Yorkshire. A room in Sandal Castle.
(Richard; Edward, Earl of March; Montague; Duke of York; First Yorkist Messenger; Sir John Mortimer; Sir Hugh Mortimer)
York’s sons Richard and Edward, along with Warwick’s brother Montague, urge their father to break his oath to defend Henry while he lives. York at first refuses, but Richard presents a remarkable piece of sophistry, pointing out that the oath was invalid because not taken before a magistrate. Seizing on this loophole, York decides to go for it, and plans to send his sons to rouse his followers. At this point they learn that the Queen’s army is approaching, and though outnumbered four to one they decide to fight with the help of York’s uncles, the Mortimers. (75 lines)
Enter Richard, Edward, and Montague.
Brother, though I be youngest, give me leave.
No, I can better play the orator.
But I have reasons strong and forcible.
Enter the Duke of York.
Why, how now, sons and brother, at a strife?
What is your quarrel? How began it first?
No quarrel, but a slight contention.
About that which concerns your Grace and us:
The crown of England, father, which is yours.
Mine, boys? Not till King Henry be dead.
Your right depends not on his life or death.
Now you are heir, therefore enjoy it now.
By giving the house of Lancaster leave to breathe,
It will outrun you, father, in the end.
I took an oath that he should quietly reign.
But for a kingdom any oath may be broken:
I would break a thousand oaths to reign one year.
No; God forbid your Grace should be forsworn.
I shall be, if I claim by open war.
I’ll prove the contrary, if you’ll hear me speak.
Thou canst not, son; it is impossible.
An oath is of no moment, being not took
Before a true and lawful magistrate
That hath authority over him that swears.
Henry had none, but did usurp the place.
Then seeing ’twas he that made you to depose,
Your oath, my lord, is vain and frivolous.
Therefore to arms! And, father, do but think
How sweet a thing it is to wear a crown,
Within whose circuit is Elysium
And all that poets feign of bliss and joy.
Why do we linger thus? I cannot rest
Until the white rose that I wear be dy’d
Even in the lukewarm blood of Henry’s heart.
Richard, enough; I will be king, or die.
Brother, thou shalt to London presently,
And whet on Warwick to this enterprise.
Thou, Richard, shalt to the Duke of Norfolk,
And tell him privily of our intent.
You, Edward, shall unto my Lord Cobham,
With whom the Kentishmen will willingly rise;
In them I trust, for they are soldiers,
Witty, courteous, liberal, full of spirit.
While you are thus employ’d, what resteth more,
But that I seek occasion how to rise,
And yet the King not privy to my drift,
Nor any of the house of Lancaster?
Enter First Yorkist Messenger.
But stay, what news? Why com’st thou in such post?
The Queen with all the northern earls and lords
Intend here to besiege you in your castle.
She is hard by with twenty thousand men;
And therefore fortify your hold, my lord.
Ay, with my sword. What? Think’st thou that we fear them?
Edward and Richard, you shall stay with me,
My brother Montague shall post to London.
Let noble Warwick, Cobham, and the rest,
Whom we have left protectors of the King,
With pow’rful policy strengthen themselves,
And trust not simple Henry nor his oaths.
Brother, I go; I’ll win them, fear it not.
And thus most humbly I do take my leave.
Enter Sir John Mortimer and his brother Sir Hugh Mortimer.
Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, mine uncles,
You are come to Sandal in a happy hour;
The army of the Queen mean to besiege us.
She shall not need, we’ll meet her in the field.
What, with five thousand men?
Ay, with five hundred, father, for a need.
A woman’s general: what should we fear?
A march afar off.
I hear their drums. Let’s set our men in order,
And issue forth and bid them battle straight.
Five men to twenty! Though the odds be great,
I doubt not, uncle, of our victory.
Many a battle have I won in France
When as the enemy hath been ten to one;
Why should I not now have the like success?