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Act I, SCENE 4
The scene is the field of battle between Sandal Castle and
Wakefield. Alarums are heard and Richard and the Duke of York
enter. York laments that the Queen's army has got the field and
both of his uncles who had come to save him have been killed. All
his soldiers are flying away like ships before the wind, or lambs
chased by wolves.
He expresses his concern about his sons and says they are like men
born to be famous by life or death. Thrice, Richard had inspired
him to fight bravely. Edward has come to his side with a curved
sword, with the edge on the convex, blood covered with the blood
of those who had fought with him. They fought with all their
strength, but failed. They became exhausted as they have seen a
swan fighting against the tide with all her strength and spending
her strength with over-matching waves. York is so weary that
when the alarum is heard announcing the arrival of his foes, he is
not able to run away and stays there itself to meet his end. The
Queen enters with Clifford, Northumberland, the young Prince and
Clifford and Northumberland ask York to surrender to their mercy.
York scornfully says his ashes will bring forth a new force like the
phoenix bird which existed single and rose again form its own
ashes. He expresses hope that his enemies will soon be
encountered and that he is not afraid of death and punishment.
Clifford says mockingly that cowards speak thus when they know
that their end is near. He compares York's cowardice to doves
pecking the falcon's piercing feathers when they know that they
will soon be prey to the falcon. So do thieves, when they know that
their lives are hopeless, breathe out invectives against the officers.
York reminds Clifford that the latter had once fainted and ran away
at the sight of York's frown and it is meaningless to slander York
as a coward. Both of them lay their hands on York who struggles.
The Queen asks them to make York stand on the molehill that
reached up to the mountains. She taunts York about his ambitions
to take over the crown and wonders where his sons were to help
him. She then reveals a napkin that is stained with Rutland's blood.
Sarcastically, she offers that napkin to York to wipe his eyes if he
has the intention of crying for his son's death. She makes fun of
him and puts a paper crown on his head and proclaims that now he
looks like a king. She condemns York for taking King Henry's
chair, becoming his adopted heir and also for breaking his solemn
oath, which is an unpardonable fault. The queen then orders to
have his head removed along with the crown. York addresses the
queen as 'She-wolf of France, but worse than the wolves of
France', whose tongue is more poisonous than the adder's tooth. He
says it is very uncommon for a female to triumph like an
Amazonian - a shameless female warrior alluding to her leadership
of the army.
York defames the queen's lineage as well as her lack of beauty and
morals. She is lacking in virtue, self-discipline and bears no
resemblance to a woman. Women are usually soft, mild, pitiful,
flexible but the queen is stern, flinty, rough and remorseless. Even
Northumberland is moved by York's final words although the
Queen laughs at his softness. She reminds Northumberland of all
the wrong deeds York has done to them that will prevent him from
crying. Both Clifford and the queen stab York and he dies praying
to God to open the gates of mercy so that his soul will fly through
these wounds to heaven. The Queen orders the head of York to be
placed on the gates of York so that he may overlook the town.
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