David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s RICHARD II: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scene 2

— 2.2 —

The Queen, Bushy, and Bagot spoke together in the palace.

Bushy said to the Queen, “Madam, your majesty is too much downcast. You promised, when you parted from the King, to lay aside life-harming heaviness and depression and to maintain a cheerful disposition.”

“To please the King I did promise that,” the Queen replied. “To please myself I cannot do it, yet I know no cause why I should welcome such a guest as grief, except that I just bid farewell to so sweet a guest as my sweet Richard.

“Yet again, I think, some unborn sorrow, ready to be born from out of Fortune’s womb, is coming towards me, and my inward soul at nothing trembles. At something it grieves, more than with parting from my lord the King.”

Bushy said, “Each real grief has twenty shadows, which appear to be grief itself, but they are not so. Sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears, divides one thing that is complete in itself into many objects.

“These objects are like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon show nothing but confusion, but when they are eyed awry show clearly and distinctly a form.”

Bushy was referring to a kind of picture that when looked at from the front — the usual right way to look at a picture — did not reveal a form. But when looked at the side, the picture did reveal a form. For example, Holbein’s The Ambassadorshad a greyish streak at the bottom when looked at from the front, but when looked at from the side, the greyish streak appeared as a human skull.

Bushy continued, “So your sweet majesty, looking awry — mistakenly — upon your lord’s departure, finds shapes of grief, more than himself, to bewail. Your lordship’s departure, looked on as it is, is nothing but shadows of what it is not.”

Here Bushy was referring to another kind of distorted vision. A multiplying glass was one that when looked through would reveal many images. The Queen, looking through her tears at her lord’s departure, saw many images of grief although her lord’s departure was the one image of grief she should have seen. Her tears performed the function of the multiplying glass.

Bushy continued, “So then, thrice-gracious Queen, do not weep at more than your lord’s departure. More grief is not seen, or if it is seen, it is because you are looking with sorrow’s false, not genuine, eye, which weeps for imaginary things rather than true things.”

The Queen replied, “What you say may be true, but yet my inward soul persuades me that it is otherwise. Whatever the truth may be, I cannot be anything but sad. I am so very sad that although I try to think about nothing, even that nothing makes me very faint and fearful.”

“It is nothing but your imagination, my gracious lady,” Bushy said.

“It is anything but mere imagination,” the Queen said. “Imagination is always derived from some real preceding grief. The grief I feel is not derived from any real preceding grief, for nothing has caused my grief about something, or something has the nothing for which I grieve. The grief is mine because I will inherit it, but what that grief is, that is not yet known to me. I cannot name that grief, and so it is nameless woe, I know.”

Green entered the room and said, “God save your majesty! Well met, gentlemen. I hope the King has not yet sailed for Ireland.”

“Why do you hope so?” the Queen asked. “It is better to hope that he has sailed for Ireland because his plans need haste, and his haste needs good hope. Why therefore do you hope he has not yet sailed for Ireland?”

Green replied, “So that he, our hope, might pull back his army and keep it in England, and drive into despair an enemy’s hope. An enemy has set foot in this land with a strong army. The banished Bolingbroke has himself repealed his sentence of banishment, and with arms brandishing weapons he has safely arrived at the port of Ravenspurgh.”

“God in Heaven forbid!” the Queen said.

“Ah, madam, it is too true,” Green said, “and what is worse, the Lord Northumberland; the young Henry Percy, Northumberland’s son; and the Lords of Ross, Beaumond, and Willoughby, with all their powerful friends, have fled to join him.”

Bushy asked, “Why haven’t you proclaimed the Earl of Northumberland and all the rest of the rebellious dissident traitors?”

“We have,” Green said. “When we did that, the Earl of Worcester broke his staff of office and resigned his stewardship, and all the household attendants — among them many nobles — fled with him to join Bolingbroke.”

“So, Green, you are the midwife to my woe,” the Queen said. “And Bolingbroke is my sorrow’s dismal heir. He is the sorrow to whom I gave birth. Now has my soul brought forth her prodigy, a monster, and I, a gasping newly delivered mother, have woe to woe, sorrow to sorrow joined. Normally, giving birth eases the mother’s pains, but since I have given birth to a monster, pain has been added to my pain.”

“Don’t despair, madam,” Bushy said.

“Who shall stop me?” the Queen replied. “I will despair and be at enmity with deceiving Hope. He is a flatterer, a parasite, a keeper back of Death, who gently would dissolve the chains of life — life that false Hope drags out to the utmost degree.”

Green said, “Here comes the Duke of York.”

The Queen said, “He has signs of war about his aged neck.”

The Duke of York was wearing a gorget — armor for the neck. This was sometimes worn with civilian dress to show others that the wearer had military status.

The Queen added, “Oh, full of worried uneasiness are his looks!

“Uncle-in-law, for God’s sake, speak comforting words.”

“Should I do so, I would belie my thoughts,” the Duke of York replied. “Comfort’s in Heaven; and we are on the Earth, where nothing lives except crosses and trials, cares and grief. Your husband has gone to keep far-off Ireland under his English rule, while others come to make him lose his land at home.

“Here I am left to prop up his land, although I, weak with age, cannot support myself. I should be a crutch, but I myself need a crutch.

“Now comes the sick hour that King Richard II’s surfeit made. He exceeded his royal power, and now he will pay the price. Now he shall put to the test his friends who flattered him.”

A servant entered and said to the Duke of York, “My lord, your son was gone before I could reach him.”

The Duke of York had wanted his son, the Duke of Aumerle, to come and help him rule England in this time of trouble and rebellion, but his son had gone to Ireland to be with King Richard II.

“He was?” the Duke of York said. “Why, so be it! Let what will happen, happen! Let everything go whichever way it will! The nobles have fled, the commoners are unsympathetic to King Richard II, and they will, I fear, revolt and join the Duke of Hereford’s side.”

He ordered the servant, “Go to Plashy, to my sister-in-law, the Duchess of Gloucester. Tell her to send me immediately a thousand pounds. Wait, take my ring and show it to her so she knows that you have come to her on my orders.”

The servant replied, “My lord, I had forgotten to tell your lordship that earlier today, as I went by her residence, I stopped there — but I shall cause you grief when I report the rest.”

“What is it, servant?” the Duke of York asked.

“An hour before I stopped there, the Duchess of Gloucester died.”

“May God have mercy!” the Duke of York said. “What a tide of woes comes rushing on this woeful land at once! I don’t know what to do. I wish to God, as long as it would not be any disloyalty of mine that had provoked the King to do it, that the King had cut off my head along with the head of the Duke of Gloucester, my brother.

“Are there no messengers dispatched for Ireland? What shall we do for money for these wars?”

He then said to the Queen, “Come, sister-in-law — kinswoman, I should say — please, pardon me.”

He was so distracted that he was thinking of the Duchess of Gloucester when he referred to the Queen as his sister-in-law.

He ordered, “Go, servant, get you home and provide some carts and bring away the armor that is there.”

Because the household attendants, including many nobles, had fled to join Henry Bolingbroke, the Duke of York planned to use the armor that they had left behind.

The servant exited.

The Duke of York said, “Gentlemen, will you go muster men? If I know how or which way to order these affairs thus thrust disorderly into my hands, never believe me. Both King Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke are my kinsmen. The one is my sovereign, whom both my oath of allegiance and my duty bids me to defend. The other, also my kinsman, is a man whom the King has wronged. Conscience and my relationship to the wronged man bid me to right the wrong done to him.

“Well, we must do something.”

He said to the Queen, “Come, kinswoman, I’ll make arrangements to take care of you since all the household attendants have deserted.”

He then said, “Gentlemen, go, muster up your men, and meet me soon at Berkeley Castle. I should go to Plashy, too, but time will not permit that.

“All is uneven, and everything is left at sixes and sevens. All is in disorder.”

The Duke of York and the Queen exited.

Bushy said, “The wind blows west — good for news to go to Ireland. But no ships can return as long as the wind blows west. For us to levy troops commensurate with those of the enemy is entirely impossible.”

Green said, “Besides, our nearness to the King in love is near — almost equal to — the hate of those who do not love the King.”

Bagot said, “Those who do not love the King are the wavering commoners, for their love lies in their purses, and whoever empties them by so much fills their hearts with deadly hate. They hate the King because of his heavy taxes.”

Bushy said, “Because of that, the King stands condemned by everyone.”

Bagot said, “If they are the judges, then we also stand condemned because we have always been friends to the King.”

Green said, “Well, I will for refuge go immediately to Bristol Castle. The Earl of Wiltshire is already there.”

“I will join you,” Bushy said. “The commoners, who are full of hate, will perform little service for us, except like dogs to tear us to pieces.”

He asked Bagot, “Will you go along with us?”

“No, I will go to Ireland to be with his majesty,” Bagot replied. “Farewell. If my heart’s forebodings have any meaning, we three who now part shall never meet again.”

Bushy said, “That depends on whether the Duke of York can successfully beat back Bolingbroke.”

“Alas, the poor Duke of York!” Green said. “The task he undertakes is impossible. It is like counting all the grains of sand and drinking the oceans dry. Where one on his side fights, thousands will flee and desert.

“Farewell at once, for once, for always, and forever.”

“Well, we may meet again,” Bushy said.

Bagot replied, “I am afraid that we will never meet again.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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