabulary who policed the major English cities and surrounding townships. Every conversation between the peasants and amongst the townsfolk was to be monitored through a complex network of informants, and every act of a private and personal nature was from now on to be faithfully recorded for the edification of those public officials whose task it was to scrutinise such important affairs, purely in the public interest of course. Such actions ensured that all patriots acted solely in the interest of their sovereign realm, and individual freedoms were frowned upon as serving to undermine the protection of the people against the spectre of future terrorist attacks.

Eight years into Edward IV’s reign, the House of York’s grip on power was to be challenged once more by the heir apparent to the albeit dubious Lancastrian claim to the throne: Edward of Westminster, the “Black Prince” of Wales. The only son of Margaret of Anjou and the former King Henry VI, the Prince had been most recently living in exile in a large township on the Swahili coast of East Africa, under the rule of the Moaheb Sultanate. Whilst residing there, the young Prince had excelled in organising and rallying the local community, hoping ultimately to raise an army that would allow him to retake England for himself, and thereby regaining the Lancastrians’ “rightful” place as the sovereign rulers of all England. The Prince had most recently returned after having undertaken a four year stint of intensive spiritual enlightenment on the island of Java under the tutelage of the great Rishi Soetoro, where he ultimately acquired all of the skills and knowledge required to become a leader of men, before then completing his formative education in, of all places, the Sandwich Islands. Now, patiently biding his time in his African idyll, the Black Prince vowed that he would soon be ready to launch his ultimate campaign for hope and change across the British Isles, with his zealous army of followers all-too-faithfully in tow.

Eventually, the Prince Edward did indeed arrive on English soil, where he first established a beachhead at East Anglia, and in due course a permanent settlement was soon under construction that would come to be known, quizzically perhaps, as Washing Town. In spite of such inauspicious beginnings, it soon became a thriving hub of activity and commerce. Sadly though, as is often the nature of such things, it would eventually become even more conspicuous for the extreme level of institutionalised graft and corruption to be found therein.

To fund the construction of the township, the young Prince foolishly curried favour with those self same unscrupulous usurers who had proved the undoing of his dear father. Through his naive complicity with these money lenders, he would soon allow an incredibly high level of unregulated money printing to occur under his watch, an action that utterly devalued the local currency. This action served to thoroughly undermine the monetary worth of the hard toil of his own subjects, whilst then compounding the error further by authorizing negative interest rate loans to be established for the sole benefit of these same financial wunderkinds, allowing them to thus engage in the most outrageous and predatory speculative practices. By virtue of the decisions the Black Prince had made, many being of dubious merit at best, all of this aforementioned speculation became effectively underwritten almost solely by the taxes extracted from his loyal followers, in addition to those raised rather ruthlessly from the common folk who lived in the surrounding hills and valleys, whose assets were to be confiscated as the Black Prince’s seat of power expanded from beyond the environs of Washing Town.

As the Prince further consolidated his base of power, he began to also cultivate a cult of personality among his closest acolytes, even to the extent that these deluded zealots believed to a man that Prince Edward could not only control the weather, but had the power to even keep the tide at bay, like some modern day version of the fabled King Cnut of yore. This adulation was sorely tested, however, when all those hundreds of windmills and sun traps he had constructed around Washing Town failed miserably to quell any of the winter storms and squalls that routinely rolled in off the North Sea, let alone to forestall the frosts and snowstorms that often blighted the region. Nor did they even remotely ameliorate the stifling heat of summer, in a climate that provided a conducive environment for all those millions of flies and mosquitoes that swarmed around the reclaimed swamp that gave Washing Town its pungent, and somewhat oppressive ambience.

Before launching his planned final drive toward York City in his bid to unseat the incumbent King Edward IV, the Black Prince decided to take some time out to embark upon a grand tour around the Mediterranean Sea, with a view to forging alliances that he might soon rely upon should he manage to succeed in overthrowing the current regime. Beginning in Libya, then moving on to Tunisia and Egypt, before finally travelling throughout the Levant, The Prince offered his good will and unequivocal support to all of those incumbent rulers and potentates of these regions. By the most amazing of coincidences, no sooner had our would be pretender to the English throne left each of these countries in turn on his Arab Spring Tour, that spontaneous rebellions or civilian uprisings would then suddenly break out, each devolving inevitably into widespread death and destruction across the countryside, on the path to the bloody carnage of all out civil war.

His goodwill mission to North Africa and the Middle East complete, the young Prince then set off on his homeward voyage aboard the galley of a notorious corsair. He soon struck up a firm friendship with a wandering Bedouin who had joined the ship as they sailed along the treacherous Barbary Coast. Whilst examining an arquebus confiscated from a captured soldier, the weapon unexpectedly discharged in the Prince’s hand, killing the mysterious Bedouin standing before him instantly. Once the shock of what had occurred to his new found companion had properly sunk in, the Black Prince and his corsair hosts buried the hapless Arab anonymously at sea, according not only to his religious custom, but also to convenience. Unbeknownst to all, the young Prince had inadvertently (not to mention serendipitously) killed the infamous Abu Abdallah, none other than the devious Arab mastermind behind the twin tower attacks in York City only a few years earlier.

Whilst the Black Prince was otherwise engaged on his sojourn overseas, the remaining Lancastrians worked assiduously to completely undermine the integrity of the local political scene in Yorkist territory through the mass importation of unskilled foreigners to form voting blocs, and by establishing widespread gerrymander through the propagation of multiple rotten and pocket boroughs within York City and its surrounding electorates to unduly influence the representative balance in the House of Commons.

Eventually, the Black Prince returned to English soil, where he soon rallied the troops in Washing Town together and marched on toward the northern capital, York City. In the forest beyond the outskirts of the city, he met up with his mother Queen Margaret and her followers to assess the best potential plans of attack against the King’s enclave, but they soon became somewhat hesitant and disheartened in the face of his vastly superior forces and heavily fortified positions.

Rather than a direct frontal attack to dethrone the King, the Prince and his mother resolved instead to launch a relentless propaganda campaign amongst the townsfolk designed to undermine the faith of the populace in the Yorkists in general, and the King and Duke of Gloucester in particular. This was to be achieved by disseminating paid agent provocateurs liberally amongst the town folk, who relentlessly lampooned the alleged lack of intelligence and the perceived failings of the King and his sibling. The Duke of Gloucester’s physical deformities in particular were a constant source of mirth and merriment in the taverns and the marketplaces of the city, where these agents would relentlessly mimic and mock his general appearance, stumbling gait, pale complexion and unruly hairstyle.

Once the King and the Duke realised the treason being plotted against them, they marshalled their powerful Yorkist forces to hunt down and root out the interlopers, and in the ensuing melee the Black Prince was put to the sword and a sizeable portion of his army were either killed or maimed. Meanwhile, his loyal wife Anne and his mother Queen Margaret somehow managed to escape, living to fight yet another day for the apparently forlorn Lancastrian cause; a cause that refused to die in spite of the very best efforts of their adversaries. The lifeless corpse of the Black Prince, on the other hand, was hastily buried in a shallow, unmarked grave directly beneath the keystone in the arch of the Micklegate Bar, in no doubt ironic counterpoint to its primary purpose as the ceremonial entrance point to the city for receiving and then honouring visiting dignitaries and monarchs.

Now we find ourselves in the present day. It is mid winter in England’s north and in spite of his recent run of glorious victories, the Duke of Gloucester finds himself in the throes of a strange melancholy, as the continued existence of his regal sibling, and his inconvenient issue, begin to rankle interminably……………..

Act I Scene 1:

York City. A busy city street.


It is in the full chill of midwinter, with people walking to and fro in front of a large and foreboding tower. A brisk and bitter wind is whistling down the street, and the condensation from the breath of the common throng clings tightly to the cold stone walls of the building.

A lonely figure stands hunched over in the cold,  gripping his overcoat tightly against his chest as he gazes out on the cityscape before him. It is Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, cowering there against the tower wall, a tower that had once stood proudly in London Town, only to then be dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt, at the Duke’s request (and with no expense spared), in the city of York as a monument to his family’s ultimate supremacy.

The rebellion of the Black Prince has just been quashed, which ordinarily would have been cause of much rejoicing and cheer, but Richard had been unduly stung by some recent criticism that had been spread about town by traitorous Lancastrian operatives regarding his rather ungodly appearance. Richard’s vanity had indeed been so badly wounded as a consequence, that in response he had sought the services of a local apothecary with a view to helping him, at the very least, with his ghostly pale complexion. Richard was soon to be mightily pleased with the effects of the prescribed concoction, with his skin tone being miraculously transformed from its usual deathly pallor to a more vibrant and virile caramel orange hue. Our hero could not wait to exclaim his new found feelings of confidence in his transformed appearance to the world, yet almost immediately to then lament the cruel hand that fate had dealt him in being born so misshapen and repulsive to the fairer sex.


Now is the winter of our discontent,

Made glorious summer by this sun of York!


But I, alas, am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;

I, that am rudely stamped and want love’s majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them—

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to see my shadow in the sun

And descant on mine own deformity.


Realising belatedly that he was not well cut out to avail himself of more than the merest tincture of the pleasures of the flesh, Richard resolved in that moment to become a villain par excellence; to revel in the discomfiture of others, to gain pleasure from the tears of the grieving widow or the abandoned child, to find mirth in the face of pain and anguish wherever it might be found.  So, he laid a course directly for treachery and deceit, making landfall at first light upon his own brother, the unfortunate Duke of Clarence, in whom he saw not a loving older brother, but instead merely his greatest obstacle to power should the oldest sibling, King Edward IV, ever shuffle from the mortal coil.

As such, it had now become necessary to sow the seeds of discord and distrust between his two brothers, to set one against the other through subtle deception, by the spreading of lies, distortions and misrepresentations. In the midst of drunken carousing with Edward one winter’s eve, one such seed was planted subtly by Richard in the King’s mind; that the Duke of Clarence had designs upon the throne and was actively plotting against him. Whilst outwardly fond of Clarence, Richard secretly despised his brother’s complete lack of vigour and general passivity, seeing his low energy levels as a sign of his undeniable weakness of character. The Duke, to Richard’s mind, was merely riding on the coat-tails of his stronger siblings and valiant forebears, basking in so much unearned and reflected glory, rather than relying solely on victories won due to his own mettle and toil.

(Enter Clarence, guarded, and Brackenbury)


Brother, good day. What means this armèd guard

That waits upon your Grace?


His majesty,

Tend’ring my person’s safety, hath appointed

This conduct to convey me to the Tower.


Upon what cause?

Clarence:  (shrugs shoulders)

Because my name is George.

Or, perhaps because ’tis not!


Alack, my lord, that fault is none of yours.


The King has harken’d after prophesies and dreams,

These have moved his highness to commit me now!


‘Tis not the King that sends you to the Tower:

My Lady Gray, his wife, Clarence, ’tis she

That tempers him to this extremity.

Why, this it is, when men are ruled by women!

Brackenbury : (interjecting)

I beseech your graces both pardon me;

His Majesty hath straitly given in charge

That no man shall have private conference,

Of what degree soever, with his brother.


We know thy charge and will obey.


Well, thy imprisonment shalt not be long:

Meantime, have patience.

(Exeunt Clarence, with Brackenbury)

Richard: (Aside)

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the King.


Simple, plain Clarence, I do love thee so

That I shall shortly send thy soul to heaven,

If heaven will take the present at our hands.


But who comes here? Hastings?

(Enter Hastings)

What news abroad?


No news so bad abroad as this at home:

The King is sickly, weak and melancholy

And his physicians fear him mightily.


Now, by Saint Paul, that news is bad indeed.

O, he hath kept an evil diet long,

And overmuch consumed his royal person.

‘Tis very grievous to be thought upon!

I’ll be along presently.

(Exeunt Hastings.)


There was suddenly no time to lose, as it appeared that soon King Edward was destined to meet his maker. Thus the Duke of Clarence needed to be dealt with post haste before the web of lies and deceit became untangled, or the death of the King would undo all the best laid schemes that Richard had previously put in train. So, away to the Tower it was, where Richard resolved to despatch the increasingly inconvenient Clarence with the utmost urgency, hopeful then of leaving only the “Young Princes” in his path to the ascent to power, should Edward’s much anticipated final curtain inevitably fall.

(Exeunt Richard, on horseback)

Act I Scene 2:

York City. Under the keystone at Micklegate Bar, on the edge of the city centre. The corpse of the former King, Henry VI, is carried in on a bier. Followed directly behind by Lady Anne, the widow of Edward the Black Prince, dressed in mourning clothes, and several armed guards accompanying her.

Lady Anne:

Set down, set down your honorable load,

If honor may be shrouded in a hearse,

Whilst I awhile obsequiously lament

Th’ untimely fall of virtuous Lancaster.

Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost

To hear the lamentations of poor Anne,

Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughtered son,

Stabbed by the selfsame hand that made these wounds.

O, cursèd be the hand that made these holes;

Cursèd the heart that had the heart to do it;

Cursèd the blood that let this blood from hence.

(Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester)

Lady Anne:

What black magician conjures up this fiend

To stop devoted charitable deeds?


Villains, set down the corpse or, by Saint Paul,

I’ll make a corpse of him that disobeys!

Lady Anne:

Avaunt, thou dreadful minister of hell.

Thou hadst but power over his mortal body;

His soul thou canst not have. Therefore begone!


Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curs’d.

Lady Anne: 

Foul devil, for God’s sake, hence, and trouble us not,

For thou hast made the happy Earth thy hell,

Filled it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.

If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,

Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.

(Points to the corpse)


Indeed, ’tis true, I slew this noble King,

And hath sent him swiftly to his Heaven.

He was much fitter for that place than Earth,

Yet I have taken scant pleasure in it.

So, dear lady, spare thy wrathful curses,

I didst not kill thy once belov’d husband,

He was slain instead by King Edward’s hand!

Lady Anne:

In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw

Thy murderous falchion smoking in his blood;

Which thou once didst bend against her breast,

But that thy brothers beat aside the point.

Richard: (feigning hurt feelings)

I was provoked by her slanderous tongue

Which laid guilt upon my blameless shoulders.

Is not the causer of the timeless deaths

Of Henry and Edward Plantagenet,

As blameful as the executioner?

Lady Anne:

Thou art the cause, and most accursed effect.

Richard: (leaning closer to milady, and whispering in honeyed tones)

Divine perfection of a woman!

Thy beauty was the cause of that effect;

Thy beauty: which did haunt me in my sleep,

To undertake the death of all the world,

So I might live one hour in thy sweet bosom.

Lady Anne: (recoiling momentarily in a mixture of horror and indignation)

If I thought that, I tell thee, homicide,

These nails should rend that beauty from my cheeks.

Richard: (carefully and furtively putting his right arm around Lady Anne’s shoulder in a gesture of supportive affection)

It is a quarrel most unnatural,

To be revenged on him that loveth thee!

Surely, thou hast reason more than ample

To distrust this lamentable creature,

Standing before thee, bereft in love’s thrall!

But, have pity on this restless spirit,

Who hath gazed upon a wandering star,

Daring to dream of snatching it hither,

Predicting that there in heaven will find:

That from thine eyes love’s knowledge shall derive!

(Then, thrusting his left hand southward toward milady’s nether regions, Richard (surprisingly) met little resistance. It would seem that Lady Anne, ever the pragmatist, realised belatedly that in the fortunes of war, to the victor inevitably goes the spoils!)

Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right,

By these we reach divinity!

Say, then, my peace is made.

Lady Anne:

I would I knew thy heart.


‘Tis figured in my tongue.

Lady Anne:

I fear me both are false.


Then never man was true.

Lady Anne:

Well, well, put up thy sword.


But shall I live in hope?

Lady Anne:

All men, I hope, live so.


Vouchsafe to wear this ring.

Lady Anne:

To take is not to give.


Look, how this ring encompasseth thy finger.

Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;

Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.

(Exeunt Lady Anne, and her entourage)

Richard: (to himself)

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?

Was ever woman in this humour won?

I’ll have her; but I will not keep her long.

What! I, that kill’d her husband and his father,

To take her in her heart’s extremest hate,

With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,

The bleeding witness of her hatred by;

Having God, her conscience, and these bars

against me,

And I nothing to back my suit at all,

But the plain devil and dissembling looks,

And yet to win her, all the world to nothing!


Hath she forgot already that brave prince,

Edward, her lord, whom I, some three months since,

Stabb’d in my angry mood at Tewksbury?

A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman,

Framed in the prodigality of nature,

Young, valiant, wise, and, no doubt, right royal,

The spacious world cannot again afford

And will she yet debase her eyes on me,

That cropp’d the golden prime of this sweet prince,

And made her widow to a woeful bed?

On me, whose all not equals Edward’s moiety?

On me, that halt and am unshapen thus?

My dukedom to a beggarly denier,

I do mistake my person all this while:

Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot,

Myself to be a marvellous proper man.

I’ll be at charges for a looking-glass,

And entertain some score or two of tailors,

To study fashions to adorn my body:

Since I am crept in favour with myself,

Will maintain it with some little cost.

But first I’ll turn yon fellow in his grave;

And then return lamenting to my love.

Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass,

That I may see my shadow as I pass.


Act I Scene 3:


Having seen to it that Henry VI’s body was suitably interred, burying him in a pauper’s grave beside the turbulent whitewater of a small brook adjacent to the Ouse River Bridge, Richard then set his sights firmly upon a confrontation with Henry’s widow, the one time Queen: Margaret of Anjou. In spite of others in the Yorkist camp perceiving her as little more than nuisance value, Richard rightly believed that she was still a woman of considerable power and boundless ambition, and therefore remained a potential obstacle to his plans to gain his desired ascendancy to the throne of England.

Richard’s closest confidant and ally, the Duke of Buckingham, had just informed him that John Morton, the Bishop of Ely, was in possession of some damaging correspondence from the former Queen Margaret; letters that exposed her pivotal role in the recent uprising of her son, Edward the Black Prince. Whilst the good Bishop had initially been extremely reluctant to release these missives to Buckingham, perhaps hoping in vain to provide some cover for Margaret’s treasonous actions, it was eventually impressed upon him in no uncertain terms that, should he not comply with the Duke’s request, he would be compelled to do so, and by lethal force if necessary.

Thus, with proof of Margaret’s traitorous actions confirmed to his satisfaction, Richard of Gloucester immediately rode off on horseback to the exotically named Xanadu, the former Queen’s palatial estate that lay a few miles to the East in the York City hinterland, with a view to confronting her over her role in that recent rebellion by her son and his cohorts.

Upon his arrival at Xanadu, Richard was ushered through the body of the manor into an ornate and elaborate garden paradise at the rear, where her ladyship awaited him, standing defiantly beneath a stately pleasure dome of oriental design, and boasting an ornate glass ceiling of awe-inspiring intricacy. Running by the structure was a stream blessed with a charming ambience, while beyond that were twice five miles of fertile ground with walls and towers girdled all around. Beyond the bright gardens were many a blossoming incense-bearing tree, surrounded then by forests, ancient as the hills, so that the garden became completely enfolded in sunny spots of greenery.

The former Queen was clad in the most bizarre raiments imaginable for a lady of her position and standing, with a buttoned double breasted straw-coloured suit top, under which she wore somewhat incongruous black and gold pantaloons that seemed not only at odds with her royal status, but also her gender. She explained that her attire was more than 150 years old, having been allegedly brought back from the mystic Far East by the Venetian trader Marco Polo in the late 13th Century. Reputedly, it was once worn by a certain Yuan Dynasty Princess known as Kököchin, a member of the Royal Court of the great Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan! Or, at least, that was the tale the merchant in the town who sold it to her would have had her believe.

To Richard’s eye, her garb seemed more suited to Kublai Khan’s manservant than to that of a lady of the Royal Court, no matter whether of the Chinese or the English variety. “Well, to each his own”, Richard thought.

Richard: (with his trademark tact)

An attire most intriguing, milady.

Thou cutteth a fine figure of a man!

Margaret: (angrily)

Villain! The lowest of creatures art thou.

Crawl back under that rock whence thou cometh!

Richard: (feigning a fawning disposition)

Is that how thou greeteth invited guests?

‘Twas thee who summon’d me hence, dear lady.


“Summon’d” thee? Surely thou speaketh in jest!

O’ malform’d spawn of the devil, how so?


By thy rebellious acts in York city,

To further the claims of thy upstart son.

Margaret: (feigning innocence)

Am I to suffer for my Edward’s sins?

I am guiltless, despite thy assertions.


Foul wrinkled witch, what makest thou in my sight?

Couldst thou not thy obligations knoweth?

On pain of death, wert not thou banished,

Upon the demise of thy lech’rous spouse?


I was; but in banishment I do find more pain

Than death can yield me here by my abode.

Did York’s dread curse prevail so much with heaven?

That Henry’s death, my lovely Edward’s death,

Their kingdom’s loss, my woeful banishment,

Could all but answer for that peevish brat?

Can curses pierce the clouds and enter heaven?

Why, then, give way, dull clouds, to my quick curses!

If heaven have any grievous plague in store

Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee,

O, let them keep it till thy sins be ripe,

And then hurl down their indignation

On thee, the troubler of the poor world’s peace!

No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine,

Unless it be whilst some tormenting dream

Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils!

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!

Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity

The slave of nature and the son of hell!

Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb!

Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins!

Thou rag of honour! thou detested………

Richard: (interrupting)

Have done thy charm, thou hateful wither’d hag!

But thou canst scarcely speak of “peace” to me,

When thy son hath worn a destructive path

Across the Holy Lands, ere this past spring,

From Benghazi to the Levant.  Co-sign’d,

It seemeth to me, by thy sullied hand.


The most brazen of demagogues, art thou!

‘Twas nought to do with me that my Edward,

In flush of youth, didst bring such misery!


How naive dost thou consider me, witch?

Thy Edward was but a puppet to thee!

Margaret: (defensively)

His actions in fomenting these conflicts

Were, in nature, entirely innocent!

And bloody wars that in his wake broke out

Were but consequences unintended!

Richard: (haughtily)

A fabrication most convenient!

With a wave of thy hand, thy conscience clear’d.


In hostile lands those drums of war doth beat,

At the whim of Mullahs bent on revenge,

For injustices past that bred disdain,

And made ripe for slaughter loyal envoys.


Such bad, bad experiences, ’tis true,

But false tales make crystal clear thy motives!

Thy fictions in their own sad domain dwell,

Entwin’d in a tangled web of deceit.


Poisonous villain! Misogynous knave!

Grope for manly “truths” if thou desireth.

‘Tis a woman’s right to choose false from true.

A feminine prerogative indeed!


Such tremendous hate in thy heart thou hast.

T’is plain to all thy deceptive nature!


Deceiving foes is a thing most cherish’d,

If it advances one’s malign purpose!

Richard: (leaning over her imposingly)

Thy misdeeds in dark, dank corners fester,

Found in that dungeon that is thy conscience,

And my hope most fervent: thou remaineth,

Imprison’d by memories tormented,

As I bear righteous arms to strike thee down,

And banish thy unworthy soul to hell,

For unpunish’d crimes thou hast committed.

(Raises his broad sword and strikes her dead with one deft blow)

Richard: (to himself, standing over Margaret’s bloodied corpse)

I’ve now return’d this most taxing burden,

With one sword’s blow, to her maker’s bosom,

Consign’d her to her sweet oblivion,

Where perhaps the supreme highest power

Might recast this pugnacious witch’s will,

Whilst e’er she dwelleth in His meagre care.

(Pauses thoughtfully, in a moment of solemn lucidity)

Without her death, follows to this land and me,

To thee, myself, and many a Christian soul,

Death, desolation, ruin and decay!


His soliloquy finished, Richard dragged Margaret’s lifeless corpse to the edge of the stream, crossed himself in a vague attempt at piety, and then gently lowered her body into the flowing waters. She floated down the stream as it widened to a river, there meandering with a mazy motion through wood and dale until it reached a vast cavern, measureless to man, where her body sank in tumult. Onward and onward her body was carried, until it faded beyond view, headed ultimately toward a lifeless ocean.

With his sacred duty to the dead complete, Richard quickly bestrode his agile steed and began riding apace back to York city, and to the Tower where his hapless brother Clarence awaited his date with destiny, a fate Richard was clearly hopeful of expediting before there was any slender chance that King Edward’s death might precede it.

As he rode back along the country lanes, Richard gazed about the fields that lay on either side of the road, where fleetingly it seemed to him, in a rare and all-too-brief moment of clarity, that his country was dying. The vines in the vineyards seemed strangely withered, with their grapes now shrivelled and dry, not plump and robust as they had seemed on his forward journey. The wagon loaded with corn that he had seen along the way there now lay askew with its front axle broken, sheared off no doubt by the undue weight of its load. Its bounty now lay strewn about on the ground, spoiling in the hot summer sun, while the farmers ploughed in the surrounding withered fields for bread in vain.

As he rode on, questions swirled around in Richard’s mind about the course he had just deliberately set himself upon in despatching so brutally the former Queen, and what might be the cost of the impending murders of all of those remaining relatives who stood in his path to attaining the English crown. “What is the price of experience?”, he wondered. “Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street?”

These simple yet utterly perplexing questions hung in the air for a moment or two, whilst Richard thought on it further: Eventually, on the subject of life experience, he came upon the answer:

“No! It is bought with the price of all that a man hath: his house, his wife, his children!”

Whilst pondering the significance of this “price” that might indeed need to be paid, yet another thought crossed his ever more crowded conscience, this time regarding that ephemeral abstraction better known as “wisdom”:

“But what of wisdom, that most precious and elusive of all commodities?”, he wondered. “Surely, it can only be sold in a desolate market where none can come to buy!”

After a short interval, a diminutive voice inside his head replied; “And just as surely it can only be earned through devotion, respect and reverence to God, and in the shunning of evil and sin!”

Stifling a sudden impulse to laugh out loud, Richard immediately replied under his breath, as if to reply to an unseen expositor: “Well, there’s no hope of that now, is there!”

As such vexed questions of philosophy and morality served no immediate purpose to him, and being generally unused to the vagaries of such nuanced cognitive processes at the best of times, Richard decided instead to focus his intent purely upon completing the task at hand without the slightest recourse to conscience, or even a modicum of concern for any unintended consequences these actions might inevitably impose.

It is an easy thing, Richard thought, to triumph in the summer’s sun, in the vintage and to sing on the wagon loaded with corn. He could readily speak the laws of prudence to the homeless wanderer, yet still listen impassively to the hungry raven’s cry in the wintry season, when his red blood was fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs, all without the slightest hint of either compassion or remorse. Similarly, it was an easy thing, he thought, to laugh at wrathful elements, to hear the dog howl at the wintry door, or to listen to the ox in the slaughter house moan, in the certainty that he could remain entirely aloof and unmoved by such dreadful portents and indurate suffering.

Richard had long since chosen to see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast; To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroyed his enemy’s house; Or to rejoice in the blight that covered his fields, and the sickness that cut off his children. Thus, the course Richard was now planning to embark upon on his road to power should surely be no different at all, he thought, and any cost would be but a mere trifle to the conscience of one as robust and resilient as he.

Richard resolved instead to rejoice heartily in the tents of his own overwhelming prosperity. Inevitably, there would always be slaves grinding at the mill, or captives in chains, or poor in the prisons, while soldiers in the field were fated to find themselves where their shatter’d bones lay them: groaning among the happier dead.

For Richard, that groan and the dolor would now be quite forgotten, as he decided that the injustices of the world were to be of no further consequence to him, even those that came directly from the actions at his own hand. He was henceforth to be nought but an island, entire of himself in a sea of iniquity, and such considerations would deter him not one moment longer from his brutal and ambitious mission.

Richard heard a bell tolling in the distance as he rode briskly into town, and strangely he came to the singular belief that it was tolling for him, and him alone. In this instant, it finally dawned upon him: It had always been an easy thing for others to talk of patience to the afflicted, those such as he who were forced by fate to live on the merest scraps of life due to cruel deformity. Such unfortunate creatures had clearly been abandoned by God, and were of such misshapen form or misbegotten lineage, that they were routinely to suffer the mocking derision of even the most plebeian of people. Instead, those of Richard’s ilk were expected to merely wither and shrivel in a discrete corner without so much as a whimper, awaiting the smallest crumb of kindness or favour from their supposed “betters”.

Well, that was certainly not to be so any longer for such a “deplorable” a creature as he! Richard was now even more determined to make his path to glory in his own image, in his own way and in his own time. No wall could be built too long, no tower too high, no barricade too impenetrable to keep Richard, Duke of Gloucester, from achieving his ultimate destiny!

(Exeunt, riding off into the distance)

Act 2 Scene 1:

York City. The Tower, where Clarence awaits word from his brother, King Edward, hoping against hope that he might be summoned to him, so that he might clear his name of these wrongful accusations of treason that had been unjustly levelled against him. Clarence was sitting in a lime tree bower within the centre courtyard of the tower, a place of contemplation usually reserved for the condemned prior to their execution, when his brother Richard arrived to offer comfort and consolation to his brother.

(Enter Richard)


Richard! Dearest brother, thou art well come.

I regret I’ve lost beauties and feelings,

Such as those that would have been the most sweet,

To my remembrance even when advanc’d age

Hath dimm’d mine eyes to blindness! Woe, alas!

Richard: (feigning concern)

My gentle-hearted Clarence! Thou hast pined

And hunger’d after Nature, many a year,

In the great City pent, winning thy way

With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain

And strange calamity! It shan’t be long,

Dear brother, before Edward sees reason,

And thou canst once more enjoy sweet freedom!


As I looked out this very eve, the last rook

Beat its straight path along the dusky air.

Homewards, I blest it! Deeming its black wing

(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)

Had cross’d the mighty Orb’s dilated glory,

While I stood’st gazing; or, when all was still,

Flew creeking o’er my head, and had a charm

For thee, my kind-hearted Richard, to whom

No sound is dissonant which tells of Life!


I’m grateful, brother, for thy well-wishes.

I hope thy blessing is returned in kind,

For ’tis thee who needs the Lord’s Grace, not I.


I’ve seen the World in a grain of sand,

And Heaven in a wild flower,

Held Infinity in the palm of my hand,

and Eternity in an hour!


I must hasten now to King Edward’s side,

And entreat His Majesty on your behalf.

Trust me, sweet Clarence, I shalt not fail thee!

(Exeunt Richard)

Clarence: (to himself)

As virtuous men pass mildly away,

And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say,

“The breath goes now,” and some say, “No,”

So let us melt, and make no noise,

No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;

‘Twere profanation of our joys

To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,

Men reckon what it did and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

Though greater far, is innocent.


As Richard walked away from his brother, he thought of how much he despised his trusting and innocent disposition,  not to mention his complete lack of perceptiveness as to Richard’s own true nature and motivations. He thought of his brother Clarence’s naivety thus:

“This life’s dim windows of the soul, Distorts the heavens from pole to pole,

And leads you to believe a lie, When you see with, not through, the eye.”

With this in mind, Richard then wandered down into the town to a local public house of his acquaintance where he met with two ruffians who, for the princely sum of 30 gold nobles, were hired to deal with his milquetoast sibling once and for all. A warrant in Richard’s hand was then given to these murderers, a missive in which Clarence was summoned from the Tower to confront the King over the allegations that had been made against him. As one might expect, Richard had ensured that his brother would not survive this final journey,  and some hours later Clarence’s body was indeed found in the bushes by the highway some four miles out of town, stabbed multiple times in the chest, abdomen and neck, with much blood and gore spread round the scene giving the impression of a frenzied attack.

When notified of the murder of his brother, Richard feigned distress and shock at first, then collecting himself to wax philosophically to those gathered around him:

“Man was made for joy and woe, Then when this we rightly know, Through the world we safely go. Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul to bind.”

As Richard accepted the consolations and expressions of sympathy from those around him, he could not help but smile inwardly at his well laid plans having come to fruition so successfully. He consoled himself with a final thought on his late, lamented brother:

“Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night!”


Act 2 Scene 2:

The Tower, in Richard’s private quarters situated high atop the newly constructed castle keep that arose from the west wing of the tower, a turret heavily machicolated to protect against unwanted intrusions by allowing boiling oil to be dropped on those plebeians below who might have the impudence to arrive uninvited.


Richard and his partner in crime, the Duke of Buckingham, are pacing back and forth across the room, engaged in vigorous debate over the most pressing affair of state imaginable; namely how Richard, the hideously hunchbacked Duke of Gloucester, might conquer that most insurmountable of foes: namely the indomitable and curvaceous, yet not-always-so-fair Lady Anne. Having made short work of the former Queen Margaret, as well as his own weak-willed brother Clarence, Richard planned to wed and bed the Black Prince’s widow in due course in the expectation of an upcoming ascent to the kingly throne, that is of course once his sickly older sibling, King Edward, had finally reached the end of his ever shortening rope.

Richard: (attempting some impromptu verse)

Her raven-hair’d beauty dost beguile me,

But to win her I must dress in finery

Of the highest fashion to hide my form,

Lest it should invoke her womanly scorn.

Buckingham: (responding in kind)

All the finest silken cloth in the realm,

Could but scarcely hide thy misshapen form,

But a prodigious gift for poetic arts,

Hath been known to make the hardest of hearts,

Soften through those persuasive allusions,

That pander to love’s grander illusions!


Could I rely upon thy promotion,

To produce words of suasive devotion,

To seduce this creature most feminine,

And release that wanton harlot within?


But what of thy wife, Countess Melania?

Wilt she not object most strenuously,

To thy assignation with Lady Anne?


Our union is one of convenience,

Purely for purposes of politics.

Therefore, the Countess hath but little choice

To acquiesce and allow my desires,

Whether in or out of the bedchamber!

Any protestations she cares to make

Are thus destin’d upon deaf ears to fall.


Still, ’tis better to keep this tryst secret,

So the Countess is kept well in the dark!

If that ball and chain learn’d of thy affair

T’would doubtless lead on to trouble and strife!


My dearer half shall no doubt please herself,

No matter of what crime I’m deem’d guilty!


Tarry no longer! Lady Anne awaits

And love’s destiny is in the offing!



So Richard and his literary offsider, the not-quite-so-noble Duke of Buckingham, rode off to the Black Prince’s estate on the outskirts of Washing Town. Undeterred by the hostile reception he was likely to receive from the acolytes of the recently deceased would-be usurper, Richard confidently headed east at some pace, certain that the prize awaiting him there would be all the sweeter for hearing the distant chorus of consternation arising from those unpatriotic vermin residing in the swamp waters of that corrupt, little backwater township.

Act 2 Scene 3:

Casa di Caprio, the magnificent hacienda-styled villa sitting high atop the tallest hill overlooking Washing Town. Beyond the main building’s manicured grounds were surrounding plantations of coffee, tobacco and cacao, where the Spanish-speaking braceros and slaves who were indentured to the former Black Prince harvested these crops from dawn till dusk.

In short order, Richard and the Duke of Buckingham arrived on horseback, tied their mounts to the hitching rail, and then strode confidently inside. There they met with Lady Anne’s maid servant, who then ushered them into the reception room to await her ladyship.

(Enter Lady Anne)

Lady Anne: (still wearing Richard’s ring, feigning disdain but secretly pleased at his arrival)

A sudden pall hath enshrouded my home,

And Lo! Who else but thee, noble Gloucester!

Hast thou come to claim thy prize, foul devil?


Thy shape of beauty moves away the pall,

Of our dark spirits, and o’er-darken’d ways!

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Than a summer’s day, and more refreshing

Than endless fountains of immortal drink,

Pouring unto us from the heavens’ brink.

Lady Anne: (in mock derision)

Thy silver’d tongue belies a blacken’d heart!


Let’s now leave the woeful world behind us,

With careless lips, eyes and hands desirous,

To enslave our bodies to passion’s needs,

That are soon reconciled in carnal deeds,

Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,

Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Lady Anne:

Let’s retire to my bedchamber, milord,

To abandon ourselves to lust and need,

Where thou shalt match thy eloquence in deed!


Lady Anne then ascended the stairs and turned to Richard, giving him a conspicuous “come hither” look as she entered the bedchamber above. Richard acknowledged her with a wink, and when she had gone from his view he turned to Buckingham and thanked him for his service in scripting those two crucial snippets of dialogue that he had then used so tellingly in wooing the reluctant wench now awaiting him in her boudoir.

Richard: (attempting to match his literary offsider with a dash of poetic verse of his own, albeit somewhat more vulgar than romantic in its context)

Thy honey’d words hath soothed the savage breast,

Of that luscious creature whom I shall best,

In the brutish battleground of her bed,

In stark remembrance of her maidenhead!

Buckingham: (taken only slightly aback by the crudeness of his prosaic friend)

The pleasure is most surely mine, milord.

Anything to help that promotes thy cause.

Richard: (continuing in a poetic vein)

That dark lady was heartily impress’d,

With false declamations of tenderness.

Now, thy poetic skills have won her trust,

And ensured her assent to sate my lust.


Richard then convinced his friend to gather his writing materials together and to sneak furtively into Lady Anne’s bedchamber, wherein to hide himself under her bed, where hopefully he might find inspiration to compose suitable words of love and devotion with which Richard might impress his new found love. Fortunately for Buckingham, in a manner common to ladies of the court in this era, Lady Anne’s preparations to make herself more amenable and demure for the erotic congress to follow were laborious and time consuming. With the various unguents, fragrant oils, emollients, powders and perfumes being applied liberally to various parts of her ladyship’s no doubt voluptuous body, the hapless Duke managed to roll out a series of poems designed to weaken the moral resolve of even the most reluctant ingénue.

The scents of rose-water, oil of cloves, lavender and sandalwood emanating from Lady Anne’s dressing room were becoming ever more overpowering to the senses as he finished his screed, but before he could extricate himself from her room unseen, Lady Anne had re-entered her bedchamber and was making her way, scantily clad, to the bed where Richard awaited her, blissfully unaware of the unwelcome interloper who hid in the shadows beneath them. Meanwhile, Richard stood proudly by the bed as he watched in anticipation as his tender prey became, in his mind at least, a willing accomplice to her own erotic demise.

In his mind, Richard no doubt believed that the two prospective lovers were completely unequal partners in this transaction of matters sexual; he for contemplation and valour formed, while she for softness and sweet attractive Grace. His fair, large front and eye sublime declared his absolute rule; with hyacinthine locks round from his parted forelock which hung in manly clusters, down to but not beneath his broad shoulders. She wore her unadorned umber tresses dishevelled as a veil down to the slender waist, and in wanton ringlets waved in the way a vine curls her tendrils, implying subjection, but required with gentle sway: by her yielded, and by him best received. He was thus aroused to the utmost as he watched her prepare herself to yield to his lust with such coy submission, modest pride, and sweet, reluctant amorous delay.

While outwardly she seemed the very picture of sexual readiness and desire, for her part Lady Anne’s wan expression, her pouting lips and her gentle tousling of her long black hair hid her true feelings; those of sheer terror and violation at having to submit to the bestial lusts of the man who had only recently slain her husband, and then his father, in cold blood. She must choose, she thought, to just ignore that sick, sinking feeling that threatened to overwhelm her. She must strive to overcome that pervasive sense of utter revulsion that had shaken her to her very core. She must resolve, instead, to fixate solely on attaining her ultimate revenge on that cloven-hoofed demon that now stood before her. Thus, she tenderly wrapped her arms around his serpentine body, and the lovers then fell upon the soft, luxurious bed in rapturous embrace.

Richard: (breathless in anticipation of the earthly delights to follow)

Should I, at thy harmless innocence, melt?

License my roving hands, and let them go,

Behind, before, above, between, below,

Oh my America! My new-found-land!

Anne: (in rather more forlorn than sweet surrender)

Come to me now, my sweet love’s conqueror!

Richard: (pausing to express his admiration for her raven-haired voluptuousness, even whilst in flagrante delicto)

In old age, black was not counted fair,

Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name.

But now is black beauty’s successive heir,

And beauty slander’d with a bastard shame!

Anne: (replying coyly, in the midst of “battle”)

Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,

But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace!

Richard: (exultantly)

My soul doth tell my body that he may

Triumph in love: flesh stays no farther reason,

But rising at thy name doth point out thee

As his triumphant prize. Proud of his pride,

He is contented thy poor drudge to be,

To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.

Anne: (wistfully, with more than a tinge of regret)

Love is too young to know what conscience is:

Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?

Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,

Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove!

Richard: (revelling, having surrendered completely to his carnal desires)

For, thou betraying me, I do betray

My nobler part to my gross body’s treason!

No want of conscience hold it that I call

Thy “love” for whose dear love I rise and fall.


After a couple of hours or more of torrid lovemaking, of every conceivable variation, deviation and aberration, Richard decided to enhance his romantic credentials still further by reading a poem that he alleged to have prepared in honour of his new love’s consummate elegance and beauty. With this pièce de résistance, Richard hoped to win not just the body of the beautiful Lady Anne, but also her mind and her heart, and thus holy matrimony would be assured to follow soon thereafter.

Richard: (reading from Buckingham’s hastily written poems)

So we thy airs contemplate, words and heart

And virtues, but we love the centric part.

Nor is the soul more worthy, or more fit

For love, than this, as infinite as it.

But in attaining this desired place

How much they err that set out at the face.

The hair a forest is of ambushes,

Of springs, snares, fetters and manacles;

The brow becalms us when ’tis smooth and plain,

And when ’tis wrinkled shipwrecks us again—

Smooth, ’tis a paradise where we would have

Immortal stay, and wrinkled ’tis our grave.

The nose (like to the first meridian) runs

Not ‘twixt an East and West, but ‘twixt two suns;

It leaves a cheek, a rosy hemisphere,

On either side, and then directs us where

Upon the Islands Fortunate we fall,

(Not faint Canaries, but Ambrosial)

Thy swelling lips; to which when we are come,

We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,

For they seem all: there Sirens’ songs, and there

Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;

There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,

The remora, thy cleaving tongue doth dwell.

These, and the glorious promontory, thy chin,

O’erpassed, and the straight Hellespont between

The Sestos and Abydos of thy breasts,

(Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)

Succeeds a boundless sea, but yet thine eye

Some island moles may scattered there descry;

And sailing towards thy India, in that way

Shall at thy fair Atlantic navel stay;

Though thence the current be thy pilot made,

Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed

Thou shalt upon another forest set,

Where many shipwreck and no further get.

When thou art there, consider what this chase

Misspent by thy beginning at the face.

Rather set out below; practise my art.

Some symmetry the foot hath with that part

Which thou dost seek, and is thy map for that,

Lovely enough to stop, but not stay at;

Least subject to disguise and change it is—

Men say the devil never can change his.

It is the emblem that hath figured

Firmness; ’tis the first part that comes to bed.

Lady Anne:

What a strange concoction thou art, milord.

The soul of an artist, but the instincts of a knave,

Ennobling my mind, yet defiling my body.

Such a paradox in so misshapen a man!


Inwardly, Lady Anne was not only struck by the apparent irony of Richard’s seemingly dual personality, but also of her current unenviable situation, having to feign sexual interest in a man whom she despised, and who physically and emotionally repulsed her. She also took a moment to lament the necessity for women such as herself, widowed and with a family decimated by the fortunes of war or civil conflict, who are then forced to find some small consolation (or ensure their own survival) through an undesired union with another man; even one who might be a mere shadow of their former husband in style, wit and decorum. It was either that or eke out a living hand to mouth on the streets, or find themselves debased still further as a whore in one of the many squalid ‘stewes’, bawdy houses or brothels that proliferated in the darkest corners of the realm. Such was the life for such women since time immemorial – thrown out, often through no fault of their own, into the very margins of civil society: neglected, abused, debased and discarded. Fortunately, perhaps, this sorry situation had conveniently afforded her that rarest of opportunities: to obtain sweet revenge against the very man who had so recently murdered her once beloved husband!

Richard: (reading from another of Buckingham’s hastily scrawled scripts)

I wonder, coy mistress, what thou and I

Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?

But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?

Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?

’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

Lady Anne: (suggestively)

As our two loves be one, and, thou and I

Love so alike, then none do slacken, none can die!


Are thy appetites so insatiable,

That I, thrice risen, shall die once again?

Lady Anne: (Launching herself upon him once more)

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow-chapped power.


Had we but world enough, and time,

And coyness, Lady, were no crime

We would sit down and think which way

To walk and pass our long love’s day.

But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Lady Anne:

Thy stamina hath now deserted thee?

Then, let us cease our promiscuous fun,

Rest thy weariness in soft, silken sheets,

And thus surrender to oblivion.


As Richard rolled over having completed his requisite debauchery to his satisfaction, his contorted carcass soon lay motionless and within minutes he was loudly snoring, thus confirming to Lady Anne that the time was nigh to strike. Having subdued her prey into such a state of sweet exhaustion, she now reached up to the bed head above him, where inlaid in the detail of its carving was a jewel-encrusted dagger, obscured as to its true purpose by appearing to be an ornamental crucifix feature. As she clutched that dagger and raised her arm above her head to strike, the Duke of Buckingham suddenly appeared from his hiding place under the bed and, firmly grasping her wrist, drove the dagger downwards instead into the abdomen of the unfortunate, and soon to be ill-fated Lady Anne.

Her sudden screams awoke the slumbering Richard, who in a half-dazed state watched on passively as the last vestiges of life ebbed out of milady’s naked body, writhing and contorted in agony on the bed beside him. After a few short moments, her struggling ceased and her body lay completely motionless in a large pool of blood, while the Duke of Buckingham looked on dispassionately at his sordid handiwork.


By Saint Paul! I owe thee my life, my friend.

Duke of Buckingham:

Think no more upon it, milord. A pleasure.

(pauses, then crosses himself as he eulogises the fallen Lady Anne)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Richard: (glancing down with rueful venom at Lady Anne’s now bloodless body)

When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead

And that thou think’st thee free

From all solicitation from me,

Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,

And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;

Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,

And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,

Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think

Thou call’st for more,

And in false sleep will from thee shrink;

And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou

Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie

A verier ghost than I.

What I will say, I will not tell thee now,

Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,

I’d rather thou shouldst painfully repent,

Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.


The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjur’d, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;

Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight;

Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,

Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait,

On purpose laid to make the taker mad:

Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;

A bliss in proof, and prov’d, a very woe;

Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.


Having vented his spleen sufficiently at milady’s corpse, and then having listened patiently to Buckingham’s thoughts on the vicissitudes of the pursuit of carnal desires, Richard soon came to his senses and dressed himself hurriedly, and before long the two men were to horse. The two Dukes then rode off with great haste, racing back through those very same ornate gates that marked the entrance to the grounds of Casa di Caprio. Soon, they were headed down the hillside at a fast gallop, toward the township that lay below them upon the swampy plain- Washing Town; that den of iniquity that Richard had now decided, in renewed indignation and fury, must be destroyed once and for all, so that every last remnant follower of the Lancastrian cause should be obliterated from the very face of the Earth.


Act 2 Scene 4:

The Blacksmith’s on the outskirts of Washing Town. Midnight. A stiff breeze rolling in off the North Sea.


After their brush with death at the hands of Lady Anne, Richard and Buckingham were determined to rid themselves of any semblance of resistance once and for all. Having stolen their way into a wooden “smithy” on the edge of town, the two men overpowered and killed the unfortunate blacksmith, and then set about stoking up the burning coal in the hearth to a high intensity. Strapping bundles of branches and straw together, the two men set them alight in the hearth and then rode off into the township, spreading the flames to the straw and thatched roofs of the surrounding houses as they went. Soon many of the homes were well alight, with the slumbering residents initially unaware of the conflagration about to consume them. Through the town the two men rode until they could no longer hold their flaming torches, whereupon they dropped them among some discarded rubbish nearby, and then rode straight out of town to the top of the nearest lookout, where they watched this evolving catastrophe unfold from a discrete distance.

At first there was an eerie silence, but it wasn’t long before the first screams started to pierce the night sky. In very short order, these screams became a cacophony as panicked residents of the town were either trapped within their burning homes, or else ran about in a panic through streets that were becoming increasingly impassable as the flames spread quickly from house to house across the length and breadth of the township. Eventually, the entire town was engulfed in a firestorm, fanned by the strong winds that were sweeping in from the ocean to the East. This swirling vortex of fire quickly destroyed every last free standing building within the township, while the intense pall of smoke suffocated any of those fortunate enough to avoid being directly burnt in the flames. A stash of gunpowder exploded in the midst of this melee, but that blast only added very little to the general chaos and confusion that was already well in train. Eventually, the township was reduced to a mere smouldering ruin, while the few whimpering cries that emanated from the precious few poor souls who still remained clinging, all-too-briefly, to their barest thread of life, were soon to fall completely and ominously silent.

Richard: (attempting ironic commentary)

This is certainly the way the world ends;

Not with a bang, but a woeful whimper!

Buckingham: (somewhat aghast)

Mere words are barely adequate,

To describe so appalling a sight!

And our dried voices,

When we whisper together,

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass!

Richard: (temporarily beset by his conscience)

A hollowness pervades me,

Despite enemies now vanquish’d.

Yet, I can but wonder; Is it like this

In death’s other kingdom?

Buckingham: (waxing lyrical)

This is the dead land,

This is the quagmire land.

Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man’s hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.


Success beyond ev’ry expectation,

Yet horrors beyond all redemption!

Thus, it has been wisely written:

“Between the idea and the reality,

Between the motion and the act,

Falls the Shadow!”


Night comes, but without darkness or repose,

A dismal picture of the gen’ral doom:

Where Souls distracted when the Trumpet blows,

And half unready with their bodies come.

Those who have homes, when home they do repair

To a last lodging call their wand’ring friends.

Their short uneasy sleeps are broke with care,

To look how near their own destruction tends.

Those who have none sit round where once it was,

And with full eyes each wonted room require:

Haunting the yet warm ashes of the place,

As murder’d men walk where they did expire.

Richard: (gesturing to the dismal vista before them)

Alas, my gentle and eloquent Duke,

There are no such souls left to thus repair

Those sad, remnant homes in abject ruin!


Nought left but desolation and despair,

In this valley of dying stars,

In this hollow valley,

This broken jaw of our lost kingdom!


And what will not ambition and revenge

Descend to? Who aspires must down as low,

As high he soared, obnoxious first or last

To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,

Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.


Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom

Remember us—if at all—not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men,

The stuffed men.


Such eyes I dare not meet in dreams

Nor in death’s dream kingdom!


But, let’s have done with such superstition.

We must return to York to attend the King.

My brother is at life’s very brink,

And I aim to be there for the fall.


Act 3 Scene 1:

London. The palace. King Edward IV is lying ill in his bed within the royal bedchamber. His wife, Queen Elizabeth is in attendance at his bedside, doting upon his every need and whim in applying tepid sponges to his fevered brow, and offering him cups of broth and small morsels of food for sustenance in view of his rather tenuous state of health: a heady combination of morbid obesity, anxiety neurosis, polyarticular gout and dropsy.

(Enter Rivers, Grey, Dorset, Lord Stanley and Hastings, with various attendants)

King Edward IV: (in a weak and sickly voice)

I have summon’d thee all to make amends

To once bitter adversaries at court.


I ev’ry day expect an embassage

From my Redeemer to redeem me hence;

And now in peace my soul shall part to heaven,

Since I have set my friends at peace on earth.

Rivers and Hastings, take each other’s hand;

Dissemble not your hatred, swear your love.


By heaven, my heart is purged from grudging hate:

And with my hand I seal my true heart’s love.


So thrive I, as I truly swear the like!

(Enter Buckingham)

King Edward IV: (turning to address his wife, still tending to him lovingly)

Madam, yourself are not exempt in this,

Nor your son Dorset, Buckingham, nor you;

You have been factious one against the other,

Wife, love Lord Hastings, let him kiss your hand;

And what you do, do it unfeignedly.

Queen Elizabeth:

Here, Hastings; I will never more remember

Our former hatred, so thrive I and mine!

King Edward IV:

Dorset, embrace him; Hastings, love Lord Marquess.


This interchange of love, I here protest,

Upon my part shall be unviolable.


And so swear I, my lord

(They embrace)

King Edward IV: (gesturing to Buckingham)

Now, princely Buckingham, seal thou this league

With thy embracements to my wife’s allies,

And make me happy in your unity.


Whenever Buckingham doth turn his hate

On you or yours,

(To the Queen)

but with all duteous love

Doth cherish you and yours, God punish me

With hate in those where I expect most love!

When I have most need to employ a friend,

And most assured that he is a friend

Deep, hollow, treacherous, and full of guile,

Be he unto me! This do I beg of God,

When I am cold in zeal to yours.

King Edward IV:

A pleasing cordial, princely Buckingham,

Is this thy vow unto my sickly heart.

There wanteth now our brother Gloucester here,

To make the perfect period of this peace.

(Enter Richard)


Good morrow to my sovereign King and Queen:

And, princely peers, a happy time of day!

King Edward IV:

Happy, indeed, as we have spent the day.

Brother, we have done deeds of charity;

Made peace of enmity, fair love of hate,

Between these swelling wrong-incensed peers.


A blessed labour, my most sovereign liege:

Amongst this princely heap, if any here,

By false intelligence, or wrong surmise,

Hold me a foe;

If I unwittingly, or in my rage,

Have aught committed that is hardly borne

By any in this presence, I desire

To reconcile me to his friendly peace!

Queen Elizabeth:

A holy day shall this be kept hereafter:

I would to God all strifes were well compounded.

My sovereign liege, I do beseech your majesty

To take our brother Clarence to your grace.


Why, madam, have I offer’d love for this

To be so bouted in this royal presence?

Who knows not that the noble duke is dead?

(They all start)

You do him injury to scorn his corpse.

Rivers: (aghast)

Who knows not he is dead! Who knows he is?

Queen Elizabeth: (in shock)

All seeing heaven, what a world is this!

King Edward IV:

Clarence is dead? My order was revers’d!

How could this be so?


Richard related to all those present how the two ruffians, dressed as messengers from the court, had taken the Duke of Clarence from the Tower using forged papers, on the pretext of taking him to a meeting with the King to appeal for clemency. Clarence’s mutilated body had then been found by the side of the road several hours later, and those same fiends responsible for the heinous act had long since vanished into the aether, without so much as a trace left behind to help in their capture.

The grief-stricken King Edward was now filled with a deep and abiding remorse for his rash imprisonment of his gentle brother, due purely to unfounded speculation and his own baseless suspicions of treason, in an action that led, at least indirectly, to Clarence’s demise at the hands of those murderous villains. Edward soon banished all those attending from the bedchamber so that he could be alone with his grief, with only his wife Elizabeth and his trusted brother Richard remaining behind to console him.

(Exeunt Rivers, Dorset, Grey, Lord Stanley, Hastings, Buckingham and their various attendants)

King Edward IV: (ruefully)

My brother slew no man; his fault was thought,

And yet his punishment was cruel death.

Oh, poor Clarence!


Thou didst love our fair brother so, my liege,

That makes his fall from Grace all the harder,

And this woeful grief most acutely felt!

King Edward IV: (sobbing)

Yet nothing can to nothing fall,

Nor any place be empty quite;

Therefore I think my breast hath all

Those pieces still, though they be not unite;

And now, as broken glasses show

A hundred lesser faces, so

My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore,

But after one such love, can love no more.


Queen Elizabeth: (distressed, draping herself over Edward’s body)

Oh no! My love, my soul, my life hath gone!


Queen Elizabeth knelt by her dead husband’s body for the longest time, sobbing bitter tears of regret. Then, after the initial flood of tears had finally subsided, she then spoke from the heart to her husband, whose immortal soul she imagined was now ascending heavenward as just reward for a life well led.

Queen Elizabeth: (bowing her head, with eyes closed, whispering in hushed tones)

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

And Time, that gave, doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.

And yet to times in hope my words shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.


The Duke of Gloucester eventually excused himself, taking his leave to allow his brother’s widow to be alone with her grief. Meanwhile, news of Richard’s announcement of Clarence’s untimely death had spread through the palace among the various maids and manservants, until it reached the ear of not only Clarence’s mother, the Duchess of York, but also sadly to be overheard by his two young children, who had the misfortune to first hear of their father’s death second hand from the indiscreet chatter of the staff.

Act 3 Scene 2:

The Palace. Another of the many reception rooms within, where the various members of the King’s extended family tend to congregate. The Duchess of York is consoling her two young grandchildren, the son and daughter of the murdered Duke of Clarence.


Please, grandam, tell us our father is not dead!

Duchess of York:

Peace, children, peace. The King doth love thee well.


Grandam, we heard, from our good uncle Gloucester!

He said the King, provoked to it by the Queen,

Devised impeachments to imprison him;

And when my uncle told me so, he wept,

And pitied me, and kindly kissed my cheek,

Bade me rely on him as on my father,

And he would love me dearly as a child.

Duchess of York:

Incapable and shallow innocents,

You cannot guess who caused your father’s death!


Ah, that deceit should steal such gentle shape,

And with a virtuous visor hide deep vice.

He is my son, ay, and therein my shame,

Yet from my dugs he drew not this deceit.


Think you my uncle did dissemble, grandam?

Duchess of York:

Ay, child. What noise is this?

(Enter Queen Elizabeth, hair dishevelled, with Dorset and Rivers accompanying her)

Queen Elizabeth: (distressed)

Ah, who shall hinder me to wail and weep,

To chide my fortune and torment myself?

I’ll join with black despair against my soul

And to myself become an enemy.

Duchess of York:

What means this scene?

Queen Elizabeth:

To make an act of tragic violence.

Edward, my lord, thy son, our king, is dead.

Why grow the branches when the root is gone?

Why wither not the leaves that want their sap?

All springs reduce their currents to mine eyes,

That I, being governed by the watery moon,

May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world.

Ah, for my husband, for my dear lord Edward!


Take comfort, mother. What God hath lent us,

In kindness from His most bounteous hand,

Must be return’d in kind with thankfulness.

In common worldly things, ’tis called ungrateful

With dull unwillingness to repay a debt.


Madam, bethink you, like a careful mother,

Of the young prince your son. Send straight for him.

Let him be crowned. In him your comfort lives.

Drown desperate sorrow in dead Edward’s grave

And plant your joys in living Edward’s throne.

(Enter Richard, Buckingham, Hastings, Stanley and Ratcliffe)

Richard: (to Queen Elizabeth)

Sister, have comfort. All of us have cause

To wail the dimming of our shining star,

But none can help our harms by wailing them.

(turning to his mother, the Duchess of York)

Madam, my mother, I do cry you mercy;

I did not see your Grace. Humbly on my knee

I crave your blessing.


Duchess of York:

God bless thee, and put meekness in thy breast,

Love, charity, obedience, and true duty.

Richard: (stands)



Of course, Richard had no intention of obeying his mother’s wishes and thus become a mere compliant lap dog to Edward’s heir. Far be it for him to reach a ripe old age as the genial and kindly uncle to those gilt-edged, precocious brats. It had indeed been many a summer since Richard had felt remotely obliged to listen to that rancorous old crone, or to be at all persuaded by her outwardly demure, yet inwardly guileful and malevolent persona.


Let’s cheer each other in each other’s love.

Though we have spent our harvest of this king,

We soon shall reap the harvest of his son.

The broken rancor of your high-swoll’n hates,

But lately splintered, knit, and joined together,

Must gently be preserved, cherished, and kept.


‘Twould seemeth good that, with some little train,

Forthwith from Ludlow the young prince be fetch’d

Hither to London, to be crowned our king.


Why “with some little train”?


Marry, my lord, lest by a multitude

The new-healed wound of malice should break out,

Which would be so much the more dangerous….


I hope the King made peace with all of us;

And the compact is firm and true in me.


And so in me, and so, I think, in all.

Hastings: (with Stanley and Ratcliffe in unison)

And so say I!


Then be it so, and go we to determine

Who they shall be that straight shall post to Ludlow.


Richard bade his mother and Edward’s widow to go about their business in preparation for the young Prince’s return to the palace, whilst ushering Hastings, Rivers, Stanley and Ratcliffe out of the room to discuss amongst themselves who might accompany Richard and Buckingham on their journey to escort the young Prince Edward back to London to be crowned as the new King. Of course, Richard and his henchman Buckingham had other ideas entirely.

(Exeunt all) 

Act 3 Scene 3:

The palace. Queen Elizabeth’s bedchamber. The Queen is sitting with her mother-in-law, the Duchess of York, and various attendants awaiting word of her son’s safe return from Ludlow. The Archbishop of York is also in attendance, offering his condolences for the Queen’s lamentations over her husband’s recent death.

(Enter Messenger)

Duchess of York:

What news?


Lord Rivers and Lord Grey are sent to Pomfret,

And, with them, Sir Thomas Vaughan, prisoners!

Duchess of York:

Who hath committed them?


The mighty Dukes, Gloucester and Buckingham.

Queen Elizabeth:

For what offence?


I have disclosed all I know, your highness.

Queen Elizabeth: (dismayed)

Ay me! I see the ruin of my house.

The tiger now hath seized the gentle hind.

Insulting tyranny begins to jut

Upon the innocent and aweless throne.

Welcome, destruction, blood, and massacre.

I see, as in a map, the end of all!

Duchess of York: (shaking her fist skywards)

O’ accurs’d days, where blind ambitions reign,

Setting blood on blood, brother on brother,

And spurring damned war upon themselves.


Enough of brutality and bloodshed!

So let me die, and look on death no more.


Queen Elizabeth rightly feared for not only the safety of her young son and the heir to the throne (the young Prince Edward), but also for her youngest son (the young Duke of York), and also for herself as the nominal Queen. Elizabeth thus sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey for herself and her son York to protect them both from the Duke of Gloucester’s no doubt nefarious schemes. The Archbishop of York, who was in attendance ministering to the grieving widow, upon hearing of this possibly treasonous development, offered to assign the Great Seal of England to Queen Elizabeth, by which he would be treating her, and not her son (nor her brother in-law Richard), as the lawful monarch. He offered also to take it upon myself to protect the Queen and her youngest son, and to conduct them both to sanctuary. With the aged Duchess of York in tow, they hastily fetched the young Duke, gathered all their belongings and valuables together and left the palace, putting themselves as far from harm’s way as they possibly could in the limited time they had at their disposal.

Act 3 Scene 4:

The Tower.


Richard and Buckingham arrived on horseback accompanied by the young Prince, who was soon to be crowned as the new King: Edward V. The two conniving Dukes had managed to convince the heir to the throne that he should remain at the Tower for his own safety until his coronation. This was to be necessary particularly up until the alleged co-conspirators in Rivers and Gray could be captured, so that the young Prince’s safe passage back to London could be assured.

At the gate to meet them was the Lord Mayor of York City, an affable if unrefined and none too bright gentleman whom the two Dukes had convinced of the need to foil a plot alleged to be afoot to kidnap the Prince and thereby prevent his rightful ascension to the throne. Thus, he was more than willing to assist them by welcoming Edward to the safety of the Tower, where he could vouchsafe that the young Prince would have no contact with the outside world, more particularly anyone other than those completely loyal to the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham.

In due course, the young Prince was shown to his luxurious living quarters high atop the Tower, in the apartment formerly occupied by the secret bride of the Duke of Gloucester, the countess Melania. She had been relocated temporarily to another part of the Tower to make way for the future king, and was reputedly none-too-happy to lose her gilded cage, even for the briefest of times. The living area of the apartment was the last word in opulence and splendour, decorated with white marble Corinthian columns spread liberally around the perimeter of the room, with elaborate capitals of acanthus leaves and scrolls in 24 carat gold leaf. The ceiling was bordered by embossed gold leaf cornices, and in the centre was an elaborate hand-painted fresco depicting Grecian gods and other mythological figures in heavenly surroundings. Around the room were also scattered various priceless objet d’art, including Athenian vases and urns, statues of both Eros and Psyche, and a large painting in a gold frame of Apollo being led by Aurora, the Greek goddess of dawn.

Lord Mayor:

Welcome, sweet Prince. Herewith is York’s finest,

As would befit a future sovereign!

(Gesturing to the view of the cityscape below)

With a most glorious panorama,

Spreading before us, of our fair city.


A thing of beauty is a joy forever!

I shall drowse here a sleep full of sweet dreams,

And reside in health with quiet breathing.


Withal I canst not hear thy city’s din,

But shalt rejoice in its cheerful splendour!

Lord Mayor:

God bless your Grace, with health and happy days!

(Enter Richard)


Welcome, dear nephew, my thought’s sovereign.


Sweet prince, the untainted virtue of your years

Hath not yet dived into the world’s deceit

Nor more can you distinguish of a man

Than of his outward show; which, God he knows,

Seldom or never jumpeth with the heart.

Those uncles which you want were dangerous;

Your grace attended to their sugar’d words,

But look’d not on the poison of their hearts :

God keep you from them, and from such false friends!


God keep me from false friends, but they were none!


Leave me alone to my thoughts, dear uncle,

Lest my melancholy does leave a pall

On thy most lavish hospitality.


Yes, of course, my liege. Upon my orders

York’s Lord Mayor is at thy disposal.

(Exeunt all but Prince Edward)

Prince: (to himself whilst gazing about at all the splendid artworks around him)

Such a lustrous feast for both eye and mind!

(picking up a Grecian urn from its plinth)

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

(having replaced the urn, now the young Prince turns his attention to a marble statue of Psyche)

O latest born and loveliest vision far

Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!

Fairer than Phoebe’s sapphire-region’d star,

Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;

Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,

Nor altar heap’d with flowers;

Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan

Upon the midnight hours;

No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet

From chain-swung censer teeming;

No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat

Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.

(pauses, contemplating all the treasures he has just beheld)

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

(Exeunt: retiring to his bedchamber)

Act 3 Scene 5:

The Tower. Dawn.


The young Prince and heir to the throne awakened in the gilded palace of sin that had only recently served as the bedchamber for the Duke of Gloucester’s secret consort, the Countess Melania. As he lay there on that bed in quiet contemplation, he soon noticed that above him on the ceiling were various scenes depicting all manner of cherubim, satyrs and nymphs cavorting suggestively with one another in the verdant forests and idyllic meadows, whilst various Greek myths were then represented in each corner of the fresco.

As he gazed around the perimeter of the ceiling, he noted various explicit scenes from mythology rendered in somewhat graphic detail. In the first corner of the ceiling, the story of Danaë (the young daughter of King Acrisius of Argos) was portrayed: impregnated by Zeus when he quite cleverly turned himself into a shower of golden rain, that then fell down upon her naked and unsuspecting body. In the second corner, the tale of Leda and the Swan was starkly rendered, with Zeus this time transforming himself into a swan, and then raping the wife of Sparta’s King Tyndareus. In the third, the myth of Callisto, the Princess of Arcadia, was shown in all its perverse glory, with Zeus once again disguising himself, this time as the goddess Artemis, to then through this deception have his lustful way with her. Then finally to the last, where the myth of Europa (the daughter of King Agenor of Tyre) was depicted. Zeus metamorphosed this time into an eagle and ravished the poor innocent woman in a willow-thicket, and this was rendered with no depravity left to the imagination.

Of course, such scenes of debauchery would normally have been rather daunting to the sensibilities of any pious young teenage aristocrat, let alone the heir apparent to the English throne. Yet, being couched in Greek mythological trappings had perhaps lent these depictions an artistic license they did not deserve, which thus allowed him to largely overlook their inappropriately lewd and perverse content. As a consequence, his thoughts were soon to move on unencumbered to matters of more immediate importance, particularly in planning to make his way safely to London in a timely fashion, to be then reunited with his beloved mother the Queen, and his brother York.

With that in mind, the young Prince quickly bathed and dressed himself, and was soon sitting on a divan when his uncle, Richard, called upon him.

(Enter Richard


The cock is up! Now, arise my sweet Prince.

Hast thou slept well in my fair mistress’ bed?


Surely ’twas an experience to savour.

For thy hospitality, I’m grateful.


Prithee prevail upon it further still,

Whilst my soldiers seek those conspirators,

Who hath remain’d elusive to capture.

So, do remain here as our welcome guest,

Until safely made can thy journey can be.


The Tower is most pleasant and secure,

So it shall do very nicely indeed!

We shall stay here till our coronation.

(pauses, gazing around the room once more, impressed by its grandeur)

Did Julius Caesar first build this place?


The Tower was first built by Caesar’s hand;

Which, since, succeeding ages have re-edified.

Prince: (admiringly)

Methinks the truth should live from age to age,

As ’twere retail’d to all posterity,

Even to the general all-ending day.


Julius Caesar was a famous man;

With what his valour did enrich his wit,

His wit set down to make his valour live.

Death makes no conquest of this conqueror;

For now he lives in fame, though not in life.


His legacy indeed prodigious be,

Yet, I dismantl’d this place stone by stone,

And rebuilt it to suit mine own image;

And consign’d Caesar to obscurity.


Caesar’s ideal is one to emulate,

And I, through valour and wit, do propose

That if I live until I be a man,

I’ll win our ancient right in France again,

Or die a soldier, as I lived a King.

Richard: (excusing himself)

I regret I must soon depart, Edward.

I shall leave thee in our Lord Mayor’s care,

So I might be given greater freedom

To deal with those most elusive traitors.

(Exit Richard)


The Young Prince was thus left to his own devices in the Tower, whilst Richard left to hunt down the alleged conspirators who were plotting against him. Meanwhile, Buckingham had convinced Hastings (the trusted former right hand man to Edward IV) and Cardinal Bourchier that the young Duke of York was too young and naive to have asked of his own volition for sanctuary, and that he was in no imminent danger that would even require the Church’s protection. Thus, they both had proceeded to journey to London, where they soon retrieved the young Duke from sanctuary so that he might join his brother under the “protection” of their uncle.

Soon, the two young boys were reunited in the Tower in York City, where they could at least while away the hours in each other’s company. The young Princes were well fed, and servants attended their every need and whim, but they both had a nagging and lingering sense of foreboding as to what might occur between now and Edward’s coronation, which was set down for one week hence. The boys felt somewhat relieved, however, at the constant presence of Hastings, whom they knew as a loyal friend and subject of their father, and whose devotion to the true descent of the former King Edward’s rightful heirs was known to be unwavering.

Act 4 Scene1:

The parlour of Baroness Lewinsky’s relatively modest York City home.


Richard had long since given up any pretensions of searching himself for the mythical co-conspirators to the hapless Rivers and Grey, and instead left his soldiers to continue their fruitless fool’s errand without him, whilst he made his way instead to the abode of Baroness Lewinsky, the former mistress of the degenerate King Henry VI. Richard had actively cultivated her friendship during those difficult years, using her intimate connection to King Henry as a means of gathering information to undermine the interests of the Lancasters in general, while simultaneously having the fortuitous effect of nurturing an ever-burgeoning clandestine relationship between Richard and the Baroness’ own sovereign ruler: Ivan the Great, the Grand Prince of Moscow. Through this relationship, Richard hoped to find a trusted ally with whom he could align if ever the opportunity arose to seize the English throne, which he firmly believed he was predestined to one day attain. For his part, Ivan clearly admired the Duke of Gloucester for his ruthless ambition, predatory attitude and complete lack of moral compass; features which made him not only a highly dangerous potential adversary, but equally a more than useful comrade that he might one day use in his constant battle with the other continental European aristocrats who regularly plagued the integrity of his borders.

Over the years, Richard had almost exclusively utilised his friend Catesby as an intermediary between the Baroness and himself, passing messages to and fro between the two, thereby allowing the Grand Prince to keep abreast of all of those intrigues and affairs of England’s Royal Court, almost as soon as these events had actually occurred. In return, Ivan not only supplied the insatiable Duke of Gloucester with an endless supply of his most highly sought after courtesans, but also offered him generous financial inducements that effectively underwrote Richard in his relentless push to maximise his power and expand his ever-widening sphere of political influence.

This secret alliance was now to become instrumental in Richard’s final act of deceit in his path to the throne, wherein he sought Baroness Lewinsky’s help in potentially casting doubt upon the legitimacy of the young Prince Edward’s current claim to the throne, whether by hook or by crook. As luck would have it, the young Baroness had recently learned, through her many spies and informants at court, that the former King Edward IV had been secretly pre-contracted in marriage to a beautiful widow, Lady Eleanor Butler, the daughter of the Duke of Shrewsbury. This action was reputed to have taken place some 3 years prior to his marriage to the current Queen (Lady Gray, the former Elizabeth Woodeville), and the existence of such a pre-contract for marriage, under English law at that time, therefore nullified completely the legitimacy of any marriage that Edward undertook thereafter. Happily, this delicious tidbit of information totally negated any claim that either of the Princes in the Tower would have had to England’s throne. Thus, with the benefit of this undercover Russian reconnaissance and intelligence, the path had been miraculously cleared for Richard to claim the throne as the “rightful” heir, now being his former brother Edward’s nearest “legitimate” living relative.

(Enter Catesby and Richard)


Milady, it’s been too long since last we spoke.

How fares Grand Prince Ivan? Is he in health?


He is hale, hearty and in full vigour.

He sends kind regards to thee, good Catesby,


Hath he return’d safely from the Crimea,

After quelling rebellion there this Spring?


Prince Ivan hath fought off those vile rebels,

In the pay of Europe’s aristocrats

Inciting civil unrest and affray!

He’s restor’d comfort and order to all.


Agents of our Black Prince and his mother,

Had their stamp all over that rebellion.

I am well reliev’d at Ivan’s victory,

Which secures his sacred territory.

Baroness: (with a wry smile)

The Grand Prince passes on his gratitude

For thy most judicious slaughter of both.


It serves our higher purpose to collude,

To work in tandem as kindred spirits,

And through the use of shared intelligence,

Tighten our grip on the reins of power.


An intelligence from my informants,

About King Edward’s betrothal contract

With Lady Eleanor of Shrewsbury,

Clears thy path to become the lawful King!


‘Tis a most fortuitous happenstance!

Edward’s bastard offspring are thus annull’d!

Thus, they represent a threat no longer.

Pray, thank the Grand Prince for his interest.


By your leave, mistress, we must now depart.

We have a coronation to attend!

(Exeunt Richard and Catesby)

Act 4 Scene 2:

Outside the Tower. At the large iron gate that provides the only entry point to the imposing edifice.


Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, Lord Stanley and a disguised Lord Dorset have gathered at the gate to the Tower, hoping to gain entry to visit the young Princes within. Brackenbury and the Lord Mayor of York are barring their entry with their guards at their back, under strict instructions from the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham.

Queen Elizabeth:

Master Lieutenant, pray you, by your leave,

How doth the Prince and my young son York?


Right well, dear madam. By your patience,

I may not suffer thee to visit them.

The King hath strictly charged the contrary.

Queen Elizabeth:

The King? Who’s that?


I mean, the Lord Protector.

Queen Elizabeth:

The Lord protect him from that Kingly title.

I am their mother. Who shall bar me from them?


No, madam, no. I may not leave it so.

I am bound by oath, and therefore pardon me.



Be of good cheer, mother.

How fares your Grace?

Queen Elizabeth:

O Dorset, speak not to me. Get thee gone.

Death and destruction dogs thee at thy heels.

Thy mother’s name is ominous to children.

If thou wilt outstrip death, go, cross the seas,

And live with Richmond, from the reach of hell.

Go, hie thee, hie thee from this slaughterhouse,

Lest thou increase the number of the dead

And make me die the thrall of Margaret’s curse,

Nor mother, wife, nor England’s counted queen.

Lord Stanley: (to Dorset)

Take all swift advantage of the hours.

You shall have letters from me to my son

In thy behalf, to meet thee on the way.

Be not ta’en tardy by unwise delay.

Duchess of York: (to Dorset)

Go thou to Richmond, and good fortune guide thee.

(to Queen Elizabeth)

Go thou to sanctuary, and good thoughts possess thee.

I to my grave, where peace and rest lie with me.

Queen Elizabeth: (Looking back to the Tower)

Pity, you ancient stones, those tender babes

Whom envy hath immured within your walls.


Rough cradle for such pretty little ones.

Rude ragged nurse, old sullen playfellow

For tender Princes, use my babies well.

So foolish sorrows bid your stones farewell.


Act 4 Scene 3:

The Tower.


Lord Hastings had just met with his good friend Catesby at his stately home to express his concern regarding any likely delay in the coronation of the heir to the throne, young Prince Edward. Hastings had not been too perturbed by the capture and forthcoming execution of Lord Rivers and Lord Gray, as they were his longstanding personal enemies over many decades. He was, however, happy to tell Catesby that he was prepared to defend the rightful line of Royal succession of the young Prince at the risk of his own death. Little did he know that his friend Catesby was soon to be more than happy to oblige him. Thus it transpired that Catesby had arranged for Hastings to meet with Buckingham and Richard at the Tower that evening to allay his concerns, but had gone ahead of him to let the two Dukes know of this potentially inconvenient fly in the Royal ointment.

(Enter Catesby and Buckingham)


I fear that Hastings shall not acquiesce

To Richard wearing the garland Royal

Should our plans succeed in discrediting

The young Prince’s tainted claim to the throne.


Fear not, noble Catesby. ‘Tis of no mind.

Our Russian intelligence leaves no doubt,

That Edward’s bastard hath no righteous claim,

Despite Hastings’ thorny protestations.

Richard is aware of this allegiance,

And intends to deal with him presently!


What dost he suggest we do to rid us

Of this inconvenient naysayer?


Since the testy gentleman is so hot

That he will lose his head ere give consent

His master’s child, as worshipfully he terms it,

Shall lose the royalty of England’s throne,

He plans to soon fulfill his heart’s desire!

(Enter Hastings)


Now, noble peers, the cause why we are met

Is to determine of the coronation.

In God’s name, speak. When is the Royal day?


Are all things ready for the Royal time?


They are, wanting but the nomination.


Who knows the Lord Protector’s mind herein?

Lord Hastings, you and he are near in love.


I thank his Grace, I know he loves me well.

I’ve not yet sounded him on that subject.

(Enter Richard)


Welcome milord, speaking of the devil!

Richard: (in jest)

I doth resemble that dark gentleman!



Surely not remotely so, Lord Protector.

Thy deeds belie that characterisation!


His grace looks cheerful and smooth this morning.

Richard: (with a sudden scowl and pained expression on his face)

I pray you all, tell me what they deserve

That do conspire my death with devilish plots

Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevailed

Upon my body with their hellish charms?


The tender love I bear your Grace, my lord,

Makes me most forward in this princely presence

To doom th’ offenders, whosoe’er they be.

I say, my lord, they deserved death.


Then be your eyes the witness of their evil.

(shows his withered arm)

Look how I am bewitched! Behold mine arm

Is like a blasted sapling withered up;

And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch,

Consorted with that harlot, strumpet Shore,

That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.


If they have done this deed, my noble lord –


If? Thou protector of this damned strumpet,

Talk’st thou to me of “ifs”? Thou art a traitor-

Off with his head. Now by Saint Paul I swear

I will not dine until I see the same.

(guards enter and grasp Hastings forcibly by each arm)


O bloody Richard! Miserable England,

I prophesy the fearfull’st time to thee

That ever wretched age hath looked upon –

Come, lead me to the block. Bear him my head.

They smile at me who shortly shall be dead.


Act 4 Scene 4:

London. The Palace.


Lord Hastings was soon to be carted off to the chopping block in the Tower in York for his allegedly treasonous defence of that delight of many a cold winter’s night, his sweet if not especially innocent mistress Jane Shore. Meanwhile, some distance away at Pontefract (Pomfret) castle, Richard’s staunchest ally Sir Richard Ratcliffe was busy despatching Rivers, Gray and Vaughan in the most brutal fashion imaginable at his master’s behest. Being among the nearest relatives and last remaining loyalists to Lady Gray (the former Queen Elizabeth), their demise was indeed vital, clearing the way with exquisite timing for Richard to be crowned as King of England virtually unopposed.

To put further icing on the political cake, Ratcliffe had also sent his various emissaries out amongst the York City townsfolk, spreading rumours of Edward’s alleged serial infidelities and more particularly of his marital pre-contract to Lady Eleanor Butler, a narrative that he hoped would sway public opinion once and for all against the two young Princes held in the Tower, who were now clearly shown (through the agency of intelligence derived from those Russian informants) to be merely ill-bred little bastards with no legitimate claim to the throne. As a further consequence, Lady Gray’s marriage to King Edward had also been effectively annulled not only by the law of the land, but now also in the eyes of the great majority of the broader populace.

With victory almost within his grasp, and nearly all of his potential obstacles to power eradicated, Richard now ventured back to London with his trusty henchman Lord Buckingham and loyal Catesby in tow, where plans for his coronation had already been well and truly set in motion. On the steps of the Palace, a massive platform had been erected with a huge throne set in the centre, with smaller chairs on either side where various dignitaries, lords and ladies, and various members of the clergy (Abbots, Canons, Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals) would be seated whilst the newly crowned King gave his acceptance speech, allowing them an aspect of appropriate reverence and awe to his most supreme and puissant majesty!

As word of the coronation of the new sovereign, soon to be known as King Richard III, filtered around the kingdom, a huge crowd (of a magnitude never before seen in similar circumstances) gathered to hear his acceptance speech, eagerly anticipating that the new King would soon set England on a course to far greater prosperity, eliminating any entrenched corruption and particularly in negating the pernicious influence of the usurers and land barons who had previously all but monopolised the benefits previously obtained from the largesse of the crown.

(Enter King Richard III, in pomp, crowned; Buckingham, Catesby, a Page, and others)

King Richard III:

Give me thy hand, cousin of Buckingham!

(ascends the throne)

Thus high, by thy advice

And by thy assistance is King Richard seated.


Why, Buckingham, I say, I would be King!


Why, so thou art, my thrice renowned liege.

King Richard III:

O bitter consequence! –

That Edward and his brother should still live.

Can I be plain? I wish the bastards dead!


Your Grace may do your pleasure, in due course.

I shall resolve your Grace immediately!



Buckingham returned with a certain man by the name of Tyrrel, whom the good Duke knew to have, figuratively at least, ice cold water running through his veins and to be capable of almost any deed, no matter how gruesome, if the price was right. King Richard looked Tyrrell directly in the eye and immediately was struck by a callous and menacing indifference he saw there, and instinctively Richard knew he was just the right man for the task at hand. Richard soon took the opportunity to take this psychopathic gentleman to one side for a quick, discreet word before his inauguration speech:

King Richard III:

Wouldst thou kill a friend of mine, my good man,

If I were to ask for thy assistance?


I’d rather kill two foes of thine, my liege.

King Richard III:

Why, there thou hast it: two deep enemies,

Foes to my rest and my sweet sleep’s disturbers

Are they that I would have thee deal upon:

Tyrrel, I mean those bastards in the Tower.


Let me have open means to come to them,

And I’ll soon rid you from the fear of them.

King Richard III:

Thou sing’st sweet music. Hark, come hither, Tyrrel

Go, by this token: rise, and lend thine ear.


There is no more but so: say it is done,

And I will love thee, and prefer thee too.


‘Tis done, my gracious lord.



With his coronation ceremony successfully behind him, all that was left (pending the slaughter of the babes in the Tower, of course) was a rousing inauguration speech to inspire the populace to rally behind him as loyal subjects.

King Richard III:  (reading out his speech, pre-prepared by Lord Buckingham)

We, the citizens of the realm, can now join in a great communal effort to rebuild our sovereign nation, and to restore its promise to its people. We will face challenges, and we will face hardships, but I am confident that with your support we can achieve our goal of a more equitable and prosperous kingdom.

We are gathered now on these steps to honour the peaceful and orderly transition of power. This transition has been made all the more seamless since the death of my dear brother, the former King Edward IV, by the graceful withdrawal from public life of his former Queen, Lady Gray. I offer her not only my condolences on her recent loss, but also my everlasting loyalty and affection.

Notwithstanding my personal feelings, and the love I have for my dear departed brother and his fair wife, it pains me to admit that my brother’s reign was, on the whole, an utter catastrophe for England. Under his rule, a small number of land barons and usurers became more and more wealthy at the expense of the common folk, whose jobs disappeared into the hands of slave labour imported illegally into the kingdom, whilst fields were often left untilled, and the mills and the blacksmiths’ hearths often lay idle due to all those foreign goods being smuggled in under cover of darkness into our fair kingdom. Those lucky few who did remain in some form of gainful employment merely struggled to eke out a miserable existence without adequate reward for their labours.We are one nation — and your pain is my pain. Your dreams are my dreams; and your success will be my success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

To every Englishman, in every city near and far, small and large, from hilltop to hilltop, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

“Ye shall never be ignored again.”

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour for action.

We shall make Britain powerful again. We must strengthen our military to restore our position as the greatest sovereign power in the entire world, feared by our foes and respected by our allies. We will no longer defend borders on foreign soil but then fail to protect our own borders at home.

We shall make Britain safe again. Our borders have recently been breached by those Islamic hordes who razed the two tallest castle keeps in the kingdom, which showed a weakness that makes us seem more vulnerable in the eyes of the world. We will therefore reinforce our old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will soon eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

We shall make Britain wealthy again. We shall embark on a program of building many more roads and fortifications, with new shipping ports, mills and granaries to provide greater potential for gainful employment for the peasantry to improve their lot in life. We will get our people away from the need to beg in the streets, and instead get them back into work — rebuilding our country with English hands and English labour.

We shall make Britain proud again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our British destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to Great Britain. Through our loyalty to our kingdom, we shall rediscover our loyalty to each other.

And yea, verily! With God’s Grace, we shall indeed make Britain great again!

God bless you all. And God bless our sovereign realm.


Throughout his speech, a tumultuous applause greeted King Richard’s every utterance, which the gathered throng saw as a rallying cry to restoring the hard won rights and freedoms that had been enshrined at Runnymede some 250 years before (in the year 1215) with the Magna Carta Libertatum.

At the speech’s conclusion, the crowd in unison raised three cheers to the King, and as they left the forecourt of the palace they were imbued with a newfound sense of optimism and hope for a more prosperous future, where even the most lowly of subjects would now have the opportunities afforded by the expansion of a stronger and more robust kingdom, now engaging with the wider world from a position of strength and with renewed purpose.

Alas, those hopes and dreams were soon to be proven to be thoroughly misplaced, as the newly crowned King’s word and deed became ever more widely divergent.

Act 4 Scene 5:

Tyrrel had completed his mission to the Tower, wherein he suborned two unscrupulous ruffians in Dighton and Forrest to assist him with the assassination of the two young Princes. The foul deed was soon done, and Tyrrel had now returned to London to inform the new King of the news, and in expectation of the favours he might now receive.

(Enter Tyrrel)


The tyrannous and bloody deed is done.

The most arch of piteous massacre

That ever yet this land was guilty of.

Dighton and Forrest, whom I did suborn

To do this ruthless piece of butchery,

Although they were flesh’d villains, bloody dogs,

Melting with tenderness and kind compassion

Wept like two children in their deaths’ sad stories.

‘Lo, thus’ quoth Dighton, ‘lay those tender babes:’

‘Thus, thus,’ quoth Forrest, ‘girdling one another

Within their innocent alabaster arms:

Their lips were four red roses on a stalk,

Which in their summer beauty kiss’d each other.

A book of prayers on their pillow lay;

Which once,’ quoth Forrest, ‘almost changed my mind;

But O! the devil’–there the villain stopp’d

Whilst Dighton thus told on: ‘We smothered

The most replenished sweet work of nature,

That from the prime creation e’er she framed.’

Thus both are gone with conscience and remorse;

They could not speak; and so I left them both,

To bring this tidings to the bloody king.

And here he comes

(Enter King Richard)

All hail, my sovereign liege!

King Richard III:

Kind Tyrrel, am I happy at thy news?


If to have done the thing you gave in charge

Begets your happiness, be happy then.

For it is done, milord.

King Richard III:

And thou didst see them dead?


I did, milord.

King Richard III:

And buried, gentle Tyrrel?


The chaplain of the Tower hath buried them;

But how and in what place, I do not know.

King Richard III:

Thou hast my gratitude, loyal Tyrrel.

I shall reward thee mightily indeed

For dispensing with those treasonous spawn,

Who threaten’d the peace of our sov’reign realm.

Tyrrel: (Bowing, and withdrawing from the Royal presence)

I remain thy humble servant, my liege.


King Richard III: (to himself)

The son of Clarence have I pent up close;

His daughter meanly have I match’d in marriage;

The sons of Edward sleep in Abraham’s bosom,

And Anne, “my wife”, hath bid the world good night.

Now, for I know the Breton Richmond aims

At young Elizabeth, my brother’s daughter,

And, by that knot, looks proudly o’er the Crown,

To her I go, a jolly thriving wooer!


Act 5 Scene 1:

Dunrobin Castle, in the Earldom of Sutherland in the far north of Scotland.


Meanwhile, King Richard contemplated the tantalising prospect of seducing and then wedding his very own niece (the young Elizabeth) to shore up his otherwise vice-like grip upon the throne, especially against the potential threat of that last surviving Lancastrian stalwart in Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond. However, his attention was soon turned by necessity to other pressing affairs of state, as Britain was beset by various challenging issues of note, both at home and abroad.

Principal among those matters requiring the most immediate redress was the emergence of a belligerent and expansionist nation to Britain’s far north. A despotic ruler had come to power in recent times in the Scottish Mormeardom of Caithness, and this rogue was now threatening those adjacent lands that comprised the Earldom of Sutherland to the west, as well as the islands to the north: the Orkneys and the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

The would be despot in question, known to the locals as Kjim-Jone Maddadsson the Younger, claimed to be the direct lineal heir of the legendary former Mormear of Caithness (and one time Earl of Orkney), Harald Maddadsson, who had centuries before fought a bitter and protracted war that eventually led to the partitioning of this region into two separate, self-governing nation states.

Sutherland and Caithness had remained the bitterest of rivals ever since, separated by a demilitarised buffer zone and with heavy fortifications on either side of the divide, with eternally vigilant sentries who had their respective hair-triggers always at the ready. The impasse between these two enemies was largely maintained by the presumed certainty of their mutual destruction should one contemplate aggression toward the other, a concept that had (up till now at least) ensured a perpetual stability of sorts, based primarily on their mutual distrust and their eminently sensible instincts for self-preservation.

For his part, the dictatorial Maddadsson ruled Caithness with an absolute iron fist, in stark contrast to his rather pudgy frame and buffoonish facade. The entire populace were held so firmly in his thrall that they were barely able to form an individual thought without it first being uttered by their fearless leader. Kjim-Jone was entrenched in his position of power by the fanatical support of a veritable legion of deranged zealots, all of whom were hell bent on the utter destruction of any neighbouring tribes who even so much as dared to glance casually in their general direction.

Over recent years, Caithness had surreptitiously engaged in a campaign of systematic espionage in those adjacent lands, sending forth hundreds of spies and “sleepers” who had then infiltrated the surrounding towns and villages with the purpose of not only gathering intelligence and information, but also to remain in place as a vanguard of 5th columnists should open hostilities ever break out between them in the future.

Recently, Maddadsson had commissioned all of his nation’s blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters and alchemists to direct their not inconsiderable expertise solely to his military purposes, specifically to the creation of a “domesday machine”; one that could potentially bring utter devastation to all of his enemies abroad, both real and imagined.

After several years of failed technological experiments, these various specialists in their fields had constructed a gigantic catapult, about 10 falls (or 20 storeys) high, and capable of launching metal or stone projectiles over distances of more than 10 miles. While that distance was well short of the 23 miles needed to bring the much despised Dunrobin Castle into range, it had nonetheless successfully brought the Orkneys to the north into the firing line for launching a destructive first strike, an especially auspicious prospect given Kjim-Jone Maddadsson’s pathological hatred of those island dwellers, whom he viewed as illegally occupying islands that were his by hereditary right, having been once completely under the dominion of his direct forbears.

With the current Scottish King (James III) being so beset by a myriad of civil conflicts with his unruly and rebellious nobility, he had been effectively reduced to the role of a mere compliant lap dog and puppet to the powerful English crown. As a consequence, many of the surrounding northern Earldoms and Fiefdoms, now faced with this impending threat of a new and potentially destructive “domesday” weapon, appealed instead to the new King of England for his protection, hoping for a show of strength to deter this would-be aggressor, and thus to restore the fragile peace and knife-edge stability the region had teetered happily upon for centuries.

Therefore, the newly-crowned King Richard III soon made his way to the aforementioned Dunrobin Castle, the palatial seat of the Earl of Sutherland, with a view to formulating a forceful and proportionate response to neutralise this new threat to the general order, and to hopefully intimidate that deranged rogue into submission. With Catesby and Ratcliffe accompanying him, King Richard initially met with Sutherland’s Earl (along with several other baronial representatives from the other surrounding Fiefdoms and Principalities in the firing line) in the castle’s Drawing Room, where he stood at a huge bay window overlooking the surrounding ornate gardens and the sea beyond, contemplating the limited options available to him to neutralise this miscreant Mormear.

After a brief interlude of salutations, followed by a preliminary address outlining the present situation of Caithness’ recent aggression, the Scottish noblemen soon divulged to King Richard and his generals that they had been given special dispensation to ignore the recent Royal edict banning the frivolous game of golf (by Scotland’s King James II in 1457), and instead they had been allowed to repair to the nearby links for a friendly game to discuss the situation further, in relaxed surroundings more conducive to solving such a vexatious problem.

Thus the men journeyed to nearby Dornoch links (a little more than 10 miles away, as the crow flies), where they kitted themselves up in a garb suitable for walking around the rugged heaths and undulating meadows of the course, following which they chose from a large array of golfing clubs in the Earl’s possession, many of which were no doubt confiscated to comply with the former King James’ ban on the game. Having then all teed off at the first hole, the group were soon playing their next shots towards the green, where King Richard was notable for his skill and accuracy in striking the ball quite close to the pin. In spite of this, the others deferred to their Royal guest, who was given the honour of putting first.

King Richard III: (lifting his head all of a sudden, in the midst of putting)

So wicked a despot needs to be tamed,

Lest other rogue nations follow his lead.


What course of action shouldst we adopt, sire?

King Richard III: (ruminating aloud)

Perhaps we couldst build a high wall of stone,

Some thirty ell high, and ten ell in girth,

Along Sutherland’s northernmost border,

Forming an impregnable barrier

To cordon this rogue off from his supplies,

And prevent him building this new weapon.

(pauses, thoughtfully)

And foment unrest amongst his subjects,

To starve them of both hope and sustenance!

Catesby: (holding the flag for his lord and master)

The wall canst avail us little, my liege,

When, to the far north, his Viking allies

Shalt ferry food and weaponry to spare

Across those northern seas on fleets of ships.

King Richard III: (modestly)

Such a thorny dilemma this presents,

Demanding a solution of genius!

(pauses, possibly for effect)

Build a colossal catapult, Catesby!

One that doubly exceeds that of our foe.

(calling out to Ratcliffe, and anyone else who would listen)

Send for my finest Royal engineers!

Lockheed and Martin, Northrop and Grumman;

Good men, one and all. Assign them to the task!

Short work shalt they make of this tall order!


They shalt produce a much bigger weapon

Than that faithless tyrant couldst e’er conceive.

This catapult will be one for the ages!

A structure of Biblical proportions…..


And as thou art often known to say, sire,

In such manly contests, size doth matter!

King Richard III: (retrieving the golf ball from the hole)

Yea, verily. The bigger the better.

England’s pride must be assert’d at all costs!

We’ll thus surpass this villain’s construction

With a consummate one of our own.

General #1 (Kelly):

Our armies stand in readiness, liege,

To repel this aggressor; Or attack,

Should events dictate taking such action,

With our fullest force and righteous vigour.

General #2 (Mattis):

Our soldiers canst not spell the word “defeat”!

They fight qawith happy hearts and strong spirits.

This loutish knave is spoiling for a fight,

And that young asshole surely needs shooting!

General #3 (McMaster):

War is but life and death competition

With the nation’s security at stake!

‘Twould be a dereliction of duty

To allow this threat to go unheeded.

King Richard III:

Without a doubt, We are mightily pleas’d,

To have on hand so many generals,

To meet this vexing challenge before us.

(launching a booming drive off the next tee, then staring admiringly at the result)

Too many generals are ne’er enough!


Indeed! A truer word was ne’er spoken.

(Enter messenger)


Milords! I bring news from the northern isles.

Caithness’ Mormear hath launched a projectile

That passed right over the Orkney islands,

Threatening the safety of that Earldom.

The populace in fear are cowering,

Expecting, at any time, further strikes!

King Richard III:

None hath shown more contempt for this kingdom,

Nor for the welfare of their own people,

Than this most depraved regime in Caithness!

We must work together to thus confront

This recalcitrant who wouldst threaten us:

Inciting chaos, turmoil and terror!

General #1 (Kelly):


King Richard III:

(strolling along the fairway, in search of his errant golf ball)

We must meet his threat with response in kind,

With all the fire and fury we canst rouse.

If the righteous many do not confront

The wicked few, then evil shall triumph.

General #2 (Mattis):


King Richard III:

(pauses, having found his golf ball, and now preparing his next shot)

When decent people and sov’reign nations

Become as bystanders to history,

Then satanic forces of destruction

Shalt gather power and increase in strength!

General #3 (McMaster):

Highness, thou art wisdom personified!


King Richard had thoroughly enjoyed his game of golf on those hallowed links on this special occasion and, as a keen student of the finer aspects of the game, he was eager to impart the wisdom acquired from those observations he had derived from propelling small golf balls over vast distances across the more picturesque parts of the Scottish moorlands. Not only did Richard see this activity as an interesting analogy for the upcoming conflict with Caithness’ rebellious Mormear, but also as a means of better understanding those immutable laws of our Earthly realm; laws that the King believed should better define our place as sentient beings within God’s created universe. Thus, as God’s representative here on Earth, King Richard felt compelled to share his observations with his generals and followers as he completed his round of golf, particularly so that all present could be encouraged to be of a like mind, having no doubt been suitably enlightened by his insightfulness and omniscience.

King Richard III: (standing over his ball, preparing to chip onto the green)

‘Tis a most germane observation that

This game of golf teaches much about life;

(pauses, concentrating on the shot at hand)


Alteration of motion is always

Proportion’d to the motive force impress’d;

(chipping delicately onto the green to within inches of the cup)

And is made in the direction of the

Same line in which that force hath been impress’d.

(with a polite wave to acknowledge the applause from his devoted retinue at his mastery of the game)

And ev’ry object persists in its state,

Of being either at rest or moving

Uniformly in a straight line forward,

(putting delicately into the centre of the cup for a birdie, the raising his finger to highlight the point he was about to make)

Except insofar as it is compell’d

To change its state by the force impress’d on’t.

(picking his ball out of the cup and raising it up in triumph, and then walking off to the next tee)


At the next tee, Richard hit a very wayward drive into the gorse, a long way off to the right of the fairway. Clearly displeased at his error, the King cried out to his lowly dogsbody to fetch the errant ball so he could tee up once again, without penalty.

King Richard III:

Mulligan! Fetch my ball from that scrub!

That wind and the sun’s glare were most grievous

In breaking my Royal concentration!

Generals (All):

Prithee, play thy first shot once again, sire.

We were witness to thy misadventure!

King Richard III:

(after a short pause, teeing up again and then addressing the ball in preparation for his drive, he continued as though his mistake had never happened)

But, the most important observation

I’ve made is more apt to our circumstance.

That is, each and ev’ry action shalt have

An equal and opposite reaction!

(driving the ball with even greater vigour than usual, launching it like a missile down the middle of the fairway)

If this errant rogue is foolish enough

To attempt an attack upon our realm,

We shalt respond with equivalent force,

And leaveth him to lament his folly.

Generals (All): (in unison)

We shalt destroy him upon thy word, sire!

King Richard III:

We shalt rain hellfire down upon this rogue!


Indeed, he hath his own death warrant sign’d,

Shalt he persist in this belligerence!

(raising his voice commandingly)

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!

(aside to Catesby standing next to him)

If thou desire to know a greater truth,

Hell hath no fury like a monarch scorn’d!

(Exeunt all, playing golf)

Act 5 Scene 2:

Dunrobin Castle.


King Richard had then embarked on his return journey to Dunrobin castle, having been suitably refreshed after his glorious round of golf at Dornoch, after which followed a lavish feast of flame roasted pheasant and boar that his host, the Earl of Sutherland, had kindly arranged for them to all partake prior to leaving those hallowed links on their homeward journey.

Upon arriving back at Dunrobin Castle, the guests all soon retreated to the drawing room for a “wee dram” of the Earl’s finest whisky before retiring for the day. After a more than modest tipple of that pure and potent distillation (made from the Earl’s finest barley, and malted no doubt with great care over a smoky peat-fire prior to its fermentation), the King and his men were soon settled into their comfortable beds well satisfied with the events of the day, and thus were well and truly sent off blissfully into the Land of Nod.

On the morrow, the King and his party arose and came down to breakfast, only to find that the good Earl of Sutherland had, unbeknownst to them, invited yet another guest to join them in their formulation of plans suitable to tackle this real and present threat posed by the upstart Mormear to the north. That guest was the renowned mystic and seer, Elias Monk, an international man of mystery and intrigue who was said to have descended directly from that legendary Celtic Druid-warrior of centuries past, Cathbad.

Not only was Elias Monk a very fine and learned purveyor of spells and potions, but he was also an alchemist of considerable skill and notoriety, in spite of his relative youth. His inventions and prowess in those various dark arts at the very frontiers of scientific knowledge had led to him to accumulate not only worldwide fame, but great wealth and global influence as well. In return for sponsoring his various speculative endeavours, those various Kings he had previously served had come to enjoy the fruits of great prosperity as a consequence of the advantages his technological breakthroughs had bestowed upon them.

In addition, Elias’ ability to foretell the future was simply legendary, and many thought him to be a not merely a visionary but a holy prophet, and he was widely referred to amongst the nobility by his Latin derived nickname, “Sidereus Nuncius” (literally “the Starry Messenger”). Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the common folk tended to believe instead that Elias Monk was either possessed by demonic spirits, or was dabbling in sorcery and witchcraft to perform the unholy handiwork of the devil.

King Richard III: (admiringly)

Thy reputation precedes thee, young man.

Thy deeds are indeed the stuff of legend!

Elias Monk:

I thank thee, sire! Thou art too kind by half.

I am nought but thy most humble servant.

King Richard III:

Hast thou cometh to offer thy service,

And rid the Crown of this mutinous rogue?

Elias Monk:

I pledge my fullest support, Majesty.

Such insolence canst not be countenanced!

King Richard III:

Indeed, such a rogue canst not be condoned.

How might thou solveth our problem swiftly?

Elias Monk:

I must delve into the dark arts to solve

This vexing issue that beleaguers us.

King Richard III:

What wondrous alchemy dost thou propose?

Elias Monk: (gesturing to the large window where stood a strange contraption which was pointed skyward)

Hither, sire. Come ye first and bear witness.

Behold, a device, of mine own design,

To gaze upon thy glorious cosmos.

I call this invention a “telescope”.

King Richard III: (approaching the strange apparatus with a mixture of curiosity, trepidation and bemusement)

What strange magic is this, that would allow

One to look upon the brink of heaven?

Elias Monk: (gesturing to the King to look through the eye piece)

Place thine eye upon the lens, Majesty,

And thou canst view the Moon and the planets!

At night, the stars above reveal themselves,

In all their intricacy and glory,

As jewels enriching the firmament,

Emblazon’d upon a black velvet sky!

King Richard III: (awestruck)

An impressive contrivance, noble sir.

A marvel for the ages, to be sure!


Canst thou apply such ingenuity

And bring this northern renegade to heel?

Elias Monk:

I can, sire. We must meet his fire with fire!

But, instead of a bigger catapult

To whip this mongrel dog into submission,

Might I suggest a rocket, Majesty?

King Richard III:

A “rocket”?

By Saint Paul, I have never heard this term.

What dost thou mean by this strange expression?

Elias Monk:

It is a most novel device, my liege.


A large caber, loaded with gunpowder,

Which is propell’d heavenward with great force

By an engine of my own devising.

King Richard III:

An “engine”? I profess I am bewilder’d

By such novel concepts and turns of phrase.

Elias Monk:

An “engine” is a new apparatus,

That applies a force to move an object.

My engine runs on a distillation

Of pure paraffin from my alembic,

Mixed in accordance with a recipe

Derived from the Persian “Book of Secrets”.

King Richard III:

Is that a tome of obscure alchemy?

Elias Monk:

Yea, ’tis indeed Highness!

Also known as the “Kitab al-Asrar”,

By the famed Zakariyya al-Razi;

Alchemist, scholar and philosopher.

King Richard III: (changing the subject)

What advantage does this “rocket” bestow?

Wherein lies its destructive potency?

Elias Monk:

At the top of the pole rests a “warhead”,

Laden with gunpowder and quicksilver,

Then encased in a film of phosphorus.

Once this missile strikes the stone castle walls,

It will burst into flame and molten ore,

With enough force to raze them to the ground!

King Richard III:

A splendid and worthy idea, indeed!

I shall engage my Royal Engineers,

To build a score or more of these rockets,

To train them upon the Mormear’s fortress!

Elias Monk:

I will see to it that it is done, sire.

Prithee, milord. I beg your indulgence.

I shall require a small advance of funds

From thy treasury for my expenses.


Elias Monk then began to elaborate upon an extensive list of his requirements: all the base metals, sulphur compounds, minerals and various solvents as specified in the “Magnum Opus” and the “Book of Secrets” to allow him to work with that most suitable “prima materia” that he would need to help create his Philosopher’s Stone.

A task of this magnitude clearly required a significant financial investment, and primarily through King Richard’s generous patronage, if it hoped to be successful, and Elias was not remotely backward in providing ample and remarkably eloquent advocacy for stipulating his exact monetary requirements if this were to be achieved.

Given the urgency of the situation, and the stellar reputation of the world renowned mystic in his current employ, King Richard was hardly in a position to refuse, having been sufficiently blinded by the complexity of the science advocated by this unimpeachable expert, and what might be involved in his scholarly, if possibly indecipherable, advice.

Elias Monk, now suitably cashed up for the task at hand, thus launched into his work, hellbent on building his massive arsenal of “rockets” that would bring wholesale death and destruction to those enemies of the Crown to the north. Working assiduously through the painstaking processes of calcination, dissolution, separation, putrefaction, sublimation and fermentation, our intrepid alchemist toiled away in the bowels of Dunrobin Castle until the very moment of exaltation arrived, when those twenty five paraffin powered projectiles were completed and thus ready to be deployed, to be then sent on their path to destroying that impudent upstart from Caithness.

Act 5 Scene 3:

The Ord-of-Caithness, an abrupt, broad, lofty, granite mountain overhanging the sea, on the mutual border of Sutherland and Caithness.


King Richard and his generals gathered upon the Ord-of-Caithness, a solid rock headland that rose over 600 feet high above the ocean’s surface, giving them a panoramic view of the array of more than twenty rockets deployed along the rolling plains below, all of which were aligned toward Castle Girnigoe, the seat of the dreaded Mormear of Caithness, located about 3 miles north of the coastal town of Wick.

Peering through a looking glass custom made for him for just this purpose by the ever-inventive Elias Monk, King Richard could easily make out the shadowy towers of Girnigoe Castle arising from its rocky cliff top promontory, which overlooked the vast expanse of the North Sea to the East, and Wick Bay to the South. Below him, that self same industrious alchemist could be seen pouring over the writings of such luminaries as Euclid and Pythagorus, and then repeatedly consulting his trusty Astrolabe in order to triangulate the positions of each and every rocket launch site relative to its angle of inclination and then the distance to the target castle. In this way, Elias could plot the expected successful trajectory of each missile in turn with unerring accuracy.

Soon, Elias signalled the King that all his calculations and preparations were completed, and two soldiers stood at the ready beside each rocket to light the wick, whilst the other foot soldiers and knights on horseback stood at a safe distance, prepared at any moment to charge headlong into the fray.

It soon transpired that the Earl of Sutherland had secreted a spy and embedded him seamlessly within the Mormear’s inner circle at court, and this agent had only now confirmed that Caithness’ leader was currently in residence within the walls of Castle Girnigoe, and thus all that remained was for King Richard to give the signal to unleash wholesale shock and awe upon the rebellious rogue and his followers.

After a few minutes of eerie silence, the King raised his arm and dropped it sharply, and twenty five rockets, christened “Merlin” rockets by their maker (in honour of the famed Celtic wizard of yore), exploded into the air and flew forward on an arc tracking toward the seaside castle that stood obliviously in the distance.

King Richard III: (peering through the looking glass)

O’ canst thou see, by dawn’s early light,

What proudly we hailed, at twilight’s last gleam?

Sent on their way,  through a perilous flight,

O’er ramparts we watch, them gallantly stream!

General #1 (Kelly): (pointing toward Giringoe Castle, silhouetted in the distance)

On the shore dimly seen, through sea spray mist,

Where the haughty foes, in silence repose.

What doth that breeze, o’er the towering cliff,

When it blows, half conceal, yet half disclose?

General #2 (Mattis): (interjecting excitedly)

‘Tis catching the gleam of morning’s first beam,

And in its full glory, shines in the stream!

King Richard III: (anticipating the imminent impact, presupposing the outcome)

Those rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air,

Give proof through the gloom, of smiting his lair!

General #2 (Mattis): (turning around and delivering a rally cry to his troops, who are standing at the ready)

Our land of the free, is home to the brave!

So conquer we must, as our cause is just!


The powerful, explosive-laden rockets struck one after the other in rapid succession against the walls of Castle Girnigoe, with their collective strikes making for an incredible cumulative force that seemed certain to consign the stone structure to rubble. As expected, a great conflagration certainly ensued, but once this had extinguished, remarkably, only a few of the more minor parts of the overall edifice had crumbled away to any significant degree under the brunt of the main impact.

Kjim-Jone Maddadsson awoke abruptly from his slumbers and, bleary -eyed, ran out onto the landing to see what this sudden cacophony was all about. As luck would have it, in his haste to investigate the commotion, he suddenly lost all traction on the wet stone surface, and his feet slipped out from under him. Falling backwards, he struck the back of his head on the very edge of the first step in a sickening blow. The Mormear’s generals immediately rushed to his aid, but it soon became apparent that the stricken leader’s life had been brought to an abrupt and entirely unexpected end.

With their fearless leader lying motionless in an ever-widening pool of his own blood, the once steadfast resolve of his generals and the rampant zealotry of his soldiers rapidly melted away, even as King Richard’s massive army was seen in the distance making their way steadily overland, promising to arrive at the perimeter of the castle within the hour. Caithness’ generals motioned to their soldiers to lay down their arms in surrender, as there now seemed little point in fighting to the death in futile service of their now deceased leader, and his wantonly destructive and nihilistic agenda. Whilst some predictably refused to comply and promised to fight on for “the cause” (whatever that might be) to their death, the majority were only too happy to comply with the order to surrender, especially now that they had been finally freed from the stifling, coercive influence of Kjim-Jone’s deranged dogma.

Upon arriving at Castle Girnigoe, King Richard’s forces soon put the few remaining pockets of resistance to the sword, whilst the Earl of Sutherland’s men took the enemy generals and the surrendering soldiers away for confinement and further interrogation. His soldiers then began piling anything remotely combustable into a heap, and set the castle aflame. Huge battering rams were smashed into some of those walls that had remained steadfast to the initial rocket attack, leaving mere mounds of rubble behind wherever they went.

In the end, all that remained of the castle was a ruined skeleton of the remnant stone walls, a hollow shell of what had once been an awe inspiring landmark. King Richard had thus ensured that the edifice could never again be used as a base for any future rebellions.

King Richard III: (in bemusement at the simplicity of the conquest)

Where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That war’s havoc and battle’s confusion,

A home and country, should leave us no more?

Their blood hath wash’d out their foul pollution!

General #1 (Kelly): (with his usual cocksure bombast)

No refuge could save the hireling or slave

From terror of flight, or gloom of the grave!

King Richard III: (triumphantly)

Thus be it ever, when freemen shalt stand

‘Twixt belov’d homes and war’s desolation.

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may Heaven’s land

Praise the Power that preserved a nation!

(Exeunt all)

Act 5 Scene 4:

The forecourt of Dunrobin Castle.


Having secured a famous victory at the Battle of Castle Girnigoe, King Richard and his cohorts prepared to return to London, where he hoped to address those further pressing matters of state that had been placed temporarily on the back burner whilst attending to the northern rebellion. But first, King Richard had a matter of greater immediacy to attend: that being in honouring the young mystic whose inventions had led to the almost bloodless resolution of this most recent Scottish conflict.

Elias Monk knelt humbly before King Richard, who then duly raised his broadsword, poised it briefly over his head before then knighting him, an honour bestowed on him for his pivotal role in the timely elimination of the rebellious Mormear. Sacks full of freshly minted gold Angels and silver Groats were then presented to Elias as full and final payment for his services, which he duly packed one by one onto the pallet of his purpose built pageant wagon.

This wagon, six wheeled and articulated at the front axle, was of the kind mainly used by groups of travelling players, with an enclosed room at the bottom, and an upper level platform above it that was open to the air. It was already heavily laden with a multitude of scientific tools and instruments, along with his vast collection of various powders, mixtures, oils and potions, all hermetically sealed in their individual glass canisters, and no doubt essential for the commission of his alchemical craft. The wagon’s design was an optimal choice to allow Elias the opportunity to properly demonstrate the wonders of his latest inventions, and also to facilitate the various scientific experiments he hoped to perform publicly, to the delight and amazement of both the common folk and nobility alike.

Piles of leather-bound books were also prominently stacked all the way around the perimeter of the lower level floor, with a multitude of major works procured from around the entirety of the known world. Most of the greatest pillars of ancient wisdom were well represented; from Plato to Aristotle to Democritus to Euclid to Pythagorus to Archimedes to Galen, as well as the alchemical foundation works of such luminaries as Zosimos of Panopolis on through to those of the estimable Hermes Trismegistus. These weighty tomes were further embellished by treatises written by many of the most learned Eastern and Far Eastern scholars, exemplified by such masters of the scientific arts as Nāgārjuna Siddha, Jābir ibn Hayyān, Omar Khayyam and Muhammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī, whose writings had been meticulously transcribed by Benedictine monks from their native tongues into Ecclesiastical Latin for ease of comprehension. These classical sources were further augmented by more modern scientific dissertations by such recent European exponents as Peter Abelard, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Grosseteste, William of Occam and Roger Bacon.

It was thus readily apparent to even the most casual observer that Elias Monk had accumulated, and then comprehensively absorbed and mastered, an incredibly impressive body of knowledge, covering a very wide variety of disciplines and an awe-inspiring breadth of technical expertise, which encompassed the realms of the fields of not only mathematics, metallurgy, chemistry, geometry, astronomy and optics, but also including the broad range of pre-medieval philosophy, along with both traditional European and Far Eastern medicine.

Indeed, King Richard had never in his life met so learned a gentleman as this enigmatic young seer and mystic. Nor had he ever been so in awe of the intellect or perspicacity of any man, whether of the highest or lowest station, as he was now in Elias’ august company. In light of his unabashed admiration for his scholarly reputation and imposing presence, Richard was determined that he would indeed spare no effort or monetary inducement in persuading Elias to return with him to London, and in procuring him as his newest principal aide and chief confidant.

King Richard III:

Prithee, noble sir. Let us escort thee

On thy return journey to London town.

It shall give us a fine opportunity

To become even better acquainted,

And perhaps to come to some arrangement

That might be to our common benefit.

Elias Monk:

If it pleases your most puissant Highness,

I shall join thee on thy return journey,

On one minor, but crucial condition.

I request that thou giveth due regard

To my brilliant new plan to transform

England into a hub of industry.

King Richard III:

What dost thou propose, my noble lord,

To achieve a task so improbable,

Setting our Merrie England on a path

To such sustainable prosperity?

Elias Monk:

I regret, sire, I must keep the detail

Of my plans a closely guarded secret.

King Richard III:

Am I to merely trust in thy great skills,

Without any facts at my disposal?

Elias Monk:

Facts, which at first seem so improbable,

Will, even on such scant explanation,

Drop the cloak which has thus far hidden them

And stand in naked and simple beauty!

King Richard III:

Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;

And yet methinks I have Astronomy,

But not to tell of good or evil luck,

Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;

Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,

Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,

Or say with princes if it shall go well

By oft predict that I in heaven find:

But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,

And, constant stars, in them I read such art

As truth and beauty shall together thrive,

If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;

Or else of thee this I prognosticate:

Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

Elias Monk:

Thou art too kind in thy esteem, my liege.

I shall, in time, repay thy faith in me.

King Richard III: (putting his arm paternally around the young man’s shoulders and guiding him toward his heavily-laden wagon)

Youth of delight, come hither!

Let us delay our journey no longer.

Come now and see the opening new morn,

And behold an image of truth new born.

Doubt is fled and clouds of reason banish’d,

Dark disputes and artful teasing vanish’d.

Folly is to prowl through an endless maze,

Tangled roots shall doubtless perplex her ways.

How many poor souls have thus fallen there!

They stumble all night o’er bones of the dead,

And feel they know not what but they should care,

And lead the others when they should be led.

(Exeunt all)

Act 5 Scene 5:

Streets of London Town.


King Richard and his entourage, accompanied by Elias Monk perched high upon his pageant wagon of mystery and wonder, arrived back in London in triumph having just quashed the northern rebellion so successfully. They rode from the outskirts of town toward the the Palace of Westminster near the city’s centre along roads lined with hundreds of curious onlookers who had rushed out of their homes to catch a glimpse of the passing parade.

As they cantered down those cobblestone streets, near to where the charter’d Thames River flows, Elias soon cast his eye about and duly noted a mark in every face around him; marks of weakness and marks of woe wherever he looked. In every cry of every man, and in every infant’s cry of fear, he heard only the self-imposed manacles forged in the mind of those enchained souls who dwelt therein. The cries of the chimney-sweepers, the sighs of the hapless soldiers and the curses the youthful harlots directed at their crying infants combined to fill the air with a chorus of disapproval, overwhelming what should have been a lively and cosmopolitan scene passing before him.

In its stead, a pall of impenetrable gloom descended upon Elias, giving him a sudden, strange sense of foreboding. He now saw the vaults and buttresses of the immense Cathedral before him not as imposing structures of awe-inspiring beauty, but as a pitiless behemoth casting a blackening shadow that spread ominously over the common folk who lived and toiled beneath its lofty spires.

As they approached Westminster Palace, Elias saw not the opulence and splendour of a regal residence, but all of his attention was diverted instead to that reddish liquid that oozed forth from the cracks in its outer stone walls, running in rivulets down to the cobbled street below. Elias imagined that this flow of ochre fluid was the blood of all those unremembered soldiers who had lost their lives so brutally on battlefields past, fighting to preserve the power and majesty of the monarch, who would no doubt reside in blissful ignorance within.

As if to add further justification to the symbolism inherent in Elias’ vision, King Richard was clearly completely oblivious to any such perceptive insights into the painfully obvious plight of his very own loyal subjects. As he rode through those self same London streets, with his generals at his side and flanked by a battalion of his best soldiers, he saw only the amorphous blur of the common throng lining the streets; crowds who were rejoicing, it seemed to him, in an exultant parade of their conquering hero and his victorious army.

Similarly, the Cathedral was, to him at least, a majestic symbol of the supreme will of the Lord Almighty, whilst also an extension of King Richard himself by his Divine association. As the rightful King, Richard had thus assumed the role of God’s earthly representative, and had therefore been thoroughly invested with not only His holy authority, but in His bountiful Grace and favour.

As they stood before the Palace of Westminster, King Richard turned to Elias to remark:

King Richard III:

I heard it claim’d that Jesus once walk’d here,

On his long journey to Glastonbury.

But did these blessed feet in ancient times

Walk upon England’s rolling mountains green?

And was Jesus, the Holy Lamb of God,

On England’s pleasant pastures truly seen?

Elias Monk:

I have read some ancient scrolls, Majesty,

That depict just this momentous event!

Cast into exile with Mother Mary,

Jesus journeyed to our verdant shores,

And, with Joseph of Arimathea,

He built our first church at Glastonbury!

King Richard III:

And He sunk his sacred staff in the soil,

Where Glastonbury’s Holy Thorn tree grew!

Elias Monk:

Then so it was that Countenance Divine

Shone forth upon our clouded, rolling hills.

And thus was our Jerusalem built here,

Amongst these dread-fill’d, dark Satanic Mills.

King Richard III: (not quite modestly)

Our green and pleasant land was truly bless’d

To be the refuge for the Good Lord’s Son.

But now our nation is surely twice bless’d

To have His very image now enthroned!

Elias Monk: (in fawning admiration)

We are indeed fortunate to receive

The benefit of thy boundless wisdom!


Act 5 Scene 6:

The Oval Office, Palace of Westminster.


Shortly thereafter, King Richard and his newly acquired aide and confidant entered the Palace of Westminster, where a meeting was soon take place at the behest of Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby. Lord Stanley was an extremely wealthy and highly influential man, and so not a gentleman that even the King could trifle with easily. His Lordship had just returned from Paris, where he had attended a conference held with dignitaries drawn from every nation in the known world, who had gathered there to discuss the recent alarming trends that had been observed in the world’s climate patterns.

Among the many anecdotes relied upon as evidence of an impending climate apocalypse was a particularly memorable one from an ancient mariner, whose long grey beard and glittering eye made him a spectacle to behold, indeed. He told a tale, in rhyme and metre, of his once proud ship lost hopelessly upon an endless ocean, beset by innumerable tempests of monstrous proportions that drove it so far to the South, to a place where no ship nor sailor had yet explored. Whilst there, he and his crew-mates encountered mists and snow of wondrous cold, and ice that floated by mast-high as green as emerald. Ice was here, ice was there, ice was all around, and it cracked and growled, and roared and howled like noises in a swound!

Much to the crew’s chagrin, when the fog and mist had lifted, they became so becalmed with not a breath of wind, and for days and weeks they drifted; eerily still with not a breath nor motion, like a painted ship upon a painted ocean, whilst the very deeps did rot, that ever this should be, where slimy things did crawl with legs upon a slimy sea! All about, in reel and rout, the death-fires danced at night; and the water, like a witch’s oils, burnt green, and blue and white! So parched were they from stern to stem, by the hot and copper sun beating down on them, until their every tongue, through utter drought, was withered at the root.  Those sailors’ spoke, but it came to nought, as though they were choked with soot!

Perhaps, though, what was most persuasive of all in this tale of utter woe and dread, was the apparition that appeared before them of a hideous ship of the dead. The womanly spectre piloting that ghostly bark was a fearsome sight to behold, her skin as white as leprosy: a life-in-death foretold! The death ship’s sails were restless gossameres, its boards were black as coal, its death knell tolled a hollow sound that chilled the very soul!

So shaken were they by such portents of doom, the nobles decided to a man, that they must act and soon, lest destruction befall their homelands. They knew that, at its core, our common creed should be, at very least: “He prayeth well, who loveth well, both man and bird and beast”.

The consensus soon came for global unity, to cease exploiting Nature’s gifts with impunity; they resolved instead to pass a motion, that expressed the essence of their devotion: “He prayeth best, who loveth best, all things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all!” And so they went like ones that hath been stunned, and were of a sense forlorn; so sadder and much wiser men, they rose the morrow morn.

As a consequence of this nightmarish tale, a more unified position was soon reached, amongst those great minds (with fevered imaginations) who consequently preached: that the litany of catastrophic weather events distinguishing this current era, from droughts to floods, heatwaves to blizzards, frosts to wildfires, and earthquakes to erupting volcanic caldera, must surely be solely due to the influence of unworthy humanity, whilst the ever-increasing global population nearing 450 million souls, verged on sheer insanity!

As a result of these profound beliefs, it was decided that humanity had reached a defining moment, where it would be necessary for society’s elite to perform, on their behalf, a supreme act of atonement: that radical change was required to limit the damage being wrought by our modern, medieval society, by transforming the global economic development model for the first time in human history!

Lord Stanley, who had frequently disparaged the dubious merits of the impoverished masses, now become an even more staunch advocate for draconian measures to be dispensed, by restricting the frivolous freedoms enjoyed by the plebeian classes, whom he saw as nothing more nor less than a scourge and a pestilence.

(Enter Lord Stanley, and entourage)

King Richard III:

Milord! What news emanates from Paris?

Lord Stanley:

The end of the world is nigh, Majesty!

King Richard III:

What hath caused so cursed a disaster?

Lord Stanley:

Our path to destruction hath been set down

Through the outrageous freedoms of the serfs!

King Richard III:

What is proposed to help redress this plight?

Lord Stanley:

It hath been agreed to limit their rights

And autonomy to a minimum,

By curbing their use of cheap energy,

Creature comforts and labour-saving tools!

(pauses, turning his attention to the shadowy figure standing to one side of the King)

Whom do I have the pleasure to address?

Elias Monk:

I am known by many a name, milord,

But hereabouts I am Elias Monk.

Lord Stanley:

An honour. Thy acclaim precedes thee, sir.

Elias Monk:

Thou art too kind by half in thy praises.

‘Tis certainly a vexing dilemma………


Might I broach a possible solution?

Lord Stanley:

By all means, avail us of thy wisdom.

Elias Monk:

The only way to reverse man’s impact,

On the weather events that assail us,

Is to transform our industries and farms,

Using the most advanced technologies.

Lord Stanley:

What new technologies dost thou propose?

Elias Monk:

Our reliance on sun, wind and water

Is the path to sin and devastation!

Redemption comes not from enforced serfdom,

But from cleaner, modern technologies.

Namely, steam power from coal or crude oils,

Produced by steam engines of my design.


No longer will animal dung be burnt

To warm our homes, or for cooking of food.

No more will our rivers be diverted

In dams and canals for the water wheel.

No longer will our trees and shrubbery

Be clear’d or fell’d to feed our homefire hearths.

King Richard III:

‘Twould seem an ideal solution, indeed.

Lord Stanley:

I concede thy solution has merit,

And it could benefit Mother Nature,

But I fail to see how this “solution”

Addresses the problem of the peasants!

Elias Monk:

The problem of adverse weather events

Can be solv’d without harming the peasants.

Lord Stanley:

Woe, alas! ‘Tis a shame to miss this chance

To bring the unwashed peasantry to heel.

King Richard III:

Well, be that as it may, ’tis a grand plan.

Elias can always be relied on

To come to the fore with a solution.


Set thyselves to work, and let it be done!


Act 6 Scene 1:


Once the meeting had concluded, the King retired to bed at the end of an exhausting day, whereupon he endured a night of fitful slumber, tormented by vivid dreams of a prophetic nature, with apocalyptic themes adorned in bizarre mythological motifs of various kinds.

In the dim half-light that filtered through the stained glass window at the side of the King’s bed, appeared a shadowy female figure, her lithe yet shapely form scantily clad in sheer, gossamer-like wisps of the finest white silk, and her snaky hair brandishing wantonly in the winds.

King Richard III: (speaking in his dream)

What manner of ghostly spectre invades my sleep thus?

The Ghostly Wraith: (standing naked blithely before him)

I am the ancestral mother of all earthly life. But alas, I am faint with travel, like the dark cloud disburden’d in the day of dismal thunder. I must wrap a turban of thick clouds round my lab’ring head, and fold the sheety waters as a mantle round my tired limbs. My roots are brandish’d in the heavens, with my fruits in earth beneath. Why dost thou now conjure me forth, and what enlightenment can I bestow?

King Richard III:

‘Tis not I who conjured thee, O’ unearthly apparition. I prefer instead to focus my intent on more worldly concerns. I have no time, nor inclination, to dabble in the metaphysical. Unwilling do I look up to the heavens, and unwilling count the stars, yet my curiosity has indeed been piqued by your offer. What possible enlightenment canst thou offer, for one as powerful and omniscient as I?

The Ghostly Wraith:

I offer thee the gift of prophesy, as thy future is a story already written in blood, and etched in stone. Thy reign shall be beset by horrors unimaginable, where even the blazing sun above shall blacken, and the moon run red, whilst the stars shall fall from the very heavens above, causing the sky to recede completely from our worldly view. Then there shall come a prolonged period of disease, pestilence and death that spreads across not only thy own kingdom, but across all the lands of the known world. Then the very ground shall shake and the rivers run dry, whilst beasts of every conceivable shape and form shall roam the land in abject hunger and utter deprivation as shadows of their former selves, longing for a merciful death that will never come.

King Richard III:

If it be thus, then I shall seize upon the burning power of those stars, and bring forth those howling terrors, the progeny of all-devouring fiery kings!  I shall stand without fear nor conscience, if it should bring me a glorious victory over any who dare oppose me! I shall then bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames to smite them, one and all!

The Ghostly Wraith: (recoiling in disgust)

Desist now, whilst thou still can! Stamp not with solid form this vig’rous progeny of fires! If thou dost not heed these crucial warnings, both the devouring and the devoured shall roam on dark and desolate mountains, in forests of Eternal Death, relentlessly shrieking amongst the hollow’d trees! If thou wouldst stamp them with thy signet, they shall thenceforth roam abroad both far and wide, leaving me void as death.

King Richard III: (with mock derision)

Ah! I am drown’d in shady woe, but also in visionary joy!”


But, before his voice uttered another syllable, and before that shadowy figure could answer him further, she had vanished unheeded and was no more.

No sooner had King Richard wiped the sweat from his fevered brow, and then settled back to a restless sleep, that another vision was called forth into his somnolent imagination. A vigorous youth with blond flowing locks stood beside him, haloed by a shaft of pearly incandescent light. The young man then lent forward to Richard, and duly crown’d his Royal head with garlands of a ruddy vine.

The Gilt-Haired Youth: (in a malicious tone)

Arise, horrent Demon! Surround thyself with red stars of fire that whirl about in furious circles ’round thee!

King Richard III: (pondering briefly before replying)

I am no demon; but I am the incumbent King of England, and one who is a cut above all those shadows of men, in fleeting bands upon the winds, that shall soon divide the heavens of Europe!

The Gilt-Haired Youth: (in a strange unearthly monotone)

‘Round thee roll the clouds of war. Man shall thus become an Angel, Heaven a mighty circle turning, and God a tyrant crown’d!

King Richard III: (with false bravado)

I fear them not! Let them come, and from ev’ry corner of the realm. Angel or Devil, King or Tyrant, or Almighty God matters not to me.

The Gilt-Haired Youth:

Albion’s Angel, smitten with his own plagues, in thoughts perturb’d shall arise from the bright ruins as a fiery King, serpent-formed, and seek his ancient temple, which stretches out its shady length along the Island white!

King Richard III:

Am I to assume that I am Albion’s Angel, or is it the dreaded Richmond of whom you speak? If ’tis I, then I should reassure thee that my thoughts are not remotely “perturbed”, nor are they ever likely to be so!

The Gilt-Haired Youth: (undeterred)

Aged Ignorance is preaching once again, canting, on a vast rock, perceiv’d only by those senses that are clos’d from thought: Bleak, dark, abrupt it stands, and it overshadows London city. The youth of England will then see his bony feet upon the rock, and his flesh will then be consum’d in flames; they shall see the Serpent temple lifted high above, shadowing the Island white; and then, finally, they will hear the voice of Albion’s Angel, howling in flames, seeking the trump of Last Doom!


Before King Richard could question him further, the gilt-haired youth had faded completely from view, leaving in his place a cold and bloodless stone wall. Unperturbed by the youthful spectre’s prophecy, the King settled back into the land of dreams, confident that these unsettling visions were all merely a figment of his long-dormant conscience, dwelling no doubt upon the trail of corpses that he had scattered so carelessly along his path to power.

It was not long, however, before a third vision appeared, one more potent and vivid than before: A pure black eagle appeared from under a flaming crescent moon, and then descended swiftly and silently, perching itself imperiously on the wooden post at the foot of his bed. Its keen eye fixed intently upon the King, and then spoke thus:

The Black Eagle: (forcefully)

Awake! For morning, in the bowl of night, has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight!

King Richard III:

Begone! ‘Tis not yet morning whilst e’er the sinking moon, pale from weariness, wanders companionless among the stars, like a joyless eye.

The Black Eagle:

Thou wouldst do well to heed my words, knave! The lion and the wolf shall soon stalk Europe’s darkening forests, scouring the countryside endlessly for the sick, the defenceless and the frail to sate their ravening appetites. The Churches’ spires shall then be brought low, submitting to the glowering moon and its lone companion star. And Lo! the Hunter of the East shall catch the Sultan’s turret in a noose of light! Then, the worldly hope men set their hearts upon shall turn to ash and, like snow upon the desert’s dusty face, it shall shortly thereafter be gone.

King Richard III: (defiantly)

Being forewarned, I shall stand apart, and thus ensure neither my kingdom, nor I, shall in shame endure this fate.


Fear not! ‘Tis all but a chequer-board of nights and days, where Destiny with men for pieces plays. Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, and one by one back in the closet lays! Our Merrie England shall be rampant and remain defiant still, even as Europe cowers in it’s coward’s shame!

The Black Eagle: (spreading his wings and flying about the room in circles)

Beware! The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, moves on: not all thy piety and wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

King Richard III: (scoffing)

Be assured, I shall ne’er be prisoner to my past misdeeds!

Black Eagle: (returning to its accustomed perch)

Then, thou shouldst prepare for the coming of the guided one! His face shall soon shine upon the surface of the moon, and then he will return from his hidden realm to rule over both Man and beast!

King Richard III: (defiantly)

This would be ruler shall find I am not so easily cast aside!

Black Eagle: (ignoring the interjection)

Then there will come a time of great upheaval and violence for those who resist this implacable foe! Thy lands will be blighted by a great plague that will ravage thy subjects without mercy, and then shall unexpectedly abate, but only after a great conflagration of hellfire consumes all in its path.

King Richard III:

I stand ready for any challenge to my divine right to rule. I will not be intimidated so easily by the alleged prophecies of a glorified carrion crow!

Black Eagle: (growing impatient at the King’s impertinence)

Fiend! Thou shalt indeed make a hell of heaven, and a heaven of hell, such is thine arrogance and intransigence!


And with that the eagle flew upward and then swooped below the burning crescent where it vanished completely.

From the shadows, almost immediately upon the eagle’s disappearance, emerged a Tyger, a massive brutish beast with gnashing teeth and piercing eye, growling under its breath as it paced back and forth at end of the King’s bed.

King Richard III: (recoiling in fear, a look of sheer terror in his eyes)

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, could frame thy fearful symmetry?


The Tyger stared intently at the frightened King, as its muscles tensed and it coiled itself up, seemingly ready to pounce upon its prey at any moment.

King Richard III: (in a wavering voice, hoping to break the impasse)

In what distant deeps or skies, burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire?


The Tyger’s gaze never left the fearful King’s face for even a moment, as it crouched even lower to the ground beneath.

King Richard III: (quaking in fear)

And what shoulder, & what art, could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, what dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? What dread grasp, dare its deadly terrors clasp?


An eternity seemed to pass without the Tyger moving even a muscle, with Richard almost rendered speechless in the grip of such dread and fear.

King Richard III: (continuing haltingly, in a raspy voice that was now barely audible)

When the stars threw down their spears, and water’d heaven with their tears: Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


With that the Tyger finally spoke, but it was in a language that Richard could not remotely decipher. A mixture of growls and snarls was certainly intermingled, however, amongst the spoken words, which implied a hostility and displeasure in tone that was clearly evident, in spite of a lack of any coherent message being able to be gleaned from the beast’s rather cryptic monologue.

At least the beast’s piercing and hostile gaze had relented, leading the King to feel momentarily more relaxed in spite of this brutish predator coiled up like a spring only a matter of a yard or so away from him, seemingly ready to devour him at any instant should he even flinch.

When the Tyger had finished speaking, three words seemed to impress themselves, almost subliminally at first but with increasing insistence, upon the King’s mind:

“Compassion”, “Moderation”, “Humility”.

Over and over these three words reiterated, as if written on his soul by some unseen hand. Clearly, its droning repetition signified something of great importance, but for reasons that remained wholly mysterious and elusive from the King’s limited perspective.

The Tyger then suddenly became startled, turned sharply about and bounded away, disappearing in a cloud of dust until the room fell back into that silent and solitary retreat once again. King Richard then breathed a huge sigh of relief and, slightly shaken though he was by the torrent of dreams and visions he had just endured, rolled back over in his bed and soon fell fast asleep, even as the cock was preparing to rise for its first crow of the coming morning.

Act 6 Scene 2:


Over the next few months, London was a hive of activity as King Richard’s edict to transform the economy was in full swing, instigated by the miraculous inventions of his wunderkind offsider, Elias Monk. Elias’ steam engines had miraculously transformed the way various cottage industries and businesses performed, allowing them greater productivity with less labour, and as a consequence the populace had begun to enjoy a prosperity they had never known before. The engines were used not only to pump their water and to heat their homes, but also to mill their grain and weave their cloth. Soon, new applications for his inventions were found in ploughing their fields and in propelling their boats up and down the Thames, whilst in the mines they helped to ease the burden of physical toil for the pit workers, whilst also reducing their reliance upon the ox and the draught horse for carting much heavier loads.

But Elias’ mind was a restless one, and thus he was not even remotely satisfied with inventing such revolutionary and transformative technology. As a consequence, the young mystic was already hard at work on a design to supersede this new “steam engine” with one that attained an even greater level of sophistication and utility. Elias called this next innovation the “internal combustion engine”, comprising a series of pistons using a combustion chamber of liquid fuel which, when ignited with a mixture of air, could propel a crankshaft or turbine with even greater power and efficiency than would be remotely possible from its predecessor, using only steam from boiling water under pressure.

One fateful day, however, Elias was experimenting with liquefying various tars and greases to provide the optimum combustible fuel for his prototype engine, when an unexpected explosion occurred dowsing the hapless inventor in flaming tar and liquid, burning his face and arms and rendering him completely and permanently blind as the burning fuel seared cruelly into both of his eyes.

As he lay amongst the debris, wracked in agony and cast into darkness by his injuries, Elias found very little comfort in the knowledge of his tremendous contributions in improving society as a whole, nor from benefitting the quality of life of so many individuals within it, because he was only too well aware that those heady days of genius and invention were now at an abrupt and entirely unexpected end as a consequence of this absolute calamity.

When he was eventually discovered, Elias was clinging to life by a thread and could barely speak with the pain, but was able nonetheless to direct his handlers in how best to treat his burns; with wadding soaked in rose water initially, followed by wine and vinegar compresses, and then following those ministrations with Hippocrates’ regime of dressings impregnated with a mixture of rendered pig fat, resin and bitumen. Whilst this was no doubt best practice in the circumstances, there followed weeks and months teetering on the very brink of death, with fevers, rigors, delirium and agonising pain dogging his every waking moment.

On hearing of this dreadful accident, King Richard lent the services of his best physicians, who prescribed blood letting and a series of purges to facilitate his recovery, whilst Elias’ faithful assistants tended to his wounds with great care and fed him small spoonfuls of nourishing broths and mugs of tepid ale to sustain him.

Eventually, Elias had recovered sufficiently to be lucid enough to allow an audience with the King, who soon after visited the stricken inventor in nearby St. Bartholomew’s Hospital to enquire as to the progress of his recuperation.

King Richard III: (sitting at Elias’ bedside, alarmed at the young man’s horrific disfigurement)

How goeth thy recovery, milord?

Elias Monk: (in a wavering voice)

The wounds continue to heal, Majesty,

But my progress is otherwise quite slow.

King Richard III:

And how goeth thy vision, Elias?

Elias Monk:

Alas! Thy dear friend and servant has been,

For the last month or more, hopelessly blind;

So, this heaven, this earth, this universe,

Which I, by my wondrous discoveries

And clear demonstrations hath enlarged

A hundred thousand times beyond the ken

Of the wisest men of bygone ages,

Henceforward shall be dwindled down for me

Into such a minute space as is fill’d

By my own wretched bodily sensations!

King Richard III:

I am sadden’d to hear such sorry news.

One’s sight is a most precious gift to lose.

Be assured, thou shalt have safe haven here,

For all the time that thou shouldst require it.

Elias Monk:

I appreciate thy kind sentiments.


My future lies at the monastery,

In pursuit of spiritual matters,

Since Science canst avail me no longer!

King Richard III:

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,

And that one talent which is Death to hide

Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he returning chide,

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

Elias Monk:

Thou fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly; thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er land and ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait.

King Richard III: (placing his hand upon Elias’ forehead in a gesture of sympathy)

I wish thee well, O’ Starry Messenger.

Thy matchless deeds shalt ne’er be forgotten.

May God’s Grace guide thee on life’s broken path.


Act 6 Scene 3:


King Richard walked from the grounds of the hospital in a daze, distraught that this young man whom he had so admired had been so cruelly dealt with by fate: not only robbed of his eyesight (and thus being unable to engage in the ground-breaking scientific study that had been his talent and vocation), but also having his conspicuously handsome features so brutally and permanently disfigured.

Richard wanted at that moment to just be alone to deal with his grief, and so he donned a thick hooded cloak that he had often used when he would walk the city streets amongst his subjects incognito. With his royal identity concealed from prying onlookers, he wandered aimlessly through the city streets for several hours with a heavy heart, through the market areas and merchant stalls of East Cheap before then turning northward until he came upon a familiar and welcome sight from his youth, a popular tavern known as The White Hart.

This galleried traveller’s inn was indeed a veritable hive of activity, a place where people from all walks of life socialised and conducted their business, then taking their meals and refreshing their thirst with strong wine and ale. Private rooms were also available for the weary traveller to rest, many whilst stopping over on their way to a pilgrimage, or in their travels to and from London Town for any number of other sundry purposes. The occasional cries and screams that would emanate from the demented and insane residing within the asylum at the Hospital of Bethlen (or “Bedlam” as it is more commonly known), located immediately adjacent to the inn, only added to its cosmopolitan ambience.

In no hurry to resume his royal duties, and still inconsolable due to his dear friend’s grievous misadventure, Richard entered the inn and then proceeded to find a discreet corner where he could observe the other patrons and their activities in relative anonymity. It was soon readily apparent to him that a broad cross-section of English society was indeed represented, from the lowliest ploughman to the noblest of gentlemen, although two knights on an adjacent table were the most conspicuous, being engaged in earnest and animated conversation about their most recent journey.

The younger of the two Knights, in particular, cut a striking figure, with a lithe yet athletic build and stunningly beautiful features. His raven-haired flowing locks of shoulder length framed his perfectly proportioned face, accompanied by a well-defined chin, soft full lips and piercing brown eyes that immediately evoked both intelligence and perceptiveness. Richard was immediately beguiled by this young man, and with this in mind he soon came forth from his seat to engage both of the young Knights in conversation, eager to learn more about them.

For their part, the two young Knights recognised their sovereign immediately, in spite of his features being somewhat concealed under the hood of his cloak. As he came over to greet them, they wisely chose to play along with their King’s apparent desire for his identity to remain unacknowledged during his sojourn at the inn.

King Richard III:

Well met, good fellows! What are ye named?


I am known by friend and foe as Redcrosse.

A pious, and chivalrous knight-errant.

(pauses, then gesturing toward his handsome friend seated opposite)

This is my brave and bold friend, Britomart.

King Richard III:

Dost ye returneth from a pilgrimage?

Redcrosse: (ernestly)

We returneth from defending the Faith,

Noble lord, with the Knights Hospitaller;

Fighting the scourge of Ottoman pirates,

And the Sultan’s horde at the siege of Rhodes!

Britomart: (enthusiastically)

We put those damned heathens to the sword!

‘Twas a tale of great valour and kinship.


We then travell’d across the continent,

To join the Castillians in their siege

Of the Moslem enclave of Granada,

Where the Lord succour’d us in our just cause.

Britomart: (excitedly)

And we shall soon embark on our next quest;

Journeying to the shores of Llyn Ogwen,

On the trail of Arthurian legend,

To find the sword of brave Sir Galahad!

King Richard III:

Such fine examples thou art to us all!

I wish ye both Godspeed in thy ventures.


King Richard and the two Knights became increasingly comfortable in each other’s company as the hours rolled on, swapping tales of the bloody battles they had waged, the acts of heroism they had performed (or else had witnessed first hand from their comrades in arms), and speaking of all the far flung places and diverse cultures they had experienced during the course of their travels throughout Europe, Asia Minor and the Near East.

As the wine flowed freely, and with their appetites duly sated by a generous and hearty meal, the conversation soon took a more fanciful turn, where the aim was to entertain with imaginative tales that were designed to impress not only those seated at their table, but also the rather motley collection of random patrons who had now gathered about them to listen to the adventures and intrigues of these three noble gentlemen.

King Richard began these flights of fancy with a tale of a young man in Bavaria, whose experiments led him to explore the very nature of life itself:

King Richard’s Tale:

My story begins in the laboratory of a young scholar, who through a series of unorthodox experiments in the chymical arts and in human anatomy, had stumbled quite by accident upon a great discovery, giving him the ability to bring to life bodily tissue that was no longer living. As a result, this young man planned to create a living, breathing, human-like creature of his own; whereafter he set about robbing the graves of the recently deceased to harvest their organs and tissues, which he then would skilfully assemble to produce his ungodly creation.

Once his creature was put together with all the skill, diligence and care he could muster, the young man then brought it abruptly to life by harnessing a powerful lightning strike during a violent storm. Soon, however, he was to become utterly repulsed by the hideousness of his own creation, with its guttural and incoherent speech making communication impossible, and its awkward and uncoordinated gait leading it to blunder about the laboratory wantonly, destroying everything in its path.

Whilst the young man slept that night plagued by conscience and regret, the rejected creature made its escape, searching in vain for another human being who would not be so revolted by so grotesque a creature. This newly animated beast, rejected at every turn, eventually ran amok in the township in a rage, killing several innocent people and destroying all that stood in his path.

Eventually, the townsfolk gathered together in an angry mob and chased him into an old windmill. The creature soon stood atop the windmill, howling in rage at those below who had rejected him. The townspeople then set the wooden mill alight, and soon the structure was totally consumed by flames, burning the misbegotten creature alive. The young scholar was then left only to ponder the absolute folly of his vaulting ambitions, and the death and destruction that his unbridled curiosity and blind arrogance had wrought upon those townsfolk, shattering the former peace and tranquility that had once been enjoyed by that close knit community.


At the conclusion of Richard’s tale, those around him were so transfixed by so splendid a tale of wonder and mystery that it took a few moments for the gathered throng to express their appreciation.

However, they were soon all raising their goblets and tankards in loud acclamation of Richard for his most intriguing tale, with perhaps the exception of a couple of clergymen at the periphery of the gathering, who were rather taken aback by the ideas being expressed, verging (to their minds at least) on blasphemy.

Nonetheless, they chose to remain mute in view of the overwhelming acceptance of the remaining onlookers, and the generally convivial mood of the occasion. They instead anxiously awaited a reply in kind from the next speaker to take the floor: Redcrosse, a Knight of great chivalry and piety.

Redcrosse Knight’s Tale:

I wish to tell the story of an obscure Knight of the Round Table, in the form of Sir Yorick, a rather corpulent and sanguine fellow who embodied very little of the nobility, decorum and chivalrous attributes one might expect from those who would generally aspire to the Knightly station.

Sir Yorick soon set out on his trusty steed, an aptly named grey stallion known as Gravitas, on a quest to find the legendary Holy Grail. Yorick was no doubt champing at the bit to engage in all manner of derring-do in rescuing various damsels in distress, or engaging in mortal combat with other knights-errant, or perhaps in slaying various dragons, griffins and the like, but unfortunately he had to instead be mindful of the less than optimal health and fitness of the ever-loyal Gravitas. Therefore, Sir Yorick rarely ventured far on his quest from those most established highways and byways of the Kingdom, as he could clearly ill afford to stray too far at all from either comfortable lodgings or food and refreshment; purely in the best interests of his beloved animal, of course.

One fine day, our brave knight came upon a diminutive young woman, wearing a pretty striped bonnet. She was being rather grievously manhandled in a most ungentlemanly fashion by a ruffian who was clearly intoxicated, and who certainly had nothing but the most unseemly and lustful of intentions. The poor waif was obviously too polite and kind of heart to resist these inappropriate advances forcefully enough, and it was then that Sir Yorick saw his opportunity for a belated act of utmost chivalry in protecting the virtue of the unfortunate young lady. Sir Yorick therefore interceded on her behalf, but the man in question protested violently, leaving the knight with no other alternative but to run the blaggard through with his sword.

The young woman, who went by the name of Becky, was certainly quite startled and bemused at first, but she quickly gained her composure, albeit briefly, and smiled coyly at her noble protector, then draping her arms around his ample girth in gratitude for his having come so decisively to her aid. She was quite small in stature and slight in build, with pale complexion, sandy coloured hair and a demure, attractive face adorned with very large, green eyes that would make even the hardest heart soften in her adoring gaze.

It was at this point that the young woman suddenly became very faint and went totally limp in Sir Yorick’s arms, overcome no doubt by the close brush with moral compromise that she had just endured. Whilst the good knight struggled manfully with the unconscious woman, he soon spied an inn a short distance down the road, and so carried her flaccid body to the front door, where his cries for help were soon answered, and the inn’s mistress quickly ushered him in.

Once inside, the brave knight sought a bed upon which to lie the young waif down, in the hopes of allowing her time and a soft repose to recover herself after her ordeal. The mistress of the inn explained that she would unfortunately require a small dispensation to allow Sir Yorick access to one of the rooms upstairs, as it would make it virtually impossible for her to gain payments from any of her other guests for their lodgings if they were to become aware of her giving him any such special favours.

The mistress guided the knight up the stairs and to the nearest bedroom, where she excused herself to allow him to remain undisturbed whilst administering to the young lady’s needs. Once he had laid the young woman down on the soft feather bed, she slowly began to regain consciousness, before awakening fully with a sudden start. The young woman could now scarcely catch her breath such was her acute distress, and she motioned frantically to Sir Yorick to loosen her collar and her bodice to aid her by now very laboured breathing. Having done so, the young and innocent woman lay helplessly before her protector, her heaving bosom exposed with her milk white skin so smooth and soft and dewy with sweat that Sir Yorick, a man of modest moral fibre at the best of times, could scarcely contain himself a moment longer.

Of course, it goes without saying that the poor, unfortunate Sir Yorick was left with a lifetime of regret after that fateful day, and night, of unbridled passion with that helpless young waif, having engaged in such lewd and lascivious acts that would leave a permanent black mark on his conscience, that sullied his formerly unblemished reputation.

When he awoke the following morning, the goose had clearly flown, and he soon noticed that his once bulging money pouch had been completely emptied, leaving the chastened knight with no other recourse but to sheath his sword, remount Gravitas and head back home with his tail between his legs. His days of questing for the Grail, or any other holy relic for that matter, were clearly at an end.


His tale concluded, the party of revellers attending to his story gave the knight a rapturous applause and a hearty cheer for his efforts, with the exception of young Britomart, who was strangely subdued at the conclusion of his tale. For their part, the two clergymen thought the tale scandalous, and as a consequence they left the gathering in disgust that such a pious young knight could stoop to telling so ignoble a story.

Rather than responding with a tale of his own, Britomart offered the next tale to any of the gathering that might care to intercede, at which point an apothecary then raised his hand excitedly to claim centre stage.

The Apothecary’s Tale:

My story is one of a physician of my acquaintance, a man of quite noble intentions, diligent and hard working, but with an agile mind that was particularly fascinated by the nature of Good and Evil. Knowing that every man and woman, whether of high or low estate, has within them the elements of both Good and Evil, the idealistic physician hoped to use his skills as a practitioner of the medical arts to work toward a cure for this illness of the mind that we, in our ignorance, refer to as “Evil”.

So, the physician studied assiduously, and experimented meticulously and methodically, until his mastery of chymical theories led him to discover a concoction that he believed would separate evil thoughts and darker impulses from the better values and the upright moral character of the human mind. Rather than submit others to the risks of taking such an untested and unproven chymical compound, the physician instead resolved that it was more morally defensible to take this experimental concoction himself to demonstrate the wonder of his discovery, one which he hoped would ultimately transform our less than civilised society into a safer and more benevolent place for one and all.

At first, the physician was thrilled with the progress of his experiment, as all his darkest thoughts and immoral urges simply melted away after drinking his daily potion. But it wasn’t long before the young physician awakened every morning in a dishevelled state, having had a restless night of which he had no memory whatsoever. As the weeks went by, these effects become more and more intense, although once he had fully awoken he felt completely invigorated and refreshed, and so as a consequence thought little of it.

At around this time, a series of brutal murders began occurring on a regular basis on the streets of London, all perpetrated by the same hideous brute of a man in a reign of terror that had the law abiding citizens of the city cowering in fear. The man was described as very tall, powerfully built, and hirsute with coarse, ugly features, and with disproportionately large hands and feet. This maniac roamed the streets at night committing various acts of violence and brutality, often without provocation, yet had thus far managed to evade capture.

As the days and weeks went on, the young physician began to realise that his restless nights, of which he had no memory, were not merely confined to his bed, but instead involved him leaving his lodgings and wandering the streets at night, because his clothing was often torn or wet from rain or blood-stained when he awoke the following morning. Then it suddenly dawned on him, in a flash of inspiration and clarity, that he and this mindless brute stalking the good people of London were one and the same person.

In acute distress at the thought of the deaths and grievous harm he had wrought through his actions, the young physician promptly destroyed his concoction, resolving never again to experiment in so dangerous a fashion. Alas, his nightly episodes continued even without his taking further doses of the potion, and they seemed to be getting more and more violent rather than less, while the spate of vicious crimes perpetrated by his alter ego continued unabated.

The good doctor was thus left with little choice, and was soon found dead in his lodgings at his own hand, without even so much as a short note of explanation for his desperate deed. The reign of terror then ended as abruptly as it had begun, and the citizens of London could once again walk the city streets without fear or hesitation.


The gathered onlookers were unanimous in their praise of the young apothecary’s tale, and they soon drank to his health in thanks for so compelling a story.

The next onlooker to come forward in response was an elderly man who identified himself as an artist, a painter of panel portraits for wealthy patrons.

The Artist’s Tale:

Many years ago, I had occasion to paint a single panel portrait of a young aristocratic gentleman whose youthful beauty was so exceptional that my best efforts could barely do justice to the subject of the piece. When I was finished, I remarked (with a touch of poetic license perhaps) that my portrait had preserved his youth and his great beauty for all eternity, even as those handsome features and his youthful presence were destined to fade and dwindle with each passing year. My simple and seemingly innocuous statement was ultimately to prove to be one of quite startling, and ultimately devastating consequences.

It transpired that the young man in question had cursed my portrait shortly thereafter in his despair at my revelation, and in dread fear that it would become an ever-present reminder of the loss of his once handsome features, whilst the painting was destined to remain beautiful and youthful forever. Thus, the young man offered forth his immortal soul, if only this portrait would retain in his stead all of the visible signs of not only the passage of time, but also of the scars and distortions of his many and varied vices, sins and corruptions.

As the years passed, the young man remained as youthful and beautiful as the day that I painted him, but rumours soon spread far and wide as to his increasingly depraved behaviour and callous indifference to others, while my portrait of him was kept from prying eyes, locked away at home in his attic. His activities lapsed further and further into complete hedonism,  debauchery and corruption, while tainting or damaging any and everyone unfortunate enough to come into his life in the process.

All the while, away from the public gaze his portrait grew more and more grotesque, such that it had become an ever-present reminder of the depths to which his behaviour and morality had sunk, and the sheer ugliness and depravity that resided within his very soul.

Finally, so distressed was he by my portrait, serving as a pictorial representation of all of his many vices and gross perversions, that the young man one day lashed out with a knife in a fit of rage, stabbing his own portrait right through the heart. The next day his body was found lying beneath his portrait, now restored to its former youth and beauty, whilst his corpse bore all the scars and deformities earned through the wages of an utterly dissolute life of unbridled malevolence, debauchery and profanity.


The gathering crowd were by now wide eyed in amazement at this splendid cautionary tale, and once more raised a loud hurrah to the young artist’s tale.

It was not long, however, before the next to raise his hand came forth: a young seafarer, still dressed in his crewman’s garb, having just this morning alighted from his ship, in dock nearby on the River Thames.

The young seafarer, fresh from sailing along the Guinea coast of West Africa on a Portuguese caravel, was eager to relate a story told to him by a castaway whom he and his fellow crewmen had just recently rescued.

The Seafarer’s Tale:

My crew mates and I had recently found an English sailor, barely clinging to life, floating on a raft just to the west of the Azores Islands, in the wide expanse of the Mare Tenebroso. Because I was the only English speaker on board the vessel, by fate I was the only person to whom the sailor could confide the story of the fantastic adventures that had led him to be cast adrift.

As our ship sailed back to port, the sailor told me of being shipwrecked in a violent storm, and then washed up on an uncharted island. Exhausted from his ordeal, he soon lost consciousness on the beach, only to awaken many hours later to find his arms and legs had been fastened tightly to the ground, with several fine ligatures across his body from the armpits to the waist that bound him similarly, and steadfastly to the ground. All about him were hundreds and hundreds of tiny people, not more than six inches high, amongst whom were men, women and children, with people from all walks of life represented, from the lowliest tradesmen to highest of public officials.

Even though he could have no doubt broken those bonds that fastened him if he had applied his greatest effort, he was tempered by the concern that his great size could lead him to inadvertently crush, or otherwise injure or kill the tiny inhabitants of the island.

Therefore, he acquiesced to the desires and directives of those little people in keeping him thus constrained for their safety. Whilst their strange language and customs were certainly alien to him at first, he gradually learned their ways and how to communicate with them, gaining their trust to such an extent that he eventually won his freedom, and in short order he became a valued and highly esteemed member of their society.

Eventually, however, the difficulties that his mountainous size presented to those little people, not to mention to their society in general, in feeding, clothing, bathing and housing him became insurmountable, and an unfortunate misunderstanding soon predictably occurred that led to an escalation in their simmering conflict, forcing the sailor to flee the island in fear of his life, setting out onto the uncharted ocean on a makeshift raft, hoping against hope that he would be rescued by some passing ship.

Our caravel duly returned the gentleman in question to civilisation once we reached our home port of Lisbon, where he then thanked us for our care and went merrily on his way. Even though his fantastic story somewhat defied rational belief, he spoke in such earnestness and conviction that I was personally left in no doubt whatsoever as to the veracity of the strange marvels he claimed to have witnessed and experienced during his travels.


By now, the celebrations that greeted each tale at its conclusion was becoming more and more raucous, as the unbridled enthusiasm of those onlookers, and the storytellers themselves, began to show the effects of all the fine ale and wine that had flowed liberally throughout the evening’s entertainment.

At the conclusion of the Seafarer’s delightful tale, another call was made for anyone else there present to come forth to match those storytellers who had gone before, whereupon a crippled old man in ragged clothes took centre stage to tell his story.

The Adventurer’s Tale:

A long time ago, when I was in the full flush of youth, I had a most adventurous spirit, with a hankering to travel far and wide to exotic lands. I had read extensively of the travels of Marco Polo to the Far East, and of that noble knight Sir John Mandeville to Asia Minor and  India, and so I set out upon a journey across Europe to seek an exciting life full of incident and adventure.

In my travels, I met another young tearaway much like myself, whom I knew only as Dravot, and we knocked about from place to place; working at some places, thieving and swindling at others, whilst also taking time, I must confess, to sampling more than a modicum of those local feminine delicacies that we encountered along the way!

Those were great times indeed, filled with much joy and laughter, not to mention a few close scrapes where we barely escaped with our lives, whether from various angry husbands, fathers or townspeople who had taken exception to our dubious behaviour. When we had had our fill of wine, women and song on the road, we made a pact together to travel to the edge of the known world, in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, where we could set ourselves up as Kings, lording it over the natives and living a life of right royal luxury and indulgence.

Thus we made our way to Venice, where we sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Constantinople, and from there to Trebizond on the southern edge of the Black Sea. We then travelled overland, and endured great adversity over very rugged terrain, fighting off many hostile tribesmen along the way, until we eventually reached a region known as Kafiristan. Here was the land of which we had always dreamed: filled with so many sights and natural wonders of great beauty, and the perfect place for Dravot and I to establish an empire of our very own.

We soon gained the confidence of the native tribesman when, during a violent skirmish with a neighbouring tribe, an arrow hit my friend Dravot in the chest directly over his heart, and he was saved fortuitously by the leather-bound Bible he always carried in his breast pocket. The sight of Dravot, unharmed by an arrow protruding from the very centre of his chest caused the natives, friend and foe alike, to fall to their knees, thinking that this strange man must indeed be some kind of God.

Thus, Dravot and I at last saw our chance for ultimate glory as a consequence of this rather serendipitous event. We convinced the Kafiris that Dravot was in fact the reincarnation of Alexander the Great himself, a man who was still spoken of with such awe and reverence in their folkloric tradition. The Kafiris came to revere us both as Gods. They fashioned crowns of gold for us to wear, and soon offered us all their wealth at our disposal, tending to our every whim.

As the months rolled by, I learned more about the history of the Kafiri; how they had once ruled over a far wider area in the mountains and valleys surrounding them, only to be driven out by Moslem tribesmen who now encircled them in their current enclave. It transpired that the Kafiris harboured ambitions of eventually re-establishing their realm to its former glory and extent, and so Dravot and I formed an army of soldiers amongst the most able of their number, and launched a series of successful raids on the surrounding tribes, using the superior weaponry we had brought along with us, particularly our crossbows and arquebuses that struck fear into the hearts of the enemy. In this way, we hoped to help them make Kafiristan great once again!

All was going according to our well laid plans, and Dravot and I were living like kings in our very own Empire on the edge of the known world, until one day my friend made his most fatal mistake; by falling in love with one of the Kafiri women and then taking her as his bride. Unbeknownst to both of us, the young woman believed, according to her native superstition, that she would be turned immediately to stone if she was to have any sexual contact with an immortal God. So it was that she became so frightened on their wedding night, at the prospect of having to submit to the carnal desires of a God, that she scratched his face in terror, drawing blood.

Once the other Kafiri learned of Dravot’s mortality, they turned on us in a twinkling of an eye, and brutally bashed and tortured us to within an inch of our lives. Dravot was then pushed out onto a rope bridge across a deep ravine, and the ropes were then cut and he plunged hundreds of feet to his death on the rocks below. For several months afterward, I was kept prisoner by the Kafiri, where I was regularly beaten and half starved, until eventually an opportunity to escape presented itself.

Through many hardships, and with great perseverance I managed to make my way to India, where I recuperated sufficiently to embark on my homeward journey to England. Since then I have lived a life of complete anonymity, content with my lot as a humble peasant, never again to aspire to such lofty ambitions above my worldly station.


At the conclusion of the Adventurer’s Tale, when yet another round of drinks had been imbibed, and when the hearty cheers, laughter and hubbub had subsided, a mule driver rose to take his turn in the evening’s proceedings.

The Muler’s Tale:

I have a tale of an entirely different character, one which tells not so much about the way we live, but of a black-hearted man who ultimately receives his comeuppance, while nonetheless leaving a trail of heartache and destruction in his considerable wake.

One dark and stormy night, at a social gathering amongst the political elite, I had the misfortune to meet a mysterious man who went by the name of Augustus Melmotte. He had lived until recently in the city of St. Petersburg, where he had amassed a substantial fortune as a merchant and wealthy landowner. During his early life in Russia, he had reputedly been very well connected indeed, having formed numerous close relationships with many of the most influential members of Moscow’s royal court; so much so that he was even thought to have been in the good graces of Grand Prince Ivan himself.

“Why misfortune?”, you ask. Well, although Melmotte appeared to be a wealthy and successful man of good standing and repute, even being recently elected as an esteemed member of His Majesty’s Parliament, he was soon to prove himself to be anything but reputable in his dealings with me.

I found him to be an utterly corrupt and venal man, prepared to swindle any naive and trusting souls who might find themselves unfortunate enough to be engaged in business with him. In spite of his reputation as a wealthy man about town, he lived largely on the generosity, and often errant stupidity, of his creditors, most of whom would inevitably find their pockets empty when the time for recompense had finally arrived. Until his day of reckoning at least, he continued to live the high life on the fat of the land, indulging his every whim and vice, without so much as a second thought for the welfare of those around him.

Not content with mere financial skullduggery, his sexual proclivities and various perverse activities with certain actresses, prostitutes and other women of easy virtue were clearly not the sort of behaviour one would expect from a gentleman of his high station. It was rumoured, in fact, that even his election to parliament lacked legitimacy, and may have been obtained purely through bribery and subterfuge, and whereafter he had acted as an illicit agent of the Grand Prince of Moscow in undermining the authority and sanctity of the Crown.

How do I know of all this? Well, I wasn’t always the lowly mule driver you see before you today. I was once held in the very highest esteem as an Attorney to the Court of Common Pleas, and had only just been elevated to the rank of Serjeant-at-Law, with the world literally at my feet, when I came upon this dread scoundrel Melmotte, whereupon my personal fortunes, in every sense of the word, took a severe downward turn in short order thereafter.

After our first chance meeting, my first serious involvement with him was to be at Westminster Hall, where a buxom and comely young lass by the name of Mistress Daniels was suing this bounder Melmotte for breach of promise, alleging that he had promised to marry her and had then subsequently reneged, having had his way with her in the interim. In response, Melmotte claimed that Mistress Daniels was merely a woman of ill repute who had traded her sexual favours for money, and then produced evidence of payments to her through an intermediary that tended to support his version of events. In spite of my misgivings as to the veracity of his witness’ statement, I was forced to dismiss the unfortunate woman’s case due to the weight of this contrary evidence.

Only a few months later, Melmotte found his way back to the court once again, having swindled a neighbour in a land deal. Once again, what appeared to be a straightforward case, with clear cut guilt on Melmotte’s part, quickly descended into a tangled web of intrigue, with witnesses either recanting (likely under threat, or else through financial inducement), or disappearing mysteriously into the aether, so that once again the elusive cad escaped the justice he so richly deserved.

I soon became completely obsessed with bringing this utter villain to account, even composing a dossier of all of his activities and business dealings, and then interrogating all of his friends and associates in the hope of finding anything incriminating at all that might knock him down off his lofty perch, and to bring him to righteous justice for his litany of crimes and misdemeanours. However, in the process of trying to elicit further incriminating evidence from some criminals who were closely involved in his shady business dealings, my own reputation was to be fatally compromised when my innocent associations with such low life scoundrels were discovered, leading me to be unjustly cast out from my chosen profession in disgrace.

The fact that Melmotte’s financial schemes were destined only a short while later to come crashing down around him was of cold comfort to me, given all that I had lost in my stubborn pursuit of bringing him to the fullest account for his many misdeeds.

Now, as I tend to the care of my mules, who are now my only source of steady income, I am certainly given an ever-present reminder as to the folly of my previous short-sightedness, hubris and intransigence, in dealing with this scoundrel Melmotte.


These evening festivities continued on well past midnight, as it seemed there were many assembled who also thought they had an intriguing and entertaining story to tell. Some of the tales that were spun, of varying quality and profundity, throughout the evening covered such wide ranging subjects as:

  • A grizzled ship’s captain, utterly obsessed with tracking down and killing the huge white whale that previously maimed him, becomes so blinded by his all-consuming rage and lust for revenge that it leads not only to his own death, but also to the tragic loss of his ship and most of his crew;
  • The amorous adventures and sexual peccadilloes of a foundling who is initially disinherited, then is eventually reconciled with his benefactor;
  • A rich woman left at the altar by a callous fiancé, who then becomes a recluse, raising her adopted daughter to be cold and heartless toward her suitors to exact a strange, vicarious revenge on all men in kind;
  • The tale of a sailor, castaway on a tropical island for more than 20 years, fighting for survival against the elements, tribes of cannibals and hostile mutineers, before eventually being rescued;
  • The starcrossed romance between the daughter of a gentleman of modest means and a handsome, but haughty and aloof young man, who almost misses his chance for marriage to her through his complete lack of social graces and self-awareness, and her premature misjudgement of his true character; And last but not least,
  • The bizarre tale of a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole, and experiences many extraordinary and other-worldly adventures with various strange creatures, all of whom speak in riddles.

With such a broad array of interesting yarns to ponder, and having had more than a little wine over the course of the evening, King Richard called the storytelling session to an end and retired to a room upstairs, glancing back to catch a fleeting glimpse of that handsome young Knight in Britomart, who had so captivated him earlier in the evening.

Lying in his bed, Richard’s mind was swirling with thoughts of the brilliant Elias Monk, his horrible injuries and disfigurement, and the raven-haired knight who had filled his heart with such unexpected, yet burning desire.

As he was about to drift off to sleep, a figure appeared silhouetted at the door. As the figure moved toward him, the tall and athletic build of this person came into clearer focus. Richard’s heart was now pounding in his chest with anticipation as the shadowy figure consolidated into the form of Britomart, that handsome young man that had so entranced and beguiled him earlier in the evening.

Richard sat bolt upright in the bed as Britomart came toward him, when the young knight allowed his garment to fall from his shoulders, revealing (to Richard’s great surprise and relief) that the noble knight was in fact a woman; a radiant beauty who combined grace and strength in equal measure, being perfectly formed with a lean and shapely, yet quite muscular physique.

Richard’s relief was palpable, as his instant attraction to the young Knight suddenly became not only more easily explicable, but also considerably more palatable.

Britomart: (with a grin, and quite a fetching twinkle in her eye)

Thou art quite the proud stallion, I see!

King Richard III: (clasping her naked body roughly to him)

Come hither, and I wilt prove it anon!

Britomart: (cheekily, then pushing him effortlessly, yet with some force, back onto the bed)

Hold fast, milord!

‘Twould be a strange story for the ages,

Sire, if e’er a horse couldst bestride a Knight!


King Richard duly complied, lying on his back passively as the bold and brazen Britomart had her way with him. He could only marvel at her raw power and fierceness, with her every muscle tensed and every sinew taut in her unrestrained abandonment to her most lustful desires. Richard had never before experienced such luscious lips, so agile a tongue or such adept fingers, and so forcefully and powerfully applied, taking him to the very limits of his endurance, and to the utmost in intense pleasure and gratification.

As Britomart continued to redefine the lengths to which a subject could express her absolute devotion to her monarch, Richard could not believe his good fortune in ensnaring so delectable a treat in so unlikely a place as the White Hart Inn.

When the dust had fully settled after their fiercely fought, yet intimate skirmish of the flesh, the two combatants lay quietly in each other’s arms in blissful exhaustion.


I would hope thou dost apprehend, milord,

That the tale of Sir Yorick wast mine own!

That dullard Redcrosse has not enough wit,

To tell so ironic a tale as that.



So naive and full of virtue is he,

That he believeth the waif a victim!

King Richard III:

With him thou didst appear none too joyous,

Now I knoweth wherefore hath come thy angst!


Redcrosse in matters of love is so dumb,

That he didst not suspect my womanhood!

And had he done so, I doubt my virtue,

By that pansy, wouldst have been endanger’d!

King Richard III:

He doth not knoweth what he be missing!

The Holy Grail he seeketh, far and wide,

Yet herewith lies the holiest of Grails!

(grabbing her firmly, yet tenderly to once again re-enter the fray)

Hither be a shrine worthy of worship!

Britomart: (cheekily)

Be resolute, my brave Sir Galahad!

King Richard III: (in mock heroic style)

My good blade carves the casques of men,

My tough lance thrusteth sure,

My strength is as the strength of ten,

Because my heart is pure!

Britomart: (responding in kind, with an impish grin)

Ensure thy steed is rightly shod,

So thou hast nought to fear,

O’ just and faithful Knight of God,

Ride on! The prize is near!


Having just engaged in the most glorious night of bliss and ecstasy that Richard had ever experienced, or was ever likely to for that matter, he awoke the following morn to find, to his astonishment and despair, that his beloved Britomart had gone, leaving only a note, hastily scrawled, that lay upon the nightstand next to him.

In it she wrote:

“Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate,

Hate of my sin grounded on sinful loving,

O’, but with mine compare thou thine own state,

And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,

That have profaned their scarlet ornaments

And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine,

Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents.

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov’st those

Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:

Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,

Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,

By self-example mayst thou be denied!

Richard was left desolate. He searched the White Hart top to bottom, but although Redcrosse was still slumbering noisily in his room, young Britomart was nowhere to be seen. The mistress of the inn said that she had seen him exit the building abruptly just on dawn, whereupon he had mounted his horse and ridden off to the north without saying what his ultimate destination might be.

Noting distress in the King’s face, the woman enquired if anything was the matter, to which he replied:

“A maiden knight–to me is given

Such hope, I know not fear;

I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven

That often meet me here.

I muse on joy that will not cease,

Pure spaces clothed in living beams,

Pure lilies of eternal peace,

Whose odours haunt my dreams;

And, stricken by an angel’s hand,

This mortal armour that I wear,

This weight and size, this heart and eyes,

Are touch’d, are turn’d to finest air.”

The mistress was no doubt left somewhat bemused and bewildered by such a passionate outpouring of resignation and regret by a sovereign toward a knight of the realm. She certainly could not remotely have been expected to fully comprehend the true nature of the King’s feelings, but it is fortunate perhaps that an innkeeper’s wife can often be privy to many strange and wondrous things that she must, by necessity, either disregard or condone, particularly those that would otherwise defy a simple and unambiguous explanation!

Richard returned to his room, sitting on the bed in silence for the longest time, before finally gathering his belongings together and heading back to the palace to attend to affairs of state, chastened by his experience, but soon to be infused with a renewed sense of purpose and vigour.

Act 6 Scene 4:

The Palace of Westminster.


King Richard returned to the Palace to find his royal court in an uproar. His loyal supporters, Catesby and Ratcliffe, took the King to one side at the first opportunity to warn him of some potential treachery and skulduggery afoot amongst some of his trusted retinue, who were apparently acting surreptitiously in the Lancastrian cause.

One of his most trusted bodyguards, a man by the name of Peter Stokes, had formed an illicit, and rather tawdry relationship with one of the page boys, who was privy to many of the confidential conversations held amongst the King’s trusted inner circle. This page was then allegedly passing this information on to Stokes, who would then use that intelligence to undermine the interests of the Crown by passing it on through a chain of emissaries to the King’s enemies in France, those remnant followers of the banished Earl of Richmond.

King Richard therefore ordered that the young page boy and this Peter Stokes be taken forthwith to the Tower in York for interrogation, where he was confident that his jailers had more than sufficient expertise to extract a confession, and thereafter to enact an appropriately gruesome and painful punishment suitable for any that might harbour such thoughts, or have the temerity to commit such scurrilous acts of Treason against him in future.

But that was not by any means the only problem with which King Richard had to contend, as Lord Buckingham had become so disaffected with the Yorkist cause that he had left abruptly from the court in Richard’s brief absence, and was now rumoured to be gathering his forces in Wales to mount an armed rebellion against him. This revelation shocked Richard to the very core, as the noble Duke of Buckingham had been his closest and most trusted ally up until this very moment, and it therefore defied earthly comprehension that he should suddenly turn on him in such a fashion.


Buckingham, back’d by those hardy Welshmen,

Is in the field, and his strength increaseth.


He is not alone in this treachery;

Morton of Ely is fled to Richmond!

King Richard III:

Ely with Richmond troubles me more near

Than Buckingham and his rash-levied strength.

Come, I have learn’d that fearful commenting

Is leaden servitor to dull delay;

Delay leads impotent and snail-paced beggary;

Then fiery expedition be my wing,

Jove’s Mercury, and herald for a King.

Go, muster men. My counsel is my shield.

We must be brief when traitors brave the field!


Act 6 Scene 5:

East Cheap. A street.


King Richard, in the company of Sir Richard Ratcliffe, rode through Cheapside with a small contingent of his finest troops, headed north of London to the encampment of his loyalist army, in order to rally them with words of inspiration as they prepare to battle the forces of the rebellious Buckingham. As he passed by crowds of curious onlookers, a madwoman riding a donkey blocked his path, and began hurling abuse and threats at the King and his followers.

Madwoman: (wide eyed, and bellowing loudly)

Holdfast, villains!

Scum of the Earth! Satan’s spawn! Scourge of God!

May God rain down murd’ring shot from heaven,

To dash thy brains and strike thee stone cold dead!

King Richard III: (sternly)

Stand aside, witch!

Thou maketh a spectacle of thyself.

Madwoman: (unrepentant)

Let there be no rest nor peace for thee!

Nowhere wilt thou be safe from our anger.

We shalt harass and harangue all of thee,

Wherever thou may toil, or dine, or sleep!

King Richard III: (impatiently)

Desist in thy riotous behaviour!

Thou shouldst wend thy way back home to Bedlam,

Whither thou canst receive the proper care

For thy warp’d mind and low intelligence.

Madwoman: (howls at the sky in frustration and rage)

I’ll not be afraid, nor be undermined,

And I canst not be intimidated!

King Richard III: (with a mocking tone)

Yet, I am term’d the scourge and wrath of God;

The only fear and terror of the world!

Madwoman: (defiantly)

A riot is the voice of the unheard!

God shalt protect us! He is on our side,

On the side of what’s right and honourable.

Thou art accurs’d and are consign’d to hell!

King Richard III: (near the end of his tether)

Thou may curse my power, as well thou might.

The heavens may frown, the earth for anger quake;

But such a star hath influence in his sword

To rule the skies and countermand the Gods!

Madwoman: (shrieking at the top of her lungs)

Thou art deformed, crooked, old and sere,

Ill-faced, worse-bodied, shapeless ev’rywhere,

Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,

Stigmatical in making, worse in mind!


With that torrent of abuse and vulgar insults, Richard’s patience finally ran

out. So, he struck the lunatic woman a mighty blow with his broadsword,

cleaving her not-so-neatly in two.

King Richard III:

We have been detain’d too much already;

Let’s tarry no longer and ride apace,

And reclaim my time lost to fool’s errands,

In trying to reason with lunatics!

(Exeunt, at the gallop)

Act 6 Scene 6:

An army encampment, North of London, shortly before returning to Westminster Palace.


Having sent the Madwoman of Cheapside to her maker, King Richard journeyed to his army’s encampment, just North of London. Once there, he gave his troops a rousing speech in preparation for their upcoming battle with Lord Buckingham’s forces, who had gathered together in Wales and were mobilising to the west of their current position.

After his motivational address, the King was forced to express to his soldiers his profound regret that he could not join them in mortal combat on this occasion, in view of his particularly painful heel spurs. He explained that they had become completely debilitating in the last week, particularly after he had just recently endured several strenuous and taxing rounds of golf in the course of his Kingly duties. Such are the fortunes of war!

Leaving his battle-hardened generals in charge on the eve of the conflict, King Richard returned once again to his palace at Westminster, where he set about making arrangements to host an inaugural state visit by none other than his long time friend and illicit confidant: Ivan the Great, the Grand Prince of Moscow. Although England and Russia had enjoyed less than amicable, and more often than not plainly inimical relations for many centuries, King Richard was determined to break with this tradition and to normalise relations between these two great nations, even though it ran totally against the prevailing and often quite adamant advice of his own generals and closest advisors.

Undeterred, King Richard laid out his plans for a lavish State Dinner and Ball, with no expense spared, to be held in the grandest ballroom in the Palace of Westminster. Gilt-edged invitations were soon sent out to the newly constructed Kremlin Palace for Grand Prince Ivan, his consort Sophia Paleologue, and his many advisors, bodyguards and a retinue of servants, attendants and retainers to attend.

Once received, the King’s invitation was gratefully accepted by the Russian monarch, but then Ivan suggested that King Richard should, in the interim, attend a small preliminary gathering as his guest at his summer house, in the newly acquired Muscovite territory that lay just to the East of the township of Helsinki. In so doing, Ivan hoped that the two leaders might be able to meet in private, away from the prying eyes and ears of the courtiers of either royal court, where King Richard could also partake of some of that hospitality for which Russians were justly famous; engaging in those royal pursuits of hunting, hawking and fishing, along with an abundance of those various indoor sports to which the English King was certainly well acquainted, and of which he was clearly quite partial.

King Richard, with an entourage of his most trusted advisors in tow, thus set sail from Bishop’s Lynn in Norfolk shortly thereafter. His ships headed East across the North Sea, and then along the length of the Baltic Sea, before finally arriving at the port of Helsinki. Once there, he was met by Grand Prince Ivan’s emissaries, who then guided him on the short carriage ride to the Ivan’s very pleasant, if somewhat remote lakeside summer retreat.

On arrival, the two men immediately dispensed with etiquette and greeted each other with a firm handshake followed by a vigorous, manly hug of affection, much to the surprise and chagrin of both advisor and attendant alike. Richard’s advisors were also soon surprised to learn that the Grand Prince had a very respectable command of the English language, whilst King Richard astonished them even further by being able to communicate with his counterpart with a more than modest smattering of Russian phrases of his own.

Some barely discernible murmurs of discontent were soon to be overheard emanating from Richard’s advisors. Several of his entourage felt somewhat disconcerted by this apparent familiarity, and more particularly with the camaraderie their sovereign seemed to enjoy with the Russian Prince; a man who, until very recently at least, had been regarded as one of Britain’s most mortal enemies.

When the formal greetings and introductions had been dispensed with, Grand Prince Ivan then invited King Richard into the den alone, away from his trusty advisors, for a fireside chat on the pretext of getting even better acquainted over a serve or three of the local Muscovite distillation, known to the common folk as “Vodka” (водка), which had been brought by Ivan especially for the occasion from the famed Chudov Monastery, situated within the walls of Kremlin Palace.

Ivan the Great: (Glass of Vodka in hand, raising it in a toast)

Vverh dnom! (вверх дном) (Bottoms Up!)

King Richard III: (Raising his glass in kind)

Na Zdorovie! (На здоровье) Here’s some mud for thine eye!

(The two men share a generous swig)

Ivan the Great: (Pauses, admiring the quality of his tipple)

That vodka truly is “success distill’d”!

(Then, in his best approximation of the King’s English)

How goeth thine affairs of state, comrade?

King Richard III:

All goeth according to plan, my friend:

The Caithness uprising hath just been quell’d,

The Lancastrians art in disarray,

And Britain’s economy is rampant!

Ivan the Great:

My great Empire thriveth also, Druzhishche (дружище)!

Taking back our homelands in Crimea,

And some recent conquests in Österland,

Hath expanded my sphere of influence,

Beyond all my wildest expectations.

King Richard III: (with a grin)

Excellent news all ’round, my dear Ivan.

Ivan the Great:

And thanks be to thee for interceding

In word and deed, without fear or favour,

On my behalf with those aristocrats

That pollute the continent to the south.

 King Richard III:

They were mere putty in my hands, my Prince!

Simply turning one against the other,

With all my guile and artful deception,

Topp’d with an ounce of intimidation!

Ivan the Great:

European monarchs are such dullards,

But are still obstinate thorns in my side!


Thou hast them so confused and divided,

That they are just begging to be conquered!

King Richard III: (with a cautionary tone)

‘Tis best not to get ahead of ourselves!

Better to let them squabble ‘mongst themselves,

Allowing thee to go from strength to strength,

Tightening thy grip upon thine Empire.


As the night rolled on, Ivan and Richard enjoyed mightily a lively and animated conversation, all the while indulging in prodigious quantities of the local spirit. The two men laughed heartily and often at each other’s bawdy jokes, before settling down to a competition in various feats of manly strength and prowess; beginning with such activities as arm wrestling and weight lifting at first, until finally the two men stripped off their clothing completely, and then began wrestling with one another with intense vigour before the open fire. Eventually, both men fell upon the ground, sloppily drunk and completely exhausted, on top of a bear skin rug that lay directly in front of the hearth, utterly spent after their many indulgences and exertions over the course of the evening.

The following morning, King Richard’s entourage were confronted with the spectacle of the two naked men fast asleep and entwined in each others arms on the floor, just in that place where they had fallen the night before on that large bear skin rug. When the two unclad sovereigns were gradually roused from their slumbers, and once a suitable balm could be found for their aching heads after a night of constant drinking, the two leaders then dressed in more suitable bedroom attire and returned their respective quarters for a well earned rest, before embarking on the much anticipated bear hunt that had been planned for later that afternoon.

Act 6 Scene 7:

The Bear Hunt. A forest, to the west of Ivan the Great’s idyllic summer residence.


The Grand Prince’s Master of the Hounds was a Germanic martinet who went by the name of Herr Mueller. He had been tasked earlier that day with scouting for game in the Royal Forest adjacent to Ivan’s summer retreat, along with a retinue of pages and groomsmen hand-selected from King Richard’s and Prince Ivan’s entourages. Mueller took his lymer, which was tethered on a very long leash, out into the woods to track the quarry of the day, looking for any of the tell tale signs of game, especially of the variety that might be big and dangerous enough to challenge the prowess of these two virile and highly adept sovereign rulers during their afternoon’s hunt.

Herr Mueller followed some reasonably fresh bear tracks that had been left in the mud after recent rains, assessed any broken branches and droppings that might indicate proximity to the prey, and then carefully laid various baited traps and lures along their most likely routes of escape. Once this was completed, the Master sent his trusty lymer into all of those dark recesses, nooks and crannies where any of the area’s large brown bears might seek refuge, with the purpose of silently and stealthily assessing the “lay of the game”.

His mission completed to his satisfaction, Mueller returned to the Grand Prince where he proudly announced: “The game’s afoot!”; a proclamation greeted with great fanfare and anticipation by the assembled hunting party, who were at that time gathered about breaking bread and feasting on cured venison in preparation for the thrilling chase to follow.

When the likely path of the prey had been predicted to everyone’s satisfaction, a relay of dogs was positioned at intervals along the way to strategically and serially attack and harass any large bear as it attempted to make its escape. These dogs, who were a mixture of alaunts and mastiffs known for their ferocity and relentless attacking spirit, were more suitable for a bear hunt than the swifter but light weight greyhounds, whose great speed but lack of stamina made them better suited to more fleet footed quarry like deer, boar, hare or fox.

Richard and Ivan left their usual mounts in the stable, and instead each bestrode a courser more suited to the rugged terrain they were likely to encounter. These hardy and agile steeds, they reasoned, were also far less likely to be spooked by the ferocity of any bear that they might encounter than their flighty and coddled thoroughbred counterparts. The page boys were then sent off well ahead of the party to attend to the hounds, keeping them calm and well controlled in their relay positions until they could be released at the appropriate moment for maximum effect.

As the hunting party approached their final positions prior to flushing out the prey, the somber silence of the forest was suddenly broken by high-pitched squeals of pain and anguish. One of King Richard’s young pages, a lad known only as Carter, had inadvertently stepped into one of the bear traps that had been placed that morning by Herr Mueller. Once caught in the trap, his cries unfortunately attracted the attention of a very large brown bear who was ambling through the forest only a few yards away. This beast mauled the poor unfortunate fellow with a great ferocity, nearly ripping and tearing him asunder, until eventually the clamour of the other members of the hunting party approaching the scene caused the bear to lumber off once more, this time at surprising speed, and it disappeared without a trace back into the heart of the forest.

The hunting party eventually gathered solemnly around what remained of the young page, whereupon King Richard and the Grand Prince took a moment or two to recite some Holy verses in prayerful homage to their fallen comrade. They concluded with a few words offering a modicum of consolation to the other pages and groomsmen, who were clearly shocked and stunned by the brutality of this unanticipated tragedy:

King Richard III: (respectfully)

Greater love hath no one than poor Carter,

Who lay down his life in the King’s service!

Ivan the Great: (solemnly)

Of woe, destruction, ruin, and decay;

The worst is death, and death will have his day.

King Richard III: (aside, under his breath, growing weary of the pretence of compassion)

Nought in his brief and undistinguish’d life,

Became him quite like the leaving of it!


The two royal sovereigns each contributed a further brief prayer, then crossed themselves and rallied the troops to return to the hunt, appealing to their lust for revenge upon the vicious beast responsible for the gruesome slaughter of their one time comrade-in-arms.

King Richard III: (rallying the “troops” for the hunt at hand)

We shalt honour this young lad Carter best,

By resuming the hunt for this fierce beast!

(Waxing philosophically)

Today is only one day, loyal friends,

In all of the days that shall ever be,

But what will happen in all the other days

Shalt depend on what thou doest today!

(Then calling out in one final rallying cry)

Let us write another page in history,

In that golden dossier of valour,

Giving that bear a taste of British steel!


The hunting party finally set out on the trail of the fearsome bear responsible for Carter’s death, with the Master of the Hounds at the lead. In spite of the carefully laid traps that Herr Mueller had set, there was not a bear to be seen as they hunted high and low throughout the afternoon, having likely been scared off by all the commotion earlier in the day.

Whilst King Richard and Grand Prince Ivan were doubtless disappointed by the lack of a big game adversary to track down and kill, they satisfied themselves instead with the hunting for mostly smaller game, particularly deer and wild boar, who were hunted down by the score and then killed in a crossfire hurricane of spears and arrows, throughout the course of the day.

All in all, the hunt had been brought to a more than satisfactory conclusion, even if the main prize that’s they had both originally sought eluded them. The only downside to the whole venture was some minor injuries amongst the servants and groomsmen, with the worst of them being the young Greek lad named George, who had suffered a minor gouging from one of the deer, probably as a result of imbibing too much ale the night before that impaired his reflexes in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, King Richard’s surgeon was convinced that the young man would only be out of action for a couple of weeks, and that he would then be back to work as good as new, albeit a fair bit the wiser for his experience.

Act 6 Scene 8:

The Lawn, Ivan’s summer retreat. (The Play Within a Play)


Ivan and Richard returned from their hunt to a lavish feast at Ivan’s summer retreat, with a menu comprising flame roasted boar and venison, along with various other Muscovite delicacies. Once the feast was completed, it was announced that some entertainment had been arranged in King Richard’s honour, to take place outside on the grass in front of the main house.

The two leaders, with their various attendants and advisors, made their way around to where a makeshift stage had been built in their absence, with seating for the audience strategically placed in preparation for what Richard assumed to be a theatrical play of some kind. Ivan and Richard were soon seated in the two throne-like chairs that had been placed prominently in the centre directly in front of the stage, whilst their entourages made do with wooden benches on either side and behind them, arranged more or less in order of importance and influence from front to back, and from centrally to the wings.

Once everyone was seated, and the general hubbub had died down, the play began. To Richard’s eye it was a very strange play indeed, with three very bad actors playing in the lead roles. The King was later to learn that these three main performers went by the names of Halper, McCabe and Ohr, and were actually from a rather famous troupe of travelling players. Known as the Perkins Coie players, they toured regularly throughout Europe over the summer months, even venturing further north to the more far-flung regions such as Österland, bringing with them their self-styled brand of theatrical performance to both aristocrat and peasant alike.

The play that they were performing, a self-penned piece known as “Much Ado About Nothing”, focussed on courtly intrigues surrounding the ascent to power of a broadly unpopular ruler in a far off mythical kingdom. This newly crowned monarch was much beloved of the ignorant peasants, but was also deeply despised by certain prominent members of his own Royal court. These courtiers took it upon themselves to work behind the scenes to undermine their new King’s popularity at every turn, and to obstruct his every move on the political stage, whether by fair means or foul. These dissenters were motivated mainly by the hope of eventually deposing their sovereign through various complicated and underhanded schemes, replacing him instead with a leader deemed to be more enlightened and progressive; one who might better reflect the ethos of their kingdom and its subjects.

One of the principal actors in the piece, who went by the stage name of Eugene Ohr, assumed the central role of Claudio, a character whose suspicious nature makes him all-too-quick to believe in the evil rumours circulating regarding the new King’s alleged past indiscretions. He had descended into utter despair at his ascent to power, and this then led him to attempt to take his revenge in an act of treason against the Crown. Although ill-equipped for the demands of his role, and clearly lacking the charisma required to provide a more compelling performance, Ohr nonetheless plodded through his lines without the slightest emotional connection to the audience, while his character engaged in a variety of far-fetched machinations that strained what little credibility such a hackneyed plot could ever hope to achieve.

The Irish actor by the name of McCabe, on the other hand, was conspicuous by his over-confidence in his acting abilities playing the role of Conrad, a confederate of the new King’s main rival, Don John. Conrad was in possession of a certain dossier that cast aspersions on the King’s behaviour and integrity, the contents of which would normally have been given little credence by the general populace, let alone by the wiser members of the Royal court. But such was Conrad’s enthusiastic support for its content that the documents were taken largely at face value by a significant number of courtiers as a true and honest reflection of the King’s character. It was to Conrad’s misfortune, however, that the dossier’s contents were soon to be discredited, leaving him lamenting his loss of favour in the eyes of not only his peers but also of his sovereign, who duly cast him out into the ignominy of permanent exile.

Some of the other main players in the troupe fared somewhat better, with Nellie Ohr (in contrast to her husband) being a very fine actress indeed, nearly stealing the show with a bravura performance as the duplicitous heroine who encourages her husband Claudio to undermine the King. McCabe’s wife also toiled manfully in the less than glamorous role of Conrad’s conflicted, yet dutiful wife, but these lesser lights were among the few who played their roles with enough conviction to carry the play beyond the mediocre.

Last but certainly least was the worst actor of the trio, Stefan Halper,  who played one of the pivotal roles in the play as Dogberry the Watchman, a portrayal that was a mere caricature of exaggerated villainy on the one hand, while constantly forgetting his lines on the other. In the action of the play, his character’s primary role was to guard the Royal palace from possible intruders, patrolling its environs with his various henchmen in order to keep out the assorted thieves, bounders and scoundrels who might endanger the King or his subjects, either physically, morally or financially. But rather than performing those duties expected of him, Dogberry turned his energies instead to attempting to entrap the King’s loyalists with false allegations of treason, for the purpose of blackmail for monetary gain. Ironically perhaps, Dogberry’s command of the English language was somewhat awry and provided the greatest obstacle to the success of his schemes, as he often used words in a completely inappropriate way, more often than not achieving the exact opposite of his intentions due to his failure to communicate coherently.

In one of the pivotal scenes of the play, the unscrupulous Dogberry is seen casting a watchful eye over the bona fides of a certain Countess Veselnitz, a somewhat manipulative and duplicitous woman who was seeking a private audience with the King. Being totally disinterested in his main role in guarding the King from any potential interlopers, Dogberry was more than happy to accede to her request, in return of course for her being complicit in the gathering of any information that might compromise the King, or otherwise cast him in an unfavourable light.

“Much Ado About Nothing”

Act 3 Scene 3* (*of the play within a play)

(Author’s Note: All of Dogberry’s mispronunciations and word substitutions are italicised and in bold)

Dogberry: (quizzically)

Prithee, wherefore dost thou seeketh, mistress,

To perverse with our sov’reign most esteem’d?

Countess Veselnitz: (taken aback)

My good man, I had no such intention!


I thought thou requesteth to insult him?

Countess Veselnitz:

Insolent wretch! I wish to speak with him,

So that I might convey intelligence

To the King about his adversaries.

It wouldst giveth advantage to hear it!


A Watchman as indigent as I could,

With the improper inducement of course,

Be persuaded to allow thee to pass.

Countess Veselnitz: (sidling up next to Dogberry, stroking his face and gazing suggestively into his eyes)

What sort of inducement wouldst thou prefer?

Dogberry: (temporarily taken off guard, and now sweating profusely and tremulous)

As pre-empting as thy offer might be,

I must confess to having other plans

In putting thy feline wiles to good use.

Countess Veselnitz: (draping one leg around him suggestively)

What intrigues wouldst thou haveth me perform?


A mere stifle is all I ask, mistress.

To enrage the King in conversation,

Wither he might declare his pretension

To stubborn acts of reason ‘gainst our realm.

Countess Veselnitz: (somewhat bemused, but persisting nonetheless)

I shall to thy request accede, watchman,

With the events to thee convey’d anon.

Dogberry: (gesturing to his offsider Manforte to accompany the lady)

Then I shalt let thee pass beyond this point.

Manforte shall take thee to the tower,

Where thy repeal shalt be consummated

In a private meeting with his Highness.


Dogberry’s offsider Manforte duly conveyed the Countess to the tower, where she expected to meet with the King to share information she had acquired about some of his enemies at court. She hoped this information would lead the King to look more favourably upon her family’s business interests, as well as those of her friends in the neighbouring kingdom who, it would be fair to say, had not enjoyed particularly favourable treatment from the previous monarchs in days gone by.

However, Countess Veselnitz was destined to be disappointed, as the King’s son met with her in the King’s stead, only very briefly and appearing completely unimpressed by her revelations, and was utterly disinterested in entertaining the possibility of dispensing any favours whatsoever for either her family or her friends.

As a consequence, she was also unable to extract anything remotely incriminating for Dogberry’s benefit, leaving her frustrated and none-too-pleased given the distinct lack of success achieved for all of her efforts. When she returned to the gate, she was greeted once again by Dogberry, who was just as unhappy with the Countess’ failure to deliver on her end of the bargain.


It appears our plans are thwarted, mistress!

Couldst thou not defile the King’s son and heir,

And supplicate him in our tangled web,

With thy legendary charm and beauty?

Countess Veselnitz:

Alas, the King’s young son remained immune

To any such temptations of the flesh,

Despite using all the womanly wares

I possess in my ample arsenal!


A change of plans is in the offering!

We shalt encourage George, the King’s lackey,

To imbribe well beyond his fair measure

Of our local potent distillation,

To loosen even his most loyal lips!


Thus, the play meandered on with Dogberry trying every conceivable tactic to compromise his King, but he was thwarted at every turn, whether through his tendencies to miscommunication, plain bad luck, or because of the high degree of vigilance displayed by those within the King’s inner circle of advisors.

Finally, in the play’s denouement, the choice of title of the play becomes clear, as all Dogberry’s plans and schemes are seen for what they are, a politically motivated trifle, and a none-too-subtle attempt to entrap a ruler who, despite his acknowledged personal flaws, had not acted in any way to compromise his legitimacy as the nation’s King.

Act 5 Scene 4* (*final scene of the play within a play)


Woe alas! I have less than newt to show

For all my plans and schemes hath gone astride!

Don John: (defiantly)

We must persevere in our endeavours,

Until this unruly King is cast out,

For his many crimes ‘gainst taste and virtue!

(pausing to ponder further, and perhaps for effect, then raising his finger skyward)

In my gainsaying, I shall not repent,

And in naysaying, I shall not relent!

(Enter Conrad)

Conrad: (distressed)

My dossier hath been discredited!


Thus, I must into exile flee, dear friends,

Or my time on this Earth shall meet its end!

Don John:

Indeed, the King shall no doubt soon revoke

Those privileges my station allows,

To intimidate me into silence!


But I shall not to his coercion yield!

Our blessèd kingdom shall soon triumph o’er

This treasonous liar and charlatan!


Surely, we canst enwrap the sovereign,

In a web of his own lies and deceit?

Don John:

Thus far he hath eluded our efforts

To bring him to full account for his crimes.

But, his luck surely canst not long endure,

Before his comeuppance comes, swift and sure!


The King shall doubtless ride his luck a’pace,

Yet nought have I to promote his demise.


No longer canst I tarry, gentle friends,

But prithee good fortune in thy labours!

I now for safe harbours abroad depart,

Wither innominate I shalt reside.

(mounting his horse, with parting words giving a not so subtle hint to the destination of his exile)

Au revoir, mes frères. Adieu to ye all!

(Exit Conrad, riding off)

Dogberry:  (turning his attention to Don John)

The King hath his spies ev’rywhere, milord!

We must take care to hold our thoughts private.

One canst not know who watcheth the watchmen,

But this poor watchman dareth not find out!


Following the performance of “Much Ado About Nothing”, the Grand Prince had arranged to round off the evening with an eclectic mix of Russian folk ballads, dancing troupe performances, musical interludes and poetry readings from various local artists, in order to display his innate patriotism and deeply held love of his native culture. Thereafter, a vivid re-enactment was staged of “the Battle of the Ice”, a battle fought between the great Novgorodian Prince Alexander Nevsky and the Livonian Teutonic knights (sadly, given the season, without the benefit of any ice and snow), during which Ivan swelled with conspicuous pride as this pivotal event in Russian history was depicted in a highly spirited and realistic mock battle.

This entertaining mix was rounded out with a smattering of performers drawn from all around Britain and Europe, especially in honour of Ivan’s English guests. One of the highlights of the evening, from King Richard’s perspective at least, was a reading from a witty young Gaelic poet from just beyond The Pale, who told the humorous tale of a fair young maiden whose virtue was indelibly sullied by a prospective suitor, having the utter temerity to remove a lock of her hair without her consent. He called this charming piece of poetic whimsy “The Rape of the Lock”, and he delivered it with such perfect comedic timing and conviction that the King fairly roared with laughter at the gently mocking depiction of the foibles of the fairer sex. The young poet, known only as Kavanaugh of Kildare, began his reading thus:


“What dire offence from am’rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things?

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred lord t’ assault a gentle belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor’d,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?

In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?
Hear and believe! thy own importance know,
Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.

Some secret truths from learned pride conceal’d,
To maids alone and children are reveal’d:
What tho’ no credit doubting wits may give?
The fair and innocent shall still believe.

Think not, when woman’s transient breath is fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead;
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And tho’ she plays no more, o’erlooks the cards.

For when the fair in all their pride expire,
To their first elements their souls retire:
Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste
Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embrac’d:

What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades,
Safe from the treach’rous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark?

When kind occasion prompts their warm desires,
When music softens, and when dancing fires,
‘Tis but their Sylph the wise celestials know,
Through honour is the word, with men below.

This erring mortal levity may call,
Oh blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.
This to disclose is all thy guardian can,
“Beware of all, but most beware of man!”

Wounds, charms, and ardors were no sooner read,
But all this vision vanish’d from thy head.”


Having laid this foundation for the piece in his introduction, the action of the poem then began, delivered in a mock heroic tone and deriving much of its humour by drawing absurd comparisons with figures from Greek and Roman mythology. The trifling incident was then built up higher and higher, until it was given an equivalence to such classical epic tales as the abduction of Helen of Troy, and the Odyssey of brave Ulysses.

By the end of the tale, the absurdity of this comparison became readily apparent to all but the most ignorant of observers, leaving the rest rolling in the aisles in fits of laughter at the sheer idiocy of so much being made out of such an unlikely, and largely trivial event.

The evening’s entertainment drew to a close on this rather high note, and the two sovereigns then wandered off back to their respective bed chambers in very high spirits indeed, well satisfied with the course of the days events, and having further solidified their mutual admiration, co-operative relations and friendship.

Sadly though, King Richard’s stay had finally come to its end, with he and his entourage due to depart by ship for England from the port of Helsinki the following morning. Thus, in due course, the King would set sail for his homeland, refreshed from this most pleasant sojourn and ready to reassert his authority upon his return to his Kingdom, where some unfinished business with the rebellious Duke of Buckingham and Henry Tudor duly beckoned.


Act 7 Scene 1:


King Richard sailed back in his fleet of ships back across the North Sea on the homeward journey, and soon arrived back at Norfolk after his immensely pleasurable, if all too brief visit as the honoured guest of Moscow’s Grand Prince. Once back on home soil, it soon became apparent that much had changed in those few short weeks of the King’s absence, with the nation caught in the grip of a mysterious and virulent plague, one that had spread like wildfire from town to town at surprising speed, leaving many thousands of the dead and dying in its wake. This lethal new plague had created a pervasive climate of fear and panic that gripped the populace right across the length and breadth of the kingdom, with the peasants hiding away within their homes in cold and dank conditions for days and weeks on end in the vain attempt to protect themselves from any contact with their neighbours and friends, who might then bring these bad “humours” and evil spirits with them. The streets of the larger towns and cities in particular were distinctly empty in stark contrast to those self same streets prior to King Richard’s recent Russian expedition, with only a few stray corpses of some of those recently deceased now littering the sides of the roadways, where their illness had laid them gasping for their very last breath in the throes of an untimely and distressing death.

Rumours abound as to the source of this deadly contagion, with many initially pointing the finger of blame at an Oriental man who had somehow made his way from the mystic East to join the crew of the Demeter, a merchant ship that sailed under the flag of the Hanseatic League, and who had fallen seriously ill just prior to arriving at port at Bishop’s Lynn. No sooner had this strange appearing man been carried off the ship onto the dock than he drew his very last distressed breath and promptly expired, and within a couple of days many of his fellow ship mates, and some of those others who had come into closest contact with him dockside, came down with very similar symptoms: declining into paroxysms of coughing, high fevers, rigors and sweats, then eventually lapsing into delirium and a very severe shortness of breath. Many of these unfortunate souls would soon perish, and as the death toll mounted exponentially in close proximity to the dockside environs, the contagion soon spread its tentacles out across Bishop’s Lynn township, and onward far and wide into the Norfolk hinterland and beyond, until soon there was no corner of the realm that would be left untouched or untainted by this deathly plague.

One thing was certain, however, and that was that King Richard’s untimely absence from his kingdom was seen by all and sundry as not merely a portent of the evil to follow, but in the minds of many it was perceived to be the fundamental cause of this calamity, being a clear and unequivocal sign that God had been angered by the King’s absence, and that He had instigated a divine punishment in the form of this plague, sent forth in retribution for King Richard’s arrogance in leaving his subjects so utterly defenceless whilst he pursued frivolities abroad.

It took no time at all for King Richard to sense this growing hostility amongst his subjects, and he was determined therefore to meet this challenge head on, firstly by holding large rallies of his most faithful followers to show them that he was entirely unafraid of this contagion, and thus to reassure them that this dreadful disease would soon, by the grace of God, disappear entirely from the realm and that life would soon return to normal under his kingly guidance and spiritual leadership.

With the ever-burgeoning numbers of his subjects succumbing daily to the plague across his kingdom, King Richard knew that he would soon have to match his proclamations with deed, and so he summoned his Apothecary Royal (and former physician to Pope Sixtus IV), Monsignore Segugio Faucini, to an audience at Westminster, where a plan of action could be put in place to fight back against what had become an ever-worsening crisis, as death stalked the countryside like a pack of ravening wolves. His wisdom in matters of the medicinal arts was renowned across the known world, and Richard was sure that he could entrust the task of bringing this plague to an abrupt and satisfying end to his capable hands.

Westminster Palace. The Great Hall.


Monsignor Faucini, in spite of his eminent position as Apothecary Royal, preferred to live in very modest quarters on the grounds of Westminster Palace so he could be adjacent to the bell tower, where he maintained thriving roosts of both noctules and serotines in its belfry, studying these winged creatures day and night as part of an abiding interest in their habits, feeding patterns and especially in understanding the nature of the various diseases they were known to carry. Faucini subscribed to the unorthodox theory that unlocking the secrets of those diseases found in these humble creatures might one day then help in solving many of those diseases and maladies that had serially blighted humanity throughout the ages.

So, it was a mere short stroll for the good Monsignor to the Great Hall, where he hoped during his audience with the King to persuade his sovereign of his grand plan to overcome this dreadful contagion blighting the kingdom. His plan involved utilising a special formula that Faucini had concocted using blood extracted from his vast collection of bats, which would then be scratched into the skin by a process he termed “inoculation”, a technique he had learned from an Oriental healer whom he had the good fortune to meet during his time in service at the Holy See.

King Richard III:

What sayest thou, Monsignor Faucini?

Dost thou maketh progress in thy delving?

Monsignor Faucini:

My studies hath yielded much of promise,

And I believe a solution is nigh!

King Richard III:

My subjects in thy debt shalt always be,

Shouldst thou bringeth this dark plague to its end!

We place great faith in thy capacities,

And heed the fruits of thy wisdom anon.

Monsignor Faucini:

I hast obtain’d a new cauldron of bats,

From confrères in Moldavia’s uplands.

They showeth greatest promise in my quest,

To find bat’s blood of the purest essence,

For inoculating those poor peasants,

To protecteth them from this maladie.


Little did King Richard know that the new “cauldron of bats” to which Monsignor Faucini had just referred had been brought to England on the self same ship, the Demeter, that had been widely assumed to be the source of the plague all those weeks ago. The strange Oriental “sailor” who had been the first to perish from the contagion was in reality the poor unfortunate soul who had been charged with looking after the welfare of this highly prized cargo on Faucini’s behalf: dozens of whiskered bats who were sourced from caves found in the Carpathian Mountain region of Eastern Europe, whereafter they were transported down the length of the Danube River by boat, and from there overland to the Baltic port city of Lübeck, prior to the final leg of the voyage to Norfolk.

Notwithstanding this rather inconvenient role that Monsignor Faucini had played in the genesis of this plague, the Apothecary Royal remained the best, if not only hope of mitigating the death and destruction in its wake, with his grand scheme to inoculate the populace with bat’s blood to protect them from the worst manifestations of the disease. King Richard listened intently to the sage advice from his adviser, and knowing no other course of action to take, gave his seal of approval to rolling out these blood inoculations right across the kingdom.

Over the coming months, Faucini worked tirelessly harvesting blood from his bats, and inoculating tiny amounts under the skin of every last man, woman and child in London Town and its surrounding areas. Before long, a few unexpected effects began to be noted amongst some of the recipients of Faucini’s novel remedy, with some of the peasants suffering violent convulsions, others vomiting blood and still others descending into madness, chasing and eating various insects, rodents and other vermin in the vain hope of capturing their “life essence”. In spite of these undoubtedly negative effects from his treatment, Faucini was determined to continue on this path he had set upon completely undeterred, confident that his cherished new treatment was the panacea he was certain it would eventually prove to be.

As luck would have it, the plague had ravaged such a large proportion of the populace in such a short period of time, and those who had been previously sick and infirm had largely perished in quick succession, leaving a mountain of corpses in its wake. However, most of those who did not succumb to the contagion initially eventually recovered to their fullest health, so there remained an ever-dwindling number of those who might still be susceptible to the plague, even without the bat’s blood inoculation program that Faucini had put in train. And therefore, whether predominantly by good luck or by good management, Monsignor Faucini’s program was considered by the common throng to be an overwhelming success, notwithstanding a few unfortunates who would spend their remaining years in torment at Bedlam having lost their mind as a consequence of their reaction to the inoculation.

King Richard’s tarnished reputation, sullied by his misadventures abroad, had been for the most part restored through the popular perception of the successful program that had been formulated by his Apothecary Royal, and which the King had so conspicuously expedited. With the worst of the crisis averted, the peasants were both relieved and grateful, and were soon no longer alarmed and clamorous to be led to safety from the unseen spectre that had just bedevilled them. In due course, this dreadful plague and its catastrophic toll of death and suffering would be consigned to history, with its painful memory destined to fade eventually for many, although the scars would clearly linger for some long after King Richard’s reign would come to its inevitable end.

Westminster Palace. The Great Hall. Three months later. A ceremony to honour the contributions of Monsignor Faucini.

King Richard III:

Monsignor Faucini, thou hast my thanks,

And also that of a grateful nation.

Monsignor Faucini:

Thanks be to thee, majesty, for thy faith

In support of my novel treatment plan,

That hath deliver’d us from the sickness

Which so blighted our fair and hallow’d land.

King Richard III:

In recognition of thy grand service,

I shalt bestow upon thee an honour,

Reserv’d for the noblest Knights of my realm:

A “Knight of the Order of the Garter”!

Monsignor Faucini:

Thy kingdom hath now regain’d its function,

With thanks to Science, and the Grace of God.

King Richard III:

Furthermore, I shall erect a folly,

To distinguish thy ingenuity,

In a manner worthy of thy exploits,

In taming this dread scourge that so plagued us.

(thinking for a moment)

It shalt be located in London’s south,

Surrounded by lavish ornate gardens,

With diverse botanical specimens,

To aid their study and taxonomy.

Monsignor Faucini:

Thou art too kind and generous, my liege!

Thou art truly a patron of Science.

King Richard III:

And to house those blessed, winged creatures

That thou hast studied so rigorously,

Therein I shalt build for thee a tower;

A Pagoda in Oriental style,

Ten storeys high and two hundred foot ’round,

And I shalt nameth it: “Batman’s Folly”!

Monsignor Faucini:

I canst not think of an honour more apt,

To venerate those most noble creatures,

Who brought this plague to its ultimate end.

Their healing prowess now is knownst to all.

(Exeunt all)

Act 7 Scene 2:

An encampment near Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Having lived in exile under the protection of Francis II of Brittany for the previous 14 years, the Earl of Richmond (Henry Tudor) had landed a small expeditionary Lancastrian force, supplemented by a smattering of likeminded Scottish and French soldiers, hoping to join forces with the now rebellious Duke of Buckingham, whose armies had been engaging King Richard’s loyalist forces in a series of uprisings over the preceding few months.

In his exile, Henry Tudor had come to enjoy the luxuries and pleasures of the flesh that had been routinely afforded him during his French sojourn, including acts of such debauchery that would clearly be utterly inconsistent with the moral standing required of one who aspired to the crown. Henry had also developed quite the overwhelming appetite for a powerful concoction he had brewed up for himself that comprised a mixture of opium, sherry wine and herbs, a formula to which he had been introduced during his youthful travels through those lands east of the Urals that fell under the rule of the Golden Horde. So much so, that most of the day during Henry’s encampment had been spent in a drug-fuelled haze, cavorting shamelessly in the lewdest possible fashion with the ladies-in-waiting to the wife of their Welsh host Rhys ap Thomas, and in no shape whatsoever to command his troops in their forthcoming advance to meet King Richard’s forces.

As a consequence of Henry Tudor’s ongoing intoxication and serial womanising, Jasper Tudor was forced to step into the fray, in spite of his advancing age and failing faculties, as the figurehead leader of the Lancastrian forces, whereupon some of the wags amongst the ranks had figuratively nominated him as “King Jasper the First”, whilst others who had some smattering of knowledge of pre-Norman English history referred to him instead, depending on whether of Danish or Anglo-Saxon inclination, as either “Aethelred the Totally Unready”, or as “Edgar the Bewildered”.

In spite of his tendencies to becoming somewhat muddled in mid speech, or confused as to his whereabouts, or falling asleep at the smallest pretext, Jasper’s amiable and sincere personality led many others to overlook these serious deficiencies in the common interest of the Lancastrian cause, seeing him as the only chance of ever restoring their hegemony.

But even the ever-patient and fiercely loyal Jasper has his limits…………

Jasper Tudor: (pulling back the flap of his son’s smoke filled tent to enter)

Dost thou intendeth to waste all thy days,

Cav’rting with these maids and taking drugs?

C’mon man! Curb thy unseemly urges,

And prepareth thee for the task ahead!

Richmond (Henry Tudor): (ensconced in the arms of two scantily clad young ladies-in-waiting, smoking an exotic pipe, from which trailed a tendril of highly pungent and aromatic smoke)

Don’t rag on me, sir. I has’t mine own needs,

Which art without limit and unsated!

The temptations and pleasures of the flesh

Doth in truth beguile and entranceth me,

And I am therefore held fast in its thrall,

Powerless to resist its wiles and charms.

Jasper Tudor: (in a frustrated tone)

How dost thou hope to inspireth thy troops,

In giving life and limb to battle’s fray,

When thou hast surrender’d to wickedness,

Without a care for thy obligations?

Richmond (Henry Tudor): (slurring and incoherent)

I bethink this pipe may hast a crack in’t,

As ‘tis making smoke but without much blow!

(turning to the half-clad young lady perched precariously in his lap)

What sayest thou, my lubricious strumpet,

Wouldst thou followeth me into battle?

Doth I inspireth thee with word and deed,

That wouldst soon prick thee into action?

(Slapping the young lady’s thigh, laughing uproariously and then rolling onto the floor in locked embrace with her)

Jasper Tudor:

I hath wasted my breath beseeching thee,

And allow I’ve fail’d in thy cause now lost!

(Exeunt, in disgust)

Act 7 Scene 3:

Jasper Tudor’s tent, elsewhere in the Lancastrian encampment.


Jasper Tudor was clearly exasperated and at the end of his tether with the errant behaviour of his young nephew, someone whom he had nurtured and fostered, treating him with the love and affection that one would normally have expected to be reserved for one’s own son. He had gone out of his way, at great personal cost, during young Henry’s exile to provide him many advantageous dealings with both royal and aristocratic contacts amongst the European nobility for his betterment, only for these opportunities to be met with apathy and indolence, frittering them away with incompetence, arrogance and disdain.

Jasper was now forced to watch as the smartest young man he had ever known descended into a bottomless well of debauchery and drug-taking, in the process abrogating all of those responsibilities that came hand-in-glove with the privilege and legacy of his high-born birthright. All his efforts to promote a bright and auspicious future for his young nephew had been torn asunder by Henry’s self-indulgent depravity.

Jasper’s illegitimate daughter, Helen Tudor, watched this spiral into iniquity with a mixture of amusement and anticipation. Indeed, she sensed that now had cometh the hour to act in her own best interests, undermining her much hated cousin by manipulating her kindly but doddering father into assuming leadership of the Lancastrian cause in Henry’s stead, and manipulating him to her whims and most deeply held desires.

(Enter Jasper Tudor)

Helen Tudor:

Wherefore the scowl on thy visage, father?

Has’t thee an event weighing upon thee?

Jasper Tudor: (in an annoyed tone)

I fear young Richmond, thy belov’d cousin,

Hast lost his way and is unfit to lead.


He leaves me in the direst position,

Whither I must assume authority,

And lead our forces ‘gainst King Richard,

Whilst he cavorts with harlots and strumpets!

Helen Tudor: (sensing her moment)

I believeth him in nature to be

Too erratic and capricious by far!

In spite of thy advancing years, father,

Thou hast no alternative but to lead,

Or our Lancastrian cause shalt perish!


I shalt support thee with my arts and wiles,

And we shalt bring our brethren together,

Setting them on the path to victory!

Jasper Tudor:

‘Tis with a heavy heart that I assume

This mantle of responsibility,

Which, with thy help and unfailing support,

Shalt relieve our land of this Yorkist curse!

(Exeunt Jasper Tudor, with a flourish and a surprisingly sprightly spring in his step)

Helen Tudor: (to herself)

Cousin Henry’s days are surely number’d,

With the die now irretrievably cast.

No longer must I live in the shadow,

Of that most unworthy heir apparent.


The stain of my bastard filiation,

Once deemed indelible and shameful,

Shalt now be cleansed to fullest purity,

So that I might reclaim my well-earn’d due.

(pauses again, now becoming more strident and resolute in tone)

I shalt rule the roost by senile proxy,

Using my father as my surrogate,

With him being mere putty in my hands,

To mold and shape to a kingly semblance.


Act 7 Scene 4:


Having at least temporarily restored the faith of his people, and thereby his pre-eminent position as sovereign ruler of all England, after the ravages of the recent plague that had blighted his kingdom, King Richard now set his sights on decisively defeating the forces of his one time ally the Duke of Buckingham, and thereafter in meeting the impending challenge of the Lancastrian would-be usurper, Henry Tudor, who was gathering his armies in Wales to mount a challenge to wrest the Crown from Yorkist hands. King Richard therefore offered a bounty of 1000 pounds for the Duke of Buckingham’s head, and smaller but still sizeable bounties for any other rebel conspirators, and then directed his generals to attack Buckingham’s forces from all sides before they could join up with the 3,500 soldiers in Wales under Henry Tudor’s command.

Salisbury. Town Square.

(Enter the Sheriff, and Buckingham, with halberds, led to execution)


Will not King Richard let me speak with him?


No, my good Lord: therefore be patient.


This is All-Souls’ Day, good fellow, is’t not?


It is, my Lord.


Hastings, and Edward’s children, Rivers, Grey, 

Vaughan, King Henry and thy fair son Edward,

And all those victims that have miscarried

By underhand corrupted foul injustice,

If that your moody discontented souls

Do through the clouds behold this present hour,

Even for revenge, mock my destruction!


Why, then All-Soul’s Day is my body’s doomsday.

This is the day that, in King Edward’s time,

I wish’t might fall on me, when I was found

False to his children or his wife’s allies;

This is the day wherein I wish’d to fall
By the false faith of him I trusted most;
This, this All-Souls’ day to my fearful soul
Is the determined respite of my wrongs:
That high All-Seer that I dallied with
Hath turn’d my feigned prayer on my head
And given in earnest what I begg’d in jest.
Thus doth he force the swords of wicked men
To turn their own points on their masters’ bosoms:
Now Margaret’s curse is fallen upon my head;
‘When he,’ quoth she, ‘shall split thy heart with sorrow,
Remember Margaret was a prophetess.’
Come, sirs, convey me to the block of shame;
Wrong hath but wrong, and blame the due of blame.



The Duke of Buckingham was taken away, to a chopping block that had been placed in his honour, adjacent to the aptly named Boar’s Head Inn. In short order the hapless Duke’s head was relieved of the burdensome encumbrance of his body, courtesy of the kindly hooded executioner seconded for the occasion, and much rejoicing and cheering was heard to emanate from the gathered crowd at his demise.

Act 7 Scene 5:

Richmond’s tent. The Lancastrian encampment.


Having obtained more than his fill of wine, nubile young women and hallucinogenic drugs from the mystic Far East, Henry Tudor had eventually passed out for several hours on his divan. Once aroused from his intoxicated slumbers, the Earl of Richmond soon sought refuge in his other abiding passion, that of composing works of art. Henry had developed an intriguing painting technique utilising his exotic pipe rather than a brush, blowing various coloured inks over the canvas in seemingly random patterns that only he could readily discern. Whilst his art might well have been an acquired taste, he certainly pursued it with an overwhelming passion, spending hour upon hour producing various art works that he one day hoped he might display in the hallowed corridors of Westminster Palace, once his destiny of becoming King had inevitably been fulfilled.

Of course, just exactly how Henry might attain the Crown whilst whiling away countless hours on frivolous pursuits such as these was anyone’s guess, and clearly his cousin Helen Tudor had other ideas for the forthcoming Lancastrian reign entirely.

(Enter Helen Tudor, giggling inappropriately)

Helen Tudor: (sarcastically)

How goeth the struggling artist, cousin?

(Pauses, waiting for a response that never came)

How dost thou expect those brave young soldiers

To follow thee, a wastrel, in battle?

(with disdain)

Thou art a disgrace to the Tudor name!


Thy jealous heart is there for all to see,

Consum’d with envy for my heritage.


I didst drink heartily from life’s chalice,

And shalt maintain resolute in this vein,

Till my last despairing breath hast been drawn.

So be of good cheer, my treach’rous cousin,

For I wilt lead our troops with distinction,

Whilst sinning wildly to my heart’s content.

Helen Tudor: (triumphantly)

Thy cockiness wouldst seem a tad foolish,

Once thou apprehend Buckingham’s demise!

Thou canst not rely on him to bolster

Thy laggard and unmanly stewardship.


Sayest thou Buckingham has met his end?

How hast thou cometh across this dread news?

Helen Tudor:

I hath spies embed in the Royal Court,

Who sent word of his death this very morn.


From what reacheth my little ear, cousin,

Thou hast bedded more than thy informants!

Helen Tudor:

Mine past seductions art mine own affair,

And nay business of thine, thou bull’s-pizzle!

Thou art that most notable of cowards,

Hourly promise breaker, endless liar,

And owner of no one good quality!

Thou hast some gall in disparaging me.

Richmond: (leering)

Woman, thou art an easy glove, methinks,

That swiftly goes on and off at pleasure!

Helen Tudor: (defiantly)

Thou art a boil, an embossed carbuncle,

And a plague sore in my corrupted blood!

Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit,

For I am sick when I do look on thee.

Thou art unworthy of thy appanage,

A bawbling boy wearing big man’s breeches.

(Exeunt, with a flourish)

Act 7 Scene 6:


With the advance of Lancastrian forces in the offing, King Richard sought to shore up support amongst his loyal, and some not so loyal, supporters amongst the nobility. Whilst Richard Ratcliffe, William Catesby and Francis Lovell were loyal and dependable to a fault, and could be relied upon under any circumstances, while others like John Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, and his son Thomas, the Earl of Surrey, also remained steadfast in their support of the Yorkist cause.

King Richard had long suspected, however, that Lord Stanley, a man of immense wealth and influence in his Royal Court, was potentially likely to betray him and defect to the Lancastrian cause at the first opportunity, in spite of making a great show of his loyalty to the King notwithstanding his former Lancastrian affiliations.

Preemptively, therefore, Richard insisted that Lord Stanley’s son George, Lord Strange, take his place at court under the King’s watchful gaze and “protection”, as a token of his father’s good behaviour. As a consequence, Lord Stanley was left under no illusions as to what that might mean for his son’s safety should he ever waver from his total support of King Richard during the impending conflict.

Meanwhile, Henry Tudor and his troops had left their encampment in Wales and had begun their march overland toward Shrewsbury, ready to engage King Richard’s forces at some point between there and London. The Lancastrian forces had been bolstered by those of the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Oxford, Sir Gilbert Talbot, Sir John Savage and Rhys ap Thomas, although Lord Stanley remained in the wings, unable at this stage to align himself with his former Lancastrian colleagues due to his son being King Richard’s captive.

Of course, Henry Tudor remained in a permanent state of intoxication, a prisoner to debauchery and hedonistic pleasures of the flesh, and so was little more than a mere passenger on this march toward the final conflict. His uncle and mentor, Jasper Tudor, had assumed command of these forces in his stead and on his behalf, much to the delight of Henry’s cousin, Helen Tudor, who could see her plans for eventual rule by proxy through her somewhat addled father coming tantalisingly close to fruition.

A camp, near Bosworth Field.

(Enter King Richard, in arms with Norfolk, Surrey and others)

King Richard III:

Here we shalt pitch our tents, in Bosworth Field.

My Lord of Surrey, why look you so sad?


My heart is ten times lighter than my looks.

King Richard III:

My Lord of Norfolk…….?


Here, my gracious liege.

King Richard III:

Up with my tent there! Here will I lie tonight;

But where tomorrow? Well all’s one for that.

Who hath described the number of the foe?


Six or seven thousand is their utmost power.

King Richard III:

Why, our battalion trebles that account.


Richmond’s uncle Jasper rallies their troops

But barely a handful art thus inspir’d.

King Richard:

Besides, the King’s name is a tower of strength,

Which they upon the adverse party want.


One canst scarce imagine much resistance

From so dejected and motley a crew.

King Richard III:

Up with my tent there! Valiant gentlemen,

Let us survey the vantage of the field

Call for some men of sound direction

Let’s want no discipline, make no delay,

For, lords, to-morrow is a busy day.


Act 7 Scene 7:

Bosworth field.


The Lancastrian forces, undermanned though they might have been, approached from the west towards Bosworth Field, where their advance scouts informed them King Richard’s armies had set up their encampment. They began by pitching their own tents and setting up their camp on the opposite side of the field, in anticipation of engaging in what they hoped would be the definitive battle to wrest control of all England the following day from the hated White Boar of York.

With both sides happily entrenched at a safe distance in their positions on either side of Bosworth Field as the evening’s shadows fell, final plans were being finalised and brought to fruition for the battle to come, one which would decide the fate of the kingdom for decades, or even centuries to come.

Yorkist encampment. King Richard’s tent.


“How could this rabble hope to challenge, let alone defeat someone so universally admired and well loved as me?”, thought Richard. In the midst of battle, the King was convinced that his God given skills and intellect, and the righteousness of his cause would win the day, even without his once trusted confederate in Buckingham by his side. Still, as he retired to bed for the evening, a feeling of unease and even dread began to creep ever so stealthily into his consciousness, and it was with these final thoughts that he drifted off into restless sleep.


Enter Ghost of Prince Edward, the Black Prince, son of King Henry VI.

King Richard is aroused from his slumbers, looks on in trepidation as an apparition in the form of the Black Prince appears before him.

Ghost of Prince Edward:

Let me sit heavy on thy soul to-morrow.

Think, how thou stab’dst me in my prime of youth,

And my cherish’d Anne at thy hand slaughter’d!

Those ill-starr’d souls who dwelt in Washing Town

Perishing in a whirlwind of balefire;

Hast thou no hint of remorse or conscience?

King Richard III: (defensively)

Wilt thou enforce me to a world of cares?

(now defiant)

Thou cameth at me fast and furious,

Entrapp’d me in the crossfire hurricane

Of false accusations and vile slander,

But thy plans fell awry and I prevail’d;

So, I am unmoved by thy entreaties.

Ghost of Prince Edward:

Thou hast robbed me of my just legacy;

The Black Prince bids thee to despair, and die!

(the ghostly apparition then disappeared as abruptly as it came)

Enter Ghost of King Henry VI.

Ghost of King Henry VI:

When I was mortal, my anointed body

By thee was punched full of deadly holes

Think on the Tower and me: despair, and die!

Harry the Sixth bids thee despair, and die!

King Richard III:

Thy perforated body was well earn’d,

Consid’ring those corpses left in thy wake.

Thou didst affiliate with degen’rates

And engaged in acts perverse and debauch’d;

If black scandal or foul-faced reproach 

Attend the sequel of thy imposition,

Thy mere enforcement shall acquittance me 

From all the impure blots and stains thereof!

Ghost of King Henry VI:

Thou has’t murd’r’d mine own jointress and son,

And Richmond shalt my vengeance consummate!

King Richard III:

Thy deprav’d corruption was thy downfall;

Begone, and take thy rightful place in hell!

(the second ghost then dissolved into the aether)

Enter the Ghost of Queen Margaret.

Queen Margaret:

Think on me, Queen Margaret, thou rooting hog,

Cleaved in two brutally by thy broadsword!

Witness my son, now in the shade of death;

Whose bright out-shining beams thy cloudy wrath

Hath in eternal darkness folded up.

Witness my dear husband, by thy falchion pierc’d,

A deplorable and callous slaughter,

Consigning him to an ignoble end.

O God, that seest it, do not suffer it!

As it was won with blood, lost be it so!

Let my curses ring loudly in thy ears

As thou meet the fate prophesied for thee!

King Richard III:

Hie thee to hell for shame, and leave this world,

Thou cacodemon, there thy kingdom is.

Thou walked a crooked path, paved in falsehoods,

Until thou hadst no haven left but death;

In truth, thou hadst no one left to lie to,

And no friends left alive to defend thee.

Thy death, indeed, wast timely and deserv’d,

Cheer’d by most and mourn’d by a precious few.

Enter the Ghost of Clarence.

Ghost of Clarence:

Let me sit heavy on thy soul to-morrow!

I, that was stabb’d to death by loathsome brutes,

Poor Clarence, by thy guile betrayed to death!

To-morrow in the battle think on me,

And fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!

King Richard III:

Thou didst bathe in the reflected glory

Of the triumphs of siblings and forebears,

And hid meekly under our mother’s skirts

When true courage and mettle was required;

I have nought to beg pardon for, brother;

Thou wast just not shaped for kingly duties!

Enter the Ghosts of Rivers, Grey and Vaughan.

The Three Ghosts: (in unison)

Foul betrayer of all that is holy,

Despoiler of our common faith and creed;

Think upon us all, and with guilty fear,

Let fall thy lance, villain, despair and die!

King Richard III:

All of thee hadst fail’d in thy support for me;

Undermining my reign at ev’ry turn.

The nobility held me in contempt,

Whilst many fair promotions wert given

To ennoble those that scarce were worthy.

The Three Ghosts: (in unison)

To-morrow is thy day of last judgement!

If thou e’er thought the Horn of Gabriel

Wouldst ne’er trump for thee, thou wert mistaken!

Enter the Ghost of Hastings.

Ghost of Hastings:

Think on thy servant Hastings, Majesty;

My loyalty imposed so high a price,

With my reputation forever stain’d,

My family and legacy ruined,

And my life forfeit to the chopping block!

Thy followers shalt lament the price paid

For their service in fighting for thy cause,

When the battle’s lost and the day is done.

Enter the Ghost of Lady Anne.

Ghost of Lady Anne:

Richard, thy “wife”, that wretched Lady Anne,

That never slept a quiet hour with thee,

Now fills thy sleep with perturbations;

To-morrow in the battle think on me.

King Richard III:

Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!

Thou fell victim to thy own deception,

When thou didst strive to stab me in my sleep.

Though those that are by love’s desire betray’d

Do feel the treason of betrayal sharply,

Yet the traitor stands in worse case of woe!

Enter the Ghosts of the Young Princes.

Ghosts of the Young Princes: (together)

Dream on thy cousins smother’d in the Tower:

Let us be led within thy bosom, Richard,

And weigh thee down to ruin, shame, and death!

Thy nephews’ souls bid thee despair and die!

King Richard III: (in a rare moment of contrition, perhaps due to the sight of those dead young innocents, or possibly worn down by the unrelenting cavalcade of corpses he had left behind him)

So mighty and so many my defects,

And so much is my poverty of spirit, 

That I had rather hide me from my greatness.

I am unfit for state and majesty,

And rather hate myself, my young nephews,

For hateful deeds committed by myself;

I am indeed a most abject villain!

Enter the Ghost of Buckingham.

Ghost of Buckingham:

The last was I that helped thee to the crown:

The last was I that felt thy tyranny:

O, in the battle think on Buckingham,

Thy brother in arms, whom thou hast murder’d;

Dream on, dream on, of bloody deeds and death;

Hold fast thy cause ’till thou’st drawn thy last breath!

The Ghosts vanish.

King Richard starts out of his dream.

King Richard III: (to himself)

O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!

The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.

Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by:

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,

And every tongue brings in a several tale,

And every tale condemns me for a villain.

Perjury, perjury, in the high’st degree

Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;

All several sins, all used in each degree,

Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!

I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;

And if I die, no soul shall pity me:

Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself

Find in myself no pity to myself?

Methought the souls of all that I had murder’d

Came to my tent; and every one did threat

To-morrow’s vengeance on the head of Richard.

Act 7 Scene 8:

Lancastrian Encampment. Richmond’s tent. Midnight.

Richmond sleeps, dreaming of past conquests, but not (sadly considering the gravity of the occasion) of a military kind.

Suddenly ghosts of Richmond’s past begin to appear, but not a King, or Prince, or noble person amongst them.

Enter Ghost of a scruffy ruffian, one dishevelled in appearance, and who reeked of some exotic odours reminiscent of those found in dens of iniquity.

Ghost of Scruffy Peasant:

Think on me, Richmond, thy friend and ally;

Procuring those exotic remedies

That nourish’d our souls and broaden’d our minds;

Good angels guard thee from the boar’s annoy!

Enter the Ghosts of 3 buxom maidens, scantily clad and slovenly dressed.

Ghosts of Three Courtesans: (together)

O Henry! Think on us, who lay with thee;

Soothed thy furrow’d brow, reliev’d thy woeful gloom.

We, who sated thy lusts and gave thee cheer,

Our bodies defiled and morals debased,

Wish thee well, and may angels protect thee!


Quiet untroubled soul, awake, awake!

Arm, fight, and conquer, for fair England’s sake!

Ghosts vanish, without a trace.

Richmond awakens, refreshed and energised.

Richmond: (to himself)

The sweetest sleep, and fairest-boding dreams

That ever enter’d in a drowsy head!

Thus refresh’d, my soul is very jocund

In the remembrance of so fair a dream.

(Pauses, contemplating the battle to come)

To mark well the victory to follow,

I shalt imbibe my specially made brew,

To instil the courage and fortitude

One wilt need for the battle’s fray to come.

To follow, a soothing inhalation

Of aromatic spices from the Orient

Shalt calm the nerves and sharpen the resolve,

To challenge and defeat the Yorkist King.

Act 8 Scene 1:

Bosworth field. Yorkist encampment. The King’s tent.


In spite of a night of fitful and disturbed sleep, and a conscience crowded with the ghosts of his past misdeeds and perfidy, King Richard managed to rest sufficiently to awaken refreshed, ready for the battle to come. His confidence was by now completely undeterred by such portents, and he remained cocksure and resolute in the certainty that his intellectual and moral superiority would carry the day, and the outnumbered Lancastrian forces would wither and then succumb in the face of Yorkist might.

Enter Ratcliffe.


My lord!

King Richard III:

Who is there?


My lord; ’tis I, Ratcliffe. The early village-cock

Hath twice done salutation to the morn;

Your friends are up, and buckle on their armour.

King Richard III:

What thinkest thou, will our friends prove all true?


No doubt, my lord.

Be not afraid of shadows, my liege.

KIng RIchard III:

What says Northumberland about Richmond?


That he was never trained up in arms.

KIng RIchard III:

He speaks the truth: and what says Surrey then?


He smiled and said ‘The better for our purpose.’

King Richard III:

He was in the right; and so indeed it is.

Clock striketh

Ten the clock there. Give me a calendar.

Who saw the sun to-day?


Not I, my lord.

King Richard III:

Then he disdains to shine; for by the book

He should have braved the east an hour ago

A black day will it be to somebody.



My lord?

King Richmond III:

The sun will not be seen to-day;

The sky doth frown and lour upon our army.

I would these dewy tears were from the ground.

Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me

More than to Richmond? For the selfsame heaven

That frowns on me looks sadly upon him.

Enter Norfolk


Arm, arm, my lord; the foe vaunts in the field.

King Richard III:

Come, bustle, bustle; caparison my horse!

Call up Lord Stanley, bid him bring his power:

I will lead forth my soldiers to the plain,

And thus my battle shall be ordered:

My foreward shall be drawn out all in length,

Consisting equally of horse and foot;

Our archers shall be placed in the midst

John Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Earl of Surrey,

Shall have the leading of this foot and horse.

They thus directed, we will follow

In the main battle, whose puissance on either side

Shall be well winged with our chiefest horse.

This, and Saint George to boot! What think’st thou, Norfolk?


A good direction, warlike sovereign.

This found I on my tent this morning.

He sheweth him a paper

King Richard III:


“Jockey of Norfolk, be not too bold,

For Dickon thy master is bought and sold.”

He screweth up that treasonous paper, and shooeth it away in disgust.

‘Tis a thing devis’d by the enemy!

Payeth no heed to these poisonous lies!


Go, gentleman, every man unto his charge

Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls:

Conscience is but a word that cowards use,

Devised at first to keep the strong in awe:

Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.

March on, join bravely, let us to’t pell-mell

If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell!

Act 8 Scene 2:

Bosworth Field. Lancastrian encampment. Richmond’s tent.


On the other side of the field, a scene of quite a different colour was being played out. Richmond’s generals had come to fetch him in his tent, only to find the would be sovereign in a state of inebriation and utter disrepair. Lying sprawled upon the floor, naked as a newborn babe, and rambling incoherently: Richmond was clearly in no fit state for battle on that, or any other morn.

After shuffling him back into his bed to sleep his drug-fuelled binge off, Jasper and Helen Tudor gathered the remaining Lancastrian leadership together to formulate an alternative plan for their now leaderless and somewhat undermanned cause. At Helen’s behest, they decided instead to employ various underhanded tactics to level the playing field in the conflict using smoke from bonfires to hide their true numbers in the fight, and large mirrors to not only reflect light into the eyes of their opponents, but also strategically placed to make the Lancastrian forces appear more numerous than they truly were.

Having set upon Helen Tudor’s smoke and mirrors strategy as a path to an unlikely victory, they hoped to catch their Yorkist opponents unprepared, thereafter riding the wave of confidence to gain the ultimate ascendancy. In anticipation of this strategy being adopted, Helen Tudor had sent out her agents the day before across the countryside near and far, confiscating any looking glass of any dimension or description that they could find amongst the well-to-do households in the towns. Their mission now accomplished, these emissaries had just returned to the encampment where preparations of large wooden pyres for the proposed bonfires were being finalised.

As luck would have it, Helen’s plan relied on a day of bright sunshine for maximum effect, and the early morning pall and gloom at Bosworth Field suddenly lifted upon their arrival back to camp, a portent the Lancastrians took as boding well for the day of battle ahead. God must indeed have been smiling upon them, reinforcing the justness of their cause in His, and consequently their eyes.

Soon, the fires were all lit and large bellows augmented them to a raging conflagration, with reams of smoke filling the field before them, reducing visibility to a few feet in front of one’s face. Some of the largest mirrors were place high on each flank above the field, placed adjacent to horsemen and foot soldiers in such a way as to give the impression of far larger numbers on the Lancastrian side than were truly present. Any small looking glasses were carried by some of the soldiers in hand, with the aim of reflecting the sun’s rays into the eyes of the Yorkist soldiers, dazzling them with shafts of sunlight to impede their vision momentarily in the midst of mortal combat.

Jasper Tudor:

Why, then ’tis time to arm and give direction.

Helen Tudor:

Father, I trust thou art ripe for command

Since my cousin has proved so unworthy.

Jasper Tudor:

Messengers hath been sent to Lord Stanley

Which shouldst help guarantee his inaction,

With our agents moving to protect his son,

Who’s held at court as the King’s prisoner.

Helen Tudor:

His regiment lies half a mile at least

To the south of King Richard’s mighty force;

If he holds to his current position,

When the battle’s action is in full swing,

The Boar’s armies wilt be put in panic

Uncertain where his true allegiance lies!

Jasper Tudor:

(Reading from his pre-written oration, to the small handful of his troops gathered about him)

More than I have said, loving countrymen,

The leisure and enforcement of the time

Forbids to dwell upon: yet remember this,

God and our good cause fight upon our side;

The prayers of holy saints and wronged souls,

Like high-rear’d bulwarks, stand before our faces;

Richard except, those whom we fight against

Had rather have us win than him they follow:

For what is he they follow? Truly, gentlemen,

A bloody tyrant and a homicide;

One raised in blood, and one in blood establish’d;

One that made means to come by what he hath,

And slaughter’d those that were the means to help him;

Abase foul stone, made precious by the foil

Of England’s chair, where he is falsely set;

One that hath ever been God’s enemy:

Then, if you fight against God’s enemy,

God will in justice ward you as his soldiers;

If you do sweat to put a tyrant down,

You sleep in peace, the tyrant being slain;

If you do fight against your country’s foes,

Your country’s fat shall pay your pains the hire;

If you do fight in safeguard of your wives,

Your wives shall welcome home the conquerors;

If you do free your children from the sword,

Your children’s children quit it in your age.

Then, in the name of God and all these rights,

Advance your standards, draw your willing swords.

For me, the ransom of my bold attempt

Shall be this cold corpse on the earth’s cold face;

But if I thrive, the gain of my attempt

The least of you shall share his part thereof.

Sound drums and trumpets boldly and cheerfully;

God and Saint George! Tudor and victory!


Jasper’s speech was greeted with a warm, if not exactly enthusiastic response from the gathered soldiers attending, and would have been all the more impressive were it not for the constant presence of his daughter, Helen Tudor, who stood directly to his left behind him, whispering continually in his ear to keep him on task with the speech that had been pre-written for him.

Nonetheless, Helen remained confident that her gift for trickery and fakery would carry the day in spite of her father’s obvious limitations as leader, as the outnumbered Lancastrians moved forward nervously to their positions. Smoke was billowing generously from the numerous fires lit by the Lancastrians, and drifted right across the field of battle thanks to a helpful breeze from the west, and as the drums of war began their relentless beat, the army began moving slowly but surely onward toward the Yorkist position.

Act 8 Scene 3:

Bosworth Field. Yorkist encampment.

King Richard III:

(His off-the-cuff oration to a huge throng of his troops)

What shall I say more than I have inferr’d?

Remember whom you are to cope withal;

A sort of vagabonds, rascals, and runaways,

A scum of Bretons, and base lackey peasants,

Whom their o’er-cloyed country vomits forth

To desperate ventures and assured destruction.

You sleeping safe, they bring to you unrest;

You having lands, and blest with beauteous wives,

They would restrain the one, distain the other.

And who doth lead them but a paltry fellow,

Long kept in Bretagne at our mother’s cost?

A milk-sop, one that never in his life

Felt so much cold as over shoes in snow?

Let’s whip these stragglers o’er the seas again;

Lash hence these overweening rags of France,

These famish’d beggars, weary of their lives;

Who, but for dreaming on this fond exploit,

For want of means, poor rats, had hang’d themselves:

If we be conquer’d, let men conquer us,

And not these bastard Bretons; whom our fathers

Have in their own land beaten, bobb’d, and thump’d,

And in record, left them the heirs of shame.

Shall these enjoy our lands? Lie with our wives?

Ravish our daughters?

A drum is heard far off.

Hark! I hear their drum.

Fight, gentlemen of England! Fight, bold yeomen!

Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head!

Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood;

Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!

Enter a messenger.

What says Lord Stanley? Will he bring his power?


My lord, he doth deny to come.

King Richard III:

Off with his son George’s head!


My lord, the enemy is past the marsh;

After the battle let George Stanley die.

King Richard III:

A thousand hearts are great within my bosom:

Advance our standards, set upon our foes!

Our ancient word of courage, fair Saint George,

Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons!

Upon them! Victory sits on our helms.


Act 8 Scene 4:

Blasts of military music (trumpets and drums) and flurries of soldiers fighting. 

Norfolk and Catesby enter with soldiers fighting.


Rescue, my lord of Norfolk, rescue, rescue!

The King enacts more wonders than a man,

Daring an opposite to every danger.

His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights,

Seeking for Richmond in the throat of death.

Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!


As bravely as King Richard fought, taking on all comers like a man possessed, seemingly trying to decimate his opponents singlehanded, his searching the battleground for the Earl of Richmond was proving to be a fruitless task, as the would be future King was safely curled up in his bed, sleeping off a cocktail of drugs that would have felled King Richard’s horse with one deft swig.

As the battle raged on, King Richard’s great bête noire of days gone by reared it’s ugly head, as the King’s painful heel spurs began to hobble his capacity to move from one combatant to another, until he could barely walk another step.

Enter King Richard III.

King Richard III:

A horse, a horse, my Kingdom for a horse!


Withdraw, my lord. I’ll help you to a horse.

King Richard III:

Knave, I have set my life upon a cast,

And I will stand the hazard of the die.

I think there be six Richmonds in the field;

Five have I slain today instead of him.

(Calling out)

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!


Act 8 Scene 5:


In spite of the cunning chicanery of the smoke and mirrors strategy from the Lancastrians, King Richard’s forces seemed initially to be prevailing in the battle royal between the two Plantagenet houses. For good measure, the fires that the Lancastrians had lit to provide a smokescreen for their troops, had spread firstly to some of their own tents that were soon consumed in flame, and then spread westward as a grassfire to a couple of the townships nearby.

Fortunately, Henry Tudor’s tent was spared, as he slept on oblivious to the conflagration around him. The towns to the west were not so fortunate, with many of their buildings and homes burnt to the ground within a matter of hours. Such are the fortunes of war, and those were about to change dramatically in the Lancastrians’ favour as the battle raged on into the early evening, with a sudden reversal of their fortunes quite literally to come under the cover of darkness.

Blasts of military music (trumpets and drums). King Richard enters surrounded on all sides; they fight and King Richard is killed. The trumpet sounds to signal a retreat. 


The Earl of Richmond, at the sound of the trumpet, staggered out of his tent bleary-eyed and stark naked, wandering aimlessly across Bosworth Field until he stumbled over King Richard’s corpse. Spread-eagled across the fallen King, the surrounding victorious Lancastrian soldiers, in spite of their misgivings at the embarrassing spectacle before them, raised a loud cheer to the soon-to-be newly crowned King of all England!

Richmond: (now standing, triumphant and proud, more composed now having regained his wits somewhat from his previous inebriation)

God and your arms be praised, victorious friends,

The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead!

Lord Stanley: (crowning the naked Henry Tudor, now King Henry VII)

Courageous Richmond, well hast thou acquit thee.

Lo, here, this long-usurped royalty

From the dead temples of this bloody wretch

Have I pluck’d off, to grace thy brows withal:

Wear it, enjoy it, and make much of it.


Great God of heaven, say Amen to all!

But, tell me, is young George Stanley living?

Lord Stanley:

He is, my lord, and safe in Leicester town;

Whither, if it please you, we may now withdraw us.


What men of name are slain on either side?

Lord Stanley:

John Duke of Norfolk, Walter Lord Ferrers,

Sir Robert Brakenbury, and Sir William Brandon.

Richmond: (in a vague attempt at regal gravitas)

Inter their bodies as becomes their births:

Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled

That in submission will return to us:

And then, as we have ta’en the sacrament,

We will unite the white rose and the red:

Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,

That long have frown’d upon their enmity!

What traitor hears me, and says not amen?

England hath long been mad, and scarr’d herself;

The brother blindly shed the brother’s blood,

The father rashly slaughter’d his own son,

The son, compell’d, been butcher to the sire:

All this divided York and Lancaster,

Divided in their dire division,

O, now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,

The true succeeders of each royal house,

By God’s fair ordinance conjoin together!

And let their heirs, God, if thy will be so.

Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,

With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!

Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,

That would reduce these bloody days again,

And make poor England weep in streams of blood!

Let them not live to taste this land’s increase

That would with treason wound this fair land’s peace!

Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again:

That she may long live here, God say amen!



And so the troubled reign of King Richard III came to an end. When news of his demise finally reached London, a large number of his most loyal followers amongst the peasantry stormed Westminster Palace in protest at the Lancastrian usurpation of England’s Crown. After a brief melee with the guards at Westminster, a large number of these supporters entered the premises and then occupied several rooms within the palace for many hours, with several dignitaries (including the Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham) having to seek refuge within a secret passageway in the cloister behind Westminster Hall, in fear of their very lives.

Eventually, however, the great unwashed grew tired of their rather pointless occupation of Westminster Palace and they then wended their way home, disconsolate that their beloved sovereign had been so cruelly deposed, and that the Lancastrian usurpers had been restored to England’s throne. In short order, Henry Tudor, now King Henry VII, returned to London to assume the throne, but as is often the case, the leopard rarely changes his spots, and the newly crowned sovereign would spend much of the next decade in various states of intoxication, these being represented to his subjects as either blackouts or migraines to hide the true extent of his incapacity. Jasper Tudor, on the other hand, remained the principle figurehead in his nephew’s stead, in spite of his faculties and memory continuing to fail progressively over succeeding years, leaving his illegitimate daughter Helen Tudor as the true ruler of England, guiding the nation by proxy through her father, in the absence of her cousin who was almost permanently “indisposed”.

Decades later, at a secluded point on the eastern fringe of the Yorkshire Moors, the ruins of a stone statue was found at the foot of a sea side escarpment: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone still stood. Near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lay, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, told that its sculptor read well those passions he embodied. And on the pedestal below these words appeared:

“My name is Richard the Third, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside this remains. And around the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lonely and level sea stretches far, far away.

The Ghost in the Machine


The phrase “Ghost in the Machine” is an expression that has become emblematic of the modern era, one which has been utilised in many different contexts with various meanings, both implicit and explicit, over the last seven or eight decades. More recently, it has become an ever more ubiquitous concept that now effectively pervades our collective consciousness, particularly as the advance of the modern technological age continues relentlessly and, in the eyes of many, remorselessly to our spiritual and intellectual detriment.


To some of us at least, this metaphor of a “ghost in the machine” resonates more prominently in our minds because it reflects the broadly-held perception that our human “spirit” is in many ways trapped within the machinery of the very technology that we have devised and nurtured, ironically serving to prevent the fullest expression of our true and basic humanity. This is the central theme of many a classic science fiction novel or film (“2001: A Space Odyssey” in particular), as well as in Japanese ‘Anime’ cartoons and art work, while it is also the inspiration to two of the most seminal rock music albums of the modern era: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and Radiohead’s “OK Computer”. As a result, this definition of a “Ghost in the Machine” has been the one to gain a significant degree of primacy, almost by osmosis, in Western and Asian culture at least, and particularly with the pre-millennial and millennial generations.


Although rough equivalents or variations of this phrase date back as far as Ancient Greece, it is in the 20th century that it was most prominently put forth on the rather broken path to its present day meaning through the works of Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in his 1949 book “The Concept of Mind”. In it, Ryle critiques the dogmatic adherence of modern philosophers to the mind/body theories of Rene Descartes, wherein a general consensus viewed the mind as being completely separate and distinct from the physical body, a philosophical dogma that has come to be known as “Cartesian dualism”.

Ryle was determined to prove this idea as false on a first principles basis, and in derisive fashion he refers to the human “spirit” as depicted under this doctrine as being merely a “ghost in the machine” of our physical bodies, where in reality the human mind is completely reliant, and a manifestation of, our nervous system and its interaction with the environment to which it is exposed.


It is, however, the next iteration in the evolution of this phrase that I wish to primarily examine and critique, that being the work of Hungarian born philosopher and author Arthur Koestler nearly 20 years later, that built upon and somewhat modified Ryle’s original idea and writings. Koestler brought Ryle’s concept to much wider popular attention in his widely read 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine, which takes Ryle’s phrase as its title but then endeavours to take his concept to a new and more specific meaning.

When Koestler alluded to the “Ghost in the Machine”, he instead referred to what he perceived to be a fatal flaw found within the human psyche that leads to our innate propensity to fear, anger, aggression and violence, a flaw that Koestler contends acts as a barrier to the fullest expression of our higher order thinking, to the application of logic, and to maximising our analytical capability. This fundamental design limitation, in his estimation at least, derives largely from the evolutionary processes that shaped the formation of the modern day human brain, which retained and then built upon earlier, more primitive brain structures.


While Koestler’s hypothesis undoubtedly has much of merit to recommend it, I would contend that it fatally underestimates the fundamental necessity of being able to draw upon these basic primitive emotions, and the functions that these particular “ghosts” actually perform within “the machine” of our human psyche as a matter of necessity, without which we as individuals (and collectively as a species) would be unable to survive, let alone thrive.

Koestler’s proposition suggests that these primitive brain centres could ideally be dispensed with in order to maximise our logical and analytical thought, but that presupposes a world without any significant threat or danger, and therefore one without any need for aggression or anger or violence under circumstances in which one or all of these actions or responses would not only be appropriate, but necessary for our survival, or the protection from external threats of either our selves or those others who depend upon us.


Our instinct of “fear”, for example, serves an even greater function than merely protecting us from physical or emotional threats. This heightened emotional state with its attendant physiological changes enables increased vigilance through increased blood flow to the brain to improve attention and focus (thereby allowing rapid assessment of any threat), but also serves equally to perfuse our skeletal muscles to facilitate any fight or flight response to that danger, especially when often there may be little or no time to respond logically or in a considered fashion to such a perceived threat.

I would also argue that without fear, many of our most precious and meaningful experiences would seem inordinately bland and passionless precisely because of the absence of that fear, whether it be a fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, or fear of being humiliated before our peers or loved ones. Part of the emotional depth or resonance of any experience, it seems to me, comes in the context of avoiding that which we most dread. Victory, for example, is sweeter overcoming fear of failure, whilst love is all the more fulfilling knowing that one could so easily have been rejected or abandoned.


It is clear and obvious that wholly irrational fears are entirely unhelpful and potentially self-destructive to the individual, but then the opposite should also hold true for any rationally held fears, since this helps to ensure that the threat and its response are proportionate to one another, and therefore fear in these circumstances is a legitimate and indispensable tool for survival. Thus it is not the instinct of fear itself that is to be dispensed with, but rather it requires an overlay of logical processing to give that specific fear its context and proportionality, and then to help mediate the appropriateness of our responses to that fear.

Unfortunately, most sensate creatures are unable to process such higher responses in a timely enough fashion to respond effectively in many rapidly evolving circumstances, leading to the necessity for an automatic response based upon instinctive reaction.  It is also worth noting that it is by no means invariable that the logical or considered response is always a better response than an immediate one, as many a rueful regret could have possibly been averted if we had followed our instincts, at least in certain situations, and where a failure to trust those instincts has eventually proven costly,  as our hyper-vigilant state clearly picked up on certain cues that our logical brain functions managed to miss.


Clearly, it is difficult to argue that much of what is wrong with our society throughout its history can be traced, in part at least, to our propensity to unreasoning anger and aggression, and to our tendencies to violent responses, but the very opposite of this (the total absence of anger, aggression and violence) suggests a society marked by complete conformity and passivity in the vein of H.G.Wells mythical “Eloi” in his seminal fictional novella, “The Time Machine”.

The lives of the Eloi, as depicted by Wells, are utterly banal and colourless having regressed to a life of such intellectual stagnation and passive compliance that they are unable to defend themselves from their competitors: the “Morlocks”, who prey upon the Eloi and feed on their flesh in order to survive. The regressive Eloi live in a completely co-dependent, communal society and dwell either in the blissful ignorance of hedonistic pleasure, or are paralysed by an immense fear of the unknown, being completely devoid of either self-sufficient survival skills or any trace of individuality.


Whilst a preponderance to unreasoning violence is clearly counter-productive to overall social cohesiveness and even could potentially compromise species survival as we evolve technologically, the behaviour of “aggression” is in many ways a necessary feature of the human condition, defending vulnerable loved ones and offspring from potential threats to their safety, as well as establishing social hierarchy and mating prioritisation based on the fitness to survive in a hostile environment. It is linked to territoriality and competitiveness, and is hard-wired into the genome of most if not all higher order species, mankind included.

“Violence”, on the other hand, is an extension of this necessary survival characteristic, but it is more often than not misapplied to promote sadistic pleasure in the suffering or deprivation of others, or to the greed of coveting the possessions or wealth of others, or to promote the pursuit of power over individuals, groups, or (in the extreme case) nations. Such acts of violence can be random and sociopathic, or targeted and purposeful (such as an assassination) for one or other personal or sociopolitical purposes.


While Koestler might argue that this is merely a regression to our primal state, I would argue instead that it more reflects a socio-culturally triggered distortion of our innate survival instinct of aggression, an instinct that would otherwise be self-protective, rather than innately destructive or irrational. As evidence of this, I would cite the example of the aestheticization of violence in the media, in art and in cinema, where imagery is often presented by essentially non-violent and broad-minded people that deliberately presents concepts of violence symbolically or otherwise as desirable, or alternatively as a form of expression that is in some ways seen to be aesthetically pleasing.

This suggests that such tendencies can actually arise out of our complex higher order thinking rather than in spite of it, transforming an otherwise healthy instinct into something that would provoke senseless or random violence for its own sake. In fact, the arts has a long history of corrupting the minds of the vulnerable and the uninitiated by constructing attractive narratives around immoral or reprehensible behaviours of all kinds, representing a kind of socially constructed and wholly artificial form of propagated psychopathology that can enlighten on the one hand, yet promote the basest of emotions on the other.


Finally, in the case of “anger”, it is clear that unreasonable anger can not only provoke fear in others within a social group causing unnecessary distress (particularly to those most vulnerable), but in many instances it can have negative social or physical consequences on the person involved as a consequence of acting out on this anger. However, there is no doubt that anger directed appropriately at provocation, hurt or threat by another can contribute to better maintenance of boundaries of appropriate behaviour in others, and it can prepare us for physical confrontation when threatened by energising and physically empowering us. It can also communicate (in a crude if unmistakeable way) a sense of injustice, and can act as a motivating force for change in the face of problems or barriers to our personal or social advancement. It acts as a social signal that a conflict has occurred, and that a situation is in urgent need of peaceful resolution.

Finally, in a more cynical sense, it can also act as a strategic manoeuvre to intimidate others to achieve personally desired outcomes. Thus anger is neither primitive nor wholly instinctive, but can be informed by higher order processing that modifies the instinctive and the emotive to induce a response, sometimes controlled and calculating, while at other times it may be entirely unconstrained and counterproductive.


Many of these behaviours described above are heavily imprinted by social modelling from observation of similar behaviours amongst parents and peers, which in and of itself belies any suggestion of this being a purely instinctive regression to our primeval “reptilian” brain functions, as suggested by Koestler’s description.

Instead, these behaviours can be seen to be a complex interaction of not only instinctive responses, but of hormonal and neurochemical reactions, with learned responses in their socio-cultural context, and a filter of rational “higher order thinking” overlying these basic emotional substrates to deliver a set of behaviours that run the gamut of responses from the self-destructive to the self-promoting, from the passive to the aggressive, and from the ingenuous to the manipulative.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Author’s note:

I never cease to be amazed at just how prescient and perceptive William Shakespeare was, and how the course of human affairs recurrently follows along very similar patterns of behaviour that transfer almost seamlessly from Medieval Scotland in the 11th Century to Elizabethan England, and then on to the Australian political scene some 400 years thereafter.

Whether it be in the echoes of the tragic demise of Julius Caesar found in Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s recent political “assassination” (as I have satirised in my parliamentary pantomime: “The Tragedy of Julia Caesar”, found elsewhere on this blog site), or with current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his uncanny similarities to the famous Scottish usurper Macbeth as I have dramatised below, it is the universality of the foibles and frailties found within our collective human natures through time that is most intriguing and amusing to me.

Please note, I have included some helpful footnotes within the text that are then listed below the body of the play, particularly for those politically uninitiated or non-Australian readers, that explain most of the allusions and sundry intricacies concealed or referred to within the text. The play as I have written it, as you will no doubt notice, contains more than a smattering of unexpurgated Shakespeare where it was either deemed unavoidable, or was otherwise appropriate to promote my overall purpose, while some passages have been altered (often markedly) from the original text for dramatic or satirical effect. I have also blended into the play entirely original passages of my own devising that interweave the various intrigues of our current Australian political situation to further reinforce my assertion regarding Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension bearing many similarities to Macbeth’s actions in seizing power from the rightful ruler.

To quote Shakespeare at his best: 

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

With that in mind, what follows, dear reader, is just such a tale.

And I am, as the following readily attests, just the idiot to bring it to you.

The Tragedy of Macbeth:

A Comedy of Political Ambition Gone Awry 

            by Winston101


Dramatis Personae:

Macbeth –
Macbeth is an ultra-wealthy Thane, whose seat is the palatial Glamis Castle, which is situated within earshot of an idyllic place known as Pipers’ Point1, in the wilds of the Scottish highlands. He is led to treasonous thoughts by the flattery and half-baked prophecies of three witches2, thoughts that would soon become ever more conspicuous once their prophecy that Macbeth shall become the Thane of Cawdorcomes “miraculously” true. He is a powerful yet fatally self-important man, with a born-to-rule mentality and an over-inflated ego, lacking completely in humility and grace. He is thus easily tempted into treasonous murder to fulfill his lofty ambitions to the throne, and once crowned King, he embarks on yet further atrocities to consolidate his slender grip on power. Ultimately, however, Macbeth proves himself much better suited to Machiavellian political intrigue than to any meaningful or substantive policy. He lacks the necessary skills to rule without constantly undermining both friend and foe alike to protect his position, or to cover for his litany of failures, let alone (heaven forbid) to serve his subjects dutifully in order to improve their general health and prosperity … MALCOLM TURNBULL


Lady Macbeth –
Macbeth’s wife, and a deeply ambitious woman who remorselessly lusts for both power and position. Initially, she seems to be both strong and capable in her role, at least until her true colours are revealed, when she urges Macbeth (Turnbull) to kill King Duncan (Abbott) and seize the Crown. After the bloodshed begins, Lady Macbeth falls victim firstly to the conspicuous narcissism that attends those who would court the spotlight merely for the glamour of fame and position4, then to guilt over her serial misdeeds, until finally descending into the dark realms of madness. Her conscience, such that it is, affects her to such an extent that she eventually dies a broken woman, no doubt in no small part as she comprehends the damage that she has wrought upon both her reputation and, irrevocably, to her sovereign nation … JULIE BISHOP


The Three Witches –
Three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth (Turnbull) using charms, spells, and prophesies, in that finest of soothsaying traditions.5  Their conniving and devious predictions prompt him first to murder his King (Abbott), then to order the deaths of his close friend Banquo (Morrison) and his son Fleance (Cormann), and finally to believe blindly in his own infallibility and immortality. Just as destiny was guided by the Fates in Greek mythology, these denizens of the medieval equivalent of the fourth estate pitilessly weave the threads of political destiny to their own ends, and clearly take a perverse delight in using their dark arts to toy with and then destroy the noblest and most virtuous of human beings6 in favour of promoting the shallow, the pretentious and the ignoble … NIKKI SAVVA, PETER HARTCHER, and LAURIE OAKES


Banquo –
A once brave and noble general, famed for his hard won battles against invading hordes7, and whose heirs, according to the witches’ prophecy, will one day inherit the throne8. Like his friend Macbeth, Banquo has highly ambitious thoughts, but he (to his credit) does not immediately translate those thoughts directly into action, but nor does he (to his personal shame) intervene to prevent Macbeth bringing his ambitious treachery to fruition, a fatal flaw that ultimately leads to his demise9… SCOTT MORRISON


King Duncan –
The rightful King of Scotland, whom Macbeth murders in his ambition to usurp the Crown. The King, while not without his flaws, is the very model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler10. His ignominious death at the hand of an unscrupulous and blood-thirsty usurper symbolizes the destruction of an order that can be restored only when the King’s line of succession, in the person of Malcolm (Hastie), once more occupies the throne … TONY ABBOTT


Macduff –
The Thane of Fife, a nobleman who is openly hostile to Macbeth’s ascent to the throne from the very beginning, a hostility that grows ever more violent as the truth of his misdeeds come to the fore, and finally reaching its crescendo with the brutal murder of his wife and children. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth and to place the rightful heir, Malcolm (Hastie), upon the throne of Scotland … CORY BERNARDI


Malcolm –
The son of Duncan (Abbott) whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macduff’s (Bernardi) aid. Prior to this, he appears naive and uncertain of his own power, especially when he and Donalbain (Taylor) flee for their lives directly after their father’s murder … ANDREW HASTIE


Hecate –
The goddess of witchcraft, who helps the three witches work their mischief on Macbeth11, leading to the death of King Duncan (Abbott) and thereby causing the destruction of the rightful line of succession to the Scottish throne … BRONWYN BISHOP

Fleance –
Banquo’s (Morrison) son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him. At the end of the play, Fleance’s precise whereabouts are unknown. Presumably, he may come to rule Scotland in his own right eventually, thereby fulfilling the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s (Morrison’s) sons will eventually sit upon the throne … MATHIAS CORMANN

Lady Macduff –
Macduff’s wife. The scene in her castle provides our only glimpse of a domestic realm other than that of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She and her home serve as a stark contrast to Lady Macbeth and the hellish world in which that conspiratorial couple reside … PETA CREDLIN

The Murderers –
A group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth12 to murder Banquo (Morrison), Fleance (Cormann)- whom they fail to kill, and Macduff’s wife (Credlin) and children. A looser collection of disloyal, spiteful, self-serving and spineless backstabbers you could never hope to meet … CHRISTOPHER PYNE, ARTHUR SINODINOS, MAL BROUGH, IAN McFARLANE and GEORGE BRANDIS, among others.

Donalbain –
Duncan’s (Abbott) son and Malcolm’s (Hastie’s) younger brother … ANGUS TAYLOR 

Porter –
Drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle … CLIVE PALMER

Dr O’Loughnane

A travelling Irish physician from Limerick, who tends to the ailing Lady Macbeth … BRIAN LOUGHNANE

Lennox –

A General loyal to Duncan … BARNABY JOYCE

Sergeant – 

A Soldier …                    MARK TEXTOR

Siward –

An English General … ANDREW ROBB

Also Appearing:

First Apparition       TONY ABBOTT

Second Apparition  JULIA GILLARD

Third Apparition …     KEVIN RUDD

Act I Scene 1:


This is a chronicle of Macbeth, a man of little substance, a hollow man who aspires well above his limited capabilities and station, and who is driven by an excess of vainglory and hubris to commit the most foul and heinous betrayal, merely in the service of his own ruthless and predatory ambition. It is a betrayal of not just a noble gentleman in King Duncan, a man who embodies all of the qualities Macbeth so sorely lacks, but also Scotland as a nation and, more importantly, its people. In the hurly-burly13 of political conflict, it is invariably the interests of the common folk, those people that all true good leaders are meant to serve, that suffer most at the hands of the vaulting ambition of men such as Macbeth.

Our story begins shortly after a period of great upheaval in Scotland, with 6 years of chaos14 marred by incessant infighting and seemingly endless scheming and devious machinations that often come as a consequence of bitterly disputed rule. The source of this division came from those aligned with, and loyal to the sly and manipulative Gillard the Red15, who stood opposed to a grandiose and narcissistic fop, in the guise of Kevin of the obscure clan of MacRudd16. Through their mutual actions, these pretenders to the throne managed to thoroughly debase the noble position of monarch17 to its lowest ebb, with underhanded political intrigue and recurring coups d’etat18 becoming the order of the day, thus causing the kingdom to fall precipitously into disarray, as solemn duty to the populace became altogether secondary to a generalised debauchery, to systemic corruption for both political and personal gain, and to the over-arching ambitions of two equally unsuitable and disreputable leaders.

This period of upheaval and mismanagement was eventually brought to an end, and a new era of relative stability and repair began under the reign of a far more noble and benevolent, if somewhat imperfect King in Duncan the Brave. But, meanwhile, dark and sinister forces19 were conspiring in the background, determined to undo this hard won peace and stability, to sow the seeds of disunity and discontent, and ultimately to provoke untold mayhem and destruction.

Thus we are transported to a desolate place on a far-flung heath. A gathering storm is heard to rumble in the distance, and there is a shroud of mist which envelopes three lonely figures, hiding (momentarily at least) their most lurid and sinister purpose……………..


First Witch:

“Come here, sisters! Heed me now,

Chant with me, our solemn vow,

Round about the cauldron go,

In the poison’d entrails throw.”

Witches (in unison):

“Double, double toil and trouble,

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch:

“Within this pungent, fetid brine,

Destiny’s threads shall thus entwine!

With smell that’s utmost foul and base,

And cruel and bitter to the taste,

From all those evil things to come,

A fate that canst not be undone!”

Third Witch:

“Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake.

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”20

First Witch:

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair,21

Mischief’s here, with time to spare.”

Second Witch:

“To sow the seed of treason’s flower

And spur a heart that lusts for power

Needs but a prick from envy’s thorn

To overwhelm a conscience scorn’d”22

Third Witch:

“The fourth estate’s a liar’s lair,

For balanc’d debate?  Au contraire!23

Revenge’s flame now burning bright,

Shall light these caverns of the night”

Witches (All):

“And by the pricking of our thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes!”

Act I Scene 2:


Kowen Forest24, a camp just to the east of Dunsinane.

Narrator:  Macbeth has just returned in triumph from a comprehensive victory in the Battle of Godwin’s Grech25, over the rag tag remnants of the armies of that pretender to the throne, Kevin MacRudd. On the battle eve, Macbeth had stood proudly upon a fallen tree to deliver a stirring oration of over two hours duration to inspire his troops to action. As a result, so soundly did these soldiers sleep that they barely even stirred from their slumbers, to awaken the following morning thoroughly refreshed and energised, whereupon they proceeded to comprehensively rout the enemy. With the battle in the balance, this brave young Thane Macbeth had led a surprise rapid retreat manoeuvre26 in cleverly luring the opposing forces into pursuing him thoughtlessly into a deep ravine. Once there, they became exposed on all sides to King Duncan’s archers, who cut them down in a hailstorm of arrows until every last enemy soldier lay dead or dying. Among the dead was the erstwhile Thane of Cawdor, a once trusted ally of King Duncan, but who was destined to be seduced by MacRudd’s grandiose plans of conquest that, perhaps predictably, came to nothing but abject wreck and ruin for all concerned.

 Duncan:  Who is this bloodied man I see before me?

 Sergeant: Sire, this is the hero of Godwin’s Grech: the Thane of Glamis, Macbeth. He has slain a thousand men this very day through his bravery. In a twinkling, this gentleman hath turned tail and bolted at the proverbial rate of knots, running like a half-starved ferret into a rabbit hole did he, goading the enemy into following him with reckless abandon into an ambush. Our archers then shot their bolts straight and true, and with God’s grace, my liege, we were delivered a victory most glorious!

 Duncan:  Well played, sir! Such quick thinking shows a man of considerable alacrity and resourcefulness. In appreciation of thy deeds and undeniable courage on this great day, I shall thus confer unto thee all the titles, lands, goods, chattels and duties that the treacherous villain, the Thane of Cawdor, did himself possess prior to his demise. As Cawdor’s new Thane, thou shalt have the additional responsibility for supervising the dispersal of all the important Royal missives27, and also the great honour of making announcements to the public on the King’s behalf. What say thee, my good man?

Macbeth: (effusively) Thou, by that I mean our most noble and generous monarch King Duncan, a monarch innovative and agile and ready to meet the needs and challenges of the coming era, looking outward with benevolence and magnanimity to our friends and with courage and fearsomeness to our foes, hast bestowed upon me, thy humble servant, a servant willing and able to lay down life and limb in loyal service to his sovereign, a great honour.28

Duncan: (somewhat bemused) A grateful nation thanks thee!


Act 1 Scene 3:

A heath near Kowen Forest

Enter three witches.

First witch:

“Whither hast thou been, sister? “

Second witch:

“Having such a brilliant time,

Torturing and killing swine.

In plague proportions hereabouts,

Cull’s overdue, I have no doubts.”

Third witch:

“And what of thou?”

First witch:

“Been up to mischief most refin’d,

The lives of mortals much malign’d,

From Evil’s aim to misinform,

Truth no longer becomes the norm!”

Second witch:

“Good and true are torn asunder,

And in panic, thrash and blunder,

Noble hearts can be distorted,

With spells and charms, virtue’s thwarted!” 

(A drum sounds in the distance)

Third Witch:

“A drum! A drum! Macbeth doth come”.

Second Witch:

“Ne’er couldst be said, by mortal men,

We’d miss a chance to thus contemn,

Macbeth’s hubris which doth appall,

With pride that’s riding for a fall!

First Witch:

We’ll mock him with nautical tropes,

Setting the scene to dash his hopes,

When power seems within his grasp

Up ’til it bites him on the arse!

Witches (All):

“We weird sisters, prancing hand in hand,

Shall let it be known all across this land,

An empty vessel sails upon these seas,

And will reach our shores by aimless breeze.

Its sails being fill’d with puff and bluster,

Yet vanity’s vessel will lose its lustre,

When storm clouds gather on the horizon,

Then he’ll sink like the S.S. Poseidon!”29

(Enter Macbeth and Banquo)


Hold fast, noble Banquo!

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.


What are these that stand before us, my friend?

They resemble humble peasant women,

With their clothing so dishevelled and worn. 


One of them is a corpulent old shrew, 

With those stumpy legs and those flabby jowls.

With hair like charr’d straw plaster’d to her head,

Resembling a grossly bloated scarecrow.30


The other two are so opposed in type,

Possessing such thin and wispy fingers 

And being so wizen’d in their features!


Having such long and flowing grey beards,

Certainly makes their apparent gender 

A most questionable proposition!


What art thou ……….. 

Will o’ the wisps? Or restless ghosts? 

A coven of witches, perhaps?


Speak, if thou canst. What art thou?

First witch:

All hail, Macbeth! Thane of Glamis!

Second witch:

All hail, Macbeth! Thane of Cawdor!

Third witch:

All hail, Macbeth! Thou shalt be King thereafter!


That I became Thane of Glamis upon the death of Brendan, Niall’s son31, is well known, but how of Cawdor? This honour has only just now this very day been given to me many a mile from here by King Duncan, for my valiant efforts in the battlefield, by single-handedly killing fifteen hundred men!32 Wither comes such a prophesy that has such truth within it? And what of a King? This strange, yet oddly tantalising prophesy simply beggars belief!

Of course, I have always considered that a gentleman such as I, a man of such noble countenance and high-born lineage, would make an ideal candidate for such an auspicious honour, but dare one to hope that such a prediction could now possibly come to pass? (stares wanly into the distance, contemplating the absolute perfection that has been distilled into the shape and form of our hero, Macbeth)


And what strange intelligence canst thou share with me, oh loathsome hags?

First Witch:

To be King is naught but fantasy,

For one as misaligned as thee,33

Diplomacy seems such a clever ploy,

For those who have dwell’d in doubtful joy.

Yet thy heirs will nonetheless be able,

To feast as Kings at the Royal table.

Witches (All):

All hail, Macbeth and Banquo!

(Disappearing in puff of smoke)


What dost thou maketh of those shrivell’d crones?

They seem of unnatural possession,

Yet their predictions seem preposterous?

You, the father of Kings , noble Banquo,

And yet I am to be King before them!

It is beyond earthly comprehension

That such a happenstance could thus occur.

And yet…….


I must admit a tincture of mistrust,

As to these apparitions’ true nature.

I suggest to thee, my most noble friend,

That these malcontents mean us a great ill!

It should remain our most egregious fault

If we were to pay any further mind,

To their devilish prognostications.

I resolve to think no further on it,

And suggest thou doest the same, withal.


As thou say, Banquo, my most loyal friend.

Fear not! So shall it be.


Act 2 Scene 1:

Glamis Castle, overlooking Blackburn Cove.34 Pipers release their tuneful melody to the heavens, from their position high upon the Point.

Lady Macbeth sits reading a letter, in stunned disbelief, as her husband relates his valiant exploits on the battle field (with more than a touch of poetic license, no doubt), and the strange and supernatural prophesy of the witches for Macbeth’s predestined ascension to the throne.

(Enter a porter)

Lady Macbeth:
What is thy tidings?

Porter: (inebriated)
M’lady. Thy husband returneth from battle. He hath senteth a methenger ahead, to informeth thee to maketh preparations for the King, who cometh thish very eve.

Lady Macbeth:
This is indeed great news. Tell the servants to prepare to receive His Majesty, and also tell the cooks to make ready a feast fit for a King!

(Exit Porter)

(Aside) King Duncan has just sealed his fate, coming to reside, however briefly, under my battlements. Hiding behind a veil of polite manners and congenial hospitality,  I shall in the meantime spread any vicious rumour I can to devalue him, while working assiduously behind the scenes to undermine his integrity with those who trust and value him. I shall insinuate myself into his affairs of state to cast a shadow on his every achievement, all the while furtively throwing the cold light of day upon his every weakness, every hesitation, every misstep- all of which being performed with a most demure and womanly subtlety, of course. I shall then contact my many friends and confidants in the West Country35, and entreat them all to embark on a relentless campaign to further discredit him, piece by remorseless piece, until nothing remains but the merest shadow of his once robust fame and reputation.

I must confess that my mortal thoughts have no conscience nor compassion, no recourse to remorse, no pact with peace. My blood runs cold as ice, and is thickened in anticipation of enacting the direst cruelty upon King Duncan in the furtherance of my ambitions for my husband and myself.

(Enter Macbeth)

My dearest husband! Welcome home O’ worthy Glamis, O’ great Cawdor, and O’ noblest King that will be! Come hither.

Thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now the future in the instant! Unsex me here and now, and fill me from the crown to the toe-top full………..36


Not now, Josephine. Calm thyself, lest lustful thoughts betray thee.

I regret the cockerel failed to arise this very morn; a portent we ignore at our very gravest peril!

Lady Macbeth:

Lo! But is that a dagger I see before me?


Nay! I am but an innocent flower that lacks a serpent under it.

I shall stick my courage to the sticking place all in good time,

But he that’s coming must first be provided for.37

Lady Macbeth:

Thou shalt put this night’s great business into my dispatch,

Which shall to all our nights and days to come

Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom!


And, my Thane,

Once thou hast kept thy end of our bargain, 

Thou canst leave all the rest of it to me!


Act 2 Scene 2:

Macbeth’s Castle.


Presently King Duncan , Malcolm, Donalbain, MacDuff and Banquo, along with their assorted attendants and other members of their retinue, arrive at Macbeth’s castle, whereupon they are received by their host and hostess with all the expected fawning pleasantries and false representations of hospitality that usually attend such occasions.

Behind the curtain of conviviality, however, lurks the spectre of a dark and deadly enterprise, one which will tear the edifice of stable representative government from its very foundations.

Once the feasting had been done, the King retired to his bedchamber, where he slept in blissful ignorance that plans for his assassination were being brought to their treasonous and bloody fruition.

In the bowels of the castle, within those chambers below the unsuspecting guests, Macbeth and his wife are engaged in secret counsel, where the details of their deadly pact are being finalised.


If it were done when ’tis done,

Then ’twere well it were done quickly!

Alas, I am his host and he my guest,

And also his kinsman and his subject.

I owe him due fealty as expected

For one so lofty in position, and

Our shared bond to kith and kin.

(Pauses, thoughtfully)

Duncan hath indeed borne his faculties

With such great, unerring acuity,

And thus been so clear in his great office,

That his virtues will no doubt stand

In stark relief to mine own.

(Pauses, his mind racing with a multitude of possibilities)

Should I now take his life this very night?

Now, to kill one’s sovereign is to partake

From a chalice poison’d by one’s own hand.  

As surely as darkest night follows day, 

Dire consequences are bound to follow.38

Lady Macbeth:

Art thou afeard to be the same

In thine own act and valour,

As thou art in desire?

Woulds’t thou live a coward

In thine own esteem, my husband,

Or grab that fateful dagger

That stands right now before thee

And beckons thee to thy destiny?



Sensing his hesitancy, Lady Macbeth begins to sing playfully yet pointedly to her husband, in a taunting fashion with more than a modicum of mocking derision.

Lady Macbeth: (singing)

“In murd’rous arts, thou art somewhat callow,

In thoughts and charm, thou art far too shallow.

If thou hast no stomach for such thuggery,

Then thou, my dear, canst go to buggery!

The time’s at hand for a man of action,

To prove worthy of my lustful attraction.”

Macbeth: (replying sarcastically)

Thou leaveth no choice, my poison’d petal,

Duncan’s flesh must taste the kiss of metal.

I’ll plunge my dagger deep into his spine,

Whilst he sleeps under influence of wine,

I dare do all that may become a man,

Even though, in my heart,  I’m but a sham.


Act 2 Scene 3:

Outside Duncan’s bedchamber.


The conspiracy is now in full swing. Presently, Lady Macbeth offers the guards at the door of the King’s bedchamber a glass of wine each, as any perfect hostess should. But, unbeknownst to them, she has tainted their wine with a sleeping draught of her own concoction, and soon the guards are safely in the land of nod, while King Duncan lies asleep, awaiting his fate unguarded and defenceless.

Silently, Macbeth enters Duncan’s chamber, with legs a-trembling and knees a-weakening. He can barely contain the urge to run at the mere sight of his slumbering sovereign. As Macbeth stands over him, a wave of nausea rises from the pit of his stomach and reaches upward like an invisible hand clutching at his throat.

Unable to look, Macbeth covers his eyes with his left hand, with dagger shaking wildly in the right, and then plunges the knife into the darkness, by sheer luck he stabbed straight into the back of the hapless King Duncan.

As a stifled groan of pain is heard to emanate from this most noble gentleman in the throes of death, Macbeth proceeds to continue to stab him again and again. Four and fifty blows39 were struck into his back in an orgy of bloodlust, until the King finally struggled no more and lay stone cold dead in the comfortable bed so kindly provided by his host. Macbeth stands in startled disbelief at his actions, and then looks down upon the bloodied hands of a most treasonous usurper.

Macbeth: (to himself)

Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast, now begone!

(Exit bedchamber, bloodied dagger still in hand)

I’ve done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?

I thought I heard a cry, but cannot be sure.

Lady Macbeth:

Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy Thane,

Thou dost unbend thy noble strength, to think

Such brainsickly of things. Go get some water

And wash this filthy witness from thy hands.


Why didst thou bring these daggers from that place? 

They must lie there: go carry them; and smear

The sleepy grooms with blood to ensnare them .


These deeds must not be thought of again, 

And so forget what thou hast just done,

My husband, lest it doth make thee mad.

(Voice raised, and in an annoyed tone)

Conscience is a luxury thou canst scarce afford,

If thou hast any pretensions to Kingly robes!


My hands are of thy colour; but I shame

To wear a heart so white.


Retire we to our chamber,

Get on thy nightgown, lest occasion call us,

And show us to be watchers.

Lady Macbeth:

A little water clears us of this deed:

How easy is it, then!

And be not lost, my noble husband,

So poorly in thy thoughts.40


Act 2 Scene 4:

Antechamber to Macbeth’s castle.

(Knocking repeatedly from within. Enter a Porter, just aroused from his perennial slumber)

Porter: (yawning, half asleep, muttering under his breath)

Here’s a knocking indeed!

And I wish they’d just knock it off!

It’s not as though such a splendid

Specimen as I really needs this exercise.41


If a man such as I were the porter

Of the gates of hell, he would likely die

Of old age before the turning of the key.

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock! (to himself laughing)

Who’s there? One who in name is meek and mild?

But here is a most insubordinate woman,

Foul of mouth and lacking in the social graces,

Who now wears her independence as a cloak,

Which hides a dog that is a pup no more.42

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock!

Who’s there? Bethany’s favourite son?

Here’s an equivocator, who rose anew

From his place of final and peaceful rest,

And whose loyalty to his kith and kin,

Led him to wander from the fold.43

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock!

Who’s there?  Defender of the despot’s boot?

Here’s a most resourceful gentleman,

Who engineered his own slow degradation,

The one pup left in the devil-hound’s litter,

Who remains in his place ’till his final dissolution.44

(Knocking within)

Knock, knock, knock;

Never any peace and quiet,

For such a lumbering brute as me,

Who would prefer to stand from prehistory,

Like a hulking monument to his own folly.45


So bankrupt am I46 of earthy pleasures

That I’m scarcely worth a plugg’d nickel47

So I’ll donate liberally48 to further my desires,

And steel49 myself against these incessant calls


This place is far too cold for hell!

So I’ll play the devil’s porter no further:


T’is a shame: I had hoped to let pass

The Bishops50 and the Abbots51,

The Soldiers and the Mayors52,

The Dukes, Earls and Barons

And the Shysters53 and Charlatans54,

Who would go the primrose path,

To dwell in the everlasting bonfire.

(Knocking within)

Anon, anon! I pray you,

Remember this most portly of porters

Is not the most mobile of conveyances!

(Opens the gate)

(Enter Macduff and Lennox)


Was it so late, friend, ere thou went to bed,

That thou dost lie so late?


Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock:

And drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.


What does drink provoke, my corpulent friend?


A ruddy nose, an overactive bladder and the sleep of the dead.

I’d add a fourth in lechery, but as they say:

“What the lord giveth, the lord taketh away!”


Is thy master stirring?

(Enter Macbeth)

Our knocking has awaked him. Here he comes.


Good morrow, noble sir!


Good morrow, both.


Is the king stirring, worthy thane?


Not yet.


He did command me to call timely on him:

I have almost slipp’d the hour.


I’ll bringeth thee to him. There is the door.

(Exit Macduff)


‘Twas a very strange night indeed, milord.

Thought we heard all manner of strange noises

Coming out of the darkness near our camp.


‘Twas a rough night indeed.

(Re-enter Macduff)


O horror, horror, horror! 

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!

Noble Duncan is slain,

And lies a bloodied corpse in his bed,

A victim to the most heinous treason.

Lennox: (agape)

His majesty? Murder’d?


Awake, awake!

Ring the alarm. Murder and treason!

Shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit,

And look on death itself! Up, up, and see

The great doom’s image! Malcolm! Banquo!

Ring the bell.

(Bell Rings)

(Exit Macbeth and Lennox)

(Enter Lady Macbeth)

Lady Macbeth:

What is it that alarms you so,

That need rouse us so abruptly?


O gentle lady.

(Enter Banquo)

Our royal master ‘s murder’d!

Lady Macbeth:

Woe, alas!

What, in our house?


So cruel a fate for one so noble. Say it is not so.

(Re-enter Macbeth and Lennox)


Renown and grace is dead!

(Enter Malcolm and Donalbain)


What’s amiss?


Thy royal father is murder’d!

Malcolm: (shocked)

How? By whom?


Those who guarded his bedchamber were found,

Their hands and clothing cover’d in the King’s blood,

And daggers bloodied lay near the pillows where they slept.


O, yet I do repent me of my fury,

That I did kill them. And there lay Duncan,

His silver skin laced with his golden blood;

And his gash’d stabs look’d like a breach in nature

For ruin’s wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,

Steep’d in the colours of their trade, their daggers

Unmannerly breech’d with gore: who could refrain,

That had a heart to love, and in that heart

Courage to make ‘s love known?

Lady Macbeth: (fainting)

Help me!


Look to the lady!

(Lady Macbeth is carried out)

(Exuent all but Donalbain and Malcolm)


Am I the only one, dear brother, who smells

A treacherous rat in this most bloody business?


We are in the most mortal of danger!

Therefore, we must make ourselves scarce, brother,

Lest we meet the same fate as our father.


What wilt thou do?

Let us not consort with them:

To show an unfelt sorrow is an office

Which these false men do easily.

I’ll to England.


To Ireland, I; our separated fortune

Shall keep us both the safer: Where we are,

There’s daggers in men’s smiles.


This murderous shaft that’s shot

Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way

Is to avoid the aim. Therefore, to horse;

And let us not be dainty of leave-taking.


Act 3 Scene 1:

Outside Macbeth’s Castle


Most noble Thane of Fife,

Our troops grow wary and restless,

A’witness to unnatural portents

At every turn of their eye.

The death of Duncan has spook’d

E’en the most fearless of them.


Still, the disgruntled core of those soldiers, 

In both their hearts and minds conservative,55

Wilt surely lash out in sound and fury,56

Yet matter little in the grander scheme,57

As we turn to those thoughts more temperate. 


I, too, have seen hours dreadful,

And things most eerily strange,

As though the very heavens rebel

At those acts of men upon the bloody stage.


By the clock t’is the midst of the day, 

Yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp!

Is it the day’s shame, or the night’s dominion, 

That darkness does the face of earth entomb?


A falcon, towering in her pride of place, 

Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d.

And Duncan’s horses, beauteous and swift,

Turn’d wild in nature, and broke from their stalls.


Indeed they did, upon the amazement of mine eyes!

(Enter Banquo)


How goes the world, sir, now?

Is’t known who did this more than bloody deed?


It seems it is those whom Macbeth hath slain. 

They wore those bloodied instruments of death,

Upon their person in the fullest of glory!

Still, they may have been suborn’d to this foul act.

Malcolm and Donalbain are stolen away and fled,

Which puts upon them suspicion of the deed!

Macduff: (in disbelief)

Such thriftless ambition, against nature itself!

What manner of bestial union doth this proclaim?58


T’is most likely, now, that sovereignty falls to Macbeth,

Upon whose noble brow, the crown will rest easily, no doubt.

(Enter messenger, who passes a message to Macduff)


Macbeth is already named as king,

And gone to Scone to be invested.

I’ll now return to Fife, where I hope

To put this sorry business behind me.


Banquo: (to himself)

Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all.

As the weird women promised, and, I fear,

Thou played most foully for it! And yet, 

Those same wizened hags proclaimed, 

 It shall not stand in thine own posterity.

These oracles proclaimed that I, Banquo,

Shall be the root and father of many kings!

But, hush! No more to think upon it,

Lest such ignoble thoughts lead me on,

And light the way to dusty death.


Act 3 Scene 2:

Milady’s bedchamber, Scone castle, prior to Macbeth’s investiture.

Lady Macbeth: (gazing into a looking glass)

Out, out damn spot! Out I say!

Stars hide your fires. Let not the light see

The ravages that time has wrought upon me.

These lines upon my visage are but tiny crevices,

That by the flicker of the candle are gaping

Like mortal wounds that more resemble crevasses.

(Enter Macbeth)


How now, milady!

What ails thee?

Lady Macbeth:

My face is an utter catastrophe!

I can’t possibly be seen in public

In such a state of total disrepair.


Surely thou jest!

I am to be crown’d King of all Scotland,

I need thee at my side, more than ever.

The vagaries of thy facial features

Needs to wait for another time and place.

Lady Macbeth:

Forgive me, my dear husband.

I’m feeling vulnerable and fragile.

A quite complex lady with simple needs!

(grabbing her husband forcefully)

Quickly, milord! Mount thy trusty steed.

Draw thy sword and charge my battlements!

If thou thrust thyself into the heat of battle now,

I’ll guarantee a glorious conquest is in the offing!

Macbeth: (rolling eyes)

Calm thyself, woman!

Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;

While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.

Thou marvell’st at my words: but hold thee still;

Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.

So, for now, thou must my companion be.


Act 3 Scene 3:

Grounds of Scone castle59, upon the legendary Stone of Destiny60, the site of the coronations of Scotland’s kings since time immemorial. Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, 53 loyalist Thanes61 and their various attendants surrounding.

And so came the time for Macbeth’s ascension to the throne, in complete accord with the prophesies of the three witches. While standing in the centre of the admiring throng, Macbeth’s thoughts turned from the sea of smiling faces around him to the second element of the prophesy: that Banquo’s sons and grandsons would be future kings, and not his own.

Macbeth: (thinking to himself)

To be thus is nothing;

But to be safely thus.–Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear’d: ’tis much he dares;

And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,

He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour

To act in safety. There is none but he

Whose being I do fear: and, under him,

My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said,

Mark Antony’s was by Caesar. He chid the sisters

When first they put the name of king upon me,

And bade them speak to him: then prophet-like

They hail’d him father to a line of kings:

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrench’d with an unlineal hand,

No son of mine succeeding. If ‘t be so,

For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;

For them the gracious Duncan have I murder’d;

Put rancours in the vessel of my peace

Only for them; and mine eternal jewel

Given to the common enemy of man,

To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!

Rather than so, come fate into the list.

And champion me to the utterance!62

The coronation ceremony reached its conclusion, with the crown sitting uneasily upon Macbeth’s head. Now came the time for his acceptance speech, and Macbeth cast aside his misgivings about his rivalry with Banquo to outline his vision for the nation. And what a circuitous and addled concoction that turned out to be!


My loyal subjects,

Thanks be to thee all for having confidence in me, and for the honour and privilege thou hast bestowed upon me by installing me in this most august role as thy sovereign and most supreme ruler. I would like to begin by acknowledging the Gael and Pict peoples, upon whose lands we meet, and honour their elders past and present.63

I stand here, on the famous Stone of Destiny, ready to assume the mantle of royalty and mindful of the great Kings of posterity, from the legendary Kenneth MacAlpine the Conqueror who united the Picts and Gaels at the point of his mighty sword, to his great and noble son Donald MacAlpine, to the courageous Cullen the White, to the indefatigable Indulf the Aggressor, to the ever-ruthless Malcolm the Destroyer, to the noble Kenneth the Brown, and finally to the stable and bountiful leadership of Constantine the 1st and 2nd…………………..(pauses, momentarily)64

It is a great honour to join this pantheon of legends, having myself slain two thousand men single-handedly65 with my bare hands at the Battle of Godwin’s Grech, in a feat of bravery and strength that, quite frankly, completely defies all earthly comprehension!

Our great Scottish nation is at a crossroads, and what is needed now is an agile and innovative66 leadership, one that is prepared to adapt and change for the demands of the 11th century, an era that will no doubt be fraught with many challenges that require the quick thinking, the flexibility and even the ambivalence that only I can muster.

This is an exciting time, but also a sobering and a humbling time, a time to embrace our cultural diversity, and a time to encourage the innovation, the creativity and the agility of our people67. I intend to be a collaborative ruler, one who listens and engages, and one who instills confidence by laying out the issues before us and presents the path forward for all of us to stride confidently forth into a bright and compelling future.

I propose therefore, as my first act as your King, to restore the plan that was, ironically, once laid down by that pretender to the throne, Kevin MacRudd, and over which I have toiled assiduously in my time as Thane of Cawdor. A vast network of carrier pigeons68 is to be rolled out over the coming decade, to bring cutting edge, modern communications to the peasantry in the outlying heaths and highlands, thereby connecting them to all of their compatriots in the villages and townships of our Kingdom at lightning speeds. This will catapult our little Scottish nation rapidly into the 11th century: a bold, new era in the modern technological age.

I intend also to set aside a sum of 100,000 bronze sceattas69 in the Clan Energy Fund70 to promote the sustainable milling of grains throughout the land. These funds will be used to fell vast tracts of useless old-growth forest to build gigantic quern-stones, some 30 ell71 in girth, with massive windmills72 upon them for their source of power, to provide every clan with a millstone for their bread making. I call it “clan energy”, because each mill will often be entirely powered, when the wind is not blowing or else is blowing too powerfully to be safely utilised, by the two first born able-bodied sons of each clan, turning the stone in custom-made harness and halter73, making it not only 100% sustainable and renewable energy, but completely friendly to the environment!74

Furthermore, I intend to levy a tax on every transaction between the merchants and their customers at the village marketplaces whenever goods are exchanged, at a rate of 15 bronze sceattas per every silver sceat75. Additionally, this tax will be collected by each Thane within the grounds of his castle, and to be used for the provision of all the health and community services that their serfs expect within their feudal circle, without resort to the King’s treasury76.

Also, I intend to ask our friends in far off Gaul, to build us a fleet of submersible vehicles, made of hessian soaked in creosote77, to ward off the threat of those monstrous sea creatures that dwell within the dark waters of our lochs, lurking below the surface just waiting to attack any innocent peasants that might happen to walk along the shoreline. Of course, this will require us to levy a water tax upon every peasant in the kingdom, in order to pay the price of 500,000 Parisian livre to produce these submersibles over the next 40 years or so that will be required to build them…………..78

On and on Macbeth’s long-winded and bombastic speech continued, meandering along over every hill and down every dale, often winding circuitously around itself in an intellectual Möbius strip back whence it began, or alternatively wandering aimlessly up the garden path of the narrative until it eventually lost its trail of breadcrumbs, which indeed occurred on many an occasion on this fateful day. But, undaunted our intrepid Macbeth continued, launching a veritable armada of canards, a flotilla of fallacies, a cavalcade of platitudes and an argosy of ostentation. No sophistry was too inane, no mendacity too spurious, and no conceit too presumptuous.

As the hours ticked by, the “sea of smiling faces” gave way to looks of agonising despair, with eyes becoming progressively more staring and lifeless, eyelids drooping repeatedly, postures sagging progressively, and limbs weakening until a paralysing numbness supervened for many. Those who could discreetly leave unnoticed stole away, and as a timely and welcome darkness descended after sundown it soon became a mass exodus, until those that remained were only those poor unfortunates too conspicuously close to the “action” to be able to make good their escape.

Eventually, it would seem that even Macbeth began to tire of the sound of his own relentlessly pontificating and increasingly ponderous voice. He finally concluded his oratory with his final grand plan for the kingdom, that being the transition of Scotland from a traditional Kingdom with a monarch as the head of state, to that of a Republic where the Royal succession would be replaced by a parliamentary model with what he termed a “President” as head of state79. In this system, the “elected” leader would govern for life while his various ministers of government were subject to elections by popular vote every 4 years. Macbeth seemed completely undaunted by the fact that a similar proposition had been roundly defeated only a couple of decades prior, when just such a model was first put to the people for a vote. Nor was he in the least bit fazed by the apparent irony of his coronation this very day to then become the incumbent King of Scotland.80

Those that gathered about him, at least those hardy souls more than semi-conscious, were left to wonder whether Macbeth’s heart was truly into fulfilling the obligations of his role as King, or whether he was merely determined to be renowned as the last lineal monarch in Scottish history. None could have guessed that the real reason for this proposed sham democracy was to eliminate the possibility of Malcolm or Donalbain ever challenging for rule should they perchance clear their name of suspicion in their father’s regicide, and further to deny Banquo’s heirs any chance of their prophesied succession.

Once this seemingly interminable, relentlessly monotonous monologue reached its eventual (if not inevitable) conclusion, the remaining Thanes and their assorted attendants wended their way to bed, exhausted after the death of a thousand cuts they had just endured. All of their various heads had barely touched their respective pillows when a wave of oblivion rapidly enveloped them, propelling them headlong into the soundest sleep they had ever experienced in their entire lives!

(Exeunt all, and to all a good night!)

Act 3 scene 4:
Antechamber Scone castle

Early in the morning following the coronation ceremony, a meeting is taking place in secret between the newly crowned King and some ruffians of his acquaintance who are eager to perform any and every manner of nefarious deed for the right price.

First murderer: (Pyne81)

What would be thy pleasure, Highness?


T’is clear to all of thee who have gather’d here,

That the time is nigh to settle old scores.

Our mutual interests seem to be best served

If noble Banquo is shortly to meet his maker.

Our mutual adversary hath outlived his usefulness,

And must pay the price for his egregious sins.

Hath he not thwarted all of your ambitions,

Depriving thee all of the rewards owed to thee?

Are thou not beggar’d by his ascendancy,

And desirous of revenge to cut him down?

Second murderer: (Sinodinos82)

I am one, my liege, who knows of the pain

Of false accusations of malfeasance,

Whilst I stood at Banquo’s right hand.83

So incensed was I at his scant protection,

Against the vile blows and buffets of misfortune,

That I am reckless what I do to spite the world.

First murderer: (Pyne)

And I am also a man sorely rebuffed,

Weary with disasters, tugg’d with fortune,

That I would set my lie on any chance,

To mend it, or be rid of it, once and for all.

No mincing poodle84 am I, more a terrier,

Gnashing tooth and claw to rip and tear,

At Banquo’s flesh, so mottled and pale,

Till life’s last breath is subdued to silence.

Third Murderer: ( Mal Brough85)

I am one whom Banquo trusts implicitly,

And am sure I can get us close enough,

Without arousing his suspicions unduly,

To perform with gusto this bloody mission,

Be just and fear not86, my noble liege,

We’ll sink the slipper87 in good and proper.

Fourth murderer: (MacFarlane88 – in a distinctive gravelly voice)

Our black hands shall see the deed is done, sire!

Banquo and his son are as good as gone.

Count upon our discretion and valour!

(Exeunt all)

Act 3 Scene 5:

The dining hall, Scone palace.

(Enter Lady Macbeth with a servant)

Lady Macbeth:

Say to the king, I would attend his leisure

For a few words.

Servant: (curtsies)

I will, madam.

(Exuent servant)

Lady Macbeth:

Nought’s had, all’s spent,

Where our desire is got,

Without content.

(Enter Macbeth)

Come on;

Be bright and jovial among thy guests to-night;

Gentle my lord, sleek o’er thy rugged looks,

Lest the expedition of my most violent love,

Outrun the pauser, reason.


Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,

Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:

So shall I, love; and so, I pray, be thee:

Unsafe the while, that we must present

Our faces as camouflage to our hearts,

Disguising what they are.

Lady Macbeth:

Let’s away and greet our invited guests,

Who are gathering now in the dining hall,

Presenting a front united in its semblance,

To quell any doubters lingering in our midst.

(Lady Macbeth and her husband enter Banquet Hall, to be greeted by Lennox and several other of Macbeth’s most loyal thanes)



A hearty welcome to one and all!

Take thy seats, and our hostess will attend presently.


Thanks to Your Majesty.

Lady Macbeth:

Friends, from my heart, welcome.


Canst thou see that person there,

On the bench at the back89 of the hall!

There he sits, that beard, those features,

It has the shape and form of King Duncan!

How can that be? Duncan is in his grave;

After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well;

Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,

Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,

Can touch him further.90

Ghost of Duncan:

How canst thou forget me and my deeds so quickly?

No longer were those tillers of the soil encumbered91,

Nor their faces blackened by both wind and sun!92 

Hast thou not ridden to such conspicuous glory,

By grasping firmly upon my kingly coat-tails?

Art thou also content to wear a usurper’s crown,

Trading freely upon the reflected glory of my legacy?93

Lady Macbeth:  (to Macbeth)

My worthy lord, why art thou so pale?

What see thee, gazing on that empty chair?

Thy noble friends do lack thee, my husband.


Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!

Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes

Which thou dost glare with!

Lady Macbeth: (nudging her husband)

Sit, worthy friends: my lord is often thus,

And hath been from his youth: pray you, keep seat;

The fit is momentary; upon a thought

He will again be well: if much you note him,

You shall offend him and extend his passion:

Feed, and regard him not.

Ghost of Duncan:

In two short years,

A delicate seed was planted to prosperity,

And gently nurtured to its fullest flowering.

Now cut short by such treasonous betrayal,

From a craven coward’s restless dagger,

That wantonly ripped at my defenceless flesh,

Whilst I, in innocent sleep, confidently reclined,

In the reputed safety of my brother’s bosom.94

Macbeth: (regaining his senses)

I do forget myself.

Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends,

I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing

To those that know me. Come, love and health to all;

Then I’ll sit down. Give me some wine; fill full.

I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table,

And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss;

Would he were here! To all, and him, we thirst,

And all to all.


All hail Macbeth!


We hope that thou shalt recover thyself,

And overcome whatever ails thee, my liege.

(Exeunt all)

Act 4 Scene 1:

In a park near the palace, Banquo and Fleance have just begun walking back after having been locked in intense discussions about the somewhat parlous state of the King’s treasury95, which in spite of the grandiose plans announced by the newly crowned sovereign, were sadly more inclined to abject penury than aspiring to conspicuous affluence.

Shortly thereafter, the father and his son were set upon by a group of cut-throats and scoundrels, who attacked them with knives and clubs. In the melee, Banquo was struck a fatal blow and fell to the ground motionless, his life’s flame tragically extinguished. His son, Fleance, managed to fight off his attackers to flee into the woods nearby where he disappeared into the darkness.

These hoodlums then returned to the palace, to report the news of their success and failure to Macbeth.

(Antechamber at Scone Palace)
(Enter first murderer)


There’s blood on thy face.

First Murderer:

‘Tis Banquo’s then.


‘Tis better thee without than he within.

Is he dispatch’d?

First Murderer:

My lord, his throat is cut; that I did for him.


Thou art the best o’ the cut-throats: yet he’s good

That did the like for Fleance.

First Murderer:

Most royal sir,

Fleance is ‘scaped.


Praise to thee for thus dispatching Banquo.

But Fleance’s flight is a grave misfortune.

There the grown serpent lies; the worm that’s fled

Hath nature that in time will venom breed,

No teeth for the present, but the future?


Get thee gone!

(Exit Murderer)

Macbeth: (to self)

Blood hath been shed here now, i’ the olden time,

Ere human statute purged the gentle weal;

Ay, and since too, murders have been perform’d

Too terrible for the ear: the times have been,

That, when the brains were out, the man would die,

And there an end; but now this is more strange

Than such a murder is.

(Exeunt Macbeth)

Act 4 scene 2:

A distant and desolate heath.
Thunder rumbles in the distance, and then a vortex of wind swirls upward, before Hecate’s gyrating figure96 appears amidst the maelstrom and hovers briefly before setting gently down amongst the three witches standing below. Her loyal followers and partners in crime and mischief-making welcome her.

First witch:

How now, Hecate!

But, Lo! By thy visage thou seemeth unduly angered.


Have I not reason? How did you dare

To trade and traffic with Macbeth

In riddles and affairs of death;

And I, the mistress of your charms,

The close contriver of all harms,

Was never call’d to bear my part,

Or show the glory of our art?

Second witch:

We beg forgiveness, mistress.

How might we make amends

For our grievous trespasses?


All this that follows must be done,

To bring to heel a wayward son,

Spiteful and full of wrath and scorn,

Hope for recompense seems forlorn,

Loves only for most selfish ends,

His pride can never make amends.

So, get you gone, sisters!

Third witch:

And at the pit of Acheron

We shall meet once again this very morn.


There Macbeth, incidentally,

Will come to know his destiny:

Your vessels and your spells provide,

Your charms and every thing beside.

I am for the air; this night I’ll spend

Unto a dismal and a fatal end.97


Act 4 Scene 3:

Fife Castle, overlooking the Firth of Forth.

(Enter Lady Macduff and her chambermaid following shortly thereafter)


I regret, milady, I must inform thee,

That I have heard some of the common folk,

Spreading vicious rumours about thee ’round town.98

Lady Macduff: (aghast)

What rumours, girl?


I could scarcely believe my ears, madam.

They say there was a scandal involving

The late King and thee, milady. They claim

Thou art engaged in liaisons with him,

And behind the master’s back, milady.

So, that is why thy husband is gone

Now to England for the shame of it!

Lady Macduff: (recoiling in horror)

Such vicious slander as was ever heard!

Who could be so malicious to invent,

Such a despicable and bare-faced lie?

It’s the gravest insult to my honour,

But also to our noble King Duncan,

Who lies in his grave unable to defend,

This unjust stain on his reputation.


I’m so sorry, milady,

But I thought thou shouldst know

What has been said of thee.

Lady Macduff:

Worry not, my dear girl. But rest assured,

There’s not the slightest modicum of truth

In suggestions of impropriety

Between noble King Duncan and myself.

Such gutter gossip is utterly false.

T’is true that, in life, King Duncan didst show 

Many a kindness, and that I wouldst often

Give him counsel on issues politic,

But, verily, unseemly relations,

Canst not e’en remotely be imagin’d.

I adore my sweet husband most dearly,

The light from love’s candle remains undimm’d

Through our many happy years together

As devoted husband and faithful wife.

I would certainly never submit him,

To suffer in the shame of a cuckold.

Now, go and attend to your chores,

With an untroubled mind.

(Exit Chambermaid)

Lady Macduff: (to herself)

These vicious rumours bear the fingerprints

Of some vengeful and venomous harpy,99

Roused only by her unbridled hatred

And naked ambition to her own ends.100

I fear I’ve a powerful enemy 

Who set her sights on my ruination.

Hoping to use all her womanly wiles,

And all manner of stealth and baleful guile,

Therein sullying my reputation.

(Enter a messenger)


I bear a letter from his lordship, madam.

Lady Macduff: (reading the letter from her husband)

Thank you, that will be all.

(Exit messenger)

Macduff’s letter to his wife warned her that she was in a most mortal danger. Having travelled to England to the court of King Edward the Confessor, her husband had met with Duncan’s son, Malcolm. Both were now convinced that Macbeth had killed Duncan to attain the throne, and were marshalling forces against him with the support of the English army. His final words were to entreat his wife to gather his little ones together and flee to a safe haven across the Firth, and forthwith.

Lady Macduff:

Whither should I fly?

I have done no harm. But I remember now,

I am in this earthly world; where to do harm

Is often laudable, to do good sometime

Accounted dangerous folly!

(Enter Murderers)

What are these faces?

First Murderer:

Where is your husband?

Lady Macduff: ( defiantly)

I hope, in no place so unsanctified

Where such as thou mayst find him.

First Murderer:

He’s a traitor to the crown.

Lady Macduff:

Thou liest, thou shaggy hair’d and flea-bitten mutt!

First Murderer:

Thy husband set thee upon this road to ruin.101

Take now what’s coming to thee!
(Stabs her)

Lady Macduff:

Villain! Thou hast kill’d me!

(Calling out to her children in the room next door)

Run away, my precious ones, I prithee!


(Exeunt Murderers, with the screams of children heard shortly thereafter)

Act 4 Scene 4:

A cavern in the glen.

Three witches are seen in the glimmering firelight, gathered round a cauldron in the centre.


Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

First Witch:

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,

For the ingredients of our cauldron.102

Second Witch:

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

(Enter Hecate to the other three Witches)


O well done! I commend your pains;

And every one shall share in the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

(Hecate gyrates skyward and disappears into the aether, never to be seen again).

Second Witch:

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

(Enter Macbeth)


How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!

I conjure you, by that which you profess,

Howe’er you come to know it, answer me:

What doth the fates decree, in time’s fullness,

And destiny’s whim, for one such as me?

First Witch:


Second Witch:


Third Witch:

And we’ll answer.

First Witch:

Say, if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths,

Or from our masters?


Call your masters; let me see them.


Come, high or low;

Thyself and office deftly show!

(Thunder. First Apparition: A disembodied head with very prominent, even oversized ears103)


Tell me, thou unknown power.

First Witch:

He knows thy thought:

Hear his speech, but say thou nought.

First Apparition:

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

Stop those leaky boats that cross the Firth,

To block those clamouring for a berth,104

Then axe the tax that would break our backs,

From those whose vision tends parallax,105

Repay the debt that’s weighing us down,

From purse strings loosen’d by a clown.106

To stop this waste of most recent times,

Requires wholesale shifts in paradigms.107


Beware Macduff;

Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.



Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks;

Thou hast harp’d my fear aright: but one

word more……..

First Witch:

He will not be commanded: here’s another,

More potent than the first.

(Thunder. Second Apparition: A Flame-haired and bloodied crone108)

Second Apparition:

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

Labour’s tools are blunt and rotted,109

That dig the graves of those besotted,

With a union that sets class on class,110

In trying to break a looming impasse,

By starting a war of gender on gender,111

That for this phoney is the ultimate agenda.

Misogyny! Misogyny! She cries in warning,

Yet gladly pays tithes to global warming.112


Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn,

The power of man, for none of woman born,

Shall harm Macbeth!



Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?

But yet I’ve made assurance double sure,

And taken a bond of fate: Macduff shalt not live;

That I may fall a’foul of pale-hearted fear ever more.

(Thunder. Third Apparition: A grey-haired, bespectacled dwarf wearing a crown upon its head, slightly askew113)

What is this

That rises like the issue of a king,

And wears upon his baby-brow the round

And top of sovereignty?


Listen, but speak not to’t.

T’is the most dangerous of all!

Third Apparition:

I regret I’m the rankest amateur,

In the quirks of iambic pentameter.


Explicit sorrow to history’s kin

Determin’d by the colour of their skin

Is, all in all, my most crown’d glory,114

But is far remov’d from my whole story.


Like a pig in a muddy pen wallows

So, a litany of failure now follows:

With molesters of children uncover’d,

Till a lawful inquiry was smother’d,

By those who stood in some authority,

Yet smote their eyes as their sole priority.

That such neglect was amply rewarded,

Shows scant regard for a tale so sordid.115

In haste some untrained souls were despatch’d,

To fulfil a best laid plan that was hatched,

Without recourse to safety or prudence,

Leaving a quartet of corpses, young students,

Whose faith was misplaced in regulations,

To prevent such reckless operations.116

With the wave of my hand, floodgates open,

A human tide roll’d to shore unbroken,

Till calamity struck and hundreds drown’d,

As a consequence of borders unbound.

Far be it for me to accept any fault,

To hell with conscience, best kept in the vault!117

A crisis event of finance sub-prime,

Made for an orgy of spending sublime,

With debt ballooning exponentially,

Each and every budget sequentially,

While this debacle seems unsustainable,118

It’s made global leadership attainable!119


Mark my words:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.



That will never be.

Rebellion’s head, rise never till the wood

Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth

Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath

To time and mortal custom. Yet my heart

Throbs to know one thing: Tell me, if your art

Can tell so much: Shall Banquo’s issue ever

Reign in this kingdom?


Seek to know no more!

(Apparitions vanish)


What, is this so?

First Witch:

Ay, sir, all this is so: but why

Stands Macbeth thus amazedly?

Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,

And show the best of our delights:

I’ll charm the air to give a sound,

While you perform your antic round:

That this great king may kindly say,

Our duties did his welcome pay.

(Witches disappear)


Where are they? Gone?

Now let this most pernicious hour

Stand accurs’d in the calendar.


Act 4 Scene 5:
Glamis Castle, an ante-room.

Narrator: Since the untimely demise of King Duncan at the hands of her husband, Lady Macbeth whiled away the hours exercising obsessively120 and gazing lovingly at her reflection in the looking glass in her bedchamber, dreaming of the moment when her husband would return, sweeping her into his muscular embrace and ravishing her in the tradition of the lurid “bodice-ripper” novels she was wont to read to pass the time when she was alone. As the reality of her husband’s continued absences and ongoing indifference to matters sexual hit home, her unrequited desires became unbearable, until she was reduced to wandering aimlessly through the halls of the castle, scantily clad and carrying a candelabrum in a delirium of thwarted erotic anticipation.

Presently, a doctor was called, a visiting Irish physician from Limerick, Dr O’Loughnane,121 who was regarded as an absolute expert in the various troubles that beset the human mind, and who was also a fine purveyor of herbs, unguents and folk remedies to quell the various disturbances of the humours that flesh is heir to. In the more severe cases such as the Queen’s, he would be required to induce vomiting with a series of emetics, and following that to apply specific purges to her using a concoction developed by Ptolemy called “Heira Logadii”, which combines aloes, black hellebore, and colocynth to hopefully cleanse her of her melancholy. When these interventions failed, blood letting was then performed, first with leeches and then by serial phlebotomy, then followed by fire cupping of her entire body, all of which unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, failed to do the trick and restore her to herself.

Sadly, Dr O’Loughnane explained that some cases such as the Queen’s remained entirely resistant to such cutting edge treatments, and our skilled physician as a last resort would then be forced to recommend piercing of the skull with a metal trephine, so that through this opening made by the good doctor, the evil spirits inhabiting her mind could thus be easily released. In spite of such medical heroics, however, Lady Macbeth lapsed further into madness, wherein she soon became totally disconnected from reality. Her husband eventually returned to find his wife in just such a state, and consulted the physician for the latest on her deteriorating condition.


Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?


It seems that thy Queen is much troubled,

By the sins of her past that up-bubbled,

To cure all of her sadness,

And remove all this madness,

Would require sev’ral miracles redoubled.122


What dost thou mean, Doctor?


In matters of the mind I’m no oracle,

To make all prognoses categorical,

But thy wife is quite mad,

Despite the treatment she’s had,

Which makes her quite stuffed, metaphorical!


That bad is it? Thou doth not say.

Oh well, er, I s’pose I’ll be off then.

Kingdom to run and all that.


I’ll to Dunsinane, across the cove.

Tally ho!

(Exeunt Macbeth)

Doctor: (calling)
Nurse! Come hither.

(Enter Nurse)


Yes, Doctor?


How goes milady?


The Queen lies in her bedchamber, sir.

Delirious she is, rambling and raving,

Thrashing about in fits of St Vitas’ dance!123


Let’s attend her. Come with me.

Soon the good Dr O’Loughnane and the nurse were at the woman’s bedside. They watched passively as her pallor, her fevered brow and her body wracked in pain told of her being in extremis.

Lady Macbeth: (raving)

Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,

Then, ’tis time to do’t.  What need we fear them

That knows it, when none can call our power

To account?–Yet who would’ve thought the old man

To have had so much blood in him.

The thane of Fife had a wife: Where is she now?

What, will these blood-stain’d hands ne’er be clean?

Here the putrid smell of blood still lingers,

All the fine perfumes of Arabia

Will not sweeten this little hand. 


The queen doth not need a physician,

But requires a priest’s divine mission,

To give balm to her malady,

Or a singer whose balladry,

Will give voice to her need for contrition.

(Orders to the nurse, as he is leaving)

Remove from her the means of all annoyance,

And still keep eyes upon her. So, good night.

(Exit Doctor)

Nurse: (holding her hand)

It is a’right, milady, I’m here with you.

Lady Macbeth: (in a feeble voice)

Am I pretty?


Nurse: (crosses herself)

May the good Lord bestow his Grace and mercy,

Upon thy immortal soul!

(Closing her eyelids, and covering her with a sheet)

(Exit Nurse)

Act 5 Scene 1:
Outside Dunsinane castle. Macduff and the English army gather in support of Malcolm as they marshal their respective forces to overthrow the usurper to the crown.


Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath,

Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death.

(Enter messenger)

I bring thee sorry news, milord.

Let not thy ears despise my tongue for saying it!


Speak, man! What say thee?


Thy castle is surprised, thy wife and babes

Savagely slaughter’d!


Merciful heaven!

What vile and most despicable felons

Could have perform’d such a deed?

Macduff: (aghast)

My wife? My children, too?


Wife, children, servants, all milord.

Macduff: (in disbelief)

All my pretty chickens and their dam,

At one fell swoop?

(Draws his sword, anger fit to bursting written upon his manly face)

Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself,

Within my sword’s length set him; if he ‘scape,

Heaven forgive me! Macbeth is ripe for shaking,

And the powers above put on their instruments.

Receive what cheer you may, the night is long

That never finds the day.

(Exit Macduff)


What wood is that before us?


The wood of Birnam.

(Calling out to his troops)

Let every soldier hew him down a bough,

And bear’t before him. Thereby shall we shadow

The numbers of our army from discovery.

Soldiers: (in unison)

It shall be done.


An overconfident tyrant, is Macbeth.

And none serve with him but constrained things

Whose hearts are absent too.


The time approaches

That will with due decision make us know,

What we shall say we have and what we owe.

Let us prepare for war!

(Exeunt, marching)

Act 5 scene 2:
Dunsinane Castle

Upon the battlements of Dunsinane castle, Macbeth is seen gazing out upon the great Birnam wood, a sea of green124 as far as the eye can see that stands as a metaphor for our “environmentally conscious”, if duplicitous and blood-thirsty, monarch.


This heavenly scene that stands before me,

Birnam wood in all its verdant glory,

Stands steadfast and unfaz’d by man’s affairs,

Nor does it care for human pride or airs,

As nature’s resilience does not yield,

To conspirators’ devious schemes conceal’d.125

(Enter Sergeant)


I regret, sire, I bear bad tidings.


No chateaubriand on the menu again tonight?


No, my liege, much more important than that.


What could be more important than that?


It is the Queen,

She has shuffled off the mortal coil, sire!

Macbeth: (staring off into the distance)

What dost thou mean, sergeant?


She has pass’d from this earthly realm,

Been call’d to God, kicked the bucket, bitten the dust,

Popp’d her clogs, taken a long walk off a short pier,

Dearly departed, left the building, bought the farm,

Went the way of all flesh. In short, she’s dead, my liege.


She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Sergeant: (casting a casual eye askance)

Look sire! The forest, my liege, it moves!


(Turns to look toward yonder wood, and stands agape at what he sees)


Lo and behold, the once indifferent and steadfast forest was indeed moving unto Dunsinane, as a green tide126 rolled in promising to envelope the castle and all who reside within. The usurper stood transfixed, his eyes widening in horror, mindful of one of the conditions for his demise suddenly being now in play.

Macbeth: (shaking in his boots)

Sergeant! So much for those that don’t matter!

They are marching on the gates as we speak!

But holdfast, for none of woman born can defeat me.

Let’s at them.

(Exeunt both)

Act 5 scene 3:
In the field, outside Dunsinane castle.

Opposing forces are locked in battle, a relentless assault of sword and axe on blood and bone. As Malcolm and his English allies set to their battle against their foes, Macduff, with sword in hand has eyes for only one man, the tyrant whose minions slaughtered his wife and children. Inevitably, he came face to face with his mortal enemy, with a reckoning of the highest order firmly in his sights.

They engage in a monumental clash of giant broadswords, with Macbeth exuding the grandiose overconfidence gained from the supernatural prophesies of the old crones. Macbeth thus considered himself truly invincible, even in the face of the adept and clinical swordsmanship of his rival. But, alas, this confidence was soon to be shown to be misplaced, and poetic justice was soon to be delivered, with razor sharp precision.


Thou losest labour:

As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air

With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed:

Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;

I bear a charmed life, which must not yield,

To one of woman born.


Despair thy charm;

And let the angel whom thou still hast served

Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb

Untimely ripp’d.


I will not yield! Lay on, Macduff,

And damned be him that cries, “Hold, enough!”

(Exeunt, fighting)

Act 5 Scene 4:
Another part of the castle, as the last of Macbeth’s forces are slain, and lie dead or dying upon the bloody field.

(Enter Macduff, with Macbeth’s head firmly implanted upon a spike)


Hail, King ! for so thou art: Behold, where stands

The usurper’s cursed head: the time is free:

I see thee compass’d with thy kingdom’s pearl,

That speak my salutation in their minds;

Whose voices I desire aloud with mine:

Hail, King of Scotland!


Hail, King of Scotland!



We shall not spend a large expense of time

Before we reckon with your several loves,

And make us even with you. My thanes and kinsmen,

Henceforth be Earls, the first that ever Scotland

In such an honour named. What’s more to do,

Which would be planted newly with the time,

As calling home our exiled friends abroad

That fled the snares of watchful tyranny;

Producing forth the cruel ministers

Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen,

Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands

Took off her life; this, and what needful else

That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace,

We will perform in measure, time and place:

So, thanks to all at once and to each one,

Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone.

(Flourish. Exeunt)


Malcolm Turnbull’s lavish harbourside home is found in Sydney’s swank upper crust suburb of Point Piper, a name that does indeed suggest the quintessentially Scottish imagery of a piper playing his bagpipes on the point of a headland, which I then transposed to the environs of Macbeth’s seat of Glamis castle in the play.

The three witches represent (and are therefore played by) the three journalists principal in undermining the former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. These three in particular, among of Greek chorus of like-minded cohorts, constantly denigrated Mr. Abbott’s achievements and lambasted his perceived failures, unfairly in my view, in favour of boosting the challenge of Malcolm Turnbull, a superficially charming and well spoken man but who is sorely lacking otherwise in leadership skills or judgement.

Thane of Cawdor, for the purposes of our play, equates to the Communications minister portfolio occupied by Malcolm Turnbull under Tony Abbott’s leadership. Although no doubt conscious of the old axiom: “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer”, Tony Abbott clearly erred in giving this media platform to his rival. A ministerial portfolio, I might add, that Malcolm Turnbull failed dismally and conspicuously to manage efficiently and appropriately, as has more recently come to light in the lead up to the upcoming July 2, 2016 general election.

Julie Bishop, as Foreign Minister and Deputy PM in the Abbott government, enjoyed a relatively high profile for a conservative female politician with the media, and in these roles, superficially at least, she performed quite admirably. As time went on, however, it became increasingly obvious that Ms. Bishop revelled in the spotlight, and seemed to become more and more fashion conscious and fitness obsessed in what amounted, at least in my opinion, to a desperate attempt to become a fashion icon and media darling.

Modern journalism, as it has evolved, has become an increasingly subjective, partisan and often blatantly propagandising profession, characterised by the selective presentation of facts and “factoids” (often seamlessly intertwined with undifferentiated editorial opinion), by the regular misuse and manipulation of language to distort meaning,  and more troublingly by the emergence of an all-pervasive tendency to left-wing activism, complete with its politically correct moral posturing and proselytising. The spells and charms are analogous to the stock in trade propaganda tools the fourth estate regularly employs in this capacity, whilst prophesies are often seen to be self-fulfilling, such is the power of the mainstream media in the modern political scene.

6 The hatchet job performed on Tony Abbott after his election to Prime Minister was, in my opinion, the most concerted campaign of relentless distortion, systematic undermining and often outright abuse ever directed at an elected politician in Australia’s history. Even actions of obvious virtue, including charity and fundraising events, working tirelessly in Aboriginal communities for their betterment, and volunteer firefighting and surf lifesaving were routinely mocked, lampooned and derided, mostly by people who would never actively lift a finger to help anyone but themselves.

Scott Morrison, as Immigration Minister in the Abbott government, was responsible for the implementation of “Operation Sovereign Borders”, a policy which restored the integrity of Australia’s border control, by removing the incentive for people smugglers to place asylum seekers at severe risk of death or injury on the high seas for profit. He was generally lauded for his application of this policy, and for the apparent mastery of his portfolio. As time has gone by, however, the prevailing opinion seems to be that this apparent efficiency had very much to do with the steadfast resolve of his leader, Tony Abbott, as he has conspicuously floundered since without his stewardship.

8 Scott Morrison was seen in many quarters as a natural successor to Tony Abbott, particularly during Morrison’s highly successful tenure as Immigration Minister, and again as Social Services Minister.

9 Scott Morrison’s elevation to the role of Treasurer subsequent to Malcolm Turnbull’s overthrow of Tony Abbott, may ironically have put paid to any chance he may have had to become Prime Minister, in spite of his alleged neutrality in the leadership spill. Having voted for Abbott, he nevertheless keep silent about his foreknowledge of the challenge and upcoming spill, and failed to help gather any support for his incumbent leader among his colleagues, keeping his options open for a place in Turnbull’s ministry if the cards fell that way. Such playing of both ends against the middle has completely undermined any likely trust he ever could expect to receive from his colleagues in such a leadership bid in the future.

10 In spite of a hostile and uncooperative senate, a media contingent hell bent on facilitating his demise, ruthlessly ambitious colleagues undermining him at every turn from the very beginning of his tenure, and an awkward public persona and communication style (due in part to a mild speech impediment), in 2 years as PM Abbott managed to curtail significantly the proliferation of useless bureaucratic entities that served little or no purpose other than to drain the public purse (such as the Climate Change Authority), brokered 3 free trade agreements with our most significant trading partners in Asia, repealed the economy destroying Carbon tax and the useless investment killing mining tax, and also stemmed completely the relentless flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat to a mere trickle, thereby avoiding countless further deaths at sea to add to the 1200 (at least) unfortunate souls who died as a direct consequence of the Rudd Labor government’s foolhardy repeal of offshore processing and temporary protection visas, measures that had successfully stopped people smuggling operations under the Howard government that preceded it.

11 Bronwyn Bishop, former Speaker of the House, almost certainly wins the award as the single most disloyal (amongst a hot field of candidates) of former PM Abbott’s senior government figures. As such, she is overqualified for the role of Hecate, the wellspring and inspirational leader of witches everywhere. Having caused Abbott such great embarrassment in trying to protect her from the fallout of the Choppergate scandal she had embroiled herself in through her needlessly elitist attitude and errant stupidity, and then in damaging Abbott’s reputation out of his misplaced loyalty to her as a once valued colleague, Ms. Bishop then proceeded to betray Abbott in a twinkling and vote for his rival Turnbull in the leadership spill that would eventually see Abbott removed as PM. That’s gratitude for you!

12 In the overthrow of Abbott’s position as PM, Bronwyn Bishop aside, there were several others who covered themselves in glory as vile betrayers of the worst kind, with many turning on a leader who had supported them in adversity (Sinodinos), promoted them to positions of trust and influence (Pyne, Brandis), and otherwise enabled them (Brough) in their rise to prominence. Such unprincipled behaviour made them shoe-ins for their roles, not withstanding that some of them have since fallen from grace (Brough, MacFarlane, Sinodinos), in a tincture of what many would consider poetic justice.

13 “Hurly-burly” is derived from 14th century England, and means a disturbance that is loud and chaotic, but was popularised by Shakespeare in the play Macbeth, when one of the witches states, “When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won”.

14 “6 years of chaos” refers to the dysfunctional Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era from 2008- 2013, where multiple policy failures and economic profligacy was the order of the day. The overthrow of Rudd by Gillard was a calculated move to consolidate Union power, and then the subsequent constant undermining of Gillard by Rudd in revenge leading to her demise just prior to the 2013 election, set Australian politics on a path to self- imposed destruction that is likely to take at least another decade to finally set right, if indeed it ever does. I remain sceptical.

15 Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

16 Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

17,18 The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years set the precedent of removal of first term sitting Prime Ministers based on at least dubious, and often rigged opinion polls and through self-centred personal ambition rather than any consideration for the needs and desires of the humble voter. Sadly, the subsequent Liberal government has learned nothing from the opprobrium that resulted from their opponent’s example, and have followed the exact same template, somehow expecting a different result in the context of an upcoming election. They are soon to be disabused of any illusions they may have held that their behaviour would somehow be perceived more positively by the electorate.

19 A loose affiliation of left wing pressure groups (The Socialist Alliance, Get Up, etc.), the mainstream media (Fairfax, ABC), unions (CFMEU, et al.), Marxist academics, and assorted vested interests (particularly Global Warming advocates and Renewable Energy carpet-baggers, such as Al Gore, et. al).

20 Who am I to interfere with Shakespeare’s recipe of secret herbs and spices?

21 A statement meant to highlight the malevolence of the witches, but I can think of no better summation of the nature of journalism in the present day than this.

22 Malcolm Turnbull has always harboured but one ambition, to be Prime Minister and reshape Australia in his own image. He needed little encouragement, but a fawning and complicit media hanging on his every word, and undermining his opponent at every turn, certainly made his challenge and grasp for unelected power inevitable.

23 Anyone who expects that the mainstream media will report the truth impartially and for the betterment of our society, clearly hasn’t been paying enough attention.

24 Kowen Forest is the pine forest on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Canberra, and so was an appropriate substitute for Forres in the play, given that it alludes to the Australian political landscape in my version.

25,26 Godwin Grech was the senior public servant at the heart of the “Utegate” scandal, an embarrassing fiasco that first highlighted Turnbull’s complete lack of judgement and hubris. It is only fitting to use his name as the battle in which Macbeth rises to undeserved prominence, albeit through his conspicuous cowardice.

27 Thane of Cawdor equates to the role of Communication’s minister, the portfolio Turnbull held down in such underwhelming fashion prior to his coup. By handling all the King’s announcements (appearances on the sympathetic ABC in particular) and dealing with his communications, both Turnbull and Macbeth were in prime position to make their play for overthrowing the incumbent leader.

28 Turnbull’s circuitous speaking style, full of asides, pauses, non-sequiturs and tangents, gives lie to his reputation as a great communicator. For the first few months of his Prime Ministership, I was concerned he may never actually finish a sentence. Granted, he certainly started many, but so often he lost his way half way through and failed to find the trail again by the end. A casual glance at various transcripts of some of his off the cuff, and even many of his scripted comments will no doubt confirm what I duly observed.

29 Turnbull’s inflated sense of himself is unsustainable. He will, in my opinion, come undone at the upcoming election, barring an underhanded preference deal and an unholy alliance/coalition with the Greens, which would be the ultimate vile betrayal of his party and its core principles. That being said, I wouldn’t put that behind the scenes double dealing past him at all. If he plays it “straight”, ignominious defeat, or at the very least a major comeuppance, is almost inevitable.

30 Laurie Oakes, the doyen of the Canberra Press gallery, whose hatred of John Howard was instrumental in starting this mess in 2007, and who has helped facilitate Australia’s ignominious slide into banana republic status through his rather blindly partisan “expert” evaluations of the nation’s current political status. Well done, Laurie.

31 Brendan Nelson was Leader of the Opposition after John Howard lost the 2007 election, before being deposed in a leadership spill by Malcolm Turnbull.

32 1500 men contrasts with the initial estimate of 1000, suggesting that, like the fisherman with his catch, Turnbull will continue to embellish his achievements for effect and to garnish unearned praise.

33 Refers again to Scott Morrison’s effort to have a foot in each court in the overthrow of Abbott, a perceived disloyalty and duplicitousness that will likely remove any hope he may have held for his future leadership aspirations.

34 Blackburn cove is the small cove in Sydney Harbour immediately below Point Piper. Nice Scottish name if ever there was one.

35 Julie Bishop represents the federal seat of Curtin in Western Australia, being elected in 1998. During the lead up to Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership challenge, rumours and leaks began to emanate from unnamed sources in WA against Abbott, and also his chief of staff Peta Credlin, with the purpose of undermining their integrity and worthiness to govern. Subsequent events indicate that Ms Bishop, or her staff, were the likely source of these destabilising leaks, which if true is an act of political bastardry of the highest order, given her position of trust as deputy leader.

36 In Shakespeare’s original version, this dialogue refers to Lady Macbeth looking to be instilled with the courage to perform the deadly deed upon the King herself. In my version, she has something else quite different in mind.

37 In my version of the play, Macbeth’s lack of sexual interest and vigour is not only the instigating factor for Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness, but also acts as a metaphor for Malcolm Turnbull’s “all show and no go” persona, where he is always “promising much but delivering little”. “All style, no substance” would be yet another analogy that springs readily to mind.

38 The problems that now beset the Turnbull government and the Liberal party in being re-elected on July 2, 2016 should have been obvious from the start, given the voters complete rejection, and their own strident criticism of the dysfunctional revolving door politics of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor governments, for precisely the same behaviour in which Turnbull has just engaged. They have indeed drunk from the chalice that they themselves have poisoned, being now pilloried for actions they had once mocked, having revelled in their criticism of their political adversaries for exactly this same sort of duplicitous behaviour.

39 Four and fifty blows (54), one for each of those “turncoats” who voted in favour of Malcolm Turnbull, thus betraying Tony Abbott in his first term as PM, whom I believe had a right to expect far greater loyalty, especially given his electoral mandate from the comprehensive 2013 election win.

40 I have left this section largely intact from the original text, as I have in various other sections to follow where appropriate, for the sake of continuity and to keep some link beyond plot to the play’s source material, as an oblique satirical commentary on the present political situation through the prism of Shakespeare’s play.

41 The porter, as played by Clive Palmer, is a Falstaffian figure who is first seen inebriated on duty, and then as a shiftless and lazy tub of lard who reluctantly performs his few uncomplicated duties, while grumbling incessantly in discontent from go to whoa.

42 Clive Palmer herewith launches his embittered soliloquy about the various members of his party, former and current. In this instance he refers to Jacqui Lambie, a former member of the defence forces, previously notorious for punching her commanding officer, and who became renowned in her brief and unproductive time in parliament (initially within the PUP, but then as an independent after a falling out with her benefactor) for her foul-mouthed and ignorant demeanour, and a general lack of decorum. Of course, she became a media darling of sorts among the cognoscenti at the ABC, who no doubt saw her as quaint and earthy, rather than as a loud mouthed “bogan” who was clearly unfit for public office.

43 Glenn Lazarus was another former member of Clive Palmer’s party, a famous Rugby League player who quit the party after his wife was unceremoniously sacked. The biblical Lazarus resided in the town of Bethany, where he died and then rose from the dead allegedly at Jesus’ instigation. It remains to be seen whether Glenn will be quite so lucky.

44 Dio Wang, the third leg of the PUP (Palmer United Party) trifecta, and the only remaining senator still in the party that sponsored him, was a former civil engineer and CEO of Australasian Resources, in which Clive Palmer has a 70% controlling interest. He has also courted controversy by actively defending China’s human rights record, the Tiananmen square massacre, and their rigidly enforced “one child policy”. His senate position is now jeopardised by the Double Dissolution election called by Malcolm Turnbull for July 2.

45 One of Clive Palmer’s most enduring claims to fame would no doubt be his somewhat odd predilection for scale model animatronic dinosaurs, of which he has 160 which “adorn” his Coolum resort in Queensland, making it the largest dinosaur theme park in the world. This monument to eccentricity was entirely counterproductive to the profitability of the resort, which has lost money and corporate sponsorship hand over fist since.

46,47&49 Clive Palmer’s business interests have suffered a significant decline since his foray into politics, with his Queensland Nickel company being forced into voluntary receivership in 2016, and his personal wealth having dropped according to BRW from $5 billion in 2011, to $1.4 billion in 2015, largely to dropping commodity prices, grandiose indulgences in football franchises, etc., and in poor business decisions and failed legal challenges.

48 Clive Palmer donated “liberally” to the Queensland Liberal Party but, like the Godfather of Hollywood lore, he expected quid pro quo favours from the incoming Campbell Newman government in looking preferentially upon his investments in the Galilee basin, where Palmer’s Waratah Coal subsequently lost out to rival GVK-Hancock to build a rail corridor to link the Galilee and Bowen basins with the Abbot Point coal terminal. Palmer failed to receive any special consideration, but was instead treated by the Queensland Liberals on the same level playing field as his rivals, as should rightfully have been the case, even in spite of Palmer’s long-standing membership and large financial donations to the Liberal party. Thereafter came the mother of all public spats and an almighty falling out, leading to Palmer’s resignation from the party. Premier Campbell Newman and his treasurer Mr Seeney were publicly highly critical of Mr. Palmer and his behaviour, and Mr Seeney subsequently made a decision to audit the billionaire’s mining operations in Queensland which further deepened the rift. Furthermore, when Queensland Nickel later requested a government bail out, these overtures were, quite rightly it would seem, “politely” refused.

50,51,52,53&54 Clive Palmer’s various enemies and foes include such luminaries as the two Bishops (Julie and especially speaker Bronwyn), one Abbott (Tony), a soldier who became a mayor (Campbell Newman), shysters (various lawyers in his multiple court cases), while as a member of the World Leadership Alliance he has been rubbing shoulders with the ruling elite. The Charlatan reference, of course, refers to the world’s leading charlatan, the mediocre Harvard graduate turned failed presidential candidate turned high priest of the pseudo-religion of Man Made Global Warming, Al Gore, who quite openly courted Palmer on a visit to Australia and thereby helped ensure that Tony Abbott’s repeal of the Carbon Tax had significant amendments added to the Legislation as a compromise to allow it to pass the senate (which required Palmer party votes), thus making it very possible to reverse this decision in future and maintain the potential for Gore’s desire to establish an Australian ETS. While the foes above were clearly Palmer’s fondest wish to be consigned to hellfire, there might well also be a place for his friends above as well, with the aforementioned Mr Gore particularly leaping to mind.

55,56&57 Mark Textor, media adviser to Malcolm Turnbull, infamously suggested after the overthrow of Tony Abbott that the conservative base of the Liberal party no longer mattered, assuming that those conservatives were so “rusted on”, like their Labor counterparts, that they would have no alternative but to continue to vote Liberal regardless of policy changes leaning toward a more left-of-centre direction. This is in spite of the cacophonous chorus of disapproval, particularly from conservative commentators such as Andrew Bolt, who railed long and loud against the wisdom and the validity of this assertion, and not to mention the literally thousands of blog postings from disenfranchised conservatives openly stating that for the first in their lives they would not vote for the party if Turnbull was still the leader. On July 2, therefore, Mr Textor is destined to find that his summation is a quite dramatic, and dare I say possibly fatal, miscalculation.

58 Corey Bernardi famously overstated the “slippery slope” argument against “same sex marriage” legislation by referring to bestiality as a potential consequence, which was drawing a rather long bow at best. This opened him to ridicule, when an anti-polygamy stance would likely have received a somewhat less hostile reception.

59 Scone castle was Scotland’s seat of power and centre of government probably from at least 908 AD, but Scone itself certainly was chosen as the capital by the first king of the Scots, the famous Kenneth MacAlpine in 843AD.

60 The Stone of Destiny was indeed to be found on the grounds of Scone Palace, and was the crowning place of Kings. It was believed that no king had a right to reign as King of Scots unless he had first been crowned at Scone upon the Stone of Scone.

61 53 Loyalist thanes refers to the 53 members of the Liberal party who voted, along with Turnbull himself, to overthrow sitting PM Tony Abbott in the second 2015 leadership spill.

62 This soliloquy of Macbeth regarding his fears of Banquo’s succession is presented verbatim from Shakespeare’s original to highlight the similarity of mindset that no doubt motivated Malcolm Turnbull in his not so subtle undermining of his own treasurer, Scott Morrison, after his ascent to the position of Prime Minister. Turnbull deliberately, in my view, kept his treasurer “out of the loop” and then “hung him out to dry” on several occasions on matters of future economic policy, then often directly contradicted him shortly thereafter to make Morrison appear less of a future, potential leadership alternative to himself. Although Turnbull stopped short of “killing him off” completely, as Macbeth does in the play itself, he reduced Morrison’s public standing and reputation effectively enough that any future challenge from him is now certain to fail, especially when combined with the trust in him many of his colleagues had lost due to his fence-sitting in the coup against Abbott in the first instance. To make a chess analogy- that’s Check and Mate to Turnbull!

63 This references the recent trend among the politically correct brigade to preface every public meeting or announcement with a “Welcome and Acknowledgement to Country” which has become an obligatory mantra in Australian public life. While clearly an attempt to promote reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, its repetitiveness and the sense of obligation renders the alleged sentiments behind it meaningless, and actually encourages the very resentments it aims to palliate.

64 The Kings of Scotland listed by Macbeth, drawn from the House of Alpin line of succession that lasted from 848 AD to 1034 AD, who were then succeeded by the house of Dunkeld, of whom Duncan 1st was the initial King to reign immediately prior to Macbeth in 1040 AD. In Macbeth’s speech where all due respect to the achievements of past monarchs is made, Duncan is notably omitted in spite of his successful reign, much in the manner that Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged the great Prime Ministers of the past in his speech and yet conspicuously failed to even mention his predecessor, Abbott, who had managed many notable achievements in his brief tenure, including three free trade agreements, stopping the people smuggling trade in its tracks, launching a long overdue Royal Commission into Union governance, abolishing the Carbon and Mining taxes, etc, etc.

65 The body count noticeable rises with every retelling. Such shameless self promotion is the mark of the narcissist, and if the shoe fits…….

66,67 Malcolm Turnbull’s first months in power have been marked by his repeated use of mantras of just such platitudes, with vague pleas to his alleged “vision” for a “progressive” and “innovative” and “agile” economy, with little or no substance anywhere to be found to give such weasel words any “meat on its bones”. Many of these statements of purpose by Macbeth at his coronation are derived from Turnbull’s victory speech, as well as from other speeches he has recently made, which are helpfully reproduced on his website, in all their glory.

68 The NBN network finds its medieval counterpart in Macbeth’s carrier pigeon scheme, having been formulated on the back of a beer coaster by Kevin Rudd, and then further mismanaged by Turnbull in his role as Communications Minister. Like the carrier pigeon example given in the play, the NBN is highly likely to be an expensive white elephant, and destined to be outmoded by the time it eventually rolls out at the snail’s pace at which governments of all political stripe seem to specialise.

69 The “sceat”, plural “sceattas”, were the medieval Scottish equivalent of the current day British pound, with bronze sceats obviously of lesser worth than the rarer and more precious silver sceat, which I set arbitrarily at 100 bronze to every silver sceat for the purposes of the play.

70 The Clan Energy Fund is the medieval Scottish equivalent of the modern Australian Clean Energy Fund. Both are monumental wastes of money in service of pie in the sky schemes of little practical merit to save the populace from a non-problem with non-solutions.

71 The “ell” is a medieval Scottish unit of measurement, the equivalent of a cubit (the length from a man’s elbow to tip of his fingers), approximately one half a yard.

72 Windmills as a source of power make a small modicum of sense in a medieval, pre- fossil fuel society, though as I pointed out subsequently they are of little benefit whatsoever in the frequent periods when the wind doesn’t blow with sufficient strength or regularity. Since modern day Scotland is now littered with monstrous windmills on every vacant hillside, it seems only fitting to include them in Macbeth’s plans for the future, wherein he can be said to have started the rot.

73 The need to supplement the wind power with human muscle, in this instance in harness with a halter, could perhaps have been, fancifully of course, the inspiration for the phrase: “a millstone around their necks”.

74 The “renewable” and “sustainable” energy generation strategies are the false idols at which both Macbeth and his modern counterpart, Turnbull, appear to worship.

75,76 Malcolm Turnbull did foreshadow an increase in the GST from 10% to 15%, and for Australia’s various states to take over responsibility for all health funding and provision of certain community services from their federal counterparts, before abruptly doing an about face leaving State Premiers nonplussed and his Treasurer embarrassed being left having to explain the issue away.

77,78 Malcolm Turnbull’s first big ticket announcement as PM was the deal to build 12 French submarines in South Australia for $50 billion to be completed by 2060, a monumental amount of money for submarines that are likely to be well and truly outmoded by the time they are fully operational in their entirety as a fleet.

79,80 Malcolm Turnbull has always harboured ambition to be Prime Minister, but his even more deeply held desire is for Australia to be a republic, and for a Presidential style leadership modelled on America’s disastrous example. Of course, if he could be Australia’s first “El Presidente”, then all the better.

81,84 First Murderer- Christopher Pyne, a trusted minister in Abbott’s cabinet with a high profile media presence, whose betrayal must have been very hard to accept for Mr Abbott when his removal was complete. Once famously referred to as a “mincing poodle” by then Deputy PM Julia Gillard, a woman who clearly liked to dish out the insults, but then tended subsequently to get rather precious if any negative connotation headed her way.

82,83 Second murderer- Arthur Sinodinos, accused (possibly unfairly) in an ICAC inquiry into dealings of Australian Water Holdings, of which he was a director, and its political donations. He was forced to step aside from his appointed position as Assistant Treasurer in the Abbott government, and in spite of great loyalty shown to him by PM Abbott to resist calls to sack him (and to keep the job open in his absence), Mr Sinodinos repaid this loyalty by voting against Abbott at the first opportunity when Turnbull challenged him.

85,86,87 Third murderer- Mal Brough. One of the chief supporters and behind the scenes movers and shakers in Malcolm Turnbull’s overthrow of Abbott. Currently under police investigation for his role in leaking contents of former speaker Peter Slipper’s official Parliamentary diary in the James Ashby/ Peter Slipper sexual harassment case. “Be just and fear not ” is the traditional Ashby family motto on its coat of arms, words Mal Brough would have done well to heed.

88 Fourth Murderer- Ian McFarlane is a prime example of a man who backed the wrong horse, having supported Turnbull in the false belief that his career prospects would advance, only to find himself on the outer being dropped from the ministry in September 2015. He then tried unsuccessfully to defect to the National party but this move was blocked by Queensland’s LNP executive, and so he was forced into quitting politics altogether prior to the upcoming 2016 election. A “Pyrrhic” victory if ever there was one.

89 Duncan’s ghost, like that of Abbott, can be seen sitting on the “back bench”, a constant reminder to Macbeth, and therefore also to Turnbull, of their previous heinous betrayal of their leader.

90 To some extent, Tony Abbott has not been as “fortunate” as King Duncan, because the malicious comments and false assertions, the snide innuendo, and the bile and venom directed at him have continued unabated long after he was deposed from the leadership, where Duncan’s death at least gave him some peace from the relentless machinations and abuse of his opponents.

91,92 King Duncan’s achievements, like those of his counterpart Abbott, include the abolition of Carbon and Mining taxes, both of which were designed to stifle investment and industry.

93 For the first 8-9 months of Turnbull’s government, he traded heavily upon Abbott’s achievements without once acknowledging his adversary, instead basking in the reflected glory of Abbott’s achievements, including one anti-domestic violence scheme (Abbott was Minister for Women in his government and toiled for 15 months on the policy) for which Turnbull then took sole undeserved credit. The policy was released only days after Turnbull came to power and was entirely instigated by his predecessor, and for this announcement Turnbull was universally praised in spite of having nothing whatsoever to do with its formulation.

94,95 The Abbott government, while far from perfect, achieved many positives in two short years, and began the unenviable task of curtailing wasteful government programs, dissolving or amalgamating the proliferation of governmental and quasi-governmental regulatory bodies that have metastasised throughout the economic landscape, only for these reforms to be stopped in their tracks by Turnbull, whose inclinations represent yet further expansion of the big spending, big government bureaucratic model that has led us into financial peril, and whose further failures are soon likely to become ever more stark and real as their ever-spiralling costs collide with economic reality headfirst in the coming decades. And, be assured, when the inevitable comes, it won’t be pretty. Debt has spiralled from a $40 billion surplus in 2007 prior to Rudd’s ascension to a deficit of over $400 billion federally sometime in 2017 highly likely, and with State and Federal combined debt likely to reach $1 trillion by the middle of next decade, a frightening thought for Australia’s highly vulnerable economy.

96,97 Hecate in Greek mythology was the goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, the moon, ghosts and necromancy, and as such she represents an extremely apt fit for the duplicitous and scheming Bronwyn Bishop. She guides the three witches in their evil mission in the play to dethrone King Duncan, and she was certainly instrumental in dethroning her PM in Abbott in the contemporary drama that unfolded. The “gyrating maelstrom” referred to is in reference to her infamous “Choppergate” scandal, where she claimed over $5,000 for a half hour chopper flight to Geelong for a fund raiser instead of negotiating traffic by road like normal people. This was a breech of parliamentary protocols because it was a fund-raising event rather than on government business, but rather than acknowledging her error of judgment with a mea culpa, she arrogantly tried to assume the moral high ground and thereby caused her PM Tony Abbott no end of grief in trying to defend her from calls for her resignation. Once the damage became irretrievable, there was no other choice but to ask her to resign from the Speaker role she had been fulfilling within the Abbott government, and Tony Abbott’s loyalty to her was repaid at the next opportunity by her voting for Turnbull’s faction in the spill. Then she tried to rewrite the history of the event to suggest Abbott was too intimidated to notify her of the decision for her to step down, which fooled no one, except of course the compliant press corps who happily parroted her nonsense in spite of its clear disconnect from events that were already on public record. She did indeed consign herself to “a dismal and fatal end”, wherein she embarrassingly lost preselection in her long-held safe Liberal seat of MacKellar for the 2016 election, thereafter to fade off into the aether and hopefully never to be seen again. Good riddance.

98,99,100,101 Among the most reprehensible tactics used to tear down Tony Abbott’s reputation, and to justify the coup against him, were the promulgation of rumours of an affair between Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. These rumours emanated and were given credence by journalist, Nikki Savva, in her book “The Road to Ruin” about the last days of Abbott’s government, wherein Ms. Savva conveniently failed to interview either party, nor did she mention her rather major conflict of interest in that her husband, Vince Woolcock, was one of Malcolm Turnbull’s most senior advisors. Ms. Savva also is well known to bear a severe grudge against Ms. Credlin, for her allegedly trying to have Savva sacked by her newspaper editor, which whether true or not doesn’t justify the presentation of rumour as fact, especially rumour which could easily jeopardise the marriages of both Abbott and Credlin, when there is every likelihood that such an affair, which both parties vigorously deny, never actually took place. An example of gutter journalism at its finest. So, clearly Ms. Savva need look no further as to how she managed to land the role of one of the wicked witches in my version of the play!

102 Again, Shakespeare is clearly such a good chef, that I dare not alter the ingredients even slightly, or else they might lose their flavour, or their potency.

103 The first of three apparitions which appear to Macbeth, each representing one of his three preceding PMs. The first being Tony Abbott, as evidenced by his conspicuously prominent ears, which are somewhat of an unfortunate trademark.

104,105,106,107 The first apparition, prior to warning Macbeth to beware Macduff, outlines advice for his leadership, based on Abbott’s “3 word slogan” examples, namely to maintain strict border control to “stop the boats”, “axe the tax” by removing the hated economy destroying carbon tax, and “repay the debt” and “stop the waste” accumulated by the irresponsible expenditure of Kevin Rudd and his pathetic treasurer and partner in fiscal disaster, Wayne Swan.

108,109,110,111,112 The second apparition, former PM Julia Gillard, renowned as much for her serial image changes (just “who is the real Julia?” remains a mystery for the ages) as her extreme pro-Union sympathies, her repeated default to class warfare rhetoric, but most especially for repeatedly playing the gender card whenever any criticism of her, however justified, was in the offing. Her infamous misogyny speech, directed unjustly against Tony Abbott, was one of the worst abuses of her position of power, being merely a transparent, cynical and shallow attempt to divert attention from the real cause of her leadership instability, that being her predecessor Kevin Rudd, who was serially leaking against her and undermining her at every turn. Of course, like most socialists and especially erstwhile ex-university Trotskyites, Gillard happily bought into the Global warming narrative, and in spite of promising “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”, she only a few weeks after the election delivered us all exactly that: a carbon tax under a government she led. She then warns Macbeth that he cannot be vanquished by “one of woman born”, thereby giving his boundless overconfidence a fatal boost.

113 The third apparition, former PM Kevin Rudd, has such a chequered history that his warnings to Macbeth could easily have been longer.

114 Kevin Rudd’s most famous contribution, from the early days of his ascension, was his apology to the so called “stolen generation” of Aboriginal Australians. This heartfelt apology was almost universally acclaimed as a positive and essential step toward reconciliation, even if the apology itself does, arguably, take certain liberties with the true history of early European settlement in Australia, and the general treatment of Aborigines and more importantly the motivations of those allegedly involved in the removal and protection of children during that era.

115 The Heiner affair was a black mark on the Queensland political landscape, and involved a coverup of child sexual abuse at the John Oxley Youth detention centre, including the rape of a 14 year old Aboriginal girl, that led to the shredding of reams of documents and the aborting of an independent inquiry in 1990, during the first term of the Goss Labor government. A subsequent audit by QC David Rofe recommended up to 68 prima facie charges that could be brought against public officials past and present for their handling of the case. These included Mr Goss’s former Chief-of-staff and subsequent Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and the subsequent Governor General Quentin Bryce, suggesting that such dubious behaviour was no obstacle whatsoever to receiving the rewards of attaining the highest of public offices in the entire nation.

116 One of the many controversies that dogged the disaster-prone Rudd Labor government was the so called “pink batts scheme”, a subsidised home insulation scheme to allegedly improve energy efficiency of homes. This only served to encourage “fly by night” operators who sent untrained installers to install often inferior products that eventually led to several house fires and the deaths of 4 of the inexperienced workers put in danger by the poorly regulated scheme.

117 The principal disaster that the Rudd government was totally responsible for above all others was the deliberate relaxation of the previously effective policies of PM John Howard’s “Pacific Solution”, measures that had reduced asylum seeker boat arrivals to near zero and saw only 4 people in detention prior to the floodgates being opened. This exercise of misplaced moral posturing, and symbolism over substance eventually led to the deaths of at least 1200 people who perished being smuggled into the country on the high seas. In spite of this glaringly obvious policy failure, monumental in its stupidity, catastrophic in its effect, and completely counterproductive to the allegedly humanitarian intentions of those involved, neither the politicians involved nor the media enablers who cheered the policy change on would accept any responsibility for their actions, nor recant their beliefs once the disaster unfolded, thus reflecting very poorly on their sense of personal morality.

118 Finally, the Rudd Labor government’s response to the Global Financial Crisis, with excessive fiscal stimulus frittered away for little concrete benefit to show for it, and thus setting Australia on the course to fiscal ruin that has continued unhindered ever since, with debt ballooning at an alarming rate with very little likelihood of ever returning to surplus in our lifetimes.

119 Kevin Rudd has aspirations to obtaining high office at the United Nations, with even a potential run at the Secretary General position mooted at one stage. Not content with ruining Australia with his narcissism and incompetence, he now sets his eye on the world for his special brand of epic failure.

120 Shortly after the overthrow of Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop was conspicuous in being seen repeatedly going on runs and exercising in trendy exercise gear, like some kind of ersatz fitness icon. She seemed to become ever more gaunt, seemingly losing weight that she could scarcely afford in the quest to project this particular image of herself.

121 Brian Loughnane is a business and political adviser. He was the Federal Director of the Australian Liberal Party from February 2003 until January 2016, and Campaign Director for the centre-right Coalition parties in the 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 Federal elections. He is also the husband of Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

122 How else would a visiting doctor from Limerick express himself, but in his “native tongue”, using the form of the humble limerick?

123 St Vitus’ dance is the traditional term for Sydenham’s chorea, a movement disorder associated with rheumatic fever characterised by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet. To the untrained medieval eye, any thrashing about would mimic this condition, and clearly the treatment Lady Macbeth received would be enough for anyone to flail their limbs about in just such a fashion.

124,125 As an ardent believer in anthropogenic climate change, Malcolm Turnbull believes that mankind has a significant measure of control over the wrathful elements of weather, and the power to modify the climate globally through his own actions. While regional changes certainly do occur with altered land use and deforestation, the global climate remains imperious and relatively impervious to man’s puny influence, the scale of which gives lie to our hubristic belief in our own importance within the natural world.

126 The “green tide” of Birnam wood moving unto Dunsinane castle is an apt metaphor for the current contemporary political situation, where the Green Party wields a disproportionate level of power and influence in government policy, a figurative green tide that threatens to envelope all in its path. It is Turnbull’s pandering to “green” policies, toward which he is inordinately sympathetic, that will inevitably prove his undoing, in synchronicity with his dramatic counterpart, Macbeth.

Post script (24/8/2018):

Just as depicted in the play above, the real-life model for the usurper Macbeth, in the form of the now ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, thankfully did indeed “die” a well deserved political death as predicted.

A leadership spill just today has led to his being overthrown, due to the staunch resistance to his “reign” by those once aligned to the former “King”, Tony Abbott (Duncan). Birnam Wood did indeed march unto Dunsinane! The usurper’s head then ended up being paraded around on a (figurative) spike to the general acclamation of the gathered throng. At last, some sense of proper governance can now hopefully be restored.

However, in a remarkable twist of fate, the model for Banquo (Scott Morrison) has managed to ascend the throne in his stead. Perhaps it is fortunate that Australian politics in the 21st Century isn’t quite so blood thirsty and final as those royal intrigues that originally transpired in 11th Century Scotland. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether Scott Morrison is merely the ghost of the once noble Banquo, or perhaps the resurrection of him, regaining his once promising leadership qualities and good sense, away from the pernicious influence of the egregious Malcolm Turnbull.

Let us hope the witches prophesies (that Banquo’s “heirs” would sit on the throne) were at least correct on that one!  


Random quotes from the play, including some that never quite made the final text unexpurgated (with some facetious translations and/or explanatory notes appended):

“By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.”

(The press gallery was heard to utter as Macbeth (Turnbull) arrives for a press conference.)

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.”

(An apt description of the policy paralysis that has accompanied Macbeth’s (Turnbull) rule, with everything on the never-never, with much ado about nothing, and the death knell for the party he allegedly represents.)

“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

(Macbeth’s (Turnbull) political capital and the all too brief honeymoon with the press corps is predestined to vanish in a puff of smoke within an instant. The clock is ticking and his 15 minutes of fame are almost at an end. In spite of a surfeit of puff and bluster, the soufflé is about to collapse leaving a limp and unpalatable residue for the many cooks responsible to have to clean up.)

“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”

(The denizens of Fairfax media are clearly having a brainstorming session, seeing what “news” they can cook up for general consumption. Amazing what a concoction you can brew with a bit of eye of newt and tongue of bat!)

“Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.”

(Those who crave the spotlight sometimes don’t count on the intense scrutiny that goes with it. You can only run from the truth for so long before it, and your past, catches up with you, as Macbeth (Turnbull) proceeds to find out.)

“Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.”

(Excellent advice given to Macbeth (Turnbull) by his advisers before a Q&A appearance, advice that he obviously took completely to heart, and then ran with it)

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.”

(Now if that doesn’t sum up our waffling usurper, then nothing does!)

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”

(The ethos of the modern mainstream media, as it has evolved, in a nutshell. Wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them on their collective arse!)

“Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief!

(Some need little encouragement to treachery, and Lady Macbeth (Julie Bishop) is just the lady to do it, by fair means or foul)

“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other.”

(All style and no substance, Macbeth (Turnbull) has but one quality in spades, that being a raw and naked ambition to power)

“Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters.”

(The hollow man cometh! Macbeth’s face is a blank canvas upon which any interpretation can be made in our collective desire to see substance in the insubstantial, intelligence and foresight where there is none)

“Receive what cheer you may. The night is long that never finds the day.”

(The dark abyss that the party has fallen into by following Macbeth (Turnbull) and his ascendency to the throne appears endless, and little hope remains for the restoration of sanity and reason to bring them back toward the light)

“T’is safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.”

(Following Labor’s dysfunctional example is apparently preferable to loyal service to one’s rightful leader in the interests of the party, and the nation as a whole. Usurping the throne ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either, not by a long shot, at least according to our friendly neighborhood psychopath-in-chief, Lady Macbeth)

“screw your courage to the sticking place”

(What? No foreplay?)

“Nothing in his life became him like leaving it.”

(And yet he speaks so highly of you!)

“Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles.”

(Ain’t that the truth! And we’re living the “dream” as we speak)

“Alas, poor country, almost afraid to know itself! It cannot be called our mother, but our grave.”

(Sadly, our beloved country’s epitaph)

“Fit to govern? No, not fit to live.”

(A trenchant observation of Lord Wentworth of Glamis castle, if there ever was one)

“Out, damned spot”

(Another trip to the plastic surgeon perhaps?)

“How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.”

(Not a tale for the mother’s group, I grant you, but certainly that Lady Macbeth is one determined lady, and clearly a piece of work into the bargain!)

On the Nature of God, and the Forces That Shape the Universe

We currently live in very troubling times, where there has been a conspicuous resurgence of pre-medieval religious fundamentalism in the Islamic world, with widespread conflict and serial atrocities being performed in the name of “faith” in many parts of the developing world, especially Africa and the Middle East. This problematic trend is now inevitably spilling forth into Western democracies in this modern, globalised and increasingly interconnected world.

It is by no means the case, however, that all such violent and barbaric actions can be characterised as purely motivated along religious grounds. Far from it, in fact, given the avowed atheism of despotic leaders such as Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot, which proved no barrier whatsoever in each case to the indiscriminate genocide of millions of their own people. Nor did the overt occultist satanism of Heinrich Himmler and his SS inner circle, or the Teutonic paganism of Adolph Hitler for that matter, present any obstacle whatsoever to the deliberate slaughter of innocent men, women and children on a massive scale in the last century alone.

Nevertheless, this recently apparent trend of humanity devolving back to its seminal roots of religious intolerance, theocratic rule and sectarian warfare, with the widespread treatment of those of a different religious faith as sub-human creatures beneath contempt to be used with disdain as objects for sadistic pleasure or sexual gratification, causes one to pause and consider not only the nature of God (were He/She/It to exist), but also the overall influence of religious faith on the human species, particularly as it has manifest particularly over the last 2000 years.

I preface my argument by stating that I do not personally believe in any form of organised religion, and that I utterly reject the notion of God as some kind of moral arbiter or imperator for humankind. Nor do I accept the idea of an interventionist God who meddles in human affairs, inflicting divine retribution upon the faithless or the evil, or protecting the pious and the “righteous” from pain and suffering, or delivering comfort to the grieving, the ill or the infirm. I also do not believe in a God imbued with any of the human emotions, qualities or characteristics whatsoever, because I believe this merely derives as an extension of anthropomorphic beliefs that are ultimately a reflection of our collective tendency for conceptualising the metaphysical, were it to exist, in broadly humanistic terms, by harkening back to our animist roots in prehistory.

Similarly, I have no faith or belief in the infallibility or divinity of prophets or in prophesy, nor do I believe that the various manifestations of weather or climate, or the multitude of different natural disasters that are bound by the vagaries of chance to befall us, are driven in any way by any deity or supreme being or entity, no matter what religious denomination or faith may hope to lay claims of absolute hegemony over such matters of divine retribution.

Instead, I believe in a thoroughly dispassionate, utterly remorseless, relentless and entirely rational universe, one which is driven by forces that have the potential at least to be definable and explicable even in our rudimentary understanding. It is important however to acknowledge that there remains a multiplicity of aspects of our universal reality for which humankind has yet to find even a suitable perspective, let alone a remotely comprehensive explanation. And therein lies the broad chasm in which religious beliefs are able to find their niche, in the realms of the unknown, and more especially the unknowable in a vast and mysterious universe that defies easy explanation at the current level of our very basic human comprehension and experience.

Clearly, throughout prehistory when the pool of human knowledge was relatively small, and many natural phenomena defied what those of the time would have thought to be a rational explanation, it is not difficult to understand the attractiveness of a divine or supernatural being with the power to modify the very forces of nature at a whim, as a means of quelling fear of the unknown, for providing comfort and guidance in times of hardship, but also in promoting a stimulus to action in the face of any consequent adversity, no matter how futile or irrational such beliefs and their consequent actions seem from our modern perspective.

Of course, as a result of this understandable human trait in seeking such authoritative guidance in the face of the unknown, there have always been those individuals who lay claim to special knowledge or insight into the spiritual or the divine, whether that be the shaman, the druid, the guru or the various readers of the Abrahamic faiths: the rabbis, the priests, the ministers or the imams. This is unfortunately the foundation for what is commonly known as “organised religion”, where those who form the enlightened core of the cognoscenti of a particular faith then decide those who are to be schooled in its core beliefs, and as a consequence also those that can be entrusted with its “divine” knowledge. These “chosen” are then given the authority to disseminate not only among the followers of that religion, but in many cases to proselytise and evangelise to those who have not yet gained exposure to their particular brand of belief and faith.

Needless to say that this is the source of much of human history’s litany of religious conflicts and the ensuing misery and suffering, that being a battle fought for the hearts and minds of not just the faithful but the unbeliever, but also for control of the”flock” through the propagation of the mythology of the faith. This also requires the subjugation or conversion of the “infidel” or “heretic” to reduce in number those of competing faiths, with the aim of swelling the ranks of one’s own religion to the maximum achievable extent to the exclusion of any others. For some faiths, that is best achieved through peaceful persuasion as to the merits of the faith though its humane works, with others it is through indoctrination and ritual, while still others it can unfortunately extend even to the edge of the sword, or to the point of a gun.

In spite of the widespread abuse of this power by many of those same leaders of the various faiths, it would be remiss of me not to mention that to some extent this over-riding belief in a higher power or in a divine purpose for humankind has not necessarily led solely to the propagation of superstition and ignorance, but it has also in many instances sharpened the mind and strengthened the resolve by providing great and enduring inspiration to some of the greatest intellects of history; men and women who have vastly improved our understanding of the natural world and the universe, whilst being otherwise faithfully religious human beings who fervently believed in God and his dominion over mankind. Men of the calibre of Nicholas Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Max Planck and Albert Einstein were known to be devout believers in a Judeo-Christian God, and are among the most highly influential and elite scientists in human history, responsible among other things for the development of the modern philosophy and concept of the scientific method itself, as well as instigating fundamental understanding and various other breakthroughs in the areas of genetics, astronomy, fundamental physics, electricity and magnetism, the characteristics of atomic and subatomic particles, and in the formulation of quantum theory.

It may be no coincidence therefore that the scientific enlightenment, from which much of our understanding of the universe arose, came from the predominantly Christian countries of Europe, a faith which drew clear distinctions between the Kingdom of God and faith, and the secular world which promoted the acquisition of scientific understanding.

Many of the most important figures in the history of science and philosophy have tried to reconcile their thoughts and their theories within their disciplines with their understanding of God, which in turn was largely viewed through the teachings inculcated by, and the preconceptions prevalent within the Christian Bible.

My personal approach to understanding the creation and structure of the universe, however, differs somewhat from those teachings in that I begin with the presumption that the Christian, or for that matter the Jewish or Islamic perception of God is a flawed one, born of the influence of organised religion and its sometimes less than pure motivation for the broadest of control of the general populace, and in the service of entrenching their role as the ultimate moral arbiters of wisdom and knowledge for their followers.

Thus, when looking for evidence of the existence or otherwise of some higher power that not only created, but shapes, guides and organises the universe, several physical manifestations appear to me to hold far greater promise than the concept of God as depicted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. According to the Big Bang theory of creation of the universe, for example, the universe originated in a dimensionless singularity where all the matter now within the universe was contained in its most highly organised state. Once that matter was released, thereafter the universe possessed high levels of entropy, the rate of increase of which must be finely balanced to support the formation of galaxies, planets and thus the environment capable of supporting life within the cosmos. So, the question must then be asked: Is the unseen force of entropy itself a form, or at least a manifestation, of what we might refer to as “God”, or at the very least a significant facet or even a fingerprint of a “creator” of some kind?

Additionally,  at least in our current level of understanding, there are four fundamental forces that act to “organise” the universe, over and above and in contradiction to the overarching tendency toward disorder. These four forces, Gravitational force, Electromagnetic force, Strong Nuclear force and Weak Nuclear force, each act over vastly different ranges and at vastly differing levels of strength, but which, in concert, interact harmoniously and precisely to form the very structure of the universe. These four forces, therefore, demonstrate qualities which would be completely consistent with what a religious person might term “divine” creative forces, that could constitute non-anthropomorphic aspects or facets of what we traditionally refer to as “God”, in at least the Judeo-Christian context.

The various forces that combine to stabilise the structural integrity of the universe include:

  1. Gravitational force, which is relatively weak but very long ranged in acting over cosmological distances. It is always attractive, and acts between any two pieces of matter within the Universe since mass is its source.
  2. The Electromagnetic force, which causes electric and magnetic effects, such as the repulsion between like electrical charges. It is quite long-ranged, but much weaker than the Strong Nuclear force at close quarters. It can be attractive or repulsive, and acts only between pieces of matter carrying electrical charge.
  3. The Strong Nuclear interaction is, as the name implies, very strong but it is extremely short-ranged. It acts only over ranges of the order of 1 femtometer (the diameter of a medium sized atomic nucleus) and is responsible for holding the nuclei of atoms together against the force of repulsion among protons of like charge. It is basically attractive, but can be effectively repulsive in certain circumstances.
  4. The Weak Nuclear force, on the other hand, is responsible for radioactive decay and neutrino interactions and has a very short range, of the order of about 0.1% of the diameter of a proton. As the name suggests, it is extremely weak relatively when compared to its Strong nuclear counterpart, though arguably it is no less influential to maintaining the structural integrity of matter.

Thus, it can be seen from the above description that these fundamental forces of nature form a complex interactive and harmonious framework, where should any of the components vary even ever so slightly, then the very existence of the universe as we currently experience it would be fatally compromised.

If Gravity was too strong, then stars would burn too hot and too briefly to be conducive to producing and sustaining life, whereas if Gravity were too weak, stars would be too cool for nuclear fusion reactions to occur, thereby also being unable to support the formation of life.

If Electromagnetic forces were stronger or weaker, chemical and molecular bonding would be substantially impaired, and significant instability of various elements would also occur.

If Strong Nuclear forces were stronger, there would be no Hydrogen, an element essential to sustain life within the universe, while if weaker the only element would be Hydrogen, because higher molecular weight elements would be rendered completely unstable.

Finally, if Weak Nuclear forces were stronger or weaker, not only would neutrinos, quarks and leptons be unable to interact or transmute at a subatomic level, but also the heavy element expulsion from stars would be compromised, and the balance of Hydrogen to Helium produced at the Big Bang would have been altered dramatically.

It can be seen from the aforementioned that without this meticulously precise interaction between these four forces, each with its own special spectrum and range of activity, nothing that we experience in our present reality would exist and the very fabric of the universe would be rendered entirely hostile to the establishment, let alone the ongoing maintenance, of life. Does this apparent precision merely come down to the vagaries of chance?  The vast improbability of this specific combination of forces being able to interact in such a complimentary way with one another to provide an environment capable of supporting life, is so great as to render probabilistic arguments in favour of mere chance to be completely unsustainable.

Does that mean that one must therefore believe in a deity or supreme being controlling the fate of the cosmos? I would argue that it doesn’t necessarily imply that, although it remains one possible explanation, albeit one that could never be falsified or refuted by its very nature. Rather, I would contend that there remains the distinct possibility that our universe is organised and shaped by forces which cross the boundaries of dimensional reality, that “bleed” from one or more higher dimensional planes across into our 4 dimensional space-time continuum. These forces may rely on the organisational principles found within those higher dimensions, principles that may possibly differ greatly from our own and be of far greater complexity by orders of magnitude. This higher order complexity might be the reason that these forces are organised within our dimensional space seemingly in such a precise, countervailing balance with one another. Our perception of “intelligence”, divine or otherwise, would therefore be largely irrelevant when contextualised against the organising principles of physics within these higher dimensional planes.

Beyond the purely matter-based aspects of the physical universe, there are many organising and creative influences that counteract the relentless chaos of the cosmos, including but not limited to the consciousness and cognitive processes of higher order organisms, the process of natural selection through evolution in perpetuating and propogating more suitable species over those with less favourable traits, and also in the recurring patterns found in nature, especially the so called golden ratio of the Fibonacci mathematical sequence, evident in such diverse situations as the orbits of the planets in our solar system, to the structures of various plants and insects, to the structure of DNA, to the proportions found in the human face to name but a few. These may be markers for the influence of the four fundamental forces found in our cosmos, the relationship to which may not be readily apparent to our current level of understanding, but which could realistically have its own internal logic that drives these organisational influences in ways we are as yet unable to define.

The concept of “God”, a divine and infallible creator, has a tantalising plausibility for many thanks largely to the endless wonders of our natural world, the mind-boggling complexity, diversity and innate beauty of life on our planet, and the awe-inspiring power and vast magnitude of the observed universe. The greater our understanding of the forces that shape the universe and the intricacy of the atomic and sub-atomic basis for the structure of matter, the more compelling this belief seems to be that there has been some kind of design or an over-riding plan or scheme that guides the formation and maintenance of this structure.

Notwithstanding this “Divine Creator” explanation that argues from the authority of holy writ (of whatever denomination), or ignorance of any other possibility to explain the inexplicable, I would argue that we indeed know so little of the nature and essential structure of the universe, both that which is observed and unobserved (remembering that it is generally held that approx. 80-90% of the energy and matter in the universe is unaccounted for in our present understanding), that we could just as easily be describing a “natural” physical phenomenon that guides us with seemingly clockwork precision, governed only by the rules of physics that originate in infinitely more complex realms of existence beyond the plane in which we mere mortal creatures currently reside.

In spite of this and other potentially plausible explanations for a universe free from guidance by divine intelligence and design, those atheists that dogmatically deny the potential existence of a Creator may well be skating on thin ice intellectually, although perhaps not to quite the same extent as those who, as a matter of course, assume one.

If indeed there exists a “God” that shapes the universe, it is my contention that this God is not a being as we currently conceptualise “Him”, but it would be appropriate to consider the Creator as an extracorporeal force (or interplay of forces) that not only provides the fabric upon which our universe is brought forth into existence, but also guides its path toward its eventual fate as either:

  1. the cold and lifeless oblivion of heat death (“The Big Freeze”),
  2. the cataclysm of reaching the limit of universal expansion (“The Big Rip”),
  3. the ultimate return to a perfect singularity (“The Big Crunch”),
  4. to an oscillating infinity mediated through contraction to a point where a reversal of gravitational forces occurs that then allows the universe to re-expand once again (“The Big Bounce”), or
  5. to some other fate that ultimately exceeds the limited purview of our understanding of the nature of the forces that shape our universe.

The Welfare Trap: A Prison From Which There Is No Escape

The altruistic desire to provide a comprehensive safety net, or at least some form of temporary assistance to aid our fellow citizens during times of distress or hardship is indeed a laudable and noble aim in theory, and one to which any enlightened modern and compassionate society should ideally aspire.

Unfortunately, as history readily attests, the road to hell is indeed paved with the best of intentions. The practical consequences of the development of a pervasive welfare state, one that has characterised the social milieu in most Western democracies from the latter half of the 20th Century to the present day have become increasingly obvious over time, casting a very different light on the “real life” practical effects and universal influence of these seemingly well-meaning socialist reforms.


Rather than an all encompassing, liberating and beneficent force against the five great societal ills: namely poverty, squalor, ignorance, idleness and disease, the welfare state as it has currently evolved has certainly had modest but significant success in reducing the incidence and severity of disease through the advent of socialised medicine, whilst also possibly some modicum of benefit in alleviating at least the most profound privation and poverty. This, of course, excludes the conspicuously poor health outcomes found within many Australian indigenous communities, where the rank failure of socialised medicine is at its most stark, while the incidence of abject homelessness also appears to have been largely unabated in spite of the imposition of the supposed welfare “safety net” designed to prevent just such a circumstance from prevailing.

Notwithstanding these alleged exceptions to the benefits of such systems in alleviating poverty and disease, social welfare has, I would argue, nonetheless had minimal if any positive influence upon the remaining three societal ills, with idleness and ignorance especially being noticeably more widespread and pervasive as welfarism reaches its absolute apex, an inconvenient fact that may inevitably be the instigator of its ultimate reckoning and demise.

As the welfare state reaches forth into the 21st century, it is becoming ever clearer that it has, in its very formulation and design, sowed the seeds of society’s breakdown and, in the most pessimistic projection, its total destruction. A confluence of forces conspires to undermine the alleged and apparent intentions of social reformers, as welfare remorselessly expands under the influence of the demographic imperatives of an ageing population, the all-pervasive culture of entitlement, an ever-widening definition of disability, the burgeoning of single parenthood, a shrinking of the employment base, and a rapid dwindling of the productive class of taxpayers available to fund them.

“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” -Frederic Bastiat

These irreconcilable realities should inevitably see the system collapse at some point in the future under the weight of too many conflicting obligations, but in the interim the cost in terms of loss of social cohesion and moral decline is likely to be seen and felt in the propagation of the very impoverishment, ill health, ignorance, delapidation and sloth that it was reputedly designed to prevent.

The primary source of this systemic failure derives from the lack of any real impetus for those deriving benefits of welfare to break free from the bondage this imposes, with many feeling sufficiently comfortable to maintain their welfare dependence in perpetuity, and where often such dependence flows further onward into succeeding generations as an attitudinal and aspirational inheritance. Such a pattern of behaviour, without any fear of recrimination or sense of mutual obligation, inevitably would be unsustainable for any society, given the finite number of taxpayers who can legitimately subsidise the welfare upon which such people depend, as well as the burgeoning number of people similarly coming on board to further encumber an already over-burdened system.

“It is labor alone that is productive: it creates wealth and therewith lays the outward foundations for the inward flowering of man.” ― Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism

Additionally, those who do feel some sense of obligation to contribute positively to society, or who are motivated to get back into the workforce to improve their self-esteem and to give a sense of purpose, are often compromised by a lack of employment and vocational opportunities in areas where high levels of welfare dependence exists, and also by a loss of entitlements (such as transport or medical concessions) which act as a perverse disincentive to seeking gainful employment and breaking the welfare cycle. These obstacles and disincentives are inbuilt into the system and serve to institutionalise dependence and laziness, and especially discourages proactive and self-assertive problem solving on the part of the welfare recipient, who thereby becomes as much a victim of this “assistance” as those who are forced through increased taxation to fund them.

Complicating matters still further is the thorny issue of precipitously declining birth rates among the more affluent members of many Western societies with many opting for no children whatsoever, in complete contrast to welfare recipients and single parents who often out-reproduce them by a factor of up to 3-to-1 in some studies. This is overall decline in birth rates is coupled with a simultaneous decline in death rates due to better medical care and health improvements, while additionally there is a looming post-WW2 “Baby Boom” tsunami that is likely to lead to a sudden and overwhelming increase in retirees, many of whom will become dependent on welfare through aged pensions due to a lack of superannuation savings and/or through ill-health and invalidity. This combination is a demographic recipe for disaster that can only end badly for those who wholly depend upon the welfare system for their income and for various services.

It is a matter of grave concern therefore that the majority of Western democracies have, largely as a result of massive and ever-increasing welfare expenditure, been taking on monumental debt burdens which approach upwards of 100% of GDP in some cases in the face of this obvious unsustainable burden, which can only lead to a further deteriorating fiscal situation that will only spiral out of control or unburden itself completely through total collapse. Therefore, those who depend entirely upon this system are effectively and efficiently trapped in a subtle form of bondage, for which consequences they are ill-prepared, and from which the media and governments of all persuasions do their level best to shield them from any semblance of foreknowledge that might prepare them for the inevitable.

The negative consequences of welfarism are most readily apparent (in the Australian experience at least) in the remote Aboriginal communities, where decades of unfettered welfare and socialist policy has served merely to entrench the most abject poverty, and has removed any vestige of hope these people may have had to aspirations of equality with their non-indigenous peers. A culture of widespread domestic violence, substance abuse (alcohol, glue sniffing, IV drug abuse), child abuse, chronic ill-health, rampant unemployment and lawlessness has been perpetuated at the very least in spite of, or more likely as a direct consequence of these social programs.

The removal of incentive to engage in the broader society, to improve education and skills in a competitive marketplace, or to move to places where greater vocational opportunity exists, has led to a placid acceptance and acquiescence by many in these communities of the perpetuation of their own disadvantage, ignorance and squalor in their everyday existence.

“Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions….Liberty and responsibility are inseparable.” ― Friedrich Hayek

This aforementioned removal of the incentive to self-improvement has proven the final and most telling nail in the coffin of a disenfranchised people, with the very means of reputedly “closing the gap” being the eventual source of the greatest disparity between the indigenous recipients and those who make up the wider community.

Unfortunately, it seems no amount of failure can dissuade those who advocate this social welfare approach from the uncritical belief in the merits of such programs, which seem more for symbolic purposes and to placate one’s conscience rather than any practical solution being provided to the many problems these people confront on a daily basis.

Not that the indigenous community is alone by any means in suffering under the influence of such a mentality, since many areas in our cities and larger regional towns are afflicted by similar, if somewhat less graphic social malaise. Where public housing and welfare recipients are congregated in the greatest concentration, social problems are manifest more prolifically in the form of widespread drug abuse (particularly marijuana and Metamphetamine), drug dealing and other criminal activity, alcoholism, domestic violence, neighbourhood disputes, racial intolerance and abuse, damage to homes and property, and a general reduction in social order and safety is felt by those forced by circumstances into such an environment through age, infirmity, mismanagement or misfortune.

Yet, ironically these are the most conspicuous social problems that welfare was allegedly designed to resolve, which evidence suggests has not been the case in spite of many billions, if not trillions of dollars expended on programs globally whose aims are not even remotely being met.

Clearly, the implementation of the polar opposite to these social justice reforms is an at least equally, if not far more unpalatable prospect, especially after decades of entrenched welfarism has been in train, and particularly for those who would hope for a lasting relief from the privations of widespread poverty and ignorance, because abrupt withdrawal or failure to provide any social support at all would inevitably lead to the consequence of even more widespread dispossession and homelessness.

This would likely further devolve precipitously into pervasive violence of the streets, and thus would lead to ever more intense suffering that would particularly marginalise and disenfranchise the most vulnerable. As such, it would seem that the die of fate has been already cast, and that there is no obvious, feasible recourse to modify these systems significantly as they currently exist without inducing massive societal upheaval or destruction, or perhaps worse still, through the slow and painful figurative death by degrees.

That being said, one of the definitions of what constitutes madness is repeatedly performing the same action, but expecting substantially different (or even diametrically opposite) results to miraculously occur in response to those same actions. As such the apparent rank failure of the social welfare system, especially given its potential collapse within the coming decade or so, needs to be addressed honestly and openly without fear or favour, whereupon any subsequent modifications to the current system need to better address the mutual obligations of welfare recipients to give back to the community in kind, and for the society involved to increase the opportunities for those at the bottom of the social ladder to improve their lot in life through appropriately rewarding effort and achievement, such that there are seen to be numerous achievable pathways out of the welfare trap, and thereafter on to a more thoroughly productive and hopefully far more personally satisfying future.

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

The stakes are incredibly high, since the fate of Western civilisation itself would appear to largely depend upon addressing this pressing, and as yet entirely unresolved issue. It is timely to be reminded of the following truism when assessing the clearly finite nature of any society, no matter how “Western”, well constructed, democratic or enlightened:

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency; 
  • From complacency to apathy;
  •  From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.”

– Henning Webb Prentis

Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World? Competing Visions for a Dystopian Future


As the modern world appears to be sliding inexorably toward the establishment of a global surveillance state, run at the behest of a crypto-fascist oligarchy, the incredibly prescient concepts and observations proposed by those renowned novelists Aldous Huxley and George Orwell ring ever more loudly in our collective ears, as harbingers of a dystopian future whose reality seemingly bears down upon us at frightening speed.

But, the question remains: Whose vision is the closest to the reality with which we are now faced, or are soon to be confronted by in the very near or even distant future?

At first glance, Huxley’s concept of a society drowning in a sea of irrelevant information, and preoccupied with or distracted by trivia seems the more grounded in the reality of daily life in our contemporary Western societies, in a world that is increasingly dominated by mindless entertainment and amusement for its own sake (computer games, pornography, “infotainment”, lifestyle TV programming and “reality TV”), unduly fascinated with the trappings of celebrity (Hollywood stars, European royalty, the rich and famous, and gossip magazines, etc.) and comprehensively fixated with superficial appearances (Facebook and Instagram, cosmetic surgery, obsessive fitness regimes, fad diets).

More troubling, perhaps, is that this aimless narcissism is associated with a conscious and near complete rejection of the importance of deductive reasoning, objective scientific knowledge and an impartial view of historical facts by a significant majority of the adult population.

Similarly, there has been a significant diminution of the general appreciation of literature and reading as a means of broadening one’s experience and knowledge, a failure to appreciate the necessity for stringent adherence to scientific method and principle, and a lack of a realistic geopolitical perspective on matters that should be of paramount importance not just for our own self interest, but also for the interests of our loved ones and those who will descend from us.

This institutionalised ignorance has been cynically coupled with the systematic conquest of the sovereignty of the individual by the state, through a rejection of self-reliant cognitive strategies and logical analysis in favour of a default to collectivist group-think and a deference to perceived authority and an uncritical conformity to perceived politically correct societal norms and expectations.

Huxley foresaw that governments and the so called “powers that be” would increasingly seek to exploit the apparently unquenchable thirst of the people for the pursuit of aimless and mindless diversions to entertain them, the latter day equivalent mechanism of control to Juvenal’s famous observation regarding the efficiency of “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses) which characterised the socio-political landscape of the declining Roman Empire.

This unhealthy modern fixation with such trivial constructs to the exclusion of more intellectual pursuits ultimately overwhelms our capacity to accurately prioritise information in order of relevance and importance, and diminishes our desire for knowledge and understanding leading to a society marred by passivity, egocentrism and hedonism.

This “Brave New World” is conceived by Aldous Huxley as a totalitarian technocracy, which is characterised by rigid and clearly demarcated social stratification, with cradle to the grave brainwashing through “hypnopaedic sleep teaching”, the negation of the motivation to rebellion through the absence of war and conflict, and the destruction of the family unit with mother and father figures absent and life-long relationships non-existent.

Personal freedoms are therefore sacrificed for safety and the pleasure principle, reinforced by the use of drugs (“Soma”), “feelies” and by unconstrained sexual gratification without emotional context. Science is thus used by a ruthless and faceless government as the ultimate weapon to subvert the individual’s desire for self-determination, as well as a tool for structuring social hierarchy through targeted genetic engineering.

Many of these technological aspects of the dystopian world Huxley envisioned in his novel have indeed, in some way or shape or form at least, come to pass in our modern day Western society as we currently experience it on entering the 21st Century.

George Orwell, on the other hand, imagined a more overtly scarifying and brutally repressed world: one of all-pervasive surveillance by an oppressive totalitarian regime embodied by and mediated through the supreme power and omnipresence of the all seeing eye known as “Big Brother”.

The world of Oceania that Orwell imagined contrasted heavily with Huxley’s vision, whereupon it was through the misuse of mass censorship and the restriction of information through manipulation of the media (rather than an overload of trivial information in Huxley’s vision) that kept the masses in ignorance, while inconvenient facts or undesirable persons or incidents were deliberately suppressed through the systematic alteration of the historical record, disappearing facts down the “memory hole” to conceal inconvenient truths.

Government control in Orwell’s society was further assisted and maintained by a network of informants, through the propagation of a perpetual state of warfare, by inflicting pain and fear to dissidents and undesirables through torture (Room 101), and by raising the spectre of emblematic enemies of the state and orchestrating false flag conflicts (Goldstein, Eurasia and, by turns, Eastasia).

One of the key distinguishing features of this society was that the language was completely corrupted to distort its true meaning in communicating ideas between people, with the language of “Newspeak” often juxtaposing contradictory ideas with the aim of producing confusion and promoting ignorance in the minds of the populace, and ultimately ensuring their continued obedience.

Orwell’s world in “1984” was also seen to be a dark, dank and decaying one of crumbling infrastructure, except perhaps for that enjoyed by the very elites of the inner circle of “The Party” (though their existence seems to have been similarly oppressive, if albeit self-imposed), with the mass of humanity toiling in a joyless, loveless existence under the jackboot of oppression and fear, where every thought could be used against them, particularly if one is unfortunate enough to be accused of a “thought crime”, often arbitrarily, by the State.

The large screen two-way televisions and listening devices monitoring the populace, and which were present in each and every home and public space, were the only progressive technology of note that rose above the dreary and the mundane of Orwell’s own post-WW2 British milieu, which stands in stark contrast to Huxley’s gleaming, futuristic and technologically advanced, yet also entirely soulless society.

While each author developed a distinct and often superficially contrasting potential scenario for humankind’s descent into a dystopian nightmare, it is apparent that each vision has certain aspects that are readily recognisable as being present to some degree within many of our modern societies, with each prediction in some ways being complimentary to one another, or perhaps more accurately representing sequential stages in a continuum, where the concepts and themes of one might flow seamlessly into the other toward the same ultimate end.

Unfortunately, it would appear increasingly that some of those currently in power in the early 21st Century seem intent on using these scenarios as outlined by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell in their respective novels as a template for our future, rather than as a timely warning to be heeded and thus avoided.

Therefore, while it would appear to superficial analysis that Aldous Huxley has perhaps more accurately portrayed the pitfalls of “modern” society as we currently experience it, one cannot help but recognise the spectre of Orwell’s equally devastating prophesy which seems to loom ever larger with each passing decade and may, indeed, prevail as the default setting in which our “freedom loving” Western societies will eventually languish.

Perhaps ultimately each vision merely reflects the fundamental (and possibly inevitable) limitations in the cognitive abilities of humankind, which serve to curtail our individual and collective endeavours, and thereby ultimately consign our aspirations for the establishment of a truly egalitarian and progressive global society to the “memory hole” of lost opportunities.

Top 25 All-Time Greatest Rock Albums

I was recently asked by a relative to list my choices for the best albums in popular music history, in response to a similar list derived through polling viewers of Australia’s public broadcaster, the results of which aired shortly thereafter under the title of “The Top 10 Albums of All Time”.

As with any such list or poll, it is clearly limited by the entirely subjective nature of our personal preferences, and the inability for any of us to be entirely comprehensive in our musical literacy. However, I believe it is still a worthwhile and interesting intellectual exercise to attempt to ascribe a rough meritocratic list, that this reviewer at least believes exemplifies the ‘best and brightest’ in popular music, and in response to that aforementioned viewers’ poll.

I have tried, in particular, to give extra weight to those albums that are not merely a collection of songs arbitrarily brought together in a ‘best of’ or ‘greatest hits’ anthology, but instead ideally should form a unified and internally consistent artistic work. Please note that I have deliberately excluded Jazz albums from this list, whether it be Miles Davis or John Coltrane, or Louis Armstrong or Jelly Roll Morton, because I believe this genre is as entirely different, and as completely removed from “popular music” as opera or classical music.

So, there you have it. For better or worse, what follows is my personal selection of the top 25 albums of all time, with some attempt to justify their inclusion. I’ve then added a list of the next best 75 albums immediately below them, just for good measure.

#1: “Veedon Fleece”: Van Morrison


Van Morrison’s unsung masterpiece, a lilting and melancholic song cycle that elegantly mirrors, and ultimately compliments magnificently, his touchstone “Astral Weeks” album. Emotionally resonant songs, such as the brilliantly evocative “Streets of Arklow”, the mysterious fable “Linden Arden Stole the Highlights”, the delicately poetic “Who Was That Masked Man”, the wistful “Country Fair”, the romantic mysticism of “Come Here My Love”, and the swirling stream of consciousness meditation “Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River”, highlight a fantastic collection of songs that represents the pinnacle of Van Morrison’s songwriting prowess. This is a gorgeous, melodic and transcendent album, blending as it does the spiritual and the emotional in perfect synchrony. For my more detailed critique on this wonderful album, please consult my essay elsewhere on this site entitled- “The Ultimate Veedon Fleece Album Review”.

#2: “Highway 61 Revisited”: Bob Dylan


As innovative and transformative an album as any in the Rock pantheon, “Highway 61” combines folk, rock, blues and country influences into a swirling, hallucinatory, literate and surrealistic blend of poetry, whimsy, bitterness and regret. From the opening bars of the iconic “Like A Rolling Stone”, through the comedic nightmare of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and the disdainful rebuke of “Ballad of a Thin Man”, until the last verse of the sardonic 11 minute acoustic folk poem in “Desolation Row”, all 9 songs display a range and artistry never previously encountered in popular music, the result of which practically defined the 1960’s counter-culture, while simultaneously smashing the staid traditions of Dylan’s beloved American folk music to smithereens. Whilst lyrically often magnificent (if obscure) and endlessly analysable, the literary content is nonetheless matched by its estimable musical accompaniment from luminaries like Mike Bloomfield (guitar) and Al Kooper (organ), who manage a visceral and rollicking fluidity which at times equals that performed by the great Chicago Blues bands of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and with an authenticity and looseness that compliments the complexity, the angst and the surrealism of those inspired lyrics.

#3: “The Complete Recordings”: Robert Johnson

The defining music of the Blues idiom, quintessential Delta bluesman Robert Johnson’s complete recording output is one of the most influential and groundbreaking musical transitions of 20th Century music. It is visceral, subtle, lyrically sophisticated and unique, played with compelling and haunting conviction by an innovative and yet enigmatic performer, who as legend would have it, sold his soul to the devil to achieve the level of prowess and artistic vision on display here. The inspiration for blues guitarists everywhere, none more so than guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton, for whom Johnson’s music remains the wellspring of his devotion to the blues. Songs such as “Hellhound On My Trail”, “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”, “Walking Blues”, “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Love In Vain” and “Rambling On My Mind” are absolute icons of the genre and reflect an artist who was a tormented genius, driven by demons and apocalyptic visions, and who was doomed to a terribly sad and all too early demise.

#4: “Astral Weeks”: Van Morrison


Van Morrison’s highly improvised, unique and daring valentine to his childhood memories, to the pain of love and relationships lost and opportunities missed, and to the dreamlike interior life to which he retreated that offered him both redemption and, ultimately, transcendence. An extraordinary burst of creative energy, born out of despair and financial hardship, “Astral Weeks” seamlessly blends the mystical with the mundane, the poetic with the prosaic, and the beauty of nature with the grinding poverty of his upbringing in working class Belfast, wherein its vignettes bear a more than passing resemblance to James Joyce’s short stories in “The Dubliners”. This extraordinary album, for a long time my personal favourite, is a modern operatic song cycle populated by eccentric characters and colourful detail, simultaneously interweaving a blend of folk, soul, blues, jazz and classical music, and which is more emotionally raw and self-revealing than mainstream popular music had dared to be up until that point in time. It is an impressionistic masterpiece of passionate intensity and delicate tenderness, breaking new ground by defying the stereotypical musical expectations of its time, and expanding the perceptual possibilities for what constituted popular music into the modern era.

#5: “OK Computer”: Radiohead


Radiohead’s third album, after the smashing artistic and critical success of their sophomore effort “The Bends”, reached new heights of creativity and originality in their Orwellian depiction of a dystopian nightmare world of all-pervasive technology, and its dehumanising and demoralising effect upon the individual. An internally cohesive suite of thematically linked songs, “OK Computer” explores the limits of electronic music with flashes of psychedelia, chiming guitars, ambient melodic interludes, dissonant chord progressions, and complex rhythm and tempo changes that demonstrate a musical virtuosity unmatched in this genre since the album was first released in 1997. Thom Yorke’s often anguished, melancholy and deceptively raw vocals run the full gamut of emotions, complimenting the diverse instrumental flourishes and the widely contrasting shifts in mood and style as the album evolves. Standout tracks include the shimmering, wistful “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, the complex multi-segmented rhapsody of “Paranoid Android”, the choral ambient crescendo of “Exit Music (For a Film)”, and the eerie and discordant masterpiece depicting a psychotic breakdown in “Climbing the Walls”, but ultimately every track is vital to the overall effect of the album, with the perfect sequencing and conceptual unity making this album so spectacularly successful and unique.

#6: “Revolver”: The Beatles


A hugely innovative and revolutionary album, which transitioned from the folk-influenced “Rubber Soul” album to the overt psychedelia of “Sgt Pepper’s”. It represents a monumental leap forward in aural effects and sonic experimentation, with a diverse and eclectic mix of songs from widely divergent genres that serve to amply demonstrate the Beatles’ complete mastery of the medium. The wry humour and resentful scorn of the hard rocking “Taxman” flows seamlessly into the string octet neo-classical melancholia of “Eleanor Rigby”, which in turn is followed by the sonically inventive psychedelia of “I’m Only Sleeping” and the Indian classical music inspired hedonism of “Love You To”. McCartney pays artful homage to Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” in the romantic ballad “Here, There and Everywhere”, while “Yellow Submarine” mixes sea shanty with children’s nursery rhyme for light comic relief, and is then juxtaposed with the mordant satirical rebuke of “She Said She Said”. Side two continues in this same highly inventive vein, highlighted by the wide-eyed optimism of “Good Day, Sunshine”, the whimsical “And Your Bird Can Sing”, the innovative and evocative “I Want to Tell You”, the soulful sophistication of “Got to Get You Into My Life”, and finally the ground-breaking, LSD influenced aural experimentation of the hypnotic “Tomorrow Never Knows”. The sheer breadth of musical exploration and creativity involved have rarely been matched before or since in popular music history, and the album remains a pivotal work whose ongoing influence is difficult to overestimate.

#7: “Dark Side of the Moon”: Pink Floyd


The ultimate concept album of the 1970’s, “Dark Side of the Moon” is an iconic magnum opus whose majestic whole is somewhat greater than the sum of its parts. It’s slow, atmospheric soundscapes are perfectly complimented by samples of carefully chosen ‘found voices’ and skilfully interwoven sound effects (cash registers, ticking and chiming clocks, human heartbeats), to provide a suite of songs encompassing the many facets of human existence in the modern world, detailing the eternally confounding issues of the nature of conflict, money, peace, stress, time and ultimately death. Side one commences with an overture, the instrumental “Speak to Me”, followed by a cautionary tale about the transient nature of human existence in “Breathe”, the instrumental depiction of the stress and pace of modern life in “On the Run”, the brilliantly evocative “Time”, and finally the death metaphor “Great Gig in the Sky”.  Side two opens with the anti-consumerism anthem “Money”, then flows into the delicate “Us and Them” which deals with conflict and the duality of human relationships, followed by the dream-like ambience of “Any Colour You Like”. The last two songs draw all these threads together, with “Brain Damage” dealing with emotional and mental breakdown under the stressors of the modern age, while the finale, “Eclipse”, draws the album to a satisfying resolution with an all-encompassing meditation upon the complexities of life and the fragility of our existence. “Dark Side of the Moon” therefore remains not only a critical and commercial success, but is a thought-provoking musical experience that engages on multiple levels with subtlety and creativity.

#8: “Pour Down Like Silver”: Richard and Linda Thompson


Husband and wife duo Richard and Linda Thompson made 3 brilliant albums over a seven year period prior to their very public and acrimonious divorce, each demonstrating an exceptional lyrical and musical sophistication that elevated each work to the apex of English folk rock. “Pour Down Like Silver” is the most delicate and spiritual of the trio, dealing as it does with the couple’s conversion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. While the lyrics make allusions to religious themes and writings, it more immediately deals with the complexity of human relationships and investing in a deep, spiritual connection with one’s partner, and it is this that gives songs such as “Night Comes In”, “For Shame of Doing Wrong”, “Beat the Retreat” and especially the luminous “Dimming of the Day” their resonance and sense of immediacy. A truly beautiful collection of finely crafted songs, with brilliant virtuoso guitar work from Richard Thompson complimenting beautifully, in a work of artistry and grace that belies its relative obscurity.

#9: “Exile on Main Street”: The Rolling Stones


The Rolling Stones may have produced albums of better songs (“Sticky Fingers” for example), but nothing quite epitomises their edginess, their rough and ready musicianship, their bluesy approach or their devil may care attitude quite like “Exile on Main Street”, a loose collection of songs demonstrating a bewildering range as they explore the length and breadth of American roots music, whether it be gospel, blues, folk, country, rock or soul. The lyrical sophistication and soulfulness of “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup” and “Shine a Light”, are effectively counterbalanced by the fierceness and low down meanness of tracks such as “Rip this Joint”, “Rocks Off”, “Turd on the Run” and “Ventilator Blues”, which are among the most uncompromising and raw rock and roll in their entire career. Unfortunately, the Stones would never be able to match this level of achievement again in their career, and this remains at the very apex of their entire musical canon.

#10: “Siren”: Roxy Music


Roxy Music’s masterpiece, bridging the divide between their avant garde and experimental art rock past with the somewhat more accessible (and possibly less ground breaking) synthesizer pop and disco stylings that were to become an increasingly prevalent feature of their later albums. Bryan Ferry’s idiosyncratic vocals perfectly compliment the sophistication of the lyrics, and these thematically-linked vignettes often flow seamlessly into each other giving the album an impressive aural cohesion. The album begins with the irrepressible ebullience and irresistible rhythms of “Love is the Drug”, then segues into the trenchant yet elegant pessimism of “End of the Line”, the brilliant self-reproach of “Sentimental Fool”, and then the pulsating and frenetic “Whirlwind”. Side two continues the same themes initiated on side one, but more overtly examining aspects of his ultimately doomed relationship with model/girlfriend Jerry Hall in “She Sells”, the pitfalls of finding love unexpectedly in “Could it Happen to Me?”, the toll of a hedonistic lifestyle in “Both Ends Burning”, and finally summed up in the wistful resignation of Ferry’s signature tune, “Just Another High”. A rare blend that is at once danceable, artful, melodic and atmospheric, “Siren” represents not only the apex of the glam-rock genre, but also an engaging dissertation on the emptiness of the self-obsessed celebrity lifestyle.

#11: “Five Leaves Left”: Nick Drake


Nick Drake’s delicate and refined debut album, infused with a lingering sense of existential romanticism and a gentle poetic sensibility, is a gorgeous blend of the folk rock and singer-songwriter genres. A collection of subtle and reflective songs that have been greatly enhanced by marvellous cello and string arrangements, Drake’s soft spoken but expressive vocals deliver beautiful melodies that have only become more widely and greatly appreciated with the passage of time, and with the artist’s premature death at 26 years of age. Outstanding tracks such as “Day Is Done”, “Three Hours”, “Way To Blue” and “Fruit Tree” have an autumnal beauty and lyricism rarely encountered in modern music, and are all the more impressive given their tragic and at times prescient context.

#12: “Are You Experienced?” (U.S.): Jimi Hendrix


A brilliant and innovative guitarist who single-handedly redefined how the instrument could be played, Jimi Hendrix’s first album is a revolution in itself, in a complex fusion of jazz, avant-garde, funk, blues and rock that stands as one of the most potent and inspired debuts in rock history. His heavily distorted, entirely unconventional, fuzz-tone electric guitar riffs and effects are legendary, and are a source of inspiration for countless guitarists and bands who followed in his considerable wake. Highlights include the legendary acid-rock anthem “Purple Haze”, the bluesy revenge fantasy “Hey Joe”, the luminous “The Wind Cries Mary”, the overtly sexual “Foxy Lady”,  the propulsive and revealing “Manic Depression”, and the smouldering, slow-burning blues of “Red House”. The title track ends the album in a burst of psychedelia with slashing guitar, and unifying the whole work with the question posed of the audience, the affirmation of which signifying that Jimi Hendrix had arrived as an entirely new and radical musical force, and that a seismic shift in the rock landscape had occurred. An absolutely essential album by a legendary performer in his prime.

#13: “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”: R.E.M


R.E.M’s relative commercial failure, “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” is a vastly under-appreciated gem that artistically surpasses many, if not all of the more famous and critically successful albums that preceded it. Stand out songs such as the undaunted and self-assertive “Bittersweet Me”, the wonderfully devotional “Be Mine”, the scathing “So Fast, So Numb”, the stream-of-consciousness valediction of “E-Bow the Letter”, and especially the scarifying “Low Desert” are further complimented by an eclectic range of songs of a similarly high standard that were derived from various out-takes, sound checks and live performances, giving the music an immediacy and a primitive feel that moved diametrically away from the polished, studio-bound efforts of their commercial peak. As such, this album is a deliberately rough-hewn diamond whose lustre increases with each playing, and whose treasures reveal themselves subtly, and often unexpectedly.

#14: “Grace”: Jeff Buckley


A miraculous debut, with Jeff Buckley’s marvellous vocal ability and expressiveness to the forefront in a uniformly excellent blend of well chosen covers (including the definitive version of Leonard Cohen’s iconic “Hallelujah”) alongside stunningly inventive originals, including such highlights as the Led Zeppelin inspired “Mojo Pin”, the romantic despair of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Back”, the melancholy “Last Goodbye”, the ethereal “Dream Brother”, and especially the intensely personal and confessional bonus track “Forget Her”. A lush, romantic and emotional experience, this album remains a tragic epitaph to a career cut short by Buckley’s accidental drowning at age 30, and has only increased in stature over the succeeding years as its timeless qualities have come to be more fully and more universally appreciated.

#15: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”: The Beatles


The definitive psychedelic album, a justly famous and influential pastiche with a fusion of disparate musical styles, from classical to music hall to Indian music to baroque pop to rock and roll, which is then merged with the Fab Four’s highly developed Pop Art sensibilities, and producer George Martin’s unflinching resolve in exploring and expanding the limits of sonic embellishment, to form what amounts to their most exuberant collective burst of unbridled creativity. The album set the stage for, and duly dominated the “Summer of Love” in 1967, pushing the contemporary boundaries not only in its concept, sound and technical proficiency, but also in demonstrating the group’s complete mastery of the popular music genre. Only the addition of the omitted contemporaneous hit, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, could have improved upon the sheer brilliance on display here, with such standout tracks as “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “A Day in the Life” and “Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite” especially being at the absolute pinnacle of The Beatles’ artistic vision and expression.

#16: “Achtung Baby”: U2


Leaving behind their somewhat productive infatuation with Americana, with the generally excellent “Joshua Tree” album and the somewhat under-rated “Rattle and Hum”, and eschewing the sometimes bombastic social themes that at times marred some of their previous work, U2’s “Achtung Baby” marked a bold departure toward a more introspective approach,with the songs revolving around themes dealing with the meaning of love, sexuality and even spirituality. The lyrics are often very dark, with some expressing anger and resentment at infidelity and betrayal, while the majority deal one way or another with troubled or doomed relationships or their emotional toll in consequent feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Songs such as “Love Is Blindness”, “One”, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” and “So Cruel” are among the best of U2’s career, and mix sometimes spartan instrumentation with pervasive industrial alternative rock textures and electronic dance music rhythms to create soundscapes that perfectly compliment the torturous emotions on display. A uniformly excellent collection of songs that represent the band, and Bono as a lyricist, at their very absolute peak.

#17: “Who’s Next”: The Who


The high watermark of The Who’s stellar career, “Who’s Next” began as an abortive attempt at a science fiction concept album tentatively entitled “Lifehouse”, but when that failed to come to fruition what remained were a collection of excellent songs that bore a loose affinity with one another, but were essentially self-contained and probably all the better for it. Iconic songs such as the devotional “Baba O’Riley”, the anthemic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and the brilliant angst-ridden “Behind Blue Eyes” are among the top 20 or 30 rock songs ever recorded, and are an impressive representation of a band who had by now fully matured from the young Mods with attitude of their youth to become fully rounded artists at their peak. “Song Is Over”, “Getting In Tune”, “Love Ain’t For Keeping”, and especially the dynamic and lyrical “Bargain”, are all top notch rock songs, and the album is further distinguished by the early innovative use of synthesiser effects and tape loops, which were not only pioneering in their novelty, but also represent some of the best examples of the judicious use of these effects, without becoming slavish to them (as much of the ’80’s music would subsequently become) to the detriment of the music it is meant to enhance.

#18: “Moondance”: Van Morrison


Van Morrison followed his improvised, acoustic masterpiece in “Astral Weeks” with a more conventional, but no less brilliant album in the incandescent and spiritual “Moondance”. Beginning with the beautiful and evocative narrative to memory “And It Stoned Me”, there follows the jazzy and seductive “Moondance”, the impassioned falsetto of the heartfelt ballad “Crazy Love”, the joyous celebration “Caravan” and finally, to end a perfectly sequenced side of music, the metaphysical ode to secular and religious devotion in the transcendent “Into the Mystic”. While the second side perhaps represents a minor notch below this very high standard of excellence, it still contains the spirited and jaunty confidence of “Come Running”, the soulful horn-laden gem “These Dreams of You”, and the gloriously resonant spiritual awakening of “Brand New Day”. This latter song and “Into the Mystic” are religious-themed songs of the highest order, subtle and profound in spite of their apparent simplicity, and which remain as timeless and iconic as the day they were recorded. For these two songs alone, this album would be worthy of inclusion in any “Best of…..” list, but this merely scratches the surface of the treasures found within this meticulously conceived and finely honed collection.

#19: “Darkness on the Edge of Town”: Bruce Springsteen


Bruce Springsteen’s fourth studio album, coming three years after his smashing success with “Born to Run”, was a marked departure thematically from his previous work, which was populated with urban characters and told stories revolving around city life and growing up in New Jersey and New York City. Instead, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” told largely dark and foreboding tales of the working class in small town America, where frustration, violence, passion and regret walk hand in hand, and where the honest toil of labour can wear away the last vestiges of hope and optimism, leaving only a hollow shell in its place. Songs like “Badlands”, “Factory” and “The Promised Land” deal with straight-forward if downbeat ideas of working class aspirations being thwarted by circumstances beyond their control, while the stinging bitterness and anger found in “Adam Raised A Cain”, “Something in the Night” and “Streets of Fire” are as fierce and as brutally passionate a response as any ‘grunge’, ‘indie’ or ‘punk’ band has been able to muster within their respective idioms. These tracks in particular highlight Springsteen’s expressive vocal raspiness, which perfectly compliments his fearsome and at times tortured and heavily distorted guitar playing. The closing songs on each side, “Racing in the Streets” and the title track are both at times wistful and despondent, at times bitter and resentful, but with each offering redemption through acceptance and making the best of life’s offerings and, in the case of the latter song, in admonishing the desire for the impractical and the unattainable. A brilliant and passionate album of high quality songs, this also marked a remarkably fertile songwriting period for Springsteen, as evidenced by the recently released, uniformly excellent double album of outtakes from these same recording sessions, entitled “The Promise”.

#20: “Howlin’ Wolf” (Red Rocking Chair Album): Howlin’ Wolf


The most essential single album of the Chicago Blues renaissance in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, showcasing the primeval, gravelly yet soulful vocals of the one and only Chester Burnett, a.k.a Howlin’ Wolf. Combining a larger than life persona, a massive girth and awesomely powerful delivery, he managed to blend passion, grit, emotion and wry humour in delivering Blues classics of the calibre of “Shake For Me”, “Little Red Rooster”, “Going Down Slow”, “Who’s Been Talking” and “Down In the Bottom”, most of whom were penned by his bassist Willie Dixon and laced with more than a modicum of venom, sexual innuendo and humour. Hubert Sumlin’s guitar playing is inspired and ground-breaking, and the whole band of accompanists demonstrate a looseness and raw energy that would inspire a generation of predominantly English blues guitarists, and bands such as The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Them, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc, etc. ‘The Blues’ doesn’t get any more definitive than this.

#21: “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”: Derek and the Dominoes


The best album of virtuoso guitarist Eric Clapton’s career, this double album of songs is dedicated to the guitarist’s conflicted feelings at falling in love with his best friend George Harrison’s wife, Pattie. The result of his obsession, and the (at that time) unrequited love for her, was a collection of songs running the full gamut of emotions, from the soaring cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, to the fiery remake of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”, from the definitive reading of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, to the all out attack of the frenetic “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad”. The luminous title track, whose name was taken from a 12th century book of Persian poetry, stands as Clapton’s best (and most heartfelt) song of his stellar career, and the entire album particularly is noteworthy for featuring his dynamic interplay with ace guitarist Duane Allman that pushes both men to their absolute limits as musicians. Combine that with a collection of songs all of an exceptionally high standard, and a backing band of the highest possible order, and “Layla” confirms itself as one of, if not the best purely guitar-oriented albums in the history of Rock music.

#22: “Led Zeppelin IV”: Led Zeppelin


Led Zeppelin’s most archetypal song, “Stairway to Heaven”, blends folk and blues with a lyric styled on a medieval template to produce one of the most famous, and somewhat unique rock songs of all time, barely diminished by over-exposure over decades of radio airplay. The album on which it is found contains a mere 8 songs, all of prime quality, which together produce the definitive ‘heavy metal’ statement. From the demented blues of “Black Dog”, to the improvised rockabilly of “Rock and Roll”, to the folkish and melodic “Going to California”, to the Tolkien-inspired “Battle of Evermore”, on to the final thundering reverberation attack of the 12-bar blues standard, “When the Levee Breaks”, the playing is never less than inspired, while the singing and unique phrasing of Robert Plant redefined the standard for Rock God superstardom. Highly influential and much imitated, but never equalled, Led Zeppelin IV remains one of the best examples of its genre, and among the most innovative and inspired albums from any group in Rock and Roll history.

#23: “Liege and Lief:” Fairport Convention


The brilliant folk and rock fusion, “Liege and Lief”, is an innovative and stimulating mixture of ballads (the wistful lament of “Farewell, Farewell”, “Crazy Man Michael”), British and Celtic folk tales (“Matty Groves”, “Tam Lin”), jigs and reels (“The Lark in the Morning” medley) performed with consummate musicianship by a stellar band including Dave Swarbick (viola and fiddle), Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson (electric and acoustic guitars), Ashley Hutchings (Bass) and Dave Mattacks (Drums), and adorned with the absolutely stunning, ethereal and at times other worldly vocals of the late, great Sandy Denny. With their original material blending seamlessly with the traditional folk arrangements, and the complex interplay between the players and vocalist wringing every last emotion out of each song, the album is nearly universally recognised as the pivotal and most influential album in the British folk rock idiom, and rightly so. An album that entrances and becomes more imbued with emotional connections with each listening, it stands as the definitive response to the American folk renaissance that had just occurred, through Bob Dylan and The Band and others, across the Atlantic.

#24: “The Bends”: Radiohead


Radiohead’s second album is a masterpiece of aural textures, light years ahead of their debut, “Pablo Honey”. From the shimmering and plaintive “Planet Telex” and the hard rocking grunge of the title track, through until the metronomic rhythms of the stunning emotional climax “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, the album displays an impressive expansiveness and musical diversity that is at once instantly accessible and memorable, and yet seems entirely new and experimental also. Songs dealing with abandonment (“High and Dry”), the shallowness of modernity (“Fake Plastic Trees”), human frailty (“My Iron Lung” and “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was”), shameless self- imposed victimhood (“Just”), the unattainable nature of love and happiness (“(Nice Dream)”) and the vicissitudes of melancholic depression (“Black Star”), are performed with supreme vocal conviction coupled with the engaging melodic complexity of its instrumental accompaniment that effectively enhances the thematic connections between the songs in order to facilitate a coherent and cohesive journey of emotional exploration that stands up right until the final note. A remarkable achievement.

#25: “Dixie Chicken”: Little Feat


Graduating from the earthy garage band rock and blues of their eponymous debut, to the country-inflected grace and quirkiness of their brilliant sophomore effort, “Sailin’ Shoes”, created a dilemma for this quintessential southern rock band, the only American rival to remotely incorporate the Rabelaisian spirit and musical influences of the Rolling Stones. With minimal sales impact in spite of the critical success of the first two albums, a change of direction was needed, and as a result their subsequent effort, “Dixie Chicken”, incorporates the syncopated rhythms and flavour of the musical melting pot New Orleans to produce their most definitive album. Stunning originals such as the country funk of the title track, the easy rolling rhythms of “Two Trains”, the slow burning sexuality of “Roll Um Easy”, the humorous blues workout of “Fat Man in the Bathtub” and the gorgeous soulful “Juliette” are complimented perfectly by crackerjack readings of Allen Toussaint’s scornful “On Your Way Down” and Fred Tackett’s admonition, “Fool Yourself”. The album features irresistible rhythms, a diverse musical palette and sophisticated lyrics which combine into a piquant musical gumbo that many have tried to emulate, but has never been equalled within its genre.

SO NEAR, AND YET SO FAR: #26 to #50 …………….

#26: “The Joshua Tree”: U2

U2’s commercial colossus, adorned with a collection of uniformly outstanding songs, and steeped in Americana but also intensely personal and emotionally engaging on a number of levels. The cautionary and highly symbolic drug tale “Running to Stand Still”, the romantic inquisition “With or Without You”, the spiritual quest of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and the iconic “Where the Streets Have No Name” are particular standout tracks. That being said, lesser known tracks such as “In God’s Country”, “One Tree Hill”, “Red Hill Mining Town” and “Trip Through Your Wires” match this high standard and the album’s sequencing holds up till right near the end, giving the songs a fluidity and flow that is highly impressive, and builds in cumulative fashion throughout the album.

#27: “Wish You Were Here”: Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd casts a cynical eye over the exploitative nature of the music business (“Welcome to the Machine”, “Have a Cigar”), as well as engaging in a devotional suite of songs (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”) dedicated to the fragile soul of founder member, Syd Barrett, whose nervous breakdown under the pressures of the music industry and fame forms the backbone of the album. The iconic title track, “Wish You Were Here”, is an acoustic and lyrical masterpiece, and is undoubtedly the best song on the album, and likely also of the band’s stellar career.

#28: “Sticky Fingers”: The Rolling Stones


A fantastic rock album, containing some of the best songs penned by the Jagger/Richards writing duo, namely the country-folk parable “Wild Horses”, the scarifying drug valediction “Sister Morphine”, the lilting “I Got the Blues” and the brilliantly evocative classic “Moonlight Mile”, and it features some searing and dynamic guitar work from Brian Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor prior to his departure from the band, to be replaced by erstwhile Faces alumnus Ron Wood. Concert staple “Brown Sugar”, a twisted tale with controversial undertones, has the raw sexuality and morally ambivalent attitude the Stones were famous for, while “Sway”, “Bitch” and the latin-influenced “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” are as hard edged as any in the Stones’ canon. Finally, “You Gotta Move” is probably their most faithful (along with “Love In Vain”) Delta Blues invocation, and is adorned with gorgeous acoustic slide guitar work by Taylor that brings it all back home with consummate ease.

#29: “Live at the Star Club Hamburg”: Jerry Lee Lewis

Quite probably the greatest live rock album ever, from the supremely talented, ferocious and incendiary “ball of fire”, Jerry Lee Lewis. Utterly inspired, and playing and singing like a man possessed, Lewis runs through a choice selection of many of the most popular and iconic hits of the 1950’s, not only his own, but those of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, which he throws into the mix and attacks with passion and venom. Essential Rock and Roll from “the Killer” at his absolute peak, with a point to prove and taking absolutely no prisoners.

#30: “Chuck Berry Is On Top”: Chuck Berry

The primordial source and wellspring for what would eventually become Rock and Roll. Needless to say, Chuck Berry invented much of the idiom’s foundation language through his trademark guitar licks and riffs, which were endlessly imitated by those whom he inspired. This his third album contains many of his most famous and influential material, from “Johnny B. Goode” to “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Around and Around” to “Almost Grown” to “Maybelline”. Every song is virtually a classic of the genre, invoking an era more perfectly then almost anything else recorded in the 1950’s (against some admittedly very stiff competition), or since for that matter. Absolutely essential recordings from a pioneer and consummate artist, with lyrics whose simplicity belies their sophistication and wit.

#31: “Hallelujah I Love Her So”: Ray Charles

Ray Charles’ unique blend of blues and gospel formed the nascent foundation for the development and popularisation of the ‘soul music’ genre that would dominate the R&B charts from the late 1950’s to the mid ’70’s. This 1962 album reissue of his 1957 eponymous debut collects his most groundbreaking and iconic music, from stunning originals like the title track and “I Got a Woman”, with definitive covers of “Drown In My Own Tears”, “Losing Hand” and “Sinner’s Prayer”. Essential and timeless.

#32: “Right Place, Wrong Time”: Otis Rush


An album all the more essential and remarkable because it lay unwanted and unappreciated for five years, and because the career of Otis Rush has been a litany of false starts, near misses, wrong turns, poor management and unsympathetic production. Nonetheless, this particularly fine album is a wonderful example of blues crossover, merging soul and blues idioms in a similar vein to the incomparable B.B.King, although more directly paving the way for the likes of Robert Cray in the decades following. For once in this performer’s chequered career, the production is note perfect, the material is never less than prime quality, and Rush’s virtuoso guitar work never less than inspired and subtly innovative, yet at the same time wholly understated. The album contains such gems as “Tore Up”, “Three Times a Fool” and the wonderful career defining title track, while also including the definitive reading of Tony Joe White’s classic hit “Rainy Night in Georgia” and the pained regret of the brilliant and moving closer, “Take a Look Behind”.

#33: “The Band”: The Band


Following on from their rough hewn, but nonetheless masterful debut album “Music From Big Pink”, The Band’s second effort went one step further, delivering a superlative set of a dozen original songs, penned by guitarist Robbie Robertson, that depict vignettes of 19th century rural life in the American South. Such classics as “Rag Mama Rag”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and the iconic “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” are just a few of the gems found on this uniformly excellent set, while “King Harvest (Will Surely Come)”, “Whispering Pines” and “The Unfaithful Servant” in particular are notable songs of the highest order. The album displays expressive and distinctive harmonies that are interwoven with consummate musicianship, from Robertson’s understated guitar to Garth Hudson’s majestic organ and keyboard embellishments, that gives these songs a timeless quality that perfectly compliments the album’s themes, and the vivid portraits being drawn therein.

#34: “London Calling”: The Clash


Punk rock’s magnum opus blends the reactionary angst and attitude of the ‘punk’ movement with an overtly political and anti-authoritarian thematic base, and combining that with a dizzying array of styles from reggae to ska to rockabilly, to New Orleans R&B and inevitably hard rock in an eclectic mix that brought a new level of sophistication and diversity to the genre. The searing anthem “London Calling”, “Spanish Bombs,” and “The Guns of Brixton” are among the standout tracks in a landmark album that defined an era.

#35: “No Other”: Gene Clark


Gene Clark’s once unjustly maligned album was considered over-wrought and over-produced on initial release, but through succeeding decades has been re-evaluated and has become generally regarded as a sublime masterpiece. Opening with the gospel and country inflected “Life’s Greatest Fool” building to a choral crescendo, each subsequent song boasts awe-inspiring arrangements, top notch musicianship and often unexpected and at times overwhelming emotional depth. Highlights include the serpentine title track, the haunting drug anthem “Silver Phial”, the Eastern mysticism of the brilliant abstraction “Strength of Strings”, and the emotionally resonant closing track, “Lady of the North”. This little known gem generously rewards repeated listening, revealing ever deeper layers of both sound textures and meaning, and deserves a wider popular exposure and appreciation.

#36: “Let’s Get It On”: Marvin Gaye

The most erotic and sensual album of Marvin Gaye’s career, which is to say that “Let’s Get It On” is without peer as the most sexually seductive album of all time. Each track casts Gaye’s impeccable vocal abilities against a backdrop of both sexually explicit and none-too-subtly implicit lyrics that flow seamlessly into one another to form the ultimate aural depiction of carnal desire, intimacy and passion. The music is sophisticated, rhythmically irresistible and incredibly smooth, yet still manages to remain masculine, earthy and lustful. The emotional crescendo is reached with the wonderful, heartfelt ballad “If I Could Die Tonight”, while the title track is persuasively soulful yet funky and insistent, “Distant Lover” is dreamily romantic eroticism, and the controversial single “Baby You Sure Love to Ball” is so overtly explicit as to feature prominently the sounds of a couple moaning during love-making intertwined within and framing the song’s melody. Much imitated by the lesser artists who followed, but never equalled.

#37: “Beggar’s Banquet”: The Rolling Stones


Beggar’s Banquet is a Delta Blues inspired collection of top notch songs, with slide guitar to the forefront on such classics as “Love In Vain”, “Stray Cat Blues” and “No Expectations”, and tinges of country (“Dear Doctor”, “Factory Girl”), roots rock (the overtly political “Street Fighting Man”, “Salt of the Earth”) and even a macabre samba jazz inspired anthem of sorts (the notorious “Sympathy for the Devil”). Inventive and complex, while firmly grounded in blues and rock traditions, this excellent album boasts exceptional playing , attitude to spare and a diversity of influences that provide one of the touchstone albums of the late 1960’s, and somewhat of an antidote to the rampant psychedelia of that era.

#38: “The Sun Collection”: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley’s formative recordings, recorded for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, were the root source for what would become the genre of rockabilly, a blend of country with southern R&B, with Elvis’ trademark swagger and sexuality as well as soulful vocal styling proving such an inspiration for much of the white American popular music that followed. Presley was a product of the regional melting pot influences of his home town (Memphis, Tennessee), where black performers like Junior Parker and Arthur Crudup merged with such country icons as Bob Wills and the Carter Family, acting as high quality raw material for the cross pollination that would propel Elvis to eventual superstardom. Hits such as “That’s Alright, Mama”, the iconic “Mystery Train”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Trying to Get to You”, are merged with covers of many country standards, given what would at that time be considered to be a modern ‘Rock and Roll’ twist that brought a new vitality to the material. These early recordings remain Elvis’ most enduring, innovative and iconic, and form the most important foundation stone of his musical legacy.

#39: “Every Picture Tells A Story”: Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart’s third solo album is a sublime collection of excellent originals (“Maggie May”, “Mandolin Wind”, the title track) with a brilliantly selected collection of covers, the interpretations of which often equal or even surpass that of the original artist’s version. Vocally, Stewart is in prime form, with estimable support from his former Faces bandmates (especially guitarist Ron Wood), delivering among others a searing rendition of the Temptations hit “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, a gorgeous and heartfelt version of Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”, and a beautifully rendered interpretation of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe”. A near perfect album that thoroughly deserved the commercial success and critical accolades accorded it, with a recipe that Stewart attempted on several occasions to repeat but whose serendipity he subsequently failed to recapture.

#40: “Blood on the Tracks”: Bob Dylan


Bob Dylan’s album output became increasingly inconsistent after the motorcycle accident that nearly claimed his life in the 1960’s, but  an exception to this was the bittersweet and emotionally resonant album, “Blood on the Tracks”. Inspired it would seem by the emotional turmoil and pain caused by the impending breakdown of his marriage, Dylan delivered an album of finely-honed songs that were sentimental and nostalgic without being maudlin, starkly honest and yet often artfully obscuring its true meaning behind a veil of symbolism and metaphor. The highlights of this exceptional work of maturity and conviction include such classics as the warm and inviting “Shelter from the Storm”, the romantic fable and lament of “Simple Twist of Fate”, the complex ode to memory “Tangled Up in Blue”, and the wistful regret of “If You See Her Say Hello”.

#41: “Robbie Robertson”: Robbie Robertson


Infused with subtle textures, rhythms and themes related to his Native American ancestral heritage, ex-The Band guitarist Robbie Robertson’s first solo album diverges substantially from the rural Americana of that musical excursion, and instead opted for a moody and atmospheric, more contemporary sound in a similar vein to Peter Gabriel or U2 (who, not coincidentally, also appear on the album), and then benefitted greatly in acquiring the talents of ace producer Daniel Lanois (The Joshua Tree, So, Yellow Moon). The album opens with “Fallen Angel”, a sad and loving tribute to departed friend and band mate Richard Manuel, while other highlights include the plaintive gem “Broken Arrow”, the apocalyptic “Showdown at Big Sky”, the passionate U2 collaboration “Sweet Fire of Love”, the menacing “Hell’s Half Acre” and the brilliantly evocative memoir “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”, a spoken word ‘song’ that sounds like a Dashiell Hammett novel describing the seedy underbelly of New Orleans at night. One of the best and most under-appreciated albums of the 1980’s.

#42: “The Beatles” (White Album): The Beatles

White Album-Cover

The Beatles’ White Album is a masterpiece of ragged eclecticism, its 30 songs covering a breadth of musical influences that are awe-inspiring in their sprawling diversity, from the manic, heavy metal attack of “Helter Skelter” (where Paul McCartney effectively presages Led Zeppelin et al), the Chuck Berry meets Beach Boys of “Back In the USSR”, the blues influence of “Yer Blues”, the 1920’s jazz of “Honey Pie”, ska/reggae of “Ob La Di, Ob La Da”, mock country with “Rocky Raccoon”, baroque harpsichord and string quartet of “Piggies”, and the acoustic folk of “Mother Nature’s Son”, to the ground-breaking ‘musique concrete’ of the avant garde and experimental “Revolution 9”. Some of the band’s best music is found here, with the gorgeous and childlike “Dear Prudence”, the emotive “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, the lyrical satire of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, the heartfelt valentine to Lennon’s dead mother in “Julia”, the distorted looking-glass encapsulation of the band in “Glass Onion”, and the stinging rebuke to misguided activism in “Revolution”. The Beatles display all their trademark ambition, audacity and artfulness in this musical chocolate box collection, thereby underlining and reinforcing their utter uniqueness and conspicuousness within the popular musical landscape.

#43: “Live at the Apollo”: James Brown


Great live albums are often determined by the sheer intensity of the performance (as in Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Live at the Star Club Hamburg” above), and by the rapport and interplay between the performer and the audience. Much like B.B.King’s similarly iconic “Live at the Regal” recording, James Brown’s performance in “Live at the Apollo” is not only powerful and intense, but it is matched by the passionate fervour and responsiveness of his wildly enthusiastic audience. In this performance, the “Godfather of Soul”, with able support from his Famous Flames, literally powers through the cream of the material he had released up to that point in time, and his passion and boundless energy and enthusiasm is vividly displayed in this album, the most seminal work from one of the pivotal figures in the history of R&B music.

#44: “Here’s Little Richard”: Little Richard

Richard Penniman, a.k.a Little Richard, was a true original and a formidable force of nature, merging fire and brimstone gospel fervour with New Orleans rhythms, and a tincture of the blues hollering just for good measure. His debut record was infused with so much energy, such unbridled excitement and a strange sexual tension that it ignited Rock and Roll with its explosive combination of perversity, desperation and anarchic flare, with particularly his trademark vocal attack being much imitated, but never equalled. Choice cuts include “Long Tall Sally”, “Rip It Up”, “Tutti Frutti”, “Miss Ann” and “Slippin’ and Slidin'” to name but a few in this exceptionally strong collection of his most galvanic tracks.

#45: “Pink Moon”: Nick Drake

Third and final album of Nick Drake’s career, with sparse arrangements , delicate guitar textures and obscure allusions which leave a troubling epitaph to an artist cruelly deprived of recognition and fame he so richly deserved. The despair at this lack of acknowledgement is palpable throughout the album, which is adorned with such classic if obscure and elusive tone poems as the whimsical title track, the lilting “Things Behind the Sun”, the self-deprecating “Parasite”, and the elliptical “Harvest Breed”.

#46: “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society”: The Kinks


The Kinks were the most quintessentially English of the British Invasion bands of the 1960’s, and in this quiet gem chief songwriter Ray Davies has fashioned a valentine to a vanishing England, depicting village life that probably only ever existed in the imagination, and much in the vein of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milkwood”. This concept album is a brilliantly executed paean to disappearing traditions, nostalgic for simpler times and for the quirky characters and idealised memories of youth. From the statement of purpose extolled in the lyrics of the title track, the songs invoke images of childhood friends (“Do You Remember Walter”), rural idyll (“Animal Farm”, “Sitting By the Riverside”), the romance of a bygone era (“Last of the Steam Powered Trains”), memory and ageing (“Picture Book”), as well as vignettes that celebrate eccentricity and individuality (a rebellious biker in “Johnny Thunder”, a local witch in “Wicked Annabella”, the town prostitute in “Monica”). A glorious collection that paints vivid, sepia-toned portraits with affection and intelligence.

#47: “St Dominic’s Preview”: Van Morrison


An album of rich textures and transcendent emotions, highlighted by such evocative tracks as the soulful and autobiographical title track, the charming valentine to childhood “Redwood Tree” and the incandescent “Gypsy”. Dominating the album, however, are two extended tracks: “Listen to the Lion” which features one of Morrison’s most primal and intense vocal performances, where he expresses his inner most personal feelings in utterly compelling and innovative fashion; and the trance-like closing track “Almost Independence Day” that induces an almost mystical and meditative state in the listener that is somewhat unique, and ultimately emotionally cathartic. An album of an artist luxuriating in the peak of his creativity, unafraid to experiment and to boldly step outside the mainstream to achieve a higher level of sophistication in his musical communication.

#48: “Abbey Road”: The Beatles


The Beatles’ swansong, “Abbey Road” is the product of a band at the end of its collaborative life, but yet still manages to sound like a cohesive and coherent whole in spite of this. Some of the gems contained within are among their very best, not least of which being the highly idiosyncratic classic “Come Together”, the gorgeous ballad “Something”, the exquisitely crafted perfection of “Here Comes the Sun”, the joyous “Oh, Darling!” and the classically inspired harmonic splendour of “Because”.  The second side of the LP, segues into an extended medley of musical fragments that coalesce to form a pastiche thematically linked by the dualism inherent in love and relationships. The selection of songs within this medley is not as random as it might initially appear, with each component being either a mirror image of a previous fragment, or interconnected in some other way either lyrically or musically to enhance the meaning of the piece as a whole. As such, this sequence is an inventive and unique accomplishment, enhancing an album fully deserving of all of the critical sobriquets it would receive.

#49: “Dummy”: Portishead


Emerging from the vibrant Bristol music scene of the 1990’s, Portishead defined the trip hop genre with this classic album, which merge influences of hip hop, electronica, jazz and cabaret to form a highly cinematic musical melange that blended seductive grooves with dark backbeat rhythms and torch song vocal stylings. This seductive combination crossed over from the narrow dance club scene (as exemplified by groups like Massive Attack) to a broader appeal to alt rock and indie audiences without sacrificing credibility or creativity. Songs like “Sour Times”, “Wandering Star”, “It Could Be Sweet”, “Numb” and the luminous “Glory Box” highlight an incredibly strong set that is by turns sultry then melancholy, sophisticated then confessional. The pinnacle of the dance/hip hop genre.

#50: “Nevermind”: Nirvana

To my mind the most contentious selection of the lot, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” is without doubt a highly influential recording, an essential era-defining album of the early 1990’s that energised an entire burgeoning movement in rock music, namely “grunge”- a blend of punk and heavy metal emanating out of the Seattle music scene. Lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain evolved a songwriting style that utilised an angst-ridden, self-deprecating and simplistic approach that emphasised melodicism over literary flourishes. Songs such as the anthemic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are”, “Lithium” and “In Bloom” garnered Cobain an enviable reputation as a gifted songwriter able to cut down his original songs to their barest essence. While I consider the album overall to be somewhat over-rated, there is no denying that it represented a timely reflection of, and a driving force for, a cultural shift that was evolving among a jaded generation looking for new forms of musical expression. As such it deserves inclusion in spite of any misgivings I may have regarding its originality or its likely longevity as a musical statement.

The following group contains those albums which, for one reason or another, didn’t quite make the top 50, but which are still amongst the elite Rock, POP and Soul albums of the modern era:

#51 to #100 List:

#51: “Hunky Dory” ….. David Bowie

#52: “At Fillmore East” ….. Allman Brothers Band

#53: “Catch a Fire” ….. Bob Marley and the Wailers

#54: “Live at the Regal” ….. B.B.King

#55: “Automatic for the People” ….. R.E.M

#56: “Marquee Moon” ….. Television

#57: “Portrait of a Legend, 1951-1964” ….. Sam Cooke

#58: “Velvet Underground and Nico” ….. Velvet Underground and Nico

#59: “Blonde on Blonde” ….. Bob Dylan

#60: “After the Gold Rush” ….. Neil Young

#61: “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” ….. Ray Charles

#62: “Transformer” ….. Lou Reed

#63: “Axis: Bold As Love” ….. Jimi Hendrix

#64: “Otis Blue” ….. Otis Redding

#65: “Back In Black” ….. AC/DC

#66: “Rubber Soul” ….. The Beatles

#67: “Aftermath” ….. The Rolling Stones

#68: “Plastic Ono Band” ….. John Lennon

#69: “At Folsom Prison” ….. Johnny Cash

#70: “What’s Going On” ….. Marvin Gaye

#71: “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” ….. Richard and Linda Thompson

#72: “Closer” ….. Joy Division

#73: “Pet Sounds” ….. The Beach Boys

#74: “Little Feat” …… Little Feat

#75: “Thriller” ….. Michael Jackson

#76: “Innervisions” ….. Stevie Wonder

#77: “Elvis Presley” ….. Elvis Presley

#78: “The Queen Is Dead” ….. The Smiths

#79: “Sign ‘O’ the Times” ….. Prince

#80: “I Never Loved a Man the Way That I Love You” ….. Aretha Franklin

#81:  “Muswell Hillbillies” ….. The Kinks

#82: “Ten” ….. Pearl Jam

#83: “For Your Pleasure” ….. Roxy Music

#84: “Born to Run” ….. Bruce Springsteen

 #85: “Dusty In Memphis” ….. Dusty Springfield

#86: “Swordfishtrombones” …..  Tom Waits

#87: “Trout Mask Replica” ….. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

#88: “Rust Never Sleeps” ….. Neil Young

#89: “Tapestry” ….. Carole King

#90: “Another Green World” ….. Brian Eno

#91: “Quadrophenia” ….. The Who

#92: “Loaded” ….. The Velvet Underground

#93: “Murmur” ….. R.E.M

#94: “Blue” ….. Joni Mitchell

#95: “Disraeli Gears” ….. Cream

#96: “#1 Record” ….. Big Star

#97: “Live Bullet” ….. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

#98: “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory” ….. Oasis

#99: “A Rush of Blood to the Head” ….. Coldplay

#100: “Never Mind the Bollocks” ….. The Sex Pistols

Vastly Under-rated Albums:

“Veedon Fleece” ….. Van Morrison

“New Adventures in Hi-Fi” ….. R.E.M

“Right Place, Wrong Time” ….. Otis Rush

“No Other” ….. Gene Clark

“Little Feat” ….. Little Feat

“Muswell Hillbillies” ….. The Kinks

“Together Alone” ….. Crowded House

“Yellow Moon” ….. The Neville Brothers

“Waiting For Columbus” ….. Little Feat

“Face to Face” ….. The Kinks

“The Temptations Sing Smokey” ….. The Temptations

“We’re Only In It For the Money” ….. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

“St. Louis to Liverpool” ….. Chuck Berry

“Truth” ….. The Jeff Beck Group

“The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” ….. The Incredible String Band

“Something/Anything” ….. Todd Rundgren

“Shoot Out The Lights” ….. Richard and Linda Thompson

“Everything Must Go” ….. Manic Street Preachers

Eugenics and Malthusian Misanthropy


The last 50 years, and the first two decades of the 21st century in particular, have become increasingly dominated by the broadly held perception, in the minds of alleged “liberal progressives” at least, that characterises the Earth as a “dying planet” marked by ever-dwindling and finite resources, with an increasing tendency to mass species extinctions and widespread environmental degradation.

This has led to the over-arching and obsessive belief in the absolute inevitability of ecological disaster on a grand scale, largely resulting from global overpopulation, which is now approaching 8 billion people and is broadly predicted to reach its crescendo at some time during the coming century.

Eugenics posterr

As a consequence of this fear of an impending eco-apocalypse, this has led to a troubling recrudescence of “Malthusianism”, a demographic belief system that derived from the philosophy and writings of Thomas Malthus in the early 1800’s (and resuscitated notoriously in the eyes of many by the Club of Rome in its influential publication “Limits to Growth” in 1972).

Of even greater concern to many, this broadly alarmist philosophy has become more closely entwined with that of another misanthropic doctrine in the Eugenics movement. “Eugenics“ gained prominence and indeed flourished predominantly amongst the Left wing intelligentsia from the 1890’s into the early decades of the 20th century, and was only finally derailed by its most prominent societal application: in justification of the promotion of an Aryan “master race” by Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists in the 1930s.  This example, and the hideous crimes against humanity made in its name, led to its apparent demise as a viable doctrine, or so we were led to believe, following Germany’s abject defeat at the end of WW2.

Nonetheless, these now closely aligned movements have now arisen, Phoenix-like from the ashes of their respective chequered pasts to become an increasing influential tandem in the collective mindset of the progressive elite, gaining undue and disturbing prominence amongst various members of the political and academic classes, in spite of neither philosophy demonstrating any previous practical application to a properly functioning, humane or cohesive society.

Malthusian beliefs have historically shown a consistent lack of accuracy in predicting the trajectory that formed our contemporary social milieu, a fact that should give little cause for confidence in its being able to now predict any of our society’s future outcomes. On the basis of precedent, Malthusianism can be seen to be an entirely counterproductive and ultimately fruitless intellectual blind alley for humanity; one which effectively stifles progress, curtails ingenuity and thwarts the aspirations of the many for the unvalidated concerns of the allegedly enlightened few.

These Malthusian beliefs vastly underestimate, if not failing entirely to envisage the unrelenting progress brought about by mankind’s ingenuity and innovation, with recurring breakthroughs being made in such diverse areas as agricultural techniques, crop fertilisation and pest control improving productivity, in medicine and health promotion, and in birth control and genetic engineering/modification.

Malthusianism lacks the intellectual rigour to take into account the significant and perpetual impact of a multitude of technological advancements that have been, and continue inevitably to be, developed across the entire range of human activity (whether it be industrial, medical, scientific or social), but also it undervalues the flexibility and adaptability of human systems in answering every challenge (within geopolitical limits) that our rapidly increasing population has thus far posited, or is likely to into the future. Linear extrapolations of futurist demography are therefore shown to be a highly flawed concept, taking too little account of human resourcefulness and ingenuity, nor accounting for the declining birth rates that inevitably come with affluence, nor the effect of the inevitable march of progress that must necessarily occur as the pool of human knowledge expands inexorably merely with the passage of time.

From a philosophical standpoint, the Malthusian belief system remains conspicuously rooted, in my view, in an overly Utopianist mindset that heavily romanticises the traditions of the past, worships the primitive over the modern, and the pre-industrial feudal society over the post-industrial, predominantly egalitarian and largely democratic, while yearning instead for a simpler and supposedly less complicated existence that avoids the rapid evolutionary change to which we have become increasingly accustomed.

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Utopia: Thomas More

Eugenics, on the other hand, is a set of philosophical beliefs and practices that aim to modify and improve the genetic quality of the human population by actively selecting and promoting desirable genetic traits, while simultaneously reducing or eliminating the prevalence of so called undesirable, or merely less desired traits. This may be, in its more benign forms, through genetic screening, birth control, and the promotion of higher rates of sexual reproduction for people with desired traits (positive eugenics), or through reduced rates of sexual reproduction and/or sterilization of people with allegedly less-desired or undesirable traits (negative eugenics), or both. However, this becomes increasingly open to coercive and restrictive policies by those political movements and governments who could exploit the false legitimacy of its roots in scientific methodology and reasoning. Inevitably, these Eugenics policies and programmes eventually come to potentially incorporate such prejudicial and punitive actions as gender selection, marriage restrictions, racial segregation, compulsory sterilization, forced abortions or forced pregnancies, and even on to the extreme human rights abuses of enforced euthanasia, “ethnic cleansing” and genocide.

Advances in genetic engineering, gene selection and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis have conspicuously increased the possibilities for such beliefs to reach new levels of sophistication, and enhanced its opportunities for its broader application, and therefore this emergent technology provides a renewed impetus to rekindle this social philosophy in spite of any negative connotations of its past associations. Fortunately, for those who value the rights of the individual, the reputation of the Eugenics movement remains, at least for the present, indelibly tarnished by the atrocities and genocide committed by its foremost proponents in the early 20th Century, which remains the only practical example thus far upon which to assess the likely outcome of its widespread application should this ideology ever regain intellectual gravitas and attain popular appeal.


The Eugenics movement is predicated upon a completely flawed concept, in that a narrow genetic definition of normality or perfection is more desirable for the benefit of human evolution. This presupposes the rather unlikely possibility that ideal genetic traits could in fact be predicted accurately to maximise our developmental adaptability, beyond of course the clearly beneficial elimination of certain serious genetic diseases or harmful mutations that could alleviate needless suffering. The hypothesis ultimately founders on the failure to comprehend that the vast array of diverse genotypes and phenotypes that comprise the total variety of human characteristics is entirely necessary to humanity’s future survival and prosperity, and this diversity represents a strength that renders our species more resilient and adaptable to a multiplicity of environmental and situational variables. Narrowing the gene pool in the fruitless quest for supposed perfection or the illusion of some optimal genetic composition is a poorly conceived idea which assumes a credibility that it scarcely deserves, given it is essentially a pseudoscientific concept that has very little precedent or other objective evidence to validate it.

Eugenics advocates mine a similar vein of anti-humanism to the Malthusians in proposing the need for a scientifically planned society in order to arrest the supposed genetic decline of humanity, which comes predictably at the expense of individuality, freedom of choice and the complete suppression of basic human rights. Eugenics at its heart derives from the misapplication of Darwin’s evolutionary theories to human society (in what would come to be euphemistically termed as “Social Darwinism”), and was unfortunately supported at one time or another by such eminent thinkers as H.G Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Alexander Graham Bell, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and many of the various founding members of the Fabian Society. The Fabian Society, originating in the 1880’s, remains a highly influential organisation promoting Marxist ideology and global governance through what they term “quiet gradualism” (as opposed to violent revolutionary activity) and has been instrumental during the course of the 20th century in driving the formation and hegemony of the United Nations (and the League of Nations before it), but also in establishing such bodies as the International Court of Justice at The Hague.


While this outwardly benign organisation ostensibly promotes “international peace, love and brotherhood”, the emblem of their society (a shield with a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing) hints at a somewhat darker purpose, with their putative social justice agenda hiding a more sinister vein of unabashed elitism, laced with at times overtly racist, segregationist and even fascist overtones (see prominent member George Bernard Shaw’s quotes below as but one example).

Eugenics also gained widespread traction among the political and scientific establishment in the early 20th century, backed by supreme court justices like Oliver Wendell Holmes, august bodies like the National Academy of Sciences, major universities like Harvard and Yale, and was actively advocated by the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations. The Fabians also attained a significant degree of infamy among the more cognisant members of society for their pivotal role as serial apologists for the worst atrocities and injustices perpetrated by Joseph Stalin’s Bolshevik totalitarian regime, including the deliberate starvation of around 10 to 12.5 million Ukrainians in the Holodomor genocide.

However, Eugenics reached its zenith when adopted, with tremendous zeal, by Germany’s National Socialist movement, whereupon Adolf Hitler’s plans to establish a global “Aryan Master Race” led predictably to conspicuous levels of mass-murder and ethno-religious genocide, to the eventual discredit of Eugenics as a concept by its egregious association. One can also see from the 1932 International Eugenics Congress proceedings quoted below that an undercurrent of overtly misanthropic and Neo-Malthusian philosophical concerns were central to their belief system also, and these same underlying anti-Capitalist and eco-centric ideas have conspicuously and returned to the fore with renewed vigour in the last 20-30 years or so, if somewhat more covertly and subtly than under the Nazis.

A decade of Progress in Eugenics, Proceeds of the 1932 International Eugenics Congress, p30-31 “The outstanding generalizations of my world tour are what may be summed up as the “six overs”; these “six overs” are, in the genetic order of cause and effect:
1.Over-destruction of natural resources, now actually world-wide;
2.Over-mechanization, in the substitution of the machine for animal and human labor, rapidly becoming world- wide;
3.Over-construction of warehouses, ships, railroads, wharves and other means of transport, replacing primitive transportation;
4.Over-production both of the food and of the mechanical wants of mankind, chiefly during the post-war speculative period;
5.Over-confidence in future demand and supply, resulting in the too rapid extension of natural resources both in food and in mechanical equipment;
6.Over-population beyond the land areas, or the capacity of the natural and scientific resources of the world, with consequent permanent unemployment of the least fitted”.

As a result, however, of the stubborn adherence of an increasing number of prominent individuals to these failed doctrines, these prophets of doom have sought to impose a rigid framework of sustainability controls, most clearly represented by the UN Sustainable Development Plan (commonly referred to as “Agenda 21”) that seeks to inculcate a flawed and unscientific belief system upon the broader global society, the likely result of which would be an enforced reduction in the utility of resources (even those that are not immediately or even foreseeably finite), a diminution of effective development and industry, and the unwarranted compromising of individual freedom, self-determination and private enterprise, to the ultimate detriment of the human species.

This mindset, as most readily seen in the writings and quotations of the highly influential scientists, John Holdren (President Obama’s chief science advisor) and Paul Ehrlich (ecologist, and charismatic author of “The Population Bomb”), has become all-the-more pervasive among policymakers in the corridors of power in Western democracies (the USA particularly), and in the upper echelons of the United Nations, as well as in the ivory towers of various branches of academia. This has unveiled a deeply troubling propensity among these so called “pillars of society” to express the most misanthropic and cold blooded beliefs, which stand in stark contrast to any pretensions these groups might have to ethics or morality.

A sample of just some statements by prominent ideologues is found below demonstrating a blithe and, in my opinion, a clearly disdainful willingness to consign large swathes of humanity to an untimely demise, an ultimately blood-thirsty and murderous mindset masquerading behind a spurious concern for “the planet”.

“The moment we face it frankly we are driven to the conclusion that the community has a right to put a price on the right to live in it … If people are fit to live, let them live under decent human conditions. If they are not fit to live, kill them in a decent human way. Is it any wonder that some of us are driven to prescribe the lethal chamber as the solution for the hard cases which are at present made the excuse for dragging all the other cases down to their level, and the only solution that will create a sense of full social responsibility in modern populations?”
Source: George Bernard Shaw, Prefaces (London: Constable and Co., 1934), p. 296.

“A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people’s time to look after them.”

Source: George Bernard Shaw, Lecture to the Eugenics
 Education Society, Reported in The Daily Express, March 4, 1910

Obama’s Science Czar, John Holdren. From the books he co-authored:

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political”

John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

“Only one rational path is open to us—simultaneous de-development of the [overdeveloped countries] and semi-development of the underdeveloped countries (UDC’s), in order to approach a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between. By de-development we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.”

John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “Introduction,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology, 1971, p.3.

“organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government” (1977: p. 5).

Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), p. 954.

From another article:

“Land, because of its unique nature and the crucial role it plays in human settlements, cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Social justice, urban renewal and development, the provision of decent dwellings-and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole.”

Source: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I): UN Agenda 21 – “Sustainability”.

Quote by Henry Kissinger, Architect of the New World Order: The elderly are useless eaters“. Source: from the book “the Final Days”.

Quote by Henry Kissinger (National Security Memo: 2/24/1974): Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries.”

Quote by Club of Rome:“The Earth has cancer and the cancer is Man.”

Quote by John Davis, editor of Earth First! journal: “Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.”

Quote by Paul Ehrlich, professor, Stanford University:
“A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. We must shift our efforts from the treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer.”

Quote by John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor: “There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated…It has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.”

Quote by Christopher Manes, a writer for Earth First! journal: “The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing.”

Quote by Ted Turner, billionaire, founder of CNN and major UN donor, and large CO2 producer: “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”

Quote by David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!:
“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”

Quote by David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club:
“Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.”

Quote by Club of Rome: “…the resultant ideal sustainable population is hence more than 500 million people but less than one billion.”

Quote by Susan Blakemore, a UK Guardian science journalist: “For the planet’s sake, I hope we have bird flu or some other thing that will reduce the population, because otherwise we’re doomed.”

Quote by Paul Ehrlich:“The addition of a temporary sterilant to staple food, or to the water supply. With limited distribution of antidote chemicals, perhaps by lottery.”

Quote by Prince Philip: “I don’t claim to have any special interest in natural history, but as a boy I was made aware of the annual fluctuations in the number of game animals and the need to adjust the cull to the size of the surplus population.”

Quote by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, architect of the new Germanic masterplan, the ‘Great Transformation’:
 “When you imagine that if all these 9 billion people claim all these resources, then the earth will explode.”

Quote by Jacques Cousteau, celebrity French scientist:“In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 per day.”

Quote by UN Commission on Global Biodiversity Assessment:“A reasonable estimate for an industrialized world society at the present North American material standard of living would be 1 billion. At the more frugal European standard of living, 2 to 3 billion would be possible.”

Quote by John Miller, a NOAA climate scientist: “I would be remiss, as a scientist who studied this, if I didn’t mention the following two things: The first is that, most importantly, we need to do, as a society, in this country and globally, whatever we can to reduce population”…..”Our whole economic system is based on growth, and growth of our population, and this economic madness has to end.”

Quote by John Davis, editor of Earth First! journal: 
“I suspect that eradicating small pox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.”

Quote by Prince Philip:“If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to Earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”

Quote by Ingrid Newkirk, a former PETA President: 
“The extinction of Homo Sapiens would mean survival for millions, if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species. Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on Earth – social and environmental.”

Quote by Ted Turner, billionaire, founder of CNN and major UN donor, and large CO2 producer: 
“There are too many people, that’s why we have global warming. We have global warming because too many people are using too much stuff.”

Quote by James Lovelock, known as founder of ‘Gaia’ concept:
“The big threat to the planet is people: there are too many, doing too well economically and burning too much oil.”

Quote by Nina Vsevolod Fedoroff, science advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
“There are probably already too many people on the planet.”

Quote by Al Gore, former U.S. vice president, billionaire, and large CO2 producer:
“Third world nations are producing too many children too fast…it is time to ignore the controversy over family planning and cut out-of-control population growth…”

Quote by Susan Blakemore, a UK Guardian science journalist:“Finally, we might decide that civilisation itself is worth preserving. In that case we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population – weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example.”

Quote by David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!:“We advocate biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It may take our extinction to set things straight.”

Quote by David Graber, scientist U.S. Nat’l Park Services: “We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

Quote by Eric Pianka, professor at University of Texas: “Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people.”

Quote by Maurice King, well known UK professor: “Global Sustainability requires the deliberate quest of poverty, reduced resource consumption and set levels of mortality control.”

A common theme emerges in many of these quotations, namely that there are too many people struggling for existence on our planet, that “resources” are finite and fragile and it is somehow offensive to utilise them rather than leave them untouched by human hand in their “pristine natural state”, and that this means that passive neglect, or even active culling of “undesirables” or less worthy beings than themselves is somehow justifiable. Of course, few if any of the above social, business, academic or political leaders opts themselves to ease their burden of humanity upon the planet, nor I’m sure do they volunteer their family or loved ones for the ultimate sacrifice to Gaia. Rather, they intend for those nameless and faceless creatures in far-flung lands, or those in perceived lower socio-economic classes than themselves, who must therefore ultimately sacrifice their aspirations, their livelihoods and their lives on the altar of Nature for the sake of the “greater good”.

Meanwhile, many of these same people display a lifestyle unfettered by such concerns, with “carbon footprints” of often gargantuan proportions, as befits people of such nobility and importance as themselves, no doubt. As the character of Miranda, in William Shakespeare’s  ‘The Tempest’ (and later famously appropriated by Aldous Huxley for the title of his famous dystopian novel), prophetically opined:-

“O brave new world That has such people in’t!”.

It is apparent from all of the above, therefore, that the fear of dwindling resources and overpopulation, as well as the insidious intention of  certain members of the intellectual and political elite to exert ultimate social control upon the “lesser’ members of society, are indelibly and inevitably linked to one another. While Eugenics was assumed by many to have been thoroughly and permanently discredited through Hitler’s murderous example, it still has its powerful, largely covert and highly influential advocates who are seemingly endeavouring to rekindled this ideology through propagating a mythology regarding the inevitable diminishment of the bounty and abundance of resources enjoyed in Western society in the latter half of the 20th century, enabled through the agency of modern technology and numerous pivotal scientific and technological advances. It should be plainly obvious, therefore, that the revival of such ideologies would likely lead to a similar trail of suffering and death to that exemplified by the evils of Nazism and Bolshevism, and as a consequence is to be resisted with the utmost vigour by those capable of understanding the lessons of history, and especially those determined not to allow this history even the remotest opportunity to repeat itself.

The Academy of Over-rated Films

#1: Lincoln

“Lincoln” is, in this reviewer’s opinion, a truly bad film, having been completely misconceived at its inception, and then often poorly executed by its director, Steven Spielberg. The potentially interesting and compelling story of one of the most important and complex characters in American political history, not to mention a small skirmish known as the American Civil War as a potential backdrop, has been completely bypassed in favour of a plodding and predictable dissertation that unduly concentrates, to the near exclusion of all else, upon the passage of The Emancipation Proclamation (and subsequently the 13th Amendment) through congress.

Interminable scenes are portrayed showing cabinet discussions in unnecessary detail, with undue emphasis placed upon the voting by each and every senator (two of whom are factually incorrect), and these replace what should be, as its title suggests, a comprehensive depiction of Abraham Lincoln the man. Not only does this film fail to provide much in the way of insight into the multitude of tumultuous events during his Presidency, but also it would have surely been better to include at least one or more of such details of interest as his early life, his formative influences, his legal and political career, his troubled relationship with his mentally ill wife (Mary Todd), the establishment of “Greenback” currency to brilliantly fund the war effort (while maintaining the relative health of the economy under trying circumstances), and most especially outlining the no doubt agonizing decision to send his fellow countrymen to war in a conflict that would eventually lead to the deaths of more than 750,000 soldiers, and inevitably causing untold further suffering and civilian casualties.

Issues of states rights, sectionalism, protectionism, and economic, industrial and territorial disputes that were equally important causes for the civil war are also glossed over or ignored, and so is Lincoln’s known at least partial ambivalence to the issue of slavery itself, which some would argue was not only not as deeply held as depicted, but was perhaps a mere pretext for justifying the perpetuation of the Civil War with ulterior, if patriotic motives.

Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of his most mesmeric performances as Lincoln, and remains the sole reason for watching this tedious misfire. Nevertheless, even his considerable acting talents must contend with a script that reduces Abraham Lincoln to that of a ponderous automaton, nearly devoid of emotional connection or humanity. From an artistic perspective, director Spielberg has chosen to promote an all-pervading sense of claustrophobia with so many dimly lit interior scenes, which are then not counterbalanced by enough depictions of the external realities of the battlegrounds, the cities in wartime or the broader social setting to give the senatorial machinations much needed context, not to mention lending even a modicum of the epic quality and majestic sweep to the proceedings that one might expect to adorn the mise-en-scène of such a complex story from a pivotal time in history.

Among many mishandled moments in the film, an initial scene near the battlefront where Lincoln is sitting engaged in a highly unlikely casual conversation with two black soldiers, both of whom speaking with Ivy League accents using meticulous grammar, and sporting gleaming white “Hollywood” teeth which seems not only patently improbable and ridiculous, but completely artificial and terminally “politically correct”.

To crown a comprehensively inglorious display by both scriptwriter and director, the finale is a litany of missed opportunities, dealing with Lincoln’s assassination merely by reporting on it second hand, rather than a scene, perhaps from Lincoln’s perspective, of his last moments of life, in what is perhaps the second most famous political assassination in history.

I would therefore rate “Lincoln” as the most over-rated film of all time, as it is rare that so highly praised a film misses so many opportunities for drama, insight, emotion, human interest or historical accuracy.

#2: Avatar


Massively over-hyped, ultra-expensive Sci-Fi opus that was billed as the “Star Wars” of its generation. Unfortunately, Avatar fares particularly poorly in comparison to this popular film icon, being merely a highly derivative and somewhat predictable CGI-laden spectacle, devoid of the mythic qualities, complexities of plot or the nuance of character development found in its predecessor.

The ludicrously named “Unobtainium” is the supposed raison d’etre for a rapacious humankind to strip-mine with impunity the pristine environment of the distant, verdant planet of Pandora. In his depiction of the creatures who inhabit this planet, James Cameron draws far too heavily (and cynically) on native American culture for comfort, and his Gaia-worshipping neo-pagan hippie pseudo-philosophy in the central premise of “connectedness” with the planet of indigenous “peoples” presents a woefully naïve and idealized view of “noble savages” being pitted against ruthlessly evil capitalist exploitation.

Cardboard cutout, generic character types abound, with the chief villain Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) particularly being a one-dimensional caricature of a mindlessly bloodthirsty military killing machine consumed by hatred and blood-lust, whose sole purpose is to kill as many of his adversary as possible regardless of the justification or the morality involved.

Needless to say, Avatar was incredibly popular at the box office, which bears testament to the falling standards and expectations of a jaded and completely uncritical viewing public, rather than any auspicious merit in the film beyond its special effects and its pre-publicity.

#3: Wolf of Wall Street


Director Martin Scorsese’s dramatisation of the rise and fall of Wall Street stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, is merely a lurid and gratuitous exercise in justification of an amoral narcissist, unrepentantly running roughshod over friend and foe alike. The film veers dangerously and deliberately away from a much needed penetrating analysis, toward an adolescent and leering celebration of unbridled hedonism, taking unseemly pleasure in forensically and extensively detailing the pleasures of rampant drug use, fetishism and orgiastic sexual exploitation.

The film is also a relentlessly misogynistic work in which women are purely perceived sexually and are routinely used and discarded, or are victims of serial sexual infidelity. This film’s narrative is thus totally devoid of moral context, failing to give any balancing insight into the plight of the innocent victims of Belfort’s criminal stock speculation activities.

Scorsese seems inordinately in awe of Belfort’s lifestyle, even going so far as to present his eventual jail term as nothing more than a brief time out playing tennis at a “resort”, rather than showing any harsh penal punishment suitable to the callous disregard for the law and for others that Belfort serially displayed throughout his life as a Wall Street trader. Scorsese even goes to the trouble of glossing over Belfort’s eventual betrayal of his friends to the FBI by fabricating a scene in which Belfort tries to warn his puerile and annoying best friend that he is wearing a wire (in order to protect him from exposure as complicit in illegal acts), when in reality the real life Belfort acted purely out of self-preservation when rolling over on all of his co-conspirators at the first opportunity to lighten his own sentence.

That such a film has served to further enrich the convicted felon Jordan Belfort through the sale of film rights, while simultaneously propagating a highly whitewashed version of his “story” (with an undeservedly sympathetic portrayal of the facts) is particularly galling, and unfortunately merely exemplifies Hollywood’s sorry history in acting as serial apologist for narcissistic individuals, and in glorifying gratuitous drug taking and lionising criminal behaviour.

#4: Gone with the Wind


Overblown and episodic soap opera notable for its abrupt shifts in tone, likely due to the artistic guidance and supervision of three separate directors during its making (George Cukor, Victor Fleming and Sam Wood). Excellent performances by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh cannot make up for deficiencies in the plot, nor an insipid performance from Leslie Howard, or even a nauseatingly pious Olivia de Havilland.

The film also takes an overly romanticized and nostalgic view of the slave owning southerners, and is filled with caricature portrayals of many of the subordinate characters, especially those of colour. The set pieces are indeed brilliant (the burning of Atlanta, the wounded soldiers filling the town square, etc.), and it contains many powerful and even iconic scenes between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, but overall, while a very good film, GWTW falls short of the accolades and universal acclaim accorded it, even allowing for the passage of time.

#5: Titanic


An epic film in scope, but one that follows an uncannily similar template to GWTW, in that its set pieces are generally excellent and well handled, but some connecting scenes and the character development often leaving much to be desired, with some scenes bordering on farcical.

Decent performances from Leonardo Di Caprio (certainly too young to be remotely believable in the role however), and especially from a luminous Kate Winslet enliven the romantic angle of the somewhat hackneyed plot, but the film is fatally undermined by ludicrous scenes such as Billy Zane’s character roaming through the sinking ship attempting to shoot the young lovers in a fit of jealousy, or shortly thereafter when his offsider, played with exaggerated villainy by David Warner, frames Di Caprio’s character for a robbery he didn’t commit and then allows him to remain handcuffed in the sinking ship in order to murder him, for reasons which would seem elusive given the scale of the disaster that was unfolding, not to mention the lack of any personal motivation whatsoever for him to so spitefully consign our hero to such an awful fate.

Similarly, a rather trite monologue by Bill Paxton as he ponders the “significance” of finding the Titanic’s wreck only undermines the intended effect, while Gloria Stuart ultimately throwing the much-treasured jewel overboard at the finale completely strains our capacity to suspend our collective disbelief.

#6: The Sound of Music


A highly saccharine and completely contrived concoction. The film concerns a virginal ex-postulant employed as a governess (Julie Andrews) and falling into dewy-eyed romance with jut-jawed Austrian widower Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), while caring for and nurturing his seven motherless children, singing away merrily to the backdrop of picture-postcard alpine scenery, and frolicking among the edelweiss. When the Nazis come to power and are hell-bent on recruiting the good and noble Captain to their cause, the family are forced to flee en route to a concert in Salzburg, to escape their homeland and start anew abroad, away from the tyranny of Nazism.

The musical numbers are certainly memorable, the scenery beautiful if somewhat idealized and the escape, such that it is, has mildly chilling moments of suspense. Nevertheless, Robert Wise’s hugely successful film remains cloying and artificial, with infuriatingly idealized depictions of the family and their story, which could have withstood a more authentic depiction without resorting to excessive sugar coating or predictable stereotypes. The film remains notable for its inspiration for the Mel Brook’s comedy “The Producers”, including especially its hilarious parody of Broadway musicals, “Springtime for Hitler”.

#7: Saving Private Ryan


Wildly over-praised and over-hyped film is the third dealing with the subject of WW2 by director Steven Spielberg, and it is probably his least effective, being the most derivative and the most contrived of the trio. “Saving Private Ryan” is fatally undermined by its implausible premise, that a troop of soldiers are assigned to “rescue” a soldier, through the heart of German lines during the Normandy invasion no less, because his four siblings have all perished during the war and thereby provoking not only fear of adverse publicity that another death in the same family would cause, but also demonstrating compassion for a mother’s circumstances in losing so many children in the service of her country (a narrative borrowing liberally from the real life story of the Sullivan family in the Pacific theatre of WW2 operations).

The initial framing sequence veers toward a mawkish sentimentality replete with bucketloads of heavy-handed flag waving symbolism.  This is then quickly followed by the landing on Omaha beach, an admittedly impressive 20 minute supposedly “real time” interlude of thunderous barrages, where the full horror of war, death and destruction is filmed in gruesome, fly-on-the-wall detail that remains the highlight of the film. Historical inaccuracies of the depiction of the landing aside (and these are numerous), America’s allies are given barely a mention, being relegated to mere bystanders in the conflict, with the sole exception of one derogatory remark in passing that cast aspersions upon the capabilities (or lack thereof) of the British General Montgomery. Meanwhile, their German adversaries are depicted throughout the film as either incompetent and disorganized fighters (nothing could be further from the truth), or as mindless psychopathic killers without even a hint of morality or humanity.

Such a lack of any insightful perspective into the vicissitudes of war, or nuance in depicting the similarities of the experiences of soldiers on both sides of the conflict (compared to “All Quiet on the Western Front”, for example), as well as its exclusively American-centric viewpoint (complete with prominent Stars & Stripes flag-waving at the beginning and end of the film), gives the film an overly jingoistic tone and presents a somewhat two-dimensional outlook that is largely unsatisfying to discerning viewers looking for a more well-rounded, objective and thoughtful treatise on WW2 and the soldiers fighting in it.

The latter part of the film, while no doubt professionally filmed, is fairly derivative, predictable, and not especially memorable or distinguished. The film therefore pales in comparison to its contemporaneous companion piece, Terence Mallick’s “The Thin Red Line”, which has intellectual depth and an emotional resonance that “Ryan” fails comprehensively to match.

#8: Forrest Gump


Overly sentimental, and at times exploitative morality tale with a problematic message is, despite its rather mindlessly entertaining trappings, a largely empty vessel of vacuous homilies and sweeping generalisations in trying vainly to capture a broad 30 year era of American history through the eyes of its intellectually impaired protagonist. Forrest is in some ways quite an endearing character, but is essentially incapable of learning or forming emotional connections with anything he does, and his  character is by turns either irritating or unbearably cloying. This perception is thanks mainly to some heavy handedness in the script, that seeks too readily to milk emotional responses out of its audience that are not always proportionate or warranted by the action taking place, and often straining for significance where there is little or none.

Competently made, at times brilliantly edited and somewhat ingeniously packaged, Zemeckis’ film contains the germ of a good tragi-comedy, but instead of being insightful and showing Forrest’s character grow through the action of the film, he is content to have him portrayed as a frustratingly passive and intransigent cipher, a blank canvas swept along by the events that surround him without ever questioning or engaging with them. As such, the film is very much like a box of chocolates, superficially pleasing but leaving one feeling guilty afterwards, and finding one’s hunger for something more substantial largely unsatisfied.

#9: The Shawshank Redemption


The highest rated film on the IMDb database, this paint-by-numbers prison yarn packs in every genre cliché from the “Defiant Ones” to “Escape From Alcatraz” to “The Big House” to “I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang” into one solid, workmanlike yet otherwise unexceptional prison film.

Even though “Shawshank Redemption” is hardly ground-breaking (and no doubt derivative), it does boast strong performances by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, sharp dialogue and reasonable production values. It is, however, undermined by some glaring plot holes that strain credibility, with a caricature religious bigot in the shape of a corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton), but most notably by the rather repellent notion of prison guards portrayed uniformly as brutal villains while the violent rapists and murderers in Shawshank Prison are made to appear as delightful rogues or reformed saints.

The absence of any racial conflict in the prison also appeals as particularly far-fetched, while the witty and erudite dialogue from otherwise illiterate prisoners appears false and rather contrived. All in all, it is a reasonably proficient and entertaining film that is wildly overpraised by those who are otherwise starved of quality cinema for a more reasoned and well-rounded perspective. 

#10: Pulp Fiction


A relentlessly incoherent pastiche of old gangster movie clichés, dressed up in modern garb and blessed with dialogue that is at times undoubtedly mordantly funny, but mostly is defined by endless annoying prattle which diverts off into various tangents that distract from any semblance of plot thread for audiences to follow. Ground breaking after its own sloppy and non-linear fashion, and spawning many inferior and often downright awful imitators (for which alone it could possibly stand condemned), it is perhaps a little too smug and self-satisfied with its “coolness” for its own good, and its casual violence loses its shock value after the first reel and becomes somewhat tiresome as the movie rambles its way to its eventual conclusion.

Some scenes clearly stick in the mind, especially Thurman and Travolta engaged in their dance at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, and the heroin overdose scene to name but two, and its endless referencing of old Blaxploitation, Kung Fu or classic movies, potboiler crime fiction or other popular culture icons can become a bit wearing after a while, the whole film coming across as too preconceived and attention seeking to warrant the accolades effusively accorded it.

As such, Pulp Fiction is no doubt an influential film that shook up the staid 1990’s Hollywood approach to cinema literacy, however I for one found its somewhat unique take on the genre to be an intellectual blind alley that left little leeway to expand upon further, as evidenced by Tarantino’s increasingly dwindling cinematic legacy subsequent to this film, which along with “Reservoir Dogs” remains his signature success.

Other Notable Nominees include:

 12 Years A Slave                               
The English Patient imagesThe Piano imagesElizabeth imagesShakespeare in Love imagesAs Good As It Gets imagesThe Player imagesNashville imagesTom Jones images8 and 1/2 imagesKlute imagesShane imagesMrs. Miniver imagesThe Best Years of Our Lives images   Crash

Scent of a Woman

Academy of All-time Great Films

The following lists represent the very best feature length films in cinema history, according to this reviewer at least. Firstly, the general all category list that includes the “Best Of The Best”, followed by lists for each major genre, represented with a top 25, 50, 60, 75, 100 or 150 film list, and that are then placed in order of (entirely subjective) merit:


The Top 50 All- time Great Films (All Categories):

1.Citizen Kane (1941)

2.La Règle Du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939)

3.Sunset Boulevard (1950)


4.Shichinin No Samurai (The Seven Samurai) (1954)

5.Viridiana (1961)

6.Les Enfants Du Paradis (The Children Of Paradise) (1944)


7.Vertigo (1958)

8.Paths Of Glory (1957)

9.City Lights (1931)


10.Ran (1985)

11.The Third Man (1949)

12.The Searchers (1956)


13.The Godfather (1972)

14.2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

15.Det Sjunde Inseglet (The Seventh Seal) (1957)


16.Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

17.M (1931)

18.Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)


19.The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

20.Fanny And Alexander (1982)

21.Andrei Rublev (1966)


22.El Espíritu De La Colmena (The Spirit Of The Beehive) (1973)

23.La Grande Illusion (The Grand Illusion) (1937)

24.On The Waterfront (1954)


25.Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) (1921)

26.Jeder Für Sich Und Gott Gegen Alle (The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser) (1974)

27.Rashomon (1951)


28. Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949)

29.La Belle Et La Bête (The Beauty And The Beast) (1946)

30.Kwaidan (1964)


31.Kumonosu-jō (Throne Of Blood) (1957)

32.My Darling Clementine (1946)

33.Double Indemnity (1944)


34.Schindler’s List (1993)

35.The Chimes At Midnight (1965)

36.Out Of The Past (1947)


37.Rear Window (1954)

38.Badlands (1973)

39.Smultronstallet (Wild Strawberries) (1957)


40.Sherlock Jr. (1924)

41.Chinatown (1974)

42.Days Of Heaven (1978)  


43.Suna No Onna (The Woman In The Dunes) (1964)

44.Solaris (1972)

45.Sullivan’s Travels (1941)


46.The Night Of The Hunter (1955)

47.Apocalypse Now (1979)

48.The General (1927)


49.Sunrise (1927)

50.Popiół I Diament (Ashes And Diamonds) (1958)


The Next Best 150 All-time Great Films For Honourable Mention:

(in release year order)

Nosferatu, A Symphony Of Terror (1922)

Our Hospitality (1923)

Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) (1924)

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Big Parade (1925)

Faust (1926)

Metropolis (1927)

Docks of New York (1928)

The Crowd (1928)

La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) (1928)

Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929)

Die Büchse Der Pandora (Pandora’s Box) (1929)

Chelovek S Kinoapparatom (The Man With the Movie Camera) (1929)

Zemlya (Earth) (1930)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Frankenstein (1931)

Love Me Tonight (1932)

Boudu Sauve des Eaux (Boudu Saved From Drowning) (1932)

Trouble In Paradise (1932)

L’Atalante (The Passing Barge) (1934)

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

David Copperfield (1935)

Modern Times (1936)

My Man Godfrey (1936)

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)

Gone With The Wind (1939)

The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Stagecoach (1939)

Midnight (1939)

The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)

Pinocchio (1940)

Rebecca (1940)

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

Vredens Dag (Day Of Wrath) (1943)

Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)

Great Expectations (1946)

Une Partie de Campagne (A Day in the Country) (1946)

Henry V (1946)

Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thief) (1948)

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Red River (1948)

Asphalt Jungle (1950)

All About Eve (1950)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Umberto D (1952)

High Noon (1952)

Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games) (1952)

Ikiru (To Live) (1952)

The Wages Of Fear (1953)

Earrings Of Madame De… (1953)

Ugetsu (1953)

La Strada (The Road) (1954)

Sansho The Bailiff (1954)

Rififi (1955)

The Ladykillers (1955)

Ordet (1955)

Sommarnattens Leende (Smiles of A Summer Night) (1955)

Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) (1957)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Touch of Evil (1958)

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Le Quatre Cent Coups (The 400 Blows) (1959)

North by Northwest (1959)

Psycho (1960)

Spartacus (1960)

Yojimbo (1961)

Ivanovo Detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) (1962)

Harakiri (1962)

Les Dimanches De Ville D’Avray (Sundays And Cybele) (1962)

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963)

Dr Strangelove (1964)

Gamlet (Hamlet) (1964)

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965)

Repulsion (1965)

Vonya I Mir (War And Peace) (1966)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Persona (1966)

Battle Of Algiers (1966)

A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Belle de Jour (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

The Lion In Winter (1968)

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Patton (1970)

Il Conformista (The Conformist) (1970)

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1972)

Cries and Whispers (1972)

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Mean Streets (1973)

The Conversation (1973)

Barry Lyndon (1973)

The Godfather, Part II (1974)

Lacombe Lucien (1974)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Zerkalo (Mirror) (1975)

The Day Of The Locust (1975)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1976)

Being There (1979)

Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) (1979)

Tess (1979)

Manhattan (1979)

Wise Blood (1979)

Atlantic City (1980)

Kagemusha (1980)

The Elephant Man (1980)

Raging Bull (1980)

Mephisto (1981)

Gallipoli (1981)

Reds (1981)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

Danton (1983)

1984 (1984)

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

The Killing Fields (1984)

Paris, Texas (1984)

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Idi I Smotri (Come And See) (1985)

The Last Emperor (1987)

Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye Children) (1987)

Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (1988)

Crimes And Misdemeanors (1989)

Mountains Of The Moon (1990)

Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

Raise The Red Lantern (1991)

Black Robe (1992)

Farewell My Concubine (1993)

Utomlennye Solntsem (Burnt By The Sun) (1994)

Richard III (1995)

Seven (1995)

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

The Thin Red Line (1998)

In The Mood For Love (2000)

The Pianist (2002)

Cidade De Deus (City Of God) (2002)

One Hour Photo (2002)

Der Untergang (Downfall) (2003)

El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) (2006)

Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives Of Others) (2006)

El Orfanato (The Orphanage) (2007)

El Secreto De Sus Ojos (The Secret In Their Eyes) (2009)

Tree Of Life (2011)

1917 (2019)

The Top 25 All-time Great Westerns:

  1. The Searchers (1956)
  2. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
  3. My Darling Clementine (1946)
  4. High Noon (1952)
  5. Stagecoach (1939)
  6. Red River (1948)
  7. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  8. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
  9. The Far Country (1954)
  10. A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)
  11. Unforgiven (1992)
  12. El Dorado (1966)
  13. The Gunfighter (1950)
  14. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
  15. Winchester 73 (1950)
  16. Ride The High Country (1962)
  17. Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)
  18. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  19. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  20. Hud (1963)
  21. Rio Grande (1950)
  22. For A Few Dollars More (1965)
  23. Tombstone (1993)
  24. The Naked Spur (1953)
  25. The Shootist (1976)


The Top 60 All-time Great Science Fiction Films:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  2. Solaris (1972)
  3. Blade Runner (1982)
  4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  5. Alien (1979)
  6. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
  7. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  8. Metropolis (1927)
  9. 1984 (1984)
  10. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  11. Stalker (1979)
  12. Terminator (1984)
  13. Brazil (1985)
  14. Inception (2010)
  15. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  16. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
  17. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  18. Children of Men (2006)
  19. Aliens (1986)
  20. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  21. 12 Monkeys (1998)
  22. Dark City (1998)
  23. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
  24. Ex Machina (2015)
  25. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1982)
  26. Minority Report (2002)
  27. The Martian (2015)
  28. Arrival (2016)
  29. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  30. La Jetée (1962)
  31. The Matrix (1999)
  32. Interstellar (2014)
  33. Robocop (1987)
  34. War Of The Worlds (1953)
  35. Jurassic Park (1993)
  36. Seconds (1966)
  37. Moon (2008)
  38. Avatar (2009)
  39. Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
  40. Mad Max (1979)
  41. Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
  42. Forbidden Planet (1956)
  43. The Quiet Earth (1985)
  44. The Abyss (1988)
  45. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
  46. AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  47. The Time Machine (1961)
  48. Gattaca (1997)
  49. Back to the Future (1985)
  50. Them! (1952)
  51. The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)
  52. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
  53. Total Recall (1990)
  54. Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
  55. Altered States (1980) 
  56. Predator (1987)
  57. Escape From New York (1981)
  58. Westworld (1973)
  59. The Thing From Another World (1951) 
  60. Things To Come (1936)

The Top 25 All-time Great Comedy Films:

  1. City Lights (1931)
  2. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  3. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  4. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
  5. Midnight (1939)
  6. My Man Godfrey (1936)
  7. Trouble In Paradise (1932)
  8. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  9. Dr Strangelove (Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) (1964)
  10. To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
  11. The Ladykillers (1955)
  12. The Producers (1967)
  13. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  14. It Happened One Night (1934)
  15. Manhattan (1979)
  16. The General (1926)
  17. Duck Soup (1933)
  18. Modern Times (1936)
  19. Groundhog Day (1993)
  20. His Girl Friday (1940)
  21. The Lady Eve (1941)
  22. The Gold Rush (1925)
  23. Boudu Sauve des Eaux (Boudu Saved From Drowning)(1932)
  24. Our Hospitality (1923)
  25. Life Of Brian (1979) 

The Top 25 All-time Great Animated Films:

  1. Pinocchio (1940)
  2. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  3. Toy Story (1995)
  4. The Lion King (1994)
  5. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
  6. Spirited Away (2001))
  7. Beauty And The Beast (1991)
  8. The Wind Rises (2013)
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  10. Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1993)
  11. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  12. Princess Mononoke (1997)
  13. Finding Nemo (2003)
  14. Up (2009)
  15. Wolf Children (2012)
  16. Dumbo (1941)
  17. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
  18. Toy Story 3 (2010)
  19. Cinderella (1950)
  20. Akira (1988)
  21. The Iron Giant (1999)
  22. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)
  23. Aladdin (1992)
  24. The Jungle Book (1967)
  25. Fantasia (1940)

The Top 25 All-time Great Horror & Ghost Story Films:

  1. Nosferatu: A Symphony Of Terror (1922)
  2. Frankenstein (1931)
  3. Kwaidan (1964)
  4. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  5. Don’t Look Now (1973)
  6. Psycho (1960)
  7. Alien (1979)
  8. The Orphanage (2007)
  9. Jaws (1975)
  10. The Shining (1980)
  11. Repulsion (1965)
  12. Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
  13. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  14. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
  15. The Innocents (1961)
  16. The Exorcist (1973)
  17. Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)
  18. The Birds (1963)
  19. Cat People (1942)
  20. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
  21. The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
  22. Dr Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1931)
  23. I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
  24. Vampyr (1932)
  25. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)


The Top 25 All-time Great War Films:

  1. Paths Of Glory (1957)
  2. La Grande Illusion (1937)
  3. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
  4. Schindler’s List (1993)
  5. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  6. Popiół I Diament (Ashes And Diamonds) (1958)
  7. Idi I Smotri (Come And See) (1985)
  8. The Thin Red Line (1998)
  9. Lacombe Lucien (1974)
  10. The Pianist (2002)
  11. Ivan’s Childhood (1962)
  12. The Tin Drum (1979)
  13. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
  14. 1917 (2019)
  15. Downfall (2003)
  16. Das Boot (1981)
  17. Patton (1970)
  18. Glory (1989)
  19. Battle Of Algiers (1966)
  20. Gallipoli (1981)
  21. The Deerhunter (1978)
  22. Soldier Of Orange (1977)
  23. The Bridge (1959)
  24. Army Of Shadows (1969)
  25. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

The Top 25 All-time Great Mystery/Suspense Films:

  1. Citizen Kane (1941)
  2. Vertigo (1958)
  3. The Third Man (1949)
  4. Rashomon (1950)
  5. Chinatown (1974)
  6. Rear Window (1954)
  7. Out Of The Past (1947)
  8. Rebecca (1940)
  9. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  10. Touch of Evil (1958)
  11. The Secret In Their Eyes (2009)
  12. Laura (1944)
  13. Diabolique (1955)
  14. Seven (1995)
  15. The Big Sleep (1946)
  16. The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
  17. North By Northwest (1959)
  18. Tell No One (2006)
  19. Fargo (1996)
  20. The Usual Suspects (1995)
  21. Notorious (1946)
  22. And Then There Were None (1945)
  23. Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
  24. The Vanishing (1988)
  25. Gosford Park (2001) 

The Top 25 All-time Great Shakespeare Adaptations*:

  1. Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
  2. Throne Of Blood (Kurosawa, 1957)
  3. Chimes At Midnight (Welles, 1965)
  4. Henry V (Olivier, 1944)
  5. Hamlet (Kozintsev, 1964)
  6. Richard III (Loncraine, 1995)
  7. Henry V (Branagh, 1989)
  8. Othello (Welles, 1952)
  9. King Lear (Kozintsev, 1971)
  10. West Side Story (1961)
  11. Macbeth (Polanski, 1971)
  12. Hamlet (Branagh, 1996)
  13. Macbeth (Welles, 1958)
  14. A Double Life (1947)
  15. The Lion King (1994)
  16. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dieterle, 1935)
  17. Hamlet (Olivier, 1948)
  18. Othello (Olivier, 1965)
  19. Romeo And Juliet (Zeffirelli, 1968)
  20. My Own Private Idaho (Van Sant, 1991)
  21. Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh, 1993)
  22. Julius Caesar (Mankewiecz) 1953)
  23. Forbidden Planet (1956)
  24. Richard III (Olivier, 1955)
  25. Merchant Of Venice (Radford, 2004)

* Note, some films in this list include the name of the director or principal actor involved in order to differentiate from those versions of the play with the same or similar titles, or even (with Kozintsev’s and Peter Brook’s films of King Lear in 1971) when two versions of the same play were produced in the very same year.

The Top 50 All-time Great Fantasy Films:

(excluding Horror** and Sci Fi***)

  1. The Seventh Seal (1957)
  2. The Phantom Carriage (1921)
  3. La Belle Et La Bete (1946)
  4. Kwaidan (1964)**
  5. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  6. Woman In The Dunes (1964)
  7. Wings Of Desire (1988)
  8. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  9. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
  10. Faust (1926)
  11. Ugestu (1953)
  12. King Kong (1933)
  13. Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
  14. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  15. The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1944)
  16. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
  17. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  18. A Matter Of Life And Death (1946)
  19. Excalibur (1981)
  20. Groundhog Day (1993)
  21. Inception (2010) ***
  22. The Truman Show (1998)
  23. The Thief Of Bagdad (1940)
  24. Midnight In Paris (2011)
  25. The City Of Lost Children (1995)
  26. Orpheus (1950)
  27. The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)
  28. Lost Horizon (1937)
  29. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
  30. The Dark Knight (2008)
  31. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2003)
  32. Being John Malkovich (1999)
  33. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 &2 (2010)
  34. Heaven Can Wait (1943)
  35. Hugo (2011)
  36. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)
  37. Blithe Spirit (1945)
  38. Die Nibelungen: Parts 1 & 2 (1924)
  39. Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince (2009)
  40. Big (1988)
  41. The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003)
  42. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)
  43. Forrest Gump (1994)
  44. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  45. Babe (1995)
  46. Mary Poppins (1964)
  47. Big Fish (2003)
  48. Alice (1988)
  49. Amélie (2001)
  50. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

** Note: Although Kwaidan (1964) is listed also under horror, this Japanese ghost story film has four segments, some of which would be more accurately defined as within the horror genre, while other segments are more in the realm of fantasy, hence its inclusion in both lists (which are otherwise exclusive of each other).

***Note: Inception (2010) is also listed under Sci-Fi (where these elements are subtly implied) but has an overarching fantasy element that makes it difficult to categorise wholly in either genre.

The Top 50 All-time Great Adventure Films:

  1. The Seven Samurai (1954)
  2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  3. Spartacus (1960)
  4. Black Robe (1992)
  5. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1972)
  6. Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
  7. Mountains Of The Moon (1990)
  8. The African Queen (1951)
  9. Yojimbo (1961)
  10. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  11. Deliverance (1972)
  12. The Wages Of Fear (1953)
  13. War and Peace (1966)
  14. Barry Lyndon (1975)
  15. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)
  16. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  17. King Kong (1933)
  18. Fitzcarraldo (1982)
  19. Dersu Uzala (1975)
  20. The Duellists (1979)
  21. Captain’s Courageous (1937)
  22. The Sea Hawk (1940)
  23. Excalibur (1981)
  24. The New World (2005)
  25. The Treasure of The Sierra Madre (1948)
  26. To Have and Have Not (1944)
  27. Gladiator (2000)
  28. Braveheart (1995)
  29. Zulu (1964)
  30. Gunga Din (1939)
  31. Sanjuro (1962)
  32. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  33. The Black Pirate (1926)
  34. The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
  35. The Revenant (2015)
  36. Papillon (1973)
  37. Mosquito Coast (1986)
  38. The Right Stuff (1983)
  39. The Mission (1986)
  40. Blood Diamond (2006)
  41. The Bounty (1984)
  42. Moby Dick (1956)
  43. Beau Geste (1939)
  44. The Flight Of The Phoenix (1965)
  45. Moonfleet (1955)
  46. The Four Feathers (1939)
  47. Lives of A Bengal Lancer (1935)
  48. The Perfect Storm (2000)
  49. Kim (1950)
  50. Charge Of The Light Brigade (1936) 

The Top 75 All-time Great Crime/Gangster Films:

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. M (1931)
  3. On The Waterfront (1954)
  4. Double Indemnity (1944)
  5. Out Of The Past (1947)
  6. Badlands (1973)
  7. Chinatown (1974)
  8. Touch Of Evil (1958)
  9. Atlantic City (1980)
  10. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
  11. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  12. Bonnie And Clyde (1967)
  13. Mean Streets (1973)
  14. Thieves Like Us (1974)
  15. White Heat (1949)
  16. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
  17. The Big Sleep (1946)
  18. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  19. Rififi (1955)
  20. Taxi Driver (1976)
  21. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
  22. City Of God (2002)
  23. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
  24. Seven (1995)
  25. Le Doulos (1962)
  26. Fargo (1996)
  27. Witness (1985)
  28. Bob Le Flambeur (1956)
  29. Goodfellas (1990)
  30. High And Low (1963)
  31. The Yakuza (1974)
  32. Night And The City (1950)
  33. Big Heat (1953)
  34. Road To Perdition (2002)
  35. Eastern Promises (2007)
  36. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  37. The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973)
  38. In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
  39. The Long Good Friday (1980)
  40. Le Samourai (1967)
  41. Manhunter (1986)
  42. The Untouchables (1987)
  43. High Sierra (1941)
  44. Thelma And Louise (1991)
  45. The French Connection (1971)
  46. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  47. Scarface (1983)
  48. Casino (1995)
  49. Heat (1995)
  50. Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
  51. L. A. Confidential (1997)
  52. Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
  53. A History Of Violence (2005)
  54. Stray Dog (1949)
  55. Internal Affairs (2002)- Hong Kong
  56. Prizzi’s Honor (1985)
  57. Crossfire (1947)
  58. Charley Varrick (1973)
  59. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  60. The Killing (1956)
  61. Heavenly Creatures (1994)
  62. Public Enemy (1931)
  63. Dirty Harry (1971)
  64. Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
  65. Sicario (2015)
  66. Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2008)
  67. Shoot The Piano Player (1960)
  68. Scarface: The Shame Of The Nation (1932)
  69. Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954)
  70. The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
  71. The Departed (2006)
  72. The Taking Of Pelham 123 (1974)
  73. Prince Of The City (1981)
  74. I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932)
  75. Little Caesar (1930)


The Top 150 All-time Great Historical/Period Drama Films:

(Pre- WW1 excluding Westerns and literal Shakespearean adaptations)

  1. The Seven Samurai (1954)
  2. Les Enfants Du Paradis (The Children Of Paradise) (1945)
  3. Ran (1985)
  4. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  5. Fanny And Alexander (1982)
  6. Andrei Rublev (1966)
  7. The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
  8. Rashomon (1951)
  9. The Leopard (1963)
  10. A Man For All Seasons (1966)
  11. Danton (1983)
  12. Spartacus (1960)
  13. Kagemusha (1980)
  14. Day Of Wrath (1943)
  15. Sansho The Bailiff (1954)
  16. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)
  17. The Elephant Man (1980)
  18. Harakiri (1962)
  19. Raise The Red Lantern (1991)
  20. Yojimbo (1961)
  21. Black Robe (1991)
  22. Mountains Of The Moon (1990)
  23. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
  24. The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)
  25. The Lion In Winter (1968)
  26. Great Expectations (1946)
  27. Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
  28. Wuthering Heights (1939)
  29. The Duellists (1977)
  30. Tess (1979)
  31. Vonya I Mir (War And Peace) (1966)
  32. Barry Lyndon (1975)
  33. Ben Hur (1959)
  34. Ugetsu (1953)
  35. David Copperfield (1935)
  36. Gone With The Wind (1939)
  37. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  38. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  39. Glory (1989)
  40. The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
  41. Lust For Life (1956)
  42. The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
  43. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)
  44. Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
  45. Gladiator (2000)
  46. Alexander Nevsky (1938)
  47. Viva Zapata (1952)
  48. The Prestige (2006)
  49. Oliver Twist (1948)
  50. A Royal Affair (2012)
  51. Becket (1964)
  52. The Heiress (1949)
  53. Breaker Morant (1980)
  54. The New World (2006)
  55. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  56. Braveheart (1995)
  57. Earrings Of Madam De… (1953)
  58. Titanic (1997)
  59. San Francisco (1936)
  60. Samurai Rebellion (1967)
  61. Jane Eyre (1943)
  62. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  63. The Mission (1986)
  64. King Of Kings (1961)
  65. Amadeus (1984)
  66. 1900 (1976)
  67. The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
  68. Nicholas And Alexandria (1971)
  69. The Patriot (2000)
  70. The Last Samurai (2003)
  71. The Private Life Of Henry VIII (1933)
  72. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
  73. Camille (1936)
  74. Queen Christina (1933)
  75. The Emigrants (1971)
  76. La Ronde (1950) 
  77. Ivan The Terrible Parts 1 & 2 (1944 & 1958)
  78. The Color Purple (1985)
  79. The Illusionist (2006)
  80. The Ten Commandments (1956)
  81. The Fall Of The Roman Empire (1964)
  82. The Age Of Innocence (1993)
  83. A Tale Of Two Cities (1935)
  84. Kundun (1997)
  85. The Piano (1993)
  86. Northwest Passage (1940)
  87. Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975)
  88. The Virgin Spring  (1960)
  89. Sense And Sensibility (1995)
  90. Casque d’Or (1952)
  91. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
  92. Gangs Of New York (2002)
  93. Anna Karenina (1935)
  94. Hero (2002)
  95. Zulu (1964)
  96. Pride and Prejudice (1940)
  97. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  98. Elizabeth (1998)
  99. Mongol (2007)
  100. The Life Of Emile Zola (1937)

Please Note: Silent films such as Dreyer’s “The Passion Of Joan Of Arc” (1928), Abel Gance’s “Napoléon” (1927) and Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925) were not considered for inclusion in this list, which was limited purely to sound films.

(Post WW1 excluding Gangster and pure War films)

  1. Spirit Of The Beehive (1973)
  2. Days Of Heaven (1978)
  3. The Killing Fields (1984)
  4. The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)
  5. The Last Emperor (1987)
  6. Farewell My Concubine (1993)
  7. Reds (1981)
  8. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
  9. Mephisto (1981)
  10. Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  11. Battle Of Algiers (1966)
  12. The Last Picture Show (1971)
  13. The Imitation Game (2014)
  14. The Conformist (1970)
  15. The Tin Drum (1979)
  16. Hope And Glory (1987)
  17. Utomlennye Solntsem (Burnt By The Sun) (1994)
  18. Lacombe Lucien (1974)
  19. Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games) (1952)
  20. Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)
  21. The Reader (2008)
  22. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  23. The Aviator (2004)
  24. Red Sorghum (1987)
  25. Europa, Europa (1990)
  26. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006)
  27. The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982)
  28. Tucker: A Man And His Dream (1988)
  29. Empire Of The Sun (1987)
  30. Gandhi (1982)
  31. The Remains Of The Day (1993)
  32. Bound For Glory (1976)
  33. Atonement (2007)
  34. Papillon (1973)
  35. The King’s Speech (2010)
  36. The Right Stuff (1983)
  37. Bridge Of Spies (2015)
  38. The Diary Of Ann Frank (1959)
  39. The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978)
  40. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
  41. Life Is Beautiful (1988)
  42. Matewan (1987)
  43. Apollo 13 (1995)
  44. JFK (1991)
  45. The Informer (1935)
  46. The Last King Of Scotland (2006)
  47. Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
  48. Out Of Africa (1985)
  49. Chariots Of Fire (1981)
  50. The English Patient (1996)

The Top 25 All-time Great Silent Drama Films:

  1. Sunrise (1927)
  2. The Phantom Carriage (1921)
  3. The Crowd (1928)
  4. Un Chien Andalou (1929)
  5. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928)
  6. Nosferatu, A Symphony Of Terror (1922)
  7. Faust (1926)
  8. The Man With A Movie Camera (1929)
  9. The Big Parade (1925)
  10. Pandora’s Box (1929)
  11. Greed (1924)
  12. The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  13. Napoleon (1927)
  14. Metropolis (1927)
  15. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
  16. Diary Of a Lost Girl (1929)
  17. Intolerance (1916)
  18. The Wind (1928)
  19. The Last Command (1928)
  20. Ben Hur (1926)
  21. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  22. The Last Laugh (1924)
  23. Docks Of New York (1928)
  24. Foolish Wives (1922)
  25. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Top 25 All-time Great Silent Comedy Films:

  1. City Lights (1931)
  2. Sherlock Jr.(1924)
  3. The General (1927)
  4. The Gold Rush (1925)
  5. Our Hospitality (1923)
  6. Safety Last (1923)
  7. Modern Times (1936)
  8. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
  9. The Scarecrow (1920)
  10. One Week (1920)
  11. The Kid (1921)
  12. Seven Chances (1925)
  13. The Circus (1928)
  14. The Navigator (1924)
  15. The Pilgrim (1923)
  16. The Immigrant (1917)
  17. A Dog’s Life (1918)
  18. The Boat (1921)
  19. The Cameraman (1928)
  20. Shoulder Arms (1918)
  21. Easy Street (1917)
  22. The Adventurer (1917)
  23. Liberty (1929)
  24. The Freshman (1925)
  25. The Paleface (1922)

Quotable Quotes:

The following is a list of selected quotes from some of the most famous films of all time, highlighting not only their quality, but the lost art of scriptwriting that was once the mainstay of cinema’s pretensions to artistic merit:

Sunset Boulevard

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”

“The stars are ageless, aren’t they?”


Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”

Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”


“They took the idols and smashed them, the Fairbankses, the Gilberts, the Valentinos! And who’ve we got now? Some nobodies!”


“And I promise you I’ll never desert you again because after Salome we’ll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!”


“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Citizen Kane



“Alone in his never-finished, already decaying pleasure palace, aloof, seldom visited, never photographed, an emperor of new strength continued to direct his failing empire, varyingly attempted to sway as he once did the destinies of a nation that had ceased to listen to him, ceased to trust him. Then last week, as it must to all men, death came to Charles Foster Kane.”


“You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.”


“A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.”


Female reporter: “If you could’ve