Tessera caerulea — commentariolum. Tessera rubicunda — nota textualis. Tessera viridis — translatio.
ACT II, SCENE i
CRANMER, AUDLEY, CROMWELL, HERESY
AUDLEY In sum, strong royal power thrives when a single sovereign is obeyed by a unified people, a people not torn into sects, with sacred things distracted from their duty towards the king. At length a careful and fair law, worthy of being inscribed on cedar tablets, has been passed against these evils, done late, yet approved by the king.
HERESY A law worthy of my hands and my torches.
AUDLEY That one man should rule and govern a single people, this I hold to be the essence of peace. What, prelate?
CRANMER I think all of this has been properly legislated.
AUDLEY But how will foreign nations bear these novel decrees? Luther, that fierce Hercules, that inveterate enemy of the Pope, is said to be denouncing it with his words, and a hostile people is following their ardent leader.
CRANMER Always promoting the truth, he sees nothing without some admixture of error. Phoebus endures his appointed labors even on a cloudy day. It behooves the king to confirm his new marriage by law, to legitimize the offspring of their bed and bequeath them undoubted rule.
AUDLEY And so according to this law it is permissible to punish without trial whoever obstructs the orders, as being a guilty man, as being an enemy to his nation, and as being a traitor.
CROMWELL Let that man who stoutly obstructing be the first to atone with his head.
AUDLEY Let the rebel perish, he deserves no easy death.
CROMWELL But there is one concern I am troubled we are not pursuing, as, weary in mind, I ponder great matters.
CRANMER What great concern should vex a man born for the greatest undertakings?
CROMWELL If I speak, I fear that I’ll make myself unpopular with the clergy. If I hold my tongue, I am refusing the loyalty I owe the realm. This doubtful distress divides my mind as I pursue this matter.
AUDLEY What do you think is to be feared here? So that you may aid your nation as a loyal counselor, cast aside your private fears.
CROMWELL Who fails to see that the monks are living idleness and seeking profit for themselves alone, and that they are virtually ruling England? They handle and deal in many affairs greater than does our mighty king in his public business, while we fancy that they are dealing with small domestic ones, in accordance with sacred laws. Meanwhile they cannily deceive us with their pious tricks and mock the gullible. Their choir, their habit, their fair name hides any deceit you care to mention. Thus they create sacred landholdings, thanks to which their property increases at home. Whatever they stash away, they say belongs to Christ and the poor, and (which I regard as the height of fraud) they strive to hide their wealth beneath their threadbare clothes. At least if my opinion counts for anything, the king would take better consultation for himself and the realm (since he lacks such a great part of his realm), if he were to command the monks to refrain from involvement in public matters and to lead their days remote from secular affairs according to the law of their ancestors, which is what they profess, and if he were to appropriate all their treasure for royal uses.
HERESY I will appropriate you and all the royal treasury for myself.
AUDLEY Although you are wont to see great things, you are not the only one to see them. Henry is in your debt for being the first to mention this, and I promise you my help.
HERESY And I promise you mine.
ACT II, HERESY ii
CRANMER, AUDLEY, CROMWELL, HERESY, BRANDON, BOLEYN
BRANDON Among his ambiguous words, what groans he draws from his heavy heart! How he sits one minute, stands another, and with his uncertain mind he puts on and takes off fleeting expressions! But I see those I have summoned with my anxious request are present.
BOLEYN We lords have all convened here on time.
AUDLEY Does the king’s brother and friend have anything important to command?
BRANDON Honors are ebbing and flowing at brief intervals. Rochester, who fell from the Court, and nearly from his life, has conjured up their ghosts from their ruined condition.
HERESY What? I’m ruined.
CRANMER But whence these new honors added to those of which he had been stripped?
BRANDON I’m speaking of foreign affairs. Indeed I’m reporting things fetched from afar, from the very peaks of the Alps, the region of Italy, and the city that is our mistress. What more can you want? I am bringing news from the master of nations.
CROMWELL Things fetched from afar are usually costly.
CRANMER This business is very ambiguous, explain yourself.
BRANDON Though worn out with years, Rochester is hardly flagging in his ambition. Or at least the faithful pontiff has certainly not abandoned his soldier. Paul has marked out this prelate’s head for the biretta of Roman support.
CROMWELL I grieve that such a great gift of such a great father should have been wasted. May the things I quite properly require turn out for the better!
HERESY And for your benefit I’ll measure them out by hand.
CRANMER How did Henry receive this development?
BRANDON People are reporting these deeds as if they were done either by the king or by his enemy. He showed himself to be a king, in better control of his scepter than his mind.
AUDLEY If Rochester’s heart abandons its concern for righteousness, I have good reason for predicting that everything will take a turn for the better. Honors often soften a stubborn man’s ways. If this empurpled prelate would consider Henry’s pious entreaties with a calmer hart, Henry would set aside the kindled torches of his anger and return to the prelate the warmth of his affection. I admit he must check those he discovers to be presiding over felonies, with stern penalties making them expiate their deeds. But, appeased, when he has seen those who have gone astray turning their steps backward, he cherishes them in his heart.
BOLEYN But another concern burns and occupies the king’s heart no less.
CROMWELL Vengeance is ready in the king’s hand, as is welcome release for the afflicted. Had God given me the royal crown, as He has given it to the king, no sad servitude would ever put me out of sorts. I’d easily remove my heavy cares myself.
BOLEYN Teach the king how.
CROMWELL A thousand devices, a thousand schemes would come to hand. For my enemy I’d prepare rods, scaffolds, racks, swords, gallows.
HERESY With me for his teacher, he’s making progress.
CROMWELL But what cause for anger affects the royal mind?
BOLEYN The prelate has secretly sent letters to More, and More back to him.
CROMWELL It is my hope that he has sent them. Henry need not think about a punishment, I’ll cure the royal mind. Because of this there’s a new web to be woven for Rochester’s death.
BOLEYN The Warden is preparing to produce the prelate, thus everything will be done in public.
ACT II, SCENE iii
CROMWELL, CRANMER, AUDLEY, BOLEYN, BRANDON, HERESY, ROCHESTER, WALSINGHAM, YEOMEN
AUDLEY Here we have the right distinguished prelate, distinguished in his own eyes because he alone has the name of enemy to the king, and he alone obstructs all men. Why did your mind go astray from the right? Unfortunate old man, to grow so foolish!
ROCHESTER I am fortunate, eventually to grow wise. God grant I remain so minded.
CROMWELL To pray thus is a crime.
ROCHESTER Thus my mind partakes of justice.
CRANMER Beware lest justice cost you.
ROCHESTER Whether one man or all men support it does not make a cause bad.
CRANMER It matters who approves of it, one men or all.
ROCHESTER I see it matters greatly whether the king approves of it or someone else.
BOLEYN I regard as just that which the king and every order confirms.
ROCHESTER Every man’s mind is its own yardstick, to transgress this is assuredly a sin. My own reason compels me, I cannot obey my king in a way that makes me sinful towards God.
AUDLEY You should be sparing of your old age and of your languishing flock. Prelate, you should want to survive for the kingdom of God and the supernals, as a sweet gift to your nation.
ROCHESTER Old age is a huge weight, as far as I am concerned it is besieged on all sides by squalid evils. To abandon it in such a way that I benefit my nation is a profit for a failing old man.
CRANMER Rochester has always been concerned with justice, but once upon a time he was wiser on his own behalf. But let these matters pass. I ask for friendlier things. If the supreme pontiff would chance to reward your merits and your faithful exertions on his behalf with the red biretta, in what spirit would you take this?
ROCHESTER A just God will sufficiently reward my small merits.
BRANDON And a just supreme pontiff can reward merits.
ROCHESTER He can, he usually does. He is not a miserly guardian of the holy things entrusted to his care, I know.
CRANMER Therefore if in his kindness he should summon you into a portion of his lot —
ROCHESTER If he should kindly bless me with the sacred purple (which, however I hardly think he will), I would not be recalcitrant and refuse his bidding, if this distinction could confer any honor on my soul’s salvation and the good of God’s Church.
AUDLEY Finally you are convicted by this statement, prelate, you betrayer of your nation, you rebel against your king.
CROMWELL Treason demands heavy punishments, proportionate to its guilt.
BOLEYN Your ambition has drawn you farther than is just, you have lofty spirits equal to the king albeit your lesser estate has made you his inferior. I mean you have desired to steer clear of the throne and make your miter equal to his scepter.
ROCHESTER Let the island of Lincoln bear witness to what I’ve always had in my mind, to what I have now, and let Ely, scarce smaller than it, for which reason it should have shone larger in my mind. As you know, my mind has disdained […], wealth, and enlargements of honors as an inconstant good. Rochester has possessed me, very dear to my heart, little, but for that reason a burden more suited to my shoulder’s small strength. So what titles are you inventing? What honors have I sought for unawares? At least my mind is free of sin.
CROMWELL A guilty mind cannot be free of sin. Your mind, your hand, your letters accuse you of manifold crime, and of a crime committed not just once in a single act. Or do you deny having given More a number of letters, and again of having a number of his? These crimes suffice to show you are rebels against your king.
ROCHESTER. I am a traitor, I confess, if you call those men traitors who exchange letters. But who is such a biased judge of my lot that he thinks it criminal for colleagues and friends, whose minds have been joined from our earliest years, whose studies brought together, and who have been linked by the common evil of imprisonment, to have seen beloved letters?
HERESY A double crime!
ROCHESTER More to be held up to me as a source of reproach and blame? On whose endeavors the safety of the ream has depended? According to whose will the world abroad has been arranged? To whom his nation is indebted for all things?
ROCHESTER Though the sea has given England its limits, the world-dividing ocean has set no limits on More’s fame. More’s genius and piety are coterminous with the world itself. I’m supposed to think having given letters to him is a crime?
CROMWELL At least by a new law we hold Rochester accountable. By their common voice the orders have established the king as the supreme president over sacred affairs between the seas of England. In what way does your mind incline?
ROCHESTER Undoubtedly that I should call this new law unworthy of a pious prince.
AUDLEY But we are wasting a long time without success. Since these things have been established as certain, they should be dealt with.
CROMWELL Let this case be deferred.
BRANDON Let the Lieutenant of the Tower lead his men away. [Exit Walsingham and the yeomen, with Rochester.]
HERESY My mind is returning to me, and so is crime.
BRANDON Oh the naive, stubborn old man! Boleyn, why are our lazy swords paralyzed? A raging storm of wrath and fury shakes my heart, nor will it idly suffer such great anger. Brandon swears by the stars, if he stays of a similar mind, this right hand will drive a sword through that severe man, unless he softens his heart and obeys his king, this horrid plague, this deadly bane upon the kingdom. And what are you doing? Do you like this pledge?
CROMWELL Whatever happens, my, lords, this matter is to be advanced like the contrivance of a pious mind, or like a touchstone applied to gold. Either he will give us his broken hand, or if he resists, as I hope he will, he will give us his head.
HERESY Let him yield, let him resist, either is to my advantage.
CRANMER But that these things may turn out happily in accordance with our wishes, the prelate is not the only one in their camp who fights by delaying our triumphs. Alas, what a fearful throng of friars is stealthily approaching with their massed standards: the holy house of Carmel, the Carthusian cloisters, the excellent glory of the Franciscans, the famous company of St. Brigit, all of these bawl, moved by the mind of one man, and one man does the bawling, moved by the mind of them all. The king’s decision is either to sway his mind from its new-found ambition, or to subject his head to the royal wrath.
CROMWELL I’ll make them submit to the gallows, they’ll all die.
HERESY Act with energy, as befits men that belong to me.
ACT I, SCENE iv
CRANMER, AUDLEY, CROMWELL, BRANDON, HERESY, GUARD, PENSIONERS, HOWARD, BRYAN, SWORD-BEARER, HENRY, MADNESS
HENRY Rochester — But I’m mistaken, I let that ignoble name slip. That old, cheap title has gone out of usage, for this old man’s benefit English Rochester has been changed to Rome. Oh how the purple gown beautifies him! Now the “prelate” has a feeble sound, but “Cardinal” has a grand one. The former has no fine flavor, every lad and gaffer has tastes of humble things. The name and title of Kentish Rochester has been changed to Vitalis, the old to the new. I want to change these same fortunes for a third time, and since, Vitalis is new in title but old in fact, I’ll make him into a new man who’ll change his name and nature.
HERESY When his head falls from his shoulders.
HENRY Cranmer, in what spirit did the prelate receive these new titles? Did they terrify him?
CRANMER He favors the Pope more than the king, and his pious mind does not reject the biretta.
HENRY If, perhaps, he imagines he can wear the biretta and his head together, I’ll leave the old man only his shoulders and trunk. The Tower or the Thames will have his hateful head.
MADNESS His madness has been gentle up to now.
HENRY Raise yourself up, my slothful mind, cast this eternal yoke from your shoulders along with the Pope, so that I will be able to erase the hateful Farnese clan from the roster of mankind’s names. But whatever the pontiff might contrive in his roaring and raging, in its own eyes reason stands innocent enough. Audley, hasten and write a law straightway. Whatever sheet, page, line or letter in the writings of the Fathers of the Church might support Rome and the Pope, I command that this be immediately be expunged. I allow only the title of bishop: let him be a bishop, I’m Henry. Who would give him something which he would deny to me? Or if he should deny it, won’t I give it to myself? Rochester? Oh, the man I name! There was a day, Henry, once there was a day. That was the day when you loved him, and then Rochester loved me too. He does not love me, let the old man perish. Let him perish, Henry? Let him perish, I want my every wish to come to naught, unless he perishes. But see that it be done justly. Rochester, alas! Must I destroy my sweet old man, and my father? But he is sprinkling my remaining days with bitter gall, he by whose government I long lived a happy life. I am almost doubtful, and distressed in my private mind. But what good does it do kings to have lived happily, if in the end it is forbidden them to live thus? Inwardly my mind is seething with love for Anne, this compels it, and because of my love for Anne the prelate displeases me.
MADNESS Let the hateful prelate die for the love of Anne.
HENRY But calm your mind, Henry, if this can be done. Let your Rochester still live. I charge this task to you, Cromwell. Convince the old man if you can, mollify him if you can. But if is severe, stiffly persisting in his mind, urge on him the new capital law, and that in accordance with it he will be charged as guilty of crime. I want this to be done immediately.
CROMWELL I shall obey.
BRYAN Bold Henry has triumphed. If king’s didn’t live by their clever minds, you could imagine I’d prefer to be Bryan rather than Henry.
HENRY If God had granted you the scepter He has granted me, what would you think should be done now?
BRYAN Would God had given it to me! I would choose that which Henry, albeit late, decided must be done.
HENRY I want you to hasten to the Tower, Howard, and repeat my words to the prelate. Assure him I can be both easy and angry, that I can mete out both forgiveness and death. And report the prelate’s attitude to my trusty Audley, so that he might know what else to say. [Exeunt omnes, leaving Howard behind.]
HOWARD What power over human pursuits and men’s minds has God conceded to time, that a man in his youth might differ from himself as an old man, and an old man be at variance with himself! If I have come to know you, Henry, I know that your would be pious, had not Boleyn driven you with an impious seething in your distracted mind, if dire rage against Rome had not made your peaceful heart savage, if hatred of unoffending Rochester had not driven your mind to harsh counsels unworthy of your annals. Oh the day! Oh the foul times! Whoever had known Henry and his Rochester before (for the king and the old man were as one), would have imagined that quicker could the day be separated from the sun, and the sun from heaven, forgetful of their law, than the lordly king and the royal father (I mean Rochester) could be torn asunder, for men so alike in their minds, their pursuits, and their whole beings to be sundered. But the sound of the hinge advises me that men are present, perhaps men I do not wish to see, perhaps men I do.
ACT II, SCENE v
HOWARD, DARCY, MUSGRAVE
HOWARD Greetings, friends.
MUSGRAVE Good health to you, trusty friend.
DARCY Greetings, Howard, you are here as I wish. What’s happening at Court? What about the king? What new thing are the courtiers contriving?
HOWARD They’ve all pledged each other their hands.
DARCY For what reason?
HOWARD To destroy the enemies of the king and his realm’s peace.
MUSGRAVE Namely their own, on the grounds that they are the king’s? Shall they ever pursue the public good of the realm? I mean they want More, Rochester, and every man who strives either for the good of the king or of his realm. And I hope the same shackles don’t fetter you! It’s often better, Howard, ah, it’s often to adopt an attitude which condemns a man condemned for doing pious deeds. He who stands too near bears a part of the guilt, keep your clean hands away.
HOWARD I do what I am compelled to do.
MUSGRAVE He who wishes to can easily be compelled.
HOWARD I condemn what I do.
DARCY Flee far from what you condemn.
HOWARD He flees who does not approve.
DARCY He should flee so that he might not have to approve in mind and deed.
HOWARD I fear all the evils that pursue a reluctant man.
MUSGRAVE If you are steadfast, no evils will pursue you in your reluctance. Your mind should learn not to tolerate what it has learned to suffer.
HOWARD Evils for my body, reputation, and goods greater than I can trust myself to bear, and I imagine so many torments for my one person.
DARCY You imagine them, you will scarcely experience them. You alone should follow the standards of Rochester and More.
HOWARD How many are they? Two.
DARCY These are not two. Just as one man follows your cause, a thousand follow that of Rochester and More.
HOWARD You want me wittingly to allow myself and my family to be branded with the mark of infamy.
MUSGRAVE If you desire a true, enduring mark of shame, stigmatized error will create a name for infamy. Worship the faith which blesses, the Catholic faith, I mean the faith of our ancestors. If they have shone bright in this age because of their forefathers’ faith, in what party will you place your degenerate self?
HOWARD I have become fixed in my devotions, I am resolved to follow the king. I see this is necessary. [Exit.]
MUSGRAVE He’s gone? Oh, the vain fellow, young, empty-headed! Unhappy, he does not know what it is to grasp at empty air. Now at length it is clear on your showing, Howard, what difference there is between a boy’s mind and that of a grown man. Rochester, oh you prelate never loved enough by me! For long time I have revered you for your merits, and now, father, I revere you more. Rochester, glory of England.
DARCY That’s too little. Rochester, glory of the world.
MUSGRAVE With you lost, the world will groan.
DARCY The world will groan.
MUSGRAVE England will mourn having him lately taken away.
DARCY And all the world will mourn.
MUSGRAVE The father of his nation.
DARCY You make his sea-girt nation so small.
MUSGRAVE How great he is at home!
DARCY But greater abroad.
MUSGRAVE For a hostile nation to kill its father by an ungrateful death? I’m unable to fear so great a wrong. In doubt, I shall fly to Court to see the end of the business, to see if some way with my right hand I can expiate this crime.
DARCY And in me Rochester will find a friend of his cause and an avenger of his death.
THE SECOND CHORUS
ROME Now, at least, a limit will be put on our tears and our oppressions. Joys will relieve our sorrow. Who will exalt you with praises, who will be your herald? What trumpet will celebrate you, Rochester, glory of your nation and excellent shepherd of your flock? Neither splendid rewards nor threats break you. You alone, more steadfast than the rest, stoutly accuse your king. After the centuries glide by, a new age will speak of you, as will your never-perishing honor.
ENGLAND With her celebrated Muse, fame will sing the name of Rochester to the British people, while Clotho ceases to glory in his thread, now spent. He strove to relieve the fallen queen and join once more their pious wedding torches. He strove to restrain the king’s mad loves of new women. Someday let future posterity learn at their ancient father’s knee what they should tell their children, and what their bard should celebrate in his holy song.
SPAIN Seas will envelop the rainy mountains and a whale will go a-flying amidst the outspread cypresses, before virtue will disappear from our hearts. You dared defend the Spanish race with your valiant effort, and to scorn your sovereign’s red-hot wrath. Someday you will be spoken of as the protector of Spanish honor, the champion of scorned Catherine. Who can leave off singing your praises, who can publish your fame with a worthy song? History’s tome will speak of you without end, and will count you, an Englishman, among the Spanish ancients.
GERMANY Persuasion’s eloquence cannot destroy Rochester’s stout heart, nor do royal thunderbolts strike him. Masses of gold do not shake his mind. In his eyes, holy faith was better than the government of his king, than his own life, as he gravely railed against Henry’s adulterous marriage. Oh deed worthy of a perpetual trumpet! As long as Charles, noble for his title, wields his scepter, you will be celebrated as a protector of the name of Caesar. The defended honor of the noble princess requires this.
Go to Act III