Character Questions with Cassandra Chance [Warning: 420-year-old SPOILERS]
Tell the story of the play from your character’s perspective
From the Desk of Sir Piers Exton
Richard of Bordeaux is a total drag. He thinks he is God’s gift to the world. Don’t believe me? Hear it from the ex-King, himself: "Not all the water in the rough rude sea / Can wash the balm off from an anointed king; / The breath of worldly men cannot depose / The deputy elected by the Lord."
I’m quoting, here! Now, when you quite literally think that the Almighty gave you your job title and is supporting your claim to the country’s highest office, I’m sure it’s easy to get a big head. And I know I may sound as though I have a chip on my shoulder, but really, can you blame me? I never got invited to court. I never received any princely favor. I never even got to play in the band like Bushy, Bagot and Green. Even Northumberland got to drum and Richard can’t stand that guy!
Richard really doesn’t like me.
So here’s the thing: Richard has been deposed and King Henry (fourth of that name, long may he reign) has taken over. Now I’m in favor! Now I’m at court. Now I get to be friends with Ross, Fitzwater, Willoughby, and the rest of the favorites of the king, and none of us have to fear of having our assets seized for Richard’s ridiculous war games. Richard isn’t a threat anymore, shivering up in Pomfret Castle; it never would have occurred to me to kill him. I’m not a bad guy, and I’m not advocating for or justifying murder, but when the King himself orders a hit, you give him what he wants, right?
Didst thou not mark the king, what words he spake, / 'Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?' / Was it not so?
These were his very words.
And speaking it, he wistly look'd on me, / And who should say, 'I would thou wert the man / That would divorce this terror from my heart;' / Meaning the king at Pomfret.
You don’t deny the king.
I am the King’s friend, and will rid his foe.
Cassandra Chance (Green/Westminster/Gardener/Exton) has been working with Pigeon Creek since (2014). Cassandra appeared in PCSC’s 2015 season as Antonio and Valentine in Twelfth Night. In past Pigeon Creek productions, she served as Stage Manager for The Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar, and Coriolanus. Cassandra has recently performed roles on- and off-stage with Blue Star Players, Actors’ Theatre, West Michigan Savoyards, and Jewish Theatre of Grand Rapids, and served as Production Manager for the Lake Effect Fringe Festival. She has also worked with the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. As a playwright, her first full-length play, The Killing Jar, debuted this year and her next two plays, 36 Questions (or “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness”) and Odyssey will premiere in 2016. Cassandra has studied at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University and is currently pursuing a degree in Theatre Management.
One of the four characters I play in this production, Sir Piers Exton, appears in the second half of the play, after Bolingbrook has taken over and King Richard has lost his throne. He has taken up residence in King Henry IV’s court and seeks favor with the new reigning monarch by executing Richard. He is promptly banished by the astonished king when he presents the corpse.
Historically, this event is likely an inaccuracy in Shakespeare’s text. When Richard’s remains were exhumed and examined, there was no evidence of a violent death, and Shakespeare’s chief source, Holinshed, had relayed the story of Richard’s slaughter by Exton from an anonymous French source. Even so, Holinshed also mentions that "the common fame is...he died of forced famine." No other early sources mention Exton, and the only other contemporary supports this, claiming that Richard starved to death. The murder was likely included by Shakespeare as a far more exciting and theatrical conclusion than a slow starvation.
In the play, Exton’s motivations for killing the former king are expressed through the text. Henry had hinted at court that he wanted Richard dead ('Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?'), so Exton follows through (‘I am the King’s friend, and will rid his foe’), although expressing remorse after committing the deed, only to be called Cain by the King and banished for his efforts. As you’re following the story, if this situation seems familiar, it should! In Act 1, Scene 3, Henry Bolingbrook accuses Thomas Mowbray of murdering his uncle Gloucester, which was really a sneaky way of accusing Richard of the death, without having to come out and say so publically. Richard responds to the situation by banishing both Bolingbrook and Mowbray in an effort to eliminate the threat. Henry’s banishment of Exton echoes the banishments made by Richard, bringing the play full-circle, and showing that perhaps Henry is not so different from Richard after all.