Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




SCENE V.—A Corridor in the Palace. Enter two Gentlemen.

     1st Gent.     Hast heard the news? Mordred’s usurped the kingdom,

  hath seized the Queen, and backed by half the realm doth challenge Arthur to a warm homecoming. Tis said he hath plotted this long time and now hath proved his chances. How stand you in this most bitter struggle?


     2nd Gent.     I’m for Arthur and now for Dover and France this coming



     1st Gent.     Then I am with you. May we bring these shores
New peace from this usurper when we come.

[exit both.


Enter VIVIEN with a dagger.


     Vivien.     Nay he shall never make her Queen. Nay never!
She shall die first! No Queen but Vivien
Shall royal it while Mordred lifts the crown.
His slave, his creature, yea, in all save this.
I’ll make her beauty wan, I’ll curtain her lights.
Yea she shall Queen in Tartarus this night.
(sounds heard without, VIVIEN gets behind the tapestry.)




     Mordred.     Now have I reached the pinnacle of my revenge
In these uncertain heights of Arthur’s glory.
And even now I sicken of the struggle.
Even now I top a tower of fear.
A thousand swords, would leap at my command,
And swim this land in blood at my one word,
Would at a stronger power but turn and rend me.
The thousand throats that this morn shouted, “Mordred!”
Tomorrow morn may shout as loud for Arthur.
’Tis but a petty thing to be a King,
And strut an hour to crown a people’s will
And make them think they wield a majesty,
And hold a phantom rule; then pass and be
A little dust in a forgotten heap.
Nay, ’tis not worth the blacking of a soul,
The letting of a single human life,
The fouling o’er of youthful memory.
And I am now this self-contemnéd thing,
A man of truest sorrows who descended
From out the pedestal of nobler dreams,
And used the subtle intrigues of this world
To climb this pyramid of human weakness.
And now I hate it as I hate myself
Who stooped to gain it. Yet must Mordred king
This realm with a tyranny that fear
Wields o’er a monarchy that knows not love.
And burn his heart out for a woman’s scorn.
Yea she shall be my Queen if love can win her.


Enter GUINEVERE as a State prisoner


     Mordred.     Madam, I would detain you.


     Guin.     Usurper King! what means this bringing of me here?
I deemed the shelter of a sisterhood
Were not denied me.


     Mordred.     Madam, I would to you unfold this matter.
I am not all you think me in your scorn
Though I be born mis-shapen, yet my soul
Hath appetite for beauty like a man’s
That shows the inward in the outward mein.
Madam, I would lay the matter plainly,
I have long been a victim to thy beauties,
And would new-make thee Queen of this old Kingdom.


     Guin.     Never! Were Launcelot or Arthur standing by,
Insulter of thy Queen, thou wouldst die.
Make way! Make way!


     Mordred.     Madam, have compassion on my weakness!
A soul is lodged within this crooked body.
No man hath ever loved as Mordred loves.


     Guin.     Make way! this be hideous.


     Mordred.     Lady, let your own sorrow plead for Mordred’s sorrow.
As thou hast loved Launcelot unhappy,
So he loves thee.


     Guin.     Show thy love by closing this audience quickly.
I am all Launcelot’s in this world and the next,
As Heaven knoweth.


     Mordred.     Then thou wilt not have compassion.


     Guin.     I pity thee, but this may never be.


     Mordred.     Never?


     Guin.     As I am a Queen, never!


     Mordred.     Lady, thy pity doth but little help me.
Yet will I show thee Mordred hath a heart.
Know then thou hast killed the spark of Mordred’s hope,
And silenced the music of this world for him,
Yet lady as rightful king of this great land
He grants thee safest passage where thou wilt.


     Guin.     I would go to a Nunnery.


     Mordred.     As thou wilt. Not one word? Not one token?


     Guin.     Prince, thou hast my respect and gratitude
For this thine act.

[Exit GUINEVERE and her train.


VIVIEN comes forward.


     Vivien.     Ha! Ha! Ha! King Mordred!


     Mordred.     (Springs forward and draws.) Fiend! thou diest! (He

  clutches her, they stand confronting each other.) Nay, nay and thou didst hear all? Nay, I will not kill thee. Thy punishment hath been more than I could mete thee. I see sharp agony in thine evil face. Yea, Woman thou hast suffered.


     Vivien.     Oh God! My love! My love! (Would stab herself.


     Mordred.     Nay, die not! (throws the dagger away) Thou deservest

  thy reward. Mordred will crown this farce and make thee Queen.


     Vivien.     Me! thy wife?


     Mordred.     Nay, nay, nor mistress even, only Queen.