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FREE: William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”: A Retelling in Prose


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David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LOVER’S MELANCHOLY: A Retelling — Act 2, Scene 2

— 2.2 —

Cleophila and Trollio talked together in an apartment at the castle. Cleophila was Meleander’s daughter, and Trollio was Meleander’s manservant.

“Tread softly, Trollio,” Cleophila said. “My father is still sleeping.”

“Yes, indeed, he is,” Trollio said, “but he sleeps like a hare, with his eyes open, and that’s not a good sign.”

Hares were thought to be timid creatures that always kept their eyes open in case of the approach of predators.

“Surely, you are weary of this sullen living, but I am not,” Cleophila said, “for I find more contentment in my obedience and duty to my father here than in all the delights the time presents elsewhere.”

In his room, Meleander groaned.

“Do you hear that groan?” Cleophila asked.

“Hear it!” Trollio said. “I shudder. It was a strong blast, young mistress, able to root up heart, liver, lungs, and all.”

“My much-wronged father!” Cleophila said, “Let me see his face.”

She drew aside a wall hanging. Behind it was an alcove, in which her father was sitting in a chair and sleeping. His hair and beard were long and unkempt.

“Lady mistress,” Trollio said, “shall I fetch a barber to steal away his rough beard while he sleeps? In his naps he never looks in a mirror, and it is high time, and according to reason, for him to be trimmed. He has not been under the shaver’s hand during almost the past four years.”

Trollio was exaggerating. Meleander’s daughter Eroclea had been missing for two years.

“Quiet, fool!” Cleophila said, afraid that he would awaken her father.

Trollio thought, I could clip the old ruffian; there’s hair enough to stuff all the great codpieces in Switzerland.

A codpiece was a pouch that covered a man’s genitals.

Trollio continued thinking, He begins to stir; he stirs. Bless us, how his eyes roll!

He then said to Meleander, “May a good year keep your lordship in your right wits, I beseech you!”

By “good year,” he meant a lengthy fortuitous time; however, “goodyear” was often used in this society as a euphemism for the Devil.

Meleander called, “Cleophila!”

“Sir, I am here,” she replied. “How are you doing, sir?”

“Sir, is your stomach up yet?” Trollio asked. “Are you hungry? Get some warm porridge in your belly; it is very good at settling brains.”

Imagining his daughter Eroclea’s funeral, Meleander said, “The raven croaked, and hollow shrieks of owls sung dirges at her funeral; I laughed all the while, for it was useless to weep. The girl was fresh and full of youth: but, oh, the cunning of tyrants, who look big! Their very frowns judge poor souls guilty even before their case is heard.”

He then asked Trollio and Cleophila, “Good people, who are you, and who are you?”

“I am Cleophila, your woeful daughter.”

“I am Trollio, your honest implement.”

An “implement” is an instrument; Trollio meant servant.

“I know you both,” Meleander said.

He then said to Cleophila, “Alas, why do you treat me like this? Your sister, my Eroclea, was so gentle that young turtledoves — which completely lack spleens that produce gall — in their downy feathers nourish more gall than her spleen had ever mixed with, yet, when winds and storms drive dirt and dust on banks of spotless snow, the purest whiteness is no such defense against the sullying foulness of that fury.

“So raved Agenor, that great man, evil against the girl. It was a malicious, cunning trick!”

Agenor was Prince Palador’s father, who had coveted Eroclea for himself after arranging for Prince Palador and Eroclea’s engagement.

Meleander continued, “We were too old in honor.”

He meant that he had been so accustomed to dealing with honorable men that he was unprepared for Agenor’s evil designs on Eroclea.

Meleander continued, “I am lean, and fallen away extremely. I have lost weight, and most assuredly I have not dined these past three days.”

“Will you eat now, sir?” Cleophila asked.

“I beseech you heartily to eat, sir,” Trollio said. “I feel a horrible puking myself.”

He was saying that he did not feel well; it is likely he thought that some food would settle his stomach.

“Am I stark mad?” Meleander asked.

Trollio thought, No, no, you are only a little staring; there’s a difference between staring and stark mad. You are but whimsied yet — crotcheted, conundrumed, or so on. You are only filled with odd notions.

Meleander said, “Here’s all my worry, and I often sigh for you, Cleophila; we are secluded from all good people.

“But be careful: Amethus is the son of Doryla, Agenor’s sister. There’s some ill blood about him, if the surgeons have not been very skillful and let the ill blood all out.”

Doctors engaged in bloodletting as a health measure.

“I am, alas, too grieved to think of love,” Cleophila said. “Romantic love must concern me least.”

“Sirrah, be wise!” Meleander said. “Be wise!”

A man of a higher social class would sometimes address a man of a lower social class by the title “sirrah.”

“Who, I?” Trollio asked. “I will be monstrous and wise immediately.”

Amethus, Menaphon, Parthenophill, and Rhetias entered the room.

“Welcome, gentlemen,” Trollio said. “The more the merrier. I’ll lay the cloth, and set the stools in readiness, for I see that there is some hope of dinner now.”

He exited.

Amethus said, “My Lord Meleander, your kinsman Menaphon, newly returned from travel, comes to tender his duty to you.”

He then said to Cleophila, “And he comes to tender his love to you, fair mistress.”

Menaphon said to Meleander, “I wish that I could as easily remove sadness from your memory, sir, as study to do you faithful service.”

He then said to Cleophila, “My dear cousin, may all the best of comforts bless your sweet obedience!”

She was treating her father well and taking care of him.

Cleophila replied, “One of the chief of my best of comforts, worthy cousin, lives in you and your well-doing.”

Menaphon said about Parthenophill, “This young stranger will well deserve your knowledge and acquaintanceship.”

“For my friend’s sake, lady, please give him welcome,” Amethus requested.

“He has met my welcome, if a person with sorrows can look kindly,” Cleophila replied.

“You much honor me,” Parthenophill said.

Looking at Meleander, Rhetias thought, How he eyes the company! Surely my passionate feelings will betray my weakness.

Rhetias had served Meleander before Meleander began to suffer from misfortunes and mental illness. The sight of him caused Rhetias’ gentler feelings to rise up, threatening to expose his cynical façade as merely a pose.

Rhetias said to Meleander, “Oh, my master, my noble master, do not forget me. I am still the humblest and the most faithful in heart of those who serve you.”

Meleander laughed.

Rhetias thought, There’s bitter wormwood in that laughter; it is the usher to a violent extreme.

“I am a weak old man,” Meleander said. “All these people have come to jeer at my ripe calamities.”

“Good uncle!” Menaphon said.

“But I’ll outstare you all,” Meleander said. “Fools, desperate fools!

“You’re cheated, grossly cheated; range, range on, and roll about the world to gather moss, the moss of honor, gay reports, gay clothes, gay wives, and huge empty buildings whose proud roofs shall with their pinnacles even reach the stars.

“You work and work like blind moles in the paths that are bored through the crannies of the earth, in order to charge your hungry souls with such full surfeits as, once being gorged, make you lean with plenty.

“And when you have skimmed the vomit of your riots, you’re fat in no felicity but folly.”

“Skimmed the vomit” is like “skimmed the fat from whole milk.” Those fools who skim the vomit of riotous living and consume it grow fat in no happiness but foolishness.

This can mean to grow fat in no happiness except the happiness that is foolishness.

Or this can mean to grow fat in no happiness at all but instead to grow fat in foolishness.

Meleander continued, “Then your last sleeps seize on you in the grave, and then the troops of worms crawl around and feast on your corpses: merriment, rich fare, dainty, delicious!

“Here’s Cleophila; she is all the poor stock of my remaining thrift.

“You, you, the prince’s cousin, how do you like her? Amethus, how do you like her?”

Amethus replied, “My intentions are just and honorable.”

“Sir, believe him,” Menaphon said.

“Take her,” Meleander said. “We two must part.” He said to Cleophila, “Go to him, do.”

“This sight is full of horror,” Parthenophill said.

“There is sense still in this distraction,” Rhetias said.

Meleander said, “In this jewel I have given away all that I can call mine. When I am dead, save on expenses. Let me be buried in a nook with no guns of honor, no pompous whining — these are fooleries.

“If we — while we live — stalk about the streets jostled by cart-men, foot-messengers, and fine apes in silken coats, neglected and scarcely thought about, then it is not comely for us to be drawn to the earth for burial dressed in antique and fantastic trappings like well-fed jades upon a day for tilts and jousts.”

In other words, if we live ordinary lives without suffering great harm, we ought not to be indulged with a fancy funeral after we die.

Meleander said, “Scorn to useless tears!”

This can mean, “Show scorn to useless tears!”

Tears won’t help, so don’t shed them.

Or it can mean: “Scorn to use less [fewer] tears.”

Shed many, many tears, especially at the funeral of a person such as Eroclea.

Meleander continued, “Eroclea was not coffined in such a way; she perished, and no eye dropped tears except mine and I am childish. I talk like one who dotes. Laugh at me, Rhetias, or rail at me and shout at me.

“They will not give me food.”

Literally, that was not true, but Cleophila and Trollio were not able to give him the kind of metaphorical food he wanted: He wanted Eroclea back.

Meleander continued, “They’ve starved me, but I’ll henceforth be my own cook.

“Good morning! It is too early for me to revel with you because of my cares; I will break my heart a little, and tell you more hereafter.

“Please be merry.”

He exited.

“I’ll follow him,” Rhetias said.

He whispered, “My Lord Amethus, use your time with Cleophila carefully. Few words soonest prevail as long as they are to the purpose. Make no long orations. Speak plainly and briefly.”

He said again out loud, “I’ll follow him.”

He exited.

Amethus said, “Cleophila, although these blacker clouds of sadness thicken and make dark the sky of your fair eyes, yet give me permission to follow the stream of my affections: They are pure, without any mixture of ignoble thoughts.

“Can you ever be mine?”

“I am so low in my own fortunes and my father’s woes, that I lack words to tell you that you deserve a worthier choice than I,” Cleophila replied.

“But give me permission to hope,” Amethus requested.

“My friend is serious,” Menaphon said.

“Sir, accept this for your answer,” Cleophila said. “If I ever thrive in any earthly happiness, second to my good father’s wished-for recovery must be my thankfulness to your great merit. This much I dare promise.

“You cannot urge more from me at the present time.”

Meleander called from another room, “Cleophila!”

“This gentleman is moved by strong emotion,” Cleophila said about Parthenophill.

“Your eyes, Parthenophill, are guilty of showing some grief,” Amethus said. “You are weeping.”

“Friend, what ails you?” Menaphon asked.

“All is not well within me, sir,” Parthenophill replied.

“Cleophila!” Meleander called again.

“Sweet maiden, don’t forget me,” Amethus said. “We now must part.”

“Always you shall have my prayers for you,” Cleophila said.

“Always you will have my loyalty,” Amethus said.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce



William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce



Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:  A Retelling

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David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LOVER’S MELANCHOLY: A RETELLING — Act 2, Scene 1

— 2.1 —

Sophronos and Aretus talked together in an apartment in the palace. Sophronos was Prince Palador’s counselor, and Aretus was Prince Palador’s tutor. A tutor manages the affairs of a person who is incapable of doing so himself. Aretus may also have been Prince Palador’s academic tutor. Both Sophronos and Aretus were managing the affairs of Cyprus because Prince Palador was suffering from melancholy.

Sophronos complained, “Our commonwealth is sick. It is more than time that we should wake its head — the prince — who sleeps in the dull lethargy of vanished safety and security.

“The common people murmur, and the nobles grieve. The court is now turned grotesque and grows wild, while all the neighboring nations stand gazing and watch for a suitable opportunity to wreak their justly conceived fury to avenge such injuries as the late prince, our living master’s father, committed against laws of truth or honor.

“Intelligence comes flying in on all sides, while the unsteady multitude presume that you, Aretus, and I engross, because of our private ambition, the affairs of government, which I, for my part, groan under and am weary of.”

“Sophronos,” Aretus said, “I am also as zealous to shake off my gay state-fetters, and so I have thought of a speedy remedy, and to that end, as I have told you, I have been working with Corax, the prince’s chief physician.”

“You should have done this sooner, Aretus. You were his tutor, and so you could best discern Prince Palador’s dispositions in order to shape them rightly.”

“Passions of a violent nature are most easily reclaimed by degrees,” Aretus said. “There’s something hidden that concerns his distemper, which we’ll now find out.”

Prince Palador was suffering from a mental disturbance, but the reason why was hidden.

Several people entered the room: Corax, Rhetias, Pelias, Cuculus, and Grilla.

Aretus said, “You have come at the exact time for your appointment. Welcome, gentlemen!

“Have you won over Rhetias, Corax?”

“Most sincerely,” Corax said. “He will help.”

“May God save you, nobilities!” Cuculus said.

Sophronos and Aretus outranked courtiers such as Cuculus and Pelias.

Cuculus continued, “Do your lordships take notice of my page? It is a fashion of the newest edition, spick and span new, without example.”

A page is a personal attendant.

He then ordered Grilla, “Do your honor, housewife.”

By “housewife,” he meant “girl.”

As Grilla curtsied twice, once each to Sophronos and to Aretus, she said, “There’s a curtsy for you, and a curtsy for you.”

“It is excellent,” Sophronos said. “We all must follow fashion, and entertain she-pages.”

“It will be courtly,” Aretus said.

“I think so,” Cuculus said. “I hope the historical chronicles will praise me one day for a headpiece —”

He meant this: I hope the historical chronicles will praise me one day by saying I am an intelligent man, a brain.

“Headpiece,” however, had two relevant meanings: 1) brain, or 2) skull (not including the brain).

Using the second meaning, Rhetias interrupted, “— of woodcock, without brains in it!”

Woodcocks were proverbially stupid birds.

Rhetias continued, “Barbers shall wear you on their citterns.”

Barbershops contained stringed musical instruments called citterns that customers could play as they waited for service. These citterns resembled a lute and were sometimes decorated with a carving of a grotesque head.

Rhetias continued, “Hucksters will set you out in gingerbread.”

People would sell gingerbread men that resembled Cuculus.

“May the Devil take you!” an angry Cuculus said.

He did not want to be mocked, especially in front of nobilities.

He continued, “I say nothing to you now; can’t you leave me alone and let me be quiet?”

Loyal to Cuculus, Grilla said to Rhetias, “You’re too perstreperous, saucebox.”

Grilla meant that he was too noisy.

“Good girl!” Cuculus said. “If we begin to puff once —”

“To puff” means to puff out air as in saying the word “pooh” in a contemptuous tone. More broadly, it meant to speak scornfully or behave scornfully. This was not the place for such talk or behavior.

Pelias said, “Please, hold your tongue; the lords are in the presence.”

Nobilities were present, and they were present in the room in which Prince Palador received visitors: the presence chamber.

“Mum, butterfly!” Rhetias replied. “Quiet!”

A butterfly is a foppish courtier.

Seeing Prince Palador, Pelias said, “The prince! Stand and keep quiet.”

“Oh, the prince!” Cuculus said.

He said to Grilla, “Wench, you shall see the prince now.”

Soft music played, and Prince Palador, holding a book, approached the group.

“Sir!” Sophronos said.

“Gracious sir!” Aretus said.

“Why is there all this company?” Prince Palador asked.

Shocked, Corax said to Prince Palador, “A book! Is this the early exercise I prescribed for you? Instead of pursuing health, which all men covet, you pursue disease.

“Where’s your great horse, your hounds, your set at tennis, your game of balloon-ball, the practice of your dancing, your throwing of the hammer, or your learning how to toss a pike?

“All changed into a sonnet!

“Please, sir, grant me free liberty to leave the court. It infects me with the sloth of sleep and excess. In the university I have employments that add profit and report to my profession; here I am lost, and because of your willful dullness I am regarded as a man of neither skill nor honesty.

“You may command my head.”

If he wished to, Prince Palador could order an executioner to behead Corax.

Corax continued, “Take it — do!

“It would be better for me to lose my head than to lose my wits, and live in the insane asylum of Bedlam.

“You will force me to live there. I’m almost mad already.”

“I believe it,” Prince Palador said.

Sophronos said, “Letters have come from Crete that demand a speedy restitution of such ships as by your father were long since detained. If the ships are not speedily returned, the letters threaten defiance.”

Aretus said, “These near parts of Syria that unite are now mustering their friends, and by intelligence we learn for certain that the Syrian leader will pretend an ancient interest of tribute intermitted.”

The island of Cyprus lay close to Syria, whose leader was now claiming that Cyprus owed long-due tribute that it had not paid.

Sophronos said, “Throughout your land your subjects mutter strangely, and they imagine more than they dare to speak publicly.”

“And yet they talk only oddly about you,” Corax said.

“Hang them, the mongrels!” Cuculus said.

Courtiers often seek favor through siding with their prince.

“About me!” Prince Palador said. “My subjects talk about me!”

“Yes, and scurvily,” Corax said. “And they think worse things, prince, than they speak.”

“I’ll borrow the patience to listen to these wrongs for a little time,” Prince Palador said. “And from the few of you who are here present I will conceive what is the general opinion about me.”

Corax thought, I see! Now he’s nettled.

Prince Palador said, “By all your loves I command you to let me know, without fear or flattery, your thoughts about me and how I am interpreted by you. Speak out boldly.”

Sophronos said, “For my part, sir, I will be plain and brief.

“I think you are of nature mild and easy, not willingly provoked, but yet headstrong in any passion that misleads your judgment.

“I think that you are too indulgent in acting on such impulses as spring out of your own inclinations.

“I think that you are too old to be reformed, and yet too young to take fitting counsel from yourself concerning what is most amiss.”

“I see!” Prince Palador said.

He then asked Aretus, “Tutor, what is your opinion?”

“I think you dote — with pardon let me say it — too much upon your pleasures, and these pleasures are so wrapped up in self-love that you covet no other change of fortune.

“You want to be still what your birth makes you, but you are loath to toil in such affairs of state as break your sleeps.”

In other words, he would rather sleep than tend to his duties as ruler of Cyprus.

Corax said, “I think you want to be by the world reputed a man complete in every point, but you are in manners and in effect indeed a child — a boy, a very boy.”

Pelias said, “May it please your grace, I think you contain within yourself the great elixir, soul, and quintessence of all divine perfections. You are the glory of mankind, and the only strict example for earthly monarchs to regulate their lives by.

“You are time’s miracle, fame’s pride.

“In knowledge, intelligence, sweetness, discourse, weapons, arts —”

Recognizing flattery when he heard it, Prince Palador said, “You are a courtier.”

Cuculus said, “But he is not a courtier of the ancient fashion, if it pleases your highness.

“It is I who am that. It is I who am the credit of the court, noble prince; and if you would, by proclamation or letters patent that confer power on me, create me overseer of all the tailors in your dominions, then the golden days — the Golden Age — would appear again.

“Bread would be cheaper, fools would have more intelligence, knaves would have more honesty, and beggars would have more money.”

Grilla began, “I think now —”

“Peace, you squall!” Cuculus said.

A squall is a small and/or insignificant person.

Servants — and in this society especially young, female servants — ought not to evaluate a prince, at least to his face.

Prince Palador said to Rhetias, “You have not spoken yet.”

“Hang him!” Cuculus said. “He’ll do nothing but vehemently criticize and complain.”

“Most abominable,” Grilla said. “Out upon him! Abolish him!”

“Leave, Cuculus,” Corax said quietly. “Follow the lords.”

“Stay close, page, stay close behind me,” Cuculus said to Grilla. “Don’t let yourself be seen.”

Corax had arranged previously for everyone to exit quietly without the prince’s knowledge so that Rhetias could be alone with Prince Palador.

Everyone quietly exited except Prince Palador and Rhetias.

Prince Palador said, “You are taking somewhat a long time to think.”

“I do not think at all,” Rhetias replied.

“Am I not worthy of your thought?” Prince Palador asked.

“You are worthy of my pity, but not my reprehension,” Rhetias replied.

“Pity!” Prince Palador said.

“Yes, for I pity such to whom I owe service, who exchange their happiness for a misery,” Rhetias said.

“Is it a misery to be a prince?” Prince Palador asked.

“Princes who forget their sovereignty, and yield to affected passion, are weary of command,” Rhetias said. “You had a father, sir.”

“He was your sovereign, while he lived, but what about him?” Prince Palador asked.

“Nothing,” Rhetias said. “I only dared to name him; that’s all.”

Using the royal plural, Prince Palador said, “We order you, by the duty that you owe us, to be plain in what you mean to speak. You know something that we must know. You are free to speak freely. Our ears are open.”

“Oh, sir,” Rhetias said, “I had rather hold a wolf by the ears than stroke a lion; the greater danger is the last.”

Holding a wolf by the ears is dangerous, but being in a position where you can anger a king is worse.

“This is mere trifling,” Prince Palador said.

He looked around and said, “Ha! Has everyone stolen away?”

He then said, “We are alone. You have an honest look; you have a tongue, I hope, that is not oiled with flattery. Be open; speak openly.

“Although it is true that in my younger days, when I was a child, I often have heard the name of my father, Agenor, more traduced than I could then observe and completely understand what I was hearing, yet I protest that I never had a friend, a certain friend, who would inform me thoroughly of such errors as often are incident to princes.”

“All this may be,” Rhetias said. “I have seen a man so curious in feeling the edge of a keen knife that he has cut his fingers. My flesh is not of proof — of proven strength — against the metal I am to handle; my flesh is tenderer than the other.”

Rhetias was very aware that speaking openly could anger the prince, and he was very aware that angering a prince is dangerous.

“I see, then, that I must court and persuade you,” Prince Palador said. “Take the word of a just prince who tells you now that for anything you speak I have more than a pardon — I have thanks and respect.”

Rhetias replied, “I will remind you of an old tale that somewhat concerns you.

“Meleander, the great but unfortunate statesman, was by your father entreated to arrange a match between you and his eldest daughter, the Lady Eroclea. You were both near of an age to be married. I presume you remember a marriage contract, and I presume that you cannot forget her.”

“Eroclea was a lovely beauty,” Prince Palador said. “Please, continue!”

“Eroclea was brought to court,” Rhetias said. “She was courted by your father not for you, Prince Palador, as was learned, but to be made a prey to some less noble design. With your permission, I have forgotten the rest.”

Prince Palador’s father wanted to make Eroclea his concubine, thereby taking away her virtue and chastity. Rhetias did not want to say anything that would anger the prince.

“Good man, call it back again into your memory,” Prince Palador said. “Otherwise, if I lose the remainder of the story, then I am lost, too.”

“You persuade me to remember the rest of the story as if you were casting a charm — a spell — on me,” Rhetias said. “In brief, a kidnapping of Eroclea by some bad agents was attempted, but the Lord Meleander her father rescued her, and she was conveyed away.

“Meleander was accused of treason, his land was seized, and he himself became mentally disturbed and confined to the castle, where he still lives.

“What would have ensued is unknown, for your father shortly afterward died.”

“But what became of fair Eroclea?” Palador asked.

“She has never since been heard of,” Rhetias said.

“No hope lives, then, of ever, ever seeing her again?” Prince Palador asked.

“Sir, I was afraid I would anger you,” Rhetias said.

The prince was showing emotion.

Rhetias continued, “This was, as I said, an old tale.

“I have now a new one, which may perhaps season the first with a more delightful relish.”

“I am prepared to hear your new tale,” Prince Palador said. “Say whatever you please.”

“My Lord Meleander falling in status, on whose favor my fortunes relied, I furnished myself for travel,” Rhetias said, “and I bent my course to Athens; there a pretty incident, after a while, came to my knowledge.”

“My ear is open to you,” Prince Palador said. “I am listening.”

“A young lady engaged to a noble gentleman, as the lady we last mentioned — Eroclea — and your highness were, being hindered by their arguing parents, stole away from her home, and was conveyed disguised as a ship-boy in a merchant ship from the country where she lived, to Corinth first and afterwards to Athens, where in much solitariness she lived, like a youth, almost two years, courted by all for acquaintance, but friend to none by familiarity.”

“Was she wearing the clothing of a man?” Prince Palador asked.

“She lived as a handsome young man until, her sweetheart’s father having died a year before or more, she received notice of it within the last three months or less, and with much joy returned home, and, as the report in Athens stated, enjoyed the happiness for which she had been long an exile.

“Now, noble sir, if you did love the Lady Eroclea, why may not such safety and fate direct her as directed the other? It is not impossible.”

It was not impossible that the Lady Eroclea could return to Cyprus.

IfI did love her, Rhetias!” Prince Palador said. “Yes, I did love her.

“Give me your hand.”

They shook hands.

Prince Palador continued, “As you served Meleander, and as you are still true to these hands, henceforth serve me.”

Rhetias was true to these hands: his hand and Prince Palador’s hand. He was true to himself and to his prince.

“My duty and my obedience are my bond, but I have been too bold,” Rhetias said.

“Forget the sadder story of my father,” Prince Palador said, “and only, Rhetias, learn to read and understand me well. For I must always thank you. You have unlocked a tongue that was vowed to silence; for requital, open the clothing over my chest, Rhetias.”

“What do you mean?” Rhetias asked.

“I intend to tie you to an oath of secrecy,” Prince Palador said.

Rhetias began to unbutton Prince Palador’s shirt, but he was slow and awkward at performing such an action on the clothing of a prince.

 “Unfasten the buttons, man,” Prince Palador said. “You do it weakly.”

After Rhetias had unfastened the buttons and opened the shirt, Prince Palador asked, “What do you find there?”

“A picture in an ornament hung around your neck,” Rhetias said.

“Look closely at the picture.”

“I am … yes … let me observe it,” Rhetias said, “The picture is hers, the lady’s.”

“Whose?” Palador asked.

“Eroclea’s,” Rhetias said.

“It is the picture of her who was once Eroclea,” Palador said.

His way of expressing this acknowledged that Eroclea could well be dead.

Palador continued, “For her sake I have advanced Sophronos to the helm of government. For her sake I will restore Meleander’s honors to him. I will, for her sake, beg friendship from you, Rhetias.

“Oh, be faithful, and let no politically minded lord learn from your bosom my griefs. I know you were told to sift me for information, but be not too secure.”

Prince Palador had revealed a secret to Rhetias: a secret that he, Prince Palador, did not want to be revealed. Therefore, he was telling Rhetias to be careful and not let any other lord know what he had learned. Palador’s words “be not too secure” meant 1) don’t be overly confident in your ability to keep a secret, and 2) know that as your prince I can hurt you if you betray my secret.

“I am your creature,” Rhetias said.

This meant: I am your devoted subject.

Prince Palador ordered, “Continue still your discontented fashion. Humor the lords, as they would humor me.

“I’ll not live in your debt.”

This meant: You will be rewarded.

He then said, “We are discovered. Someone is coming.”

Amethus, Menaphon, Thamasta, Kala, and Parthenophill entered the scene.

Amethus said, “May honor and health always serve the prince!

“Sir, I am bold — with your permission — to present to your highness my friend Menaphon, who has returned from travel.”

“Humbly on my knees I kiss your gracious hand,” Menaphon said as he kissed Prince Palador’s hand.

“It is our duty to love the virtuous,” Prince Palador said.

“If my prayers or service have any value, I vow them to be yours forever,” Menaphon said.

“I have a fist for you, too, stripling,” Rhetias said, meaning his hand.

He continued, “You have started up prettily — grown — since I last saw you. Have you learned any intelligence abroad? Can you tell news and swear lies with a grace, like a true traveller?”

Travellers were known for telling tall tales about their travels.

Looking at Parthenophill, Rhetias asked, “What new ouzel is this?”

An ouzel is a blackbird. Parthenophill had dark hair.

Thamasta said to Prince Palador, “Your highness shall do right to your own judgment in taking more than common notice of this stranger, an Athenian who is named Parthenophill. He is one who, if my opinion does not flatter me too grossly, deserves a dear respect for the fashion of his mind.”

“Your commendations, sweet cousin, speak nobly of him,” Palador said.

“May all the supernatural powers that guard just thrones double their guards round about your sacred excellence!” Parthenophill said to Prince Palador.

Prince Palador asked Menaphon, “What fortune led this youth to Cyprus?”

“My persuasions convinced him to come here,” Menaphon replied.

Amethus said to Prince Palador, “And if your highness would be pleased to hear the entrance into their first acquaintance, you will say —”

Thamasta interrupted, “— that it was the newest, sweetest, prettiest accidental meeting that ever delighted your attention. I can tell the story of their meeting, sir.”

“Some other time,” Prince Palador said.

Although he had been told the name earlier, he asked, “What is his name?”

“Parthenophill,” Thamasta answered.

“Parthenophill!” Prince Palador said. “We shall arrange time to take more notice of him.”

Prince Palador exited.

“His usual melancholy still pursues the prince,” Menaphon said.

“I told you so,” Amethus said.

“You must not wonder at it,” Thamasta said to Parthenophill.

“I do not, lady,” Parthenophill replied.

“Shall we go to the castle?” Amethus asked his sister.

“We will accompany you both and render any needed service,” Menaphon said.

“We” referred to Menaphon and Parthenophill.

“All three of us will,” Rhetias said. “I’ll go, too.”

He whispered to Amethus, “Listen in your ear, gallant; I’ll keep the old madman — Meleander — busy by talking to him, while you gabble to Cleophila, his daughter. My thumb’s upon my lips; I’ll say not a word about this.”

“I need not fear that you will reveal anything you should not, Rhetias,” Amethus whispered.

A chance to talk alone to Cleophila necessitated a change in plan. He would tell his sister that he and his male companions would wander the city, giving the impression that they would not go to the castle.

Amethus said out loud, “Sister, expect us soon. Today we will wander the city.”

“Well, I shall expect you soon,” Thamasta said.

She then whispered to Kala, “Kala!”

Here was a chance for Kala to talk to Parthenophill.

Knowing what Thamasta wanted, Kala replied, “Trust me!”

Rhetias said, “Troop on! Love, love, what a wonder you are!”

Everyone exited except for Kala and Parthenophill, whom Kala grabbed by the sleeve and stopped.

“May I not be offensive, sir?” Kala asked. “May I take the liberty of talking to you?”

“What is your pleasure?” Parthenophill said. “What do you want? Yet, please, be brief.”

“Then, briefly, good man, tell me this: Do you have a mistress or a wife?” Kala said.

“Mistress” meant a woman he loved but was not married to; it did not imply a woman with whom Parthenophill was having sexual relations.

“I’ve neither,” Parthenophill answered.

“Did you ever love in earnest any fair lady whom you wished to make your own?” Kala asked.

“No, not any, truly,” Parthenophill answered.

Kala said, “I will not be inquisitive and ask to know who your friends or what your means are, nor do I care to hope to know those things.

“But suppose that a dowry were thrown down before your choice of woman, a woman of beauty, noble birth, and sincere affection.

“How gladly would you entertain it?

“Young man, I do not tempt you idly.”

It sounded as if Kala were proposing to him.

Parthenophill replied, “I shall thank you, when my unsettled thoughts can make me sensible of what it is to be happy.

“As for the present I am your debtor, and fair gentlewoman, please give me permission as yet to study ignorance, for my weak brains don’t conceive what concerns me.”

In other words, Parthenophill was not sure what was going on: Why was this woman proposing to him?

Beginning to leave, Parthenophill said to Kala, “Some other time.”

Coming in as Parthenophill was beginning to leave, Thamasta said, “Am I interrupting your parley, your private conversation, and is that why you are departing?

“Surely, my serving-woman loves you.

“Can she speak well, Parthenophill?”

“Yes, madam,” Parthenophill replied. “She can hold a discreetly chaste conversation. She has much won my trust, and in few but pithy words, she has much moved my thankfulness.

“You are her lady. Your goodness aims, I know, at her preferment. Therefore, I may be bold to make a true confession: If I ever desire to thrive in a woman’s favor, Kala is the first whom my ambition shall bend to.”

“Indeed!” Thamasta said. “But say a nobler love should interpose. Suppose a nobler woman should love you.”

Parthenophill replied, “Where real worth and constancy first settle a hearty truth, there greatness cannot shake it; nor shall it shake mine. Yet I am but an infant in that interpretation of Kala’s actions and words, which must give clear light to Kala’s merit.”

Parthenophill had already pledged this: If I ever desire to thrive in a woman’s favor, Kala is the first whom my ambition shall bend to. As long as Kala had real worth and constancy, Parthenophill would not go back on this pledge. Parthenophill, however, did not know Kala well, and so he did not know if in fact Kala had real worth and constancy.

He continued, “Riper hours hereafter must teach me how to grow rich in deserts.”

In other words, Parthenophill needed to grow older and become wiser. That experience and knowledge would let him know what he deserved. That could be Kala, or it could be Thamasta. Or it could be someone else.

Parthenophill then said, “Madam, my duty waits on you.”

That was a way of saying that it was his duty to serve her.

He exited.

“Come here,” Thamasta said to Kala. “He said, ‘If ever henceforth I desire to thrive in woman’s favor, Kala is the first whom my ambition shall bend to.’ That’s what he said!”

Thamasta was jealous of Kala.

“Those are the very words he spoke,” Kala admitted.

“Those very words curse you, unfaithful creature, to your grave,” Thamasta said. “You wooed him for yourself!”

“You said I should,” Kala replied.

“My name was never mentioned?” Thamasta asked.

“Madam, no,” Kala said. “We had not come to that.”

Thamasta said, “Not come to that!

“Are you a rival fit to cross my fate?

“Now poverty and a reputation for unchasteness, the waiting-woman’s wages, will be your payment, you false, faithless, wanton beast!

“I’ll spoil your plans for marriage.There’s not a page, a groom, no, not a citizenwhoshall be cast away upon you, Kala. I’ll keep you in my service all your lifetime,without hope of a husband or a suitor.”

“Truly, I have not deserved this cruelty,” Kala said.

“Parthenophill shall learn, if he respectsmy birth, the danger of a foolish neglect. He shall learn that he ought not to reject a woman as highly born as I am.”

Thamasta exited.

“Are you so quick to anger?” Kala said. “Well, I may chance to cross your peevishness. Now, although I never intended for the young man to be mine, yet, if he should love me, I’ll have him, or I’ll run away with him, and let her do her worst then!

“What! We’re all only flesh and blood; the same thing that will do my lady good will please her serving-woman, too.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide



John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce



William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce



Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:  A Retelling


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THE TROJAN WAR: 4 Epic Poems (Iliad, Posthomerica, Odyssey, Aeneid)

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David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LOVER’S MELANCHOLY: A Retelling — Act 1, Scene 3

— 1.3 —

Amethus and Thamasta, his sister, talked together in a room in Thamasta’s house. Kala, Thamasta’s waiting-maid, was present.

“Does this look good?” Amethus asked.

“What do you want me to do?” Thamasta asked.

“I don’t want you to be like a nouveau riche modishly dressed lady who is newly crept out of the shell of sluttish sweat, and labor into the glittering pomp of ease and wantonness, embroideries, and all these grotesque fashions that make a woman monstrous. I also don’t want you to transform your education and a noble birth into contempt and laughter. Sister, sister, she who derives her blood from princes ought to glorify her greatness by humility.”

“Then you conclude that I am proud?” Thamasta asked.

“Young Menaphon, my worthy friend, has loved you long and truly,” Amethus said. “To witness his obedience to your scorn, this wronged gentleman undertook a voluntary exile of twelve months.

“Why, then, sister, in this time of his absence, haven’t you given your affections to some monarch? Why haven’t you sent ambassadors to some neighboring king with fawning affirmations of your graces, your rare perfections, and your admirable beauty?

“This would have been a new piece of ‘modesty’ that would have deserved to be remembered in history!”

Such actions would not have been modest since they involve rejecting Menaphon, who was not a king, in order to pursue a king.

“You’re bitter,” Thamasta said. “And, brother, by your leave, you are not kindly wise. You are not acting as a brother ought to act. A brother — kin — ought to act more kindly — and kin-ly — toward his sister.

“My freedom is my birth’s. I am not bound to fancy those whom you approve, but only those whom I approve.

“Indeed, you are a humble youth! I hear of your visits and your loving commendation to your heart’s saint, Cleophila, a virgin of rare excellence. What though she lacks a dowry to maintain a stately greatness?

“Yet it is your gracious sweetness to descend so low; the meekness of your pity leads you!

“She is your dear friend’s sister!”

Actually, Cleophila is Amethus’ dear friend’s — Menaphon’s — first cousin.

Thamasta continued, “She is a good soul! An innocent!”

One meaning of “innocent” is “simpleton.”

“Thamasta!” Amethus said.

“I have given your Menaphon a welcome home, as befits me,” Thamasta said. “For his sake I have entertained Parthenophill, the handsome stranger, more familiarly than, I may fear, becomes me. Yet, for his part, I do not repent my courtesies, but you —”

Amethus interrupted, “No more, no more! Be affable to both. Time may reclaim your cruelty.”

Talking about Parthenophill, Thamasta said, “I pity the youth; and, trust me, brother, I love his seriousness. He talks the prettiest stories; he delivers his tales so gracefully that I could sit and listen, and indeed, forget my meals and my sleep, in order to hear his neatly delivered discourses.

“Menaphon was well advised in choosing such a friend to plead his true love.”

“Now I commend you,” Amethus said. “You shall change at last, I hope.”

Thamasta thought, I fear I shall.

Menaphon and Parthenophill entered the room.

“Have you seen the garden?” Amethus asked.

“It is an ingenious and pleasantly contrived delight,” Menaphon replied.

Thamasta said to Parthenophill, “Your eye, sir, has in your travels often met delights of more variety?”

“No, none, lady,” Parthenophill replied.

“It would be impossible, since your fair presence makes every place, where it vouchsafes to shine, more lovely than all other helps of art can equal,” Menaphon said to Thamasta.

“What you mean by ‘helps of art’?” Thamasta asked. “You know yourself best. Be they as they are. You need none, I am sure, to set me forth and praise me.”

“It would be evidence of lack of manners, more than evidence of skill, not to praise praise itself,” Menaphon said.

“For your reward, henceforth I’ll call you servant,” Thamasta said.

By calling Menaphon “servant,” Thamasta was recognizing him as her devoted servant — that is, as someone who loved her, and someone who was her wooer.

Pleased, Amethus said, “Excellent sister!”

“It is my first step to honor,” Menaphon said. “May I fall lower than shame, when I neglect all service that may confirm this favor! If I neglect you, may I be worse than shamed!”

“Are you well, sir?” Thamasta asked Parthenophill.

“Great princess, I am well,” Parthenophill replied. “To see a league between a humble love, such as my friend’s is, and a commanding virtue, such as yours is, are sure restoratives.”

Thamasta said to Parthenophill, “You speak wittily.”

She said to Amethus, “Brother, be pleased to show the gallery to this young stranger. Spend the time a while there, and then we will all go together to the court.”

She then said to Parthenophill, “I will present you, sir, to the prince: Palador.”

“You are entirely composed of fairness and true bounty,” Parthenophill replied.

“Come, come,” Amethus said. “We’ll await you, sister.”

Referring to Thamasta’s acceptance of Menaphon as her servant, he said, “This beginning promises future happy events.

“You have blessed me,” Menaphon said.

Menaphon, Amethus, and Parthenophill exited, leaving Thamasta and Kala, her serving-maid.

“Kala, oh, Kala!” Thamasta said.

“Lady?” Kala said.

“We share our private thoughts,” Thamasta said. “You are metaphorically my cabinet in which I keep secret papers.”

“Lock your secrets in a hidden place, then,” Kala said. “I am not one to be forced to open up and reveal secrets.”

“Never until now could I even think of being a traitor to honor and to modesty,” Thamasta said.

“You are in love,” Kala said.

“I am grown base,” Thamasta said. “Parthenophill!”

She had just criticized her brother for loving someone who lacked wealth; now she had fallen in love with Parthenophill, who lacked wealth.

“He’s handsome, richly endowed,” Kala said.

Parthenophill was richly endowed with many virtues, but there was no evidence that he was richly endowed with riches.

Kala continued, “He has a lovely face and a winning tongue.”

“If ever I must fall, in him my greatness sinks,” Thamasta said.

If she were to fall in love with and marry Parthenophill, her social status would fall.

Thamasta continued, “Love is a tyrant, resisted.

“Whisper in his ear and tell him how gladly I would steal time to talk with him one hour. But do it honorably.

“Please, Kala, do not betray me.”

“Madam, I will make it my own case,” Kala said. “He shall think I am in love with him.”

“I hope you are not, Kala,” Thamasta said.

“I will say I am for your sake,” Kala said. “I’ll tell him so; but, truly, I am not in love with him, lady.”

“Please, treat me kindly,” Thamasta said. “Let me not too soon be lost in my new follies. It is a fate that overrules our wisdoms. While we strive to live most freely, we’re caught in our own toils.

“Diamonds cut diamonds; they who will prove to thrive in cunning must cure love with love.”

Thamasta was planning to cure Menaphon’s love for her by using her love for Parthenophill.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide

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David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LOVER’S MELANCHOLY: A Retelling — Act 1, Scene 2

— 1.2 —

Rhetias, a reduced-in-status courtier who was carelessly dressed, stood alone in another room in the palace. He was so reduced in status that foolish courtiers such as Pelias called him “sirrah,” a term that a man of higher status called a man of lower status.

He had been abroad but had just returned to Cyprus.

Rhetias was cynical and seriously thought about Stoic ideas.

He said to himself, “I will not court the madness of the times, nor fawn upon the riots that embalm our wanton gentry, to preserve the dust of their affected vanities in coffins of memorable shame.

“When commonwealths totter and reel from that nobility and ancient virtue that make renowned the great, who steer the helm of government, while mushrooms grow up, and make new laws to license folly, why shouldn’t I, a May-game — a laughing-stock — scorn the weight of my sunken fortunes?”

He was saying that times were bad, and mushrooms — upstarts quickly gaining prominence in politics — were springing up and passing laws that permitted foolish behavior.

Rhetias continued, “Why shouldn’t I snarl at the vices that rot the land, and, without fear of consequences or use of discretion, be my own buffoon?

“It is an entertainment to live when life is irksome, if we will not value prosperity in others and if we will not condemn affliction in ourselves.

“This rule is certain: He who seeks his safety and security from the study of statecraft must learn to be a madman or a fool.

“Ambition, wealth, ease, I renounce the devil that damns you here on earth.

“Either I will be my own source of amusement, or my own tormentor. So be it!”

He could either laugh at his misfortune or wallow in his despair.

Seeing Pelias the foolish courtier coming toward him, he said to himself, “Here comes news — gossip about the court.”

Pelias said, “Rhetias, I have sought you out to tell you news — new, excellent new news.

“Cuculus, sirrah, that gull, that young old gull, is coming this way.”

A gull is a simpleton.

Cuculus, like Pelias, was a foolish courtier.

Rhetias asked, “And you are his forerunner?”

Great men had heralds who were called forerunners. Cuculus was not a great man, nor was Pelias.

“Please, listen to me,” Pelias said. “Instead of a page dressed in the finely trimmed livery of a servant, we’ve got him a boy, whom we tricked out in neat and handsome fashion.

“We have persuaded Cuculus that the boy is indeed a wench, and he has hired him.

“The boy follows Cuculus, carries his sword and shield, waits on him as he eats, fills his cup with wine, and fills his pipe with tobacco. The boy whets Cuculus’ knife, attends to his letters, and does whatever other service Cuculus would employ his manservant in.

“Of course, it is irregular to hire a wench instead of a manservant to do these things.

“Being asked why he is so irregular in courtly etiquette, Cuculus’ answer is that since great ladies use gentlemen-ushers to go bare-headed before them as a sign of respect, he knows no reason why he may not reduce the courtiers to have women wait on them, and he begins the fashion.

“Cuculus is laughed at most courteously, and you will burst out laughing when you see him.”

Rhetias said, “Agelastus, so surnamed for his gravity, was a very wise fellow and kept his countenance all the days of his life as demurely as a judge who pronounces the sentence of death on a poor rogue for stealing as much bacon as would serve at a meal with a calf’s head. Yet he smiled once, and never but once. Are you no scholar?”

Agelastus is a nickname that means “unsmiling.” This nickname was given to Marcus Crassus, who was the grandfather of the very wealthy Marcus Licinius Crassus, a triumvir in the First Triumvirate, consisting of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.

“I have read pamphlets dedicated to me,” Pelias said. “Do you call him Agelastus? Why did he laugh?”

‘He saw an ass eating thistles,” Rhetias replied.

The fable of the ass and thistle is that an ass, heavily loaded with rich foods, stopped to eat a thistle. One interpretation is that one ought not to be a miser and eat poor food when one can afford rich food. In one version of the fable, however, the ass explains that the thistle tastes much better to it than would the rich food, which was for humans.

To laugh at the ass instead of understanding the moral of the fable is to act foolishly. Fooling a fool by dressing a boy in girl’s clothing and convincing the fool that the boy is a girl is another example of acting foolishly.

Rhetias continued, “Puppy, go study to be a singular coxcomb. Cuculus is an ordinary ape; but you are an ape of an ape.”

For an adult human to be called a puppy, coxcomb (fool), or ape is an insult.

Apes mimic humans, but they are not human.

Pelias said, “You have letters patent to abuse your friends.”

Rhetias was not a licensed Fool who had permission to be cutting in remarks even to those socially above him, but his reputation for cutting remarks was widely known and tolerated.

Pelias said, “Look, look, Cuculus is coming! Observe him seriously.”

Cuculus walked over to them. His new servant Grilla, a boy who was dressed as a girl, followed him.

Cuculus ordered Grilla, “Give me my sword and buckler.”

“Here they are, indeed,” Grilla said, handing him the items.

“What is this now, minx? What is this?” Cuculus said, upset by Grilla’s lack of courtesy.

He asked, “Where is your duty, your distance? Let me have service methodically tendered; you are now one of us. Give me your curtsy.”

Grilla curtsied like a girl.

Cuculus said, “Good! Remember that you are to practice courtly etiquette. Was your father a piper, did you say?”

“He was a sounder of some such wind instrument, indeed,” Grilla replied.

The wind instrument could have been his anus, if he were inclined to flatulence. Or he may have been a sow-gelder who blew a horn to announce his presence and availability to work.

“Was he so?” Cuculus said. “Hold up your head. Be you musical to me, and I will marry you to a dancer, one prosperous enough who shall ride on a horse with a footcloth, and I will maintain you in your muff and hood.”

At this time, muffs were still fashionable at court, but hoods were not.

“That will be fine indeed,” Grilla said.

“You are still just simple,” Cuculus said.

“Do you think so?” Grilla asked.

“I have a brain, I have a head-piece — a skull,” Cuculus said. “On my conscience, if I were to take pains to work with you, I would raise your understanding, girl, to the height of a nurse, or a court-midwife at least. I will make you big in time, wench.”

He was saying that he could work with her and increase her intelligence, but the words he used had bawdy meanings.

A penis raises itself and stands up. A woman in the missionary position understands — is under the stand of a man. To be made big can mean 1) to rise in society, or 2) to become pregnant.

“Even do your pleasure with me, sir,” Grilla said. “Do what you want with me.”

“Noble, accomplished Cuculus!” Pelias said.

“Give me your fist, innocent,” Rhetias said.

One meaning of “fist” is hand.

An innocent is a simpleton, a natural fool with a low IQ.

“I wish it were in your belly!” Cuculus said.

Rhetias had a reputation for being insulting, and Cuculus was insulting him: Cuculus was saying that he would like to use his fist to hit Rhetias in the belly. The insult, however, was in the nature of joking between friends and so Cuculus held out his hand and said, “There it is.”

They shook hands.

“That’s well,” Pelias said. “Rhetias is an honest blade, although he can be blunt.”

An honest blade is a good fellow.

Pelias was punning on “blunt blade”: 1) a dull sword, and 2) an outspoken fellow.

“Who cares?” Cuculus said. “We can be as blunt as he, for his life.”

Rhetias said, “Cuculus, there is, within a mile or two of here, a sow-pig that sucked the milk of a bitch-hound, and now the sow-pig hunts the deer, the hare, and most unnaturally, the wild boar, as well as any hound hunts in Cyprus.”

“Monstrous sow-pig!” Cuculus said. “Is it true?”

Pelias said to Rhetias, “I’ll host a banquet for you if I can get a sight of the sow-pig.”

Rhetias said, “Everything takes after the dam that gave it suck. That is why the sow-pig hunts deer and other meat.

“Where did you get your milk?”

“I?” Cuculus said. “Why, my wet nurse’s husband was a most excellent maker of shuttlecocks.”

A wet nurse is a woman who suckles another’s woman’s baby.

Shuttlecocks are made of cork and feathers and are used in such games as badminton.

Pelias said, “My wet nurse was a woman-surgeon.”

“And who gave you the pap so you could suck milk, mouse?” Rhetias asked young Grilla.

“I never sucked, that I remember,” Grilla said.

Rhetias said, “A shuttlecock-maker! All your brains are stuck with cork and feather, Cuculus.

“This learned courtier — Pelias — takes after the wet nurse, too: a she-surgeon, who is, in effect, a mere matcher of colors.”

According to Rhetias, a she-surgeon was a fixer-upper of women’s appearances; in other words, a cosmetologist who worked with paint, aka makeup, to bring order out of chaos.

He added, “Go learn to paint and daub compliments — it is the next step to being gifted with a new suit of clothing.

“My Lady Periwinkle here has never sucked. Suck your master, and bring forth mooncalves, fop, do!”

Mooncalves are born fools, unstable people, or monsters. A fop is a fool.

Rhetias added, “This is good philosophy, sirs; make use of it.”

“Bless us, what a strange creature this is!” Grilla said.

“He is a gull, an arrant gull by his own proclamation,” Cuculus said.

In other words, Rhetias’ own words proclaimed him to be a fool.

Corax walked toward them and then began to walk past them.

“Corax, the prince’s chief physician!” Pelias said. “What business speeds his haste?”

He then asked Corax, “Are all things well, sir?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Corax answered.

“Phew!” Rhetias said. “You may wheel about and talk to us, man; we know you’re proud of your slovenliness and practice; it is your virtue.”

“Practice” meant 1) medical practice, and 2) trickery.

Rhetias added, “The prince’s melancholy fit, I presume, still continues.”

“So do your knavery and desperate beggary,” Corax replied.

“Aha!” Cuculus said. “Here’s one who will tickle the ban-dog.”

A ban-dog is a dog that is tied up because it bites.

“You must not go yet,” Rhetias said.

“I’ll stay in spite of your teeth,” Corax said.

He threw his doctor’s gown on the floor and said, “There lies my gravity and seriousness.”

He added, “Do whatever you dare to do; I’ll withstand you.”

He was ready to fight.

Rhetias said, “Mountebanks, empirics, quack-salvers, mineralists, wizards, alchemists, cast-aside apothecaries, old wives and barbers, are all suppositors to the right worshipful doctor, as I take it.”

Suppositors are 1) supporters, and 2) suppositories.

Mountebanks sold quack medicines. Empirics were medical quacks who practiced folk medicine. Mineralists advocated the use of minerals in medical practice. Barbers cut hair and also engaged in bloodletting as a form of medical treatment.

Rhetias continued, “Some of you doctors are the head of your art, and the horns, too, but they come by nature. You live as a single man for no other reason but that you fear to be a cuckold.”

Cuckolds — men with unfaithful wives — were said to have invisible horns growing out of their heads.

Corax said, “Have at you! Let’s fight!

“You practice railing only for your health; your miseries are so thick and so lasting that you haven’t even one poor coin to bestow on opening a vein for medical bloodletting. For that reason, in order to avoid a pleurisy, you shall be sure to prate thyself once a month into a whipping, and bleed in the hind parts instead of the arm.”

“I say, ‘Have at you again!’” Rhetias said. “Let’s fight!”

“Come on!” Corax said.

Trying to make peace between the two men, Cuculus said, “There, there, there! Oh, brave doctor!”

Wanting to see them fight, Pelias said, “Let them alone.”

Rhetias insulted Corax, “You are in your religion an atheist, in your condition a cur, in your diet an epicure, in your lust a goat, and in your sleep a hog.

“You take upon you the clothing of a grave physician, but you are indeed an impostorous empiric. Physicians are the cobblers — or, rather, the botchers — of men’s bodies.

“As the one patches our tattered clothes, so the other solders our diseased flesh.”

To solder a wound is to close it so that it can heal. This is a hardly a bad thing. A botcher, of course, is an incompetent.

This “fight” could very well be an act put on by two friends as a form of entertainment for themselves and others. Sometimes, friends insult each other.

Rhetias continued, “Come on! Let’s fight!”

Cuculus shouted, “Go to it! Go to it! Hold him to it! Hold him to it! Go to it! Go to it! Go to it!”

Corax insulted Rhetias, “The best worth in you is the corruption of your mind, for that alone entitles you to the dignity of a louse, a thing bred out of the filth and superfluity of ill humors.”

In other words, lice breed in corruption — decaying bodies. Rhetias’ insults breed in the corruption of his mind. Therefore, Rhetias has the dignity of a louse, which is the best thing about him.

“You bite anywhere, and you bite any man who doesn’t defend himself with the clean linen of secure honesty; you dare not come near any man who defends himself with the clean linen of secure honesty.”

Corax may want to rethink that insult. Rhetias apparently dares to “bite” Corax, and according to Corax’ insult, Rhetias dares not come near any man who defends himself with the clean linen of secure honesty.

Corax continued insulting Rhetias, “You are fortune’s idiot, virtue’s bankrupt, time’s dunghill, manhood’s scandal, and your own scourge. You would hang thyself, so wretchedly miserable you are, except that no man will trust you with as much money as will buy a halter with which you can hang yourself, and all your stock to be sold is not worth half as much as may procure a halter for you.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” Rhetias said. “This is flattery, gross flattery.”

“I have employment for you, and for you all,” Corax said. “Tut, these words of ours are but ‘good mornings’ between us.”

In other words, this was a play-fight.

“Are your bottles full?” Rhetias asked.

He was referring to bottles used to collect specimens of urine.

“They are full of rich wine,” Corax said. “Let’s all suck the bottles together.”

“Like so many swine in a trough,” Rhetias said.

“I’ll train you all for a performance before the prince,” Corax said. “We’ll see whether that can move him.”

“He shall fret or laugh,” Rhetias said.

“Must I be one of those in the performance?” Cuculus asked.

“Yes, and your feminine page, too,” Corax answered.

“Thanks, most egregiously,” Grilla said.

“I will not slack my part,” Pelias said.

“Wench, take my shield,” Cuculus said.

“All of you come into my chamber,” Corax said. “The project is planned and cast; we must pay attention only to time.”

Punning on the musical term “time,” Rhetias said, “The melody must agree well and yield entertainment when such as these are, knaves and fools, consort.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LOVER’S MELANCHOLY: A Retelling — Cast of Characters, Prologue, and Act 1, Scene 1


Male Characters

PALADOR, prince of Cyprus. His late father was named Agenor.

AMETHUS, cousin to Prince Palador.

MELEANDER, an old lord. Formerly a statesman to Prince Palador’s father.

SOPHRONOS, brother to Meleander, and counselor to Prince Palador.

MENAPHON, son of Sophronos.

PARTHENOPHILL, companion to Menaphon; young, good-looking, and talented.

ARETUS, tutor to Prince Palador.

CORAX, a physician.

RHETIAS, a reduced-in-status courtier.

PELIAS, a foolish courtier.

CUCULUS, a foolish courtier.

TROLLIO, servant to Meleander.

Female Characters

THAMASTA, sister of Amethus, and cousin to the Prince.

EROCLEA, daughter of Meleander. Has been missing from Cyprus for two years.

CLEOPHILA, daughter of Meleander.

KALA, waiting-maid to Thamasta.

GRILLA, a page of Cuculus. A boy, but wearing women’s clothing. This book will refer to Grilla as a “she,” rather than a “he.”

Other Characters

Officers, Attendants, etc.



The city of Famagosta on the island of Cyprus.



In the Prologue, John Ford says that he is not plagiarizing. He does this because his play shows that Richard Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholyinfluenced him. Such influence is allowed to scholars, he states, and such influence can delight audiences.

The word “parthenophillia” did not appear in the online Oxford English Dictionary as of 9 June 2019, but Wiktionary defines it in this way:

“Noun. Parthenophillia (uncountable)

“Sexual attraction towards girls in late adolescence.”


These are some elements of the backstory of this play:

  • Meleander has two daughters: Eroclea and Cleophila.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) wanted Prince Palador to marry Eroclea.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) fell in lust with Eroclea when she appeared at his court.
  • To protect her virtue, Eroclea disappeared.
  • Prince Palador, who loves Eroclea, became and still is melancholic.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) accused Meleander of treason and disgraced him.
  • As a result of his disgrace, Meleander became mentally ill, and his daughter Cleophila takes care of him.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) died, and Prince Palador became the ruler of Cyprus.
  • As the play opens, Eroclea has been missing for two years.
  • As the play opens, Menaphon (son of Sophronos, who is the brother of Meleander) and Amethus (a cousin of Prince Palador) are also disappointed in love.
  • As the play opens, Menaphon loves Thamasta — Amethus’ sister — but she does not return his love.
  • As the play opens, Amethus loves Cleophila, but she devotes herself to taking care of her father, Meleander.
  • As the play opens, Prince Palador loves Eroclea, but she has been missing for two years.


To tell you, gentlemen, in what true sense

The writer, actors, or the audience

Should mold their judgments for a play, might draw

Truth into rules; but we have no such law.

Our writer, for himself, would have you know

That in his following scenes he does not owe

To others’ fancies, nor has lain in wait

For any stolen invention, from whose height

He might commend his own, more than the right

A scholar claims, may warrant for delight.

It is art’s scorn, that some of late [recently] have made

The noble use of poetry a trade.

For your parts, gentlemen, to quit his pains [reward the playwright’s efforts],

Yet you will please, that as you meet with strains

Of lighter mixture, but to cast your eye

Rather upon the main [main route] than on the bye [byway],

His hopes stand firm, and we shall find it true,


Note: Two meanings of the verb “cured” are “healed” and “protected.” The audience can protect John Ford’s play by applauding it and making it a success.

— 1.1 —

Menaphon and Pelias talked together in a room in the palace. Pelias was a foolish courtier. Menaphon, the son of Sophronos, had just returned from his yearlong travels.

“Dangers!” Menaphon said. “What do you mean by dangers — you who in so courtly fashion congratulate my safe return from dangers?”

“I congratulate your safe return from your travels, noble sir,” Pelias said.

“My travels are delights,” Menaphon said, “as long as my experience of travel has not, like a truant, misspent the time — time that I have striven to use for bettering my mind with observation.”

“As I am modest, I protest it is strange,” Pelias said. “But is it possible?”

“Is what possible?” Menaphon asked.

“To bestride the frothy foams of the sea-god Neptune’s surging waves, when Boreas the blustering North Wind tosses up the deep and thumps a thunder-bounce?”

“Sweet sir, it is nothing,” Menaphon said. “Immediately comes a dolphin, playing near your ship, heaving his crooked back up, and presents you with a metaphorical feather-bed so it can waft you to the shore as easily as if you slept in the court.”

According to Pliny’s Natural History (Book 9, Chapter 8), friendly dolphins allow humans to ride on their backs.

“Indeed!” Pelias said. “Is it true, I ask you?”

“I will not stretch your faith upon the tenters,” Menaphon replied.

Tenters are wooden frameworks on which cloth could be stretched for drying.

Menaphon continued, “Please tell me, Pelias, where did you learn this language?”

Pelias had been using inflated, pretentious language.

“I this language!” Pelias said. “Alas, sir, we who study words and forms of compliment must fashion all discourse according to the nature of the subject.”

Seeing some people coming, Pelias said, “But I am silent. Now appears a sun, whose shadow I adore.”

It’s an unusual sun that has a shadow.

Amethus, Sophronos, and some attendants entered the room. Amethus was a cousin of Prince Palador of Cyprus. Sophronos was Menaphon’s father and an advisor to Prince Palador.

“My honored father!” Menaphon said.

“From my eyes, son, son of my care, my love, the joys that bid you welcome do too much proclaim that I am a child,” Sophronos said.

He was weeping like a child.

“Oh, princely sir,” Menaphon said to Amethus. “Give me your hand.”

Amethus was a close friend who ranked high in Prince Palador’s court.

“Perform your duties where you owe them first,” Amethus replied.

In other words, respect your father and show attention to him before you show attention to me.

Amethus added, “I dare not interrupt the pleasures your presence has brought home.”

Speaking about Amethus, Sophronos said to Menaphon, “Here you find a friend still as noble, Menaphon, as he was when you left at your departure.”

“Yes, I know it,” Menaphon said. “To him I owe more service —”

Amethus interrupted, “Please excuse me.”

He said to Sophronos, “Menaphon shall attend your entertainments soon, the next day, and the next day after that. For an hour or two, I want to monopolize him and be alone with him.”

“Noble lord!” Sophronos said, surprised.

Amethus must have something important to talk about with Menaphon. Otherwise, he would not be so abrupt despite his desire not to be abrupt, and he would not monopolize Menaphon despite his desire to let Menaphon greet and respect his father.

Amethus said to Sophronos and Pelias, “You’re both dismissed.”

“I am your creature and your servant,” Pelias said. “I am wholly yours.”

Everyone except Amethus and Menaphon exited.

“Give me your hand,” Amethus said. “I will not say, ‘You are welcome.’ That is the common way of common friends. I’m glad I have you here. Oh, I lack the words I need to let you know what is my heart!”

“Your heart is joined to my heart,” Menaphon said.

“Yes, it is,” Amethus said. “They are joined as firmly as that holy thing called friendship can unite our hearts.

“Menaphon, my Menaphon, may now all the goodly blessings that can create a heaven on earth dwell with you!

“For twelve months we have been separated, but from henceforth we never more will part, until that sad hour in which death leaves one of us behind, to see the other’s funeral rites performed.

“Let’s now for a while be free and frank and unrestrained.

“How have your travels abroad relieved you of your discontent?”

“Such cure as sick men find in changing beds, I found in change of airs,” Menaphon said. “The fancy flattered my hopes with ease, as theirs do, but the grief is still the same.”

Menaphon had traveled for a year to escape his melancholy, but despite the promise of relief, he was still melancholic.

“Such is my case at home,” Amethus said. “Cleophila, your kinswoman, that maiden of sweetness and humility, pities more her father’s poor afflictions than the tide of my lover’s complaints.”

Cleophila was the daughter of Meleander, who was the brother of Sophronos, who was Menaphon’s father. Therefore, Cleophila and Menaphon were first cousins.

Menaphon said, “Thamasta, my great mistress, your princely sister, has, I hope, before this time conferred and confirmed affection on some worthy choice.”

Both Amethus and Menaphon were unlucky in love.

Amethus loved Cleophila, but she preferred to look after her ill father.

Menaphon loved Thamasta — the word “mistress” meant “loved one” — but she did not return his love. Menaphon had traveled abroad for a year to recover from his grief at not being loved, but his attempt to cure his grief was unsuccessful.

Amethus replied, “She has not given her affection to anyone, Menaphon. Her bosom still is walled around with ice, although, by the truth of love, no day has ever passed during which I have not mentioned your deserts, your constancy, your — truly, I dare not tell you what, lest you might think I fawned on and flattered you. That is a sin that friendship was never guilty of, for flattery is monstrous in a true friend.”

“Does the court wear the old looks, too?” Menaphon asked.

Amethus replied, “If you are referring to Prince Palador, it does. He’s the same melancholy man he was at his father’s death. Sometimes he speaks sense, but seldom mirth. He will smile, but seldom laugh. He will lend an ear to business, but deal in none. He will gaze upon revels, antic fopperies, and grotesque entertainments, but not be entertained by them. He will sparingly discourse and hear music, but what he takes most delight in are handsome pictures.

“Stories have seldom mentioned one so young and goodly, so sweet in his own nature.”

Menaphon said, “It’s no wonder that such as I am groan under the light burdens of small sorrows, when a prince so potent as he cannot shun the agitations of passion. To be a man, my lord, is to be but the exercise of cares in several different shapes. As miseries grow, they alter as do men’s forms, but how no one knows.”

“This little isle of Cyprus surely abounds in greater wonders both for change and fortune than any wonders you have seen abroad,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “Surely more than any wonders I have observed abroad. All countries on any other supposition than change and fortune yield something rare to a free eye and mind, and I, for my part, have brought home one jewel of admirable value.”

“A jewel, Menaphon?” Amethus asked.

“A jewel, my Amethus,” Menaphon said. “This jewel is a fair youth — a youth, whom, if I were superstitious, I should consider to have an excellence higher than mere creations are.”

To Menaphon, this fair youth seemed to be more an immortal god than a mortal creature — that is, if Menaphon were superstitious and believed in supernatural beings.

Menaphon continued, “To add delight, I’ll tell you how I found him.”

“Please, do,” Amethus said.

“Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales that poets of an elder time have created to glorify their Tempe, a valley between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa in Thessaly, bred in me the desire of visiting that paradise,” Menaphon said. “To Thessaly I came, and living privately, without the acquaintance of sweeter companions than the old inmates to my love — I refer to my thoughts — I day by day frequented silent groves and solitary walks.

“One early morning I encountered this incident: I heard the sweetest and most ravishing contention that art and nature ever were at strife in.”

“I cannot yet conceive what you mean by art and nature,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “I shall soon explain that.

“A sound of music touched my ears, or rather indeed entranced my soul. As I stole nearer, invited by the melody, I saw this youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute, with strains of strange variety and harmony, proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge to the clear choristers of the woods, the birds, that, as they flocked about him, all stood silent, marveling at what they heard. I marveled, too.”

“And so do I, good man!” Amethus said. “Go on!”

Menaphon said, “A nightingale, nature’s best-skilled musician, undertook the challenge, and for all the different strains of melody the well-shaped youth could touch, she sang her chorus.

“The youth could not play rapid melodic passages with more art upon his quaking instrument than she, the nightingale, replied to with her various notes.

“For a voice and for a sound, Amethus, it is much easier to believe that such they were than hope to hear again.”

“How did the rivals part?” Amethus asked.

Menaphon said, “You term them rightly, for they were rivals, and their mistress, harmony.

“Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last into a pretty anger because a bird, whom art had never taught musical clefts, moods, or notes, would vie for mastery with him, who had busily spent many hours devoted to study and perfect practice.

“To end the controversy, in a rapture upon his instrument the young man played so swiftly, with so many spontaneous passages, and so lively, that there were ingenuity and skill, concord in discord, and lines of differing method meeting in one full concentration of delight.”

“Now for the bird,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “The bird, ordained to be music’s first martyr, strove to imitate these several different sounds, which when her warbling throat failed in, out of grief the nightingale dropped down on his lute, and broke her heart.

“It was the quaintest sadness to see the conqueror weep a funeral elegy of tears upon the nightingale’s resting place.

“Trust me, my Amethus, I could chide my own unmanly weakness that made me a fellow-mourner with him.”

Menaphon had also wept.

“I believe you,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “He looked upon the trophies of his art, then sighed, then wiped his eyes, then sighed and cried, ‘Alas, poor creature! I will soon revenge this cruelty upon the author of it. Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood, shall never more betray a harmless peace to a premature end,’ and in that sorrow, as he was bashing his lute against a tree, I suddenly stepped in.”

“You have discoursed a true tale of entertainment and pity,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “I reprieved the intended execution with entreaties and interruption.

“But, my princely friend, it was not strange that the music of his hand overmatched the birds, when his voice and beauty, youth, carriage, and discretion must, from men endowed with reason, ravish admiration.

“From me they did.”

“But is this miracle not to be seen?” Amethus asked.

Menaphon said, “I persuaded him by degrees to choose me to be his companion. From where he comes, or who he is, as I dared to modestly inquire, so gently he would plead not to make known only for reasons to himself reserved.

“He told me that some remnant of his life was to be spent in travel. As for his fortunes, they were neither mean nor riotous, neither poor nor wealthy enough to engage in riotous living. His friends were not famous in the world, although they were not obscure.

“His country is Athens, and his name is Parthenophill.”

“Did he come with you to Cyprus?” Amethus asked.

“Willingly,” Menaphon said. “The fame of our young melancholy prince, Meleander’s strange mental disturbances, the obedience of young Cleophila, Thamasta’s glory, your matchless friendship, and my desperate love, prevailed with him; and I have lodged him privately in the city of Famagosta.”

“Now you are doubly welcome,” Amethus said. “You and your guest are both welcome. I will not lose the sight of such a rarity for one part of my hopes — I will be able to enjoy the companionship of both yourself and this splendid youth.

“When do you intend to visit my great-spirited sister?”

“May I visit her without causing offence?” Menaphon asked.

“Yes, without offence,” Amethus said. “Parthenophill shall also find worthy entertainment during the visit.

“You are not still a coward? You will visit her?”

“She’s too excellent, and I’m too low in merit,” Menaphon said.

“I’ll prepare a noble welcome,” Amethus said, “and, friend, before we part, I will unload to you an overcharged heart.”

They exited.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY V: A Retelling — Scenes 20-12

— Scene 20 —

Derrick, standing on the battlefield with his belt full of shoes and boots, said to himself, “What now? By God’s wounds, it did me good to see how I triumphed over the Frenchmen.”

John Cobbler arrived, carrying a pack full of clothing.

He called, “Whoop,Derrick! How are you?”

“John!” Derrick said. “Comedevales!Still alive!”

“I promise you, Derrick, I barely escaped, for I was within half a mile when someone was killed.”

“Were you now?” Derrick said.

“Yes, believe me, I was close to being slain.”

“But once you are killed, why, it is nothing!” Derrick said. “I was killed four or five times.”

“Killed four or five times!” John Cobbler said. “Why, how can you be alive now?”

“Oh, John, never ask that,” Derrick said, “for I was called the bloody soldier among them all.”

“What did you do?” John Cobbler asked.

“I will tell you, John,” Derrick said. “Every day when I went to the battlefield, I would take a sharp straw stalk and thrust it into my nose and make my nose bleed, and then I would go to the battlefield, and when the Captain saw me he would say, ‘Peace, a bloody soldier,’ and bid me stand aside and not do battle, which I was glad to do and to avoid.

“But hear what happened, John. I went and stood behind a tree — but pay attention then, John. I thought I was safe, but suddenly a vigorous tall Frenchman stepped over to me. Now he drew his sword, and I drew my sword. Now I lay here, and he lay there. Now I set this leg before, and turned this leg backward, and skipped quite over a hedge, and he saw me no more there that day. And wasn’t this well done, John?”

“By the mass, Derrick, you have an intelligent head,” John Cobbler said.

“Yes, John, you may see, if you had taken my counsel — but what have you there in your pack?” Derrick asked. “I think you have been robbing the Frenchmen.”

“Yes, indeed, Derrick, I have gotten some reparel to carry home to my wife,” John Cobbler said.

By “reparel,” he meant “apparel,” but since the clothing had been taken off dead French soldiers, the clothing must have needed some repair.

John Cobbler’s apparel was of greater value than Derrick’s shoes and boots.

“And I have got some shoes and boots,” Derrick said, “for I’ll tell you what I did. When the French soldiers were dead, I would go to them and take off all their shoes and boots.”

“Yes, but Derrick, how shall we get home?” John Cobbler asked.

“By God’s wounds, if they capture you they will hang you,” Derrick said. “Oh, John, never do so. If it is your fortune to be hanged, be hanged in your own language whatsoever you do.”

“Why, Derrick, the war is over,” John Cobbler said. “We may go home now.”

“Yes, but you may not go before you ask King Henry V for permission to leave,” Derrick said. “But I know a way to go home and not have to ask the King for permission.”

“What way is that, Derrick?”

“Why, John, you know that the Duke of York’s funeral must be carried into and held in England, don’t you?”

“Yes, that I do,” John Cobbler said.

“Why, then you know that we’ll go with it,” Derrick said.

“Yes, but Derrick, how shall we meet them?”

“By God’s wounds, if I don’t find a way to meet them, then hang me,” Derrick said. “Sirrah, you know that in every town there will be the ringing of the church bell and there will be cakes and drink. Now, I will go to the priest and the sexton and talk to them, and say, ‘Oh, this fellow rings well,’ and you shall go and take a piece of cake. Then I’ll ring, and you shall say, ‘Oh, this fellow has been working a good long time,’ and then I will go and drink to you all the way. But I marvel what my dame will say when we come home, because we have not a French word to cast at a dog by the way.”

“Why, what shall we do, Derrick?”

“Why, John, I’ll go before you and call my dame a whore, and you shall come after and set fire to the house. We may do it, John, and I’ll prove it, because we are soldiers.”

The trumpets sounded.

John looked in the direction of the trumpets, and Derrick dropped the shoes and boots that were in his belt and picked up John’s pack of clothing.

John Cobbler then looked back again and saw that Derrick had picked up his pack of clothing and that shoes and boots were scattered on the ground.

He said, “Derrick,help me to carry my shoes and boots.”

— Scene 21 —

King Henry V of England, the Earl of Oxford, and the Earl of Exeter, who were all Englishmen, were meeting with King Charles VI of France, the Prince Dauphin, and the Duke of Burgundy, who were all Frenchmen. Also present were Lady Katherine, a French secretary, and some attendants.

“Now, my good brother of France, I hope by this time you have deliberated about your answer,” King Henry V said.

“Yes, my well-beloved brother of England,” King Charles VI said. “We have looked your document over with our learned counsel, but we cannot find that you should be crowned King of France.”

“What, me not be King of France?” King Henry V said. “Then nothing. I must be King. But, my loving brother of France, I can hardly forget the late injuries offered me when I came last to parley. The Frenchmen would have done better to have raked the bowels out of their fathers’ carcasses than to have set fire to my tents, and, if I knew your son the Prince Dauphin to be one of those who set my tents on fire, I would so shake him as he was never so shaken before.”

“I dare to swear that my son is innocentin this matter,” King Charles VI said. “But perhaps this instead would please you: that immediately you be proclaimed and crowned Heir and Regent of France — but not immediately King, because I myself was once crowned King.”

“Heir and Regent of France,” King Henry V said. “That is good, but that is not all that I must have.”

“The rest my secretary has in writing,” King Charles VI said.

His French secretary read out loud:

Item, that King Henry V of England be crowned Heir and Regent of France during the life of King Charles VI and after King Charles VI’s death, the crown, with all rights, to belong to King Henry V of England and to his heirs forever.”

“Well, my good brother of France,” King Henry V said, “there is one thing I desire and must have.”

“What is that, my good brother of England?” King Charles VI asked.

“That all your nobles must be sworn to be true to me,” King Henry V said.

“Because they have not refused to agree to greater matters, I know they will not refuse to agree to such a trifle,” King Charles VI said.

He then said, “You go first, my Lord Duke of Burgundy.”

“Come, my Lord of Burgundy, take your oath upon my sword,” King Henry V said.

“I, Duke Philip of Burgundy, swear to King Henry V of England to be true to him and to become his liegeman, and if I, Philip, hear of any foreign army coming to invade the said Henry or his heirs, then I the said Philip will send him word and aid him with all the soldiers I can raise. And thereunto I take my oath.”

He kissed King Henry V’s sword.

“Come, Prince Dauphin, you must swear, too,” King Henry V said.

The Prince Dauphin kissed King Henry V’s sword.

“Well, my brother of France,” King Henry V said, “there is one thing more I must require from you.”

“In what may we satisfy your majesty?” King Charles VI asked.

“In a trifle, my good brother of France,” King Henry V said. “I intend to make Lady Katherine, your daughter, the Queen of England, if she is willing and you are content with that.”

He then asked Lady Katherine, “What do you say, Kate? Can you love the King of England?”

“How can I love you, who is my father’s enemy?” Lady Katherine asked.

“Tut, stand not upon these picky points,” King Henry V said. “It is you who must make your father and me friends. I know, Kate, that you are not a little proud that I love you. What, wench, do you say to the King of England?”

King Charles VI said, “Daughter, let nothing stand between the King of England and you. Agree to marry him.”

Katherine thought, I had best agree to marry him while he is willing, lest when I would agree, he will not.

She said out loud, “I rest at your majesty’s command. I will do what you advise me to do.”

“Welcome, sweet Kate,” King Henry V said.

He added, “But, my brother of France, what do you say to it?”

“With all my heart I like it,” King Charles VI said. “But when shall be your wedding day?”

“The first Sunday of the next month,” King Henry V said, “God willing.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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This is an easy-to-retelling of The Famous Victories of Henry V, which is an important source for William Shakespeare’s Henry IVand Henry Vplays.



FREE eBook: davidbrucehaiku #14 (pdf)



Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide



John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce



William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce



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David Bruce: THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY V: A Retelling — Scenes 17-19

— Scene 17 —

John Cobbler and Robin Pewterer talked together.

“Now, John Cobbler, did you see how King Henry V conducted himself?”

“But, Robin, did you see what a military strategy the King had? To see how the Frenchmen were killed with the stakes of the trees!”

“Yes, John, that was a splendid military strategy.”

An English soldier arrived and asked, “Who are you, my masters?”

“Why, we are Englishmen,” John Cobbler and Robin Pewterer said.

“Are you Englishmen?” the English soldier said, “Then change your language because King Henry V’s tents have been set on fire, and all who speak English will be killed.”

The English camp had been lightly defended, and the tents had indeed been set on fire.

The English soldier exited.

“What shall we do, Robin? Indeed, I’ll manage, for I can speak broken French.”

“By my faith, so can I. Let’s hear how you can speak French.”

Commodevales, Monsieur,” John Cobbler said.

The first word was his attempt to say, “Comment allez-vous?” or “How are you?”

“That’s good,” Robin Pewterer said. “Come, let’s go.”

 — Scene 18 —

Derrick walked on the battlefield. A French soldier appeared and took him prisoner.

“Oh, good Mounser,” Derrick said.

He meant Monsieur.

“Come, come, you vigliacco,” the French soldier said.

A vigliaccois a coward.

“Oh, I will, sir, I will,” Derrick said.

“Come quickly, you peasant,” the French soldier said.

“I will, sir,” Derrick said. “What shall I give you?”

“By the Virgin Mary, you shall give me one, two, tre, four hundred crowns.”

“No, sir, I will give you more. I will give you as many crowns as will lie on your sword.”

“Will you give me as many crowns as will lie on my sword?” the French soldier asked.

“Yes, indeed I will,” Derrick said. “Yes, but you must lay down your sword, or else they will not lie on your sword.”

The French soldier lay down his sword, and Derrick picked it up and then knocked the French soldier down.

“You villain,” Derrick said, “do you dare to look up?”

“Oh, Monsieur, comparteve!Monsieur, pardon me.”

The French soldier was so frightened that he did not speak clearly. Perhaps he meant to say, “Monsieur, avoir de la compassion!” This means “Sir, have compassion!”

“Oh, you villain, now you lie at my mercy,” Derrick said. “Do you remember since you beat me with your short ell?”

An ell is a measuring unit. Derrick was referring to the French soldier’s short sword. Derrick being Derrick, he was probably implying that the French soldier was also short in a certain part of his body.

Derrick continued, “Oh, villain, now I will cut off your head.”

He turned his back on the French soldier, who then ran away.

Turning around again, Derrick said, “Has he gone? By the mass, I am glad of it because if he had stayed I was afraid he would have stirred again, and then I should have been destroyed. But I will go away so I can kill more Frenchmen.”

Derrick being Derrick, the number of Frenchmen he had killed was probably zero.

— Scene 19 —

King Charles VI of France and King Henry V of England were parleying. An English secretary and some attendants were present.

King Henry V said, “Now, my good brother of France, my coming into this land was not to shed blood but for the right of my country, which, if you can deny with conclusive proof that I do not have that right, I am content peaceably to leave my siege and to depart out of your land.”

“What is it you demand, my loving brother of England?” King Charles VI of France asked.

“Mysecretary has it written down,” King Henry V said.

He ordered his secretary, “Read it.”

The secretary read out loud:

Item, that immediately Henry V of England be crowned King of France.”

“That is a very hard sentence, my good brother of England,” King Charles VI said.

“No more than what is right, my good brother of France,” King Henry V said.

“Well, read on,” King Charles VI said.

The secretary read out loud:

Item, that after the death of the said Henry V, the crown remain to him and his heirs forever.”

“Why, then, you not only mean to dispossess me but also my son,” King Charles VI said.

“Why, my good brother of France, you have had it long enough, and, as for the Prince Dauphin, it doesn’t matter that he will not get the crown even though he is sitting beside the saddle, aka throne,” King Henry V said. “Thus I have set it down, and thus it shall be.”

“You are very peremptory and unyielding, my good brother of England,” King Charles VI said.

“And you are as perverse, my good brother of France,” King Henry V said.

“Why, then, perhaps all that I have here is yours,” King Charles VI said.

“Yes, even as far as the Kingdom of France reaches,” King Henry V replied.

“Yes, for judging by this hot beginning we shall scarcely be able to bring it to a calm ending,” King Charles VI said.

“That is as you please,” King Henry V said. “Here is my resolution. You have heard my formal declaration read out loud.”

“Well, my brother of England,” King Charles VI said, “if you will give me a copy, we will meet you again tomorrow.”

“With a good will, my good brother of France,” King Henry V said.

He then ordered, “Secretary, give him a copy.”

King Charles VI of France and all of the French attendants exited.

King Henry V ordered, “My Lords of England, go on ahead of me, and I will follow you in a little while.”

The English lords exited, and King Henry V talked to himself.

“Ah, Harry, thrice-unhappy Harry!” he said, “have you now conquered the French King and begin a fresh assault against his daughter, Lady Katherine? But with what face can you seek to gain her love when your face has sought to win her father’s crown? ‘Her father’s crown,’ said I? No, it is my own. Yes, but I love her and must crave her. Indeed, I love her and I will have her.”

Lady Katherine and her waiting-ladies entered the room.

King Henry V said to himself, “But here she comes.”

He then said out loud, “How are you now, beautiful Lady Katherine of France? What is your news?”

“If it please your majesty, my father sent me to know if you will abate and weaken any of these unreasonable demands that you require,” Lady Katherine replied.

“Now trust me, Kate,” King Henry V said. “I commend your father’s intelligence greatly in this, for none in the world could sooner have made me abate them if it were possible. But tell me, sweet Kate, can you tell me how to love?”

“I cannot hate, my good Lord; therefore, far unfit would it be for me to love, ” Lady Katherine replied.

“Tush, Kate,” King Henry V said. “But tell me in plain terms, can you love the King of England? I cannot do as these countries do that spend half their time in wooing. Tush, wench, I am not at all like that. But will you go over to England?”

“I wish to God that I had your majesty as fast in love as you have my father in wars,” Lady Katherine said. “I would not permit you as much as one look until you had abated all of these unreasonable demands.”

“Tush, Kate,” King Henry V said. “I know you would not treat me so badly. But tell me, can you love the King of England?”

“How could I love a man who has dealt so hard with my father?” Lady Katherine asked.

“But I’ll deal as easily with you as your heart can imagine or your tongue can require,” King Henry V replied. “What do you say? What will it be? What is your answer?”

“If I were of my own direction and free, I could give you an answer,” Lady Katherine said. “But seeing that I stand ready to obey my father’s direction, I must first know his will. I must do what my father wants me to do.”

“But shall I have your good will in the meantime?” King Henry V asked.

“Although I can put your grace in no assurance, I would be loath to put you in any despair,” Lady Katherine replied.

“Now before God, she is a sweet wench,” King Henry V said.

Lady Katherine went aside a short distance, and said to herself, “I think myself the happiest woman in the world because I am loved by the mighty King of England.”

“Well, Kate, are you at home with me?” King Henry V said. “Sweet Kate, tell your father from me that no one in the world could sooner have persuaded me to it than you, and so tell your father from me.”

King Henry V wanted to marry Lady Katherine, and if abating at least some of the demands he had made of her father would help him to do that, he would go easy on her father.

“May God keep your majesty in good health,” Lady Katherine said.

Lady Katherine and her waiting-ladies exited.

“Farewell, sweet Kate!” King Henry V said. “By my faith, she is a sweet wench, but if I knew I could not have her father’s good will, I would so shake the towers over his ears that I would make him be glad to bring her to me upon his hands and knees.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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This is an easy-to-retelling of The Famous Victories of Henry V, which is an important source for William Shakespeare’s Henry IVand Henry Vplays.



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Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide



John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce



William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce



Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:  A Retelling


PS: I like online reviews.






THE TROJAN WAR: 4 Epic Poems (Iliad, Posthomerica, Odyssey, Aeneid)


Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY: A Retelling in Prose

Posted in Retelling | Tagged | Leave a comment