Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Ate enters. This time the dumb show involves a crocodile on a riverbank. A snake bites it and both fall into the river. Ate applies this to Humber, who also “did so much his own greatness trust” (III.i.13). “Mark what ensues and you may easily see, / That all our life is but a tragedy” (III.i.16-17). What we are supposed to do with this epiphany remains unspecified.
Locrine has heard that Humber and his “mungrel curs” (III.ii.3) are responsible for the death of his brother Albanact. He wishes he were Orpheus or Amphion to move demons or boulders against the enemy. Thrasimachus explains that “Hubba, with twenty thousand soldiers, / Cowardly came upon our weakened backs” (III.ii.32-33), killing Debon and Albanact and all the others, and that he’s the only one who escaped alive. Locrine initiates a chain reaction of bombastic lamentations:
Not aged Priam, king of stately Troy,
Grand emperor of barbarous Asia,
When he beheld his noble-minded sons
Slain traitorously by all the Myrmidons,
Lamented more than I for Albanact.
Not Hecuba, queen of Ilium,
When she beheld the town of Pergamus,
Her palace burnt with all-devouring flames,
Her fifty sons and daughters, fresh of hue,
Murdered by wicked Pyrrhus’ bloody sword,
Shed such sad tears as I for Albanact.
Camber (the third brother) wants a piece of this:
The grief of Niobe, fair Athens’ queen,
For her seven sons, magnanimous in the field,
For her seven daughters, fairer than the fairest,
Is not to be compared with my laments.
Corineus reproves them all for their “childish sobs and womanish laments” (III.ii.63), redirecting their energies towards revenge. After all, he has an army of ten thousand ready to go. Camber is effectively rallied and notes that he has twenty thousand “manly” soldiers (III.ii.76) waiting “Close by the boisterous Iscan’s silver streams, / Where lightfoot fairies skip from bank to bank” (III.ii.72-73). And Locrine too swears vengeance “by the sword of bloody Mars” (III.ii.83). “This construction of the plot on the basis of revenge is undoubtedly an attempt to imitate the popular success of The Spanish Tragedy” (Gooch 13). Not if it was written earlier.
Humber and associates come to the river “Which, in memorial of our victory, / Shall be agnominated by our name” (III.iii.3-4). He anticipates another massacre that will turn the blue waters red. The Ghost of Albanact appears and secretly anticipates the massacre being against the Scythians instead; he describes the bloody scene. Hubba has a Doris Day moment:
Let come what will, I mean to bear it out,
And either live with glorious victory,
Or die with fame renowned for chivalry.
He is not worthy of the honeycomb
That shuns the hives because the bees have stings;
That likes me best that is not got with ease….
He would subdue Cerberus or “roll the stone with wretched Sisyphus” (III.iii.50) to accomplish his ends. Humber validates his son’s martial thoughts. Segar arrives with a warning about a multitude of Britons heading their way. He advises a resolute demeanor.
A rustic comic character, Oliver, speaks with a southern dialect — “Ich zee dat you are a man of small ‘zideration, dat will zeek to injure your old vreends” (III.iv.4-6). The playwright may have been inspired to try dialect like this by Chaucer’s The Reeve’s Tale. Oliver demands that Strumbo marry his daughter. Oliver’s son William accompanies him, and when Strumbo asks for a reason he should marry the girl, William asks, “Marry, Sir, what reason had you, when my sister was in the barn, to tumble her upon the hay, and to fish her belly?” (III.iv.14-16; cp. The Winter’s Tale I.ii.194-195). Strumbo scorns them all, so a fight breaks out until the girl in question, Margery, grabs the staff from her brother and calls Strumbo “Master Saucebox, Lobcock, Cockscomb, you / Slopsauce, lickfingers” (III.iv.26-27). After an attempt on her part to feign disinterest, she and Strumbo fight. Margery succeeds in beating Strumbo into a promise of marriage. When the family leaves, Strumbo dreads his future: this wench, “I think, would weary the devil. I would she might be burnt as my other wife was. If not, I must run to the halter [gallows] for help. O, Codpiece, thou hast done thy master; this it is to be meddling with warm plackets” (III.iv.55-58). (Plackets, technically, are slits in a petticoat.)
Locrine is jazzed for battle — and the shift from “thy” to “his” for three lines (III.v.10-11) probably indicates an inserted amplification (Maxwell 43). Thrasimachus is anxious to see “The treacherous Scythians squeltering in their gore” (III.v.26). But Locrine prays to “Sweet Fortune” (III.v.27ff) for favor, promising her a temple; and we know from Chaucer the misguidedness of such an un-Boethian attitude. A reference to “the high pyramides” (III.v.32) — the word is quadrasyllabic — reminds one of Lepidus’ use of it in Antony and Cleopatra. Camber vows to surpass Hercules in valor. Corineus, having lived “Full fourscore years” (III.v.40), nevertheless, in a vow much like Nestor’s, says he will paint his club with the “foemen’s brains” (III.v.45). His son Thrasimachus similarly vows his best.
Corineus encounters Hubba and they exchange vaunts, Corineus saying,
But, cursed Scythians, you shall rue the day
That ere you came into Albania.
So perish they that envy Britain’s wealth,
So let them die with endless infamy,
And he that seeks his sovereign’s overthrow,
Would this my club might aggravate his woe.
He strikes down Hubba and Segar with his club.
Humber seeks a “desert wilderness” (III.vii.1) where he can bewail his loss to the heavens and have it echoed. He calls upon the dark forces of the underworld to torment Locrine. Humber now wishes they had landed on Polyphemus and the Cyclops’ island, “Or where the bloody Anthropophagi / With greedy jaws devours the wandering wights” (III.vii.34-35). (Note the connection to Othello.)
The Ghost of Albanact appears and Humber sighs: isn’t his misery already enough torment? The Ghost still calls, “Revenge, revenge for blood!” (III.vii.41). But Humber is defiant:
Humber would be condemned
To Tantal’s hunger or Ixion’s wheel,
Or to the vulture of Prometheus,
Rather than that this murder were undone.
Whenas I die, I’ll drag thy cursed ghost
Through all the rivers of foul Erebus,
Through burning sulphur of the Limbo-lake,
To allay the burning fury of that heat
That rageth in mine everlasting soul.
The Ghost keeps calling for revenge, but switching languages: “Vindicta! vindicta!” (III.vii.54).
The repetitious laments from Humber to come may be an indication of expansion — one original lament divided to make room for the comedy (Maxwell 50). This would also explain why Humber is thought to be dead but won’t die for seven years.