The tragic History of King Richard the Second
The story of a young man who,
Was known to all as Richard Two.
The play begins with two young gents,
Wrapped in a heated argument.
The air is filled with much abuse,
As each the other doth accuse.
'Tom Mowbray is a dodgy bloke,'
Says John Gaunt's son: young Bolingbroke. 'This man,' he tells the youthful king,
'Has done a really horrid thing.
'T would not,' he says, 'be too unkind,
To say this man has robbed you blind.
And furthermore, I tell you true,
He wants to kill my uncle too.'
Tom Mowbray, who’s the Norfolk duke,
Gives Bolingbroke a strong rebuke.
But after hearing each one out,
King Richard Two has little doubt,
That both are equally to blame,
And thus should suffer equal shame.
Says Richard, who is England’s head,
‘The two of you are banishéd.'
Mowbray, the cause of all the strife,
Is sentenced to a term of life.
While Bolingbroke, now close to tears,
Is banned from England for ten years.
When John of Gaunt; Bolingbroke's dad,
Hears the news he is hopping mad.
He tells the king, 'I think you're bent,
And rubbish at good government.'
Once having got that off his chest,
He then goes to his final rest.
With John Gaunt dead, quick as a flash,
King Richard swoops and grabs his cash.
Which leaves the banished Bolingbroke,
Bereft, alone and stony broke.
With cash galore, King Richard goes,
To Ireland to put down his foes.
His uncle, Duke of York, will stay,
To rule the realm while he's away.
As it turns out a big mistake:
The sort young people often make.
No sooner has he left the shore,
Than Bolingbroke comes back once more.
Old York is now somewhat concerned,
And asks him why he has returned.
Though York's not sure exactly what,
He thinks he has in mind a plot.
Says Bolingbroke; his eyes alight,
'I only want what's mine by right.
That's the reason and nothing more,
Why I've returned to England's shore.
The mighty army that you see,
Is there to keep me company.
When Richard comes back home once more,
He's shaken to the very core.
His uncle's joined with Bolingbroke.
He's hated by the common folk.
The Welsh have left him on his own.
However, will he keep the throne?
He knows full well he's in a hole
And gives back all the cash he stole.
Young Bolingbroke, his erstwhile friend,
Is told his exile now can end.
All it seems is hunky-dory.
But there's yet another story.
Now things are getting Richard down.
It seems the whole world wants his crown.
His cousin Aumerle; naughty thing,
Has done the Duke of Gloucester in.
Or so the accusation goes.
If true or not nobody knows.
It's now that Bolingbroke steps in,
And has himself crowned as the king.
Thus Richard, left without a mate,
Decides it’s time to abdicate.
But in the court, as said before,
There are plotters by the score.
A group of malcontented men,
Want Richard on the throne again.
Among them Aumerle, old York's son,
Who wants to see it quickly done.
But he himself is swiftly caught,
And brought before the royal court.
Instead of ending up deceased,
Aumerle's forgiven, then released!
But for the one-time mighty king,
The knell of doom begins to ring.
In Pomfret castle locked away,
Down on his knees, he starts to pray.
That just like Aumerle he will be,
Forgiven and shown clemency.
But while he's banged up in his cell,
The king does not behave too well.
He gets into a brawling fight,
And kills two servants out of spite.
But ere he can kill any more,
He too is beaten to the floor.
The news of Richard's swift demise,
Brings tears into the new king's eyes.
(It's not that strange if we recall.
He was his cousin after all!)
And so we reach the final part.
Where Bolingbroke, with heavy heart,
Attempts his feelings to assuage,
By going on a pilgrimage.
Of him, of course, we'll hear much more,
In Part the First of Henry Four.
Othello, the Moor of Venice
In Venice there's a Moorish man; Othello is his name.
A general who has served his land and gained a lot of fame.
He needs a new lieutenant but who should he promote?
After much consideration, young Cassio gets the vote.
When the news gets to Iago he flies into a tizz.
The job that's gone to Cassio should really have been his.
And though for poor Iago it has been a shocking day,
He smiles, but through his smile avows to make Othello pay.
By using innuendo, he is hoping by degrees,
To bring the objects of his malice crashing to their knees.
Desdemona, Othello's wife, is where he will begin.
By crafty ruse and subterfuge, he'll try to rope her in.
Othello then is posted to a far and distant isle.
Where Desdemona joins him after just a little while.
Iago and his wife Emelia also come along.
Once there Iago wastes no time in making things go wrong.
He starts by getting Cassio as drunk as he can be.
Then calls on Roderigo; for at one time it was he,
Who sometime in the recent past was Desdemona's beau.
And even though she's married now, he'd like another go
Iago tells Roderigo, Desdemona has a yen,
To see him and for them to be an item once again.
Drunk as a skunk young Cassio then stumbles into sight,
And he and Roderigo get into a bruising fight.
A very, very silly thing for Cassio to do.
It's something that in days to come, he'll have good cause to rue.
Drunken Cassio's arrested and flung into the clink.
Where he's fed on bread and water and has much time to think.
But when his boss Othello hears that he's been in a fray,
His status as an officer will finish straight away.
But this is just the start of things, Iago's more in store.
He tells the hapless Cassio, 'go knock on Desi's door.
Fall down onto your bended knee and with the lady plead.
For she and she alone can help you in your hour of need.'
Then dirty dog Iago leads Othello to the place,
Where young Cassio and Desi are standing face to face.
The sight of them together fills Othello with despair.
He wrongly thinks his lovely wife is having an affair.
And then by fair Emilia, a handkerchief is found,
Where, by the purest happenstance, it fell down the ground.
The kerchief is a gift Othello gave unto his wife.
Which proves to be the catalyst for much ensuing strife.
Iago takes the handkerchief and plants it by the bed,
Of Cassio who gives it to a woman who's unwed.
A woman named Bianca, who's a lady of the night.
Desdemona and Othello then get into a fight.
He wants to know why Cassio is in possession of,
The handkerchief he gave her as a token of his love.
And though she says she's innocent he simply will not hear,
Which means the end for Cassio is drawing ever near.
Othello tells Roderigo that Cassio must die.
Then with Iago at his side to Cassio's home they fly.
But Roderigo's not that good at doing people in.
Instead of bumping Cassio off, he stabs him in the shin
Cassio is unaware 't was Iago and not he,
Who stabbed the young Roderigo, somewhere below the knee.
It's a problem for Othello and for Iago too.
So, the dirty rotten plotter does what he needs to do.
This time his aim is better and with one unerring stab,
He makes sure Roderigo doesn’t get the chance to blab.
Though blameless of the awful crime, heaped upon her head,
Othello kills poor Desdemona, lying in her bed.
Iago's wife Emilia then enters in the fray,
And shocks the socks off everyone with what she has to say.
Now realising that her man is nothing but a cad.
She tries her best to make it clear why things have turned out bad.
Emelia tells the truth of how the handkerchief was found.
How unbeknown to Desdemona it fell to the ground.
But ere she can elaborate Iago strikes her down.
Then leaves his dying wife behind and legs it out of town.
Still claiming to be innocent he's caught and thrown in jail.
But letters found on Roderigo tell a different tale.
You might expect Othello to strike Iago dead.
But filled with loathing and remorse, he kills himself instead.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Whilst pondering his wedding to an Amazonian queen,
A courtier comes to ask the Duke if he will intervene,
To stop the budding love affair twixt daughter Hermia,
And Lysander; a man he thinks not good enough for her.
The Duke concurs and tells the girl, ‘you must obey your dad.
And if you don’t then things for you could turn out very bad.
So, wed the man your father's picked, and be a faithful wife.
For if you don’t do as he says, you’ll surely lose your life.'
But Hermia; a feisty girl, decides to disobey.
Then she and her young lover leave and go far, far away.
He has a wealthy auntie, lives outside Athenian rule,
So that's where they go straight away… this man is no one's fool!
In the forest along the way they meet among the trees,
Helena, with Demetrius, her one and only squeeze.
At this point dear reader, and this can't be overstated,
The details of this story become more complicated.
Helena loves Demetrius, but he does not love her.
The sweet and lovely Hermia's the girl he'd much prefer.
Oberon the King of Fairies, who's in the wood nearby,
Is quarrelling with Titania and here's the reason why.
It's an awkward situation that can't be reconciled.
His queen, the fair Titania has possession of a child.
A foundling he considers should be his by royal right,
But she refuses to concur... that's why the couple fight.
Meanwhile, the ill-matched lovers argue on and on and on.
It's then a brainwave comes unto the mighty Oberon.
'It's time,’ he tells his servant, Puck, to sort the sorry mess.
By seeking out the woodland flower called Love in Idleness.
Puck flies off into the wood, but is back within the hour,
Bringing with him magic dust that has a mystic power.
The powder has potency, unrivalled anywhere,
To turn things once deemed ugly into something passing fair.
King Oberon tells fairy Puck, 'go quickly as you can,
And seek throughout the leafy wood until you find a man.
When you find him fast asleep, place this dust into his eyes.
Thus, when he wakes he'll fall in love with what he first espies.
To do his master's bidding, Puck then quickly disappears.
Ere long he comes upon a man dressed in Athenian gear.
Though unaware the man he's found is not the proper one,
He does as he's instructed by the mighty Oberon.
Lysander wakes up from his sleep and swears by stars above,
That Helena, not Hermia's the girl he'll always love.
Elsewhere a motley group of men are practising a play,
To put before the royal duke upon his wedding day.
Just out of sight mischievous Puck hears every word that's said.
And bestows on weaver Bottom, a lop-eared ass's head.
The artisans thus filled with fear, run quickly from the scene.
Leaving Bottom all alone with Titania, Fairy Queen.
Who also, whilst still fast asleep, had dust placed in her eyes.
Thus, she when waking from her slumber straight to Bottom flies.
'I love you,' says Titania, 'though you've an ass's head.
My bower's over yonder, and it has a double bed.'
In the morning, when she's woken,
With the magic spell now broken.
She looks upon the awful sight:
The thing with which she spent the night.
She tells the weaver, 'get thee gone,'
I love not thee, but Oberon.'
Puck takes the ass's head away and Bottom's nightmare ends.
Allowing him to go back home to join his rustic friends.
Meanwhile, the lovers quarrel on within the forest deep,
Till tired out by their arguing they all fall fast asleep.
Between them, Puck and Oberon decide to put things right.
To end misunderstanding and to ease the lovers' plight.
They gaily sprinkle dust about… they hope will make amends
And see the lovers choose a mate before the story ends.
The magic spell is broken, each one wakes up with a sigh,
And gazes on their partner with a clear and un-drugged eye.
Lysander tells sweet Hermia, 'I'll always love you true.'
Demetrius tells Helena, 'I think you're all right too.'
When all the vows of love are done and each has had their say.
All then go back to Athens, to attend the wedding day
Of Hippolyta and Theseus, where they see the show,
Presented by the weaver Bottom, Quince and Flute and Co.
The play the rustic workers have selected to put on,
Is a tale of tragic lovers from ancient Babylon.
That of Pyramus and Thisbe, who as you may recall,
Converse with one another through a hole cut in a wall.
When the play, at last, is over, and every word's been said.
The players take a grateful bow and then retire to bed.
Hippolyta weds Theseus. Helena weds her beau.
Sweet Hermia weds Lysander, then off the couples go.
A truly happy ending to a most delightful play.
And proof, if proof were needed, love will always find a way.
Pericles Prince of Tyre
John Gower tells the story.
Sometimes lewd, sometimes gory.
Of how the Prince of Tyre,
His belly full of fire,
Set sail to find a bride.
But to fulfil his wildest dreams,
Won't be as simple as it seems.
In Antioch across the water,
There's a king who has a daughter.
She's the one he'd like to wed.
But the king's a proper tease,
And very, very hard to please.
He won't let his daughter travel,
Till somebody can unravel,
A riddle he's devised.
So, Pericles applies his mind,
This tricky poser to unwind.
It's only then that he discovers,
The daughter and her dad are lovers,
And decides to leave the scene.
This oh so deadly revelation,
About familial fornication,
Could result in Pericles,
Being chopped off at the knees.
Making him and the play much shorter.
Back in Tyre still feeling restless,
He decides to sail to Tarsus.
Where ruler Cleon and his wife,
Are on the very edge of life.
There's no food at all around.
But Pericles distributes food,
And earns the nation's gratitude.
Having saved this seaside nation,
From the threat of dire starvation,
He sails off once again.
But the sea's a cruel master,
And his ship meets with disaster.
It sinks down to the ocean floor.
The prince is dumped upon the shore.
But all is not yet lost.
Three fishermen upon the strand,
Are there to give a helping hand.
They take him to the royal court,
Where there's a tourney being fought,
To celebrate a birthday.
The birthday in particular,
Is that of the young Thaisa.
She is the fairest in the land,
And Pericles would like her hand.
King Simonides’ daughter.
To make the princess his by rights,
He must defeat the other knights.
Which he does with flashing blade,
And wins the lovely, royal maid.
They then sail off together.
And even though the weather's wild,
Thaisa gives birth to a child.
The baby's named Marina.
Thaisa dies before she's seen her,
And they bury her at sea.
Which seems a most unhappy ending.
But is she dead or just pretending?
Her coffin floats to Ephesus.
Pericles sails on to Tarsus.
Tarsus is the city where,
He leaves Marina in the care,
Of Cleon and Dionyza.
In Ephesus, the coffin lands,
Upon the golden, sun-kissed sands.
Where it's discovered ere too long,
By good and honest Cerimon,
A doctor of renown.
With pills and portions that revive,
He brings the dead girl back to life.
With breath restored you'd think she'd seize
The chance to be with Pericles.
But somewhere deep inside her head,
She’s sure that Pericles is dead,
And makes a different choice.
Instead, she takes the life most simple,
And dons a dress, topped by a wimple.
Her future days all now will be,
Filled up with prayer and chastity,
In the temple of Diana.
The scene now shifts to Myteline,
Where young Marina aged fourteen,
Has newly been recruited,
By a house that's ill-reputed.
Taken there by pirates.
Who'd saved her from the envious knife,
Of Dionyza; Cleon's wife.
(It was her servant actually,
She hired to do the deed, not she.)
Marina's cuter than her daughter.
That's why she's planned the poor girl's slaughter...
A mother non-pareil!
Meanwhile the lonely Pericles,
Goes sailing round the open seas.
Until he reaches Tarsus town,
Where feeling low, his head hung down,
He hears the awful news,
His daughter's passed away.
Which prompts poor Pericles to say,
That though he'll smell just like a drain,
He'll never wash or shave again.
A bawdy house in Mytilene,
Is where we set the final scene.
Lysimachus the local mayor,
Would like, if possible to share,
Some time with sweet Marina.
But she, I think you all should know,
Is purer than the driven snow.
So, they don't lie upon the bed,
They kneel down on the floor instead,
And say their prayers together.
Lysachimus is most impressed.
And takes her with him as a guest,
To a ship where sad Pericles,
Is getting sadder by degrees,
To try to cheer him up.
He hears her sing and though not sure,
He thinks he's heard her voice before.
Although it's years since he's seen her.
He concludes that it's Marina,
And gives the girl a hug.
They then sail on a balmy breeze.
To meet with Mrs Pericles.
(She with frumpy dress and wimple:
Lives inside Diana's temple.)
Lysachimus and Marina wed,
And now the two will share a bed.
The Pericles' are united.
Thus, everyone is delighted.
Except for Cleon and his mate,
Who both have met an awful fate.