Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Act IV


The Outskirts of the Bower.


GEOFFREY (coming out of the wood).
Light again! light again! Margery? no, that's a finer thing there. How
it glitters!

ELEANOR (entering). Come to me, little one. How camest thou hither?

GEOFFREY: On my legs.

ELEANOR: And mighty pretty legs too. Thou art the prettiest child I ever saw. Wilt thou love me?

GEOFFREY: No; I only love mother.

ELEANOR: Ay; and who is thy mother?

GEOFFREY: They call her--But she lives secret, you see.


GEOFFREY: Don't know why.

ELEANOR: Ay, but some one comes to see her now and then. Who is he?

GEOFFREY: Can't tell.

ELEANOR: What does she call him?

GEOFFREY: My liege.

ELEANOR: Pretty one, how camest thou?

GEOFFREY: There was a bit of yellow silk here and there, and it looked pretty like a glowworm, and I thought if I followed it I should find the fairies.

ELEANOR: I am the fairy, pretty one, a good fairy to thy mother. Take me to her.

GEOFFREY: There are good fairies and bad fairies, and sometimes she cries, and can't sleep sound o' nights because of the bad fairies.

ELEANOR: She shall cry no more; she shall sleep sound enough if thou wilt take me to her. I am her good fairy.

GEOFFREY: But you don't look like a good fairy. Mother does. You are not pretty, like mother.

ELEANOR: We can't all of us be as pretty as thou art--(aside) little bastard. Come, here is a golden chain I will give thee if thou wilt lead me to thy mother.

GEOFFREY: No--no gold. Mother says gold spoils all. Love is the only gold.

ELEANOR: I love thy mother, my pretty boy. Show me where thou camest out of the wood.

GEOFFREY: By this tree; but I don't know if I can find the way back again.

ELEANOR: Where's the warder?

GEOFFREY: Very bad. Somebody struck him.

ELEANOR: Ay? who was that?

GEOFFREY: Can't tell. But I heard say he had had a stroke, or you'd have heard his horn before now. Come along, then; we shall see the silk here and there, and I want my supper.


       *      *      *      *      *      *      *




ROSAMUND: The boy so late; pray God, he be not lost. I sent this Margery, and she comes not back; I sent another, and she comes not back. I go myself--so many alleys, crossings, Paths, avenues--nay, if I lost him, now The folds have fallen from the mystery, And left all naked, I were lost indeed.



Geoffrey, the pain thou hast put me to!

[Seeing ELEANOR:

Ha, you! How came you hither?

ELEANOR: Your own child brought me hither!

GEOFFREY: You said you couldn't trust Margery, and I watched her and followed her into the woods, and I lost her and went on and on till I found the light and the lady, and she says she can make you sleep o' nights.

ROSAMUND: How dared you? Know you not this bower is secret, Of and belonging to the King of England, More sacred than his forests for the chase? Nay, nay, Heaven help you; get you hence in haste Lest worse befall you.

ELEANOR: Child, I am mine own self Of and belonging to the King. The King Hath divers ofs and ons, ofs and belongings, Almost as many as your true Mussulman-- Belongings, paramours, whom it pleases him To call his wives; but so it chances, child, That I am his main paramour, his sultana. But since the fondest pair of doves will jar, Ev'n in a cage of gold, we had words of late, And thereupon he call'd my children bastards. Do you believe that you are married to him?

ROSAMUND, I should believe it.

ELEANOR: You must not believe it, Because I have a wholesome medicine here Puts that belief asleep. Your answer, beauty! Do you believe that you are married to him?

ROSAMUND: Geoffrey, my boy, I saw the ball you lost in the fork of the great willow over the brook. Go. See that you do not fall in. Go.

GEOFFREY: And leave you alone with the good fairy. She calls you beauty, but I don't like her looks. Well, you bid me go, and I'll have my ball anyhow. Shall I find you asleep when I come back?



ELEANOR: He is easily found again. Do you believe it? I pray you then to take my sleeping-draught; But if you should not care to take it--see!

[Draws a dagger.

What! have I scared the red rose from your face Into your heart. But this will find it there, And dig it from the root for ever.

ROSAMUND: Help! help!

ELEANOR: They say that walls have ears; but these, it seems, Have none! and I have none--to pity thee.

ROSAMUND: I do beseech you--my child is so young, So backward too; I cannot leave him yet. I am not so happy I could not die myself, But the child is so young. You have children--his; And mine is the King's child; so, if you love him-- Nay, if you love him, there is great wrong done Somehow; but if you do not--there are those Who say you do not love him--let me go With my young boy, and I will hide my face, Blacken and gipsyfy it; none shall know me; The King shall never hear of me again, But I will beg my bread along the world With my young boy, and God will be our guide. I never meant you harm in any way. See, I can say no more.

ELEANOR: Will you not say you are not married to him?

ROSAMUND: Ay, Madam, I can say it, if you will.

ELEANOR: Then is thy pretty boy a bastard?


ELEANOR: And thou thyself a proven wanton?

ROSAMUND: No. I am none such. I never loved but one. I have heard of such that range from love to love, Like the wild beast--if you can call it love. I have heard of such--yea, even among those Who sit on thrones--I never saw any such, Never knew any such, and howsoever You do misname me, match'd with any such, I am snow to mud.

ELEANOR: The more the pity then That thy true home--the heavens--cry out for thee Who art too pure for earth.




FITZURSE: Give her to me.

ELEANOR: The Judas-lover of our passion-play Hath track'd us hither.

FITZURSE: Well, why not? I follow'd You and the child: he babbled all the way. Give her to me to make my honeymoon.

ELEANOR: Ay, as the bears love honey. Could you keep her Indungeon'd from one whisper of the wind, Dark even from a side glance of the moon, And oublietted in the centre--No! I follow out my hate and thy revenge.

FITZURSE: You bad me take revenge another way-- To bring her to the dust.... Come with me, love, And I will love thee.... Madam, let her live. I have a far-off burrow where the King Would miss her and for ever.

ELEANOR: How sayst thou, sweetheart? Wilt thou go with him? he will marry thee.

ROSAMUND: Give me the poison; set me free of him!

[ELEANOR offers the vial.

No, no! I will not have it.

ELEANOR: Then this other, The wiser choice, because my sleeping-draught May bloat thy beauty out of shape, and make Thy body loathsome even to thy child; While this but leaves thee with a broken heart, A doll-face blanch'd and bloodless, over which If pretty Geoffrey do not break his own, It must be broken for him.

ROSAMUND: O I see now Your purpose is to fright me--a troubadour You play with words. You had never used so many, Not if you meant it, I am sure. The child.... No.... mercy! No! (Kneels.)

ELEANOR: Play!... that bosom never Heaved under the King's hand with such true passion As at this loveless knife that stirs the riot, Which it will quench in blood! Slave, if he love thee, Thy life is worth the wrestle for it: arise, And dash thyself against me that I may slay thee! The worm! shall I let her go? But ha! what's here? By very God, the cross I gave the King! His village darling in some lewd caress Has wheedled it off the King's neck to her own. By thy leave, beauty. Ay, the same! I warrant Thou hast sworn on this my cross a hundred times Never to leave him--and that merits death, False oath on holy cross--for thou must leave him To-day, but not quite yet. My good Fitzurse, The running down the chase is kindlier sport Ev'n than the death. Who knows but that thy lover May plead so pitifully, that I may spare thee? Come hither, man; stand there. (To Rosamund)

Take thy one chance; Catch at the last straw. Kneel to thy lord Fitzurse; Crouch even because thou hatest him; fawn upon him For thy life and thy son's.

ROSAMUND (rising). I am a Clifford, My son a Clifford and Plantagenet. I am to die then, tho' there stand beside thee One who might grapple with thy dagger, if he Had aught of man, or thou of woman; or I Would bow to such a baseness as would make me Most worthy of it: both of us will die, And I will fly with my sweet boy to heaven, And shriek to all the saints among the stars: 'Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of England! Murder'd by that adulteress Eleanor, Whose doings are a horror to the east, A hissing in the west!' Have we not heard Raymond of Poitou, thine own uncle--nay, Geoffrey Plantagenet, thine own husband's father-- Nay, ev'n the accursed heathen Saladdeen-- Strike! I challenge thee to meet me before God. Answer me there.

ELEANOR (raising the dagger). This in thy bosom, fool, and after in thy bastard's!


Enter BECKET from behind. Catches hold of her arm.


BECKET: Murderess!

[The dagger falls; they stare at one another. After a pause.

ELEANOR: My lord, we know you proud of your fine hand, But having now admired it long enough, We find that it is mightier than it seems-- At least mine own is frailer: you are laming it.

BECKET: And lamed and maim'd to dislocation, better Than raised to take a life which Henry bad me Guard from the stroke that dooms thee after death To wail in deathless flame.

ELEANOR: Nor you, nor I Have now to learn, my lord, that our good Henry Says many a thing in sudden heats, which he Gainsays by next sunrising--often ready To tear himself for having said as much. My lord, Fitzurse--

BECKET: He too! what dost thou here? Dares the bear slouch into the lion's den? One downward plunge of his paw would rend away Eyesight and manhood, life itself, from thee. Go, lest I blast thee with anathema, And make thee a world's horror.

FITZURSE: My lord, I shall remember this.

BECKET: I do remember thee; lest I remember thee to the lion, go.


Take up your dagger; put it in the sheath.

ELEANOR: Might not your courtesy stoop to hand it me? But crowns must bow when mitres sit so high. Well--well--too costly to be left or lost.

[Picks up the dagger.

I had it from an Arab soldan, who, When I was there in Antioch, marvell'd at Our unfamiliar beauties of the west; But wonder'd more at my much constancy To the monk-king, Louis, our former burthen, From whom, as being too kin, you know, my lord, God's grace and Holy Church deliver'd us. I think, time given, I could have talk'd him out of His ten wives into one. Look at the hilt. What excellent workmanship. In our poor west We cannot do it so well.

BECKET: We can do worse. Madam, I saw your dagger at her throat; I heard your savage cry.

ELEANOR: Well acted, was it? A comedy meant to seem a tragedy-- A feint, a farce. My honest lord, you are known Thro' all the courts of Christendom as one That mars a cause with over-violence. You have wrong'd FITZURSE: I speak not of myself. We thought to scare this minion of the King Back from her churchless commerce with the King To the fond arms of her first love, Fitzurse, Who swore to marry her. You have spoilt the farce. My savage cry? Why, she--she--when I strove To work against her license for her good, Bark'd out at me such monstrous charges, that The King himself, for love of his own sons, If hearing, would have spurn'd her; whereupon I menaced her with this, as when we threaten A yelper with a stick. Nay, I deny not That I was somewhat anger'd. Do you hear me? Believe or no, I care not. You have lost The ear of the King. I have it.... My lord Paramount, Our great High-priest, will not your Holiness Vouchsafe a gracious answer to your Queen?

BECKET: Rosamund hath not answer'd you one word; Madam, I will not answer you one word. Daughter, the world hath trick'd thee. Leave it, daughter; Come thou with me to Godstow nunnery, And live what may be left thee of a life Saved as by miracle alone with Him Who gave it.


Re-enter GEOFFREY:


GEOFFREY: Mother, you told me a great fib: it wasn't in the willow.

BECKET: Follow us, my son, and we will find it for thee-- Or something manlier.


ELEANOR: The world hath trick'd her--that's the King; if so, There was the farce, the feint--not mine. And yet I am all but sure my dagger was a feint Till the worm turn'd--not life shot up in blood, But death drawn in;--(looking at the vial) this was no feint then? No. But can I swear to that, had she but given Plain answer to plain query? nay, methinks Had she but bow'd herself to meet the wave Of humiliation, worshipt whom she loathed, I should have let her be, scorn'd her too much To harm her. Henry--Becket tells him this-- To take my life might lose him Aquitaine. Too politic for that. Imprison me? No, for it came to nothing--only a feint. Did she not tell me I was playing on her? I'll swear to mine own self it was a feint. Why should I swear, Eleanor, who am, or was, A sovereign power? The King plucks out their eyes Who anger him, and shall not I, the Queen, Tear out her heart--kill, kill with knife or venom One of his slanderous harlots? 'None of such?' I love her none the more. Tut, the chance gone, She lives--but not for him; one point is gain'd. O I, that thro' the Pope divorced King Louis, Scorning his monkery,--I that wedded Henry, Honouring his manhood--will he not mock at me The jealous fool balk'd of her will--with him? But he and he must never meet again. Reginald Fitzurse!

Re-enter FITZURSE:

FITZURSE: Here, Madam, at your pleasure.

ELEANOR: My pleasure is to have a man about me. Why did you slink away so like a cur?

FITZURSE: Madam, I am as much man as the King. Madam, I fear Church-censures like your King.

ELEANOR: He grovels to the Church when he's black-blooded, But kinglike fought the proud archbishop,--kinglike Defied the Pope, and, like his kingly sires, The Normans, striving still to break or bind The spiritual giant with our island laws And customs, made me for the moment proud Ev'n of that stale Church-bond which link'd me with him To bear him kingly sons. I am not so sure But that I love him still. Thou as much man! No more of that; we will to France and be Beforehand with the King, and brew from out This Godstow-Becket intermeddling such A strong hate-philtre as may madden him--madden Against his priest beyond all hellebore.

Lord Alfred Tennyson

Sorry, no summary available yet.