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Act I Scene 2 A scene of heathen worship and sacrifice. Images of three Saxon gods, Woden, or and Freya, are placed on pedestals around an altar. The spirit Grimbald has procured victims to sacrifice and enters with six Saxons dressed in white, with swords in their hands. They arrange themselves in two groups of three, opposite each other, surrounded by priests and singers. Woden, first to thee. The victims are reminded of the honour of sacrifice and the glories of the afterlife; they will soon be drinking the vanquished Britons’ ale in Valhalla. Brave souls / I call you all. The six Saxons are led off by the priests.
Act I Scene 3 A battle behind the scenes. Drums, trumpets, military shouts and alarms are heard, after which the Britons, expressing their joy for the victory, sing a song of triumph. Come if you dare.
Act II Scene 1 A bloodied battlefield. Merlin and his spirits descend to Philidel, on a chariot drawn by dragons. Philidel defects to Merlin’s protection and warns the pursuing Britons to beware of Grimbald’s treachery. Grimbald enters, dressed as a shepherd, followed by Arthur, Conon and soldiers, who remain at a distance. Both Philidel and Grimbald vie for the Britons’ trust. Hither, this way / Let not a moonborn elf mislead ye. Philidel prevails and Grimbald sinks with a flash. Philidel and the spirits go off singing, with King Arthur and the rest in the middle of them. Come, follow me.
Act II Scene 2 A pavilion near the battlefield. A crew of Kentish lads and lasses entertain Emmeline whilst she awaits Arthur’s return. How blest are shepherds. The men offer their ‘flutes’ to the women, which they refuse. Shepherd, shepherd, leave decoying. The women present marriage contracts to the men, which are accepted. All sing and dance. Come, shepherds, lead up a lively measure. Oswald appears and then abducts Emmeline; Arthur unsuccessfully bargains his Kingdom for her return.
Act III Scene 1 e edge of an enchanted wood, beyond which stands Oswald’s castle on a hilltop. Merlin counsels Arthur that, with Philidel’s aid, he will lead him through the Saxon magician Osmond’s enchanted wood to rescue Emmeline and restore her sight.
Act III Scene 2 Deeper in the enchanted wood. Grimbald ambushes Philidel, but Philidel prevails, binds Grimbald, and restores Emmeline’s sight. Arthur and Emmeline’s joy is cut short by the approach of Osmond, also in love with Emmeline, who has betrayed Oswald, his former master. Osmond attempts to impress Emmeline with a magical pageant celebrating the power of love. e scene suddenly changes to a prospect of winter in frozen countries. Cupid descends. What ho, thou genius of this isle. The Cold Genius is summoned, reluctantly, from his ‘beds of everlasting snow’. What power art thou. Cupid waves his wand, upon which the stage is further transformed, revealing another prospect of ice and snow through which singers and dancers appear. See, see, we assemble. Cupid and the Cold Genius lead the singers and dancers in praise of love. ’Tis love that has warm’d us / Sound a parley. Emmeline, unmoved, rejects Osmond; he attempts to rape her but is distracted by Grimbald’s cries for help.
Act IV Scene 1 The same wood. Grimbald creates images of seduction within Osmond’s wood to ensnare Arthur. Soft Musick. As Arthur moves towards a bridge, two Sirens arise from the water, and show themselves naked to the waist. Two daughters of this aged stream. As Arthur goes forward, Nymphs and Sylvans come out from behind the trees, dancing and singing with branches in their hands. Passacaglia: How happy the lover. Arthur hacks at the trees with his sword to break the illusions. In one final magical deception, a wounded tree appears as Emmeline. Arthur falters, but Philidel appears and reveals that the vision is in fact Grimbald. Arthur dispels the enchantment and Philidel drags off Grimbald.
Act V Scene 1 The same wood. The Britons march on Oswald’s castle. After much fighting, Arthur triumphs over Oswald but immediately offers him forgiveness. Arthur and Emmeline embrace. Merlin casts Osmond into the dungeon. Arthur and Oswald agree to live henceforth in peace and harmony: ‘Britons and Saxons shall be once one people; one common tongue, one common faith shall bind our jarring bands, in a perpetual peace.’
Act V Scene 2 Merlin conjures a masque for Arthur, celebrating the future glories of the united nation. Waving his wand, the scene suddenly changes, revealing the British ocean in a storm, with Aeolus, the god of the four winds, appearing in a cloud above. Ye blust’ring brethren of the skies. Aeolus then ascends, and the four winds disappear, disclosing a calm sea from which an island arises. Soft tune. Britannia is seated on the island, with fishermen and attendants at her feet. e fishermen come ashore, singing and dancing. Round thy coasts, fair nymph of Britain. Shepherds sing of the pleasure and profitability of British wool farming. For folded flocks. Comus, the god of festivity and revels, leads a rustic drinking song. Your hay it is mow’d. Venus, the goddess of love, enters to pay homage to Albion, seat of all beauty, pleasure and love. Fairest isle, all isles excelling.
Act V Scene 3 A ‘Warlike Consort’ announces the final change of scene. Tune for trumpets. The regalia and heraldry of the Order of the Garter are revealed. Fame, attended by Honour and Heroes, leads a paean to Britannia, St George and the Order of the Garter. Sound heroes, your brazen trumpets sound / Let all rehearse in lofty verse.
Paul McCreesh & Christopher Suckling © 2019
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