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ACT V, SCENE i
MUSGRAVE Darcy, what heat inflamed their minds when with curses they sought the pious prelate’s death, whom they had previously vowed to consign to a bitter one?
DARCY I heard everything said against this innocent man which envy, that fertile plague against good men, invents, or which the blind rage of an impotent mind commands against the pious. In Henry’s presence Cromwell, that son of Hell, and Audley, that contriver of malfeasance, spewed forth against Rochester’s innocent person, the awful crime! I heard this all with my ears, although unwilling ones, for from us is stolen our life, our fortunes, our safety.
MUSGRAVE What hope of salvation remains when the body is set aside, when a lethal wound, scorning the healing hand, besieges the citadel of the body, this is left, with a prelate taken away who played the part of the head in the Christian body. For every prelate perished when he perished for us. Why do I say for us? Everybody is mourning the man we mourn. These are not private evils that are falling upon us, they are public ones. What does this treacherous, bitter aspect of collapsing things portend? I see churches that should be hot with Arabian incense fuming with straw in a squalid condition (oh the sorrow), holy with an unholy fire, and I see the church which offers its untouched wealth to the Thunderer leveled to the ground and paying tribute to the lord who commanded this. Oh the impious orders of the Council, by whom headless religion has been evicted from her ancestral home! Has Megaera, the worst of the Sisters, contaminated the air with her foul breath, the bulwarks of the silent sky having been torn down, and have you breathed it? What error has deceived your mind, Henry? It has deceived your pious name with its falsehood. Cruel, unspeakable, dire savagery has enraged your mind, madness besieges your whole heart, and bloodthirsty heresy provides your rage with crimes. For, lest new examples of crimes be lacking in the world, England is Tauris. Here the sacrificial priest makes his offerings with human blood. As the steel trembles and the fire blushes at the wrong, both refusing to pollute their hands with dire crime, heresy slaughters a victim that resembles herself, the unspeakable wrong!
DARCY Oh friend, always trusty in dubious matters, why utter unprofitable complaints?
MUSGRAVE Allow me, often sorrow relieves itself in complaint.
DARCY Sorrow often betrays and destroys itself by complaint. But let the sorrows of my sad mind be exercised in this way, at least.
MUSGRAVE Let my prescient sorrow sound forth these lamentations for his death, while perform my final duty of his exsequies. Ah England is perished, perished is England’s unique glory and bulwark. He was the man, he was. While he was standing, England stood safely, and when he fell, so did it. Religion, piety, and faith suffered their downfall. Everything is collapsing headlong, vice flies about with impunity, trampling holy laws underfoot.
DARCY Heresy, that offspring of Luther which deserves damnation to eternal imprisonment, raises its head from Orcus. For it flies about, secure from punishment, and whatever hands it knows to be armed with a consecrated pen on behalf the faith heresy, teeming with its deceits, loads down with chains.
MUSGRAVE In the name of the hospitals built for the poor, what man have you destroyed? A prelate, a father, a leader. What cruel storm has raged against us all, a storm which your fortune, secure against downfall, does not avoid, having no place to escape?
DARCY A tempest sent from Hell’s dungeons brings down everything in a great collapse, with equal misfortune it overturns the man0s of the mighty and the cottages of the poor.
MUSGRAVE But my immense sorrow turns itself in another direction. For your sake, Mother Church, for yours, my wearied sorrow, my lament labors on. What lamentation is worthy of your losses, What lamentation is worthy to greet the death of your prelate and fill the nearby regions, he whose mind, serene and wise in the transaction of affairs?.
DARCY Shall I consider his earnest pursuit of the virtues? His home was a sacred shrine.
MUSGRAVE His learning? It was an academy.
DARCY His piety? A hostel for the poor.
MUSGRAVE How he was a lover of justice! It was open as an asylum for those oppressed by an unjust hand.
DARCY This light of this world, this glory of our England, I say, met his death with a lamentable end. You dear choirs, enriched by the purple cloak, leaving your supernal homes, fly here. You martyrs, behold the epitome of your agonies. A single man comes into the arena who by himself overcomes the dagger, the fury of fire, the sword, the beasts. Lo, Polycarp, you are to be burned, and submit to the flames once more. Behold, Baptist, you given over to be stricken by the sword once more. Once more, Ignatius, you hasten to provide food, food for the almost-reluctant beasts. But why am I summoning the unwilling? Impatient of delay, the hungry tiger does not rage over the sharp ridges, its famine is always cheated by its uncertain prey, so much as these men, fiercer than a tiger, seek to slake their hunger with the life of our innocent prelate.
ACT V, SCENE ii
DARCY, MUSGRAVE, WALSINGHAM, GUARD, ROCHESTER
MUSGRAVE Behold, the living dead comes out. And out comes a wolf, about to put to death an innocent lamb.
ROCHESTER Alas, you feet, exhausted of your strength! You should travel your short journey without a guide, you should hasten to fly the rest of the way.
WALSINGHAM Venerable prelate, just now a messenger handed me a letter from the king, in which he cautions that, when a space is given you to say your last words, nothing should be uttered for the people’s ears detrimental to himself or the realm, or which might render unpopular the recent decree of his supreme power, by which new compact the king joins the keys of Peter to the fasces of Caesar.
ROCHESTER I shall carefully beware lest anything slips from me which might legitimately offend our excellent king’s mind. Now, supreme Christ, closing the final gate of my aged life and reading Y&our Book, I pray You give Your servant consolation, so that when the headsmen bids my willing mind to leave its mortal bonds, Your soldier’s death may be offered up to Your honor. That is enough and more, this great consolation which a few words purvey puts an end to my heart’s delays.
MUSGRAVE Oh, a royal letter, worthy of our king! Oh commands rife with horrid, cruel things! For to “when a space is given you to say your last words, nothing should be uttered for the people’s ears detrimental to himself or the realm, or which might render unpopular the recent decree of his supreme power, by which new compact the king joins the keys of Peter to the axe of Caesar,” the innocent man’s gentle reply! “I shall carefully beware lest anything slips me which might legitimately offend our excellent king’s mind.”
DARCY Let our complaints cease, let our sorrow stand mute. That’s enough of anger. Having had oil poured on it, our fire has spread enough. Why am I idly delaying? Let us seek out the North. The North extols this man as a martyr, the North will avenge him. The cruel tyrant’s fierce mind, never in the habit of being appeased, can never perform an everyday crime. As when a springtime flood provokes a stream, snow being melted by the sun, the river disdains to be bridled, and with a roar smashes the barriers set before it, and, having widely devastated the fields it encounters, never subsides within its own bed without murderous slaughter, since it shuns trifling crimes, so this savage Herod begins to pursue the innocents, he whose armed wrath, raging through the Court, sees him involving everything with crime.
ACT V, SCENE iii
DARCY, MUSGRAVE, GUARD, BRYAN, CROMWELL, AUDLEY, WILTON, BRANDON, HEADSMAN, MADNESS, HENRY, CRANMER, HERESY
DARCY You are vainly delaying the crime you have begun, Henry. Our most distant shore will groan with our arms. Piety carries me —
MUSGRAVE Our common vengeance will incite everybody against these savage men.
HENRY I used to imagine that the prelate’s death would bring me some relief from my cares, but I feel my heart more and more driven by savage waves of care. Not thus is the water roiled when the south wind rages, having left its home, seeking to regain its rights of possession to the sea, and seeks the shore, seeking to cast off the threats of its new master’s rule, but it is cheated in its empty hope for peace. In what way can I bring relief to my sad mind? What do you suggest, Bryan, you merry soul? Ransack your imagination, so teeming with wit, and pour forth jokes, rogues, and sorrows, so that you may remove the gnawing cares which occupy my inmost being.
BRYAN Perhaps if my invention’s great is unequal to your sorrow, and cannot banish this savage grief from your mind, at least it can be driven back and make room for happiness when you have seen how prettily Paul Farnese’s Roman purple sits on an empty head.
CROMWELL Or if not, at least when news of the death of that traitor, welcome to all, comes flying, your grief will yield.
MADNESS You fellows, devoted to crime! Madness inflames you.
HENRY Oh you always-bitter lot of royal rank! You are a jealous stepmother who never allows a sunny day to pass for kings without a cloud. The fortune of kings sports, not without her lofty commands, and those whom she sees raised high she rejoices to have witnessed perishing under their own weight, and she never looks on them with a happy face unless they are laid low.
AUDLEY Why lament the condition of kings? What is lacking for him who wields the supreme scepter?
HENRY I am lamenting this, that I, holding the highest scepter in my hand, can never enjoy this supreme scepter as I want.
CROMWELL How dares oppose it? Indeed, what man who has the will has the ability?
HENRY This is the greatest evil for a man who rarely has power, that even feigned loyalty is scarcely at his service, and never love.
BRYAN But loyalty attends a king, even if it is compelled. Let fear compel it if love cannot.
HENRY Inconstant fear is always a friend of the Court, which, while approving a prince with placid words, is hatching unspeakable crime in the recesses of its mind. [He suddenly has a vision.] What monster is this? A horrid apparition of Hell. Come here, lords, the shape of a cruel man hovers before my wild eyes.
BRYAN These are apparitions of your sorrow, which your most sad mind invents for itself. Turn away your troubled senses, prince. His shaggy head bristles with hair, his cheeks are stained with flowing filth, his two eyes are like a torch, and his body is black with neglect. Long starvation makes the unsightly row of his ribs visible, and his very guts all but show themselves to my eyes. A club weighs down his right hand.
CROMWELL Dismiss this unspeakable apparition of a troubled mind, which deceives your vision.
HERESY May Madness sport and reign!
HENRY Cruel death, placated by such great, and horrible things! What a plague of sadness, recently watered by blood, teems in my mind!
ACT V, SCENE iv
HENRY, WALSINGHAM, EXECUTIONER, GUARD, BRYAN, CROMWELL, AUDLEY, WILTON, BRANDON, HANGMAN, MADNESS, CRANMER, HERESY
WALSINGHAM [Bearing Rochester’s head.] Just now that fellow hateful to earth, heaven and Hell, at whose locks hanging from a high stake the Thames itself will shudder, has suppressed his great hatreds. The pride of his face is departed, nor did he cast any seed of dissension among the people.
HENRY Is a false ghost deceiving me, or do I fail to recognize this head? His expression has grown gentle, it thrives with its ancient bloom. I cannot stand this. My eyesight is dazzled, as when it looks directly at Phoebus’ light on a clear day. I am deceived, or this is the hair of a youth, not an old man.
CROMWELL I likewise perceive the excellent beauty of his face, and his rosy cheeks, painted by a noble light. No wonder. The life he led was burdened by cares and weakened by a thousand evils. Savage malice worked on his passions. Now his hatred has yielded, overcome by death, and nature returns to his face its stolen beauty.
CRANMER You speak from the tripod. His mind, secretly raging inwardly with its venom, often barely in control of itself, revealed its anguish. Hence his face was rigid with a frowning brow, his eyes grew sunken, and with its dire bane emaciation ravaged his face. And if someone should drive his wicked soul out of its body, its ancient honor returns, and brightness illuminates his flourishing hair.
HENRY In truth, death is the sole cure for both internal plagues. But tell me with what countenance the people took the death inflicted on the traitor?
WALSINGHAM When it saw the manner of his execution, the people’s laments, groaning, shouting ensued. Cheeks were bathed in a rain of tears, and they have not yet made an end of their weeping.
HENRY It’s so readily disposed to tears. Soon I’ll bring it about that new tragedies prevent these complaints.
BRYAN A womanish crowd of paupers is wailing that this old man, their friend, is taken away from them.
HENRY Seek out the Bridge, let a stake see this hateful head held high so that all the people must tolerate this.
BRYAN Queen Anne, your majesty, greatly desires to see this head, into which the poison wholly poured itself. With the many blows it is receiving, I know, it is paying for the insults it hurled.
HENRY Stop and have an audience with the queen, then seek the Bridge. Let there be no delay in carrying out my order. The common folk are mourning this traitor? So it has the leisure to mourn another man’s misfortune. I’ll make it have leisure for its own. Let my edicts be published throughout every shire of the realm. And let the North be the first to feel my threats, that stubborn-minded race that clings to the Roman error, if their public bugle sounds any opposition, and their sharp furor and impious hot-headedness makes a noise. Let the chill North Country be the first to read my letter, in which I command that every order must swear their oath to a formula which acknowledges their prince as consecrated head of the English church, possessing both the rights Caesar claims for himself, and also those the supreme pontiff claims as his.
ALL We all swear.
HERESY Hey, Heresy, you have won.
HENRY And if they refuse to submit their rebellious neck to the laws, I’ll fill everything with their laments. [Exeunt omnes but Madness and Heresy.]
MADNESS So let’s embrace each other. At length we can enjoy the hoped-for association, a day has dawned worthy of being marked with a white stone.
HERESY A sound state of affairs at rest, as well as a prelate done in by a bloody death, create confidence.
MADNESS And a madness-blinded king rushing to his doom.
HERESY And hostile religion ruined forever.
MADNESS Throw open the recesses of Hell’s heaven, you bevy of three Sister, let victorious Orcus roar with happy bellows. Lo, your brother, decorated with excellent spoils, contrives your return. Weave a garland of Stygian leaves, which with their varied droop may encircle your victorious brows. The ruler of the shades can boast of no similar son. With piety put to rout, I sing of my patron and and of the conquered faith, and of a fraternal army consumed by civil strife (I shall hasten to satiate the hatred in my father’s guts), of the government of Avernus extended, of England submitting to the laws of great Dis, and of their tyrant being placed under the Furies’ bridle.
HERESY You have agitated enough against the earth’s foul arches, Heresy, now you should visit the realms of Dark Jove. Let my booty enrich your deadly legions.