Henry The Ninth, Part One
KING ENTERS STAGE LEFT.
KING: Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York...
LIGHTNING FLASHES. THUNDER RUMBLES. JET OF WATER FROM OFFSTAGE STRIKES KING.
KING: Sod it!
SUSSEX ENTERS FROM RIGHT.
SUSSEX: My Liege!
KING: Ah, Sussex.
SUSSEX: Prithee, my Liege, take shelter from the storm, lest thou be drenched and suffer a most noble flu.
KING: Concern thyself not, my most loyal friend, with the royal health. The only tempest that troubles my countenance is the one that, even now, gathers on our western border.
SUSSEX: Aha! Me dost think my Liege referest to that most serpentine of seditious scoundrels, the Earl of Gwent. That treacherous cur, that most reviled and scorned of men-
KING: I was alluding to Lord Glamorgan. The Earl of Gwent is a very good friend of mine.
KING: We went to Eton together.
SUSSEX: I was unaware my Liege ever visited restaurants.
KING: TO Eton, o fatuous underling! The school!
SUSSEX (falling to one knee): I beg humble forgiveness of my Liege.
QUEEN ENTERS LEFT.
QUEEN: My King, my husband!
KING: My Queen, my wife! Behold her, my good Sussex. Have you ever before rested your poignant gaze upon such radiance, such grace of manner, such beauty as to render even the fabled Helen Of Troy an indelicate shade of green?
QUEEN: Don't think you can get round me that way, sunshine. I've already told you, I have the royal plumbers in.
QUEEN: Lord Sussex, dost thou proposeth marriage to your sovereign?
SUSSEX (hurriedly rising): No no, my Queen. Oh no.
KING: Dost something prey upon thy mind, my Queen?
QUEEN: Indeed it doth. Our son, the errant Prince Harry, hath once more absconded from the Palace under the influence of that rogue Sir John Gutbucket.
KING: Well, Sir John be well acquainted to being under the influence. Sussex!
KING:Adjourn thyself to the village. Thou shalt find the Prince and his drunken mentor in the tavern. Return them to the royal presence.
SUSSEX: At once, my Liege. (Exit)
QUEEN: My Lord, I must confess I fear for the future of our boy. Will the people allow the throne to pass to an untried youth with a taste for sweet wine and busty maidens?
KING: They allowed ME to ascend, did they not?
QUEEN: That was different. YOU had a popular father.
ENTER LORD BERKSHIRE FROM RIGHT, IN A STATE OF EXCITEMENT.
BERKSHIRE: My Liege!
QUEEN: My King doth sound like an atlas.
BERKSHIRE: News of woe from Wales, sire!
QUEEN: Not the sheep again! Tell them we're not interested.
BERKSHIRE: Not the sheep, my Queen.
QUEEN: The miners?
BERKSHIRE: Lord Glamorgan, my Liege! He hath raised an army and marcheth east. Lord Cornwall and Lord Devon hath taken his side.
KING: Zounds Forsooth!
BERKSHIRE: Lord Somerset is said to be wavering.
QUEEN: That would be the cider.
KING: Right! The time is ripe for strong word and swift action. Berkshire, be sure of foot and long of breath. Rouse our allies in the North...
BERKSHIRE: Yes, my Liege!
KING: ...except Lord Cumberland. He suffereth yet with evil vapours in the bowels.
QUEEN: Evil vapours?
KING: Alas, yes. Ever since that chicken curry on his stag night. Derbyshire!
KING: Inform our allies to the South and the West. Summon Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, Dorset -
QUEEN:My Lord, there is no Lord Middlesex.
KING: Nay, this cannot be true! Has he died?
QUEEN: You abolished him, remember? That big shake-up of the counties. You absorbed him into Greater London.
KING: Ah yes, I remember. Lord Greater London was not best pleased. Did I create any new counties?
DERBYSHIRE: Avon, my Lord.
KING: Then call Lord Avon!
DERBYSHIRE: Lord Avon approacheth even now, my King. He flee-eth East from the advance of the rebel army.
KING: Avon's calling?
DERBYSHIRE: Indeed, my Liege.
KING: Splendid! Then getteth to it, man. Fetch the others.
DERBYSHIRE: At best haste, sire. (Exit)
QUEEN: And our son, my King? Is he to partake of this malicious fray?
KING: Of course not, my dear. He shall be fighting alongside me.
SUSSEX ENTERS LEFT WITH PRINCE HENRY AND SIR JOHN GUTBUCKET, BOTH OF WHOM ARE CLEARLY THE WORSE FOR DRINK. THE PRINCE HOLDS A WINE BOTTLE, SIR JOHN A TANKARD.
SUSSEX: Sire! Your son and his odious friend hath been located.
KING: So I see. Son, I think it best you return to the Palace and prepare thyself an Espresso. Come the morrow, the battlefield shall resonate with the ring of steel against steel, and the glorious and bloody tumult of martial conflict.
HENRY: Hath thou been arguing with mother again?
QUEEN: Insolent youth! Awaken thy languid mind! The repellant Glamorgan and his army are to be routed in a mighty fray.
HENRY: Soundeth like fun.
KING: Hold thy acid tongue, youth. Thou shalt ride with me tomorrow. Thou art heir to the throne, and a King cannot be leader of men until he hath deported himself in battle, and blooded in the heat of strife.
SIR JOHN: Bloodied? Battle? (HE SLAPS HIS FOREHEAD) Just remembered! I hath a most urgent appointment with my dental surgeon on the morrow...
KING: Thou shalt fight alongside us Sir John, lest I take my sword and employ its keen edge to strike thy globular head from thy bloated body!
SIR JOHN: Since thou puttest it that way...
KING: Come, my Queen. Come, Sussex. Let us returneth to the Palace. I need to scribe my pre-battle speech. (EXEUNT KING, QUEEN AND SUSSEX)
SIR JOHN: Prithee Hal, another cup of sack! Such tidings should not go unrewarded.
HENRY POURS THE DRINK.
HENRY: I fear my father desireth to maketh a man of me. It meaneth the front line for us, my friend.
SIR JOHN: Front line? Fear not, my Prince. I shall be behind you every step of the way. Mostly because I have forgotten to bring my shield.
HENRY: Horrors! What if my father surviveth not? The cumbersome weight of the crown upon my youthful brow is a prospect I view with no passion.
SIR JOHN: Thou worryeth too much. Drink, lad! Life be too short.
HENRY: My first battle. Will it stand proud in history? Will it swell the ranks of such noted frays as Agincourt, Crecy, Hastings...
SIR JOHN: The Nag's Head, The Red Lion...
HENRY: Bosworth, Naseby, Cleethorpes... I feel not well, Sir John. My head spinneth.
SIR JOHN: Thou lightweight! This brew be but fifty proof.
HENRY: Come, Sir John. There is armour to be shined, swords to be sharpened, aspirin to be swallowed. (EXEUNT)
SHORT PAUSE, THEN THE KING ENTERS. HE STANDS REGALLY CENTRE-STAGE, WIELDING SWORD THREATENINGLY, AND FACES THE AUDIENCE.
KING: My troops! Unaccustomed thou I be to public speaking, I shall keep this short and sweet; nay, briefer yet than that. (HE CLEARS HIS THROAT AND LOOKS EMBARRASSED) I would like to thank thee all for coming. I would like to thank the Queen for the catering, my Lord Berkshire for the provision of the weapons, my Lord Essex for booking the band, and my Lord Derbyshire for arranging our flight to France if the tide of battle ebb on our fortune.
SUSSEX (FROM OFFSTAGE): Sire! The enemy approacheth!
THE KING HOLDS SWORD ALOFT.
KING: One more onto the beach, dear friends, once more! We shall fight them on the shingle; we shall battle them on the breakwaters; we shall trounce them on the sewage outfall pipe! Cry havoc!
PRINCE HENRY, SUSSEX, BERKSHIRE AND DERBYSHIRE ENTER LEFT, WAVING SWORDS AND SHOUTING: 'HAVOC!' TOGETHER WITH KING, THEY RUSH OFF RIGHT.
SWORD IN HAND, SIR JOHN WOBBLES ONTO STAGE FROM LEFT AND HALTS CENTRE-STAGE, PANTING AND LISTENING TO THE SOUNDS OF BATTLE OFF-STAGE.
SIR JOHN: Thou hast to be kidding me!
BERKSHIRE STAGGERS ON FROM RIGHT, SWORD STUCK THROUGH HIM.
BERKSHIRE: There goeth my no-claims bonus. (DIES)
SIR JOHN: Capital idea! (HE LIES DOWN AND FEIGNS DEATH)
SOUNDS OF BATTLE FADE. SLOWLY, PRINCE HENRY, SUSSEX AND DERBYSHIRE ENTER FROM RIGHT.
SUSSEX: The day is won, the foe is fled, but alas! The King is dead.
SUSSEX AND DERBYSHIRE KNEEL IN FRONT OF PRINCE HENRY.
SUSSEX AND DERBYSHIRE: Long live the King! Long live the King!
THE 'DEAD' SIR JOHN CLAMBERS TO HIS FEET.
SIR JOHN: Dearest me, I must have passed out. Harry! Harry my lad, we showed them, what! We parried, we thrusted, we weaved -
HENRY: I am your King now, Sir John...
SIR JOHN: Harry! My Liege! This calleth for another cup of the good stuff!
HENRY: ...and as King, I can no longer afford to consort woth corpulent, cowardly old soaks.
SIR JOHN: But my Liege!
HENRY PULLS AN ENVELOPE FROM HIS POCKET.
HENRY: It is customary, I believe, to grant thee a peerage, LORD John Gutbucket.
SIR JOHN TAKES THE ENVELOPE WITH GLEE.
SIR JOHN: Thou shalt indeed be a King of firm tradition! (HE SINKS TO ONE KNEE)
QUEEN ENTERS STAGE LEFT
QUEEN: How goes the battle?
HENRY: My most noble mother, the day is won, but I fear my father the King is slain.
QUEEN: Hey nonny nonny! I'd better claim the insurance. (Exit left)
HENRY: I must prepare for my coronation. Sussex, call the royal tailor. Sir John, call the royal financial advisor. Derbyshire, call my barber.
ALL PROCEED TO EXEUNT STAGE RIGHT.
HENRY: Dost thou thinketh that a perm would suit the royal hair?
SUSSEX: Why, certainly, sire. A parting would be such sweet sorrow.