Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell



SCENE I.—(Rise outer curtain.) Passage near the QUEEN's apartments. Enter DAGONET.

     Dagonet.     ’Tis little I can do, but I will mend

The devilment that I have helped to cause.
Hark, now they come! Here will I take my stand.
’Tis over my dead body when they come,
That they’ll come at her. Ho! stand without!
(Sounds heard without. Enter MORDRED, SIR AGRAVAINE and other Knights with torches and naked swords. DAGONET draws.)


Where go you, Masters?


     Mordred.     We go this road, ’ware how you stop our way.


     Dagonet.     The man who goes this road goes o’er my body.


     Sir Ag.     Louse! take that! (Stabs DAGONET, he falls.)


     Mordred.     ’Tis the King’s jester.


     Dagonet.     You have leeched my folly. Now is the jest ended.

Vivien! (dies)


     A Knight.     He was a man after all.


     Mordred.     Onward Knights to better game than this,

Though little we know the tragedy that ended
When yon poor light went out! Come this way!
[Exit all.


(Rise inner curtain.) The QUEEN’s apartment, LAUNCELOT and GUINEVERE.


     Laun.     I come this night to bid you a long farewell,
Before I leave this kingdom’s shores for ever.
This love doth hold me in a demon’s grasp,
And my heart breaks to feel great Arthur’s love,
All the time we twain be meeting thus.


     Guin.     Nay, nay Launcelot, leave me not forlorn,

I cannot live without thee. Thy strong arms,
And thy warm kisses are to me the one
Fair garden springing on this drearsome earth.


     Laun.     Lady I must go. My lands in France,

Tribute to my sword, I’ll make a kingdom.
And pass my days in memories of thee.


     Guin.     Nay, nay thou wilt not go, and if thou must,

My heart will bleed for thee until my death.


     Unid.     (hurrying in.) Madam, there is treason without.

Many arméd knights do come this way.


     Laun.     Now is the end come I have long expected,

The grim fatality of all my fears,
The nightmare real at last. Quick! my Sweet!
Kiss me your latest now. This is my death!


     Guin.     Launcelot, save, save thyself,

I will bar them with my body here.
They will but trample a dead, dishonored Queen,
Whom brute fatality made its passing sport.
Quick! that way!


     Laun.     Nay, nay, sweet Love, but I will die with thee.

And show great love can make a greater death.
(Draws) Would to God I had mine armour.
(Loud knocking heard at the door and the voice of MORDRED heard
Come out thou traitor Launcelot and show the world
The face of him who hath dishonored Arthur.
Come out thou traitor.


     Guin.     Launcelot save thyself, there is time yet.


     Laun.     Nay, Love, I’ll end me here, if be my fate.

Ho! Cowards without! I am a single man,
Devoid of armour having but my sword,
Yet will I open and give you Hell’s glad welcome.
(Unbars the door, SIR AGRAVAINE rushes in)


     Laun.     Die Hound! (brains him,) LAUNCELOT drags him aside

  and bars the door.)
Quick! Help me to this armour! (takes the arms from SIR
  AGRAVAINES’s body, and arms himself.)


     Guin.     (Helping him) Aye, Love, if prayers are aught, will mine

  clothe thee.
(Voices outside,) Open up! Traitor! open up!


     Guin.     Great God, Great God, help this poor Queen who prays!

  (LAUNCELOT buckles his armour.)


     Laun.     Now am I ready, fare thee well, sweet Love.

Whatever haps, and we may meet no more,
This side of darkness; carry to thy grave,
That Launcelot loved thee, thee, and only thee.


     Guin.     Oh, Launcelot, my heart breaks. (they embrace, the QUEEN

  faints.) (LAUNCELOT to the maids,) Take her back from this, protect her, keep her safe.
This work is not for her sweet presence. Now heaven help
The man that meeteth Launcelot’s blade this night!
(Voices without,) Coward! Traitor! wilt thou open up?


     Laun.     Yea, Traitors who foreswore the name of knight,

When like some drunken rabble ye poluted
The gentle sacredness of these apartments.
And every man who shamed her ears tonight
(Throws open the doors) shall die! die! die! Come on Devils! (They
  rush in and then fall back in surprise.)


     Laun.     Ha! ha! here’s wine that Launcelot’s blade would drink. Die,

  Devils! (rushes forward hacking fiercely with his sword, twelve knights fall one after the other.)


     Mordred.     God of Heaven, let us back! This man be mad! (Retreats

  with four knights, LAUNCELOT slays the rest.)


     Laun.     Come on, ye Fiends of Hell! I’ll back me here,

Launcelot is a man of honour!