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Act I, SCENE 3
The scene is the field of battle between Sandal Castle and
Wakefield. Alarums are heard. Rutland and his Tutor enter, and
Rutland asks his Tutor how he will escape from Clifford, a man
seeking revenge for his father's death. Just then Clifford and his
soldiers enter and Clifford tells the soldiers to take away the Tutor.
He, being a priest, can escape from death. But Rutland, being the
son of York, shall certainly die. The Tutor requests Clifford to
spare the life of Rutland who is only seventeen but he is
mercilessly dragged away by the soldiers. Clifford tries to open the
eyes of Rutland lying on the floor fearfully. Very humbly Rutland
tells Clifford that the latter is like a pent-up lion looking over his
prey lying trembling under his devouring paws. Rutland pleads
Clifford to spare his life and let him live and let his revenge be
directed against men and not boys like him. He also says that it is
better Clifford kills him with his sword rather than look at him in
this threatening manner. Clifford replies that the death of his father
has blocked the way to his heart.
Rutland says that Clifford can deal with his father York who is a
man. In a heartless manner, Clifford says that his revenge will
never be avenged even if kills all the York household, relatives and
dug up the graves of their forefathers and hang their rotten coffins
up in chains. All these will not be sufficient to ease his heart.
Rutland's pleadings and words have no affect on Clifford, and he is
The scene exposes Clifford's barbarous deed of killing the innocent
Rutland, the youngest of York's sons and not even a warrior. This
avenging instinct pervades the play and is probably the most tragic
aspect of the trilogy, that in the play for power many innocent lives
are lost. Rutland, being York's son, is not exempted from death
though he pleads for his life in a persuasive manner. His soft words
have no affect in the bloodthirsty mind of Clifford, whose heart he
says is blocked by the blood of his dead father. Rutland compares
Clifford to a hungry lion trying to devour the prey lying trembling
under its paws. He says,
'Ah gentle Clifford kill me with thy sword,
And not with such a cruel threatening look.'
The lines are indicative of the nature of Clifford's bloodthirsty look
and his barbarous ways of taking revenge. Though aged seventeen,
Rutland appears to be mature for his age for his words are full of
wisdom and humility. He tells Clifford to take revenge on older
men and not on young boys like himself and to deal directly with
his father, who is responsible for all this. He asks Clifford to take
pity on him. Even at the time of his death he prays to God. He
says, "The gods grant that this may be the peak of thy glory."
Clifford's revenge is the main theme of the play. His mind is so
quenched with revenge that he says that the sight of any member of
the house of York is as a fury to torment his soul and until he roots
out their accursed line and leave not one alive, he will live in hell.
That shows the intensity of hatred and animosity Clifford nurtures
against York. The Furies were tormentors who possessed the souls
of the guilty with madness. Clifford's words are always connected
with death, blood, graves, coffins and other horror invoking
'No, if I digg'd up thy forefathers graves
And hung their rotten coffins up in chains,
It could not slake mine ire nor ease my heart'
The scene exposes Clifford's barbarous, stone-hearted nature that
leads to other main actions of the play. After killing Rutland,
Clifford shouts in hurry and proclaims that he will wipe the blood
of Rutland from his sword only after killing York, so that the two
blood of father and son will mix together and be wiped off
together. This indicates the future events to come.
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