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ACT V, SCENE i
DERBY, THE STUART, MELVIN
DERBY Now the night is banished and day is shining bright, the rest of the assembled Lords await you who were once a queen. We have come, summoned to visit punishment upon you after the nourishing day has dawned.
STU. Since I must obey other masters, Melvin and your companion, you may employ the final remedy to grant me relief, now that I have been broken by three months’ disease and weariness of imprisonment.
MELV. Oh the bitter lot! Oh, this grave duty which makes the hairs stand upright on our wretched heads!
STU. I seek no companion in death save You, oh Christ, You hope of mortals, stretched on the Cross, by Whose help I have been preserved as a prisoner for nineteen years. I seek a martyr’s palm and laurel. Good-bye, my servants. Our enemies’ fury forbids you to attend the spectacle of my death. You must obey your masters as you do God, by Whose hand men’s fates are set a-whirling. You must not complain about the bidding of those who command you, as long as what they wish is proper. [Enter Shrewsbury.]
SHREW. If we are to do the bidding of our sovereign announced to you yesterday, you must leave your chamber. You have lingered too long.
STU. Assume a spirit, Mary, equal to your woes, yield up your life. Christ, help me in my hour of death, You Who are destined to expiate mankind’s original sin. Tormented beyond reason on the Cross, You freely submitted to the base yoke of punishment. Oh Melvin, you are something that the proud houses of those in power and the pious name of kings rarely possess, you have followed me with great faith until my death, even though I suspect you have sworn your loyalty to this new heresy, although Christ is the sole Father of our Church. I have duly been anointed, being born of royal blood, and am a Catholic queen, yet I must complain that I have no greater reward to give you in exchange for your many services. After I die the death I am enduring, you must go to Scotland and related to my son his mother’s last words as she faced her end. I know he will reward your virtue on my behalf. Let him not be a feeble champion of the Almighty, nor can he allow the Church of Rome fail, if he hopes to govern his realm with true peace. Nor lethim trust his private person to anybody (this single evil ruined his mother): he should place his faith in our heavenly Father, the only one who provides kings with salvation and wealth. Bear witness to him that I shall die as Queen of Scots, as the faithful Queen of France, having publicly and assuredly professed the ancient creed of our Roman father.
MELV. Venerable sovereign, supreme Queen of Scots, once the source of our joy and our salvation, but now only of our sorrow, as your steward I shall display the same fidelity that I always have. I shall go and relate to the King your every final request, nor shall I forget your words.
STU. Amyas, do you imagine Elizabeth will approve the bequests I have made to my servants in my testament? Nobody refused these considerations to a person on the brink of death.
AM. I imagine she will.
STU. Hear, my lords, the final prayer of an innocent woman, and let the headsman grant me this thing.
SHREW. You have us at your service.
STU. If my priest is to be denied me as I die, governor, grant me my company of my servants. After my death I would wish them to bear witness to all the adherents of my faith.
SHREW. It has been decided otherwise, since they would fill the hall with their noise and disturb you, their mistress.
STU. Since it is fitting for me to die with a larger retinue, summon them. I shall immediately command them to hold their tongues and look on in silence.
SHREW. On that condition, two of your serving-girls and five of your servants will be fetched, don’t ask for more.
STU. And now, my lords, in the name of Him Who is present and all-seeing, the Master of the world, by your sovereign’s leave, by any remnant of hospitality and piety which remains in your hearts, hear this final request with friendly ears. Let all of my followers be granted permission to depart, taking with them anything they have received from me, with faithful protection escorting each of them.
KENT Go to the place of execution, my Lady. Lead her, servants.
STU. You want them to drag a queen to her execution?
KENT Paulet, summon servants from your household to lead her.
STU. My feet refuse to do their duty, I can scarcely walk, or even stand.
KENT Beale, read out once more Queen Elizabeth’s instructions while we take our seats. Do so in a loud voice, so the throng of people will hear you.
BEALE “Elizabeth, by grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, sends greetings to her cousins, the Earls of Shrewbury, Kent, Derby, Pembroke, and Cumberland. Inasmuch as in solemn assembly of my Privy Councilors we have voted to condemn Mary, erstwhile Queen of Scotland, and have furthermore given commandment that our sentence be read aloud and posted throughout our cities for the benefit of our assembled citizens, lest the safety of our nation be imperiled, and lest religion and the laws of the Almighty be overthrown, and since hitherto she has been feared as a fatal omen to myself and to your progeny, now at length I grant that she die and pay the deserved penalty for her wicked deeds, at Fortheringhay Castle, where she is held in custody by its governor Amyas. So come, let a headsman be sent bearing my axe of state. This plague is to be cut short in the presence of those to whom this warrant is given. This is the sum of my commandments, which are not to be hindered by the laws or rights of our ancestors.”
BOR. My lady, it remains for you abandon your imperiousness and place your trust in Christ’s love, in a Christian manner.
STU. If I am your mistress I command you, but if otherwise I beg you, hold your tongue.
BOR. I shall speak as bidden by the grave injunction of the Lords, and as I shall perceive to be fitting.
STU. You teacher of falsehood, if you will oblige me, keep quiet. Sooner will a trusting peace exist between light and darkness, Christ will enter into a new pact with Belial, before I shall have any dealings with you, no matter how much I hear your barking.
KENT What, are you still in the grip of old superstition? For why do you prefer your rites and priesthood to ours, and why are you clutching a crucifix in your hand, when it should be held in your mind?
STU. It not easy to carry such a token without emotion and great sentiments in one’s mind, nor does anything else befit dying Christians.
KENT Just as a hard cliff laughs at the air’s threats, resists the northerly gale and sends the waters reeling far backward, so you may scorn his words. With my pious voice I shall appease God in heaven, and join my prayer to our common ones, that our Judge may receive you into His heavenly home and forgive you your sins.
STU. I shall likewise add my prayer. Savior of the world, salvation of mankind, Father Christ, Your arms outstretched on the Cross, Your head pierced by Your crown of backward-bending thorns, by Your hands and feet, affixed by nails, by the gaping wound in Your side, hear me, I beg you, alone in my death. By the outpouring of Your rose-red blood reconcile our everlasting Father to me and, since I bring myself to the readied altar as a victim, give my heart new and heaven-sent strength so that I might die a witness to Your religion, You Who are our sole all-powerful Judge.
ACT V, SCENE vi
THE STUART, TWO HANDMAIDENS
STU. I gladly forgive you and all men responsible for my death (and so may God forgive me), having proclaimed this one thing: I have never done anything against the life or welfare of my kinswoman, and nothing deserving of such public blame. God, wash away those sins of which You are well aware. Intercede with the Father of Kings Who holds first rule on heaven and earth, you Saints, so that I may shed my final blood in the old faith and religion, and be borne to a blessed celestial home. Show Your favor for me and the priesthood of the Roman rite, for me and the Kings of Spain and France, for me, King James, and Elizabeth my kinswoman, and for my Scottish people.
FIRST GIRL Oh, a subject for a tragedy! Oh, a deathly spectacle, savage, foul, lamentable! And one which would make the Getes, the Scythians, the Africans, and a beast dwelling on the Caspian shore shudder, or the Danube, providing refuge for the Alani. What blood famed for so many signs of majesty has ever drenched the altars of its hosts? Did Diomedes feed such sacred limbs to his herd? In his time, alas, what tyrant committed such a regicide? What man of Colchis, divine queen, murdered such majesty and glory of government as I perceive to be yours?
I have promised you wouldn’t be this way in this assembly. Free me of my impediments, let not some henchman or headsman handle me. I have never employed such servants, nor have I exhibited my limbs for royal adornment in the morning with men looking on. Headsman, let my girl keep this token of a sacred crucifix, she’ll pay you three times its worth. He’s refusing, he wants to keep it for himself. So, girls, the time advises that you must withdraw. Farewell, give me a final kiss.
SECOND GIRL Where are you sending us by ourselves, your majesty? Our wish is always to stay with you.
FIRST GIRL Our wish is to be slain with you. Oh sad departure! Am I to depart, queen, and not to die with you? Shall I be deprived of the light of your countenance? Oh earth! Oh heaven! Oh distant white rocks and ancient Orkneys! Oh England and Scotland, today you die! Let your breasts be beaten and resound with lamentation.
STU. You have promised your silence, girl. Restrain your wanton noise. Rather, you should join my menservants preparing to pray the Almighty on my behalf, that I show myself brave even in the place of execution. Why, headsman, are you trying to lift my head and touch me before I die? Wait. Do your duty, girl, and go.
FIRST GIRL Oh sister, we were remiss there, we were cowardly? What’s happening to us? Do they not see that we are Amazons, that we are Camillas? But what could we do, alas, being helpless, being alone against so many? We should have died along with her, but it was not allowed, nor would it have helped. Nevertheless, what a light of Christianity is dying! The unique glory of our sex, the splendor of this world is perishing. Have you ever heard of such a person dying by a profane hand? [Looking into the great hall.] Has the blow landed? He hesitates in mid-swing. He has it, it is done. The cut-off head is only attached by a tiny shred, here the blood gushed from her trunk, there her royal head is lying. I see, albeit from concealment, the crime is completed. Alas, alas, Phoebus sees this killing, yet he does not avert his head and turn back his horses? If you were unable to look upon the feast of Thyestes, which wrought less harm, turn, turn away your panting horses, you sun who governs the twelve signs of the Zodiac in your course, and bring on the night. Perish this day for the world, perish this bitter light, and perish Albion, teeming with crimes!
SECOND GIRL The Avenger of evildoers, Who looks down from on high on this murder, will requite it with a great slaughter, even if He is late in doing so. But, my friend, let us see how our mistress’ body might be taken away. Bereft (oh the sorrow) of its title and its head, it must be wrapped in fair linen, lately the star of the world, the pillar of its ancient house.
Behold the deceitful woman’s grey-haired head and that face with which she would lie, employing her fruitless arts, for she attacked the good name of England and the faith of our grandfathers with the black torch of furtive war. May God bless the other contumacious enemies of our improved Gospel with similar rewards and preserve Elizabeth in her government!
FIRST GIRL Amyas, allow the lifeless corpse to be returned to us. Come now, we return to you, her savage executioner, the sacred relics of her modesty, so that we may remove her.
AM. Go away. The business I am doing does not allow them to be offered.
FIRST GIRL Oh you implacable Cerberus, you cruel Charon, will you even rage against a corpse? Is your long-enduring frenzy not yet slaked? Woe, woe to you, oh governor of this sad house. Woe to whoever else does this and witnesses it. Woe to you, Mother Earth, and to this nation, and to whatever fails to seek revenge. Woe to you, you sovereigns who did not strive to stop this regicide or, now the crime has been committed, who allow royal glory to be neglected with impunity, and religion to be destroyed under the pole of the icy Bear, when Elizabeth’s madness exults over the great rulers of your nations!
SECOND GIRL I never thought such sorrow would exist, so exile flight would follow Scotland’s upheaval, the evil of captivity and exile would follow flight, imprisonment and its doldrums would follow servitude, and the disgrace of execution would then come along as Act Five, together with the afterpiece of a lonely funeral, fit for dogs, to amuse their raging fury. I feared nothing worse than the captivity of King Malcom and King William, but the outcome was worse than my fear, the misfortune greater than my terror.
FIRST GIRL But who will hide her limbs with a decent funeral? Through a chink I see our noble lady’s sacred body lying naked on the ground, her trunk and head, and the tokens of her fair body, her face, and lineaments of her lofty brow. Is this the point to which that face, shining with its starry light, has come, and her complexion that won over hostile eyes? Queen, am I looking on your face and allowing it to be thus? Where had your beauty fled, and your eyes, which served as our star? You lie lifeless, neglected, and unburied, yet we live on. For why should we prefer to die? Yet, alas, there is no reason why we should survive, except that we may live to tell the tale of this crime. Hear me, you lands, you seas pent in by winding shores, and whatever man is awe-struck, captivated by the initial brilliance and easy goodness of a deceitful royal court. Hear in what a precarious position the proud stand, albeit with difficulty, as many of you as set your gullible minds on these good things. Whatever we so greatly admire is trifling dust and shadow. For who rejoices in short-lived power and pride? Thus the lofty scepters of kings are exposed to misfortune, just as the high crags always receive the winds and the great ocean batters the crag that cleaves it, and the waves of the sea, no matter how quiet. The lamentable Stuart, that glory of the world and golden light for all the universe, lies prostrate. The august daughter-in-law of kings has been reduced to this from the time that Moray, that Ismael son of Agar, a snake embracing Scotland and its cities, pressed the head of the lion underfoot. Soon his guilty soul fell victim to private grudges and he preceded Jezebel to the dusky Styx.