Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Wars of the Roses

Henry A. (Harry) Payne: Choosing the Red and White Roses in the Temple Garden, 1910

Of all the incidents that are associated with particular places, none stands out more vividly than the scene told by Shakespeare, of the first beginning to the Wars of the Roses in the Temple Garden. Richard Plantagenet, with the Earls of Somerset, Suffolk, and Warwick, Vernon, and a lawyer, enter the Temple Garden ("Henry VI." Pt. I. Act 2, sc. iv.). Suffolk. Within the Temple Hall we were too loud; The garden here is more convenient. Plantagenet. Then say at once if I maintained the truth, Or else was wrangling Somerset in the error? The direct answer being evaded, Plantagenet continues- Since you are tongue-tied and so loath to speak, In dumb significants proclaim your thoughts; Let him that is a true-born gentleman, And stands upon the honour of his birth, If he suppose that I have pleaded truth, From off this brier pluck a white rose with me. Somerset. Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer, But dare maintain the party of the truth, Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me. Warwick. I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet. Suffolk. I pluck this red rose with young Somerset. Vernon. I pluck this pale and maiden blossom here, Giving my verdict on the white rose side. Lawyer (to Somerset) ... The argument you held was wrong in you, In sign whereof I pluck a white rose too. Plan. Now, Somerset, where is your argument? Som. Here, in my scabbard, meditating that Shall dye your white rose in a bloody red. Plan. Hath not thy rose a canker, Somerset? Som. Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet? Plan. Ay, sharp and piercing to maintain his truth; Whiles thy consuming canker eats his falsehood. Som. Well, I'll find friends to wear my bleeding roses, That shall maintain what I have said is true. Warwick. And here I prophesy this brawl to-day, Grown to this faction in the Temple-garden, Shall send between the red rose and the white A thousand souls to death and deadly night.


Since Shakespeare’s day, popular perception of the Wars of the Roses has been confused by the propaganda of partisan supporters of the White or the Red, or by those who see the whole affair as a minor dynastic squabble. It is true that their significance in the history of the art or practice of warfare is small. And while the Wars were not the general bloodbath Shakespeare described for the Elizabethan stage, the royal house of Plantagenet was wiped out...along with other noble dynasties beside. Modern historical research, however, has shown that the era was no better nor worse than those that came before and after.

No comments:

Post a Comment