(Boudicca enters, sword in hand, blood stained and weary. She jumps in alarm at those she sees before her and raises her sword.)
Who are you? Where do you come from? You have strange clothing. Are you friend or foe? You do not look Roman. Perhaps you are just wanderers. (She drops her sword to her side.) If that be the case, I must share something with you. I am Boudicca. I am known to many as queen of the Britons. I lead an army against the forces and oppresion of Rome, and I hereby give you a charge. A charge to tell my story. It is important that you listen as my time here draws short.
Do you hear the sound behind me? That is the sound of battle. ThatÖ.is the sound of oppression. That is the sound of the spirit of freedom and liberty being crushed - CRUSHED by the Roman empire. And this (she lifts her chalice of poison), this is my end. I will not let them crush me. I am FREE! No one decides my life for me, and as I chose my own life, I will choose my own death! I will not become a toy for them, and I will not give them the satisfaction of deciding my fate. My death is not what I want to tell you about, though. It is my life.
The people that I lead are not all MY people. They are their own people. Their lives are their own. I taught them that, and I taught them to fight for it! It is the one thing that is inherently ours from the day we are born. You can not truly own land, you can not own a house, you can not even own your children. At any time, someone bigger and stronger may come and take it from you. But your life, your beingÖthat is your own. No one belongs to another person. We are all free. We are free from the day we are born. We are free to decide who we are and what we do while we experience life. The spirit of Rome is the spirit of oppression. The spirit of control. They say we have to adhere to their rules. They place themselves as authority over us. They say we must believe in their god. They say that our ways, our beliefs are wrong. They say we are evil and if we do not do what they want, we are going to a fiery hell, but I tell you -we are already there! Living under cloaks, living by their standards or risking cruel punishments and even death if we stand up to them - THAT IS HELL. The only way to stop them is to stand up and fight against it!
Who am I? What makes me worthy to lead these people? I was strong enough to stand up and show others how to do the same. And without even knowing it, the Romans are the ones who gave me that strength.
My husband was Prasutagus, King of Iceni, our tribe. He amassed great wealth in his lifetime. To the south of Iceni is the tribe of the Trinovantes. To the west of the Iceni is the tribe of Catuvellauni, which are pro-Roman. The Catuvellauni have invaded and taken control of the lands belonging to the Trinovantes, the Atrebates and the Cantium. The Trinovantes, when invaded by the Catuvellauni, were thrown from their own homes. They became homeless as the Romans moved in and built their own homes there. The Trinovantesí own capital Camuldonum was overrun by Romans, who used it as a retirement village for their veterans. A statue of emperor Claudius was erected as a sacred statue of their church. Their priests worked the altars and did what they could to remove our beliefs, our diversity and our ways from the land. We Icenians watched in fear. What if the Romans invaded us and treated us the same?
Before my husbandís death we were not under the control of the Catuvellauni, who are run by the Romans. However, if we wanted to travel in any direction to trade goods, we had to cross lands that were run by the Catuvellauni, so we were not completely free. We had to deal with them and their ways. We lived this way, and when he died, he left half of his kingdom to Rome and the other half to our two daughters, in the hopes that Rome would find that a fair decision and be satisfied with half of his inheritance, and that peace would prevail. His good will was ignored. Instead, under Neroís order, the centurions marched in and declared everything rightful plunder! They took everything and had their way with anyone they came across. My husbandís relatives were made into slaves, and anyone who held positions of leadership passed on to them by their ancestors found themselves removed. I did not escape the humiliation or suffering and neither did my daughters. They took me to the courtyard where I was flogged. The stripes that remain across my back are a reminder of what Rome is. They burn. With each burning and searing lash I was given, a burning was etched into my very being. A burning defiance and desire to stop the Romans and return freedom to the land of Briton. My two daughters suffered even more greatly than me. The centurions raped themÖthey had their way with the bodies of the two beautiful daughters I raised. Pigs! Disgusting animals! No, animals is too good of a title. Even animals in nature know how to respect each other in the natural order of things.
This event in my homeland was the last straw and outraged the Iceni. They saw that they had no option but to live miserably under the rule of the Romans or to take to arms! A brave people the Iceni! The Trinovantes joined us. Suetonius Paullinus, the Roman governor was busy in Wales, fighting. He was busy overtaking the island of Mona, which had become a refuge for discontented Britons. He ignored reports that the spirit of rebellion was brewing. Some of our own people were paid to be spies among us. They were to send him reports of anything unusual, but he paid the reports no mind. He continued to send positive reports to Rome, so that he could gloat and boast in his victories. The Romanís pride became their downfall. It was because of their pride and arrogance that our rebellion came to be and lived as long as it did. Little did we know that pride would also be our downfall.
As the Trinovantians joined us, so did other neighboring tribes who had not yet felt the sting of oppression. They vowed in secret councils to stand for liberty. Our tribes had some differences, but we joined together, despite our differences to face a common enemy, a common opressor, for there is strength in numbers. Divided into small tribes and separated, we could accomplish nothing and would only fall one by one to the empire.
Next, we turned to Verulamium, a town comprised entirely of Britons. Yes, Britons -Britons who were for Rome! For if you are with Rome, you are against Briton. The people there heard of my plans before we arrived and so evacuated the town, taking all they owned with them. Governor Suetonius asked for help from the 2nd legion, but the commander of that legion decided to stay where he was in case we turned west. Thatís what he said. I think he was just afraid to face us. By the time we entered and burned verulamium, our peoples were estimated at 200,000. Governor Suetonius was only able to gather 10,000. And so, another village fell to our wrath.
All of this led to this final battle that I have just come to you from. I said that pride would also be our downfall. Because of our pride, we have fallen. Out of pride in our numbers and past victories, we thought that this battle would be another Roman slaughter. Family members, people of all ages including children came to watch the battle. If you go on in your journey behind me into the woods, you will come to a place where you see wagons lined up and the bodies of those who came to watch the battle. Those wagons helped to ensure our doom. The Romans were positioned at the top of a hill and because of the forest to one side, only had to worry about us coming from one direction. I addressed my warriors:
'But now, it is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very person, nor even age or virginity, are left unpolluted. But heaven is on the side of a righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows. If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die.
My words gave them courage! They were ready for battle! The governor gave his word and his troops made their move. They threw their javelins down onto us, and then came in with swords. They moved as one unit and drove us back until we were trapped by the wagons of our own people. Because most of our warriors had been killed by the initial tactics and javelins, the remainder began to fear. And fear is the end. You can not fight fiercely when you have fear. It became a massacre. No one was spared by the Romans, including our children.
And so here I am, I came this way to drink this poison and decide my own end. If I had remained, they would have taken me to Rome and paraded me as a trophy, and I am no manís trophy. After their parading they would have killed me in celebration. I refuse to let that happen. But instead, I found you here. And, in finding you, my rebellion has a chance to live on. You now know what has happened to our people here in Briton. I donít know why you wander, but perhaps you come from a distant land where you yourselves are faced with oppression. Perhaps you, too, suffer from rulers you did not choose, and priests that try to erase your kind. If that is your case, then I tell you your journey here is in vain. You will not find freedom here. The spirit of oppression seems to be everywhere. It spreads through this world as only evil can do. Your travels may lead to a temporary freedom, but it is only matter of time until you see strangers on the horizon coming to impose their ways on you. You will wake up one day, as our people did, and it will be apparent that you are no longer what you were. You will find that you are either walking in fear, only trying to appease those that govern you, or you will find that you are oppressing others with your ways, your words, your beliefs. When it comes down to the matter of freedom, you are either with us, or you are against us. That is what the Romans say and that is what we say. There is no middle ground anymore. If you truly want to find freedom, Iíll tell you where it is. It is here. (She touches the chest of someone in the audience - or her own.) We are all free to be. BE. Be yourself and fight anyone who would take that away from you. Just be careful that your reasons for fighting are pure and you do not fall to pride. It is not a fight for personal gain or freedom but merely defending your freedom
I am finished. I have given my charge and now is the time for me to accept the end that I have chosen. And although my physical body will decay and return to the earth, my spirit can now live on in you. You are the new carriers of the spirit of freedom. Do not forget the things I have told you, and be strong. Although the beast of oppression will raise its ugly head many times, in the end - freedom will prevail. When everyone awakes and has heard of the atrocities done in the name of oppression, they will be fed up and will carry on the rebellion - and in numbers, they will prevail. Like us, they will see beyond their differences and join together to face a common oppressor. So journey forth and spread the word. We are all free. (She lifts the chalice and drinks.) Free to be.