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The Death of Captain Cook painted by John Cleveley in 1784


One of the most famous reproductions of Cleveley's Death of Captain Cook

Plays, Verse Plays & Musicals
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This Fatal Island               * Also available on CD *

The tragedy of the death of Captain Cook in Hawaii.
Winner of a play competition for the bicentenary for the founding of Australia.

“It is a very good work and obviously merits its prize.” Robin Lovejoy Director Old Tote Theatre Company, 1970.

Prologue
Dr. Samwell – Ship’s Surgeon
If ever grandchildren stand at my knee and ask have you sometime seen a miracle
I will say I have lived through one, the miracle of two small ships
on seas so vast I could believe the moon was torn from the side of the world
for this Pacific Ocean. Two ships so leaky in the seams, so rotten in the rigging
the navy would not send to battle yet, treacherous from mast to hull,
they blithely pass them fit for battle with all arsenal of wind and wet
and rock and reef that have brought so many wandering ships to grief.

I have seen our captain, Captain Cook, wizard of the baffling elements,
conjure these two ships together - twins never apart from each other –
by daily splendours of seamanship to keep these stubborn ships afloat.
We’ll need this master mariner to round America in the north
if, like Cape Horn, a gate to hell, we are bedevilled by the wind
the blizzard, broken ice and lee shore winds to savage cliffs.

We go as sacrifice to a futile dream, the North-West Passage,
But this mighty captain will write more glory to England’s name
as lord of this mutinous wilderness than any soldier’s done or will.

Captain Cook was killed in sad affray, when forced to turn back to Hawaii to replace a broken mast. Only his bones and a hand were returned for Captain Clerke, who chose to bury his pitiful remains at sea before they turned for home with the young William Bligh as navigator.

Captain Clerk
There can be no mistake. It is his hand,
the hand that wrote the incomparable log so long,
the hand that schemed with the proud and peerless brain
to score the map and charts and plot our path
the hand, servant of such a steady mind
that shook neither with squalls of men nor storm.

Dr. Samwell
See, the very scar that proved him a fighting man
but not as men of simple reasoning thought –
the cut and thrust to be uppermost in sinew
among humans – but on that wide implacable nature,
the rhythmic blood of this planet, the beating waters;
man dominant and in command of mortality
man in conquest of his universe,
his superstition, servitude and terror.

Lieutenant:
We leave no site for future commemoration. 

Captain Clerke:
His memorial is in the minds of men.

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