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THE WARNING BEFORE FLODDEN


(A short play inspired by the 1874 painting by the Scots artist John Faed displayed in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s Victorian Collection)

 

 

THE WARNING BEFORE FLODDEN ©

 by

Tom Bryson


CAST

King James IV of Scotland 

Earl Lennox

Ghost

Banksy

Gaz

(James/Banksy, Lennox/Gaz can be doubled) 

 

 


SCENE 1


Interior Royal castle

 

Drum/Bhodrun roll

 

Earl Lennox enters.

 

                     LENNOX   Be upstanding for the King of Scotland.

 

King James IV of Scotland enters.  He waves a letter and is beside himself with anger.

 

                    JAMES      If I could get my hands on him I’d tear off his head,           

 

                    LENNOX   Your majesty, fighting England will not help Scotland. King               

                    Henry is a dangerous enemy.

                               

JAMES      LennoxThen I shall be his deadly enemy!  (Waves letter)   Just listen to the man’s conceit!  He says ‘The death of a pirate cannot come between kings!’  Sir Andrew – a pirate!  My great naval commander a pirate!

 

LENNOX   I know, your majesty, I know.

 

JAMES      Am I King of Scotland?

 

LENNOX   Of course.

 

JAMES      Then I shall act like a king of Scotland.  Henry had Sir Andrew Barton murdered – and he stole my flagship, The Lion.  Andrew was a fine man – a dear, loyal friend. 

 

                    LENNOX   And his terrible death saddened us all/

 

JAMES      /He was butchered – by the men of King Henry, England’s despot.  My own brother-in-law!  And that’s not all. Henry is patronizing; he shows me no respect.  Nor does he respect his very own sister Margaret, my dear Queen.  He steals the jewels left to her by her dead father!

 

LENNOX   I know his treatment of the queen hurts you/

 

JAMES      /Enough!  I will call on Scotland’s brave young men to fight King Henry and bring England to her knees.  (He scrunches the letter and hurls it across the room)

 

LENNOX   Please, your majesty, I beg you.  There are many who warn against this war. 

 

JAMES      King Henry shows no deference.  Scotland shall cross the border into England and defeat that arrogant king and country.

 

LENNOX   The cost will be heavy, sire.  The English have a mighty army.  While King Henry is away fighting in France, he leaves behind great generals.  The Earl of Surrey will lead battle against us.  And Surrey is a skilful leader.

 

JAMES      Surrey is an old man! We have young men.  True warriors.  And remember this, Earl Lennox; England is hard-pressed with their war in France.  They are weakened.  I will draw their teeth - grind them down.  I can raise the bravest young men of Scotland who shall be proud to bear arms and fight for king and country.  We shall go to war!

 

LENNOX   A war that will be bloody, your majesty - without honour. 

 

JAMES      Honour!  I shall have honour.  The Queen of France is in need.  She asks for my help.  I will answer her call. We will defeat the English in their own land.  Scotland will take up the challenge.  We’ll stand with France! I will have respect – and honour!

                  

LENNOX   Your majesty, I beg you/

 

JAMES      /My mind is made up.  We will go to war. 

 

LENNOX   I beg your majesty, please - don’t go. 

 

JAMES      We will march into England and do battle.  On Flodden Field we will win a magnificent victory.

 

LENNOX   Flodden Field will run with blood.

 

JAMES      Yes - English blood!  No more weak kneed talk.  I will issue an edict all over Scotland.  All men of sixteen and over should get ready to join me, their king, James of Scotland in battle.  King Henry will be crushed!  There’s an end to it! 

 

JAMES storms off leaving Earl Lennox despairing.  LENNOX extends his arms and looks upwards pleading.

 

Drum Roll over speech

 

LENNOX   Dear God Almighty, I pray – no, I plead.  Give our king wisdom.  Let him not lead Scotland’s finest into a bloodbath.  Let us not see widows and bairns weeping and broken-hearted.

 

LENNOX  exits

 

 

 


SCENE 2


Ext. Open land


Gaz and Banksy enter, both wear England football shirts, they spread out a flag of St George.  Gaz holds a mobile phone.


GAZ           We’ll kick the stuffing out of the Tartan crew, Banksy – see –(holds up mobile phone) - the meet is the back of the Caledonian pub.  Be some punch-up, Banksy, bring ‘em on, man!  Can’t wait to get my hands on this git – Big Jock,’e calls ‘imself, more like Big Jessie.  I’ll make Big Jock look like he’s run into a train.

 

BANKSY   You sure, Gaz?  Tough crew, the Tartans.  Maybe we should wait to get ‘em on our patch.

 

GAZ           (Pushes numbers on mobile)  Big headed toerags.  Who do they think they are.  Remember ‘ow they ganged up on little Tommo.  He was on ‘is own, us away givin’ the Froggies stick in Paris.  Three months Hospital case, ‘e was, Banksy.  No, mate, it ain’t on, just ain’t on.

 

BANKSY   Yeah, yeah, bad business with Tommo.  Never been the same since.

 

GAZ           We’ll get even.  Do it for Tommo!  The lads will be well up for it.

 

BANKSY   Some of the lads ain’t too sure, Gaz.  We’ll be a long way from home, mate.  Some ain’t even going to the match, lot of them been laid off.  We’ll be well dodgy, you know, could be a bad do, a real bloody do, Gaz.  I mean, it’s not as if we’ve anything to prove...

 

GAZ           Prove!  Prove!  Course we got things to prove.  We’re Ingerland, that’s what we gotta prove.  Show the jocks.  Listen mate, when Tommo was in that ‘ospital, hardly able to speak.  I promised ‘im.  Phoned ‘im all the way from bleedin’ France.  I said, Tommo, I’ll do ‘em.  For you, Tommo, I’ll do ‘em if I ‘ave to take all of ‘em on my own!

 

BANKSY   I know, I know.  What they did there was bad.  Real bad.  But Big Jock is a hard man.  And he’s got a rough crew...maybe we should wait...

 

GAZ           We can get other crews.  The Brummies will be up for it.  We can join up with ‘em.  Brummies and Cockneys together, we can’t go wrong, man.  (Holds up phone)  I’ll bell Kaiser Brummies now.  Get it sorted.

 

BANKSY   I’m not sure, Gaz.  Could be really dodgy...

 

GAZ           You losin’ your bottle?  That it?  You up for this firm?  Scots are old geezers, past it!  You up for it or what, mate?

 

BANKSY   It’s not about bottle, Gaz, you know me.  I’m just saying, like...we could get well done over. 

 

GAZ           Listen, we’re doin’ this.  I’ve had enough.  No respect, mate, that’s Jock’s trouble, don’t give no respect. (Stabs his chest)  I’m king of this crew – remember!  We’re goin’ in – ‘ard.  Really ‘ard.  ‘Ere, I’ll bell Kaiser Brummies now, get it sorted.  And I’ll text Big Jock.  (Punches in text message).  (Confronts Banksy)  You’re on, man, you’re on!  Respect!

 

BANKSY   (Cowed)  Respect.       

                  

Gaz and Banksy exit

 





SCENE 3


INT. LINLITHGOW CHURCH


King James kneels in prayer, eyes closed.  Earl Lennox stands nearby. A ghost slowly appears before them dressed in a blue robe, head covered by a hood.  As the king prays, Lennox is frightened and attempts to stop the figure from approaching the king but each time he falls back as if struck by an unseen force.

 

JAMES      Dear Lord, grant us a great victory that we may offer up to you in thanks and humility.  We pray for success on the battlefield of Flodden against the English foe.  We will show eternal gratitude...

 

LENNOX   (Runs and confronts the ghost)  What...who’re you.  Your majesty...look...

 

JAMES      Hush, man, let me pray in peace.

 

LENNOX   Majesty, there’s someone... (Lennox tries to move the ghost but his hands are repelled; he falls back, turns to James)

 

JAMES      (Looks up, still kneeling) What is it?  Why do you trouble me?

 

GHOST     I bring a warning, your majesty.  My holy mother has sent me.

 

JAMES      (Jumps up from kneeling) Who is this...this fool?

 

LENNOX   (He tries to stop the ghost but his hands are repelled. He falls) I tried to stop him...her....I couldnae...

 

JAMES      Who...what are you?

 

GHOST     (Points at King) I bring a warning.  Do not go to battle on Flodden Field.  Great bloodshed and/

 

JAMES      /What are you – an apparition – flesh and blood? (Reaches to hold the ghost but his hand passes through it, stumbles)  Earl Lennox, am I losing my mind?

 

LENNOX   (Persuading) You see what I see, sire –this a messenger from beyond?

 

GHOST     Your majesty, my holy mother has sent me.  Do not go where you mean to go.

 

LENNOX   To Flodden Field?  Sire...warns against the battle.

 

GHOST     If you go to war, Flodden will run red with the Flowers of Scotland.

 

JAMES      I am not afeard!

 

GHOST     You will die, King James of Scotland.  As will you, Earl Lennox and many, many more.

 

Ghost runs off out of sight

 

JAMES      Who is this creature.  Lennox, get hold... 

 

Lennox runs after ghost, scuffling sounds, shouting, Lennox returns, holds up his hands

 

JAMES      Where’s he...it’s - gone, Lennox, find it!

 

LENNOX   Gone, ...gone.  (Lennox falls on hands and knees, addresses King)  Came to warn us, sire...warn us...

 

                   An angry King James dashes about searching for the ghost, eventually he returns and points to Lennox

 

JAMES      Aagh!   Get up, man.  Come, Lennox, we have better things to do than listen to a madman.  To battle!  We have a goal.  We have a mighty match to win.  Come!

 

James and Lennox  exit  


SCENE 4


Ext. Open land


Drum Roll introduction – football fans chant beat

 

Gaz and Banksy sit on the ground drinking bottles of beer.  They are drunk, getting fired up for the fight.  As they talk the Ghost appears, at first unnoticed.

 

GAZ           We’ll show ‘em, Banksy.  Give ‘em what for, right, man.

 

BANKSY   (Unconvinced)  Yeah, sure, Gaz, we’ll sort ‘em.

 

GAZ           Right, right!  We’ll be wicked, man, I’m telling you.  (Moves around unsteadily, waving fists, fighting)  ‘Ave a bit of that, Big Jock.  And ‘ere’s one for Tommo, don’t mess with us, man.  We’re Ingerland.  (Embraces Banksy, starts singing, Banksy gains courage and joins in) ‘ Ingerland, Ingerland, Ingerland, Ing – er – land.’

 

GAZ           (Falls down exhausted)  Yeah, we’ll show ‘em, we’ll give them the old one-two.  Right up ‘em, right, man.  (He rolls over and closes his eyes)

 

                   The  GHOST approaches and leans over Gaz.

 

BANKSY   Oi, what you think you’re doing, mate.  (  He leaps at the ghost, tries to stop it getting near Gaz but is repelled by an unseen force, falls to ground)  Gaz, Gaz, there’s some weirdo here. 

 

GAZ           (Befuddled)  What you on about?  Can’t I get wasted without you rabbitin’ on?

 

BANKSY   (Rises, tries again to restrain the figure but can’t make physical contact)  Gaz, Gaz, get up.  I think I’ve had a drop too much.

 

GAZ           (Opens his eyes and slowly rises, clutching bottle)  ‘Allo, wait a minute, you a bird, sweetheart, come to see a real man, eh?  ‘Ad enough of them tartan gingernuts, eh?  (He lunges towards the figure but can’t get a hold and falls over)  ‘Ere, what are you, Scotch mist or what?

 

GHOST     I’ve been sent – to warn you.

 

GAZ           Sent?  Who sent you?  Warn us what?

 

GHOST     Don’t go to the meet.

 

GAZ           What you know about that?  ‘Ere, you spyin’ on us.  Been sent by Big Jock’s crew –see how many we got.  That it, man?

 

GHOST     My mother sent me.  There’ll be blood spilt, a lot of blood.

 

GAZ           Too right, mate.  Your lot’s blood.

 

GHOST     If you go, many will suffer.

 

GAZ           Who the hell are you?  (He lunges to make a grab but fails)  Grab hold of ‘im – ‘er, it, Banksy. (They both try to hold the figure but are repelled an invisible force)

 

GHOST     I warn you a last time.  Do not go to fight.  (Points a finger at them)  You will die...die...

 

The Ghost runs out of sight)

 

GAZ           Banksy, get ‘old of it.  I want to know what going on ‘ere.  (Banksy chases ghost, waving bottle, he goes out of sight, there are scuffling, struggling sounds, shouting)

 

                   Banksy returns alone, he staggers about uncertain, holds and shakes his head.

 

GAZ           Where’s it gone.  Did you see that, mate?

 

BANKSY   (Holds up bottle) Gaz, that...thing was warning us.  A ghost warning us.  We’re gonna get stuffed!

 

GAZ           Ghosts, ghosts.  (Challenges Banksy’s resolve)  You’re losing it, man.  Come on, drink up.  We gotta meet the Kaiser Brummies crew and get sorted.  We got a big, big punchup to look forward to.  (Steadies himself, throws away bottle, becomes determined)  We’re young –warriors!  They will show respect, man!  Respect! 

 

BANKSY   (reluctant)  Respect...(Both stagger off)



SCENE 5


EXT. OPEN LAND


Drum Roll


                   King James and Gaz (in England shirt) enter.  They face each other, get close, eyeballing each other, then step back. 

 

                   KING JAMES (Pulls and raises sword high)  For Scotland!

 

                   GAZ           (Pulls knife)  Ingerland!

 

                   They launch into ‘parallel fights’ against (invisible) respective opponents. 

 

                   KING JAMES     For Scotland!

 

                   GAG                    Ingerland!

 

                   They shout and cry as they strike opponents, receive blows.  React to each other’s strikes.  Gradually, they sink to their knees, mortally wounded, fall prostrate and still, weapons drop from their hands.

 

                   (Drum roll)

The GHOST enters, circles the bodies of King James and Gaz.  Stands over King James, kneels beside him, and touches his head, touches his lips, pulls his eyelids shut.  Stands up.

 

GHOST     In the year 1513, I warned King James.  The King would not listen.  On Flodden Field King James of Scotland died in battle along with thousands of his men.  Fathers, mothers, sisters and children grieved.  King Henry the eighth of England was not there... and lived.

 

The Ghost circles Gaz, kneels beside him, touches his head, his lips, closes his eyelids.  Stands.  

 

GHOST     Last night I warned Gaz.  He would not listen.  In The Caledonian pub car park Gaz died in battle – and his crew.  Big Jock did not turn up...and lived.

 

The Ghost addresses the audience.    

 

                   For thousands of years I have warned.  I shall warn again.  My holy mother sends me.  Listen to the voice of the world’s mothers.

 

Drum Roll - King James and Gaz slowly rise. 

ENDS

Copyright Tom Bryson

 

                                                                                                

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