*Author’s Note: Please accept my apologies as this draft is as yet incomplete, however I have posted it in the interests of whetting the appetite for further instalments as U.S President Donald Trump’s administration wends its way toward it’s own inevitable version of the Battle of Bosworth Field.
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 following play takes the guise of a senatorial satire, a congressional caricature if you will, that seeks to provide some hopefully witty and wry observations of the personalities involved, with a smattering of somewhat glib insights into the internal machinations of the highest and most influential political offices in the Western world.
It is undeniable that the current American political situation, from even the most cursory glance, has devolved of late into such high farce that it would be extremely difficult for any budding playwright to exaggerate sufficiently to give these events sufficient satirical edge, or to lampoon such bizarre circumstances with enough vigour and piquancy to be worthy of more than one’s passing attention, let alone amusement. As a consequence, I have elected instead to adopt a more tangential approach to depicting the humour of the situation, in preference to a more direct and unsubtle parody that would epitomise the standard comedic fare being currently directed at the rather hapless, incumbent American President.
What follows below is my Shakespeare-inspired interpretation of these recent and current events, attempting to make 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). In so doing, I hope to 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 these events have unfolded during the recent political history of the good ol’ U.S of A.
On a final point of interest, you may notice 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, a device I have used in order to embellish either the action of the play itself, or to enhance the dialogue between the characters. 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 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 entirely unfit to assume the obligations and mantle of the offices to which he had so gracelessly aspired.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester (soon to be King Richard III):
Deformed in body through a severe scoliosis of his spine, and twisted in mind by his hatred of not only his own hideous form, but also of those near and supposedly “dear” to him. Richard instead finds refuge and solace in aggressive bluster and machismo, topped off by more than a tincture of over-weaning self-confidence and narcissism. He is inherently evil, fatally corrupt, incredibly sadistic and manipulative, and will therefore stop at nothing to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming King. His undoubted (if somewhat under-appreciated) intelligence, his political savvy, and his at times dazzling use of blunt language keep his audience of loyal followers suitably enthralled—and his subjects and rivals are thus kept firmly under his thumb, or more accurately perhaps, under 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 Richard himself … Steve Bannon
King Edward IV:
The older brother of Richard and Clarence, and the King of England at the start of the play. Edward was deeply involved in the Yorkists’ brutal overthrow of the Lancaster regime, but as King he sought to unify the various political factions that have epitomised his reign against those common enemies from beyond England’s shore, a tactic that succeeds at least until the Black Prince’s rebellion comes to the fore. He is also blissfully unaware of his brother Richard’s scheming ways, and more tellingly his none-too-subtle designs on his regal throne … George.W.Bush
George, Duke of Clarence:
The gentle and naively trusting brother, born between Edward and Richard in the York family, and thus a classic embodiment of middle child syndrome. One wag was heard to utter (admittedly as he was being drawn and quartered for treason) the following characterisation of his inordinate passivity: “The Duke of Clarence hath single-handedly put the ‘plant’ in Plantagenet”. Richard eventually has Clarence murdered before he can achieve the mantle of his older sibling (King Edward IV), largely because he stands squarely between Richard and his attainment of his ultimate prize: the British crown … Jeb Bush
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 and 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, in her view, complicit in not only the destruction of the House of Lancaster, but also in usurping their God-given right to rule … Hillary Clinton
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 for his sadistic pleasure—Richard attempts to persuade Anne to marry him, against not only her own better judgement, but also the wave of nausea that enveloped 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 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 the 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 … Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, John McCain
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 actions as the play unfolds … Barbara Bush
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 nephews—in the Tower. Young Prince Edward, the rightful heir to the throne, should not be confused with the elder Edward, Prince of Wales (the “Black Prince”: first husband of Lady Anne, and the son of the former king, Henry VI.) … Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio
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 (Jared Kushner), the Lancastrian rebel leader, in order to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster … Ivanka Trump
Two of Richard’s flunkies among the nobility, who generally do his bidding in matters of a delicate, or even a contentious nature … James Comey and Mike Flynn
A murderer whom Richard hires to kill his young cousins, the princes in the Tower … Dick Cheney
Richmond (known as Henry Tudor, and soon to be King Henry VII):
A member of a branch of the Lancaster royal family, Richmond gathers a force of rebels to challenge Richard for the throne. In the play, he embodies all the regal qualities of goodness, justice, and fairness—all those things that Richard lacks. Richmond is portrayed in such a glowing light not least because he founded the Tudor dynasty, which still ruled England during Shakespeare’s time … Jared Kushner
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 Pence
Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby:
The stepfather of Richmond. Lord Stanley secretly helps Richmond (Jared Kushner), although he is under Richard’s constant and watchful gaze… Al Gore
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
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 … Nigel Farage
A friend of Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, and Gray, who is executed by Richard along with Rivers and Gray at Pontefract (aka Pomfret) Castle… Mitt Romney
Gramm, Leach & Bliley:
Moneylenders of nefarious purpose and dubious repute… Robert Rubin (in various guises)
A Russian-born former courtesan, turned secret agent for the wily Grand Prince of Moscow: Ivan III (Vladimir Putin). She then became a highly favoured mistress to the former King Henry VI (Bill Clinton), who was otherwise blissfully unaware of both her sordid past and her foreign affiliations. Her surprising emotional vulnerability when the chips were down eventually leads to her downfall, leaving her with an unenviable reputation as a scarlet woman who becomes a pariah across the entire kingdom … Monica Lewinsky
A one-time Habsburg countess and former niece to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III. She was soon to be secretly betrothed in an arranged marriage to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Donald Trump), and is now locked high in the Tower 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
The Mormear of Caithness, a region at the very far north of the Scottish highlands, who sets himself against the hegemony of the British crown, going rogue and recklessly threatening his neighbouring Earldoms and Feifdoms … Kim Jong Un
Mystic and seer, a renowned alchemist whose technical wizardry can bewilder the most cynical onlooker, not only dumbfounding the various members of the aristocracy, but also bewitching and beguiling the common throng with his mesmerising presence, not to mention his preternatural skills in the finer aspects of the dark arts … Elon Musk
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
Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow (“Ivan the Great”) … Vladimir Putin
Our story begins in the year of our Lord 1478, during the reign of the Yorkist King, Edward IV. The so called “War of the Roses” has been raging on and off for over two decades, with two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, the Houses of York and Lancaster, fighting tooth and claw for ultimate supremacy, hoping to wrest absolute control of the English throne for their posterity.
King Edward’s younger brother, the hunchback Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is a misbegotten creature who represents the very culmination of centuries of inbreeding, deformed not just of body, but also of mind. He is further characterised by a pervasive self-loathing that 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. Somewhat ironically perhaps, Richard simultaneously projects an inflated over-confidence and an air of completely unearned self-entitlement, which eventually leads him to furtively covet the throne of his oldest brother. This envy is destined to soon be sated with the brutal murder of his elder brother (the Duke of Clarence), and then subsequently by the untimely death (from natural causes) of the eldest sibling King Edward, leaving only Edward’s very young sons (“the Young Princes”) as heirs to the throne, sadly for them becoming the only remaining obstacles in the path of Gloucester’s inevitable ascent to becoming ruler of all England.
But, before we delve further into the action of the play, some background detail is essential for those unfamiliar with the history of this infamous floral rivalry.
The House of Lancaster’s claim to the English throne stems from a rather dubious usurper, the Lancastrian Henry Bolingbroke, a not-so-delightful rogue who would subsequently become King Henry IV after defeating and deposing his cousin, Richard II, in 1399. Upon the assassination of this erstwhile King Richard, the new King Henry embarked on a massive program of expenditure to curry favour with the peasantry, whereby he promised to build a “Great Society” to elevate every downtrodden soul in the kingdom from their privations, a scheme that was meant to especially promote the welfare of those denizens at the very lowest echelons of civil society. This scheme would come to serve the dual purpose of being seen to ostensibly improve the lot of the poor serfs, whilst simultaneously ensuring that in return they would form a bulwark against any uprising or rebellion being fomented against his rule, with them forever being indebted (and effectively indentured) to the largesse of the Crown. This was to be an ongoing tactic employed by the Lancastrian kings down through the ages, whereupon the championing of the poor soon became nothing more than a political tool, albeit one of noteworthy effectiveness, ensuring the relative stability of their various reigns. Needless to say, the rub so to speak was that this required the peasants to remain 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 many would say largely illusory compassion.
Henry IV was eventually succeeded on the throne upon his death by his young son Henry V, who came to embody all that a King should be in his brief time as monarch. A renowned miscreant in his youth, the young Prince Hal mingled seamlessly with the lowlifes of the demimonde in the various gaming houses, taverns and bordellos of the city, but would subsequently reform completely on the death of his father, becoming a paragon of virtue (in the public eye at least) in his short but highly successful reign. After a famous and rousing victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V became supreme ruler of both England and France, only for him to die unexpectedly from dysentery at the tender age of 36 years. This was indeed ironic given that, at the age of 16, Henry had managed to survive an arrow shot by a rebel soldier that pierced just under his left eye and then penetrated his skull backward to the occiput, a wound that was incurred during the torrid Battle of Shrewsbury. In order to remove this embedded arrowhead, special tongs had to be designed, made and carefully inserted nearly six inches into the wound to grip and extract the metal from his cranium. It then took a further three weeks to cleanse and close up the hole – and all without the benefit of anaesthesia. A miraculous recovery indeed, and one that stood in ironic counterpoint to the rather mundane nature of his eventual demise.
Henry V’s untimely death elevated the heroic King’s infant son to the throne, becoming King Henry VI. After ruling initially through a series of regents throughout his childhood, the younger Henry’s reign was eventually to be fatally compromised by a recurring mental instability, and more particularly perhaps by the compulsive serial womanising he scandalously undertook with the sundry scullery maids, domestics, flower sellers and lowly attendants who were unfortunate enough to cross his path. Ultimately, it was his indiscreet affair with the Russian courtesan and undercover spy, Baroness Lewinsky, that compromised the legitimacy of his crown still further, as it not only reflected poorly on his political judgement, but also (symbolically at least) it cast doubt on his ability to keep his irons in the fire without constantly getting his fingers burnt. More egregiously from a practical and fiscal viewpoint perhaps, King Henry came under the undue influence of three thoroughly unscrupulous money lenders in Gramm, Leach and Bliley, who persuaded the degenerate King to make various disastrous financial decisions that benefitted these usurers mightily, but which would eventually come to compromise the wealth of the entire kingdom, to the gradual impoverishment of many of his most lowly subjects, whereupon some of the most vulnerable were either left homeless or destitute, while the land barons and gentry remained largely untouched or even profited by his financial profligacy.
King Henry VI’s legitimate birthright to the throne was eventually challenged by 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 aforementioned War of the Roses between the two noble houses. Henry VI’s queen, a formidable woman known as Margaret of Anjou, stoked the embers of this conflict between the upstart Yorkists and the Lancasters still further by labelling her husband’s rivals as “a basket of deplorables”, leading to an even more deadly turn in the feud. This would shortly result in the capture of her husband at the Battle of Northampton in 1459, and then to a period of his living in exile after being rescued by loyalist forces, before ultimately leading to Henry’s eventual murder in the Tower some years later at the hands of his Yorkist rivals. As was the custom at the time, Queen Margaret’s life was fortunately spared, having been political neutered in Yorkist eyes upon the death of her husband, a decision they no doubt would come to regret as she remained a thorn in their collective side for a decade or more thereafter, harbouring ambitions for the crown herself in spite of seemingly having no legitimate claim to the throne by right of ascension.
Upon the defeat of Henry VI, his one time rival’s eldest son ascended to the throne, becoming King Edward IV, whereupon an albeit short-lived peace and stability was attained. 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 the 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 thus took little time in setting about planning and executing reprisals for this impudence, sending forth crusaders to Granada in the southern most regions of the Iberian peninsula, and to the Maghreb in North Africa to hunt down the Caliphs and their generals who were thought to be responsible for this vicious attack. His crusaders even made their way to the Holy Lands, to the very heart of Ottoman Caliphate, but these latter forays became not only hideously expensive to finance, but also led to great deal of bloodshed, and the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives. This provided little if any worthwhile gain for England’s security, especially as the crusaders failed to find any of the legendary (some might suggest mythical) weapons of mass destruction responsible for such devastation, but nonetheless the fruitless search for this particular Holy Grail placed an appalling strain upon the overall financial solvency of the kingdom’s treasury.
Other notable incidents that characterised Edward’s short but eventful reign included the establishment of Guantanamo castle on the island of Majorca to house the Islamic fighters captured by the crusaders, where they were brought back from Africa and the Middle East for some friendly persuasion in picturesque surroundings, and where they could especially enjoy the various water-sports that were on offer. Of course, Edward’s largesse was not merely confined to enemy combatants in far off lands, but also to his subjects who were to benefit from a vastly improved homeland security, where the populace were made to feel much safer indeed from any further attacks through greatly broadening the powers of the local militias who policed the cities and surrounding townships. Every conversation between the peasants and among the townsfolk was to be monitored through a network of informants, and every bowel movement and sexual act 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 thus frowned upon as undermining the protection of the people against the spectre of further possible terrorist attacks.
After 8 years of Edward IV’s reign, the House of York’s grip on power was challenged by the heir apparent to the albeit dubious Lancastrian claim to the throne: Edward of Westminster, the “Black Prince” of Wales. The son of Margaret of Anjou and the former King Henry VI, the Prince was currently living in exile under the rule of the Moaheb Sultanate, in a large township on the Swahili coast of East Africa. There he organised the local community in order to raise an army that he hoped would allow him to retake England for himself (and by extension for his fellow Lancastrians), thereby to regain their “rightful” place as sovereign rulers of England. This period of exile was preceded by his four year stint of spiritual enlightenment on the island of Java in the Majapahit Empire under the tutelage of the great Rishi Soetoro, before then completing his formative education in, of all places, the Sandwich Islands. Now, patiently biding his time in this African idyll, the Black Prince vowed he would soon be ready to launch his ultimate campaign for hope and change across the British Isles, with his zealous army of followers faithfully in tow.
Eventually, the Black Prince arrived on English soil and first established a beachhead in East Anglia where a settlement was soon under construction, a township that would come to be known as Washing Town. This township was founded on reclaimed swamp land, and in spite of this inauspicious foundation it soon became a thriving hub of activity, sadly though it would eventually become most conspicuous for the extreme level of institutionalised graft and corruption to be found there. The young Prince, in order to fund the construction of the town, had foolishly curried favour with those same unscrupulous usurers who were the undoing of his father (Henry VI). Through his naive (at the very least) complicity with these money lenders, he further allowed an incredibly high level of unregulated money printing to occur under his watch, an action that utterly devalued the local currency. This merely served to undermine the monetary worth of the hard toil and the earnings of his loyal subjects, whilst the young Prince compounded the error further by authorising zero or negative interest rate loans to be established for the sole benefit of these same financial wunderkinds, allowing them to engage in the most outrageous and predatory speculative practices. By virtue of these decisions, many of dubious merit (at best), all of this speculation became effectively underwritten by the taxes extracted from his followers, and also those raised from the common folk whose assets were to be confiscated as his seat of power expanded from beyond the Washing Town environs into the surrounding hills and valleys.
As the Prince further consolidated his base of power, he began to cultivate a cult of personality among his acolytes, to the extent that these deluded zealots believed to a man that he could not only control the weather, but had the power to keep the tide at bay like a modern day variation of the famous Dane of yesteryear, King Cnut. This adulation was sorely tested, however, when all those hundreds of windmills and sun traps he had built around the 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 ameliorate the stifling heat of the summer that provided a most conducive environment for the flies and mosquitoes that swarmed in their millions around the reclaimed swamp that gave Washing Town its pungent 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 time out to first embark upon a grand tour around the Mediterranean Sea, starting in Libya, then moving on to Tunisia then Egypt, before finally travelling throughout the Levant, spreading his good will and offering his support to all the 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 and civilian uprisings would break out, each devolving inevitably into widespread death and destruction across the countryside, on the path to the bloody carnage of all out civil wars.
His goodwill mission complete, the young Prince then embarked on his homeward voyage aboard the galley of a notorious corsair, where he struck up a firm friendship with a wandering Bedouin who had only just joined the ship as they sailed along the treacherous Barbary Coast. Sadly, whilst examining an arquebus from a captured Hungarian soldier, the weapon discharged unexpectedly killing the mysterious Bedouin 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, including the young Prince, he had inadvertently (not to mention serendipitously) killed the infamous Abu Abdallah, none other than the devious mastermind behind the twin tower attacks in York City a few years earlier.
Finally, the Black Prince returned to English soil, where he rallied the troops in Washing Town together and then marched on toward the capital, York City. On the outskirts of the city, he met up with his mother Queen Margaret and her followers to assess the best laid potential plans of attack against the King’s enclave, but they became somewhat hesitant 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. Additionally, the Lancastrians sought to completely undermine the integrity of the local political scene through the mass importation of unskilled foreigners to form voting blocs throughout the city, and by establishing widespread gerrymander through propagating multiple rotten and pocket boroughs within the York City electorates to unduly influence the representative balance in the House of Commons to their own nefarious ends.
Once the King and the Duke realised what treason was being plotted and enacted 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, whilst 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 ironic counterpoint to its primary purpose as the ceremonial entrance point of the city for receiving and honouring visiting monarchs.
And so now we find ourselves in the present day. It is mid winter in England’s north and in spite of his recent 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. Wind is whistling down the street, and the condensation from the breath of 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, Duke of Gloucester, cowering there against the tower wall, a tower that formerly stood in London Town but was then dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt at his request in the city of York as a monument to his family’s supremacy.
The rebellion of the Black Prince has just been quashed, but Richard has been unduly stung by the criticism the traitorous operatives had recently been spreading about the city regarding his rather ungodly appearance. Richard’s vanity had been wounded and so 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 concoction he prescribed, and presently his skin tone was miraculously transformed from its usual deathly pallor to a more vibrant and virile orange and caramel hue. Our hero could not wait to exclaim his new found feelings of confidence in his 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 that he was not well cut out to avail himself of more than the merest tincture of the pleasures of the flesh, Richard resolved instead to be 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 his oldest brother, King Edward, ever shuffle from the mortal coil.
As such, it was now necessary to sow the seeds of discord and distrust between his two brothers, 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 his brother, the Duke of Clarence, had designs on the throne and was actively plotting against him. Whilst outwardly fond of his brother, secretly Richard despised Clarence’s lack of vigour and his passivity, seeing his low energy levels as a sign of undeniable weakness. The Duke was also, in Richard’s mind, merely riding on the coat-tails of his stronger siblings and forebears, and basking in so much unearned 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?
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, your imprisonment will not be long:
Meantime, have patience.
(Exuent Clarence, with Brackenbury)
Go tread the path that thou shalt ne’er return.
Simple, plain Clarence, I do love thee so
That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,
If heaven will take the present at our hands.
But who comes here? 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.
There was suddenly no time to lose, as soon his oldest brother, King Edward, was destined to meet his maker. His brother, Clarence, on the other hand, needed to be dealt with post haste before the web of lies and deceit became untangled, or else the sudden death of the King would undo all the best laid schemes that Richard had put in train. So, away to the Tower it was, where Richard resolved to despatch his increasingly inconvenient brother Clarence with some urgency, leaving only Edward’s young Princes in his path to power.
(Exuent 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 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.
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)
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.
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.
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 did not kill your once belov’d husband,
He was slain instead by King Edward’s hand!
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 their guilt upon my guiltless shoulders.
Is not the causer of the timeless deaths
Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,
As blameful as the executioner?
Thou art the cause, and most accursed effect.
Richard: (leaning closer to milady, and whispering in honeyed tones)
Divine perfection of a woman!
Your beauty was the cause of that effect;
Your beauty: which did haunt me in my sleep,
To undertake the death of all the world,
So I might live one hour in your 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 you!
Surely, thou hast more than ample reason
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.
I would I knew thy heart.
‘Tis figured in my tongue.
I fear me both are false.
Then never man was true.
Well, well, put up your sword.
But shall I live in hope?
All men, I hope, live so.
Vouchsafe to wear this ring.
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.
(Exuent 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
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 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 remained a woman of considerable power and influence, and a potential obstacle to his plans to gain ascendancy to the throne. Thus, he rode to the exotically named Xanadu, the former Queen’s palatial estate in the York city hinterland, to confront her over her role in the recent uprising by her son, Black Prince Edward, and his cohorts.
Upon arrival, 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 beneath a stately pleasure dome of oriental design. 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 of raiments imaginable for a lady of her standing, with a buttoned double breasted straw-coloured suit top, under which she wore somewhat incongruous black pantaloons that seemed at odds with not only her royal status, but also her gender. She explained that her attire was allegedly more than 150 years old, having been 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, it more suggested a garb 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 (or her) own, Richard thought.
Richard: (with his trademark tact)
You certainly cut a fine figure of a man, milady!
Why don’t you crawl back under that rock whence you came, villain!
Richard: (feigning a fawning disposition)
Why, dear lady, it was you who summoned me hence.
How so, oh malformed devil’s spawn?
By your rebellious acts in York city,
To further the claims of thy upstart son.
Am I to suffer for my Edward’s sins?
I am guiltless, despite thy assertion.
Foul wrinkled witch, what makest thou in my sight?
Wert thou not banished on pain of death,
On the demise of thy lecherous spouse?
I was; but I do find more pain in banishment
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………
Have done thy charm, thou hateful wither’d hag!
Thou hast stamina indeed to endure,
Through the travails of a life lived at court,
But thou canst scarcely talk to me of “peace”,
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 seems to me, by thy well sullied hand.
Forsaken bastard son of Narcissus!
Thou art the most brazen of demagogues!
‘Twas nought to do with me that my Edward,
With youthful zeal, didst bring such misery.
Those drums of war doth beat in hostile lands,
At the whim of Mullahs bent on revenge,
For past injustices that bred disdain,
And made loyal envoys ripe for slaughter.
Such bad, bad experiences, ’tis true,
But such fake tales make thy motives ring false,
Thy chronicles dwell in their own reality,
Entwined in thy tangled web of deceit.
Grope for thy masculine “truth” if thou wish.
‘Tis a woman’s right to choose false from real!
Deceiving foes is something to cherish,
If it advances one’s malign purpose!
Richard: (leaning over her imposingly)
Thou hast such tremendous hate in thy heart!
Thy misdeeds fester in those dank corners,
Found within the dungeon of thy conscience,
And my hope most fervent: thou remaineth,
Imprison’d by those tormented memories,
As I bear righteous arms to strike thee down,
To 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 this supreme higher power,
Might recast this pestilent fighter’s will,
Dwelling there in more affordable care.
His soliloquy finished, Richard dragged Margaret’s lifeless body to the edge of the stream, crossed himself in a vague attempt at piety, and then gently lowered her body into the flowing waters. Her body 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 towards a lifeless ocean.
His sacred duty to the dead complete, Richard then bestrode his noble steed and began riding hastily back to York city, to the Tower where his hapless brother Clarence awaited his final curtain, a fate Richard was hopeful of expediting before there was any chance that King Edward’s death might precede it. As he rode back along the country lanes, he gazed about the fields that lay on either side of the road, where it fleetingly seemed to him, in a moment of rare and all-too-brief clarity, that his country was dying. The vines in the vineyards seemed strangely withered, their grapes were now shrivelled and dry, not plump and robust as they had seemed on his forward journey. The wagon that he had seen along the way loaded with corn now lay askew as its front axle had broken, sheared off no doubt by the undue weight of its load. Now its bounty 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.
It was an easy thing, he thought, to triumph in the summer’s sun. Richard could easily listen to a hungry raven’s cry in the wintry season when his red blood was fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs, without so much as a twinge of conscience or the slightest pang of guilt. Similarly, it had always been an easy thing for him to laugh at wrathful elements, to hear the dog howl at the wintry door, or listen to the ox in the slaughter house moan. 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 enemies’ houses; To rejoice in the blight that covered their fields, and the sicknesses that cut off their children.
But now, this groan and the dolor should be quite forgotten, he thought. It remains universal that there will always be slaves to grind at the mill, whilst captives remain bound in their chains, and the poor confined to their prisons. Soldiers, for whom Richard had always held a special fondness, would remain forever consigned to their inevitable fates: to lie dying in the sundry battlefields to come, where their shatter’d bones would lay them groaning among the happier dead. The injustices of the world beyond, from now on, would be of no further consequence to him. He was henceforth to be nought but an island, entire of himself in a sea of iniquity, and such considerations would not deter him one moment longer from his brutal and ambitious mission.
Richard soon heard a bell tolling in the distance as he rode briskly into town, and strangely came to the singular belief that it was tolling for him, and for him alone. Thus, it finally dawned on him: It was an easy thing indeed for people to talk of patience to the afflicted. Those such as he of such misshapen form or of misbegotten lineage, who thereafter would routinely suffer the mocking derision from the common folk, and were then expected to wither and shrivel in a discrete corner awaiting the merest crumb of kindness or favour from their supposed betters.
Well, it was not to be so any longer for such a deplorable 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 him from his destiny!
(Exuent, 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 so that he might clear his name of these wrongful accusations of treason that had unjustly been levelled against him. Clarence is sitting in a lime tree bower within the centre courtyard of the tower, a place of contemplation reserved for the condemned prior to their execution, when his brother Richard arrives to offer comfort and consolation to his brother.
Richard! Dearest brother, you are 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 advanced 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 the King sees reason,
And thou canst enjoy sweet freedom once more.
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!
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 that left the impression of a frenzied attack.
When notified of the murder of his brother, Richard feigned distress and shock at first, then collecting himself waxed 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 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.
Richard: (reverting to his preferred, more prosaic blank verse)
Having little prowess for poetry,
Could I rely upon thy skills, kind sir,
To produce words of persuasive devotion,
To seduce this most feminine creature,
And release her wanton harlot within?
A sight to see, I’m sure, my noble friend.
But what of thy wife, Countess Melania?
Wilt she not object most strenuously,
To thy assignation with Lady Anne?
Our union is a secret well guarded,
So thus the Countess hath but little choice,
To acquiesce to allow my desires,
Whether in marriage or the bedchamber!
Any protestations she cares to make
Are thus destin’d to fall upon deaf ears.
But, of course, what my mistress doth not know…….
Let’s delay 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 these unpatriotic vermin who resided in the swamp waters surrounding this 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 harvest these cash crops from dawn till dusk. Presently, Richard and the Duke of Buckingham arrive on horseback, tie their mounts to the hitching rail and stride confidently inside. There they meet with Lady Anne’s maid servant, who ushers 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.
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 he 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 used so tellingly in wooing the reluctant wench who now awaited him in her boudoir.
Richard: (attempting to match his literary offsider with a dash of poetic verse of his own, albeit somewhat more brutally 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!
The pleasure is most surely mine, milord.
Anything to help that promotes thy cause.
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, and then 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 him. Richard, meanwhile, 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 demise.
The two lovers, Richard thought, were no doubt completely unequal partners in this transaction of matters sexual; he for contemplation and valor 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, it 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 only just recently had 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: (his cup having runneth over)
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 soon follow.
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.
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 lamented 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 even 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 and 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 the rarest of opportunities to obtain revenge against the very man who had so recently killed her 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.
Thy stamina hath now deserted thee?
Then, let us cease this 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 the sleeping Devil’s head, 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 the 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 grasped her wrist above her head, driving the dagger downwards instead into the poor Lady Anne’s own abdomen.
Her sudden screams awoke the slumbering Richard, who in a half-dazed state watched on as the last vestiges of life ebbed out of milady’s naked body, as she writhed and contorted 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 passively 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: (with rueful venom, glancing down 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’had 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 listened carefully to Buckingham’s thoughts on the vicissitudes of the pursuit of carnal desires, Richard dressed himself hurriedly and the two friends were soon quickly to horse. They both then rode off, back through those very same gates that marked the entrance to Casa di Caprio, the former Black Prince’s villa. They were soon headed down 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 his indignation and fury, must be destroyed once and for all so that every last remnant of the Lancastrians and their followers 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 all their remaining Lancastrian opponents 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 become completely and ominously silent.
Richard: (attempting ironic commentary)
This is the way the world ends;
Not with a bang but a whimper!
Buckingham: (somewhat aghast)
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 corpulent obesity, anxiety neurosis, terminal hypochondriasis, 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!
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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 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 also filled with a deep and abiding remorse for his rash imprisonment of his gentle brother, due purely to unfounded speculation and baseless suspicions of treason, in an action that indirectly led to Clarence’s demise at the hands of these brutal, murderous villains. Edward then banished all those attending from the bedchamber to be alone with his grief, with only his wife Elizabeth and trusted brother Richard remaining behind to console him.
(Exuent 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!
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.
Queen Elizabeth knelt by her dead husband’s body for the longest time, sobbing bitter tears of regret. Richard excused himself and took his leave after a short time, leaving his brother’s widow alone to her grief. Meanwhile, news of Richard’s announcement of Clarence’s untimely death 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 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 tended 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?
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.
Of course, Richard had no intention to obey his mother’s wishes and thus become a mere compliant lap dog to Edward’s heir. Not for him would it be 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 mischievous old crone, or to be at all persuaded by her outwardly demure, yet inwardly guileful 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.
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 is also in attendance, offering his condolences for the Queen’s lamentations over her husband’s recent death.
Duchess of York:
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.
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, 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:
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, whilst the alleged co-conspirators of Rivers and Gray could be captured, and therefore his 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.
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.
Now whilst I cannot hear the city’s din,
I shall rejoice in this cheerful splendour!
God bless your Grace, with health and happy days!
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.
(Exuent 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.”
(Exuent: 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 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, Danaë (the daughter of King Acrisius of Argos) was portrayed being impregnated by Zeus (by cleverly turning himself into a shower of golden rain that fell down upon her naked body), whilst in the second corner the tale of Leda and the Swan was starkly rendered (Zeus transforming himself on this occasion 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 disguising himself as the goddess Artemis to then through this deception have his way with her), then finally to the last where the myth of Europa, King Agenor of Tyre’s daughter, was depicted (Zeus metamorphosing into an eagle and ravishing her in a willow-thicket), with no depravity left to the imagination.
Of course, such scenes of depravity would normally have been rather daunting to the sensibilities of a pious young teenage aristocrat such as our heir apparent Prince, but being couched in Greek mythological trappings lent them an artistic license they probably didn’t deserve, nonetheless allowing him to largely overlook their inappropriately lewd and ribald content. His thoughts instead were soon moving on to matters of more immediate import, that being how to make his way safely to London to be reunited with his mother the Queen and his brother York.
The Prince bathed and dressed himself, and was sitting on a divan when his uncle, Richard, called upon him.
The cock is up! Now, arise my sweet Prince.
Hast thou slept well in my fair mistress’ bed?
‘Twas surely an experience to savour,
And I’m grateful for thy hospitality.
Thou must prevail upon it further still,
Whilst my soldiers seek those conspirators,
Who hath remain’d elusive to capture.
Please, do remain here as our welcome guest,
Until thy journey can be safely made.
The Tower is most pleasant and secure,
And it shall do very nicely indeed!
Despite its history most unsavoury,
We shall sojourn here till our coronation.
Did Julius Caesar build this place, uncle?
He did, my gracious lord, begin this place;
Which, since, succeeding ages have re-edified.
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 is indeed prodigious,
Yet I dismantled this place, stone by stone,
Rebuilding it to suit my own image;
Consigning Caesar to obscurity.
Caesar’s template 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 depart now, my liege.
I shall leave thee in our Lord Mayor’s care,
So I might be given greater freedom
To attend those remnant traitors’ demise.
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 apartment.
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 to the abode of the former mistress of the degenerate King Henry VI, Baroness Lewinsky. 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’ 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 throne that he firmly believed he was predestined to one day attain. For his part, Ivan clearly admired the Duke of Gloucester’s ruthless ambition, his predatory attitude and his complete lack of a moral compass; features which made him not only a highly dangerous potential adversary, but equally a more than useful comrade he might use in his constant battle with the other continental European aristocrats who plagued the integrity of his borders on a regular basis.
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 and allowing the Grand Prince to keep abreast of all the various intrigues and affairs of state within England’s Royal Court almost as soon as they 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’s relentless push to maximise his power and expand his ever-widening sphere of 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. It fortuitously transpired that the young Baroness had indeed recently learned, through her many spies and informants at court, that the former King Edward IV may have been secretly pre-contracted in marriage to the beautiful widow, Lady Eleanor Butler, the daughter of the Duke of Shrewsbury. This action was reputed to have taken place some 3 years before his marriage to the current Queen (Lady Gray, the former Elizabeth Woodeville), and the existence of such a pre-contract for marriage would, under English law at that time, thereby entirely nullify the legitimacy of any subsequent marriage that Edward would thereafter undertake. As a consequence, this delicious tidbit of information happily negated any claim that either of the Princes in the Tower would otherwise have had to England’s throne. Thus, with the benefit of this undercover Russian reconnaissance and intelligence, the path had now been miraculously cleared for Richard to claim the throne as the “rightful” heir, 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 you, good Catesby,
Has 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
To incite civil unrest and affray,
And 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,
That 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 dual 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.
The intelligence from my informants,
About King Edward’s betrothal contract
To wed Lady Eleanor of Shrewsbury,
Clears thy path to become the lawful King!
It is indeed a most apt happenstance!
Edward’s bastard offspring are thus annull’d,
And 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!
(Exuent 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.
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 you to visit them.
The King hath strictly charged the contrary.
The King? Who’s that?
I mean, the Lord Protector.
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?
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 your behalf, to meet you 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:
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!
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.
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 King, now known as 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 sovereign would soon set England on a course to far greater prosperity, by eliminating entrenched corruption and especially the pernicious influence of the usurers and the land barons who had previously all but monopolised the benefits to be obtained from the favours 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!
Presently, Buckingham returns 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 national 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 Islamic hordes who then razed the two tallest castle keeps in the kingdom, showing 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 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 needing 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 common throng saw as a rallying cry to restoring the hard won rights and freedoms enshrined in the Magna Carta Libertatum at Runnymede in 1215, more than 250 years before.
At its completion, the gathered crowd 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 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.
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.
Whilst King Richard contemplated the tantalising prospect of seducing and wedding his very own niece (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), 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 immediate redress was the emergence of a belligerent, and irresponsibly expansionist nation in the Scottish Mormeardom of Caithness to Britain’s far north. A despotic ruler had come to power in recent years, and he was now principally threatening those lands adjoining that made up the Earldom of Sutherland to the west, as well as the islands to the north that comprised the Orkneys and both the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
The would be despot in question, known 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 bloody protracted war that had eventually led to the partitioning of this region into two separate, self-governing nation states.
These two nations had remained the bitterest of rivals ever since, separated by a demilitarised buffer zone with heavy fortifications on either side of the divide, and 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, 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 younger Maddadsson ruled Caithness with an absolute iron fist, in stark contradiction to his rather pudgy frame and buffoonish facade. The entire populace were barely able to form an individual thought without it first being uttered, or at least vetted, by their fearless leader. He 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 nation’s general direction.
Over recent years, Caithness had repeatedly engaged in espionage in adjacent and even distant lands, sending forth hundreds of spies and “sleepers” who then infiltrated the various surrounding enemy regions 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.
Additionally, Kjim-Jone had recently 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” 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 (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 in the very near future, an especially auspicious prospect given Kjim-Jone’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 by Richard to deter this would-be aggressor, and thus to hopefully at least restore the fragile peace and stability of a region that had teetered on a knife edge happily for centuries, at least up until this recent turn of events.
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 related that the new English King and his generals had been given special dispensation to ignore the Royal edict of Scotland’s King James II in 1457 banning the frivolous game of golf, and instead to repair to the nearby links for a friendly game to discuss the situation further in relaxed surroundings more conducive to solving such a difficult problem.
King Richard III: (lifting his head all of a sudden whilst in the midst of putting on the first green)
This development hath been most troubling!
So wicked a despot needs to be tamed,
Lest other rogue nations follow his lead.
(Lost in contemplation momentarily)
We must meet this threat with response in kind,
With all the fire and fury we can muster.
What course of action should we adopt, sire?
King Richard III: (ruminating aloud)
Perhaps we should 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 his new weapon.
That’ll foment unrest amongst his subjects,
Starving them of both hope and sustenance!
Catesby: (holding the flag for his lord and master)
The wall shall avail us little, my liege,
When his Viking allies to the far north
Ferry him food and weaponry to spare
On fleets of ships across the northern seas.
King Richard III: (modestly)
Such a dilemma presented to us,
Demands a solution of sheer genius!
(pauses, possibly for effect)
Build me a giant 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!
They shall make short work of this tall order!
They shall produce a much bigger weapon
Than that rat tyrant could ever conceive.
This catapult will be one for the ages!
A structure of biblical proportions…..
And as you are often known to say, sire,
In such manly contests, size does matter!
King Richard III: (retrieving the golf ball from the hole)
Yea, verily. The bigger the better.
England’s pride must be preserved at all costs!
We must surpass this villain’s construction
With a superior one of our own.
General #1 (Kelly):
Our armies stand at the ready, milord,
To repel this aggressor, or attack,
Should events dictate we take such action,
With our fullest force and righteous vigour.
General #2 (Mattis):
Our soldiers canst not spell the word “defeat”!
They fight with happy hearts and strong spirits.
This loutish knave is spoiling for a fight,
And some assholes surely need to be shot!
General #3 (McMaster):
War is a 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:
We are mightily pleased, without a doubt,
To have so many generals on hand,
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.
Milord! 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 are cowering in fear,
Expecting further strikes at any time!
King Richard III:
None have 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 and then confront
This recalcitrant who would threaten us,
Inciting chaos, turmoil and terror!
General #1 (Kelly):
King Richard III:
(strolling along the fairway, in search of his errant golf ball)
If the righteous many do not confront
The wicked few, then evil will 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
Shall 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 vast distances across the more picturesque parts of the Scottish moorlands. Not only did he 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 the Earthly realm that the Richard believed should better define our place as sentient beings within God’s created universe. Thus, as God’s representative here on Earth, 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 the King’s perspicacity and omniscience.
King Richard III: (standing over his ball, preparing to chip onto the green)
‘Tis a most germane observation that
This noble game 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)
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)
(after a short pause to tee up, and the address the ball in preparation for his drive)
But, the most important observation
I’ve made is more apt to our circumstance.
That is, each and ev’ry action shall 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 at the final hole)
If this errant rogue is foolish enough
To attempt an attack on our kingdom,
We shall respond with equivalent force,
And shall leave him to lament his folly.
Generals (All): (in unison)
We shall destroy him upon thy word, sire!
King Richard III:
We shall rain hellfire down upon this rogue!
He hath indeed signed his own death warrant,
Should he persist in this belligerence.
Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!
Hell hath no fury like a monarch scorn’d!
Act 5 Scene 2:
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 for home.
Upon arriving back at Dunrobin Castle, the guests all soon repaired 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 the 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, the various Kings he had previously served had come to enjoy the fruits of great prosperity as a consequence of the advantages these technological breakthroughs had bestowed upon them.
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” (or more literally, “the Starry Messenger”). Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the common folk tended instead to believe 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:
Thy reputation precedes thee, young man.
Thy deeds are indeed the stuff of legend!
Hast thou comest to offer thy service,
To rid the Crown of this mutinous rogue?
Yes, my liege. I am thy humble servant.
Such insolence canst not be countenanced!
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 having peered through Elias’ invention)
An impressive contrivance, noble sir.
A marvel for the ages, to be sure!
Canst thou apply such ingenuity
To bring this northern renegade to heel?
I can, sire. We must meet his fire with fire!
Instead of a much bigger catapult
To whip this mongrel dog into submission,
Might I suggest, Majesty, a rocket?
King Richard III:
By Saint Paul, I have never heard this term.
What dost thou mean by this strange expression?
It is a most novel device, my liege.
A large caber is propelled heavenward
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.
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?
‘Tis indeed, Highness.
“Kitab al-Asrar” by the famed Razi;
Alchemist, scholar and philosopher.
King Richard III:
What advantage does this “rocket” bestow?
Wherein lies its destructive potency?
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 shall burst into flame and molten ore,
With enough force to raze them to the ground!
King Richard III:
This seems a splendid and worthy idea!
I shall engage my Royal Engineers,
To build a score or more of these rockets,
And train them upon the Mormear’s fortress!
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 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 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 mists,
Where the haughty foes, in silence repose.
What doth that breeze, o’er the towering cliffs
When it blows, half conceal, yet half disclose?
General #2 (Mattis): (interjecting excitedly)
It catches the gleam of morning’s first beam,
And in full glory, now 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): (delivering a rally cry to his troops, who stand 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 utter rubble. As expected, a great conflagration soon 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 that 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 remaining walls that had remained steadfast to the initial rocket attack, leaving mere mounds of rubble behind as they went.
In the end, all that remained of the castle was a ruined skeleton of the remaining stone walls, a hollow shell of what had once been an awe inspiring landmark. Richard would thus ensure that the edifice could never again be used as a base for further rebellion.
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!
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 Aristotle to Democritus to Plato 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 Hermes Trismegistus. These weighty tomes were further embellished with 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 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 comprehensibility. 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 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 low or high station, as he was now in Elias’ august presence. 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 to London with him, and procuring him as his principal aide and closest 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.
If it pleases your most puissant Highness,
I shall join thee on thy return journey.
“Facts, which at first seem improbable, will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.”
“Alas! Your dear friend and servant has been for the last month hopelessly blind; so that this heaven, this earth, this universe, which I by my marvelous discoveries and clear demonstrations had enlarged a hundred thousand times beyond the belief of the wise men of bygone ages, henceforward for me is shrunk into such a small space as is filled by my own bodily sensations.”