Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Ate’s entrance precedes that of Jason and Creon’s daughter, followed by Medea, who places a garland on Creon’s daughter’s head and sets it on fire, which kills her and Jason. Medea exits. Ate explains that when Jason threw over Medea, she called “up the triple Hecate” (V.i.6) — meaning the goddess of enchantment with triple identity of Hecate, Luna, and Diana — to avenge the slight. “So Guendoline, seeing herself misused, / And Humber’s paramour possess her place” (V.i.10-11), has with her brother Thrasimachus drummed up an army of Cornish soldiers to assail her husband, somewhat similar to Fulvia in Antony and Cleopatra.
Assaracus frets over Corineus’ death:
Now who is left to helpless Albion
That as a pillar might uphold our state,
That might strike terror to our darling foes?
Now who is left to hapless Brittany,
That might defend her from the barbarous hands
Of those that still desire her ruinous fall,
And seek to work her downfall and decay?
Thrasimachus grieves for his father, cursing Humber who “was the causer of his lingering wound” (V.ii.19). Locrine remarks that “Tears cannot raise him from the dead again” (V.ii.20) and asks where Guendoline is. Thrasimachus reports that she is in Cornwall, preparing their father’s funeral. Locrine hopes she’ll “mourn forever her own widowhood. / Ne’er shall she come within our palace gate, / To countercheck brave Locrine in his love” (V.ii.25-27). He sends a boy to fetch Estrild to the court: “She shall be queen in Guendolina’s room” (V.ii.31). And he can’t get too choked up about Corineus who for so long “barred me from my heart’s desire” (V.ii.34).
Thrasimachus is dismayed at Locrine’s behavior and warns of vengeance. Locrine imperialistically chides him as an upstart and, surprisingly, a “beardless boy” (V.ii.45), but Thrasimachus says he is not afraid of “taunting words of a venerean squire” (V.ii.55). Locrine banishes Thrasimachus from court. Assaracus advises Locrine to recall Brutus’ last requests, including that he “love and favor Lady Guendoline” (V.ii.78). Though her power is the lesser, the outcome of war is always uncertain: “Have you not seen a mighty elephant / Slain by the biting of a silly mouse?” (V.ii.83-84). (No.)
Estrild and the daughter she has had with Locrine, Sabren, enter. Estrild is fretful about being sent for. She kneels to Locrine, but he requests that she rise that he might see the face “Which so entangled hath my lovesick breast” (V.ii.108). “Now to the court, where we will court it out, / And pass the night and day in Venus’ sports” (V.ii.109-110).
Guendoline prays to Jove and bemoans her having been spurned. Her brother Thrasimachus advises war instead of complaints in another “marching figure” common to Shakespeare and the Earl of Oxford:
This open wrong must have an open plague,
This plague must be repaid with grievous war,
This war must finish with Locrinus’ death,
His death will soon extinguish our complaints.
Guendoline tells him that Locrine’s death would make her even sadder. In pushing for vengeance, Thrasimachus, Laertes-like, appeals to her respect for their father Corineus: “His words to us stands always for a law” (V.iii.37). Guendoline complies and vows “a reproachful death” to Estrild (V.iii.48). Madan, son to Locrine and Guendoline, gets into the act:
Mother, though nature makes me to lament
My luckless father’s froward lechery,
Yet, for he wrongs my lady mother thus,
I, if I could, myself would work his death.
Thanks, Winky, you’re such a bloody comfort.
Locrine consults Assaracus about the Cornish force. He is amused by Guendoline’s rebellion. Estrild remarks that “the horse will run amain/ When as the spur doth gall him to the bone; / Jealousy, Locrine, hath a wicked sting” (V.iv.9-11). They head towards the opposing army’s pavillion.
The Ghost of Corineus points out ominous natural signs of Locrine’s coming overthrow. He will gleefully watch the war progress. Locrine addresses Guendoline, Madan, and the rebels with a haughty and patronizing tone. Guendoline protests her guiltlessness, saying it is Locrine, “o’ercome with filthy lusts” (V.v.47), who has dishonored their marriage bed: “Unkind, thou scorn’st all skilful Brutus’ laws, / Forgetting father, uncle, and thyself” (V.v.51-52). Estrild remarks that Guendoline orates wisely and would make a good nun. Thrasimachus has had enough of words, and Locrine agrees.
Locrine is driven back in battle. He tells Estrild that they “are left to be a laughing-stock” (V.vi.3), their hundred thousand soldiers having been bested by a mere ten thousand. Thrasimachus fought like Mars accompanied by Diomedes (V.vi.9-10). They shall never see Troynovant again; “Ne’er shall we view the fair Concordia, / Unless as captives we be thither brought” (V.vi.15-16). He asks the gods for forgiveness and kisses his sword: “Farewell, vain world, and thy enticing snares. / Farewell, foul sin, and thy enticing pleasures” (V.vi.41-42). Locrine kills himself with his sword.
Estrild mourns Locrine and laments,
O fickle Fortune! O unstable world!
What else are all things that this globe contains,
But a confused chaos of mishaps?
Wherein, as in a glass, we plainly see,
That all our life is but as a tragedy.
She does not wish to live without Locrine and so kills herself with his sword. Sabren comes upon her dead parents and declares it a doleful spectacle (V.vi.65): “What fierce Achilles, what hard stony flint, / Would not bemoan this mournful tragedy?” (V.vi.71-72). Locrine and Estrild lie dead in a cave, “And with them dies fair Pallas and sweet Love” (V.vi.79). Sabren tries to kill herself, but, more accustomed to lute-tuning (V.vi.87), her hands are too weak.
Guendoline tells Thrasimachus and Madan that she wants to see Estrild dead and to kill the bastard Sabren. Corineus’ spirit, Thrasimachus’ exile, and her own divorce drive all remorse from her heart. Locrine lies dead “By luckless lot and froward frowning fate” (V.vi.110), clasping the corpse of Estrild. Guendoline regrets that Estrild has escaped her wrath and cannot die over and over. Sabren comes forth and Guendoline exults, “Lives Sabren yet to expiate my wrath?” (V.vi.147). Sabren welcomes death philosophically. Guendoline grabs her and threatens to throw her to “feed the fishes with thy tender flesh” (V.vi.165). Sabren says that such deeds would bring about further divine punishment; instead, Sabren drowns herself. Guendoline finds Sabren’s courage impressive. The river shall be named after her. Locrine will receive a noble funeral and a tomb near Brutus. Estrild won’t.
Ate concludes the play:
Lo! here the end of lawless treachery,
Of usurpation and ambitious pride;
And they that for their private amours dare
Turmoil our land, and set their broils abroach,
Let them be warned by these premises.
And as a woman was the only cause
That civil discord was then stirred up,
So let us pray for that renowned maid,
That eight and thirty years the sceptre swayed
In quiet peace and sweet felicity;
And every wight that seeks her grace’s smart,
Would that this sword were pierced in his heart.
“In Locrine legendary history, pageantry and comedy have been moulded together into a play designed to entertain a popular audience” (Gooch 10). But of course the patriotism makes it particularly appropriate to the Elizabethan period, and “In The Faerie Queene, Spenser pays an elaborate compliment to Elizabeth by tracing her ancestry from the arrival of Brutus” (Gooch 24).
The German scholar Tieck insisted that Shakespeare was the youthful author of the play, and that it was revised by him in 1595 (Maxwell 64). The Spanish Tragedy seems to be the work of the same author (Maxwell 65).
The bombastic language might incline one elsewhere, but “The intention of the dramatist in the tragic plot, however, was to impose a pattern on experience through the repetition of set topics and rhetorical devices; in this kind of tragedy, the greater the emotion and complexity of thought, the greater was the artificiality of language” (Gooch 16). Gooch quotes R.F. Hill, in “Shakespeare’s Early Tragic Mode” [Shakespeare Quarterly 9 (1958): 462]: “in the early tragedies and histories all occurrences of markedly stylistic dialogue and word-play will be found to be related to the disturbed feelings of the speakers. The more intense the feelings, the more artificial the language” (qtd. in Gooch 16n). Perhaps the “comedy is a later addition to a tragedy written in a style that was rapidly becoming old-fashioned and subject to ridicule” (Gooch 18).
Locrine has been attributed by various scholars to Shakespeare, Marlowe, Kyd, Peele, and Greene. Thomas Creede, the printer of Locrine, printed six bad quartos of Shakespeare plays, including Henry V, Merry Wives, Famous Victories (Gooch 28). Shake-speare is mentioned only on the title page of Richard III.
King Leir was entered in the Stationers’ Register May 14, 1594, and printed in 1605. Famous Victories was entered May 14, 1594, printed 1598. The True Tragedy of Richard III was entered June 19, 1594, printed 1594. Of five other plays belonging to the Queen’s Men, four were published independently by Creede.
If W.S. stands for William Stanley, who “would probably have produced plays for the Derby’s Men, and there is reason to believe that Locrine was connected with the Queen’s Men” (Gooch 29), then there’s more evidence in my opinion that Derby was “penning” in service to his talented father-in-law in the late 1590s as plays were being revised.