Rex McGregor

Henry the Seventh (If Shakespeare Was Honest)

 


Synopsis


Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III as an evil monster is malicious Tudor propaganda. There is no shred of evidence implicating Richard in the murders of his brother George and his nephews, the princes in the Tower. Let’s go back to the day of Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth. Prepare to discover the real villain.


Characters


KING RICHARD III, 32, a virtuous monarch
FIRST LANCASTRIAN SOLDIER
SECOND LANCASTRIAN SOLDIER
HENRY TUDOR, 27, a treacherous usurper
LADY MARGARET BEAUFORT, 42, Henry’s mother, a ruthless plotter
PRINCESS ELIZABETH OF YORK, 19, Richard’s niece, betrothed to Henry

The play may be performed with a cast of 4 (2 male and 2 female.) 
The two soldiers may be doubled by the actors playing Margaret and Elizabeth.


Place
Bosworth Field, England


Time
August 22, 1485

 

 

Darkness. Distant sounds of battle.

Lights up on Richard, wearing battle armour and crown. Holding a blood-drenched sword, he looks around to see if any of his opponents are still standing. The stage is strewn with mutilated mannequins, representing slain Lancastrian soldiers. 

Richard uses one of the corpses to wipe his sword clean.

Two Lancastrian soldiers enter. Richard takes them both on in a spectacular fight, displaying his superior swordplay. 

The first soldier is mortally wounded and staggers offstage. 

The second soldier suffers several wounds and flees offstage. 

Henry enters, panting and clumsily waving his sword. He grunts and lunges at Richard, who calmly parries each thrust and sneers at Henry’s ineptitude.

RICHARD


Poor Richmond. Hapless Harry. Tawdry Tudor.
Low birth. Low skill. Which lowliness is cruder?

HENRY


Thy expert swordsmanship presents no fuss
Since the invention of the arquebus.

       Henry signals to his men offstage. A distant gunshot rings out.
      Shot in the arm, Richard reels back and drops his sword.

RICHARD


Unchivalrous.

HENRY


                         I spurn old chivalry.

Controlling his pain, Richard reaches for his sword with his other hand. Henry signals. Richard is shot in the other arm.

RICHARD


Un-British.

HENRY


                     I was raised in Brittany.


Richard gathers his strength. Henry signals again. Richard is shot in the leg and falls to his knees, incapacitated.

Henry raises his arm, commanding his men to stop firing. 

RICHARD


Bad aim. Three shots. And yet do I live still.

HENRY


My marksmen were instructed not to kill.
Too swift a death would rob me of my pleasure.
A fleeting joy is but a paltry treasure.
Now, whiles my sword stands poised upon thy throat,
’Tis time to pause. To savour. Nay, to gloat.

RICHARD


Tut. Spare me thy soliloquising prattle.

HENRY


First, thou must learn why thou hast lost the battle.

RICHARD


I have more men upon the field.

HENRY


                                                     Thou didst.
Behold. South flank. A traitor in thy midst.

RICHARD


What? Switching sides? Unfaithful Thomas Stanley!

HENRY


My mother’s husband. Ruled by her.

RICHARD

                                                             Unmanly.

HENRY


Old-fashioned Richard. Thou wert doomed to fail.
Thy weapons are antiques. Thy world view, stale.

RICHARD


Tush.

HENRY


          Bretons, Scots and Welshmen fight for me.
Thy English army lacks diversity.

RICHARD


My land, invaded by vile immigrants!
More than my wounds, this shame doth make me wince.

HENRY


Hark. One more blow to hit thee whilst thou’rt down.
As prize for victory, I take thy crown.

        Henry crowns himself.

RICHARD


Thou hast no right to sit upon the throne.

HENRY


Decisive conquest doth suffice alone.
And yet I have a claim.

RICHARD


                                       Thou? Bastard’s spawn!

HENRY


We were legitimised ere I was born.

RICHARD


But barred from the succession. 

HENRY


                                                     Leave it be.
In France we call this a “fait accompli.”

RICHARD


Base foreigner! Thou darest take my place?
O history! Come bless me with thy grace.
Let it stand writ, “With Richard at the helm,
’Twas England for the English. Happy realm.
Thou hadst a monarch fit for royal robes.
The noble patron saint of xenophobes!”

HENRY


Vain hope. Abandon all thy dreams of glory.
’Twill be my chroniclers that tell thy story.

RICHARD


What art thou plotting?


HENRY


                                         I shall pay them well
To paint thy blameless name as black as hell.

RICHARD


Such conduct is ungentlemanly.

HENRY


                                                    Fie!
Thou must be trampled down, so I soar high.

RICHARD


Dissembling cur! What rumours canst thou forge?

HENRY


For one, that thou didst kill thy brother George.

RICHARD


A vicious lie no soul could e’er believe.

HENRY


A master writer knows how to deceive.

RICHARD


Why then, dispatch me straight. Thou hast the power.

HENRY


Stay. One more blow. The princes in the Tower.

RICHARD


What? No! Not even thou canst sink so low.

HENRY


They disappeared. To thy advantage. So…

RICHARD


I loved my nephews. They were family!

HENRY


Discardable. 

RICHARD


                    Didst thou discard them?

HENRY


                                                             Me?
I thought upon’t. But someone got there first.
Was it not thou?

RICHARD


                            No! May the fiend be cursed,
Who killed those boys.

HENRY


                                       Thy henchman, Buckingham? 

RICHARD


I had that traitor tortured limb by limb.
He did confess his sins before he died.
A thousand crimes. But not child homicide.

HENRY


The world may never know the perpetrator.
A boon for me. ’Twill make thy guilt seem greater.

RICHARD


Wilt thou make me the monstrous face of evil?

HENRY


Thy reputation damned beyond retrieval.

RICHARD


Just kill me now.

HENRY


                             Not yet.

RICHARD


                                           Canst plague me worse?
A hearse! A hearse! My kingdom for a hearse!

HENRY


Hush! Everything must come to pass as planned.

        Henry removes Richard’s breastplate.

Thou shalt not die by my too eager hand. 
The joy of killing thee goes to another.
Lo, where she comes.

RICHARD


                                    Beshrew thee!


       Margaret enters, wearing a red gown.

HENRY


                                                               Greetings, mother.

MARGARET


God save King Henry, seventh of that name.

RICHARD


So. Margaret Beaufort. Is this all thy game?

MARGARET


Of course. Whene’er a woman wants things done,
She cannot simply leave it to her son.

Margaret takes Henry’s sword and holds it to Richard’s chest. 

RICHARD


Strike home.

MARGARET


                       First, hear what lies in store for thee.
Thy good name ruined. Endless infamy.
A catalogue of crimes thou didst commit.

HENRY


Excuse me, mother. I… I did that bit.

MARGARET


Including blaming him for killing Eddy
And little Dicky?

HENRY


                             Sorry. Done already.

MARGARET


Thou art too rash!

RICHARD


                               I find ye both too slow.
There is but one thing I do wish to know.
Didst thou arrange the murders? Tell me now.

MARGARET


I was their governess! I thought ’twas thou.

RICHARD


No.

MARGARET


       Buckingham then. Never trust a henchman.

HENRY


Not him.

MARGARET


                Was’t thou, dear?

RICHARD


                                             Never trust a Frenchman.

HENRY


We are all innocent.

RICHARD


                                  Of that one crime.
But ye stand guilty of this pantomime.
Instead of grieving for the children’s loss—

MARGARET


I grieve for them.

RICHARD


                             Thou couldst not give a toss.
Thou useth their most lamentable fate
To foster thy agenda and thy h—

Margaret thrusts the sword into Richard’s heart.

HENRY


                                                       Wait!

        Richard falls down, dead.

MARGARET


The wretch! His rudeness forced my hand to strike
With fury some would deem unladylike.

HENRY


Here. Let me have the sword. So I can boast
I slaughtered him. I sort of did. Almost.

MARGARET


Thy men are watching.

HENRY


                                      Villain! Still alive?

        Henry stabs Richard repeatedly.

HENRY


The king is dead!

        Henry waves his sword triumphantly.

MARGARET


                               Long may the new king thrive.
To business. I have brought along thy bride.

        Margaret beckons to someone in the distance.

Elizabeth shall stand here at thy side.

HENRY


I know I pledged to wed the Yorkist wench.
But must I, mother? She can scarce speak French.

MARGARET


The red rose and the white rose must unite.
We have discussed this, dear.

HENRY


                                                 All right, all right.

        Elizabeth enters, wearing a white gown.

MARGARET


Liz. Come and kiss thy Harry. He is shy.

HENRY


Not true! Ask any whore in France. 

MARGARET


                                                           My, my!
Where be thy manners?

ELIZABETH


                                        Pray forgive me, aunt.
What modesty forbids, respect shall grant.

        Elizabeth kisses Henry.

MARGARET


Why, what a charming, sweet, obedient lass.
What sayst thou, Henry?

HENRY


                                         Nice and meek. No sass.

ELIZABETH


But who lies there? My Uncle Richard, slain!

HENRY


By me. Behold the crown I thereby gain.

Margaret removes Henry’s crown and stops him from protesting.

MARGARET


A coronation in a field is shabby.
Go we somewhere with class. Westminster Abbey.

        Margaret starts to leave.

ELIZABETH


Pray give me leave to mourn one minute here.
’Tis fitting for a niece to shed a tear.

MARGARET


So tender-hearted. Thou mayst stay a while.

        Margaret and Henry exit.

        Elizabeth kneels down and cradles Richard in her arms.

ELIZABETH


My heart doth break, beneath this mask of guile.

O Richard! Finest man that e’er was seen.
Would I could marry thee and be thy queen!

O Lord, who art the source of holy bliss,
Thou wilt not call our love incestuous.
Of fouler sin, confession must I make.
Hear what these hands have done for his sweet sake.
What sacrifice, when loving sister smothers
Her dear, beloved, darling little brothers!

I have not finished yet. I shall not rest,
My Richard, till thy throne be repossessed.
Some call me what they call Mamma. A witch. 
We need no magic spells. In knowledge rich,
We study nature with a firm reliance
On the almighty potency of science.
My love, I took some samples of thy seed
And froze them, saving them till there be need.
When I become that foolish Henry’s wife,
I will implant my womb with Richard’s life!

Thus, Henry, husband, I shall husband thee
And block thy seed from fertilising me.
With every child I bear, bethink thee blessed.
And blindly raise our cuckoos in thy nest.
Thou shalt bequeath the crown to one of these.
Our dynasty shall reign for centuries.

Ye future kings of England, pop a cork!
No Tudors ye, but glorious sons of York.

        End of play.

tiffany jolowicz Monday on Michigan Island, Yesterday, the Day Before, Two Thousand Years