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LADY [Alone.] You Who wield retribution of crime in Your hands, and in Your kindness aids us in our weary travails, take pity on the fallen House of York. What end is there of evils? Alas, alas, how long the Queen burdens her existence with dire laments! What fierce Allecto will possess the palace, or cruel Megaera, brandishing her twisted snakes? An earlier sorrow invites a greater, and the Queen scarcely bears up in such evil circumstances. What whirlwind will snatch me up and bear me through the air, so that I shall not have to hear the sad complaints of this unhappy household and a mother’s mournful lamentations? [Enter the Archbishop.]
ARCH. (Lett his servants be about him with swords.) Although the night is not yet routed, the sun begins to renew the day. Not yet does Phoebus’ sister yield up her duty to her brother, or the night, now far advanced, withdraw its scattered light as sunshine strikes the sky. Why do you seek to visit us under shadow of night? A huge sorrow requires a swift cure, nor does a sick mind tolerate delays. You must calm the mother’s upset mind. (Let them bee knocking in the pallace as remoovinge.) But what’s this tumult? What a crowd at the palace! Tell me what this nocturnal hubbub means.
LADY Archbishop of York, splendid with honor, do you ask me to recall all these dire calamities? After the moon had enjoined sleep on the weary and dark night had loomed at dusk, the hall was filled with the rumor that Rivers and his nephew Grey are oppressed in dire straits: nobody knows what place holds the sovereign. When they revealed all these ills to the Queen, her mind, struck with sudden fear, froze, and, alas, her limbs went slack and she fainted. After the poor woman regained her strength, she immediately assaulted the stars with her speech. “Spare me, harsh Fates. Ah me, what are you doing? What crime do you inspire? If You require punishments, dear God, hurl Your vengeful torches on my head. What has this innocent boy done? What has a little child done to warrant destruction? You are destroying our family in a single calamity.”
Soon her neck could not hold up her head. Her cheeks grew wet with copious tears and her heart sadly burned with great sorrows. She removed her splendid royal raiment, the noble purple. She never stayed quiet: she flew hither and thither. She ordered her body be lifted up, set down. And, always restless, she quickly changed her place, striking the heaven with her complaints. Now she mourned her son, now the destruction of her kinsmen, and, tormented by her great hurts, she bewailed her late love for her dead consort. Soon she bade her servants rush her purple raiments and her yellow gold into the asylum, her furniture, and whatever great wealth the palace possessed. And, lest a slight delay hinder the porters, she ordered them break down the inner walls in that direction where the palace was separated from the asylum, so that a way would lie open to the shrine. Distraught, she held her dear son in her lap and, summoning her five daughters, she fled to the holy altars. Meanwhile, shaking with fear like an animal which fears to be broken by the great maw of a lion feeding upon its prey, I have come out to seek your advice and help.

A curtaine being drawne, let the Queene appear in the sanctuary, her 5 daughters and maydes about her sitting on packs, fardell, chests, coffers.

QUEEN Excellent father of York city, what can be lacking to our ills? What wretch can outdo my sufferings? In vain we fear those things we dreaded to fear before. Alas, we are the small remnants of a great household, and only the holy shrine protects us helpless people. Our kinsmen are preparing for a bitter death, and our servants do not know what place holds the King. Are we not ruined? Does any hope remain for our house?
ARCH. Put aside your fears, let go your anxious cares. Whatever ill this may be results from misunderstanding. How can heavy sorrow revive an unhappy mind? Rather, be more hopeful about these things. Just now, when dark night had urged sleep upon me, a messenger sent by Lord Hastings roused me from the slumber in which I was buried. He informed me that the Dukes were tarrying at Northampton, where the King was staying, protected by his subjects. Let nobody deceive your heart with fear, for all will finally end for the best.
QUEEN That man, that man Hastings, harsh to our family, prepares ruin for his sovereign. Behold I, a suppliant mother, beg that the vengeful gods destroy this awful man with their horrible fires.
ARCH. Abandon your raging spirit’s frantic urgings and, being prudent, cease your mind’s harsh outbursts. I swear by the power of the gods, who with their hands make the stars turn, if they crown anybody other than your son, the very next day I shall at once surrender the insignia of the realm to this brother of his. Look here, now I shall give over to you the Great Seal, which once your husband entrusted to me, for the benefit of the son you now protect. [The curtains that had opened to reveal the interior scene now close, leaving the Archbishop alone.]
Mighty ruler of Olympus, loud-thundering Father, heal the peaceful calm of the nation, so that the heir may wield the scepter in his youthful hand, lest the realm fall as a harsh prize to conquerors, and the Lancastrians put their hopes in another war.
But what are you doing? What forgetfulness seizes your mind? To hand over the Great Seal to someone! To whom have you offered it? To a woman? She has always been hostile to you. The Dukes will mock your loyalty, while the great care of the kingdom is rashly betrayed. Surely you don’t trust the woman? She will easily be overcome, and the Duke’s violence will come down on your head alone. So I shall send somebody to fetch the Seal secretly, lest the Dukes condemn my fickle trust.


SERV. Now a guard protects any street you care to name, and a host of boats crowd the Thames, so that no refugee may reach asylum. Do not fear any flight to sanctuary, Claudian Duke. The Queen’s wealth is not reaching the shrine. (Let artificers come running out with clubs and staves.) Why are you rioting, rascals? Where is Elizabeth’s rage driving these madmen?
CHORUS [Variously.] — City, city, to arms, to arms! — See, arms concealed in barrels are being carted, with which rebels are secretly preparing the Duke’s destruction. (Some armed with privy coates with gownes throwne over. Some unarmed.) — What evil is this great upheaval working? — The Thames has sprouted ships. — The Queen flees, carrying many arms with her. — But they’re storing the arms. If they were posing a threat, they wouldn’t be carrying them on wagons. — Let God punish the woman’s dire crime! — But may God protect you, little prince!
ARCH. Noble Peers of the realm, does some bold rumor deceive the unwary, spreading new fears? Or does some old evil grow to our sorrow? Does raging ambition seek to reclaim its old kingdom and demand it as a prize? Headlong riot brooks no easy delay. The trembling mother is prostrate at the altars, a suppliant. The Queen is suspicious about her son’s reign. Several Lords are imprisoned, whose loyalty to the King is warrants safety. The King’s helpless youth easily allows wrongdoing. Lest anybody at all stir up crime unbeknownst to the King, our duty is to take counsel until it becomes clearer what manner of trickery is afoot. But great Hastings approaches. [Enter Lord Hastings.]
HAST. It has not escaped your notice, dear citizens, with what tokens of affection the King lately embraced me. And the kindly gifts of such a King compel me to care for his beloved progeny. If I were not to defend their lives with my death, there is no worse mark of infamy with which I could be branded. It grieves me that the peace is disrupted by empty rumor, and that the English are disturbed by various murmurings. As a visitor to London, I see the subjects go a-rioting, looting as they fly about through every building. What good does it do to trouble your hearts with pointless terror? What lies are chattering mouths telling? Gloucester’s loyalty is sufficiently well known to me. Look here, he is leading the little King with a swift escort, for the sole reason of crowning his young head with a golden diadem. But the Nobles whom hard surveillance weighs down seek treacherously to wound the Duke of Gloucester with slanders. They shiver in jail until the sacred Council puts them on trial. As your suppliant, I beg one thing of you: do not let your feelings prejudice your minds for the future. Let not these quarrels flourish to work public harm. Let no troublemaker provoke you into fighting. Although the most justified of wars can be urged, the cause of whosoever use their weapons to guard the sovereign is always juster. As the royal boy approaches its walls, let a peaceful city congratulate its prince.


ED. Now that I have left the uncouth regions of a savage race, I return safely to my father’s home. Here the splendor of a proud city shines, and the glory of the famous realm is most brilliant. Dear city, I greet you. There was no like joy for the Argives after so many defeats of Asia, when after a long war they first saw the longed-for realms of their nation and the wealth of Argos. Your return scarcely appeared so happy for you, Ulysses, a wanderer for so many years, even though in your misfortune you had been rescued from so many shipwrecks, as my joy now swells when I return to the nation I have missed so long as a guest abroad. My long journey has denied me the sight of London.
MAYOR Illustrious ornament of the nation, famous King, see how a happy band of citizens pours itself out so as to offer much greeting to its prince. Every citizen will eagerly beseech God with prayer that you, a second. happy sun, will light up our sky. (The King goeing about the stage.) Behold our King, fellow citizens, shining with royal honor. Behold the mighty boy, dear Englishmen. Faithful subject, you see your ruler, outstanding in virtue. 

Go to Act IV of the First Action