David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s RICHARD III: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scene 1

 — 2.1 —

In a room of the palace were an ill King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, Hastings, Buckingham, Grey, and others. Two factions were represented in this group of people. One faction consisted of Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, and Grey; Hastings and Buckingham had been opposed to this faction. King Edward IV was working to reconcile these factions.

King Edward IV said, “Why, good; now have I done a good day’s work. You peers, continue this united league.I every day expect a messagefrom my Redeemer to redeem me from this world, and now my soul shall part in peace from Earth and go to Heaven,since I have set my friends at peace on Earth.Rivers and Hastings, take each other’s hand. Do not hide any hatred and pretend to be reconciled; instead, sincerely swear your friendship for each other.”

Rivers said, “By Heaven, my heart has purged all grudging hate, and with my hand I seal my true heart’s friendship for Hastings.”

Hastings shook Rivers’ hand and said, “May I prosper, as I truly swear my true heart’s friendship for Rivers!”

King Edward IV said, “Take heed you do not put on an act before your Earthly King, lest He who is the Supreme King of Kingsput to shame your hidden falsehood and makeeach of you the death of the other.”

Hastings said, “May I prosper, asI swear perfect friendship! May I thrive according to the truth of my swearing. If I am lying, may God keep me from thriving. If I am telling the truth, may God let me thrive.”

“And may I prosper, as I swear that I regard Hastings as my friend with all my heart!” Rivers said.

King Edward IV said to his wife, Queen Elizabeth, “Madam, you yourself are not exempt in this, nor is your son Dorset, nor Buckingham, nor you, Hastings. All of you have been in one faction that is opposed against the other. Wife, respect Lord Hastings, let him kiss your hand, and when you do it, do it honestly.”

“Here, Hastings,” Queen Elizabeth said, giving Hastings her hand. “I will never any more remember our former hatred, so thrive I and mine! May I thrive according to the truth of my swearing.”

Hastings kissed her hand.

“Marquess of Dorset, embrace Hastings; Hastings, respect the Lord Marquess of Dorset,” King Edward IV said.

Dorset said, “This interchange of respect, I here promise, upon my part shall be inviolable.”

“And I swear the same, my lord,” Hastings said.

Dorset and Hastings hugged each other.

King Edward IV said, “Now, Princely Buckingham, seal this league by embracing my wife’s allies, and make me happy in your unity.”

Buckingham said to Queen Elizabeth, “Whenever Buckingham turns his hate on you or yours, and unless with all duteous love Buckingham cherishes you and yours, may God punish me with hatred of me in those whom I most expect to love and respect me! If I ever turn my hatred against you or yours, then when I have the most need to employ a friend, and when I am most assured that he is a friend, let him be deeply cunning, hollow, treacherous, and full of guile to me. Let him betray me! I beg of God to let this happen if I am ever cold in zeal to you and your family.”

“Your vow is a pleasing cordial — a restorative — to my sickly heart,” King Edward IV said. “Now we need only our brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, here to make the perfect end to this making of peace.”

Seeing Richard coming toward them, Buckingham said, “And, at exactly the right time, here comes the noble Duke of Gloucester.”

Richard said, “Good morning to my sovereign King and Queen, and, Princely peers, I wish you a happy time of day!”

King Edward IV said, “This day has been happy, indeed, because of how we have spent the day.”

Using the royal plural, he said, “Brother, we have done deeds of Christian charity; we have made peace out of enmity and fair love out of hate, between these swollen-with-anger and wrongly incensed peers.”

“That is a blessed labor, my most sovereign liege,” Richard said. “Amongst this Princely heap of nobles, if there is anyone here who because of bad information or incorrect surmises thinks that I am a foe, and if I unwittingly, or in my rage, have committed anything that is endured only with great difficulty by anyone here present before the King, I desire to be reconciled to that person and to his friendly peace. It is death to me to be involved in enmity; I hate hatred, and I desire all good men’s friendship.

“First, madam, Queen Elizabeth, I entreat true peace from you, which I will purchase with my duteous service.

“From you, my noble cousin Buckingham, I entreat true peace if ever any grudge were lodged between us.

“From you, Lord Rivers, and, Lord Grey, from you, I entreat true peace. You two have frowned on me without any merit.

“Dukes, Earls, lords, gentlemen — indeed, I entreat true peace from all.

“I do not know any Englishman alive with whom my soul is even a little bit more at odds than the Englishman will be with the infant who is born tonight.

“I thank my God for my humility.”

Queen Elizabeth said, “This day shall be remembered hereafter as a holy day. I wish to God all contentious arguments could be as well ended.”

She said to her husband, “My sovereign liege, I beg your majesty to show mercy to our brother-in-law Clarence.”

Richard said, “Why, madam, have I offered friendship for this — to be so abused and mocked in the royal presence of the King? Who does not know that the noble Duke of Clarence is dead?”

Everyone was startled by the news.

Richard continued, “You do him wrong to scorn his corpse.”

Rivers said, “‘Who does not know that the noble Duke of Clarence is dead?’ Who knows that he is dead?”

“All-seeing Heaven, what a world is this!” Queen Elizabeth said.

“Do I look as pale, Lord Dorset, as the others who are here?” Buckingham asked.

“Yes, my good lord; there is no one here in the presence of the King who has not had the red color forsake his cheeks. All of us are pale,” Dorset said.

“Is Clarence dead?” King Edward IV asked. “I revoked the order to have him killed.”

“But Clarence, poor soul, died by your first order,” Richard said. “The order to have Clarence killed was carried by a winged Mercury, the quick messenger of the gods. Some tardy cripple carried the second order, which countermanded the first order. That tardy cripple lagged and came too late even to see Clarence buried.”

Richard was capable of black humor. The tardy cripple who carried the second order was himself.

Richard continued, “May God grant that some people, who are less noble and less loyal than Clarence, who are more bloody than him in their thoughts but who are not as royal in their blood relations, do not deserve even worse treatment than wretched Clarence did — and yet they are thought to be true citizens and are unsuspected of any wrongdoing!”

Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby, entered the room and said to King Edward IV, “I ask for a boon, my sovereign, in return for the service I have done for you!”

“Please, leave me in peace,” King Edward IV replied. “My soul is full of sorrow.”

Lord Stanley knelt and said, “I will not rise, unless your highness grants me the favor I ask for.”

“Then tell me at once what it is you demand,” King Edward IV replied.

“My servant has forfeited his life because he slew today a righteous gentleman who was recently an attendant of the Duke of Norfolk. I want you to save my servant’s life.”

“Do I have a tongue that doomed my brother Clarence to death, and shall that same tongue give pardon to a slave?” King Edward IV said. “My brother slew no man; his crime was only in his thoughts, and yet his punishment was cruel death. Who sued to me to pardon his life? Who, when I was angry at him, knelt at my feet, and asked me to think things over and be judicious and prudent? Who spoke to me of brotherhood? Who spoke to me of love? Who reminded me of how Clarence, that poor soul, forsook the mighty Earl of Warwick, and instead fought for me? Who reminded me that, in the battlefield by Tewksbury when the Earl of Oxford had me down, he rescued me and said, ‘Dear brother, live, and be a King’? Who reminded me that, when we both lay in the field frozen almost to death, how he wrapped me in his own garments, and exposed himself, all thinly clothed and practically naked, to the numbingly cold night?

“All these things brutish wrath sinfully plucked from my memory, and not a man of you had enough grace to remind me of them. But when your wagon drivers or your waiting-servants have committed a drunken slaughter, and defaced the precious image of our dear Redeemer by killing a man who was created in His image, you immediately get on your knees and beg for pardon, and I — who am unjust, too — must grant it to you.”

Lord Stanley stood up.

King Edward IV continued, “But not a man would speak up for my brother Clarence. Nor did I, ungracious as I am, speak to myself on behalf of him, poor soul. The proudest of you all have been beholden to him during his life, yet none of you would plead even once for his life.

“Oh, God, I fear Your justice will destroy me, and all of these men here, and my family members, and their family members, because of this!

“Come, Hastings, help me to my private room.

“Oh, poor Clarence!”

King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth, and most of the others left the room.

Richard, Hastings, and Buckingham remained behind.

Richard said, “This is the fruit of rashness! Did you see how the guilty relatives of the Queen looked pale when they heard about Clarence’s death?”

True, the relatives of Queen Elizabeth had looked pale, but everyone had looked pale when they learned of Clarence’s death.

Richard continued, “Oh, they continually urged the King to kill him! God will revenge it. But come, let us go in, so we can comfort Edward with our company.”

Buckingham said, “We will go with you, your grace.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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