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THE SECOND ACTION
RICHARD DUKE OF GLOUCESTER
THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM
THE LORD MAYOR OF LONDON
FITZWILLIAM THE RECORDER
A LONDONER, FRIEND OF DR. SHAA
TWO SERVANTS OF BUCKINGHAM
THE ARGUMENT OF THE SECOND ACTION
AFTER Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had brought under his power all those whose loyalty to the King he feared (of these, he inflicted death on the noble Hastings and cast the rest into prison), he busily applied himself to scheming how he could gain unjust possession of the throne without public uproar. Therefore, so that he could fraudulently persuade the Londoners to join the other nobles in voluntarily offering him the crown, he cast aspersions on the birth of the King his brother. In a meeting at the Guildhall he accused King Edward his brother, not long deceased, of adultery. Nor did he spare his very own mother, the former Duchess of York. Finally he grudgingly (as it seemed) accepted the proffered throne he had yearned for so long, and was crowned in a solemn ceremony.
ACT I, SCENE i
THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM, LORD LOVELL
GLOUC. Illustrious offspring of Lords, of the famous family of the Dukes of Buckingham, and noble Lovell, partner in our counsels, let us put aside these tedious delays. Whoever aspires to something great must be vigorous. There is no danger in this business. It scarcely behooves us to listen to more debating. Who spurns the gifts of Fortune, when it is at high tide? Buckingham can be a kingmaker. Here your Ducal prestige has always been held in the highest account. Careful Nature endows you with great virtue, and has adorned you with physical gifts. And again, she has given you matching keenness of mind. Minerva has illuminated no man more than yourself. One must follow where his superior nature summons. Such are the things that Buckingham can achieve.
Behold, those I judge hostile to me have been removed. The dungeon’s harsh chains oppress the accused, who set themselves against my rule out of the desire to curry favor with the King. With a single word I can order all of them to die. Lord Hastings, dead, has suffered his downfall. Lord Stanley is bound in chains, and prison holds the Bishop of Ely. The others who fail to support your undertakings lie pent up in a black cell.
BUCK. It is a joke of Fortune for a weak boy to be our ruler. Laughing Fortune playfully mixes squabbles in with matters of kingship. Overcome by his own weight, this infant succumbs. Plan what deceits to lay for the kingdom. I, unshakable, shall never fail to follow your orders. But a great matter cannot be accomplished immediately.
GLOUC. See here, the very safety of the times bids us act boldly. We must turn our attention to foreseeing every detail you have previously advised, and it is not fitting to attack difficult problems rashly. Whoever considers the future outcome of events is a wise man. Arrange each action. Let our combined wisdom set in order every source of anxiety.
LOV. Look here, we are oppressed by the shortness of time remaining before you are supposed to crown the royal head. Now, therefore, you must issue public orders that the coronation should not immediately occur: the serious of this national occasion persuades you that the King should not be crowned before the second of November, the day chosen for the ceremony. While the Nobles wonder about the meaning of this delay as they leave their homes and hearths, while they are present here, unprotected by their forces, while uncertain opinion troubles these hesitant men and, mistrusting their mutual loyalty, they can form no plans in their minds, you may safely snatch the scepter from the boys before rebels can join their forces. You hold the reins of England with ease. Soon opposition will fail, overcome by your will, until you can remove the King with steel.
BUCK. Even if the deceived Peerage can tolerate this, and even if the prudent man would attempt nothing with steel, the Commons in its obstinate rage will take up arms. It will be swept forward blindly, rushing in whatever direction it is carried. Unjust words will match wild actions, and this rash madness, once conceived, will not yield to coercion — just as the Maeander river is routed by a savage whirlwind and plunges along, unable to tolerate any resistance, terribly roaring.
LOV. We must pacify the people’s wild nature with blandishments. It is happy to follow, is willingly led. The man who enjoys favor among his own citizens, whose authority shines, is able to soften their rude minds and persuade his fellow citizens to accept your rule. If London, the capital city of England, favors your wishes, we win. The rest, led by the same error, will go along. And once you have gained possession of the throne you can easily guard it by force. But what pretext for your rule should be offered to the citizens, so that the clever will not perceive that they are captured by deception? For the Commons will take it amiss to be cheated.
BUCK. Our unhappy nation is exhausted, overcome by so many evils, and the feckless reign of a little boy threatens more slaughter. England fears new dissentions, and the rage of his mother will hardly cease to seek retribution. Your reign will remove the most piteous sufferings, you who are born of the royal blood and wisely bear the huge weight of government.
LOV. The shrewd Commons will see through this sham and will think this pretext for your reign to be unreasonable.
GLOUC. Why shouldn't an easy way lie open for us by means of deceit? The infamous loves of my brother will be condemned openly, for the decency of the throne does not permit lewdness. The law forbids bastards from ruling. After the King had burned with love for Lucy, when his youth spurred him on and illicit love, already tasted, demanded more pleasures, when his ardor placed no limits on its flames, he rashly became betrothed to this woman, called her “the partner of his reign.” But love, frequently tasted, grows tiresome. The affair with Lucy became tedious for the prince, nor did the wicked man seek the secret delights of a darkened bed. He cheated the mind of his consort, now committed to him, nor did she obtain her promised marriage. Then Lucy, up to now fearing none of Fate’s greedy threats, was driven from her position and yielded her place to a mistress. By this woman the adulterous father gave infamous sons to his family, a serious injury for the kingdom. Nor was this the only stain inflicted on his father’s throne: impudent love besmirched an earlier marriage. A secret friend found the marks of a foul cheater in the bed of my father, the Duke of York, nor was treachery able to conceal this criminal intercourse. People knew the partner of this affair — oh, I am ashamed of this disgraceful crime! King Edward was the unclean offspring of his unclean mother. Deceived, my father mistakenly handed over the scepter to this bastard son. My brother’s face, unlike that of his father, denied his paternity, as did his degenerate ways. My father had my visage, thus he was in look. The dissimilar appearance of my brother proves his mother’s debauchery. He was the heir of a base love, scarcely of the kingship.
BUCK. But you claim the throne lawfully. Why are we turning to trickery? Equity shows that you are in the right. The road is open for your enterprises. Why must arts be used? How are these tales going to persuade the fickle mob? Or whom to you trust in these schemes?
GLOUC. Let no chill dread torture your trembling heart. Whose loyalty cannot be commanded by secret bribery? London will easily supply us with a powerful citizen, a man who can cleverly conceal our schemes, beguilingly move the minds of his fellow-citizens, and win over the Londoners with many inducements. The Lord Mayor has great influence amongst his fellow-townsmen. He yearns for empty honors and transient wealth — the madness of his greedy mind spurs him on. His base hope for honor will guarantee his loyalty, and his continual greed for money will supply him with a motivation.
LOV. Nothing was ever more deceiving than falsified religion: superstition easily tricks the mob. The devout mind will immediately be aroused if a preacher, faithful to Scripture, in the midst of pouring sacred texts into pious ears and explaining divine precepts to the congregation, announces that the throne was once deceived by fraud, if he explains the besmirched marriage, the injury suffered by this great house.
BUCK. Dr. Shaa is a man outstanding in learning, a half-brother to the Lord Mayor by their common mother. He is praised for deep book-learning. His simulated holiness greatly beguiles the townsmen, but discreditable impulses easily find lodging in his mind. this is a man who can faithfully carry out the task.
GLOUC. Let one of my followers summon the Lord Mayor of London, a man of great honor amongst his people, and also brother Shaa, that most learned man. When the Lord Mayor has enchanted the minds of his fellow citizens, and has urged my reign upon them, it would be useful for you to speak before the Commons. The uncouth citizenry will marvel at a famous Duke and will be amazed and stupefied by your splendor. The populace will think that a god has come down to them from heaven and, overcome by your appearance, will immediately succumb. Then swiftly conquer your gaping audience with the sweet elixir of your eloquence. Lay great stress on the tyranny of my brother, so that your hearers will reproach his sons with equal hatred. Promise the great rewards of freedom: happy public peace will bless the city, its great glory will grow without limit, if they purge our disgraceful family of its stain and commit our dynasty’s rule to me, as is lawful.
LOV. As the holy Father is preaching about these illicit sexual unions and the recent love-affairs of your brother, and about your mother’s shame and the disgrace of the royal family, and wile Shall, the preacher of your virtues, is zealously adorning you with praise, you should suddenly appear, as if you had dropped out of the sky. The fickle people will think that you are made King by heaven’s will, that Shaa is speaking with divine inspiration. Amazement will overwhelm their weak minds.
ACT I, SCENE ii
THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, THE LORD MAYOR OF LONDON, DR. SHAA
GLOUC. Illustrious Lord Mayor of this most illustrious city, and holy Father, consecrated to God, we are undertaking great things, commodious for the future, and we are seeking the greatest pace of the kingdom. Your share in this praiseworthy thing will be great, you whom we know to pray for national prosperity, if you both zealously follow my instructions. Now, therefore, I require your secret loyalty, so great are the state secrets I reveal to you. We shall bestow great honors upon your loyalty, and reward your faithfulness with liberal bounty.
MAYOR Great Protector, splendid offspring of a King, I gladly pledge my loyalty to you. I shall faithfully carry out the task you command.
GLOUC. Alas, England, worn down by civil wars, is terrified, and the weak reign of a boy portends greater injuries, as does his mother’s rage. Who, thus deranged, can easily heal evil? The man who fears his rulers puts justice out of his mind, and his sense of shame will grudgingly obey the royal command. True praiseworthiness does not mark the powerful man, and Fortune often forbids those whom she mistreats to do as they piously desire. He will easily be just whose heart is free of fear. The Nobles, the flower of the nation, urge this argument on me, whose royal bloodlines now bid me rule. I want you, whose reputation stands so high, to persuade the people of the city to offer me the crown.
MAYOR By what right do you claim your nephew’s throne? I hope that the angry populace will not riot, when it discovers that the prince has been deprived of his honor.
GLOUC. Lord Mayor, you must secretly spread the following among your townsmen. My late brother Edward was the unclean offspring of an adulterous liaison, since my mother’s greedy lust admitted strangers to her bed and she mixed illegitimate offspring into the family line. A friend possessed of a sense of decency found out about this blot on her marriage, and her servants admit this secret debauchery. My brother’s appearance, unlike that of his father, and also his degenerate ways proclaim him a bastard. My familiar appearance, and also the fact that I act and speak like him, convince me that I am the Duke’s legitimate offspring. Nor has my unfortunate family borne just this single shame. Brother Edward, following in the footsteps of his mother, made the family infamous by an even more shameful act. For after he had plighted his troth to Lucy, when he fell in love anew he repudiated the engagement and betrayed the trust of the first marriage. In a tardy marriage Elizabeth was joined to him as a second wife. So this evil mother got possession of a marriage-bed that belonged to another and, as a concubine, bore tainted offspring to their father.
While the crowd thinks these facts over, the great Duke of Buckingham will announce them publicly in your meeting. He will also reveal the views of the united Peerage. And perhaps the crowd, beguiled by his splendor, will elect me ruler, will proclaim me King of England. And at the same time, holy Father, you preach to the people at St. Paul’s Cross — but pretend to touch on my mother’s adultery unwillingly, as if afraid of deeply offending me. As you heap praises on me, I shall interrupt your eulogy, accompanied by a retinue, as if I were a King of England fallen from heaven. While the gullible ponder this miracle, an empty hope of divine intervention will easily swindle them. Now you must faithfully execute my orders.
DR. SHAA I shall soon dutifully do your bidding. You will never have cause to doubt my unsteady loyalty.
Go to Act II of the second Action