Anne of the Thousand Days - Maxwell Anderson - ebook
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Maxwell Anderson enjoyed great commercial success with a series of plays set during the reign of the Tudor family, who ruled England, Wales and Ireland from 1485 until 1603. One play in particular – Anne of the Thousand Days – the story of Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn – was a hit on the stage in 1948, but did not reach movie screens for 21 years. It opened on Broadway starring Rex Harrison and Joyce Redman, and became a 1969 movie with Richard Burton and Geneviève Bujold. Margaret Furse won an Oscar for the film's costume designs.

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Anne of the Thousand Days

by Maxwell Anderson
Copyright 1948 Maxwell Anderson
This edition published by Reading Essentials
All Rights Reserved

Maxwell Anderson

Anne

of the

ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS

Anne of the Thousand Days

ANNE BOLEYN

WOMAN SERVANT

MARY BOLEYN

ATTENDANT

THOMAS BOLEYN

THREE MUSICIANS

CARDINAL WOLSEY

THREE SINGERS

SERVANT

MADGE SHELTON

HENRY VIII

JANE SEYMOUR

HENRY NORRIS

THOMAS MORE

MARK SMEATON

THOMAS WYATT

DUKE OF NORFOLK

THOMAS CROMWELL

LORD PERCY, EARL OF

BISHOP FISHER

NORTHUMBERLAND

JOHN HOUGHTON

ELIZABETH BOLEYN

KINGSTON

COURIER

CLERK

BAILIFF

Act One

PROLOGUE

The curtain rises in darkness. Then a single spotlight comes up to show, sitting at stage right, a young woman dressed in a gray fur-trimmed costume of a fashion usual at the time of Henry VIII. There are dark hangings behind her, broken only by a small, barred window which the lights project on one panel of the curtains.

The young woman is Anne Boleyn, and the time is the evening of May 18, 1536.

anne

If I were to die now—

but I must not die yet,

not yet.

It’s been too brief. A few weeks and days.

How many days, I wonder, since the first time

I gave myself, to that last day when he—

when he left me at the lists and I saw him no more?

Well, I can reckon it.

I have time enough. Those who sit in the Tower

don’t lack for time.

[She takes out a little wax tablet, with a stylus]

He could never cipher.

He was shrewd and heavy—

and cunning with his tongue, and wary in intrigue,

but when it came to adding up an account

he filled it with errors and bit his tongue—

and swore—

till I slapped his hands like a child and took the pen

and made it straight.

“A king,” I said, “a king, and cannot reckon.”

I was his clever girl then, his Nan;

he’d kiss me then, and maul me, and take me down.

On the rushes. Anywhere.

Why do I think of it now? Would he kill me? Kill me?

[She laughs]

Henry? The fool? That great fool kill me?

God knows I deserve it. God knows I tried to kill,

and it may be I succeeded.

I did succeed. I know too well I succeeded,

and I’m guilty, for I brought men to death unjustly,

as this death of mine will be unjust if it comes—

only I taught them the way. And I’m to die

in the way I contrived. . . . It may be. . . .

No, but Henry. He could not. Could not . . .

Could I kill him, I wonder?

I feel it in my hands perhaps I could.

So—perhaps he could kill me.

Perhaps he could kill me.

If it came tomorrow, how many days

would it have been,

[She makes a mark on the tablet]

beginning with our first day?

[The lights dim down and go out except on Anne’s face. She remains visible in reverie during the first few moments of the first scene]

Act One

SCENE 1

The lights come up on a circle at stage left. A great window, partly of stained glass, is projected on the curtain background, and Mary Boleyn (she is the wife of William Carey, but that hardly counts for she has been the mistress of King Henry for four years, and she is only twenty-three) stands, peering through one of the panes. We are in the castle at Hever, owned by Thomas Boleyn, the king’s treasurer, and the year is 1526. It is early spring.thomas boleynenters from stage right.

boleyn

Mary?

mary

Yes, father.

boleyn

You watch for someone?

mary

I thought I saw the king on the road below.

boleyn

We were to talk over the enclosure of a hunting park near Hever.

mary

He’s here to see you, then?

boleyn

I think so, child.

mary

Not me?

boleyn

Not this time.

mary

But I may speak to him in passing, surely?

boleyn

Perhaps—but— [He pauses in embarrassment] I wonder if you could do this? Could you go to your room while he’s here—and not see him—and send no message?

mary

Why?

boleyn

Could you do this?

mary

Go to my room! But for what reason? I have some rights in this house I should think—as your daughter, if not as the wife of my husband. And in the kingdom as the king’s mistress, which, God help me, I am, and which you have encouraged me to be!

boleyn

Did you need encouraging, Mary? Think back on the fever you were in those days. Did you need encouragement?

mary

If I am sent out of the way I shall ask the king why.

boleyn

Very well.

mary

And now. I shall ask him now!

boleyn

The truth is, the king sent ahead to make sure we two could speak alone. He and I.

mary

He asked—not to see me?

boleyn

Not in so many words—but—

mary

That could mean—I was not to see him again.

boleyn

One never gets used to these things—there’s always a hell to go through. But when a girl gives herself so completely—

mary

You knew when I gave myself! And where. It has helped you! Yes, you live by it! Steward of Tunbridge and Penshurst, sheriff of Bradsted, viscount, king’s treasurer—and all these revenues have come to you since I opened my bedroom door to him!

boleyn

Mary, girl, I’ve always loved you. I wouldn’t want to hurt you in any way. And all these things are true. The king has been generous to me because you were generous to him—and I know that and I’ve known it all the time. But could I have refused what he gave? I’ve been grateful to you, Mary—and ashamed of having to be grateful—yet I couldn’t refuse what was offered. And now—if you’ve lost the king, I don’t know how to help with that. I shall help any other way I can. . . . You still have your husband.

mary

Who wants my husband?

boleyn

I’m caught here, Mary—we’re all caught. . . .

mary

It’s true, though. The moment I became all his, and held nothing back, I had lost the king, and I knew it. Yes, I’ve lost him—

[maryturns Away. As she does so an elegantly robed prelate enters from stage right. The girl goes out past the ecclesiastic without trusting herself to speak. The newcomer isCardinal Wolsey]

wolsey

You’ve told her?

boleyn

Yes.

wolsey

And Anne?

boleyn

The earl is with her.

wolsey

The king rode close behind me, Thomas.

boleyn

My dear Cardinal, I have encouraged Anne with the young noble. He’ll have the greatest estates in the north of England. It was something off my mind that Anne should like him and want him, for she’s not easy to please. It never entered my head that the king had noticed her. What can I say to her now?

wolsey

To send the earl away.

boleyn

I think they have a sort of engagement between them.

wolsey

Well—the king’s here.

boleyn

I think it would need more time.

wolsey

Suppose you take the king to look at your hounds. Tell him that Anne had ordered a new dress and there’s some trouble with it—her hands tremble over the fastenings, and other rubbish of that sort. I’ll speak to Anne and to the earl.

boleyn

Well—if you’ll manage it.

[Aservantenters]

servant

My lord—

[henry viiienters behind the servant. A rough, shrewd, merry, brutal man in the thirties, accustomed to making himself at home in this house and with all his subjects when he thinks the effect might be good.norrisandsmeatonenter after him]

henry

[ToNorrisandSmeaton] Wait for me, gentlemen. Only your king, Thomas. No ceremony. Only your Henry. [Nevertheless he gives his hand to be kissed andboleynkisses it. norrisandsmeatongo out] And how’s the vicar of hell this chilly spring morning?

[Theservantgoes out]

wolsey

I keep warm, Majesty.

henry

I’m sure you do. With your feet on the devil’s fender. Meanwhile toasting your paddocks at God’s altar.

wolsey

And running the king’s errands. It’s a busy life.

henry

Has he done my errand?

boleyn

Yes, he has.

henry

May I smell this pretty posy of yours?

boleyn

My lord, if you mean Anne, she’s still at her mirror, and—if you could give her a half hour.

henry

We’ve this whole day.

boleyn

There was a clump of red deer grazing within view when I last looked out. In velvet, but they give promise of sport later.

henry

We’ll see them. We’ll see your red deer, and afterward we’ll appraise what was seen in that same looking glass.

[He turns]

wolsey

Good hunting, Majesty.

henry

You won’t be with us?

wolsey

It happens there is a poor soul in the house who seeks the ministrations of a religious. I must go where I am called.

henry

You will go wherever it’s most profitable for the Cardinal of York to be at any given time. So go there, and no more of these holy thin excuses.

wolsey

Yes, Majesty.

[He goes out]

henry

There’s no hurry about the deer. I want three words with you.

boleyn

Yes?

henry

There’s always a temptation, when a man’s in my position, that he’ll think of the nation as his own trough, and get all four feet in it and eat from one end to the other. I don’t want to look like that to anybody.

boleyn

You don’t, my sovereign.

henry

I’m a religious man, Boleyn. I want to do what’s right in the eyes of God and the church. And myself—and my people—and you.

boleyn

That’s a swath of folk to satisfy—if you include God.

henry

I include both God and the women—among them your daughters. What will your daughters say of me—the two of them together—talking at night?

boleyn

What two women say together—talking at night of one man who has wanted them both—and taken both. No man will ever know that. But I think—if you don’t mind—

henry

I’ve asked you.

boleyn

I think you go a little rapid with Annie. You’ll need to be gentle.

henry

But she’ll have me—in the end?

boleyn

She’s no fool, my lord.

henry

[After a pause] What I do is God’s will.

boleyn

Now, if a man or a monarch could be sure of that!

henry

I’ve worked it out, in my mind—

I pray to God.

[He hesitates]

I tell you this first, Boleyn.

God answers prayer. That’s known. Every morning I go on my knees

and pray that what I do may be God’s will.

I pray him to direct me—that whatever thought

comes to my mind—whatever motion

floods in my heart—shall be God’s will—and I

only His instrument. Wherever I turn,

whatever I do—whether to reach for food,

or thread my way among the crossed paths of the law,

or interpret the holy word,

or judge men innocent—or guilty—

every morning I pray Him on my knees

nothing shall rise in my brain or heart but He

has wished it first.

And since He answers prayer,

and since He’s given me such heavy power to act,

power for good and evil,

He must answer this. He does answer.

I find such peace

in this, that not one morning my whole life long

shall I fail these devotions.

boleyn

This is a noble thought, of course, but Your Majesty realizes that it might be used as an excuse for—

henry

For what?

boleyn

For doing as you please.

henry

I’m quite serious, Boleyn. I want no trifling.

boleyn

It was not my intention to trifle.

henry

But you do! I tell you I pray and God answers!

boleyn

Yes, my lord.

henry

I am younger than you. I am younger than Wolsey.

I am younger than many dukes and earls and peers.

But I am the king of England. When I pray God answers.

I will not have this questioned.

boleyn

Yes, my lord.

[norrisandsmeatonenter]

norris

We’re sent as a delegation, my lord.

henry

Come in, come in. Pour it on, whatever it is. Your king is your natural receptacle for whatever you can’t hold any longer.

norris

The fact is we are sent to keep you amused while Sir Thomas Boleyn confers with his lady wife. There is a sort of kitchen rebellion afoot and his voice is needed.

henry

Go, Boleyn, mollify your women.

boleyn

If you’ll excuse me.

[He goes]

henry

Come in, lads. I want a word with you, anyway—man to man, kingship aside. You buzz the girls you two—you’ve thrust your hands in amongst a flutter of larks often enough and pulled out the one you wanted. Tell me, what’s the best cast of all for a maiden?

smeaton

A maid, Your Majesty?

henry

I wouldn’t swear to that. Not medically. But a young one—a bit wild—uncaught.

norris

I couldn’t say of my own knowledge, sir, but Tom Wyatt has an unfailing way. He writes them poems.

smeaton

But you can’t catch a ticklish hoyden with madrigals. That’s for matrons.

henry

Then your lure, Smeaton? Your favorite?

smeaton

My king, my acquaintance doesn’t run among the grade of females you seek. I’m more successful with waiting women and ladies’ maids.

henry

Don’t be modest, lad. I’ve followed your spoor so close there was scarce time to close the window you left by—or change perfumes to put me off the scent—

smeaton

Truly, truly—

henry

I’ve breathed your same air in some close quarters, singer. So speak on. Your lure. Your most seductive.

smeaton

Why, being a singer, I sing to them a good deal—but, in addition to that—you will not be offended?

henry

I’ll be offended if you keep back, musician. Be ashamed of nothing. We live in a new age, a new time. I was born within a year of the discovery of the new world. We revise all the old laws to suit ourselves. And the mysteries and manners.

smeaton

Why, then, if you truly want her, make her believe you’re potent only with her, Majesty, and that will do the business. Make out that you’ve tried with numbers of others, gone to bed and kissed hotly, and hung embarrassed and unable. But with her you rouse up. You’re a man again. They can’t resist that. They open like—

henry

Never mind the simile. There’s nothing like it. But, lad, this is new, this device.

smeaton

I think it’s my own.

henry

And ingenious. [norfolkenters] We’re speaking of the best way to woo a green maid, Norfolk. You’re a man of expedients. You know these things—if you haven’t forgotten them.

norfolk

Why, my advice is, if you want a woman, take her.

henry

There are certain preliminaries. There’s consent, anyway. You must have consent.

norfolk

Nonsense. Take her and make her like it. Why should a woman have anything to say about it?

henry

It may have been so in the good old days. Today we woo—and wait.

norris

Do you wish her to be in love with you, my lord?

henry

That I do.

norris

Do you wish to be in love with her?

henry

In love with her? I? Personally? Now, I’ll tell you the truth, so far my experience of being in love is like this: love is a kind of wanting, a panting and sighing and longing. What does a man desire of a lass, anyway? To be assuaged. He wants his pain assuaged. Well, that done, what more’s to be done?

smeaton

Is it lèse-majesté, or may I ask—

henry

Nothing is lèse-majesté in this conversation.

smeaton

Have you ever been refused by a maid?

henry

Refused? I? No, I think not. When I’ve wanted them I’ve had them. And once I’ve had a wench, I’m cured. That’s general, isn’t it? Broad and narrow?

norris

My king, with me it’s the opposite. Once I’ve mixed flesh and lips with her I’m in danger of a golden wedding—should we both live.

henry

It can happen so?

smeaton

The poor gudgeon’s hooked now. He’ll never swim free again.

norris

And she won’t look at me.

henry

Keep me from that, good God!

norfolk

Can you youngsters leave talking of virgins long enough to look at the venison?

henry

Yes—come. Next to the haunch of a virgin there’s nothing like a haunch of venison.

[The lights go out on the scene]

Act One

SCENE 2