Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




SCENE IV.—(Rise outer curtain.) Court at Camelot.

Enter two Gentlemen.

     1st Gent.     Were I the weaker kind, I’d trickle tears
For this poor kingdom. Hast thou seen the Pope’s bull?


     2nd Gent.     Yea, forbidding the carrying on of this strange war,
And commanding Arthur to take back his Queen,
And give Sir Launcelot passage from the Kingdom.
He be a wondrous Knight, this Launcelot.
’Tis pity this love o’ercame him.


Both pass out. Enter VIVIEN and MORDRED.


     Vivien.     My heart grows hot to bring things to an issue.


     Mordred.     Patience! and thou wilt see the issue come.
Launcelot banished, Arthur follows after,
With blustering Gwaine, both ravening for war.
Arthur will leave me regent, then’s mine hour.

(Both pass on.) (Rise inner curtain.) (Enter ARTHUR, takes his state. Knights and Ladies. Trumpets blow without. Enter LAUNCELOT with the QUEEN draped in black, with her Ladies. LAUNCELOT leads the QUEEN, who stands. LAUNCELOT kneels. ARTHUR averts his face. LAUNCELOT speaks.)


     Laun.     Sire! by order of the Pope of Rome
And your most royal promise, here I bring
Unto your keeping Guinevere the Queen,
And dares one knight within these royal precincts
Impugn her chastity or queenliness,
I meet him with my body.


     Arthur.     Madam, I acknowledge you as Queen.
It is the will of Heaven. I submit.
But loving wife thou art no more to me.
Not Pope nor Prince can white thy black in this.
(GUINEVERE takes her state.


     Guin.     Arthur of Britain, I answer thee, the King,
I am no more thy wife nor ever was,
Nor am I shamed as queen to own the love
I’ve borne for Launcelot. In the coming world
He will be mine, as I am truly his.
I wronged thee not great Arthur, but ’twas thou
And hellish circumstance have wrecked my days.
’Tis the Queen’s answer, she will speak no more.


     Arthur.     Sir Launcelot Du Lake, arise! (LAUNCELOT stands.
Launcelot Du Lake, thou traitor knight,
Sinner against the honor of this realm,
I banish thee for ever from this kingdom,
On pain of foulest death, dost thou return.


     Laun.     Sire, I accept the issue.


     Mordred.     ’Tis but a gentle majesty that leans
To mercy such as this, were I thy king—


     Gwaine.     Yea, get thee quick. Fast as thou nearest France
We sail the faster. Thou shalt meet with Gwaine,
And pay his brother’s spirits thou hast slain,
Thou foul lewd traitor!


     Laun.     Lord Arthur, thou hast reason to scorn me now,
And all thine anger stabs mine inward soul;
But now tis open I must tell thee true,
I love Queen Guinevere as mine own body,
And her alone will love unto my death,
As to none other. For this woeful love,
I’ll answer to my God who put it there,
And not to man, nor even to thee, proud King.
And yet I say it, yea with breaking heart,
I love thee, King, as doth no other man,
And did no hideous fate come in between
I had been thy Launcelot still.


     Arthur.     (Aside) Great God! Now my heart breaketh.
(To LAUNCELOT) Begone, false Knight. ’Tis enough.


     Laun.     Yea yet a little, Sire, it is the end.
If Gwaine would hearken I would answer him
For his two brothers.


     Gwaine.     Nay, nay I’ll no hearken.


     Laun.     Tis ended then, but I would say to thee,
That nothing next to this most heavy matter,
The most dread, sorrowful matter in this poor world,
Hath grieved me so as that I did that deed.
All blinded with my sorrow for the Queen,
I knew not ’twas your brothers that I slew.


     Gwaine.     Nay, nay, blood, blood alone will answer.


     Laun.     (To the QUEEN)
And thou sad Guinevere, thou Queen of women,
Sweetest of soul and form upon this earth,
I’ll look upon thy beauteous face no more.
Let womanhood blossom the days to come,
There never-more will be one like to thee.
(Bends and kisses her hand) (GUINEVERE goes toward him)


     Guin.     Launcelot, take me with thee, I am thine.


     Arthur.     And thou the Queen?


     Guin.     I am no Queen of realm save this man’s heart.
And where he treads, that land to me alone
Beloved of the kingdoms of this earth.
Oh! take me Launcelot, my Lord! my King!


     Arthur.     Ladies, the Queen to her apartments!


     Laun.     I would not shame thy kindness, Guinevere.
We were each others ere this world began,
And we together, unshamed yet will go
To meet our God, sweet Love farewell, farewell.
(Hurries out. The QUEEN borne slowly to her apartments weeping.)


     Arthur.     Oh, black brute Evil, why was Arthur born?
Now is all loveliness gone out from life.
Yea, I will sink. Nay, I am Arthur still.
The Kingly still, defying Hell and Fate.
To arms! to arms! Red battle is my mood.


     Mordred.     Yea, battle!


     Gwaine.     Yea, blood, for blood! my brother’s spirits call.


     Arthur.     My heart awakens! Mordred, as my regent,
I leave thee fillial keeper of my crown,
My queen and kingdom, while I wed with war,
And bring as issue, yon foul Launcelot’s doom.
Make my forces ready. France! is the word.


     All.     (draw swords and shout) Yea, battle!