Arden of Faversham
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
ARDEN OF FAVERSHAM
Black Will, along with Shakebag and Greene, is ready to kill Michael, but Greene wants to give him a chance to explain. Michael invents an explanation for how Arden discovered the doors unlocked and promises to find out Arden’s travel plans so they can catch him at Rainham Down. The thugs are mollified and Shakebag determines Michael’s penance as paying for their dinner at the Salutation tavern.
Well fares the man, howe’er his cates do taste,
That tables not with foul suspicion;
And he but pines amongst his delicates
Whose troubled mind is stuffed with discontent.
My golden time was when I had no gold….
He’s drinking too much and has sleep disorders. He’s also growing paranoid, and determines to have the killers exterminated afterwards. He even decides that he cannot trust Alice, for as easily as she “supplanted Arden for my sake” (viii.40) she may supplant him for another: “‘Tis fearful sleeping in a serpent’s bed” (viii.42).
Alice is also suffering from guilt and tells Mosby to forget their affair. She wants her old life back and accuses Mosby of bewitching her. Mosby counters that he was bewitched out of making a more advantageous match with a wealthy and more beautiful woman than Alice.
And now the rain hath beaten off thy gilt
Thy worthless copper shows thee counterfeit.
It grieves me not to see how foul thou art,
But mads me that I ever thought thee fair.
Alice says she was warned by friends that Mosby was interested only in her money. But she is immediately sorry for having offended Mosby and says she’ll tear out the pages of her prayerbook and replace them with his love letters. At first unmoved, Mosby soon softens and proposes they forget this quarrel.
Bradshaw brings Greene’s letter concerning the bungle in London and the promise of success as Arden heads home. Mosby and Alice can only wait.
Shakebag advises Black Will to check his gunpowder and flint. Will takes offense: after all, he’s been a successful blackguard because of his experience. Shakebag defends his own slimy accomplishments. The two fight until Greene, citing an Aesop fable about quarreling dogs, warns them that Arden will escape them.
Lime your twigs to catch this weary bird.
I’ll leave you, and at your dag’s discharge
Make towards, like the longing water-dog
That coucheth till the fowling-piece be off,
Then seizeth on the prey with eager mood.
Greene leaves and Arden, Franklin, and Michael enter. Michael says he must return to Rochester to re-shoe his horse. Arden tells him to be speedy and meet up with them at Rainham Down, but Michael, in an aside, acknowledges that he caused the horse’s limp so as to avoid the murder.
Franklin, who had been in the middle of a story about an unfaithful wife, suffers a mild coronary incident just before they get to Rainham Down.
Just as the murderers are about to confront them, Lord Cheiny and his men interpose themselves. Cheiny chats with Arden and invites the two friends to supper. Arden and Franklin will dine with him instead tomorrow. Cheiny sees Black Will and berates him. All ride off but the would-be murderers, and Will pitches a wrathful fit at this thwarting. Greene arrives and they explain the failure. They will have to report to Alice, but Will vows to shoot Arden tomorrow.
Arden reminds Alice that he and Franklin are headed off to the Isle of Sheppey to dine with Lord Cheiny as was arranged. Alice laments that “Home is a wild cat to a wand’ring wit” (x.13), that husbands spend so little time at home. Franklin suggests that Alice might come with them, but she notes that she was not invited. So Arden promises to be back in time for supper.
Michael announces that the horses are prepared, but that he has lost his purse with 36 shillings in it. He is to come after Arden and Franklin once he finds it. The two men leave, and Michael anticipates Black Will and Shakebag serving as “ferrymen” (x.47) Clarke the painter arrives, asking for Susan. Michael toys with him for a moment before the contention breaks out and Clarke conks Michael on the head.
Alice, Mosby, and Greene enter, and Alice breaks up the fight. Clarke supplies the promised poison crucifix. Alice will resort to it if all else fails:
Nay, he must leave to live that we may love,
May live, may love; for what is life but love?
And love shall last as long as life remains,
And life shall end before my love depart.
Some garbled reasoning there, like Brutus’ before the assassination of Caesar. Mosby compares love without constancy to a stone wall without mortar. Greene tries to get Mosby to focus; he has placed Black Will and Shakebag in a broom closet to await Arden.
Arden and Franklin, though in a hurry, chat with a ferryman about the thick mist. The ferryman says his wife, like all wives, is “governed by the moon” (xi.19-20), and further semi-witty exchange renders him the man in the moon.
Black Will compares the mist to “hell’s mouth” (xii.2). If the horses just gone by were those of Arden and Franklin, “then all our labour’s lost” (xii.17). Shakebag falls into a ditch, and the ferryman hears him calling. But Black Will is hostile, especially when finding out that indeed Arden and Franklin have already gone over to Lord Cheiny’s. The ferryman departs, with a curse against Will.
Sun clears away the fog. Mosby arrives with Alice and Greene, asking if Arden has been killed. Nope, another failure and another promise to wait for his return. Alice gives them money to rest up at the Flower-de-Luce. Mosby doubts they’ll ever accomplish the task, but Alice has yet another plan: she and Mosby should confront Arden together, defiantly. When the inevitable quarrel breaks out, she’ll call out the murderers to “take up the fray” (xii.76) and kill Arden. Mosby is delighted and offers a kiss.