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ROCHESTER

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

MADNESS
HERESY
A MESSENGER
BRYAN
HENRY
BOLEYN
HOWARD
BRANDON
WALSINGHAM
SERVANT OF ROCHESTER
CRANMER
AUDLEY
CROMWELL
ROCHESTER
DARCEY
MUSGRAVE
GARDINER
STOKESLEY
TUNSTALL
MORE
AN ADVOCATE

CHORUS OF NATIONS

Mute Parts

TWO PENSIONERS
TWO YEOMEN
AN ATTENDANT
A HEADSMAN

WILTON
THE EXECUTIONER
A HANGMAN

PROLOGUE
MADNESS, alone

MADNESS I, a Fury, attain to the earth’s outstretched regions, straying from the Acheron. Is some whirlwind stealing me from my Stygian home and setting me close to heaven? Thus, thus, you hoped-for English land, you wished-for homes, I tread the Britons’ soil. I have endured long exile from your borders, thrust into a dark prison. Oh how often I have remembered being thrust from your bosom, my torch having failed to do its work! How often I have gone away defeated! And how often I have aroused new storms after having been driven into idle exile! But at length I return, full of wrath and, like a plague sent against the land or a dire mist, I announce a tremendous bane for all your peoples. Opened up, Erebus has commanded my threatening torches to rush against heaven. Why should I be concerned with trifling fires? Orcus has dispatched Madness. In vain? That shames me, by the greatest of wrongs I shall set all crimes a-mingling, so that whatever evil the world has experienced until now will become a trifle. Though its author, I shudder at the dark crime I am planning, I shall heap England with ample carnage, but the slaughter of innocents, chaste blood will delight my hateful army. Why do I waste the day in brooding? It is a small thing to violate all laws, to remove faith from the world. Rather, let honor and awe be taken away from the Saints, let crime rule over a discordant people. Thus I shall spew forth my poison. But my heart cannot conceive these threats, such hateful feelings do I bear. I must enter into some league. Why are you dumbstruck, crazed Madness? I have enough to do, I by myself shall be unequal to so many evils. Is there some ally in my efforts, or some partner in my crimes? Megaera is mild, a feeble Fury, indeed the whole band of Furies is weak. What am I to do? I know. In Hell, I found a worse evil inside the horrid caverns of the foul Styx. Fertile Heresy holds the highest prize for setting snares. She alone is greater than all the others, the parent of sin, the mother of evils, Hell’s worst bane. Lust, luxury, wrath, treachery, guile, or any other unspeakable evil that is nursed by Hell and thrives as the horrid offspring of this savage mother. Come hither, sad, dire, unspeakable Heresy, come hither quickly. Your Madness desires you.
HERESY What tumult troubles me? Who fans my flames? Wrapped in three hundred felonies, I am turned in every direction, so that I am doubtful where I should take myself. I am besought on every side, so great is the crop of evil. But tell me, what troubles the mind of Madness?
MADNESS A crime must be committed.
HERESY Why speak of a crime, you fool? I plan thousands.
MADNESS. But trifling ones. You do not know how to contrive a great one which will assault lofty heaven. I am planning bloody ones, my hatred surpasses its threats.
HERESY Tell me, tell me what it is. I like your overflowing heart.
MADNESS You know the king who sits on the British throne? He is Henry, defender of the Church and of the Roman faith.
HERESY Alas, I regret being reminded of him, it grieves me.
MADNESS An inverted order will bring it to pass that he will pluck down the true faith to the lowest of places, and shall shine by your torch. And with the king failing, everything will go to ruin, and copious booty will accrue to our homes. Come, tell me, how does this crime please you? I shall willingly come to your assistance against all men.
HERESY It pleases me greatly that you are appointing a great wrongdoing to be undertaken.
MADNESS This is why it so greatly demands your genius. It will be your responsibility to furnish counsels, schemes, devices, frauds and tricks in abundance, so that such a great crime can be set in due order. The rest may be left to me.
HERESY That is enough, it is abundant, I understand the crime you have conceived. I recognize a kindred heart, and similar spirits. An arrangement must be invented. I have it. Thus I want to throw the whole catastrophe into confusion. There is a double duty, one for each of us. I consign the king’s heart to your flames, burn him with a greater torch.
MADNESS No drunken, god-filled Maenad is more swept away on her ecstatic feet than he will rage, driven by my godhead.
HERESY But, Madness, think of our target, so that you may blaze properly. Let Rochester be attacked. He alone protects the faith of England, he is the sole pillar of its Church, tottering and driven towards the worse.
MADNESS I’ll wield the thunderbolt of wrath and envy, I’ll breathe a novel poison. A pain will vex Henry, and a continual one, and in trying to contrive a remedy for this he will pursue the old man until he lies prostrate, a headless trunk.
HERESY With my mouth I’ll stir my sleeping ashes, with which I’ll sprinkle the Peerage, so that my arts will infect them with a dire plague of novel doctrines.
MADNESS Why don’t we immediately address these new things within?
HERESY Come then, I’ll quickly seek the bishops’ palaces.
MADNESS On my wild foot I’ll go a-flying to the home of the king.

ACT I, SCENE i
A MESSENGER, alone

At length I’ve set foot on the sought-for shore, and have safely repelled the ocean’s greedy threats. Greetings, hoped-for land, so long sought by me amidst the sea’s destruction. Who can say in what great evils an isolated traveler wanders? With slipshod steps he has brely passed over steep mountain summits by an icy path over rough terrain, when a greater weight of effort oppresses him. Behold, he must pass the watery waves and overcome the currents. The west wind struggles against the north, the east against the south, and the sea heaves with this doubtful tumult. Who can describe the ships, toyed with by the savage fury of the seething sea? It is pleasant to remember this. Now used up, this malice becomes refreshing. But I must go about my business, thus the supreme pontiff’s mandates exhort me. Bearing his commands, I have sought out the ferocious Britons, and I hold them in my heart: to show solicitous concern to Rochester, his heart unconquered by bitter threats, for the healing of this encroaching plague; to exhort the minds of king and lords to stand ardently by Christ’s flock. While rumor is resounding at Rome, Paul the pontiff, inferior only to the Thunderer, that great light in the brilliance of the Farnese clan, thinking it most unworthy of himself that neglected piety should be held in contempt, appointed a reward for his arduous effort and constancy, this noble glory of the purple that I am bringing.

ACT I, SCENE ii
THE MESSENGER, BRYAN, 2 PENSIONERS

BRYAN Lift up your rays, Phoebus, adorn your chariot with a better torch. We are celebrating holidays. Let no clouds sully the clear sky, let the happy grove whistle with a springtime zephyr, let the cruel north wind fall still and the sodden east wind, driven away, shake its rain-bearing locks somewhere else. Let genial light blaze, let sorrow depart, tearing its hair and watering its cheeks with weeping. Come hither, laughter, idleness, games and sports. [To the pensioners.] You people care for everything busily, prepare the royal throne and ready the stage for shows.
MESSENGER I assume this company is composed of lords, so your words show.
BRYAN But who comes to meet us, desirous of closer conversation?
MESSENGER Greetings, distinguished sir, whoever you are that dwells in this land in a noble house.
BRYAN I greet you with the like good wishes.
MESSENGER I am a messenger, seeking the king. Paul, who occupies Peter’s chair at Rome, has given these commands to my tongue. He is adorning Rochester with Rome’s sacred purple. Inform the king of the Cardinal’s biretta.
BRYAN I would gladly allow you to meet him, but other leisures now occupy the king. Now wedding-torches are lighting his palace, all men are rejoicing. This day is free for games, with God’s good auspices Henry is marrying Boleyn, and I think the news you bring would be very unwelcome and harsh. Lest a storm defile this sunny day, keep your silence until the wedding-light of the royal bed has been extinguished and an ending made for games. When tomorrow’s sun rises with its light, a royal audience will be granted you, and you may set before him the supreme pontiff’s requests. Meanwhile let this night refresh your limbs, wearied by your journey’s toils. [To the pensioners.] And you take care that a house be readied at the royal expense, and one not unworthy of our guest.
MESSENGER You’re kind, I should defer to your wishes. [Exit.]
BRYAN “He is adorning Rochester with Rome’s sacred purple!” Rather, let chains oppress the stubborn fellow, let chains weigh down that neck hitherto unaccustomed to bearing yokes. Let him have long spells of harsh imprisonment, thoroughly wearied with this life, him and whatever fierce man tramples on the wishes of his suppliant sovereign. Will he alone continue to vex these wedding torches with impunity, so that the king will be frightened off from marrying Boleyn and take care not to violate Catherine’s bed? The decrepit, idle old man! Now Catherine is succumbing to old age, while Anne is in her green years. And Anne strums her sonorous lute, dances to music, enters eagerly into joking, and gently governs her serene face, adroit at producing laughter and well-chosen tears. Whereas Catharine bathes her cheeks with genuine downpours, she drags out deep sighs, she implores, she groans, so that with her prayers she might placate a hostile God. However it may be, let them groan, let them laugh. As an adroit imitator I conform my facial expressions to the king’s will. The trumpet sounds his presence, I’ll flatter him with art.

ACTUS I, SCENA iii
HENRY, BRYAN, BOLEYN, HOWARD, BRANDON, MADNESS

Enter choruses from both sides, playing at at first dancing. Soon they come at each other with weapons.

HENRY Enough of play, let these mock-battles cease. You may withdraw. Bryan, I approve your earnest industry. These games have pleased me, but they have pleased me more because they are yours. But I don’t understand what sudden sadness has overcome me in my joy. My limbs grow sluggish with a harsh chill, my heart palpitates within, my mind is scarcely in control of itself. And again I feel strange fires being kindled, my breast burning, my guts seized with fire, and my mind is swollen. I do not see where this frenzy is leading me.
BRYAN Overflowing love is burning your noble heart, recover your lost joys.
HENRY Weighed down with grief, my mind refuses a home for joys.
BRYAN Relieve your gloomy mind with new pleasure.
HENRY My mood prevents it.
BRYAN Compel it.
HENRY How can a fixed will be compelled?
MADNESS Wicked Madness will compel it.
HENRY You are my one consolation. Come, I seek a response which might relieve my mind. Tell me. What crime can it be to have known a mother’s bed, and then her daughter’s?
BRYAN Be free of scruples. It is a meaningless peccadillo if, after you have devoured the chicken, you take the pullet for your supper.
HOWARD Let me soothe your irate head.
HENRY You will be called my vicar to Hell.
MADNESS You will be called my vicar in Hell.
HENRY How long will this stubborn prelate deny my marriage? Does my scepter, my splendor do nothing to soften the rigid man? I approach him with entreaties. The harsh man puts me off. I speak of gifts, of titles. He spurns my promises. He has endured the penalties of imprisonment, he has scorned my threats. How can I budge him?
BOLEYN Great-hearted prince, if you are seeking a limit to your afflictions, you should take the lead in scorning Rochester’s threats. His is a private voice, kings go where they want.
HENRY That single voice of his can do more than an entire chorus, he shines with virtue, he has a great reputation for learning. He’s prudent, honest, upright, a man whose pious faith and candor of life has given to be a light for England.
HOWARD Let him be England’s light, but he obstructs his king, he raises up his arrogant head.
MADNESS Let him atone for his arrogance.
HENRY The masses, the stubborn people will not believe this.
BRANDON We all bear witness. A thousand men of all conditions hasten to agree. But if you prefer the Commons or the clergy, all approve the marriage. One man alone objects and creates delays.
HENRY But that one man carries all minds with him. Come, you faithful band, you whose proven virtue and your loyalty in doubtful times has joined to me, make trial whether in any way that stiff neck can be bent by guile, deceit, flattery or threats.
BRYAN We’ll waste our effort. I know the man’s character, how stubborn he is, how he is always tenacious. Sooner will the sea run out of water than that unbending fellow will yield.
MADNESS Hasten, Megaera, stretch forth your murderous hand.
HENRY I shall stand no more, why am I wasting the day in trifles? I wield power, let this hateful criminal come forth, let this royal enemy be put to death by this hand. Let him not die a single death; doomed, let him hope for death a thousand times. Let him lie as food for beasts, a dire cadaver unworthy of a funeral pyre.
MADNESS Continue, wrath, continue.
HENRY I want no open wrong.
MADNESS Let him perform secret crimes.
HENRY Let him perish in secret. Thus, thus I have decided. But fear of the Commons oppresses me, rumor will murmur.
MADNESS What? He fears his people.
HENRY I like that. Pretend he’s guilty of some unspeakable crime, nobody grieves when a criminal is destroyed. Let him be a traitor, an impious betrayer of his nation. Thus at length peace will be given to my anxious mind.
BRANDON We understand your commands. This is a fertile ground for wrongdoing, that he has faithlessly obstructed his king. He atones by death. Why in our doubt should we seek another means for his death?
BRYAN If this is frustrated, who will forbid us to invent a new ground? Lords’ wits are always pregnant with deceits.
HENRY I agree. You may pluck what the orchard refuses to give you. Let my edicts immediately be broadcast into all quarters. Let a swift herald announce that Boleyn shares my name and bed. Let no man approach Catherine under the title of queen. I admit she is virtuous and abounds with pious manners. She’s modest, compliant, chaste, but this alone troubles me, that she has lived as my brother’s wife. This goad provokes my mind and oppresses it in its weariness, this burns my heart with a ceaseless fire.
HOWARD Let a royal herald go throughout the city, borne on swift feet, and publish this with his sonorous horn.
HENRY You devote yourself to a welcome task, Howard. Now let me go inside and enjoy the fostering peace I have sought so long, with Bryan as my companion.
ALL Happily, I pray. [Exit Henry and Bryan.]
BOLEYN Oh blind fates! Whither is holy faith disappearing? Whither gentle piety? Royal prestige is prostrate, the bold Commons rises up, trampling on the glory of the throne.
HOWARD This faithless alteration will soon be passing laws. […] and, prostrate, let him bend his neck.
BOLEYN But let him die, hastened along by a greedy torch, that damned firebrand of Hell.
HOWARD Let a graver punishment dispatch the arrogant man to the Styx.
BRYAN Bloodied by scourges, let him draw his hateful breath. Let a raging tiger rend him with its cruel fang.
HOWARD And may a vengeful God favor my prayers.
BOLEYN But who is hastening this way?

ACT I, SCENE iv
BOLEYN, HOWARD, BRANDON, WALSINGHAM, ROCHESTER’S SERVANT WITH TWO YEOMEN

WALSINGHAM Bring forth this hateful fellow, all bound in chains. Greetings, my lords.
BOLEYN Why are you coming outside? Why is your face burning? What trembling alters your countenance?
WALSINGHAM Crimes I dread trouble my heart.
HOWARD Who’s this fellow, his hands laden with manacles?
WALSINGHAM A man who has earned scourgings, imprisonment, burning, the gallows.
BRANDON Tell us what manner of crime lurks concealed?
WALSINGHAM He’s been a busy servant of the treacherous prelate.
BOLEYN But responsible for what? This servant’s not responsible for some evil?
WALSINGHAM In the harsh Tower two noble men are languishing, one is Rochester and the other canny More. A great space separates the two, and they are given no opportunity to speak to each other, lest they heap evils upon evils. But, taking in bad part this inability to converse, by their scheming they sought a means: namely, through the strong walls and stout doors they exchanged written messages The pen took the part of the silent tongue. And this man bore the letters in his sneaky hand. These newly-seized documents prove his guilt.
BRANDON I understand, that’s the way of it. Tell me how many writings you conveyed in your faithful hand.
SERVANT I brought fifteen to Rochester and More.
BOLEYN Traitor!
BRANDON But reveal what crimes were concealed in the letters.
SERVANT These things were hidden from me.
BOLEYN Speak up, traitor.
SERVANT I don’t know.
HOWARD Tell the truth, you villain.
BOLEYN But pain will force him to the truth.
SERVANT I can be forced to inventions, being ignorant of the truth.
BOLEYN But you know the truth.
SERVANT I swear by God my witness, nothing of what’s hidden in the documents is known to me.
BRANDON Let chains and dire punishments subdue this rascal. Take him away quickly, we’re wasting the day.
WALSINGHAM Drag him off swiftly, and let his punishment create agonies. [Exit servant and yeomen.]
BOLEYN Henry will reward our deeds with his generous hand.
BRANDON I am eager that that the griefs the king must bear be lulled to sleep. You hasten, attend to your duty, let a tighter bondage hold them both, let them be separated by a greater distance, let a watchful eye observe every detail.
WALSINGHAM I shall carefully attend to this.
BOLEYN Other tasks await us within. Let everything be readied, let an unfriendly court convict wicked Rochester of a crime.
HOWARD Accomplish this quickly.
BRANDON Henry hates delays.
WALSINGHAM I loyally receive your orders, I shall duly comply.

THE FIRST CHORUS

ROME Weep for these sudden calamities, Latium, where with a swollen flood great Po brings its rapid stream, or where the river rolls its yellow waters, familiar to the seven hills for its threats. But, rather than these, let the urgent grief of your mouth sound out. Rome, you are not lamenting the flowing Tiber, nor your renewed ruination: you grieve, being wounded by a distant injury. A great shower of tears announces that law and holy faith have been violated. Can any man weep over Catherine’s divorce or lament it with adequate grief? The queen has fallen, fallen from her throne, and in her deserted bedchamber complains that a whore’s embraces have been preferred. What is not dared by violent love and lust joined to power?
ENGLAND Restrain your sad complaints, Rome, these things are to be mourned by my tears. Dissolve into tears, melt into plaints, you chaotic throng. You girls, and you who are gripped by hoary old age, pour fourth your lamentations. Let your dust-besmirched hair lie in no order. Order is unbecoming, when there is no limit to sorrow. Let your breasts resound, beaten by your hand. Let the Thames, gliding in its peaceful bed, hear our blows, let the Humber, better known to the Arcadian Bear. Catherine is overthrown, despoiled of her throne, despoiled of her bed. She who lately shone beautiful with her necklace is now squalid with the ashes she has sprinkle upon herself. The queen is mourning her widowed marriage. England, deplore this unhappy queen, mourn this fallen queen.
SPAIN Accept the tears of the Spanish nation, accept our faces, timid with tears. It […] the Spanish alone to grieve, it befalls the Spanish alone to […]. Lo, a new whore enters our princesses’ bedchamber. What does her holy piety avail her? What avails the glory of her great forefathers? Or what does having kings as grandfathers and great-grandfathers? Such inglorious virtue is laid low, alas it is laid low, and this noble descendant of kings is driven far from her king’s court.
GERMANY But this disgrace should also invite our complaints. Oh savage crime, seen in no previous age! What inspires you, dire lust, to seek another woman’s base bedchamber, you own chaste wife undeservedly scorned? Catherine comes from no obscure flock, she is not born of the common rabble. Distinguished, she rejoices in having a Caesar for her nephew. A single sorrow should descend on all men, and Caesar should grieve with his sad people, sadder than his people themselves. This public catastrophe touches all men, This royal bride is cast aside together with Charles her nephew.

Go to Act II