Half-way through the Henry VI trilogy, as Jack Cade’s army swarms into London, the Lord Mayor sends to the Tower for help against the rebels. Lord Scales replies that while he is very willing to help, ‘I am troubled here with them myself’ (Part Two, 4.5.7); he suggests instead that the citizens should gather head in Smithfield, ‘And thither I will send you Matthew Gough’ (4.5.10). This, as it turns out, is no great help, for twenty lines later, after a brief intervening scene for Cade, there comes the terse stage direction: ‘Alarums. Matthew Gough is slain, and all the rest’ (4.7.0).
This tiny episode is based on a fuller treatment in Edward Hall’s Chronicle. Hall explains that Lord Scales appointed Matthew Gough ‘to assist the Mayor and the Londoners, because he was both of manhood and experience greatly renowned’ but that, while the King’s forces defended London Bridge ‘all the night valiantly’, the rebels were victorious, and slew many, including ‘Matthew Gough, a man of great . . . experience in feats of chivalry, the which in continual wars had valiantly served the King . . . beyond the sea’. Beside this detailed information which Hall provides about Matthew Gough, Shakespeare’s Gough is a ghost character. There is, indeed, no way in which an audience could pick up who he is when he appears only to be killed immediately.
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