Lucy Vickery

Extracts from Shakespeare’s newly discovered play, Charles III

Extracts from Shakespeare’s newly discovered play, Charles III
Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles in Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III at the Wyndham Theatre. [Photo: theatrepix / Alamy Stock Photo]
Text settings

In Competition No. 3203, you were invited to supply an extract from the newly discovered Shakespeare play Charles III.

I haven’t seen Mike Bartlett’s 2014 King Charles III but the theatre critic of this magazine wasn’t impressed: ‘A script that breezily defames the royals ought to be great fun, but this cheerless, overblown little play seems to have been created by political numbskulls for those of similar calibre.’ So it was pleasing to receive such a varied and accomplished entry. Martin Parker, Simon Hunter, Nigel Stuart and Alaric Evans earn honourable mentions. The winners take £25.


 Well, well, a king at last. All hail for now.

 But this succession crowns no true success.

 Too long apprentice in the monarch’s craft

 He was as one asleep and hardly woke.

 Made sovereign by line of blood alone

 He set at naught that blood when he annulled

 My titles royal and rights and revenue,

 And dared deny my son the name of prince.

 A king no king, and falsely father too

 Who stinted succour in my heart’s distress.

 For this and every other gnawing hurt

 Requital shall, I swear, be soon and sure.

 There is an army follows me whose power

 Will cancel at a stroke his regal pomp.

 Deposed unharmed and harmless he’ll live free

To dwell on what he was and will not be.

 W.J. Webster
The Boar’s Head Bistro, two gentlemen at table.

 FIRST GENTLEMAN. Let us raise a bumper to our new king.

 SECOND GENTLEMAN. Would that there were bumpers. Waiter!

 Enter Thersites.

 THERSITES. A bumper, he says. Hold thy braying noise, lest I severely bump thy pox-raddled head. One who hath himself been bumped five centuries ahead fears not a twat-faced slug like thee. And this third Charles, pray who is he? A dung-brained Germanic outgrowth who murmurs to hollyhocks, a man-milliner, a carpet knight wed to a bony-shanked ogress with the aspect of a dropsical camel. O harlotry! His misbegotten sons clatterclaw one another like apprentices run amuck on spoiled wine. O filth and derision!

 FIRST GENTLEMAN. You speak treason, varlet.

 THERSITES. He means reason, this perfumed whorehound. If reason be treason, Charles is King of Lunatics. Treachery, treachery, whores and treachery! Non serviam, Farewell.

 Basil Ransome-Davies
Uneasy is the head that still awaits

 The crown, though troubles crown my elder days.

 I’ll to my garden then, and counsel seek.

 Look there! Rosemary is for remembrance!

 But memories may vary, it is said.

 My ducal brother claims that he knew not

 A young and pretty maiden, though she stands

 In portraicture all smiling by his side.

 So too one ducal son, who hath from me

 His titles and much wealth, aye, and our love,

 Yet now broadcasts to all the greedy world

 Remembrances of things that have no base

 (Though base they are), and for pelf doth abase

 His royal office in a foreign land.

 Peace! Passing time shall sharper memories bring,

 Nor shall my kin forget when I am king.

 Brian Murdoch
To rule or not to rule, that is the question?

 Whether it be best to let the kingdom go,

 Let weeds cover its surface like a cloak,

 Or else to set upon it like a hoe

 Turfing out the evils that one sees,

 Making all look ordered to one’s wish.

 To speak or not to speak, following one’s heart

 To make the best of this fair land I love,

 Or to remain in silence, signing laws

 That will suppress the lively heart

 Of Britain. Should I reign or cease to be

 The one that sits in power as the land

 Declines from foolish judgments? I am old,

 My son has energy, and people seem to like

 His outward reach and charm. But abdicate?

 This is a dirty word. He has to wait.

 Katie Mallett
CHARLES: Here I wait, twice-bald, my garters stretch’d,

 A lubber king, a noddy, to whose self

 This orb be farm’d. Some aqua-vitae, sirs!

 A yeoman yet I’ll be, and stalk these halls,

 Hallowing all their monuments. Here’s one

 Mislaid his mazzard, bless his curly pate:

 Yet here he is restor’d. Might not this mean

 That I, e’en I, these dewlaps hanging loose,

 Shall once again ascend this batter’d state,

 Ruling in sooth? I am no mountebank,

 Dissembler neither. Sirs, I am your crown!

 Enter Milligan’s Ghost

 Here’s one as knows it. Sirrah, where’s your gipes?

 Doth gleek no more? Say, hast thy sting grown cold?

 GHOST: Thou art a patch, yet not a patch on me:

 Old prattler, carry on, I’m carrion.


 CHARLES: Rare in death! What mighty ordinance!

 Bill Greenwell
Act 2. A beach near Los Angeles.

 HARRY. Methinks the King should get him to a shrink.

 His mental health —

 MEGHAN. Good sir, your father’s mad.

 HARRY. But soft! O brave New World, that hath such creatures!

 What apparition’s this? Speak, if you can!

 FIRST KARDASHIAN. Fair is foul and foul is fair,

 Fouler still, the LA air.

 SECOND KARDASHIAN. Tongue of Trump and lying blarney

 Of blaspheming Giuliani;

 Mama’s murdered, Papa’s dreaming;

 Time for California scheming.

 THIRD KARDASHIAN. Cauldron brew inside the palace,

 Poured into a poisoned chalice:

 Wing of bat and LA smogs:

 Turn the Princes into frogs!

 ALL. All hail, Prince Hal, that shall be King hereafter!

 David Silverman

No 3206: universal

You are invited to supply a sonnet on the universe. Please email entries to by midday on 30 June.