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

 — 3.2 —

In front of Hastings’ house, a messenger knocked at his door.

The messenger called, “My lord!”

From inside his house, Hastings called, “Who is knocking at my door?”

The messenger replied, “A messenger from the Lord Stanley.”

Hastings opened the door and asked, “What time is it?”

“Four in the morning.”

“Can’t your master sleep during these tedious nights?”

“You will see that he cannot from what I have to say. First, he gives his greetings to your noble lordship.”

“And then?”

“And then he sends you word that he dreamt this night that the boar had cut off his helmet and had obliterated the heraldic crest on the helmet. In other words, he dreamt that Richard, whose emblem is the boar, had cut off his head and had destroyed his family line. Besides, he says that two councils will be held, and that what may be determined at one of the councils may make you and him rue that you attend the other council. Therefore, he sent me to find out what your lordship will do. Will you immediately mount horses with him and as quickly as possible travel with him toward the north in order to shun the danger that his soul divines in his dream?”

Hastings replied, “Go, fellow, go, return to your Lord Stanley. Tell him not to fear the two separate councils. He and I will attend the one, and at the other will be my servant Catesby, and so nothing can occur that concerns Lord Stanley and me that I will not have knowledge of.

“Tell Lord Stanley that I say his fears are shallow and lack evidence. And as for his dreams, I wonder that he is so foolish to trust the mockery of unquiet slumbers. To flee from the boar before the boar pursues us would incense the boar to follow us although he had not intended to chase us.

“Go, tell your master to get up and come to me and we will both go together to the Tower of London, where he shall see that the boar will treat us kindly.”

Hastings’ words had an additional meaning that he did not intend. “The boar will treat us kindly” can mean that “the boar will treat us after its own kind, its own nature.” In other words, it meant that Richard would treat them in accordance with his own wild nature — that of a dangerous boar.

The messenger replied, “My gracious lord, I’ll tell him what you say.”

The messenger exited, and Catesby arrived.

“Many good mornings to my noble lord!” Catesby said.

“Good morning, Catesby,” Hastings replied. “You are up early and stirring. What is the news in this, our tottering state?”

“It is a reeling world, indeed, my lord,” Catesby said, “and I believe it will never stand upright until Richard wears the garland of the realm.”

“What? Wear the garland? Do you mean the crown?”

“Yes, my good lord.”

“I’ll have this crown of mine — the crown of my head — cut from my shoulders before I will see the crown of the King of England so foully misplaced,” Hastings said. “But do you think that Richard is ambitious to become King?”

“Yes, on my life, and he hopes to find you an eager member of his faction who will work to get the crown for him. And thereupon he sends you this good news, that on this very same day your enemies, the kindred of the Queen, must die at Pomfret Castle.”

The messenger was referring to the upcoming executions of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan.

“Indeed, I am no mourner for that news because they have always been my enemies,” Hastings said. “But, that I’ll give my voice on Richard’s side to help make him King, and to bar my master King Edward IV’s truly descended heirs from becoming King, God knows I will not do it, even if I should die for my loyalty.”

“May God keep your lordship in that gracious mind!” Catesby said.

“But I shall laugh at this a year from now,” Hastings said. “I shall laugh because I live to look upon the tragedy of those who made my master — King Edward IV — hate me. I tell you, Catesby —”

“What, my lord?”

“Before I am older by a fortnight, I’ll send some packing who do not yet think I will do so.”

“It is a vile thing to die, my gracious lord, when men are unprepared and do not expect it,” Catesby replied.

“Oh, it is monstrous, monstrous!” Hastings said, “And so it falls out with Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, and so it will fall out with some other men, who think they are as safe as you and I, who, as you know, are dearly valued by Princely Richard and by Buckingham.”

“Those two Princes both make high account of you,” Catesby said.

He thought, They account your head high upon the London Bridge.

In this society, traitors (and political enemies) were beheaded, and the heads were displayed high at the end of poles on London Bridge.

“I know they do,” Hastings replied, “and I have well deserved their high account of me.”

Lord Stanley arrived.

Hastings said to him, “Come on, come on; where is your boar-spear, man? Do you fear the boar, and yet go about without a weapon to protect you?”

“My lord, good morning,” Lord Stanley said. “Good morning, Catesby.”

He said to Hastings, “You may continue to jest, but by the Holy Cross, I do not like the idea of these two separate councils.”

“My lord, I regard my life as dear as you do yours,” Hastings said, “and never in my life, I assure you, was it more precious to me than it is now. Do you think that unless I knew that we two were safe that I would be as triumphant as I am?”

“The lords at Pomfret Castle, when they rode from London, were jocular, and they supposed that they were surely safe, and they indeed had no reason to think otherwise, but yet you see how soon the day becomes overcast. This sudden stab of rancor by Richard against Queen Elizabeth’s faction makes me suspicious. I pray to God that I prove to be needlessly cowardly! Shall we go to the Tower? The day is well begun.”

“Come, come; let’s go,” Hastings said. “Do you know what, my lord? Today the lords you talk about — Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan — will be beheaded.”

“They, for their loyalty, might better wear their heads than some who have accused them wear their hats,” Lord Stanley said.

He meant that others deserved to be put to death more than Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, who were loyal to King Edward IV and his family. The hats he referred to were hats that indicated official positions. Richard and Buckingham were both Dukes, and so they had the privilege of wearing the ducal hat in the presence of the King. No one below the rank of Duke was allowed to wear a hat in the presence of the King.

Lord Stanley said, “But come, my lord, let us go to the Tower.”

A Pursuivant, a royal or state messenger who had the power to execute warrants, arrived.

Hastings replied, “Go on ahead of me while I talk with this good fellow.”

Lord Stanley and Catesby departed.

“How now, sirrah!” Hastings said to the Pursuivant. “How goes the world with you? How are you?”

“Sirrah” was a word used to address someone of a lower rank or social status than the speaker.

The Pursuivant replied, “It is going better for me since your lordship is pleased to ask.”

“I tell you, man, it is better with me nowthan when I met you last where we meet now. Then I was going as a prisoner to the Tower of Londonbecause of the false charges of the Queen’s allies, but now, I tell you — keep it to yourself — this day those enemies will be put to death,and I am in a better state than ever I have been.”

“May God preserve you, to your honor’s good content and happiness!”

“Many thanks, fellow,” Hastings said. He gave the Pursuivant some money and said, “There, drink that for me.”

“May God save your lordship!” the Pursuivant said and then he departed.

A priest arrived and said to Hastings, “We are well met, my lord. I am glad to see your honor.”

“I thank you, good Sir John, with all my heart,” Hastings replied.

Priests were addressed as “sir” as a mark of respect.

“I am in your debt for your last sermon,” Hastings said. “At the next Sabbath, I will pay my debt.”

Hastings was speaking about giving money to the church, but God gave each of us our life, and so we owe God a debt. This debt can be paid back only with a death.

Hastings whispered in the priest’s ear, most likely to tell him news of the upcoming executions of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan.

Buckingham arrived and said to Hastings, “What, talking with a priest, Lord Chamberlain? Your friends at Pomfret Castle need the priest; your honor has no shriving work in hand. You do not need to confess your sins.”

“Indeed, when I met this holy man, those men you talk about came into my mind,” Hastings replied. “Are you going to the Tower of London?”

“I am, my lord; but I shall not stay long. I shall leave the Tower before your lordship does.”

“That is likely enough, for I will wait to have dinner there.”

Buckingham thought, And supper, too, although you do not know it. You will be taken prisoner and executed, and so you will wait and wait for your supper, which will never be delivered to you.

He said, “Come, will you go with me?”

“I’ll go with your lordship,” Hastings replied.

 — 3.3 —

At Pomfret Castle, Sir Richard Ratcliff and some halberdiers led Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan to the place of execution.

“Come, bring forth the prisoners,” Ratcliff said.

Rivers said, “Sir Richard Ratcliff, let me tell you this: Today you shall see a citizen die for truth, for duty, and for loyalty.”

“May God keep the Prince from all the pack of you!” Grey said to Ratcliff. “A knot you are of damned blood-suckers!”

Vaughan said, “You who continue to live shall cry with woe for this later.”

“Hurry up,” Ratcliff said. “The end of your lives has arrived.”

Rivers said, “Oh, Pomfret, Pomfret! Oh, you bloody prison. You are fatal and ominous to noble peers!Within the guilty enclosure of your walls, King Richard II was here hacked to death. To bring more disgrace and disrepute to your dismal seat,we give you our guiltless and innocent blood to drink.”

Grey said, “Now old Queen Margaret’s curse has fallen upon our heads,for standing by when Richard, Duke of Gloucester, stabbed her son: Edward, the Prince of Wales.”

Rivers said, “She cursed Hastings, then she cursed Buckingham, andthen she cursed Richard.”

Old Queen Margaret had not cursed Buckingham, but no doubt Rivers wished that she had.

Rivers continued, “Remember, God,to hear old Queen Margaret’s prayers for them, as now you hear her prayers for us. But as for my sister — Queen Elizabeth — and her Princely sons,be satisfied, dear God, with our true and loyal blood,which, as You know, unjustly must be spilt. Keep Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward, and the young Duke of York safe.”

“Hurry,” Ratcliff said. “The hour of your deaths has come.”

Rivers said, “Come, Grey. Come, Vaughan. Let us all embrace and take our leave, until we meet in Heaven.”

They hugged, and then they left with Ratcliff and the guards.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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