David Bruce: KING EDWARD III: A Retelling — Cast of Characters, Act 1, Scenes 1-2




QUEEN Philippa, King Edward III’s wife.

EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE, Prince of Wales, their son [Edward Plantagenet; nicknamed Ned].

Earl of SALISBURY [William Montacute; Plantagenet].

COUNTESS of Salisbury, his wife.

EARL OF WARWICK, her father [Thomas de Beauchamp].

Sir William MONTAGUE, nephew of the Earl of Salisbury.

Earl of DERBY.



John COPLAND, esquire; later Sir John Copland.

LODOWICK, King Edward III’s secretary.





Robert, COUNT OF ARTOIS, and Earl of Richmond.

LORD MOUNTFORT, Duke of Brittany.

GOBIN de Grace, a French prisoner.



Prince CHARLES, Duke of Normandy, King John II’s eldest son. He is the Dauphin(the oldest son, and heir apparent), and he will become King Charles V of France.

Prince PHILIP, King John II’s youngest son. He will become Philip II, Duke of Burgundy.

DUKE OF LORRAINE, ambassador from France.


CAPTAIN of Calais.






FIRST CITIZEN, from Crécy.




A WOMAN with two children.


Six POOR CITIZENS of Calais.


King of BOHEMIA.




KING DAVID Bruce of Scotland. He is King David II.

Sir William DOUGLAS.




In 1308, Isabella, daughter of King Philip IV of France, married King Edward II of England.

In 1312, King Edward III of England was born.

King Edward III of England reigned from 25 January 1327 – 21 June 1377.

The Battle of Crécy was fought on 26 August 1346.

The Battle of Poitiers was fought on 19 September 1356. 

We don’t read Elizabethan plays to learn history:

  • This play has a reference to King John II of France being “three degrees removed” from King Charles IV of France. Actually, that is true of Philip of Valois, who became King Philip VI of France (reigned 1328 – 1350). King John II reigned from 22 August 1350 – 8 April 1364.
  • The Battle of Crécy and the Battle of Poitiers were fought ten years apart, but in this play, the two battles are fought close together in time. Such telescoping of time is common in Elizabethan history plays.

— 1.1 —

King Edward III, the Earl of Derby, Edward the Black Prince, Lord Audley, the Earl of Warwick, and the Count of Artois talked together.

King Edward III said, “Count Robert of Artois, although you are banished from France, your native country, yet with us you shall retain as great a seigniory, aka domain, for we make you the Earl of Richmond here.”

Using the royal plural, he added, “Now continue to tell us our pedigree. Who next succeeded Philip le Beau?”

Philip le Beau was Philip the Fair, who had ruled as King Philip IV of France.

The Count of Artois answered, “Three sons of his, who all successively sat upon their father’s regal throne, yet died and left no issue of their loins. None of those three sons left any children.”

“But was my mother — Isabella — sister to those three men?” King Edward III asked.

“She was, my lord,” the Count of Artois answered, “and Isabella was the only daughter that this Philip had. Your father took Isabella as his wife; and from the fragrant garden of her womb your gracious self, the flower of Europe’s hope, was born. Because of this genealogy, you are the inheritor to France.

“But note the rancor of rebellious minds: When thus the male lineage of Philip le Beau was out, the French obscured your mother’s privilege, and although she was the next in blood lineage, the French proclaimed John of the house of Valois their King now: King John II.

“The reason was this: They say the realm of France, replete with princes of great parentage, ought not to allow a governor to rule France unless he has been descended of the male line, and that’s the particular ground of their contempt with which they strive to exclude your grace from the French throne.”

King Philip III of France fathered King Philip IV of France, who fathered Isabella, who lived the longest of King Philip IV’s four children. If females could inherit the throne, she would have inherited it.

Isabella married King Edward II of England, and they became the parents of King Edward III of England, and so Edward III of England is directly descended from King Philip III of France through the female line.

The French, however, did not recognize kingly succession through the female line. Nevertheless, King Edward III of England regarded himself as the rightful King of France.

King Edward III said, “But they shall find that forged ground of theirs consists only of dusty heaps of brittle sand.”

The Count of Artois said, “Perhaps it will be thought a heinous thing that I, a Frenchman, should say what I have told you, but I call on Heaven to witness my vows: It is not hate nor any private wrong, but love for my country and for what is right that provokes my tongue to be thus lavish in report.

“You are the lineally descended watchman of our peace, and John of Valois — the so-called King John II of France — indirectly has climbed to the throne: His lineal descent from King Philip II is not direct, as is yours.

“What then should subjects do but embrace their King?

“Yes, and wherein may our duty be seen more than in striving to repress a tyrant’s pride and to place the true shepherd of our commonwealth on his rightful throne?”

King Edward III said, “This counsel, Count of Artois, similar to fruitful showers, has added growth to my dignity; and by the fiery vigor of your words, hot courage is engendered in my breast, which heretofore was racked in ignorance, but now mounts with golden wings of fame and will confirm beautiful Isabella’s descent, and will yoke with steel the stubborn necks of those who kick against and resist my sovereignty in France.”

A horn sounded.

“It is amessenger,” King Edward III said.

He ordered, “Lord Audley, find out from where the messenger is coming.”

Lord Audley exited and immediately returned and said, “The Duke of Lorraine, having crossed the seas, asks that he may have conversation with your highness.”

King Edward III ordered, “Admit him, lords, so that we may hear his news.”

Lord Audley opened the door and admitted the messenger — the Duke of Lorraine, who was serving as ambassador to King John II of France.

King Edward III said, “Say, Duke of Lorraine, for what reason you have come here.”

The Duke of Lorraine answered, “The most renowned King John II of France greets you, King Edward III of England, and by me commands that because the Guienne dukedom has been bestowed on you as his liberal gift, you do him lowly homage for that dukedom.

“And for that purpose here I summon you to go to France within these forty days, so that there, in accordance with the custom, you may be sworn to be a true liegeman to our King, or else your title in that province dies, and he himself will possess again the dukedom.”

“See how opportunity laughs in the face at me,” King Edward III said. “No sooner am I minded to prepare for France, but immediately I am invited to come there — indeed, with threats of a penalty I am urged to come to France! It would be childish of me to tell him no.

“Duke of Lorraine, return this answer to your lord:

“I mean to visit him as he requests, but how? Not servilely disposed to bend my knee to him, but like a conqueror to make him bow his knee to me. His lame unpolished tricks have come to light, and truth has pulled the mask from his face — the mask that set a deceptive appearance upon his arrogance.

“Dare he command me to give him an oath of loyalty and allegiance? Tell him the crown that he usurps is mine, and where he sets his foot he ought to kneel to me.

“It is not a petty dukedom that I claim, but all the dominions of the realm of France, which if with grudging he refuse to yield to me, I’ll take away those borrowed plumes of his and send him naked to the wilderness.”

The Duke of Lorraine replied, “Then, Edward III, here in spite of all your lords, I pronounce defiance to your face.”

King Edward III’s son, Edward the Black Prince, said, “Defiance, Frenchman? We rebound defiance back, even to the bottom of your master’s throat; and let it be spoken with reverence of King Edward III, who is my gracious father, and these other lords, that I regard your message to be only scurrilous, and I regard him who sent you to be like the lazy drone that has crept up by stealth to the eagle’s nest, from whence we’ll shake him with so rough a storm as others shall be warned by his harm.”

A drone is a male honeybee that does no work but exists in order to impregnate the Queen bee.

Edward the Black Prince may have had in mind Aesop’s fable about the beetle and the eagle. A hare asked a beetle to protect her from an eagle, and the beetle asked the eagle to spare the hare, but the eagle killed the hare in front of the beetle. To get revenge, the beetle climbed to the eagle’s nest and pushed the eagle’s eggs out of the nest, destroying its progeny. If Edward the Black Prince had this fable in mind, he had created a different ending to the story: The eagle knocked the intruder out of the nest.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Bid him leave off the lion’s skin he wears lest, meeting with the lion in the field, the real lion tears him to pieces for his pride.”

He was alluding to another of Aesop’s fables: An ass came across a lion’s skin and wore it. The other animals saw the lion’s skin and were afraid until the ass brayed. The Earl of Warwick had changed the fable and given it another ending: The donkey then came across a live lion that killed it. Of course, this was an analogy: The lion was the English army, and the field was a battlefield.

The Count of Artois, who was a Frenchman, said, “The soundest counsel I can give his grace John II is to surrender before he is forced to surrender. A voluntary mischief has less scorn than when reproach with violence is born.”

He meant that it is better to voluntarily confess to having made a mistake than to be forced to suffer rebuke and punishment.

The Duke of Lorraine said, “Degenerate traitor, viper to the place where you were fostered in your infancy! Do you have a part in this conspiracy?”

Of course, the Duke of Lorraine regarded the Count of Artois as a traitor to France, and so he compared him to a viper, which this culture believed to bite its way out of its mother at birth. According to the Duke of Lorraine, the Count of Artois ought to be loyal to France, which had nurtured him.

This culture regarded vipers as betrayers. Another of Aesop’s fables was about a farmer who found a frozen viper. Taking pity on it, he put it in his jacket to warm it up. Once the viper had warmed up, it bit the farmer.

The Duke of Lorrainedrew his sword.

King Edward III drew his own sword and said, “Duke of Lorraine, behold the sharpness of this steel. Fervent desire that sits against my heart is far more thorny-pricking than this blade, so that with the nightingale I shall be scarred as often as I dispose myself to rest until my colors — my battle standards — are displayed in France.”

This culture believed that the nightingale pushed its breast against a sharp thorn as it sang.

King Edward III continued, “This is your final answer, so be gone.”

The Duke of Lorraine replied, “Neither your answer nor any English boast or bravado afflicts me as much as does this Frenchman’s poisoned view: That is most false, although it should most of all be true.”

In other words, what bothered him was not a sword or a threat or a boast, but the disloyalty of his fellow Frenchman, who was a traitor although he should have been a loyal Frenchman.

The Duke of Lorraine exited, and King Edward III sheathed his sword.

King Edward III said, referring to God, “Now, Lord, our swift-moving ship is under sail, our gage is thrown, and war is soon begun, but not so quickly brought to an end.”

A gage is figuratively a challenge; literally, it is a gauntlet or glove thrown down as a challenge.

Sir William Montague entered the room.

Seeing him, King Edward III said, “But why is Sir William Montague coming here?”

He then asked him, “How stands the league between the Scot and us?”

Sir William Montague replied, “Cracked and broken, my renowned lord: The treacherous King David II of Scotland no sooner was informed of your withdrawing your army back from the Scottish border, but immediately forgetting his former oath of peace, he invaded the towns on the border. Berwick has been defeated, Newcastle has been spoiled and lost, and now the tyrant has surrounded with siege the castle of Roxborough, where the Countess of Salisbury, who is in the castle, is likely to perish.”

King Edward III said, “The Countess of Salisbury is your daughter, Earl of Warwick, isn’t she? Hasn’t her husband served very long in Bretagne about establishing Lord Mountfort there?”

“She is my daughter, my lord,” the Earl of Warwick replied.

King Edward III said, “Ignoble David II, have you no one other than defenseless ladies to grieve with your threatening weapons? But I will make you shrink your snail-like horns!”

Snails have “horns” that pull back when touched.

King Edward III ordered, “First, therefore, Lord Audley, this shall be your responsibility: Go and levy foot-soldiers for our wars in France.

“And, Ned the Black Prince, take muster of our men at arms. In every shire draft a separate band of foot soldiers. Let them be soldiers of a lusty spirit such as dread nothing except the blot of dishonor. Be wary, therefore, since we are commencing a renown-bringing war with so mighty a nation.

“Earl of Derby, be the ambassador for us to our father-in-law, the Earl of Hainault. Make him acquainted with our enterprise, and likewise order him with our own allies who are in Flanders to solicit also the Emperor of Almagne in our name.

“I myself, while all of you are jointly thus employed, will, with these forces whom I have at hand, march and once more repulse the traitorous Scottish King.

“But, sirs, be resolute. We shall have wars on every side; and Ned, you must begin now to forget your study and your books, and inure your shoulders to the weight of armor.”

Edward the Black Prince replied, “As cheerful sounding to my youthful spirits is this tumult of war’s increasing broils, as at the coronation of a King, the joyful clamors of the people are when they pronounce ‘Ave Caesar’aloud.”

Ave Caesarmeans, “Hail, Caesar.”

He continued, “Within this school of honor, I shall learn either to sacrifice my foes to death, or in a rightful quarrel spend my breath. Then cheerfully let us each go forward in our separate ways; in great affairs it is wrong to engage in delay.”

— 1.2 —

The Countess of Salisbury, who was standing on the battlements of the castleof Roxborough, said to herself,“Alas, how much in vain my poor eyes gaze, looking for the succor that my sovereign, King Edward III, should send.

“Ah, Sir William Montague, my nephew, I fear you lack the lively spirit needed to sharply solicit with vehement suit the King in my behalf. You do not tell him what a grief it is to be the scorned captive to a Scot, either to be wooed with broad untuned oaths, or forced by rough insulting barbarism.

“You do not tell him, if King David II of Scotland prevails here, how much the Scots will deride us in the North, and, in their vile uncivilized skipping jigs, bray forth their conquest and our overthrow, even in the barren, bleak, and fruitless air.”

King David II of Scotland, Sir William Douglas, and the Duke of Lorraine, who was the French ambassador, arrived. They stood below the battlement on which the Countess of Salisbury was standing.

Unseen, the Countess of Salisbury said, “I must withdraw. The everlasting foe comes to the wall; I’ll secretly step aside and listen to their babble, which is blunt, obtuse, and full of pride.”

King David II said, “My lord of Lorraine, commend us to our brother King John II of France, as he is the man in Christendom whom we most reverence and entirely love.

“Concerning your embassy to us, return to France and say that we with England will not enter parley, nor will we ever make fair weather or make a truce, but instead we will burn their towns neighboring us and so persist with eager inroads beyond their city of York. And never shall our bonny riders rest, nor will the canker of rust have the time to eat their light-borne bridle bits or their nimble spurs, nor lay aside their jackets of linked mail, nor hang their staves of grained Scottish ash peacefully upon their city walls, nor from their buttoned tawny leather belts dismiss their biting short swords, until your King John II cries out, ‘Enough, spare England now for pity!’

“Farewell, and tell him that you leave us here before this castle; say you came from us exactly at the time when we had that yielded to our hands.”

The Duke of Lorraine replied, “I take my leave and fairly will return your gratifying greeting to my King.”

The Duke of Lorraine exited.

King David II said, “Now, Sir William Douglas, let us return again to our former task: the division of the spoils that are certain to be ours.”

“My liege, I request the lady and no more,”Sir William Douglas said. He meant the Countess of Salisbury.

King David II replied, “Quiet, sir, first I must make my choice, and first I do reserve her for myself.”

“Why then, my liege, let me enjoy her jewels,”Sir William Douglas said.

King David II said, “Those jewels are her own property, still belonging to her, and who inherits her has those jewels with all the rest she has.”

A Scottish messenger hastily arrived and ran over to King David IIand said, “My liege, as we were spurring our horses on the hills to fetch in booty, marching hitherward we were able to see a mighty army of men. The sun reflecting on the armor showed a field of plate armor, a wood of wooden pikes advancing.

“Your highness must speedily make a decision concerning this. An easy march within four hours will bring the hindmost ranks of the enemy to this place, my liege.”

Panicked, King David II cried, “Retreat! Retreat! It is King Edward III of England!”

“Jemmy, my man, saddle my bonny black,”Sir William Douglas ordered.

“Do you intend to fight, Douglas?” King David II said. “We are too weak.”

“I know it well, my liege, and therefore I will flee,” Sir William Douglas said.

The Countess of Salisbury revealed herself and said, “My lords of Scotland, will you stay and have a drink?”

“She mocks us, Douglas,” King David II said. “I cannot endure it.”

“Tell me, my good lord, who is he who must have the lady, and who is he who must have her jewels?” the Countess of Salisbury said. “I am sure, my lords, you will not leave here until after you have shared the spoils.”

King David II said, “She heard the messenger and she heard our talk, and now that comfort makes her scorn us.”

Another Scottish messenger arrived and said, “Arm yourself, my good lord. Oh, we are all unexpectedly attacked!”

The Countess of Salisbury said to the Scottish King, “Ride after the French ambassador, my liege, and tell him that you dare not ride to York. Give as your excuse that your bonny horse is lame.”

King David II said, “She heard that, too! This is intolerable grief!”

He then said, “Woman, farewell. Although I do not stay —”

The Scots exited.

The Countess of Salisbury finished King David II’s statement for him: “‘— it is not because of fear’ — and yet you run away.”

She continued, “Oh, happy comfort, welcome to our house! The confident, boisterous, and boasting Scottish King, who swore before my walls he would not retreat for all the armed power of this land, with faceless fear that always turns its back, has turned away from here and is now facing the blasting north-east wind upon the mere report and name of arms.”

Sir William Montague arrived.

Seeing him, the Countess of Salisbury said, “Oh, summer’s day, see where my nephew comes!”

“How fares my aunt?” Sir William Montague asked her. “We are not Scots, so why do you shut your gates against your friends?”

The Countess of Salisbury said, “Well may I give a welcome, nephew, to you, for you come well — at a good time — to chase my foes away from here.”

“King Edward III himself is coming in person here,” Sir William Montague said. “Dear aunt, descend and welcome his highness.”

The Countess of Salisbury asked, “How may I entertain his majesty in such a way as to show my duty and his dignity?”

She descended from the battlement.

King Edward III, the Earl of Warwick, the Count of Artois, and others arrived.

King Edward III asked, “Have the stealing foxes fled and gone before we could release our dogs to bite at their heels?”

Earl of Warwick replied, “They have fled, my liege, but with a cheerful cry hot and hardy hounds chase them at the heels.”

The Countess of Salisbury walked out of the castle to greet King Edward III.

“This is the Countess, isn’t it, Earl of Warwick?” King Edward III asked, seeing her coming.

The Earl of Warwick replied, “Yes, this is she, my liege, whose beauty the fear of tyrants has sullied, withered, overcast, and destroyed just as pernicious winds do to a May blossom.”

King Edward III asked, “Has she been more beautiful, Earl of Warwick, than she is now?”

The Earl of Warwick answered, “My gracious King, she is not at all beautiful now in comparison with her former self. If her beautiful former self could be present for comparison now, you would see that her present self is stained.”

King Edward III said to himself, “What strange enchantment lurked in those her eyes when they excelled this excellence they have, when now her dim decline has power to draw my subject eyes from piercing majesty to gaze on her with doting admiration?”

King Edward III was like a sun at high noon, while the Countess, if what her nephew had said was true, was like a setting sun in comparison with when her beauty was at its height, yet the Countess’ setting sun was enough to outshine the King’s noon sun and make him her subject.

The Countess of Salisbury knelt and said, “In duty lower than the ground I kneel, and in addition to my dull, unfeeling knees, I bow my feeling heart to witness my obedience to your highness with many millions of a subject’s thanks for this your royal presence, whose approach has driven war and danger away from my gate.”

King Edward III said, “Lady, stand up, I come to bring you peace, although thereby I have purchased war.”

His words had a double meaning: 1) He had come to bring her peace, and by so doing he had purchased war with the Scots, and 2) He had come to bring her peace, and by so doing he had purchased war with his emotions — although he was married, he was attracted to her.

The Countess of Salisbury said, “No war to you, my liege; the Scots are gone, and they gallop home toward Scotland with their hate.”

King Edward III thought, Lest yielding here I pine in shameful love —

He then said out loud, “— come, we’ll pursue the Scots. Count of Artois, let’s go.”

The Countess of Salisbury said, “Stay a little while, my gracious sovereign, and let the power of a mighty King honor our roof; my husband in the wars, when he shall hear about it, will triumph for joy. So then, my dear liege, now do not hoard your state — since you are here at the wall, enter our homely gate.”

King Edward III replied, “Pardon me, Countess, I will come no nearer. I dreamed last night of treason, and I fear.”

The Countess of Salisbury said, “Far from this place let ugly treason lie.”

King Edward III thought, No farther off than her conspiring eye, which shoots infected poison in my heart beyond repulse of intelligence or cure of art. Now in the sun alone it does not lie with light to take light from a mortal eye, for here two day-stars — her eyes — that my eyes would see more than the sun steal my own light from me. Contemplative desire, desire to be in contemplation that may master you.

The sun can dazzle the King with its light; now he knows that the Countess’ eyes can also dazzle him with their light. Her eyes are like conspirators that infect his heart with poison — the poison of love — that he cannot cure.

King Edward II ordered, “Earl of Warwick, Count of Artois, let’s get on horseback and ride away.”

“What can I say to make my sovereign stay?” the Countess of Salisbury asked.

King Edward III thought, Why does she need a tongue when her speaking eye is more persuasive than winning oratory?

The Countess of Salisbury continued, “Let not your presence, like the April sun, flatter our earth and suddenly be done. Do not make the outward wall of the castle happier than you will grace our inner house.

“Our house, my liege, is like a country swain whose rude clothing and blunt and plain manners foretell nothing good, yet the country swain is inwardly beautified with bounty’s riches and with fair hidden pride.

“For where the golden ore buried lies, the ground above it that is unadorned with nature’s tapestry of vegetation seems barren, sere, infertile, fruitless, and dry.

“And where the upper turf of earth boasts its splendor, perfumes, and variegated richness, if you delve there under the surface, you will find that this splendor and richness spring from ordure and dung and the side of a decaying corpse.

“But to conclude my all too long comparison, these ragged outer walls of my castle are no testimony to what is within, for they are similar to a cloak that hides from the waste of weather the magnificence that is underneath.

“Be more gracious than my terms can entreat you to be, and entreat yourself to stay a while with me.”

King Edward III thought, She is as wise as she is beautiful — when wisdom keeps the gate as beauty’s guard, what a passionate fit can be heard!

He said out loud, “Countess, although my business urges me onward, it shall attend while I attend on you.”

The first “attend” meant “wait”; the second “attend” (“attend on”) meant “visit.”

The King added, “Come on, my lords, here I will lodge tonight.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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