Lambert van den Bos.

The position of the Roode en Witte roos in the saga of King Richard III online

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Published bi-raonthly by the UBiversity of Wisconsin at Madison, "Wisconsin

Entered as second class matter August 31, 1919, at the postofiBce at Madison, WJscon-

Bin, under the Act of August 24, 1912. Accepted for mailing at special rate

of postage provided for in section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917.

Authorized September 17, 1918.

No. 1. British criticisms of American writings, 1783-1815, by William B.

Cairns 98p. Fifty cents.
No. 2. Studies by members of the department of Ejiglish. 394p. One dollar.
No. 3. Classical studies in honor of Charles Forester Smith. I90p. One dollar.
No. 4. Ordo Rachelis, by Karl Young. 66p. Fifty cents.
No. 5. The position of the Roode en Witte Roos in the saga of King Rich-
ard III, by Oscar James Campbell. I70p. Fifty cents.




Lambert van deh 3os









The Roode en Witte Roos, an English translation of which
is here presented, was published in Amsterdam in 1651.^ It
is a tragedy of five acts written in rhymed iambic hexameters,
consisting of 1856 lines and treating the popular story of King
Richard III of England. Although the author, Lambert van
den Bos (spelt also Bosch), 1610-1698, does not suggest that
the drama is not original, he must have had ultimately an
English source, if not a play that he translated or adapted,
at least one of the comprehensive English Chronicles. Facts
which will be presented in the course of this study make it
clear that this Dutch tragedy belongs definitely to the Eng-
lish dramatic tradition of Richard III. Indeed, a careful
examination of the evidence warrants the belief that this
play is a version of an English drama, now lost, which in
certain features was more like Shakespeare's Richard III
than is any extant version of the play.

The other literary work of van den Bos makes it probable
that he followed his source, whatever it was, with some fidel-
ity. This author owes his position in Dutch literature to his
skillful translation and adaptation of foreign works. His
translation of Don Quixote, for example, remained for two
centuries the classical Dutch version of this immortal ro-
mance. In particular, he made enough translations from the
English to demonstrate his understanding of the language
and his peculiar interest in the literature. In 1648 he ren-
dered into Dutch the masque-like morality Lingua, or the

* This translation was announced in Shakespeare Studies of the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin (pp. 231-252) and some of the descriptive facts given
there are here restated. The fundamental indebtedness of my study to
the unpublished work of Dr. H. de W. Fuller, I take pleasure in acknowl-
edging again here.


Combat of the Tongue and Five Senses for Superiority,
published in London in 1607 ; in 1658 Sir Thomas Herbert's
Travels into Divers Parts of Africa and Asia Minor,- first
published in 163-1; in 1661 John Dauncey's History of his
Sacred Majesty Charles II; and in 1678 the anonymous trea-
tise The True and Historical Relation of the Poisoning of Sir
Thomas Overbury, published first in 1651. A man who made
a business of miscellaneous translation as did van den Bos
was obviously not a trained dramatist. A play bearing his
name is perhaps, then, even more certain to be a translation
than his other admitted adaptations.

The method which he used when working with a foreign
play can be learned from reading his introduction to the
translation of Lingua:

Gracious Friend:

Considerable time has elapsed since you gave me some English
comedies, requesting that I look them over to see whether there
was any worth translating. Accepting this proposal, I have chosen
the morality Lingua and have, as you requested, translated it into
Dutch. I have not followed the words so much as the sense, and
have here and there omitted things — which, to be sure, would have
made the play somewhat longer but certainly not more attractive.

These free principles of translation applied to the play
under discussion would obscure and ultimately obliterate
verbal similarities between the Dutch work and its source.
At any rate, a drama written in rhymed couplets, as is the
Roode en Witte Roos, could not be a word for word transla-
tion. Furthermore in developing the Red Rose and the White
from an English source, van den Bos would have felt as
free to omit and to condense as he did in translating Lingua.

From the above document we are able to glean an even
more significant fact. In 1648, three years before the ap-
pearance of this tragedy, van den Bos had in his possession
a number of English plays, — comedies, to be sure, he calls

' The full title Is : A relation of some j eares travaile, begunne anno
1026 Into Afrique and the greater Asia, especially the Territories of the
Persian Monarch! e ; and some parts of the Oriental Indies, and lies ad-


them^ — which he was reading with the view to translating.
These plays had been given him by his ' ' gracious friend. ' ' who
was the Regent of a theatre in Amsterdam. They may have
come into this man's possession in a number of different ways,
as the wholesale purchase of a Dutch book-seller or actor, or
as the castaways of English troupes of actors travelling in
Holland. The point of significance is that even if a play to
serve as the source of the Roode en Witte Boos were not
among ' ' the Comedies ' ' referred to above, such a drama may
have come to van den Bos through this gracious friend, who
had tapped some source of English plays. It was, at any
rate, a product of the same period of the author's literary
activity as Lmguu, which we know was the translation of an
English play.

Taken in connection with these facts, some curiously in-
volved and awkward figures of speech in van den Bos's ded-
ication of the Roode en Witte Roos assume important mean-
ing. After fulsome praise of a certain Frans Ludowyk van
de Wiele to whom the work is dedicated he writes :

I offer up as a sacrifice, what? Two roses, — a red and a white
one. I intended that a second wonder should come to pass and that
they should have bloomed during the winter, in order to embellish
their own modest worth with such an unusual characteristic, — but
time and my hope have deceived me. At any rate receive them,
however wasted and faded they may be. They have gone through
thorns, without defending their own worth, since for a long time
they were maimed and cast under foot. Alas they have endured
much, yet they have come up again together. But finally felled by
a more dangerous, though a gentler, misfortune, they would have
had to stay crushed, and to remain stifled in the book of forgetful-
ness, rotted away to moss and refuse, if a favoring hand had not
taken them up again.

This long figure of speech can hardly have been meant to
suggest the changing fortunes of the Houses of York and
Lancaster. It describes almost as ineptly difficulties of pub-
lication which his own play may have experienced. It might
serve, however, as a clums}^ description of the vicissitudes
which some copy of an old play had suffered. It had been
rescued, let us say, from a mass of cast-off pamphlets and


brought to light again in this form. No other equally satis-
factory explanation of this part of the dedication suggests

The play, whatever its origin, is not like the earliest forms
of Chronicle plays written in England. The author has ad-
vanced beyond the loose and unorganized method of writing
these dramas which prevailed in the first stages of their de-
velopment. The events here are not spread out in their his-
torical succession with no attempt made to give them drama-
tic unity. The drama has fewer scenes^ than those
plays which follow the Chronicle meticulously, as does, for
example, Richardus Tertius. The story of Richard's un-
scrupulous grasping of the kingdom and his merited fall
unifies the action. The play begins immediately after the
imprisonment of Rivers and Grey with the j'oung king in
Gloucester's hands. From that point only the main steps
in the attainment of Richard's object are presented, — and each
one is made the dramatic center of an entire act. The first act
presents the successful efforts of the conspirators to carry off
the young Duke of York from the sanctuary whither his
mother has fled with him; the second, the seizure of Hast-
ings and his subsequent execution. The third act is
composed of two scenes, both of which deal with Gloucester's
devious methods of gaining the throne; the first presents
Buckingham's long speech before the Council of London;
the second, Richard's exaggerated and hypocritical horror at
the suggestions of the citizens that he assume the title of
king, and his final yielding to their requests. The fourth act
is not so clearly unified; the first part is taken up with the
murder of the princes and the reactions of the queen and
Buckingham to that crime; the last scene depicts Richard's
futile wooing of his niece, — the first check administered to his
advance toward the fulfillment of all his desires. The last
act is the history of Richard's downfall, — all except the first
scene. This is a dialogue between Buckingham and Richard
while the former is on the way to his execution, in which

* Although the scenes are not definitely and specifically denominated,
the inrlication of change is clearly made.


Buckingham prophesies that the vengeance of Heaven will
overtake the tyrant. This threat is immediately brought to
pass in the succeeding scenes.

The play, therefore, possesses more structional unity than
most English Chronicle plays. There are no scenes, for ex-
ample, from the life of a person as tenuously connected with
the main action as Jane Shore. There is not, however, a cor-
responding unity in the conception of the central character.
The figure of Richard, to be sure, is not lost in a mass of
events ; he is usually before our eyes and always in our minds ;
yet we are not shown the tragedj^ of his inner life. This
is partly because each scene is presented with the author's
eye on its immediate theatrical effects rather than on its
psychological significance. In so doing, he shows the per-
vasive influence of Seneca.

In many respects the Roode en Witte Boos is a Senecan
play.* In the first place it has numerous epical scenes. As
in Seneca most of them report events which could not be
presented or which dramatic tradition rigorously excluded
from the stage. To the latter influence can be attributed the
author's unwillingness to have the death of Hastings, of the
princes, or of Richard himself actually presented. Each
death is announced by a messenger who delivers his news not,
as often in Seneca, in monologues addressed to the audience
or to the chorus, but always to some character in the drama.

Furthermore the play has a large number of Ijrrical scenes,
the chief object of which is not to advance the action, but
to give expression to the feelings of the characters. The
Avriter uses these scenes, moreover, not to draw character, but
merely to arouse temporarily the emotions of the spectator.
Such is the object of the queen's lament in Act I, Scene II;
of Buckingham's appeal to Heaven in Act IV, Scene III; of
the queen's grief over the death of the princes. Act IV, Scene
V; and of Stanley's lament over Basting's arrest in Act II,
Scene IV. The language of these scenes, like that of similar
ones in Seneca, is highly rhetorical, the outpourings of a mind

* A full consideration of many Senecan details of style is presented
where the play is compared with Richardus Tertius, vid. infra, pp. 20-36.


half beside itself with emotional excitement. This same ex-
travagance of language is rendered often uncouth to the point
of humor by the heavy hand of van den Bos — as when the
princess longs for a sword ''to root around in" her uncle's

The verse often develops into as highly wrought a sticho-
mythia as can be found in Seneca. The longest passage of
this sort occurs in the dialogue between Buckingham and
Kichard, Act V, Scene I, where it continues almost without
interruption for over forty lines. Here, too, there is a con-
sistent attempt to make the individual lines aphoristic.

"A legitimate prince always acts advisedly."

"How often does man err and dote in his judgment."

"The man for whom a wicked deed is done, his is the guilt."

Neither in this passage nor elsewhere in the play is the
stichomythia developed to that stage of refinement in which
there is a balance of half lines.

Whatever dramatic intensity the play possesses is given to
it through well-known Senecan devices. The tragedy fate-
fully casts its shadow across the minds of its victims. They
are filled with intimations and vague forebodings of disaster
which arouse expectancy and dread in the spectators. The
first words spoken in the play are intended to allay the fears
of the young king. The tirade of the queen in the second
scene of the first act is one long wail of foreboding and dis-
tress over the hidden ills of the future. And her first ex-
clamation when she hears of the murder of her sons is:
"Was it not that which my heart long ago seemed to pre-
sage ? ' '

Though the idea of Nemesis is not made a basic principle
of construction as it is in Shakespeare's Richard III, still
Fate permeates the spirit of the action and is constantly on
the lips of the characters. Stanley's first words (II, 4) after
Hastings has been seized are: "Now I see that no one may
escape his misfortune, and that whatever Heaven wills, that
shall and must come to pass. In vain it is for man to strive
against his Fate." In this speech, as in others throughout


the play, Fate is almost always called the will of Heaven.
The Bishop of York never loses faith in the ultimate pun-
ishment of the bloody tyrant. On the eve of Richard's death,
he assures Stanley :

The vengeance of God will yet come, though it be late.

After the tyrant's death, Stanley exclaims, "How fickle for-
tune can turn her fleet heel!" and the Bishop rejoins, "The
punishment of God knows no time nor tide". This idea of
Nemesis acting through the judgment of God, however, is
little more than a subject of dramatic conversation. It never
enters the minds of those who suffer from the vengeance of
Fate, as it does in Shakespeare, nor does it become part of
the terror of a mental tragedy in the heart of Richard.
Only after the ghost has visited him does he look within his
foul soul. Then he exclaims:

Oh Conscience smirched with sin and red with shame and guilt!
What bitter torments dost thou spread through my limbs
Alas King Henry! King Henry! Now I see, today I see your blood
pursuing me.

The drama then is in no sense psychological, so that such
unity as the play possesses is not due to the dramatist's con-
ception of Nemesis.

In the same superficial way the Roode en Witte Boos is a
tragedy of revenge. The inevitable ghost of such a play
appears here, but not as usual to urge revenge. He is
not the spirit of a character wronged by the villain, but the
evil spirit of Richard himself. He in no sense directs the
course of events, but merely announces to the tyrant that
his end is near and causes him to peer into the pit of hell.
He makes Richard exclaim : "It is as if hell were opening its
mouth and jaws. The earth trembles and roars beneath my
feet . . . hell is loose to drive me to distraction". The
queen in one of her "reflective diatribes" (lY, 5) says:
"Now I am just waiting to see . . . what calamity my
sad calamity will bring down upon the person who accom-
plished it".

The queen addresses Richmond at the end of the play as


"faithful avenger of my heavy cross", and the Duke rejoices
with her ' * in the avenging of your insults and of the tyrant 's
accursed and godless deeds". Yet references of this sort are
external to the spirit of the play which has, therefore, only
superficial and, as it were, residuary resemblances to the
typical tragedies of revenge.

Thus none of the Senecan characteristics of this play are
fundamental enough to give it structural unity or to deter-
mine its dramatic spirit. Furthermore the recognizably
Senecan scenes are intermingled with those of a quite different
character. Such is the long discussion between Stanley and
York in Act II, Scene IV, on the respective rights of the
Houses of Lancaster and York to the throne. Historical sur-
veys of this sort are in the English tradition of Chronicle
play. This same question, indeed, is discussed in the Con-
tention and in I Henry VI, '^ In the Dutch play England's
crime in putting the House of Lancaster on the throne in-
stead of that of Mortimer (as the author designates the House
of York) is, to be sure, the cause of the present troublous
times. This wrong, fate is avenging.

Another scene completely out of the spirit of Senecan
drama is the encounter that Buckingham has with Dighton.
The murderer has dispatched the Princes and is seeking Tyrel
(sic) to report that the deed has been done. On his way he
meets Buckingham. Dighton is preoccupied and confused
and makes ridiculous and compromising answers. A prince
has charged him. "What prince?" Buckingham asks.
"Prince Robert", he replies, thinking of Robert Brakenbury,
keeper of the tower, — though this reference would have been
utterly lost on a Dutchman who did not know the story of
Richard in aU its details. Their dialogue then continues
as follows :

Buck. What, you dull gallows bird!

Dighton. No, I mean Edmond, I mean Prince Edward (I am get-
ting in bad).

''II, 5, 63 ff. e. g., Mortimer. Henry the fourth, grandfather to this
King Deposed his nephew Richard, — Edward's son. . . . Young King
Richard thus removed Leaving no heir begotten of hi.s body, etc.


Buck. Had charged you to do what?

Dighton. To ride his horses.

Buck. When?

Dighton. Immediately.

Buck. In the dead of night?

Dighton. Yes, that is so, I had not thought of that at all.

This is a bit of clumsy humor, introduced in the manner of
the great Elizabethans at a moment when the tragedy is most
painful. Of all the scenes in the play these two are perhaps
the most completely out of harmony with the Senecan spirit.
Others, like the long address of Buckingham to the citizens,
are mere transcripts of the Chronicle tradition. They are
innocent of any formative dramatic influence.

The Red Rose and the White, then, shows no real drama-
tic unity. The individual scenes make immediate theat-
rical effects of an exaggerated Senecan sort. The individual
acts are unified by action relating to one central dramatic
fact. Yet there is no sweep of Nemesis from act to act, no
character dominating events until, faithless to him, they turn
his mind upon itself in deep psychological tragedy. Rich-
ard's career uninterpreted by any profound artistic judg-
ment binds the drama together and nothing else.

The Dutch play is the product of a more sophisticated
technique than that which produced the earlier naive English
dramatizations of the historical material. The authors of
these first English Chronicle plays followed the historical
sources closely, selecting and discriminating but little. In so
doing they naturally smothered the central character in the
multitude of events. These blemishes the author of the orig-
inal of the Roode en Witte Roos has avoided. The subject
of his play is the historical fact of Eiehard's rise and fall,
and of that the spectator is never permitted to lose sight.
Of the later and most effective manner of writing this form
of drama, in which the attention of the spectators, as in
Shakespeare's Richard III, is riveted upon some mighty fig-
ure and his gigantic conflict with circumstance or struggle
with his own soul, there is no trace. It is such a play as
might have been written in England bv some inferior dram-


atist after the purely Senecan tradition had been modified by
some of the early work of Marlowe. The interest of this
tragedy does not lie, then, in its intrinsic value, but in its
position in the great Saga of King Richard III, and particu-
larly in its relation to Shakespeare's famous tragedy.


The most natural hypothesis about a play published in
1651 which deals with the career of Richard III is that it is a
translation or an adaptation of Shakespeare's work. But it
can be easily shown that the Eoode en Witte Roos^ is not a
translation of Bichard III.' In the first place D does not
cover the same ground as S. It begins with events which are
not treated in S until the very end of the second act. Al-
most two whole acts of S are therefore unrepresented in D.
Furthermore the two tragedies are quite unlike in dramatic
character, D being more persistently and circumstantially
Senecan. Finally no line in D is a translation of anything in

Granted that this is true, is it not possible, nevertheless,
that van den Bos used S as the source of the historical material
that he incorporated in his play? This theory is untenable
because the material in D in many respects is more nearly like
that of the Chronicles than is S ; and attaches itself, therefore,
to the tradition of Richard III at a point earlier in its develop-
ment than that represented by S. The resemblances which
establish this point are of two sorts: (1) those of dramatic
construction and (2) those of verbal similarity.

1. The first resemblance of the constructive sort occurs in
D, 1, 1. There the Churchman who discusses the rights of
sanctuary with Buckingham and later seeks to induce the
queen to entrust her second son to the regent is the Arch-

* Hereafter in this discussion the Dutch play will be indicated by the
letter D.

=• Hereafter to be indicated by S.


bishop of York. In i)resenting this character van den Bos
follows the tradition as it appears in Holinshed^ and More;
S, on the other hand, gives this part to Cardinal Bouchier of
Canterbury,* as do Hall'' and Polydore Ycrgil." At this point,
therefore, D attaches itself to the Richard III saga in a man-
ner different from S and quite independent of it.

2. In D (I, 3, 11. 12-15) before Gloucester acquaints Buck-
ingham with his fell purposes, he seeks to bind him as a con-
federate by promising him, as he does also in S,' the Duchy of
Hartford. Then in D Gloucester adds, as he dijcs not in S,
' ' You know what mj' favor will be able to accomplish further
when our houses are bound together in marriage." In add-
ing this second point D is following the tradition as it appears
in Holinshed, where we find the following :

Then it was agreed that the protector should have the duke's
aid to make him King and that the protector's onelie lawfuU sonne
should marrie the duke's daughter.* etc.

In this respect D depends on an earlier and more circumstan-
tial form of the tradition than that appearing in S.

3. In the same scene in D (I, 3, 11. 17ff.) immediately after
Gloucester has made the above agreement with Buckingham,
he introduces the subject of the murder of his nephews in the
following al)surdly nonchalant fashion :

When my nephews have been murdered by my hands, etc.

Buckingham is greatly shocked and suggests, instead of this
crime, mere imprisonment and the scheme of asserting them to
be bastards. In S, to be sure, Gloucester also tells Bucking-
ham of his desire to have his nephews murdered, but only
much later in the action.** It is in the tradition as it appears
in the Chronicles that Richard, as in D, bares his most sinister

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