Thomas of Woodstock
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
THOMAS OF WOODSTOCK
Tresilian has his servant locking up bags of money in his study. He has developed his own idiosyncratic system for turning over ill-gotten revenues to the crown: “So then there’s four for me and three for him” (IV.i.8). “So men be rich enough, they’re good enough” (IV.i.12) — a Merchant of Venice wordplay. Bushy and Scroop arrive and all three gloat at their power being on a par with the King’s. Bagot’s arrival precedes that of the King, who is seething about Woodstock turning down the invitation. Greene suggests that Richard use force to make him come, but Richard fears the consequences given Woodstock’s popularity: “he’s so well beloved / As all the realm will rise in arms with him” (IV.i.81-82).Tresilian puts forth a plan: a masque! Have some of their people disguised as masquers, get invited in, and when Woodstock is alone, slap a mask on his face and kidnap him. If he raises a fuss no one will notice because of the chaotic revelry of the masquers. Richard loves it, but wants to be one of the masquers. He tells Tresilian to send out proclamations that the uncles are traitors and are to be imprisoned. They’ll send for aid from the King of France and forfeit English holdings in continental real estate.
Richard has qualms about pissing away all that his ancestors established by essentially renting out England to the new councillors — signing over all lands, rents, customs, taxes, etc. — and becoming in effect a “landlord” (IV.i.147) — “Rent out our kingdom like a pelting farm” (IV.i.148). But with Greene assuring him “Thou never didst a better deed in thy life, sweet bully” (IV.i.218), and with map in hand, he chops up the kingdom and looks forward to the arrest of his uncles.
Although the historical Queen Anne died three years before Woodstock’s arrest, here she has taken ill at this point, and Woodstock hurries his wife the Duchess along; she must ride to the Queen. But the Duchess of Gloucester is feeling weird and has had bad dreams. She dreamt that Woodstock was assailed by a lion and some wolves, and despite the bleatings of some sheep, he was slain. So were the sheep. Woodstock renders the obvious interpretation, but he thinks it concerns taxation rather than real danger to him. So he packs the Duchess off to the Queen at Sheen.
Cheney reports that the night sky is unusually dark and odd. However, the good news is that there will be a masque tonight. Some country gentlemen are ready to entertain with antic dancing and loud music. Someone playing Cynthia (moon-goddess and pseudonym for Elizabeth) delivers verses regarding a wild boar. King Richard, Greene, Bushy, and Bagot are led in “like Diana’s knights” (say the stage directions), with horns arounds their necks and boar-spears in hand. Woodstock welcomes them all and pontificates on the obvious application of the boar conceit — that there are wild boars of a sort spoiling the land: “I care not if King Richard heard me speak it!” (IV.ii.142).
Cheney alerts Woodstock that the house is surrounded by soldiers. Woodstock asks that the masquers show their faces. Richard has Bagot arrest Woodstock and despite protests that the King is not present. “Becomes it princes to be led like slaves” (IV.ii.185). Richard responds, “Put on a vizard. Stop his cries” (IV.ii.186), and Woodstock recognizes Richard’s voice. Woodstock expresses gratitude that he won’t live to see the complete ruin of his country. “Stop ‘s mouth I say!” (IV.ii.208). Woodstock asks to be commended to his wife, and is led off.
Crosby, Fleming, and Nimble await “whisperers against the state” (IV.iii.4). Tresilian accuses the shrieves of Kent and Northumberland of treason and won’t listen to their reasonable statements. Nimble reports to Tresilian about their own arrests. Tresilian will take their lands offered, presumably, when they face execution. Those without lands will be whipped and hanged. Nimble will have the schoolmaster whipped by each of his scholars with his own canes.
Bagot tells Tresilian that Richard is in mournful attendance on his ill Queen. A moment later, Bushy reports that the Queen is dead and Richard is not taking it well. The Duchess of Gloucester is trying to comfort Richard but that just makes him worse since she does not know her husband has been exiled to Calais. Richard was about to reveal this when Scroop and Greene whisked him away. Richard is calling for his uncle’s reprieve, but the councillors fear this. An inconsolable Richard enters, lamenting, and calling for the demolition of Sheen: “we’ll have it wasted, lime and stone [o cursèd wall], / To keep a monument of Richard’s moan” (IV.iii.166-167). He orders that word be sent to Calais to “prevent the tragedy” previous ordered (IV.iii.174): “We have too much provoked the powers divine” (IV.iii.175).