Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




Enter the QUEEN in great trouble.

Enter KNIGHTS bringing in a dead body and crying Treason! Treason!

(The Queen takes her State.)

     Arthur.     Who would accuse the Queen?


     Sir Mador.     ’Tis I, my Liege.


     Arthur.     What be the substance of thine accusation?


     Sir Mador.     Murder! Sire, murder! most foul and treacherous!


     Other Knights.     Yea, murder, foul and treacherous!


     Arthur.     On whom?


     Sir Mador.     On the body of this knight, my brother, Sir Patrise,

  whom thou knowest to have been a courteous knight of much steadfastness to thee and the Court.


     Arthur.     It is most strange. Relate the circumstances.


     Sir Mador.     ’Twas at the banquet, Sir King, where we all invited of

  thy Queen, the Madam Guinevere, who sitteth there, and after meat, she with much courtesy of seeming, did press on us to partake of some fruit, the which on partaking of, my brother, this dead knight, did fall in agony so extreme and mortal, that his soul went out, and now he lieth as thou see’st him.


     Other Knights.     Yea, ’tis true, ’tis as he saith, a most foul and

  damnable murder.


     Arthur.     (Turns to the queen.) Madam, what sayest thou to this



     Guin.     ’Tis a false foul lie. I am innocent of this deed.


     Dagonet.     (Aside.) Yea, ’tis true!


     Arthur.     Thou see’st this dead knight here and these witnesses, as I

  am King I must see justice, even against thee.
Hast thou no other defence to offer?


     Guin.     Nay, my lord, as I am the Queen, ’tis a most damnable lie.

  ’Fore Heaven, I am innocent of this strange murder.


     Dagonet.     (Aside.) Now is my soul in flames!


     Sir Mador.     According to our ancient laws, when a guest dies in this

  most suspicious manner, where proof of grievous intent is present, the accused is condemned to be burnt at the stake.


     Guin.     Great Heaven!


     Arthur.     ’Tis a foul punishment.


     Sir Mador.     But for a foul crime.


     Other Knights.     Yea, ’tis but justice.


     Arthur.     There is also a trial.


     Mordred.     Yea, Sire, the accused being a woman must have a

  knight to prove her innocence by his body on the body of the accuser ere the time of death be accomplished.


     Arthur.     Then be it so. The law must follow on the weight of these

  many witnesses. (Turning to the Queen.) Guinevere, Queen of Britain, I believe thee guiltless of the crime whereof thou art accused, as thou hast said. As King I am not free to prove thine innocence with my body, but as the King, unless thou procurest a knight to assoil thee ere the time appointed, I here condemn thee to be taken hence to a place of public note and there be burnt to death, as the law requireth.


     Guin.     Oh Great Heaven! (Falls in a swoon.)


     Arthur.     Sir knight, art thou satisfied?


     Sir Mador.     Yea, on my body.


     Arthur.     Then clear the Court.

[Exit Knights.


Madam, this is the heaviest hour of all my life.


     Guin.     (Supported by her ladies.) Yea, my lord, thou wilt save me?


     Arthur.     That I will, in all justice. Ho, there, without!


Enter a Page.


Bring me Sir Hake on the instant.
(Enter SIR HAKE.)


     Arthur.     I command that this stern sentence on the body of the noble

  Queen be proclaimed widely, and that messengers be sent, on pain of death, to find Sir Gwaine and Sir Launcelot, that if they be not procured here within the present month, that the messengers pay the penalty with their bodies.


     Sir Hake.     Yea Sire, it will be done.


     Arthur.     And thou, my Queen, retire to your apartments, I will come

  shortly to you. Keep up thy heart, as thou art innocent so will Heaven help thee.


     Guin.     Yea, my Lord, thou wilt save me, as I am innocent.

[Exit GUINEVERE and her ladies.


     Arthur.     Ho, Page, bring wine, (aside) I would forget my sorrow.

Bring wine! I say, and send hither my fool!
[Exit Page.




     Arthur.     Fool, I would forget my heaviness. Make me merry.


     Dagonet.     (Aside.) Oh God! (To the King.) Yea, Sire, what would’st

  thou have?


     Arthur.     Some music.


     Dagonet.     Yea, Sire. (Sings.)

Blue is the summer morning’s sky,
And birds are glad and merry.
And Anna’s eyes are sweet and sly,
Her cheeks like any cherry;—
Her lips like dewy rosebuds are
Upon the gladsome morning.
She is my love, my heart’s glad star,
In spite of all her scorning.

So fill the cup of gladness up
And drink to youth and morning.
Let sadness go with evening sup,
I’m hers for all her scorning.


     Arthur.     Would I had thy merry heart, Fool.


     Dagonet.     Yea, Sire!