Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




SCENE VI.—An audience room in the Castle.

Enter MORDRED, SIR AGRAVAINE and other Knights.

     Mordred.     ’Tis a delicate business we be come upon,

Though one of grave importance, therefore I
Will stand i’ the background, thou Sir Agravaine,
Being a kinsman not o’ the sinister side,
May speak the plainer. Let it fall on me.
Yea, I will answer with my body here.


     Sir Ag.     Yea, I will put it plainly to the King,

And show the evil placed upon our house,
And that foul insult tendered King and kingdom,
By overbearing Launcelot and the Queen.


     Other Knights.     Yea, we are with you.


Enter a Page.


     Sir Ag.     We would see the King.


Exit Page, enter ARTHUR.


     Arthur.     What means this sudden assembling of knights
At this strange hour?


     Sir Ag.     We would bring a matter to thy hearing, King,

Of grave import unto thyself and us
Of thine own household, who’d uphold thy pride.
Yea, one affecting the dignity of this land.


     Arthur.     What be this matter?


     Sir Ag.     The matter is one which toucheth thine own honor,

And hath to do with Launcelot and the Queen.


     Arthur.     Dost thou insult thy King? (draws)


     Sir Ag.     Nay, thou dost insult thyself and us,

Doth thou not listen!


     Other Knights.     Yea, King, 'tis true.


     Arthur.     Tis treason, damnable treason ’gainst my Queen,

’Gainst myself and ’gainst this noble kingdom.


     Sir Ag.     Wilt thou hear me, King?


     Other Knights.     Yea, hear him.


     Arthur.     Then I will hear thee further, but tis plain,

You prove this on your bodies to the death.
If this strange lie be not as true as Heaven,
Each man though thinks this damnéd treason dies!


     Knights.     Tis just King, we will prove it on our bodies.


     Sir Ag.     We think, Lord Arthur, thou art over-blind

To certain things that compromise thine honor,
And some of us have reason to suspect
Sir Launcelot holdeth commerce with the Queen.


     Arthur.     Stop! Catiff!


     Sir Ag.     Wilt thou not hear it?


     Arthur.     Have ye forgotten that my name is Arthur?

Or is this nobleness a vanished dream?
'Tis damnable!


     Sir Ag.     We would prove this same upon our bodies,

By taking of them in the very act.


     Arthur.     No more! by heaven, no more! I say, no more!

Or by my crown, I’ll cleave thy catiff tongue,
And spatter thine evil brains on yonder pavement,
That dared impeach my royalty of such dis-honor.


     Sir Ag.     Nay, King, we will die for the truth of this matter.


     Knights.     Yea, Lord Arthur, we are so prepared.


     Arthur.     Nay, ye are mad, blind, besotted mad.


     Sir Ag.     Nay, King, here is Sir Mordred who will show

The truth whereof we speak.
[MORDRED comes forward.


     Arthur.     Ha! And it is thou that art at the bottom o’ this matter!


     Mordred.     Sire, I would but do my duty to this kingdom,

And to the honor of your kingly place.
Sir Agravaine is over-blunt in speech,
And speaketh sudden on a cruel matter;
Yet he hath but the right in this grave question,
Nor doth dishonor thee in this respect
More than do any of these royal knights,
But rather would show wherein thine honor lieth.
If dishonor lies therein, it doth not lie
On them who’d prove the evilment suspected,
But rather on those who by their treasonable act
Hath brought this same upon us. It would seem
That thou dost love Sir Launcelot even more
Than the unsullied honor of thy Queen.


     Arthur.     Nay! Speak no more! Thou hast insulted Arthur.

If but one thousandth part of this be true,
Then is great Arthur’s glory brought to ground.


     Mordred.     Sire!


     Arthur.     No more of words! What wouldst thou have me do?


     Mordred.     Sire, we would that thou give the opportunity

To prove the cruel substance of our coming
By taking the doers in the very act,
And trapping Launcelot in the Queen’s apartment.


     Arthur.     Go on! Death! Speak on! Accursed me!


     Mordred.     If thou wilt go abroad this coming night,

And advertise thy going, and grant to us
Sufficient knights to make the matter proof,
We will fulfil this matter with our lives.


     Knights.     We will.


     Arthur.     And it hath come to this!


     Mordred.     Sire, wilt thou grant this?


     Arthur.     Yea, I will grant it, but by Arthur’s honor,

The knight returning from such vile ambushment
Without full proof unto the open world
Of that which spills the sea of Arthur’s glory,
Shall die the foulest death this kingdom lends!
On this condition only do you go.


     Mordred.     Yea, we accept the conditions.


     Knights.     Yea, we do.