Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Ironside curses Edricus and Alfric calls him a Judas. Ulfkettle declares Ironside “favoréd / of God” (V.i.1626-1627) in that he receives sufficient warning of treacheries. Edricus enters, limping and with his hand, seemingly wounded, in a scarf. Stitch accompanies him. Ironside extends the Christological parallel: “Judas, thy next part is to kiss my cheek / and then commit me unto Caiaphas” (V.i.1644-1645), but Edricus plays dumb. Ironside declares Edricus’ tongue “venomer than is the Basilisk’s” (V.i.1652), but Edricus plays the unappreciated martyr. Accused of fleeing to Canutus on the battlefield, Edricus claims he was really going to “assail the rearward with my band” (V.i.1703) before Ironside retreated and foiled the plan. He points out his fake wounds too. Ironside apologizes, to which Edricus replies:
‘Twas not your highness but some fawning mate
that put mistrust into your grace’s head
hoping by my downfall to raise himself
but heavens defend the wrongéd innocent.
Secretly, Edricus snickers.
Canutus reads a letter from Edricus which states that he has nothing of use at the moment since Ironside does not currently confide in him. “By’r lady, this goes hard” (V.ii.1749). In front of Southampton, Egina and others, Canutus pretends the letter assures fatal divisiveness among Ironside’s troops. “I dare not trust myself with reading it / lest I, o’ercloyed with joy, should play the blab” (V.ii.1760-1761). The drums sounding from afar prompt Canutus to marvel aloud at Ironside being ignorant of his coming doom.
Ironside and Canutus meet, each declaring himself king. Canutus, steeped in legal knowledge, claims the land is
fallen to me not successively indeed
but by forfeiture as copyhold
rent-run and wanting reparations
falls to the lord.
Ironside, while expressing his rage, points out his restraint. The land is, says Canutus, “by usurpation thine, by conquest mine” (V.ii.1817). “So rape and theft is true possession / if malefactors go unpunishéd,” replies Ironside (V.ii.1819-1820). They draw swords.
During the ensuing battle, Edricus recognizes Canutus’ disadvantages and wonders what he should do. He is inspired with another plot to ensure his credit for whichever way victory goes. He calls a meeting of the leaders, saying that since the two are so well matched, only massive slaughter can result here, and “consuming war / will quite devour this solitary isle / not leaving any over whom to rule / nor to resist foreign invasions” (V.ii.1888-1891). Either split the kingdom or fight one-on-one. Edmund likes the proposal. Canutus says, “Edmund, Report shall never whet her tongue / upon Canutus to eternize thee” (V.ii.1912-1913); and laments that this wasn’t the plan a year ago before so many others died in battle. Egina tries to stop Canutus and Emma tries to talk Ironside out of the plan. But the fight proceeds, and when Ironside seems to be winning, Edricus begins worrying. Canutus eventually yields and extends a hand of friendship to Ironside, who receives it honorably. Edmund announces, “Brave Canutus, in yielding thou hast won. / That which thy sword could never do / thy tongue hath brought to pass by gentle speech” (V.ii.2003-2005).
Alfric speaks for all in praising the hopefulness that peace brings. Turkillus reminds Leofric of the deaths of their sons, and the latter says, disturbingly,
Turkillus, I do, and must serve the time
and wait upon occasion for revenge.
A day of mirth begins a woeful year
as sudden storms do follow sunshine clear.
Ironside wants the Danes to select which side, east or west, of England they want. The newly sworn “brothers” go off to celebrate, but Edricus has the last private word:
I have sworn and I will keep my vow
by heaven I’ll be revenged on both of you.