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ACT III, SCENE i
The hand of our sovereign, far too kindly, ought to remove the Stuart, who is harmful to England’s affairs. Everything is going to ruin, as my private mind has long foretold. Our nation is in a state of collapse, and reformed religion will be overthrown if (which God forbid!) in a war for her support France should bring the haughty Guises and the men of her dowry-cities here, and the King of Spain likewise contribute his forces together with the Scottish boy (who should have been arrested and imprisoned along with her), not yet forgetful of his mother. The both of them should have yielded their scepters to you, my lady Tudor, but meanwhile he strides about as the mighty heir of two realms. But you should forecast better things, my fear. You should speak better of uncertain chances. Set aside your anxiety about this guilty woman, although she should have deservedly been destroyed and deservedly paid heavy forfeits to our angry God for her mischiefmaking. [Enter Amyas.]
AM. This woman’s virtue or deceit will cost her her head, she who lately contrived evil crimes for the ruin and destruction of England, our religion, and our royal house. For lately she entrusted a task to Gifford, a man of tested faith towards our kingdom, be it England or in France.
DRU. Tell me how.
AM. He haunts the exiles’ houses. But we must be careful lest someone learn our secrets.
DRU. Continue. This place is free of any eavesdroppers.
AM. He feigned to express his concerns, shared by the rest of that ilk remaining in England who are aggrieved that the Queen of Scots has long been held in bondage because of her faith and her throne. He said that, if somebody should supply the help, she could safely be rescued. He cleverly added that some Englishmen overseas shared his concerns and had offered their advice to Mary in letters, which he deceitfully elicited, written in the hands of our guest Morgan, Paget, and the Bishop of Glasgow, and equipped with these missives he returned here to Babington.
DRU. And what happened after the letters were delivered?
AM. I had a look at them before they were delivered.
DRU. And what evil did you see?
AM. Either sharing their goal or overcome by their deceit, she wrote to each of her followers, and after carefully reading and copying her intercepted letters, I sent them on to the places from which I knew the exiles’ letters had come a little earlier. And whatever replies were made by either side I seized and showed to my friends for their examination, sharing them with Walsingham and others who have an interest in trying and condemning the guilty woman. I am awaiting the outcome. How, pray, could you invent a better revelation of her crimes? Or how can the Stuart now deny that these Scotsmen and Englishman are working their mistress’ downfall? For it’s impossible that there’s nothing in these letters which can be justly fixed upon. Will not some grounds for her swift execution be provided, when our leading men conclude her crime has been found out? Lest her followers, who are similar to their mistress, attempt anything further, by my doing they have scattered into individual hiding-places in various regions.
DRU. If Gifford perseveres at Paris, by what pretext will he excuse his frequent returns?
AM. His usual one, that he comes to aid the pious.
DRU. If he returns too often, this will look suspicious.
AM. Then he will be labeled an exile, we will make a show of having banished him as if he had been caught out in some felony, for he’s guilty of having carried letters there. This sentence of exile will not disturb him, nor if some other lie is broadcast.
DRU. Won’t this perhaps hinder the brave fellow?
AM. No, it will help him all the more. For henceforth he can use this invention to conceal his every enterprise. [Exit Amyas. Enter Beale and Buckhurst.]
DRU. Beale, you enjoy our sovereign’s confidence. Those who are are near our mistress get to learn their concerns and hidden feelings. What do you bring? For what do you come to Fotheringhay?
BEALE Our sovereign and the governor of our new religion, the sole woman before whom tremble the happy English people and whatever the ocean circles with its fruitful brine, bids me seek out Shrewsbury and the rest.
DRU. What further thing is she preparing to decide about the captive?
BEALE To eliminate that worst of plagues by the steel.
BUCK. The Privy Council has passed sentence on Mary and the pillar of our English throne has ratified it. Being approved, it is affixed to public doors and read aloud to public gatherings summoned by a trumpet. Now this guilty woman’s death must be announced within. [Exeunt.]
STU. Supreme among gods, do You still permit me, troubled about my house and my subjects, to inhabit this cruel land and impious shore? King James and Alexander Duke of Albany once endured indignities under this same yoke, is there no limit to harsh servitude for the Scots? What illumination will make these Englishmen be as they were when Canute ruled this great island, with whom Justice, that goddess first heaven-sent by our great God, jointly ruled the human race with holy faith? Who would have seen a royal daughter-in-law enchained? Now the virgin Astraea flees the earth, men’s savage manners, and England, often awash with blood. She has since been replaced by a mad hunger for ownership, a scorn for the religion of our fathers, and the greatest evil has arisen for our world, luxury, that pleasant plague, given strength and size by the long passage of time and a twofold error. The vices that have increased through so many ages redound against my single self. Impiety defeats good men, and a new virgin is overmastered by base wantonness, a virgin with a foot of sulphur, whose errant fires could not be quenched if the whole word’s oceans were poured upon them. [Enter Buckhurst and Amyas.]
BUCK. The letters sent back and forth, carried to France by that spy, have been seen and scrutinized by our national fathers and the Privy Council, composed of our most distinguished men, with the result that this is nothing short of danger to our royal person, and your guilt is clearer than the the midday sun, as are all your secret messages they received. You can hear the result of their judgment and the sentence of the Queen and her Counselors, which they command to be published to all the peoples of England, so that they might relax the great fear of you which they have felt for themselves and for us. And now, so that before you die you may confess your sins, endure your punishment with greater fortitude, and may have hope that God will be friendly, our queen grants you two priests for your assistance.
STU. What manner of life, what religion do these men profess?
BUCK. Ours, which has been purified of our ancestors’ filth.
STU. If I have offended the Almighty, which deed I regret and repent, or if by some evildoing I have perchance offended Christ’s flock, I more than acknowledge it. This business has no need of those ministers, nor does the present hour advise me to give such fellows a hearing.
BUCK. You refuse to honor divine evangelists?
STU. So you call these agents of sin ministers? I regard them as unspeakable enemies, the ruin of their nation. Oh I would be blessed, were you to grant me a priest of my persuasion! I shall gladly accept him, and by the Son of our supreme Father I ask that at the point of death I may take Communion.
AM. In vain you are questing after the name of a martyr and the divinity of a saint.
STU. Why begrudge me that praise? Do you imagine that the power you evilly exercise over my body extends to my soul? Do you thus forbid me to anticipate with good hope our heavenly Father’s concern for me? I hope for these things. The God in heaven Who shed his blood for me will see mine shed for Him and for the ancient rites of our great Church. I would not exchange this glory for any crowns, not even if the whole earth were mine to rule for my erstwhile honor’s sake. For should I imagine kingship to be anything but an empty name filled with false honor, having my hair bound with meaningless gold? Swift misfortune will snatch these away. I pray that whatever I endure in my decayed state with these worn-out limbs of mine will atone for these things, if I am not invoking the beings of heaven with a sinful voice, no matter what punishments I may deserve for my sins.
BUCK. Thus far, in your greed for power you have been striving to kill our mistress with your deceitful schemes, a crime with cannot be washed clean by the Severn’s tossing waters or the copious stream of Antona.
STU. Neither privately in my mind, nor by my advice, nor bymy command has any attempt been made on her life, nor have I undertaken any wrongdoing thus far, no matter how trifling. I have not suffered to hear of any such, nor shall I allow it. My mind has always been dead set against allowing it.
BUCK. But your writings and those of your followers provide sufficient evidence. Intercepted letters of Morgan, Babington, yourself and Paget have come to our hands, by which the crime was moved forward.
STU. Thus may the saints despise me, and He under Whose gaze nothing of the kind can be perpetrated with impunity, our Judge Who is mindful of right and wrong, no handwriting can convict me of any deceit. Being her sister, I have never undertaken anything the safety and reputation of my kinswoman. If my followers have written something, men who would free me, a long-time captive, from servitude and return me to my former right of freedom, this was done without my knowledge. Once more I swear by all that is holy, and I ask the saints to punish me if I have any genuine guilt, if my followers have done anything with my awareness. But where would rulers be if they were convicted for their servants’ deceits? I do not think they could or would dare anything of the kind. I would request they be fetched for further examination.
AM. Torture has extracted the secrets of those guilty fellows.
BUCK. So far you have allowed yourself to be called the mistress of our citizens and you have sought after this, as Louis was wont to do, because Allen and his comrades thus choose to write of you, and the Pope desires that this title be employed in prayers for you throughout his cities.
STU. Whatever our Roman Father has decided about me, whatever these devoted men call me, it is not my responsibility to renounce that title. Mine is to obey the laws that govern Christians.
BUCK. No man doubts that you have made an attempt against the present condition of the realm, and that for a long time you have secretly been striving to overthrow it, pretending your right, your pedigree and your false descent, on the strength of which you usurp the arms of the kings of England. And our citizens, justly on their guard against this ambition of yours, press us with their entreaties and fear, that you should delay no longer in breathing forth your soul, as you deserve — a soul greedy to gain power by fair means or foul. And so let the penalties be exacted, lest you overthrow the nation and its households.
STU. Me? Overthrow the people I am seeking to rule? In seeking to gain the nation, should I destroy it, should I wish it to be reduced to naught so it may be mine?
BUCK. Since you are a rival for her government, disturbing the peace of our people, she who (second only to Christ) is the foundation of our nation, is compelled by our laws to command your death.
STU. Is she likewise under any compulsion to grasp at other sovereigns’ realms?
BUCK. And this is the prime reason she refuses to let you continue living or be left in imprisonment. As long as your live, your ceremonies and different faith harms our established state religion.
STU. With what are you reproaching me? For this reason I am lauded beyond my merits. Now I wish to die. Whenever death comes, Christ, it will come as something wished for, as long as I die as Yours. No greater honor is reserved for me, and if the English nation expects some advantage from my one death, I freely and cheerfully surrender my soul as the price for the prison and custody that have been granted me for so many years. And, although I am scarcely deserving of such praise, I rejoice to be called and to be a constant stout champion of the ancient faith of our forefathers. Now, although my sister may be fearful, let her feel less and less resentment. I have done a wrong, I confess. This is the only crime for which I can be reproached. Let my neck submit to the axe, let this woman, this head of a novel doctrine, not preserve me as heir to her throne. Thus with fierce passion Saul mindlessly raged against Abraham’s descendent David, but he fled and hid from the threats of his more powerful enemy. Let no window of escape lie open for me in my captivity, none such as Michol might provide. Heavenly Father, I call You to witness, You whom my inmost thoughts cannot elude, I am ready to suffer whatever a woman cast down from the summit of power and an exile subjected to another’s yoke can endure. I am here, ready to suffer ten thousand deaths, if by giving up that many souls I might destroy the savage plagues of impious heresy and bring back our ancient faith. [Exeunt.]
What dwelling-place remains for us captives? Have we not dragged out enough mournful years, removed in this English world,
Just as the race of great Isaac served in the lands of harsh Pharaoh, alas, subjected to barbaric masters and a bestial king?
Here there is no Moses and no Aaron, no goodly woman to free David, no man defends the innocent Mary Queen of Scots at court.
Is the number and the treachery of her enemies perhaps over-harsh on her servants? Does no faith remain alive in our nation?
God’s faith is invoked in vain where mad ambition gains the throne, that insatiable love of possession.
So does men’s fraud triumph in victory, since one bear is far more just to another and one tiger less harmful to other than we are to ourselves?
The host metes out ruin to his guest, a man deals out unkind pain to his fellows, and it is a rare grace that unites brother to his kindred brother.
Where such deceit exists, what manner of trust exists in rulers? How many enjoying a royal lot have smiled on a man wretchedly lying on straw, and then, by a change of fortune, have imitated Job in his downfall?
The people who adore prosperous kings desert them when they fall from their throne, if some breeze shakes the lofty crown on their royal brow.
Oh head of the English world, now adored by lords on bended knee, they would scorn you too, should any gale knock your crown to the ground.
Just as you rule in an unjust court, so once the Lairds thought it right to proclaim the Stuart a ruler over a double realm.