David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s RICHARD III: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scenes 3-4

 — 2.3 —

On a street, two citizens talked together.

The first citizen said, “Neighbor, we are well met. Where are you going so quickly?”

“I assure you, I scarcely know myself,” the second citizen said. “Have you heard the news that is going around?”

“Yes, that King Edward IV is dead.”

“That is bad news; seldom comes good news. I fear our world will prove to be troubled.”

A third citizen arrived and said, “Neighbors, may God make you prosper!”

“Good morning, sir,” the first citizen replied.

The third citizen asked, “Is this news of good King Edward IV’s death true?”

The second citizen said, “Yes, sir, it is too true; may God help the times!”

“Since it is true,” the third citizen said, “then, masters, look to see a troubled world.”

“No, no,” the first citizen said. “By God’s good grace, King Edward IV’s son shall reign.”

“Woe to the land that’s governed by a child!” the third citizen said.

The second citizen said, “In him there is a hope of good government. His council of advisors will govern well while he is a minor, and in his full and mature years he himself, no doubt, shall govern well.”

“So stood the state when King Henry VI was crowned in Paris when he was only nine months old.”

“Stood the state so?” the third citizen said. “No, no, good friends, God knows that the situations are different. For then this land was famously enriched with prudent and grave counsel; King Henry VI had virtuous uncles to protect his grace.”

“Why, so has our own Prince of Wales,” the first citizen said. “He has good advisors on both his father’s and his mother’s side.”

The third citizen said, “It would be better if they all were on the father’s side, or if none at all came from the father’s side. But now there are factions, and they will compete about who shall be nearest to the new King Edward V. Their competition for power will touch and hurt us all too dearly, if God does not prevent it. The Duke of Gloucester is very dangerous! And Queen Elizabeth’s sons and brothers are haughty and proud. If both sides were to be ruled, and not to rule, this sickly land might feel solace as it has before. Now we are likely to have a struggle for power.”

“Come, come, we fear the worst,” the first citizen said, “but all shall be well.”

“Wise men are prepared,” the third citizen said. “When clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks. When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand. When the Sun sets, who doesn’t expect night? Untimely storms make men expect a dearth of food. All may be well, but if God arranged all to be well, it is more than we deserve, or I expect.”

The second citizen said, “Truly, the souls of men are full of dread. It is difficult to find a man to talk to who does not look serious and full of fear.”

“Before times of change, it is always like this,” the third citizen said. “By a divine instinct, men’s minds predict ensuing dangers; as by experience, we see the waters of the sea swell before a boisterous storm. But let’s leave it all to God. Where are you going?”

The second citizen said, “The justices sent for us.”

“They also sent for me,” the third citizen said. “I’ll go with you and keep you company.”

 — 2.4 —

In a room in the palace were the Archbishop of York, the young Duke of York, Queen Elizabeth, and the old Duchess of York.

The young Duke of York was the Prince of Wales’ younger brother. Both were the sons of Queen Elizabeth and King Edward IV.

“Last night, I hear, they spent the night at Northampton,” the Archbishop of York said.“They will be at Stony Stratford tonight.Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow they will be here.”

The old Duchess of York said, “I long with all my heart to see the Prince of Wales.I hope he has grown much since I last saw him.”

Queen Elizabeth said, “But I hear that he has not grown much; they say my son the young Duke of Yorkhas almost grown as tall as he is.”

“Yes, mother, but I would not have it so,” the young Duke of York said.

“Why, my young grandson, it is good to grow,” the old Duchess of York said.

“Grandmother, one night, as we sat down for supper,my uncle Rivers talked about how I was growing taller than my brother. ‘Yes,’ said my uncleRichard, Duke of Gloucester,‘small herbs have grace, great weeds do grow apace.’And since then I have hoped I would not grow so fast,because sweet flowers grow slowly and weeds grow hastily.”

“Truly, the saying did not hold trueforhim who told you the saying,” the old Duchess of York said. “Richard was the most wretched thing when he was young. He grew very slowly and very leisurely. If this saying were true, Richard would be a gracious man.”

“Why, madam, so, no doubt, he is,” the Archbishop of York said politely.

“I hope he is,” the old Duchess of York said. “But I am his mother, and I have my doubts.”

“Now, truly,” the young Duke of York said, “if I had remembered,I could have made a jest that would hit my uncle Richard’s growth harder than he hit mine.”

“How would you do that, my pretty grandson of York?” the old Duchess of York said. “Please, let me hear it.”

“Theysay that my uncle Richard grew so fastthat he could gnaw a crust when he was two hours old. It was two full years before I had my first tooth.Grandmother, this would have been a biting jest.”

“Please, my pretty grandson of York, who told you this?” the old Duchess of York asked.

“Grandmother, Richard’s nurse told me,” the young Duke of York replied.

“His nurse! Why, she was dead before you were born.”

“If she didn’t tell me, then I don’t know who told me.”

“You are a precociousboy,” Queen Elizabeth said. “You are too shrewd and clever for your own good.”

“Good madam, don’t be angry with the child,” the Archbishop of York said.

“Pitchers have ears,” Queen Elizabeth said. She meant that her son had been listening to the gossip of adults.

A messenger entered the room.

“Here comes a messenger,” the Archbishop of York said. “What is the news?”

“I have such bad news, my lord, that it grieves me to tell it to you.”

Immediately worried about her other son by King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth asked, “How is the Prince of Wales?”

“He is well, madam,” the messenger said. “He is in good health.”

“What is your news then?” the old Duchess of York asked.

“Lord Rivers and Lord Grey have been sent to Pomfret Castle, as has Sir Thomas Vaughan; they are prisoners.”

Pomfret Castle was in northern England. King Richard II and other political prisoners had been killed there.

“Who has committed them there?” the old Duchess of York asked.

“Two mighty Dukes: Gloucester and Buckingham.”

“For what offence?” Queen Elizabeth asked.

Rivers was her brother; Grey was her son; Vaughan was her ally.

“The sum of everything I know, I have told you,” the messenger said. “Why or for what these nobles were sent to prison is entirely unknown to me, my gracious lady.”

Queen Elizabeth said, “I see the downfall and ruin of our House, our family! The tiger now has seized the gentle doe. Contemptuously exulting tyranny begins to encroach upon the innocent throne, on which sits King Edward V, who is so young that he does not awe his subjects. Welcome, destruction, death, and massacre! I see, as in a map or picture, the end of all.”

The old Duchess of York said, “Accursed and unquiet wrangling days, how many of you have my eyes beheld! My husband lost his life in an attempt to get the crown, and often my sons were tossed up and down on the Wheel of Fortune over their losses. Once King Edward IV was seated on the throne, and domestic quarrels had entirely abated, the conquering faction made war upon each other. It was blood relative against blood relative, and self against self. Oh, monstrous, perverted, and frantic outrage, end your damned malice, or let me die so I do not look on death any longer!”

Queen Elizabeth said to her son, “Come, come, my boy; we will go to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. We are in danger.”

She said to the old Duchess of York, “Madam, farewell.”

“I’ll go along with you,” she replied.

“You have no cause or reason to,” Queen Elizabeth said.

The Archbishop of York said to Queen Elizabeth, “My gracious lady, go, and there carry your treasure and your goods. As for my part, I’ll resign unto your grace the Great Seal of England King Edward IV gave to me to keep safe.”

By giving the Great Seal to Queen Elizabeth, the Archbishop of York was taking her side. Legally, however, he was required to give the Great Seal to the new King Edward V.

The Archbishop of York continued, “May my fortunes be as good as the care I give to you and to all of your family! Come, I’ll conduct you to the sanctuary.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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