For, from the instant we begin to live,
We do pursue and hunt the time to die: ~ Lord Audley
The Raigne of King Edward the Third commonly referred to simply as Edward III is a play at least partially attributed to Shakespeare. It was written late 16thCentury and concerns King Edward III of England, 14thCentury.
But in my opinion it is more about his son, Prince Edward, the Black Prince who is nearly as prominent in the play, and much more noble than his father.
The play has two distinct plots. Acts I and II concern a conflict with the Scotts, but are really about a dalliance Edward attempts. Acts III – V, cover an English foray into France. There is very little connecting the two plots. Edward does not come off very well in either.
In the first part, after putting down a Scottish uprising and rescuing the Countess of Salisbury, Edward is enamored with the Countess and attempts to seduce her. The Countess puts up a brilliant defense.
But that your lips were sacred, my Lord,
You would profane the holy name of love.
That love you offer me you cannot give,
For Caesar owes that tribute to his Queen;
That love you beg of me I cannot give,
For Sara owes that duty to her Lord.
When Edward persists, and determines to have the Queen and Count killed, so that he may have the Countess, she rebukes him
Either swear to leave thy most unholy suit
And never hence forth to solicit me;
Or else, by heaven this sharp pointed knife
Shall stain thy earth with that which thou would stain,
My poor chaste blood. Swear, Edward, swear,
Or I will strike and die before thee here.
That does the trick. Edward repents in shame and that’s the end of that.
Next, the English invade France – all part of Edward's belief that King John of France is a usurper and that he, Edward, is the rightful King of France. In this section of the play, Prince Edward comes to the fore and outshines his father.
The English advance along several fronts, and Prince Edward is hopelessly outnumbered, 8,000 against 60,000. Count Artois, urges the King to send reinforcements to the prince. Edward answers curtly
Tut, let him fight; we gave him arms to day,
And he is laboring for a knighthood man.
When an emissary from King John offers to spare Prince Edward his life if he surrenders, Prince Edward rebuffs
I will not give a penny for life,
Nor half a halfpenny to shun grim death,
Since for to live is but to seek to die,
And dying but beginning of new life.
Let come the hour when he that rules it will!
To live or die I hold indifferent.
Somehow Prince Edward prevails, but King John, ever haughty, complains
They fortune, not thy force, hath conquered us.
Prince Edward replies
An argument that heaven aides the right.
I liked this play, and would be very near loving it, but for one major flaw – the parts are so without transition; it hardly seems like a single play. But there is some great dialogue in each, (duh…it’s Shakespeare).
It leaves me thinking it’s a shame Prince Edward never took the throne. (in true English history, he died before his father, but his son, Richard II did wear the crown.)
I read this for the 2019 Year of Shakespeare Challenge