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Armstrong's Last Goodnight

a play by John Arden, first performed in 1964. Set in the Scotland of the early sixteenth century and subtitled ‘an exercise in diplomacy’, it mainly concerns the conflict between Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, James V's tutor and chief herald, and Johnny Armstrong of Gilnockie. The former, ‘ane very subtle practiser’, undertakes to tame the latter, a wild freebooter whose cross-border raids are imperilling a precarious peace between the English and the Scots. Lindsay persuades the king to make Armstrong his warden and lieutenant, and copes as resourcefully as he can with the enmity his policies cause at court and elsewhere; but he reckons without the waywardness and destructiveness of Armstrong himself. As his secretary tells him, after being fatally stabbed by the fanatical evangelist whom Armstrong has installed in his castle, he ‘can never accept the gravity of ane other man's violence’. The play ends with Lindsay not merely renouncing his determination to bring Armstrong ‘intil the king's peace and order’, but luring him to his death with a false promise of safe conduct. As often in Arden's work, reason proves insufficient when confronted with human complexity and human perversity.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Areley Kings (or arley regis) Worcestershire to George Pierce Baker Biography