Cue for Treason By Geoffrey Trease
One of the best qualities of this novel is its wealth of unabashedly good characters: men and women possessing wisdom, power, compassion, or years and using them to help others. In a way the dastardly Sir Phillip Morton serves to highlight their goodness: rather in a way a fresh lily would look especially if placed next to a dirty brick. Compare him in appearance with the jolly, fat, and generally avuncular Desmond: “He paused to give his penny to the little man, and I saw him lean, face sideways, with the little golden beard springing from the cruel under-lip and the blue eyes so cold and insolent.” (Trease, 41).
He hunted Peter for opposing him in the unlawful act of theft (walling in land common to the regular people who weren’t nobility for his own use). Desmond, on the other hand, forgives Peter instantly and helps the young stowaway back to health with stew, water, and “a bit of wine”. He had escaped Sir Phillip in a box used by the actors as a coffin. William Shakespeare takes Kit, who had prudently dressed as a boy to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage to Sir Phillip, and Peter when they had “only a few shillings between them and starvation” in London (Trease, 94-95).He feeds the young people and, perhaps more importantly, gives them work so that they can earn their food and instruction in a craft (acting).
The Yellow Gentleman, on the other hand, is not generous like Desmond and William Shakespeare; he steals a copy of Shakespeare’s play from Peter. The spy helps Peter but sends him in to danger; the judge looks kindly but turns out to be a dangerous man in cahoots with the villains. Duncan plies Peter with wine in an effort to get him to tell what he knows, after which the captured Peter might have been killed. The traitors steal, they are dishonest, and they are party to the murder of Queen Elizabeth. They kill Tom, as well, while he is investigating the tower: proving that they don’t truly value human life when such interferes with their own desires.
Mr. Brownrigg, Peter’s father, shows hospitality to the visiting Tom, a stranger, and risks his own life to protect his family, himself, and Tom. He furthermore shows wisdom, mercy, prudence, and temperance all at once when he only wounds Sir Phillip’s men who are attacking his house with his bow and arrows. He avoided the penalties for killing others, both the sin and the potential crime, he spares those who are attacking him because he is strong enough, and he tempers his anger all at the same time by only wounding those attacking his house. Peter shares some of this temperance and fortitude when he uses the wine bottle to escape rather than drinking it and possibly spilling his secrets, swimming across the river and running far to warn the Queen, and justice and true charity when he asks Queen Elizabeth only for the common land stolen by Sir Phillip back for his whole village. He also marries the charming Kit. Sir Phillip is executed for his treachery. The “cue” for treason failed to produce. Virtue rewarded and vice punished. It may not always happen in this world, but it will at the Final Trump.