Thomas of Woodstock
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
THOMAS OF WOODSTOCK
Lapoole, Governor of Calais, leads two murderers towards the room in which Woodstock is resting, promising them “heaps of gold” from Richard (V.i.5). If Woodstock makes any noise when they are strangling him, one murderer has a hammer to bash his brains in: “I’ll maul his old mazzard with this hammer, knock him down like an ox, and after cut ‘s throat” (V.i.9-11). But Lapoole wants this to look like a natural death. (This will be Richard’s own fate.) He warns the murderers not to be unnerved by Woodstock’s “princely looks” (V.i.23) and has them wait for his signal. Lapoole has a moment to reflect and reveals his repulsion at this coming deed: “The further that I wade in this foul act / My troubled senses are the more distract” (V.i.41-42). But, he says in soliloquy, Richard has threatened him if he does not follow through. He sees that Woodstock is asleep and has music played before exiting to fetch the murderers.
The Ghost of the Black Prince, arisen from his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, appears to warn Woodstock of the danger and to advise him to flee. The Ghost of Edward III then appears with the same message: Richard has become “a landlord to my kingly titles, / Renting out my crown’s revenues” (V.i.89-90). Woodstock calls for the latter spirit to stay, then thinks it was his imagination, and then recalls that he dreamt about being visited by both dead brother and father. Lapoole enters and, because Woodstock is awake, the murderers retreat again. Woodstock confronts Lapoole with his accusations of the planned assassination, knowing that Lapoole is another of Richard’s flatterers (V.i.138). Lapoole protests that there is no such plan and suggests that Woodstock write a letter to Richard to make peace. Woodstock indignantly refuses to “submit or ask his mercy” (V.i.173) since he has committed no treason, but he resolves to write a letter admonishing Richard again about his foolishness.
Woodstock is uncertain how to begin appropriately but honestly, but no matter: the murderers sneak up behind him, strike him down, strangle him, and try to make it look like a peaceful death afterwards. The second murderers says to the first, “thou hast killed the truest subject that ever breathed in England” (V.i.233-234). When Lapoole returns, Woodstock is reported dead “As a door-nail” (V.i.248). Lapoole prepares some soldiers with orders, and when the murderers are expecting their rewards, they instead are killed by the soldiers. Lapoole will report Woodstock’s death a natural one. He notes that the other uncles are now in open armed rebellion.
Tresilian thinks that declaring the uncles traitors “Will daunt their pride and make the people leave them” (V.ii.3), but he hears from Nimble that Richard’s attempts to raise an army are faltering: soldiers they do get are running away at the first chance. Tresilian is enraged, and decides to wait to see how matters transpire; if badly for Richard, he may have to don a disguise and flee.
Lancaster promises the widowed Duchess of Gloucester that they will avenge Woodstock’s death and demand the truth from Richard. York figures that Woodstock was unfortunately an east target: “His plainness was too open to their view: / He feared no wrong because his heart was true” (V.iii.7-8). Cheney escort the Duchess away as the uncles, Arundel, and Surrey prepare for confrontation.
Shortly, Richard, his cohorts, and his army have the upper hand. Richard acts magnanimous, indicating it could have been a slaughter but he’s more interested in a parley. Lancaster asks Richard how he dares feign ignorance as to why they have banded together in defense (V.iii.70-71). Bitter exchanges among various characters follow, including Lancaster’s insistence that Richard’s having been born at Bordeaux in France is part of the problem (V.iii.97f). At this, Richard wants them executed as “rebellious traitors” (V.iii.121). Bagot tries to make peace, but Lancaster demands that the proclamations against them be revoked, that Woodstock’s body’s location be revealed, and that the flatterers be sent to trial. So war is inevitable.
Cheney fights Greene. With Arundel’s help, Greene is slain (although historically he was executed by Bullingbroke). Richard, Bagot, Bushy, and Scroop confront Cheney and Arundel, but the arrival of Lancaster, York, and Surrey drives them away.
The King mourns over Greene’s corpse. Bagot, Bushy, and Scroop warn Richard to flee to the Tower since Lapoole has been taken prisoner and their army is in shambles. Richard takes the bad news as punishment for the murder of Woodstock.
Nimble points out a ditch to a disguised Tresilian along which they might sneak away, since Richard has been taken prisoner. Nimble privately considers helping Tresilian and maybe being hanged, or turning him in. He tells Tresilian he’s devised a trick as an escape plan: “I must take ye prisoner” (V.v.33-34). The escape is for himself by turning in Tresilian and obeying the proclamation against him. Nimble has the upper hand over Tresilian: “one of your own swords of justice drawn over ye. Therefore go quietly lest I cut your head off and save the hangman a labour” (V.v.48-51).
Lancaster, Cheney, Arundel, and Surrey have Lapoole, Bushy, and Scroop as prisoners. Lancaster offers a horticultural conceit, saying that they
Have toiled to purge fair England’s pleasant field
Of all those rancorous weeds that choked the grounds
And left her pleasant meads like barren hills.
Bagot is fled but Lancaster is sure they’ll catch him. He’s more bothered that Tresilian has escaped, but immediately Nimble leads him in captive. Nimble is proud of his triumph and mangles legal language in boasting of it. Arundel asks Nimble what moved him to apprehend Tresilian. Nimble replies that there were three reasons, the first being the proclamation….
[Here the manuscript breaks off. The final page or pages are missing.]