Shows M

Wilkins has meanwhile been thrown into the Thames by the people of Windsor. But, coming out, he makes the best of his wet state to sing a comic song with a catalogue of fish and its tribute to Elizabeth as 'mistress of the sea'. The chorus joins in. The Finale of Act 1 is begun by Bessie Throckmorton, who heralds the coming entertainment with a song. It is a tale of Robin Hood. The others present join in, and Queen Elizabeth sighs: 'Would queens could love as Marion did!'. Long Tom, the forester, steps forward to ask Elizabeth's protection for Jill-All-Alone, whom he loves. Four tradesmen of Windsor, on the other hand, speak up against Jill. Jill sings mysteriously of the power of love. The May Queen of Windsor accuses her of witchcraft, and Essex hands to the Queen the letter which Jill had found. Elizabeth sees that the letter is a love-poem making the acrostic 'Bessie', and recognises Raleigh's handwriting. But she gladly assumes the name 'Bessie' is meant to represent herself - until Raleigh, stepping forward, confesses that his love is for Bessie Throckmorton. The Queen, furious, condemns Jill to be taken to Windsor castle and burned as a witch., Bessie to be taken to the castle and imprisoned, and Raleigh to be confined to his country house. A troop of morris dancers enters, ready to play its part in the entertainment, and the company takes up the refrain of Bessie's song - while the Queen stands by, silent. The curtain falls. The curtain rises on Act II to show a glade in Windsor Forest. Off-stage, the chorus of revelling Windsor folk are heard singing while on stage, surprisingly, is Jill-All-Alone who sings pointedly to the cat in her arms. Jill and Bessie have both escaped from the castle through a secret passage once used by King Hal. A quartet celebrating the King's escapades, is now sung by Jill, Bessie and the two foresters, Long Tom and Big Ben, who have appeared. They leave, and there enter the two actors from London (Wilkins and Simkins) and the men's chorus. Discussing the entertainment to be presented to the Queen, they agree that artistic considerations don't matter, provided that the tune can be played on a big brass band. The Queen, meanwhile, plans to poison Bessie. The previously heard chorus of revelry now comes on stage, and then follows the Rustic Dance. Raleigh, disguised, joins the group which is to present the entertainment. He plans to rescue Bessie, his 'English rose', whom he still believes imprisoned Raleigh as Robin Hood, Wilkins as Friar Tuck, and Long Tom as Little John now rehearse their parts in 'The Play of Robin Hood' . Little John fights Robin Hood with staves and beats him. They leave, and Bessie enters to sing her waltz-song. Raleigh is brought in by Jill. Essex enters and surprises Raleigh and Bessie, but declares that he is now Raleigh's friend since Raleigh is obviously no longer his rival for Queen Elizabeth's favour. The Queen enters and the entertainment begins. An absurd enactment of the story of Saint George and the Dragon includes a song about the princess's impending death - from which, of course, Saint George rescues her. Suddenly, the apparition of Herne the Hunter rises, a thing said to happen only when the Sovereign contemplates committing a crime. It is, in fact, an impersonation by Long Tom, intended to dissuade the Queen from poisoning Bessie and burning Jill, and it works. Both women are pardoned, and Raleigh too. In the Finale of the act, Raleigh and Bessie portray Robin Hood and Marion in 'The Play of Robin Hood'. The others join in, and the Queen, with Essex at her side, looks on with pleasure. (Adapted from the original sleeve notes) PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS - (plus Chorus) • Sir Walter Raleigh • Earl of Essex • Queen Elizabeth I • Bessie Throckmorton • Walter Wilkins • Jill-All-Alone • Silas Simkins • Queen of the May • Long Tom • Big Ben