“Every journalist writes his own obituary.”
On that November day in 1963, I was at the sylvan campus of the University of California at Davis. I was meeting with my drama teacher and director about Shakespeare’s Richard II a play we were about to put on and one in which I had a small role. We were discussing how to block the final scene of the play when through the open window we caught a rising chorus of alarm and weeping. On the quad across the way, a group of students was forming a circle around the window into the student union where a television displayed Walter Cronkite telling the nation that its president had been shot in the head.
Later that week the assassin was killed. Later that week there would be a funeral in Washington DC. Later that week we postponed the play’s opening but not the rehearsals.
Enter EXTON, with persons bearing a coffin
EXTON: Great king, within this coffin I present
Thy buried fear: herein all breathless lies
The mightiest of thy greatest enemies,
Richard of Bordeaux, by me hither brought.
HENRY BOLINGBROKE: Exton, I thank thee not; for thou hast wrought
A deed of slander with thy fatal hand
Upon my head and all this famous land.
EXTON: From your own mouth, my lord, did I this deed.
HENRY BOLINGBROKE: They love not poison that do poison need,
Nor do I thee: though I did wish him dead,
I hate the murderer, love him murdered.
The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labour,
But neither my good word nor princely favour:
With Cain go wander through shades of night,
And never show thy head by day nor light.
Lords, I protest, my soul is full of woe,
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow:
Come, mourn with me for that I do lament,
And put on sullen black incontinent:
I’ll make a voyage to the Holy Land,
To wash this blood off from my guilty hand:
March sadly after; grace my mournings here;
In weeping after this untimely bier.