(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/  )

Main Characters

    The Trojans

Priam — King of Troy

Hector, Troilus, Paris, Deiphobus, and Helenus — sons of Priam

Margarelon — bastard son of Priam

Cassandra — daughter of Priam; a prophetess

Aeneas and Antenor — commanders

Calchas — priest; defector to the Greeks

Cressida — Calchas’s daughter

Pandarus — Cressida’s uncle

Alexander — Cressida’s servant

Andromache — Hector’s wife

    The Greeks

Agamemnon — supreme commander

Menelaus — his brother; Helen’s husband

Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses, Nestor, and Diomedes — commanders

Patroclus — Achilles’ companion

Helen — formerly Menelaus’ wife, now living as Paris’ wife

Thersites — a nasty servant and critic of the war


Prologue Speaker

Gist of the story: The story takes place during the Trojan War, around 1200 BC.  Previously, Paris, a prince of Troy, stole Helen away from a Greek king, Menelaus.  Now the Greeks are besieging the city to get her back.  Troilus, another prince of Troy, is in love with Cressida.  Her father, Calchas, defected to the Greeks, and now her uncle, Pandarus, is trying to hook her up with Troilus.  But shortly after they become lovers, word comes that Cressida is to be exchanged for Antenor, a Trojan commander held prisoner by the Greeks.  She pledges her loyalty to Troilus, but once she is in the Greek camp, she takes up with Diomedes, a Greek commander.  Meanwhile, the Greeks’ best fighter, Achilles, is sulking in his tent, unwilling to go out and fight.  He spends his time with his buddy, Patroclus.  The other Greek commanders try to manipulate him back into the war by presenting Ajax as the most worthy fighter to answer a challenge by Hector to one-on-one combat.  The match ends in a draw.  Achilles doesn’t get back into the war until Patroclus is killed.  Troilus learns that Cressida has been unfaithful, and he wants to take it out on Diomedes.  Achilles meets Hector on the battlefield but breaks off the fight.  Later, he and his followers catch Hector unarmed and kill him.  Troilus is disillusioned about everything and sees no hope for Troy.  Pandarus leaves us with a bitterly ironic closing speech.

(Troy and the Trojan War, described in Homer’s Iliad, were long assumed to be pure legend until archaeologists discovered the ancient city in the late 1800’s in what is now Turkey.  The war probably took place around 1200 BC and may have lasted ten years.  The popular version of  the story of Helen of Troy is that she was abducted by Paris.  However, it is almost certain that she went willingly.  The main knock against Troilus and Cressida is that it is anticlimactic — that is, just when you think Shakespeare is building up to something, the action fizzles out.  But we must understand what Shakespeare is up to.  He has turned Homer’s Iliad on its head.  The glorious war of Homer’s epic, with brave, noble heroes on both sides, is presented as a stupid exercise in stubbornness and false honour.  Imagine!  A ten-year war fought over a woman!  But if you have read The Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides (check out The Landmark Thucydides, edited by Robert B. Strassler!), you are not at all surprised to see Greeks behaving so badly.  Shakespeare takes a dim view of both sides.  There is plenty of courage, yes — but stupid courage.  We like Hector the most, but he ends up dead, slaughtered like a defenseless animal.  Achilles, the Greek hero of The Iliad, is petulant, disloyal, and treacherous.  Troilus and Cressida are poor protagonists.  He’s naive, and she’s loose.  It was an ugly war that never should have happened.  Thersites is Shakespeare’s commentator, spewing contempt in all directions, although he himself is a chronic malcontent with no sense of personal honour.  Troilus and Cressida has not been a particularly popular play, perhaps because it doesn’t fit neatly into either category of tragedy or comedy.  But you will find it to be a very interesting play.  Shakespeare intended it to be a dark satire, and we have whipped it into shape with that view in mind.  So dig it!)

Prologue.  A white trash character wearing ill-fitting armour walks onstage noisily.

Prologue Speaker: Oy!  Welcome to the Trojan War — between the Greeks and the Trojans.  It went on for ten years, but we’re skipping the first seven just for convenience.  A thousand ships loaded with blood-thirsty Greeks set out to lay siege to the city of Troy.  And for what?  Because a Trojan prince named Paris abducted a Greek woman named Helen, the wife of a Greek king named Menelaus.  Truth is, she went voluntarily.  But that don’t matter to the Greeks.  They never pass up an opportunity to fight a war.  Homer thought it was glorious.  He wrote a book about it called The Iliad. — Yes, what could be more inspiring than two nations slaughtering each other for ten years because somebody stole somebody else’s wife?  And these were all white people! — Anyway, I’m dressed for the occasion, although I have no intention of being a hero.  I just want to be ready in case you turn on me because you hate this play — ha! — Now, the war is on, and we’re in Troy with the Trojans, or nearby with the Greeks.  You’re going to meet Troilus, one of the princes of Troy, and Cressida, the woman he’s in love with.  And you’ll meet brave fighters on both sides.  So it’s a love story and a war story combined, okay?  Tragedy or comedy — sometimes it’s hard to tell.  If at times you think we’re joking, remember that the people you see are taking it all very seriously.  If you’re still here after the first scene, it’s too late to ask for a refund.  So just enjoy it.

    (He walks out noisily.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  The scene is introduced by heroic “sandal epic” music, which then breaks down as if the sound system is faulty.  Pandarus and Troilus come in.  Troilus is wearing armour.

Troilus: Where’s my servant?  I want to take this damned armour off.  What’s the point of fighting a battle outside when there’s already a battle going on in my heart?

Pandarus: Oh–pfoof!–There you go again.  Do I have to keep hearing this?

Troilus: Pandarus, the Greeks are as strong as they are skillful, and they are as skillful as they are fierce, and they are as fierce as they are brave.  But I’m weaker than a woman’s tear and more foolish than ignorance itself.  I’m less brave than a virgin and as unskillful as a child.

Pandarus: That’s not exactly a great endorsement for a prince of Troy–especially one who expects to get fixed up with my niece.

Troilus: I’m suffering because you haven’t done it yet.

Pandarus: Just be patient, okay?  I mean, scoring with a virgin is sort of like baking a cake.

Troilus: Baking a cake?

Pandarus: Of course.  First you have to–grind (He makes suggestive gestures during this speech, although they may look stupid)–the wheat.  Then you have to sift it.  Then it needs leavening.  Then you have to let it rise so you can knead the dough.  Then you have to bake it.  Then you have to let it cool down.  Then you can slather on your favourite icing and dig into it.–Mm–mm!  It’s worth the wait. 

Troilus: Wait, wait, wait–all I do is wait.  And all I think about–is Cressida.

Pandarus: I can understand that.  Personally, I think she’s hotter than Helen.  You should have seen what she was wearing yesterday.  Man, that was some hot outfit!

Troilus: Stop it!  You’re making it worse for me!

Pandarus: Oh–pardon me!  Maybe I should stay out of it altogether.

Troilus: No.

Pandarus: You know, I’m trying to make a match for both of your sakes, and all I get is grief from both sides.  She’s always contrary, and you’re always complaining.

Troilus: I’m sorry.  It’s just–my feelings.  It’s like I’m in constant pain, and I have to hide it from other people. 

Pandarus: She should have gone over to the Greeks with her father.  Then I wouldn’t have to deal with either of you.

Troilus: Aw, Pandarus–

Pandarus: Yeah, yeah.  You know what?  I’m just going to mind my own business from now on.

    (Pandarus leaves.)

Troilus: Oh, hell.  What am I going to do now?  I can’t get to Cressida without him.–Cressida–the eternal virgin.  She won’t give me a chance.

    (Distant sounds of battle are heard.  He looks out a window.)

Troilus (Loudly): What are you idiots fighting for?  Is Helen that beautiful?  Do you expect me to fight for her?–(Normal voice) Oh, Cressida!–Her bed is half a world away, and I’m like a sailor trying to cross the ocean to get to her–and Pandarus is the boat.

    (More sounds of battle.  Aeneas comes in.)

Aeneas: Troilus!  What are you doing hanging around here?  Why aren’t you out there fighting?  You’re a prince of Troy, for God’s sake!

Troilus: I’m just not there, Aeneas.

Aeneas: Just not there?  What the hell does that mean?

Troilus: I just don’t feel up to it.–What’s happening out there today?

Aeneas: Paris got hurt.  Not seriously though.  But he had to withdraw from the battle.

Troilus: Who did it to him?

Aeneas: Menelaus, wouldn’t you know.

Troilus: Well, that’s fitting, isn’t it?  Paris stole Helen from him.

    (More sounds of battle.  Aeneas goes to the window.)

Aeneas (Enthusiastically): Go get ’em, men!  Give it to them!  (To Troilus) Hey, where’s your spirit?  Don’t you want a piece of this action?

Troilus: I’d rather get some action here at home.

Aeneas: Eh?

Troilus: Never mind.–Okay, maybe a bit of fighting will do me some good–get my mind off other things.  Are you going back?

Aeneas: Of course.  I’m a commander, ain’t I?  Come on, let’s go.

Troilus: Okay.  Let’s go fight the Greeks.

    (They go out.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Before Cressida’s house.  Cressida comes in with her servant, Alexander.

Cressida: Was that Queen Hecuba and Helen who went by?

Alexander: Yes, madam.  They went up to the eastern tower.  You can see the whole battlefield from there.

Cressida: Did anything interesting happen today?

Alexander: Hector was in a very bad mood.  He was up early, and he just wanted to go out and kill Greeks.

Cressida: That’s not like him.  He’s usually very even-tempered, isn’t he?

Alexander: Yes.

Cressida: What was he angry about?

Alexander: It was because of Ajax.  Ever hear of him?

Cressida: No.  He must be one of the Greeks.

Alexander: Yes.  Actually, he’s half-Trojan.  He’s Hector’s first cousin.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare refers to him erroneously as Hector’s nephew.  In fact, Ajax was the son of King Priam’s sister, Hesione, who was forced into marriage with a Greek king, Telamon.]

Cressida: Oh.

Alexander: Ajax is a wacko.  Nobody knows what to make of him.  He’s a hell of a fighter, but he’s not too smart.  And he has these weird mood swings.  Actually, they say he’s got a little bit of every vice and every virtue you can think of.

Cressida: So why is Hector angry with him?

Alexander: They met up with each other on the field yesterday, and they fought, and Ajax knocked him down.  He wasn’t actually hurt, but just getting knocked down was such a shock to him.  I don’t think anybody ever knocked down Hector before.  He was just so ticked off about it.

Cressida: Maybe this proves that Greek blood and Trojan blood are a bad combination.

Alexander: Ha, ha!

Cressida: Somebody should warn Helen before she and Paris have children, otherwise we’ll have more Ajaxes here in Troy.

Alexander: God save us from that!

    (Pandarus comes in.)

Pandarus: Hello, Cressida.–Hello, Alexander.

Cressida: Hello, uncle.

Alexander: Hello, sir.

Pandarus: Hector was up early today, wasn’t he?

Cressida: We were just talking about him.

Alexander: It was because of Ajax.

Pandarus: I heard about that.  He’s going to take it out on all the Greeks today.  You can be sure of that.  And Troilus, too.  He’ll be fighting like a monster.

Cressida: Oh?  Was he angry about something, too?

Pandarus: Well–sort of.–Not exactly.  He’s just not himself lately.  Neither of them is.

Cressida: Then who is he?

Pandarus: Who?

Cressida: Troilus.

Pandarus: Troilus is Troilus–and Hector is Hector.

Cressida: Ah, good.  Then all’s well in Troy.

Pandarus: Too bad Hector isn’t more like Troilus.

Cressida: In what way?

Pandarus: In every way.  Troilus is the better man.

Cressida: Uncle, don’t make me laugh.

Pandarus: Oh, what do you know about men?

Cressida: Only as much as a virgin should know.

Pandarus: Which is not very much.  I tell you, Helen herself praised Troilus for his dark complexion–even more than Paris.

Cressida: Why?  Isn’t Paris dark enough for her?

Pandarus: Yes, I think so. 

Cressida: Then if Troilus is darker, he’s too dark.

Pandarus: Well, anyway, I think Helen secretly loves Troilus more than she loves Paris.

Cressida: She’s a Greek.  They’re all a bit nuts, aren’t they?

Pandarus: Just the other day, in fact, she put her hand on his chin–

Cressida: Whose chin?

Pandarus: Troilus’s–and I don’t think he’s even got a beard worth shaving.  And she saw a white hair on his chin–

Cressida: Poor chin!  No beard.  Just a white hair.

Pandarus: And it was so funny the way she touched that white hair and what she said, and even Queen Hecuba was laughing so hard she was crying.

Cressida: Crying, indeed–over a white hair.

Pandarus: And even Cassandra was laughing, too.

Cressida: Cassandra, the mad prophetess.

Pandarus: And Hector was laughing–ha, ha!

Cressida: And if the hair had been green, I would’ve laughed, too.

Pandarus: Wait.  Let me get to the good part.–And Helen says, “Oh, you have fifty-two hairs, and one of them is white.”  And Troilus says, “The white one is my father, and all the rest are his sons.”  And Helen says, “Which one is Paris?”  And Troilus says–wait for it–“The forked one.  Pluck it out and give it to him!”–Ha, ha!–Get it?

Alexander: No.

Pandarus: Paris cuckolded Menelaus when he stole Helen.  (He makes a gesture of horns on his head.)  Forked?  Get it?  Like horns?

Alexander: Ah.–But then Menelaus would have the horns, not Paris.

Pandarus: Well, yes, but, you know, it’s just the joke.  It doesn’t matter.  But it was so hilarious.  Of course, Helen blushed, and Paris just stood there and looked the other way.  You could tell he was annoyed.  But everyone else thought it was funny.

Cressida: Good for them.

    (Pause.  Pandarus takes a deep breath.)

Pandarus: I hope you’ve been thinking about what I spoke to you about the other day.

Cressida: Yes, yes.

Pandarus: He cries for you.  I swear he does.

Cressida: Fine.  If he cries in my garden, I can grow vegetables.

    (A distant trumpet is heard.)

Pandarus: Ah–that’s the retreat.  They’re through for the day.  Let’s stand up here and watch them coming back from the battlefield.

Cressida: Yes.  Let’s.

    (The three of them move to rear stage, where they can stand higher up.  [Distance and height are suggested.]  Various Trojans will pass across the stage.  [They each may have a different peculiar mannerism for comic effect while looking serious.]  Aeneas is the first to pass across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Aeneas.  He’s a great commander.  Look at him.  Isn’t he swell?–There he goes.

    (Antenor passes across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Antenor.  He’s a smart guy.  He cleaned me out at poker once.–There he goes.–Troilus should be coming soon.

    (Hector passes across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Hector.  What a brave guy!  Look at the way he walks.  Look at that face.  Did you ever see such a face?

Cressida: Not that particular face, no.

Pandarus: That’s for sure.  And look at all those hack marks on his helmet.  That’s no joke.  He’s been in some fighting, I’ll tell you.

Cressida: Are those hack marks from swords?

Pandarus: Hell, yes.  Swords, pikes, daggers, scrap metal, chair legs–he doesn’t care.  He’ll take whatever they throw at him.  By God, it’s good to have such a man in Troy.–Bye-bye, Hector.

    (Paris crosses the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s Paris–the lover–ha, ha!–Good lad.  Put him on a battlefield and he’s happy, by God!  Who said he was wounded?  Look at him.  He’s a hundred percent.  On his way home to Helen.–There he goes.–I’m still waiting for Troilus.

    (Helenus passes across the stage.)

Cressida: Who’s that?  He’s not wearing armour.

Pandarus: That’s Helenus.  I don’t think he was in the battle.  He’s a priest.

Cressida: Can he fight?

Pandarus: Fight?  No, he doesn’t fight.–Well, yes, in a way.  He’s the fighting priest who isn’t afraid to talk to the young people.  He could put up a fight if he had to, I’m sure.–There he goes.

Cressida: Who’s that wimpy guy coming?

    (Troilus passes across the stage.)

Pandarus: There he is!  Troilus!  Look at him!  Isn’t he something!  Brave Troilus!  The prince of chivalry!–Yoo-hoo!  Troilus!  [The suggestion in the staging is that Troilus is too far away to notice Pandarus.]

Cressida: Not so loud.  You’re embarrassing me.

Pandarus: Look at that guy.  Look at that sword–all the blood dripping off it.  By God, that’s a sight!  And look at that helmet.  He’s got more hack marks than Hector.  What a guy!  Not even twenty-three yet.–There he goes.–I tell you, if I had a daughter or a sister, he could take his pick.  Helen would swap Paris for him in an instant if she could, believe me.

    (Some common Soldiers pass across the stage.)

Pandarus: There’s the rabble.  Food for the Greeks.  Bunch of bums.  Every city’s got ’em.  Don’t even look at ’em.–Get lost, you dogs!  Go home and eat bones!–I tell you, I’d stack Troilus up against any of the Greeks–even Agamemnon.

Cressida: What about Achilles?  He’s supposed to be the best man the Greeks have.

Pandarus: Achilles?–Bah!–He’s nothing.  He’s bisexual, and he’s a dullard.  They should put him in the mess tent washing dishes.

Cressida: Oh, really!

Pandarus: You don’t know what makes a real man.  Now, you take these ingredients–nobility, beauty, a physique, intelligence, youth, and charm–and add some spice–and blend them all together.  What do you get?

Cressida: Meat loaf.

Pandarus: You’re such a hard nut to crack, you know that?  A man doesn’t know how to get at you.

Cressida: That’s because I’m on my guard at all times.  You’re the only one I have to worry about.

Pandarus: What!

Cressida: You’re always gaming me.  And don’t think I don’t know it.

Pandarus: Who, me?–Nah!

Cressida: Oh, yes.  You won’t be happy until you fix me up and see me pregnant.

Pandarus: Oh!–Pfoof!–You should’ve been born a turtle.  You already have the shell.

    (Troilus’s Servant comes in.)

Servant: Sir, my lord Troilus wishes to speak to you.

Pandarus: Where?

Servant: At your house, sir–right now.

Pandarus: All right.  Tell him I’ll be right there.  (The Servant leaves.)  I hope he wasn’t wounded.–I’ll see you later, niece.

    (Pandarus leaves.)

Cressida: I’d never tell him this–but I really do love Troilus.

Alexander: Then why keep it a secret?

Cressida: Because he values me more this way.  A man yearns for what he doesn’t have–but once he has it, he’s satisfied.  I’d rather keep him yearning–at least for a while.  Understand?

Alexander: Yes, madam.

Cressida: Let’s go.

    (They leave.)     

Act 1, Scene 3.  In the Greek camp, before Agamemnon’s tent.  Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes, and Menelaus come in.

Agamemnon: I don’t think I’ve ever seen you guys looking so discouraged.  Okay, I know we’ve been fighting for seven years and we still haven’t beaten Troy, but we will eventually.  You’re all experienced commanders.  You know a war has its ups and downs.  It’s just the gods’ way of testing us.  We’re supposed to rise to the occasion.

Nestor: You’re absolutely right, Agamemnon.  Adversity brings out the best in superior soldiers.

Ulysses: With utmost respect to you, Agamemnon–and you, Nestor–there’s a reason why we’re not winning.

Agamemnon: Tell me the reason, Ulysses.  I always value your opinion.

Ulysses: There’s no discipline among the troops.  Nobody respects authority any more.  There’s no unity.  When one rank is disrespected by the next rank below it, it sends the wrong message.–Everybody do whatever you want.–It’s total chaos.  You can’t fight a war like that.

Nestor: He’s right.  The morale around here has been terrible.

Ulysses: And I’ll tell you who is particularly to blame, General.  It’s Achilles.  He’s supposed to be our best soldier, but he spends all day in his tent with his–friend–Patroclus.  And Patroclus mocks us and makes jokes about us, and Achilles eggs him on.  And everybody looks up to Achilles.  He’s like their idol.  So what kind of effect does this have on the spirit of the troops when they see him acting like that?  They lose their respect for us.  And they lose their motivation.

Nestor: And Ajax is another one.  He won’t take orders from anyone.  He’s full of himself.  He criticizes the war.  And his servant Thersites is ten times worse.  He heaps scorn on us.  He says we’re all stupid and the whole war is stupid.

Ulysses: They don’t understand that commanding an army is very complex.  They don’t give us credit when things go right, but when things go wrong, they blame us.

    (A trumpet is heard.)

Agamemnon: I think we have a visitor.

Menelaus: From Troy.

    (Aeneas comes in, escorted by two Greek Soldiers.)

Aeneas: I bring a message from Troy to King Agamemnon, supreme commander of the Greek army.

Agamemnon: I’m Agamemnon.  Who are you?

Aeneas: I am Aeneas, a commander of Troy.

Agamemnon: What’s the message?

Aeneas: There is a prince of Troy named Hector–

Agamemnon: We know who Hector is.

Aeneas: Hector issues this challenge to the Greeks–to choose the worthiest one among you to meet him in one-on-one combat.  Let us say that the combat is to defend the name and honour of each man’s wife.  The combat shall be in full view of all Trojans and Greeks, on a day and at a time to be agreed on.  [Author’s note: In the original, the combat is to take place tomorrow.  However, too many events would have to be compressed into one day, as the combat does not take place until Act 4, Scene 5.  Shakespeare is notoriously loose in the management of time.  His fans already know this and take it in stride, but our white trash audience would be left confused.]  If any Greek is brave enough to accept the challenge, Hector shall honour him.  If not, he will tell all of Troy that Greek wives are ugly hags not worth fighting for.

Menelaus (Offended): Oh!–(Agamemnon puts his hand on Menelaus’ shoulder to calm him.)

Agamemnon (To Aeneas): That’s certainly not true.  And I’ll meet Hector myself to prove it, if I have to.

Nestor: So will I!

Aeneas: I think you’re a bit old for this challenge, sir–although I commend your enthusiasm.

Ulysses: Nestor, let a younger man do this.

Agamemnon: Aeneas, since you’re a commander, come and join us for dinner in my tent.  You’re under safe conduct here.  We’ll show you some Greek hospitality.

Aeneas: You are gracious, sir.  I accept.

    (All leave except Ulysses and Nestor.)

Ulysses: Nestor.  (He beckons to Nestor, and the two speak in a confidential way.)

Nestor: What?

Ulysses: This challenge from Hector–it’s obviously intended for one specific person–Achilles.

Nestor: Yes.  He’ll certainly think so.

Ulysses: Do you think he’d accept?

Nestor: Yes.  He’s still the best fighter we’ve got.–Of course, there’s a risk.  Both sides will take the outcome as a sign of who’s going to win the war.  If we choose Achilles, he’ll be representing all of us–the commanders and the whole army.  What if he loses?

Ulysses: We don’t want him to win or to lose.

Nestor: Why not?

Ulysses: This is the way I see it.  Achilles is so egotistical that if he beats Hector, he’ll hog all the glory, he won’t love us any better, he’ll just go back to his tent like before, and he’ll be more difficult to deal with than ever.  And if he loses, our soldiers will take it as a bad omen, and there’ll be no way we can restore morale.

Nestor: Then what should we do?

Ulysses: Somebody else has to fight Hector.  We’ll say we’re holding a lottery to pick someone, but it’ll be rigged, of course.

Nestor: And who’s going to win?

Ulysses: Ajax.

Nestor: Ajax!  That blockhead?

Ulysses: Right.  When Achilles hears everyone talking about Ajax, that’ll knock him off his perch.  It’ll be a burr up his ass and hopefully it’ll get him back in the war.  Now, let’s say Ajax wins the fight.  He’ll be the new hero in the camp, and that’ll drive Achilles crazy, which is what we want.  And if Ajax loses, we’ll just say to the Trojans that he wasn’t the best man we had–he was picked by chance!  Get it?

Nestor: Ah!

Ulysses: So they won’t get the satisfaction they were hoping for, and our morale won’t be busted.

Nestor: It’s a brilliant plan, I’ve got to admit.

Ulysses: You’ll see.  I’m going to get Achilles back into the war.  I know how  to push his buttons.

Nestor: I like your style.  You’ve got this thing all worked out.

Ulysses: I think I do.

Nestor: Let’s have a confidential talk with Agamemnon.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  In the Greek camp.  Ajax comes in with Thersites.  An argument is in progress.

Ajax: Shut up, Thersites!

Thersites: And Agamemnon is like a leper with oozing sores–and those sores are his army.

Ajax: Shut up, Thersites!

    (Ajax slaps him.)

Thersites: A plague on you, Ajax!

Ajax: I gave you an order!  Find out what that proclamation is about!

Thersites: You’ve been proclaimed a fool.  I’m sure that’s it.

Ajax: Don’t push your luck.  I’ll strangle you right now.

Thersites: Go strangle a chicken for dinner.

    (Ajax shakes him.)

Ajax: Will you obey me?  I want to know about that proclamation!

Thersites: I know what’s eating you.  You’re jealous of Achilles.  That’s what it is.  You live in his shadow.

    (Ajax shakes him again.)

Ajax: In a minute you won’t even have any shadow!

Thersites: You brute!  Go put your hands on Achilles like that and see what happens!

    (Ajax slaps him and shakes him.)

Ajax: You dung beetle! 

Thersites: Achilles could whip your ass, and you know it!

Ajax: You no-good slave!

    (Ajax smacks him.)

Thersites: Oh, sure, go on!  Beat a poor commoner!

Ajax: You’re a whore’s privy!

Thersites: You half-breed!  And your Greek half is the stupid one!

    (Ajax smacks him again.)

Ajax: You dog!

    (Achilles and Patroclus come in.)

Achilles: Whoa!–What’s going on here?

Thersites: You see this guy?  Take a good look at him.

Achilles: I can see him well enough.

Thersites: No, you don’t see him well at all.  This is Ajax.

Achilles: I know that, you fool.

Thersites: Yes, I’m a fool, but I know it.  He’s a fool, but he doesn’t know it.

Ajax: Keep it up, Thersites, and I’ll keep beating the crap out of you.

Thersites (To Achilles): You see how bad he is to me?  His brain is where his belly is, and vice-versa.

    (Ajax threatens to hit him again, but Achilles restrains him politely.)

Achilles: Now, now.  Just cool it.

Thersites: His brain wouldn’t fill the eye of Helen’s needle–the woman he’s here to fight for.

Achilles: As we all are, theoretically.  Now shut up.

Ajax: I’ll shut him up!

Achilles (To Ajax): Why do you argue with a fool?

Thersites: Yes, why?  This fool is smarter.

Patroclus: Ha, ha!  You’re funny, Thersites.

Achilles: Okay, how about everyone calms down for a minute so I can find out what this argument is about?

Ajax: I’ll tell you what it’s about.  I told this slave to find out what the proclamation was about, and right away he starts back-talking to me.

Thersites: I’m not a slave.  I’m a free man, and I’m here voluntarily.

Achilles: No.  You were a servant before the war, and you got drafted.  But you were no good as a soldier, so you’re serving again.

Thersites: You’re another one with more muscles than brains.  Either one of you would be food for Hector’s sword.

Achilles: Oh–now you’re starting with me?

Thersites: You’re both tools of Ulysses and Nestor.  They make you fight this war like a farmer makes his ox plow his field.

Achilles: Is that so?

Thersites: Yes. 

Patroclus: Hey, Thersites, you should just shut up.

Thersites: Oh!  I’m being told to shut up by Achilles’ bitch.

Patroclus (Angrily): Bitch?

Achilles: Calm down.  His opinions don’t mean anything.

Thersites: Well, you’re all a bunch of fools, and I want nothing to do with you!

    (Thersites leaves.)

Patroclus: What an asshole.

Achilles: Ajax, I can tell you about the proclamation.  Hector is challenging any one of us to meet him in man-to-man combat–whoever is the bravest.–Something about defending the honour of our wives, or some bullshit like that.  It’s just Trojan propaganda.  I don’t take it seriously.

Ajax: You don’t?  Then who’s going to fight him?

Achilles: I don’t know.  The General’s going to pick somebody’s name out of a hat, or something.–Although it should be obvious who Hector wants to fight.

Ajax (Annoyed): Oh.  Meaning you, naturally.

Achilles: Who else?

Ajax: Well, I intend to find out about this.

    (Ajax walks out quickly, and the others follow, more leisurely.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In Priam’s palace.  Priam comes in with his sons Hector, Troilus, Paris, and Helenus.  Priam is holding a paper.

Priam: I have yet another diplomatic message from the Greeks.  This one’s from Nestor.  (Reads) “Return Helen to us and we will consider the war over and permanently settled as regards to any claims for damages.”–What do you think of this, Hector?

Hector: You know I’m not afraid of the Greeks.  However–if we insist on fighting indefinitely, can we be certain of winning?  Do you want to risk it?  And consider all the lives we’ve lost so far.  I’ve stopped counting.  Is Helen worth it?  Common sense says we should just give her back.

Troilus: Now wait, brother.  The honour of the King, our father, is at stake.  You can’t measure that in terms of lives lost.

Helenus: Troilus, you’re not being rational.  This matter calls for rational thinking.

Troilus: Well, we know where you’re coming from.  You’re practically a pacifist.  You’d never fight for anything.  It’s always unreasonable.

Hector: Helen’s not worth keeping.

Troilus: Worth depends on who’s doing the valuing.

Hector: But there has to be worth in a thing itself regardless.  It’s crazy to go on pretending that she’s worth year after year of warfare when she isn’t.

Troilus: But you were totally in favour of bringing her here.

Hector: Yeah, I know.

Troilus: And why did we bring her here–or rather, Paris?  Because our aunt was stolen away from us by the Greeks and forced to marry Telamon.  [See Author’s note in Act 1, Scene 2.]

Hector: Before you were born, Troilus.

Troilus: So what?

Priam: It’s too late to get her back now, I’m afraid.

Troilus: Exactly.  Who’s their son?  Ajax.  He’s our cousin and our enemy.

Paris: I was totally justified in stealing Helen.  And it wasn’t even stealing.  She came willingly.

Troilus: Right.  And if we give her back now, what does that say–that we were wrong in the first place, or that we’re afraid to keep her any longer?

Cassandra (Within): Troy is doomed!

Priam: What the hell?

Troilus: Our sister the prophetess.

    (Cassandra comes in, looking wild and disheveled.)

Cassandra: Weep for your children, mothers of Troy!  The streets will be wet with tears–and blood!

Hector: Not now, Cassandra!

Cassandra: Paris burns us to the ground–and Helen is the torch!  Send her back or Troy is doomed!

    (Cassandra leaves.)

Hector: Well, Troilus?  Do you still think we should keep Helen?

Troilus: Are you going to listen to Cassandra?  She’s out of her mind.

Paris: We’re not sending Helen back.  Even if everyone else wants to send her back, I’m not giving her up.

Priam: Well, you’ve got a sexual bias, obviously.

Paris: Sex has nothing to do with it.  The Greeks took our aunt, and we took Helen.  She’s worth fighting for because if we didn’t, it would be a disgrace to our aunt.

Hector: Okay, you and Troilus make a strong argument.  Not a reasonable one, but a strong one.  But what are the Greeks fighting for?  Helen was the wife of Menelaus.  What husband wouldn’t fight for his wife?  To dispute this would be like going against nature.

Paris: But now she’s my wife and I intend to fight for her.

Troilus: There you go.


Hector: Well–I think I’m inclined to agree.

Troilus: Finally he gets it.  Helen’s not just a person.  She represents an issue of honour.

Paris: Which touches us all.

Troilus: Exactly.

Paris (To Hector): And you challenged any Greek to fight you.  What’s that all about?  Reason?  Did it come from your head or from your heart?

Hector: Brothers, I’m on your side.

Troilus: I’ll bet you’ve shaken them up over there.

Hector: Probably.  They’re going to argue over who’s going to fight me.

Troilus: That’s good for us.  When Greeks argue, they’re their own worst enemies.

Hector: And Agamemnon has to deal with it–poor guy!

Priam: Boys, this has been a useful discussion.  Now let’s have something to eat.

    (He leads them all out.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  Before the tent of Achilles.  Thersites comes in alone.

Thersites: That fucking Ajax beats me, and all I can do is yell at him.  It should be the other way around.  But I’m not through with him.  And then there’s Achilles–the fighter who won’t fight.  If we have to depend on those two to beat Troy, we’ll all die of old age first.  May the gods curse ’em both.  And that goes for the whole camp.  Fighting over a woman!  They should all get syphilis and rot.  (Louder) I have said my prayers!  Amen!–Hey, my lord Achilles!

Patroclus (Within the tent): Who’s that–Thersites?

Thersites (Softly): That fucking pansy.–Folly and ignorance are your middle names.  You should be buried among lepers.  (Louder) Where’s my lord Achilles?

    (Patroclus emerges from the tent.)

Patroclus: Were you praying?

Thersites: Hell, yes.

Patroclus: Well, amen to that.

    (Achilles emerges from the tent.)

Achilles: Well, it’s about time.  You’re supposed to be serving me, and you’re not here when I want to eat.

Patroclus: That’s right, Thersites.  You’re our servant now, and Achilles commands you.

Thersites: And Agamemnon commands Achilles.  And you, Patroclus, are a fool.

Achilles: And what are you?

Thersites: Me?  A fool, of course.  We’re all fools here.

Achilles: Why?

Thersites: Because we allow ourselves to be commanded by the fools above us.–Ah, look who’s coming.  The whole general staff.

Achilles (To Patroclus): Tell them I’m not available.–Thersites, you come inside.

    (Achilles and Thersites go inside the tent.  Then Agamemnon, Ulysses, Nestor, Diomedes, and Ajax come in.  [Calchas is deleted from this scene as he has no lines to speak.])

Agamemnon: Where’s Achilles?

Patroclus: He’s inside, my lord–but he’s, uh, sick.

Agamemnon: Tell him we’re here.  He won’t receive our messengers, so we’ve come in person.

Patroclus: I’ll tell him, my lord.

    (Patroclus goes into the tent, and Ulysses peeks in when the flap of the tent is briefly parted.)

Ulysses: He’s not sick.  He’s faking.

Ajax (Angrily): If he’s sick from anything, it’s pride.  What’s he got to be proud about?  He hasn’t done anything so far.  (To Agamemnon) May I have a word, my lord.

    (Ajax takes Agamemnon aside.)

Nestor: What’s Ajax sore about?

Ulysses: Achilles stole his servant away.

Nestor: Who?  Thersites?  That bum?

Ulysses: Yes.

Nestor: Well, that’s all right.  If Ajax is sore at Achilles, that works out for us.

    (Patroclus returns.)

Nestor: Well?

Patroclus: Achilles says he’s sorry but he’s indisposed.  He hopes your visit is nothing more than a social call.

    (Agamemnon overhears this and rejoins the others with Ajax.)

Agamemnon: No, this isn’t a social call.  There’s a war going on, in case your, uh–roommate–has forgotten.  Now, we respect him, of course, but we’re getting fed up with his insubordination.  He’s gotten a little too full of himself.  I’d rather have a wide-awake dwarf than a sleeping giant.  You tell him that.

Patroclus: I shall, my lord.

    (Patroclus goes into the tent.)

Agamemnon: Ulysses, you go in there and speak to him yourself.

Ulysses: Right.

    (Ulysses goes into the tent.)

Ajax: He’s got a nerve.  He thinks he’s better than me, doesn’t he?

Agamemnon: He certainly gives that impression.

Ajax: And do you think he is?

Agamemnon: Not at all, Ajax.  You’re every bit as good as he is–and a much nicer guy.

    (Nestor and Diomedes exchange a wink.  The suggestion is that Ajax is being “worked.”)

Ajax: Why should he be so proud?  Why should any man be proud?  Look at me.  I don’t know what pride is.

    (Nestor makes a face for Diomedes’ amusement.  Ulysses returns.)

Ulysses: He says he’s not fighting tomorrow.

Agamemnon: Why not?

Ulysses: He says he just doesn’t feel like it.

Agamemnon: Why won’t he at least come out and talk to us?

Ulysses: That guy is shut up in his own little kingdom.  He’s like in a bubble.  The outside world doesn’t exist.

Agamemnon: Let Ajax go in and talk to him.–How about it, Ajax?  Maybe you can bend him.

Ajax: I’ll do more than bend him, General.  I’ll break his neck.

Ulysses (To Agamemnon): No, no!  Bad idea.  If Ajax goes in, it’ll only feed Achilles’ ego.  Better to have Achilles seek out Ajax than the other way around.

    (Nestor makes a sly sign to Diomedes by stroking one hand with the other — i.e., Ulysses is stroking Ajax.  Diomedes winks or smiles because he understands.)

Ajax: I don’t mind going inside.  Let him try and be proud with me!

Agamemnon: No, no.  Ulysses is right.

Ajax: I think Achilles is an ignorant piece of snot!

Nestor (Aside): Look who’s talking.

Ajax: Can’t he get along with other people?

Ulysses (Aside): Not any more than you.

Diomedes: I think we’ll just have to fight this war without Achilles.

    (Ulysses claps his hand on Ajax’s shoulder.)

Ulysses: Good, old Ajax!

Ajax: Not so old.

Nestor: Not like me–ha, ha!

Ulysses: When you were his age, were you as tough?

Nestor: Not by half.

Ulysses (Loudly): We can thank the gods we’ve got Ajax!

Diomedes: You said it!

Ulysses: We’ll hold a council with the general staff–including Ajax, of course.

Agamemnon: Yes.  Let’s go.  We’ll leave Achilles alone–to sleep.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  In Priam’s palace.  Pandarus  comes in with a Servant of Paris.  There is music playing in the background.

Pandarus: Is your lord Paris in?  Sounds like it.

Servant: Yes, sir.  He’s enjoying some music with Lady Helen.

Pandarus: How nice.  Please tell him Pandarus wishes to speak to him. 

Servant: At once, sir.

    (The Servant goes out.  After a moment, the music stops, and Paris comes in with Helen, who is in a cheerful mood.)

Pandarus: Fair greetings to you, Paris, and to you, fair queen.–And may fair thoughts fill your pillow.

Helen: You’re full of fair words today, Pandarus.

Pandarus: For you always, madam.–Enjoying some music, were you?  I didn’t mean to interrupt.

Paris: Not at all, Pandarus.–Helen, you should hear this man sing.  He sings wonderfully.

Pandarus: Oh, no, no, no–ha, ha!

Helen: Oh, but you must sing for me!

Pandarus: I can hardly carry a tune, believe me.

Paris: Don’t believe him.

Pandarus: Anyway, I must have a word with you, Paris.

Paris: Of course.

Helen: You’re not leaving until I hear you sing–ha, ha!

Pandarus: Ha, ha–My lord, a word.

    (Pandarus takes Paris aside, but not too far.  The suggestion is that Helen does not hear their conversation.)

Pandarus: It’s about your brother Troilus.

Helen: You must sing for me, Pandarus.  I shall be very sad if you don’t.

Pandarus: Yes, madam–ha, ha.–Now, then, Paris, your brother wants you to make an excuse for him if he doesn’t show up for supper.  Just say he’s sick–or something.

Paris: What’s he up to?  Who’s he having dinner with?

Pandarus: I can’t say.

Paris: I’ll bet it’s Cressida.

Pandarus: No, no.

Paris: You’re sworn to secrecy, is that it?

Pandarus: Ha, ha–it’s not important.

Paris: All right.  Whatever.  I’ll say he’s sick. 

Helen: Now you must sing for me, Pandarus.

Paris: She’s not letting you off the hook.

Pandarus: I guess not.–All right, if you’re so eager to hear my bad singing.

Helen: The musicians will play whatever you like–from the other room.  You see, they’re, em, naked.

Paris: Don’t ask why–ha, ha!

Pandarus: Okay, I won’t.  Can they play “It’s a Long Way to Epidaurus”?

    (Helen looks offstage and exchanges nods with the unseen musicians.)

Helen: Yes, they can play it.

    (The music of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” is heard.)

Pandarus (Sings):

    It’s a long way to Epidaurus,
    It’s a long way to go,
    It’s a long way to Epidaurus,
    To the sweetest girl I know,
    Goodbye, Mount Olympus,
    Farewell, Attic Square,
    It’s a long, long way to Epidaurus,
    But my heart’s right there!

    (Paris and Helen clap.)

Paris: Bravo!  Bravo!–I told you.

Helen: That was wonderful!  Thank you, Pandarus!

Pandarus (To Paris): So, who’s fighting today?

Paris: Hector, Deiphobus, Helenus–well, he’s just there to watch–and Antenor–and all the hot-blooded Trojans–ha, ha!  I would’ve gone out myself, but Helen insisted I take the day off.–Troilus didn’t go out, though.  Any idea why?

Helen: I know he’s pouting about something.  You must know what it is, Pandarus.

Pandarus: No, I don’t know.  Honest.–Anyway, Paris, remember to, uh,–you know.

Paris: Yes, yes.  Don’t worry.

Pandarus: Thank you.–Goodbye, sweet queen.

Helen: Give my regards to Cressida.

Pandarus: I will.

    (He leaves.  Then the retreat trumpet is heard from the field.)

Paris: There’s the retreat.  They’re finished for the day.  I can’t wait to hear how many Greeks Hector killed.

Helen: I’ll help him take his armour off.  Then I can brag that I did something no Greek ever did.–I disarmed Hector!

Paris: Ha, ha!–You’re wonderful.  I love you.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  In Pandarus’s house.  Troilus is pacing back and forth nervously.  Pandarus comes in.

Troilus: Pandarus!  I can’t take it any more!

Pandarus: Settle down.  It’s okay.  I just saw her go in her house.

Troilus: Oh!–Oh!–What should I do?

Pandarus: Just wait here.  I’ll go get her.

Troilus: What if she won’t come?

Pandarus: I think she’ll come.  Just wait.

    (Pandarus leaves.  Troilus paces back and forth like a horny virgin.  After an interval, Pandarus returns with Cressida, who is dressed in a sexy outfit.  Troilus is momentarily speechless.)

Cressida: Hello, Troilus.  (He is unable to speak.)  Well, say something.

Troilus: Cressida–

Pandarus: She’s all yours.  I’ll go get a fire going–(Winks at the audience) so to speak.  (To Troilus)  Well, don’t just stand there, man.  You wanted her.  Now do something.–You know.

    (Pandarus goes out.)

Troilus: Cressida!

Cressida: Troilus!    

    (They kiss.)

Troilus: I’ve waited so long for this moment.  I can’t believe you’re really here with me.

Cressida: Oh, Troilus!

Troilus: Why did you make it so hard for me to get to you?

Cressida: Don’t ask me to explain.  I can’t.  Part of me worried that I might be making a mistake.  (She breaks away from him.)  Perhaps it’s a mistake.  Perhaps I can’t be trusted, really.  If I’m being a fool with you now, perhaps I could be a fool with another man later.

Troilus: Oh, Cressida.  That’s silly.

Cressida: I’m sorry.  I don’t know what I’m saying sometimes.

    (She returns to his embrace.)

Troilus: I love you.  And I believe in you.  Really, I’m a simple man that way.

Cressida: And I’m simple, too.

Troilus: Someday when people want to name an example of the truest love a man can have for a woman, they’ll say “as true as Troilus.”

Cressida: And if I should ever prove false, may they say “as false as Cressida.”

    (Pandarus returns, having overheard them.)

Pandarus: And if this match doesn’t work out, may people call every bad matchmaker Pandarus–or just Pandar, for short.

Troilus and Cressida: Yes!–Agreed!

Pandarus: Have you seen the bedroom yet?  It’s very cozy.  The bed is nice and soft.  You should try it out.

    (He leads them out and then returns alone.  He claps his hands in satisfaction.)

Pandarus: Okay!  This deal is sealed!

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  The Greek camp.  Achilles’ tent is at one side of the stage, and the opening action takes place at the other side.  Coming in are Agamemnon, Ulysses, Diomedes, Nestor, Ajax, Menelaus, and Calchas.

Calchas: My lords, when I abandoned Troy to come over to your side, you promised me I’d be rewarded.

Agamemnon: And we keep our promises, Calchas.  What would you like from us?

Calchas: I’d like to have my daughter, Cressida, here with me.  You captured a Trojan commander–Antenor.  He’s very valuable to them.  They would definitely do a deal to get him back.  If you exchange Antenor for Cressida, I’ll consider myself totally rewarded for all the help I’ve given you.

    (Agamemnon looks to the others, and they nod.)

Agamemnon: Yes.  All right.  We can do that.–Diomedes, I’ll put you in charge of making the exchange.  You’ll deliver Antenor and bring back Cressida.  And also find out when Hector wants to carry out that challenge he made–assuming he still wants to do it.  And you can tell the Trojans that Ajax will be representing us.

Diomedes: It’ll be my pleasure, General.–Come on, Calchas.

    (Diomedes and Calchas leave.  Then Achilles and Patroclus come out and stand by their tent.  Ulysses turns his back to them and signals a discreet huddle to the others.)

Ulysses (Softly to Agamemnon): Achilles is wondering what’s going on.  We’ll walk by him and pretend to ignore him, but I’ll stay behind long enough to work on him.  Just trust me.

Agamemnon (Softly): Okay, got it.  Do your best.

    (The others nod their approval.  Then the party begins walking slowly past Achilles.)

Achilles: Did you want to talk to me, General?

Agamemnon: Eh?

Achilles: I already said I wasn’t going to fight.

Nestor (To Agamemnon): Never mind.–(To Achilles) Forget it.

    (Agamemnon and Nestor go out.)

Achilles: Good morning, Menelaus.

Menelaus: Eh?–Oh, uh, good morning.

    (Menelaus goes out.)        

Ajax:  Hello, Patroclus.

Patroclus: Hello.

Achilles: Hi, Ajax.

Ajax: What?

Achilles: I said hi.

Ajax: Oh–okay.

    (Ajax goes out.)

Achilles (To Patroclus): What the hell?  Am I getting the silent treatment or something?

Patroclus: Sort of looks that way.

Achilles: When did I become a piece of dirt?  What is this bullshit?–Hey, Ulysses.

    (Ulysses is pretending to read a letter.)

Ulysses: Eh?–Oh–Achilles.

Achilles: What are you reading?

Ulysses: A letter from a neighbour back home.  He’s into philosophy.  He says that a man’s reputation is only as good as it is today, because it is those who remember him today who make his reputation afterwards.

Achilles: I think that makes sense.

Ulysses: It does, when you think about it.  A man may have a sense of his reputation in his own mind, but if others don’t share the same sense, what good is it?  That is, he could be thinking about the past, and others are thinking about the present.

Achilles: I see.  Yes, I’d say he has a point.

Ulysses: A man can go from hero to zero, or vice-versa, based on what he does today.  Now, you take Ajax, for example.  He’s always been regarded as, well, good enough but not really outstanding–and maybe a little dim-witted.  But now he has an opportunity to make a great name for himself.  He’s going to fight Hector.

Achilles: Oh.  That’s been decided, has it?

Ulysses: Yes.  And after he wins–which I believe he will–he’ll be the hero of the Greek army.  He’ll be the one everyone else looks up to.

Achilles: And what does that make me–the zero?

Ulysses: Well–we know you did great things in the past, but as the saying goes, “What have you done for me lately?”  If you insist on staying out of the war, don’t expect to be treated like a hero any more.  If you get back in, you can be a hero again.

Achilles: I have my reasons for staying out of it.

Ulysses: Which you’ve never explained to anyone’s satisfaction.  But there is a rumour about it.  Do you want to know what the rumour is?

Achilles: Yes.

Ulysses: The rumour is that you’re in love with Hector’s sister.  (Ulysses waits for a response, but Achilles is silent.)  Not Cassandra, the wacko prophetess.  The other one–Polyxena.  You want to marry her.  There’s a secret deal to keep you out of the war.

Achilles: I deny it.

Ulysses: Of course, you deny it.  But it’s the only plausible explanation I can think of.  Not only have you been keeping yourself out of the war, but now you’re against it altogether.–Okay, so let’s say you marry Polyxena.  What will everyone back home say?–and remember you have a little boy back home.–They’ll say, “Achilles won Hector’s sister, but Ajax beat Hector!”–Have a nice day.

    (Ulysses goes out.  [Author’s note: The Cambridge edition has an excellent note on this.  Shakespeare’s main source for this play was a book by Caxton, published in 1475, which he took to be a reliable historical source, although he has changed some things.  According to Caxton, Achilles did not meet Poyxena until after Hector’s death, during a truce.  He sent a message to Queen Hecuba offering to get the Greeks to end the siege if he were allowed to marry Polyxena.  The Trojans were willing, but Achilles was unable to persuade the Greeks to end the siege.  That’s why he withdrew from the fighting.  Shakespeare creates some confusion, however, in the following speech by Patroclus, which suggests another reason for Achilles’ withdrawal from the fighting.  But Patroclus knows the real reason, as we will see in Act 5, Scene 1.])

Patroclus: I told you you should get back in the fight.  But you wanted to stay with me because I didn’t want to go.  Now everyone thinks I’m just a cowardly fairy.

Achilles: Nobody has said that.

Patroclus: They don’t have to say it outright.  But it’s obvious that’s what they think.  And it rubs off on you, too.  So let’s put a stop to it.

    (Pause.  Achilles is reflecting.)

Achilles: So Ajax is fighting Hector.

Patroclus: Yes.  And if he beats him, you won’t be signing too many autographs when we get back to Greece.

Achilles: Ajax could beat him.  He’s a nut, but he could beat him.

Patroclus: On a good day he could beat anyone.

Achilles: My reputation’s at stake.  That’s for sure.

Patroclus: It’s better to do something than to do nothing.

Achilles: You know want?  I want to meet Hector–this allegedly great man that all the Trojans look up to.  I want to look him in the eye and see what he’s made of.  Listen, go get Thersites.  I want to send him to tell Ajax to invite the Trojan lords to meet me after the combat–a friendly meeting, of course.

    (Thersites comes in.)

Achilles: Never mind.  Here he is.

Thersites: It’s a wonder!

Achilles: What is?

Thersites: Ajax.  He’s stomping up and down the field like a lunatic.  He’s talking to himself.  “I’m the man!  I’m gonna kill Hector!  Ajax is Number One!  Ajax rules!”  He was always full of himself, but now he’s totally over the edge.

Achilles: I want you to give him a message for me.

Thersites: He won’t listen.  He doesn’t hear anybody but himself.  I can’t imagine what he’ll be like after Hector knocks his brains out.  He should be put in a strait jacket for his own safety.

Achilles: I’ll write him a letter, and you deliver it.

Thersites: What do you intend to write?

Achilles: I want him to bring Hector to my tent after he fights him.  It’ll be like a diplomatic visit–safe conduct, escort, and all that.  I’m going to write the letter now.

    (Achilles and Patroclus go inside the tent.)

Thersites: You’d be better off writing to his horse!

    (Thersites goes into the tent.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  A street in Troy.  Aeneas comes in from one side and meets Paris, Deiphobus, Antenor, Diomedes, and a few Greek Soldiers, as escorts, coming in from the other side.

Aeneas: Good morning, princes.–Antenor, welcome back!

Antenor: Glad to be back!

    (They shake hands.)

Aeneas: Paris, if I had as good a reason as you to sleep in, I would have.

Diomedes: Me, too.  Good morning, Aeneas.

Paris: You two know each other.  You can shake hands.  We have a short truce for our business.

    (Aeneas and Diomedes shake hands.)

Paris (To Diomedes): Aeneas told us how you were stalking him on the battlefield for a whole week.

Diomedes: It’s true.  I admit it–ha, ha!

Aeneas: Well, that’s the last handshake you get from me.  When me meet on the battlefield, you’ll get a taste of my sword.

Diomedes: I shall kiss you with my sword first.

Aeneas: Try kissing a lion instead.  It’d be safer.

Diomedes: Aeneas, if you don’t die by my sword, may you live a thousand years.

Aeneas: And I’ll tell stories every day about how I killed you.

Paris: Ahem!–Glad to see everyone’s in such a good mood.  This is a diplomatic visit.

Aeneas: The King sent me to meet you, but he didn’t say what for.

Paris: Well, as you can see, our good friend Antenor is back with us.

Aeneas: Yes.  Did we pay a ransom for him?

Paris: No.  It’s an exchange.  Cressida goes over to the Greeks to be with her father.  I want you to take Diomedes and go get her.

Aeneas: Where?  At Calchas’s house?

Paris: I would assume so.  (Aside to Aeneas) You’ll probably find Troilus with her.  You’re going to have to explain it to him the best way you can.

Aeneas (Aside to Paris): He’s gonna squawk.  He won’t want her to go.

Paris (Aside to Aeneas): It can’t be helped.  We have to do this deal.

Diomedes (To Antenor): I’ll bet you’re glad to be back.

Antenor: Sure am.

Paris: Diomedes, tell me truthfully.  Who deserves Helen more–me or Menelaus?

Diomedes: Truthfully?  You both deserve her equally.   He’s a cuckold who wants revenge, and he’s willing to put Greece through a long war at great cost to get her back.  And you just want her for sex.  Either way, she’s tainted merchandise.

Paris: That’s a rather harsh thing to say about a woman of your own country.

Diomedes: She’s bad news for us, as far as I’m concerned.  Is she worth a war?  I don’t think so.  Just because she’s pretty, that doesn’t mean she’s worth fighting a war over.

Paris: You sound like a merchant who talks down something he really wants to buy.  But we don’t have to talk her up, because we don’t intend to sell her anyway.

Diomedes: Whatever.

Paris: Let’s go.

    (They all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In Pandarus’s house.  Troilus comes in, and after a brief interval, Cressida comes in.

Cressida: Troilus, come back to bed.

Troilus: No.  I’m up.  It’s morning.

    (She hugs him from behind.)

Cressida: Are you getting tired of me?

Troilus: Don’t be silly.

Cressida: The night passes too quickly.

Troilus: Go back to bed.  It’s cold.

Pandarus (Within): Who left the window open?  It’s freezing!

Troilus: Your uncle’s up.

Cressida: He’s going to tease me now.  Watch.

    (Pandarus comes in.)

Pandarus: Well, well–the lovebirds.  How did everything go?  (Aside to Cressida, but too loudly)  Still a virgin–or not?

Cressida: Oh, stop!

Pandarus: Get any sleep, Troilus–or shouldn’t I ask–ha, ha!

    (Loud knocking is heard at the door.)

Pandarus: What the hell?–Go in the bedroom.  I’ll answer the door.

   (Troilus and Cressida go out.  Pandarus goes to the door and admits Aeneas.)

Pandarus: Aeneas!

Aeneas: Sorry to bother you, Pandarus.

Pandarus: What are you doing here so early?

Aeneas: Is Troilus here?

Pandarus: Troilus?  No.  Why would he be here?

Aeneas: I knocked at Calchas’s house to look for Cressida, but nobody was home.  So I figured the two of them must be here.

Pandarus: Em, no.  I don’t know where Troilus is.

Aeneas (Calling): Troilus!  I know you’re here!  Come on out!

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Aeneas, wassup?

Aeneas: I have some news–which concerns you.

Troilus: Oh?  What?

Aeneas: Well, to begin with, Antenor is back.  Diomedes brought him.  They’re outside with Paris and Deiphobus now.

Troilus: Oh.  That’s nice.  But you didn’t have to come here to tell me.

Aeneas: Well, there’s more to it.  You see, it’s part of an exchange.  Cressida is going back with the Greeks to be with her father.

Troilus: What!  Why does she have to go?  Who decided this?

Aeneas: Calchas asked the Greeks to have her brought over, and your father agreed because we’re getting Antenor back.

Troilus: But nobody told me about this!

Aeneas: You’re being told now.

Troilus: Oh, no, no, no, no.  Not so fast.

Aeneas: There’s no use protesting, my lord.  It’s all been agreed to.  It’s a done deal.

Troilus: Oh, goddamn and bloody hell!  Why?  Why?  Why?  Just when Cressida and I–

Aeneas: This is for Troy, sir.  Try and understand.  Troy’s needs come before your personal interests.

    (A pause.  Troilus composes himself.)

Troilus: Listen, don’t tell them you found me here.  Just say you happened to run into me.

Aeneas: That’s fine.

Troilus: I’ll go back with you.–Pandarus, I don’t want to be the one to tell her.

Aeneas: You tell her, Pandarus.  We’ll be outside.

    (Troilus and Aeneas leave.  Then Cressida comes in.)

Cressida: What was all that about?  Where’s Troilus?

Pandarus: He just stepped out.  He’s with Aeneas.

Cressida: Uncle, what’s going on?

Pandarus: I hate to tell you this.

Cressida: Tell me what?–Tell me!

Pandarus: You’re going to rejoin your father–in the Greek camp.

Cressida: Why?

Pandarus: They’ve made a deal.  Antenor is back, and in return you’re going to your father.

Cressida: But I don’t want to go!

Pandarus: I know you don’t want to go, but there’s no point arguing about it, because it’s been agreed to.

Cressida: But I don’t want to leave Troilus!

Pandarus: I’m sorry.  It can’t be helped.  Go and pack your things.

Cressida: No!  No!  No!

    (She runs out crying.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 4.  In Calchas’s house.  Curtain up finds Pandarus trying to comfort Cressida, who is crying.

Pandarus: Come, now, girl.  You must put aside your grief and compose yourself.

Cressida: I can’t put aside my grief.  I love Troilus too much.

    (Troilus comes in, and Cressida embraces him immediately.)

Cressida: I don’t want to go!

Troilus: I don’t want you to go either.

Pandarus: My poor lambs!

Troilus (To Cressida): The gods are jealous because we love each other so much.  They’re the ones who are breaking us up.

Pandarus: Yes, yes, yes.  That’s what it is.  It’s the gods.

Cressida: Must I go now–right this minute?

Troilus: There’s no time for a proper goodbye.  That’s what hurts the most.

Pandarus: I feel so bad for both of you.–I can’t even cry.  I’m beyond tears.

Aeneas (Within): Troilus!  Is she ready yet?

Troilus: Yes, yes!  Just hold on a minute!

Cressida: If I go to the Greeks, when will I see you again?

Troilus: I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter when.  Just be true to me in your heart.

    (She pulls away slightly.)

Cressida: You don’t have to tell me that.

Troilus: All I mean is, be true and the time will pass until we do see each other.–Here.  Wear this sleeve.  (He gives her a sleeve from his coat — i.e., a detachable accessory given as a token of love.)

Cressida: And you take this glove.

    (She gives him a glove.)

Troilus: Maybe I can bribe the Greek watchmen and sneak in and see you.  Just–be true.

Cressida: Why do you doubt me?

Troilus: I’m thinking of those Greeks.  There are a lot of them I probably couldn’t compete with.  They’re good at everything, and I’m not particularly good at anything.

Cressida: And you think I’ll be tempted.

Troilus: Well–who knows what can happen?

Aeneas (Within): Come on, Troilus!  We’re waiting!

    (Cressida hugs Troilus.)

Cressida: And what about you?  Will you be true to me?

Troilus: I don’t know how to be any other way.

Paris (Within): Brother!  Come on!

Troilus: Bring them in here, Paris!

    (Paris leads in Aeneas, Antenor, Deiphobus, and Diomedes.)

Aeneas (To Diomedes): This is Cressida.

Troilus (To Diomedes): You’d better take good care of her.  That’s all I’ve got to say.

Diomedes: She’s a beauty.  (To Cressida)  I can see you’re going to be very popular among the Greeks.

Troilus: She doesn’t need to be flattered.  You just make sure she gets the best treatment possible.  If I find out she’s come to any harm, I’ll hack my way through the whole Greek army to get to you.

Diomedes: Ha, ha!  (To Aeneas) Who is this clown?

Aeneas: Troilus–one of the princes.–Troilus, this is Diomedes.

Diomedes (To Troilus): Hey, I’m a commander, so don’t try to intimidate me.  And I’ll say whatever I want.  Your girlfriend will be treated the way she deserves to be treated–and not because you say so.

Troilus: You have a big mouth.

Paris: Take it easy.

Troilus: All right.  Let’s get this over with.  (He takes Cressida’s hand.)  I’ll walk with you.

    (Troilus, Cressida, and Diomedes go out.  Then a trumpet sounds.)

Paris: That’s Hector’s trumpet!

Aeneas: Today’s the big match!  I almost forgot!

Paris: Come on.  We don’t want to miss it.

Deiphobus: Hector will win, don’t worry.

Aeneas: If he does, it’ll be a sure sign that the gods are on our side and we’re going to win the war.

    (They all leave.) 

Act 4, Scene 5.  Somewhere between the Greek camp and Troy.  A field of combat has been marked off (by pennants or similar).  Ajax comes in, armed, along with Agamemnon, Achilles, Patroclus, Menelaus, Ulysses, Nestor, and a Trumpeter. 

Agamemnon: You look eager, Ajax.

Ajax: You bet, General.

Agamemnon (To the Trumpeter): Blow the trumpet for Hector.

    (The Trumpeter blows.  Then everyone waits for a response.)

Ulysses: He’s not answering.

Achilles: Give him a minute or two.  Maybe he’s taking a leak.

Agamemnon (Looking toward Troy): Oh–I see Diomedes.  He’s got Calchas’s daughter with him.

Ulysses: Looks like he’s smiling.  Maybe he’s got a new girlfriend already.

    (Diomedes, very cheerful, comes in with Cressida.)

Agamemnon: So this is Cressida?

Diomedes: This is Cressida, General.

Agamemnon: You are very welcome here, miss.

    (Agamemnon gives her a polite kiss, which surprises her.)

Nestor: The General doesn’t kiss everyone–ha, ha!

    (Cressida looks flattered.  From this point on, she is very happy to be kissed.)

Ulysses: Why don’t you all kiss her!

Nestor: Good idea!  (To Cressida) I’m Nestor.  Welcome.

    (Nestor kisses her.)

Achilles: I’m Achilles.  Welcome.

    (Achilles kisses her.)

Menelaus: I used to have a wife to kiss.

Patroclus: Used to–until Paris–

Menelaus: Don’t remind me.

Patroclus: Okay.  (To Cressida) I’m Patroclus. 

    (Patroclus kisses her.)

Ulysses (Aside to the audience, drily): Greeks Gone Wild.  Order now and get the Trojan War for free.  Seven years worth of blood and guts.

Patroclus: That kiss was from Menelaus.  This one’s from me. 

    (He kisses her again.)

Menelaus: I can do my own kissing, thank you very much.  (He kisses her.)  I’m Menelaus.  I’m sure you know my wife.

Cressida: Ah.–Yes.

Ulysses: Do I get to kiss you?

Cressida (Teasing him): Only if you beg.

Ulysses: Tell you what.  You can give me a kiss when Helen’s back with us.

Cressida: All right.  You can ask for it then.

Diomedes: I’ll take you to your father now, miss.  He’ll be glad to see you.

Cressida: All right.

    (Diomedes leaves with Cressida.)

Nestor: What a clever girl.  Isn’t she?

Ulysses: She’s cheap stuff.  You can have her.

    (A trumpet flourish is heard.  Then the Trojan party comes in — Hector, Paris, Aeneas, Helenus, and Troilus.  Troilus looks depressed.  Hector is standing the furthest away and appears aloof.  He is either not hearing or pretending not to hear the following conversation.)

Agamemnon: Hail, Trojans!

Aeneas: Hail, Greeks!–Okay, so we want to agree on the rules of the combat.

Agamemnon: What does Hector prefer?

Aeneas: He doesn’t care.

Achilles: Typical.  He’s overconfident, as always.

Aeneas: Aren’t you Achilles?

Achilles: Who else?

Aeneas: It’s just that we haven’t seen you for so long we’ve almost forgotten what you look like.  (Pause for effect)  Don’t underestimate Hector.  You don’t know him, so you don’t know what’s typical and what isn’t.  He’s the bravest soldier in Troy.

Achilles: I’m not doubting it.

Aeneas (Aside to Achilles): He and Ajax are cousins, you know.  So don’t expect him to fight to the death.

Achilles (Aside to Aeneas): I get it.

    (Diomedes returns.)

Agamemnon: Diomedes, Aeneas wants to discuss the rules, so confer with him and make sure the combatants understand.

Diomedes: Right.

    (Diomedes, Aeneas, Ajax, and Hector move apart for a private discussion.)

Agamemnon (Aside to Ulysses): Who’s that fellow over there–the one who looks so unhappy?

Ulysses (Aside to Agamemnon): That’s Troilus.  He’s Hector’s youngest brother.  He’ll be another Hector someday, believe me.  Maybe even greater.  That’s what Aeneas says.

    (Hector and Ajax take their places for combat.  A signal is given, and they begin fighting.  Everyone cheers for their favourite.  The fighting is even and continues for some time until the contestants appear to tire.  Then Diomedes intervenes.)

Diomedes: Stop!  The match is over!  (The combatants stop.)  The match is a draw.

Aeneas: Agreed.  It’s a draw.  (To the combatants) An honourable contest.  Well done.

Ajax: I’m willing to go on.

Diomedes: Hector?

Hector: No.  We’ll leave it as a draw.  Ajax has proven himself my equal.  Even if Trojans must fight Greeks, I would not like to kill my own cousin.

    (He embraces Ajax, who gives him a somewhat evil smile.)

Ajax: Thank you, Hector.  (Aside to him) Actually, I would’ve been willing to kill you.

Hector (Aside to Ajax): You couldn’t have.  Nobody here can.

    (Hector turns to leave.)

Ajax: Wait.  You’re invited to stay for a visit–you and your party.  And Achilles especially wants to talk with you.

Diomedes: Yes.  It’s a official invitation from the supreme commander himself.

Hector: All right.

    (Agamemnon steps forward.)

Hector: We haven’t met before, but I know you’re Agamemnon.  A king always stands out.  [Author’s note: Agamemnon was King of Argos.]

Agamemnon: You are worthy.  (Agamemnon embraces him.)  For this special occasion we enjoy a truce so we can entertain Troy’s greatest soldier, and all our other Trojan visitors, too.

Hector: If I were a Greek, I’d consider myself lucky to have such a noble king and general.

Agamemnon (To Troilus): And we think as much of you, Troilus, as we do of your brother.

Menelaus: Let me welcome you, too, Hector.

    (Hector hesitates because he doesn’t know Menelaus.)

Aeneas: This is Menelaus.

Hector: Menelaus!  (They shake hands.) I’m touched by your welcome, sir.  (Pause) Your former wife is well, although she asked me not to convey any greeting.

Menelaus: Don’t remind me of her.

Hector: Oh.–Sorry.

Nestor: Hector, I’ve seen you on the battlefield.  You’ve chopped your way through whole ranks of our soldiers–but you’ve never killed anyone who was wounded and helpless.  And once I saw you surrounded, and you didn’t seem at all afraid.  You are truly worthy.

    (Nestor embraces Hector.  Achilles is obviously bothered and envious.)

Aeneas: This is Nestor–the wise, old man of the Greeks.

Hector (To Nestor): Your reputation precedes you, sir.  It’s a honour to meet you.

Ulysses: Hector, I don’t know how the walls of Troy manage to stand when you’re not there to hold them up.

Hector: I remember you, Ulysses.  You and Diomedes came to give us your demands.  That was a long time ago.

Ulysses: I gave you a prophecy then.  Remember?

Hector: I remember.

Ulysses: I said if you didn’t return Helen to us, your city would be destroyed.

Hector: It’s still standing.  If anything ever destroys it, it won’t be your army.  It’ll be time and the forces of nature.

Ulysses: Then we’ll leave it to time and nature.  As for right now, you’re invited to dine in my tent.

Achilles: Later.  I want him to come to my tent first.


Hector: You’re Achilles.

Achilles: Yes.

    (The two regard each other, but Achilles’ look is impolite.)

Hector: Why do you look at me that way?

Achilles: I’m trying to decide which part of your body my sword would look best in.

Hector: You won’t find it that easy to put a sword into any part of me.   

Achilles: I’ll do it anyway.

Hector: No.  You’ll only die trying.  (To the other Greeks) Sorry.  Just a soldier talking.

Ajax: It’s all right, cousin.  (To Achilles) Don’t be trash-talking while you’re still sitting out the war.

Hector: Yes.  It’s not much of a war without the great Achilles in it.

Achilles: You want to see me on the battlefield that bad?  Look for me tomorrow.  It’ll be your last day on earth.

    (Agamemnon clears his throat loudly.)

Achilles (Smiling): But for now, we’re all friends here.

Agamemnon: You can all come back to my tent for supper.  After that, Greeks can take turns entertaining Hector and anyone else who cares to stay.

    (All leave except Troilus and Ulysses.)

Troilus: Tell me, Ulysses, where is Calchas staying?

Ulysses: He’s camped with Menelaus.  Diomedes will be there for dinner tonight.  He certainly likes Cressida.

Troilus: Would you take me there after we eat with Agamemnon?

Ulysses: Of course.  By the way, did she belong to anyone in Troy?

Troilus: She did–and she still does.–Shall we walk, my lord?

Ulysses: Yes.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Evening.  Before Achilles’ tent.  Achilles and Patroclus come in.  

Achilles: When Hector comes, we’ll wine him and dine him–and then tomorrow on the battlefield–(He draws a finger across his throat.)

Patroclus: Here comes Thersites.

    (Thersites comes in.)

Achilles: There you are, you rotten apple.  What’s the news?

Thersites: Shouldn’t you be standing in a store window with the other mannequins?–Here’s a letter for you.

    (He hands Achilles a letter.)

Achilles: Where’s this from?

Thersites: From Troy.

    (Patroclus is smirking at Thersites.  Achilles is reading the letter and ignoring the following exchange.)

Thersites: What are you smirking at–boyfriend?

Patroclus: Boyfriend?  What do you mean by that?

Thersites: You know what I mean.  You serve your master–in various ways–don’t you?

Patroclus: You asshole.  I ought to punch you out.

Thersites: Oh, now–if you really thought I was an asshole, you wouldn’t threaten me.  You’d make love to me.

Patroclus: One of these days I’m gonna wring your neck.

Thersites: Have you noticed any pain in your private parts?  It’s a sure sign of a sexually transmitted disease.

Patroclus: You rat.  You’re not even human.

Thersites: You’re a garden pest.

Patroclus: Monkey!

Thersites: Germ!

Achilles: Patroclus, it appears I won’t be on the battlefield tomorrow after all.

Patroclus: You won’t?

Achilles: This letter is from Queen Hecuba.  Her daugher Polyxena insists that I not fight tomorrow.

Patroclus: Ah, I see.  So you still want to marry her.

Achilles: Yes.  I made a promise to both of them to stay out of the fighting.  I have to keep my word.–So!  We might as well stay up late eating and drinking.

    (Achilles and Patroclus go into the tent, and Thersites sticks his tongue out after them.)

Thersites: Two more witless Greeks–just like all the witless Greeks.  Agamemnon’s another one.  Nice man but really not too smart.  And as for Menelaus, he’d make a jackass look brilliant.–Ah!  Here come the walking dead.

    (Coming in are Agamemnon, followed by Hector, Troilus, Ajax, Ulysses, Nestor, Menelaus, and Diomedes, carrying torches.  Thersites moves well apart.)

Agamemnon: Ah!  I knew I’d find it.

    (Achilles comes out.)

Achilles: Heard your voice, General.–Hector, welcome.–Welcome all of you.

Agamemnon: Hello, Achilles.–Hector, I’ll leave you now.  Ajax is in charge of your security.  Good night.

Hector: Good night, General.  And thank you.

Menelaus: Good night, Hector.

Hector: Good night, Menelaus.

    (Thersites is making faces, mocking them.)

Achilles: Welcome or good night–whoever wants to stay or go.

Agamemnon: Good night, Achilles.

    (Agamemnon and Menelaus leave.)

Achilles: Nestor’s staying, right?  (Nestor nods.)  Good.–Diomedes?

Diomedes: I would, but I have some, uh, important business.  I’ll say good night to all of you.

Others: Good night.

    (Diomedes leaves.)

Ulysses (Aside to Troilus): He’s going to Calchas’s tent.  We’ll follow him.

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): Okay.

    (Achilles, Hector, Ajax, and Nestor go into the tent.  Troilus and Ulysses follow Diomedes stealthily.)

Thersites (To the audience): You watch that Diomedes.  There are no rattlesnakes in Greece–except for him.  If he ever tells the truth, it’s a rare event, like a solar eclipse.–They say–he keeps a Trojan whore–at Calchas’s tent.  I intend to do some spying.  You come along.

    (He leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  Before Calchas’s tent at night.  The tent is located at one side of the stage.  On the other side are two places of concealment, one closer than the other.  Diomedes comes in and stands outside the tent.

Diomedes (Calling softly): Cressida!

    (Calchas sticks his head out.)

Calchas: Diomedes.

Diomedes: Where’s Cressida?

Calchas: She’s here.  Hold on.

    (Calchas disappears inside.  At this point Troilus and Ulysses come in stealthily and occupy the concealment closer to the tent.  Then Cressida comes out.  Ulysses cautions Troilus to be quiet and remain concealed.)

Cressida: Hello.

Diomedes: There you are, my little birdie.

    (Cressida whispers in his ear, and he whispers back.  Thersites comes in during this whispering and occupies the other concealment, out of sight of Ulysses and Troilus as well as Diomedes and Cressida.  He gestures to the audience, pointing at Diomedes and Cressida.)

Cressida (Normal voice, flirtatiously): Mm–maybe.

Diomedes: What do you mean, maybe?  Don’t you want to?

Cressida: You shouldn’t tempt me.

Diomedes: Well, if you’re going to be like that, I’ll just leave.

    (He turns to leave, but she holds him by the sleeve.)

Cressida: No.  Don’t leave.–Listen.

    (She whispers to him again.  Troilus is visibly upset.)

Ulysses (Aside to Troilus): We ought to go.

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): No.

Ulysses (Aside to Troilus): Remember you’re in the Greek camp.  This is no place to have a blow-up.

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): I’m not leaving.

    (Once again Diomedes turns to leave, and Cressida restrains him.)

Cressida: Don’t be angry.

Diomedes: I don’t believe you.  You’re just playing with me.

Cressida: No, I’m not.

    (She touches him affectionately.  Ulysses is tugging at Troilus’s sleeve to get him to leave, but he refuses.)

Thersites (Aside to the audience): Lechery.  Pure lechery.

Diomedes: Will you or won’t you?  Yes or no?

Cressida.  Yes.  I will.

Diomedes: Give me something to show you’re sincere.

Cressida: All right.  I can give you something.  Just wait.

    (She goes into the tent.  Troilus is visibly upset, and Ulysses is trying to calm him.  Cressida returns with the sleeve given to her by Troilus.  Troilus reacts with shock.)

Cressida: Here.  Take this.  It was given to me.

    (She gives him the sleeve.)

Diomedes: By who?

Cressida: A man.

Diomedes: So you have a lover already.

    (Cressida takes the sleeve back impulsively.)

Cressida: Never mind.–I won’t meet you tomorrow night.

    (Diomedes snatches the sleeve back.)

Diomedes: I’ll keep this.  You belong to me now.

Cressida: Then keep it, if you insist.  But you’ll never love me the way he did.

Diomedes: Who’s he?

Cressida: I won’t say.

Diomedes: I’m going to wear this on my helmet tomorrow so your lover sees it–whoever he is.  Then let him challenge me for it, if he dares to.

Cressida: I still won’t meet you tomorrow night.

Diomedes: Then to hell with you.  I’m going.

    (He turns to go, and she restrains him again.)

Cressida: All right.  I’ll meet you.

Diomedes: That’s better.  I’ll see you tomorrow night.

    (Diomedes leaves.  Cressida stands there for a moment, looking conflicted.)

Cressida (Sighing): I just can’t help myself.

    (Cressida goes back into the tent.)

Ulysses: Well?  What do you think of your girlfriend now?

Troilus: I can’t believe it.

Thersites (Aside to the audience): She’s a slut, that’s all.

Troilus: Tell me this is just a bad dream.

Ulysses: No, it isn’t.

Troilus: I actually saw and heard all this.

Ulysses: Yes, and so did I.

Troilus: This isn’t the Cressida I know.

Ulysses: Then you don’t know her.  Face it, good prince.  You are a prince of Troy, aren’t you?

Troilus: Yes.

Ulysses: Then don’t live by lies.  If you survive this war, you must live in the truth.  And if you die, you mustn’t die a fool or you’ll hate yourself for all eternity.


Troilus: Why should you care?  Am I not your enemy?

Ulysses: Wars make enemies.  And folly makes wars.  But war does not live in the soul.

    (Pause for effect.)

Troilus: She’s been false.–She is false.–No truth could hurt me more.

Ulysses: Do you still love her?


Troilus: Yes.  And as much as I love her, I hate Diomedes just as much.  Tomorrow I’ll look for him on the battlefield–and kill him!

Ulysses: Shh!  Not so loud.

    (Aeneas comes in.)

Aeneas: There you are, Troilus.  I’ve been looking for you.

Troilus: Ulysses and I were just out for some fresh air.

Aeneas: Hector’s already gone back to Troy.  Ajax is waiting to escort us.

Ulysses: I’ll come along, too.  I’ll walk you back.

Troilus: Thank you.

    (Troilus, Aeneas, and Ulysses leave.)

Thersites (To the audience): Lechery and war–war and lechery.  Man at his worst.  And may the devil take them all.

    (He leaves.  [Author’s note: One problem critics have with this play is that they don’t know why Ulysses takes Troilus to spy on Cressida.  Is he being cruel or kind?  I have put my own spin on it so it makes sense.]) 

Act 5, Scene 3.  Before the palace.  Hector, armed, comes in, pursued by his wife, Andromache, who tries to stop him.

Andromache: No!  Hector, listen to me!  I don’t want you to fight today!

Hector: Don’t make me angry.  Go back inside.

Andromache: I had nightmares all night!  You mustn’t go!  I’m afraid!

Hector: I don’t want to hear about your nightmares.

    (Cassandra comes in.)

Cassandra: Hector!

Andromache: Cassandra!  Help me!  I don’t want him to go!  I had bad dreams!  It was all blood!–and slaughter!

Cassandra: So did I, Andromache.  The gods are warning us.–They’re warning you, Hector.

Hector: Nuts!–Where’s my trumpet?  Sound my trumpet!

Cassandra: No, brother!  Not today!

Hector: I have sworn to fight.  The gods have heard me swear.

Cassandra: The gods don’t care what you’ve sworn.  They’re warning you.  I know what’s going to happen if you go.  I can see it.

Hector: My honour is more important than what you think you see.

    (Troilus comes in, armed.)

Hector: Where do you think you’re going?

Andromache: Cassandra, get your father!

    (Cassandra runs out.)

Troilus: I’m going to the field to fight–the same as you.

Hector: No, you’re not.  I don’t need you.

Troilus: Yes, you do.  You’re too soft on the battlefield.

Hector: What do you mean?

Troilus: You show mercy to men you could have killed.  When they’re down, you let them get up and run away.

Hector: I don’t kill a man when he’s down and helpless.  It’s just not done.

Troilus: Not done?  This is war.  The enemy is the enemy.  You kill him.  You don’t show mercy.

Hector: Troilus, I think you’re a little too worked up today.  I think you ought to stay home.

Troilus: Who’s going to stop me?  You?  My father?  My mother?  Nobody’s going to stop me.

    (Cassandra returns with Priam.)

Cassandra: Stop him, father!  Don’t let him go!  If he dies, it’s the end for all of us!

Priam: I don’t want you to go today, Hector.  Your wife had bad dreams, and so did your mother.  And your sister doesn’t want you to go.  And I have a very bad feeling today myself.  All of this means something.  It means you shouldn’t go.

Hector: Do you know who feasted me last night?  Agamemnon.  And all the Greeks treated me with the greatest respect.  They praised me.  They hugged me.  “You are worthy!”  That’s what they said.  “You are worthy!”  Do you understand?  If I don’t face them on the battlefield today, it’ll be a disgrace to me–and an insult to them.  They’ll mock me.  They’ll heap scorn on me.  They’ll say, “Why did we feast such a coward?  Why did we honour him?  He is not worthy!”  So don’t tell me not to go.  I am a prince of Troy.  My honour is your honour, too.

    (Priam appears to be sympathizing.)

Cassandra: No, father!  Don’t let him go!

Andromache: Don’t let him!  Please don’t let him!

Hector: Andromache, you’re being a bad wife.  If you love me, go back inside right now.–I mean it.

    (Andromache leaves.)

Cassandra (Looking off into space): I foresee–

Troilus: Stop it, Cassandra!

Cassandra, (Speaking softly, looking off into space): I see–Hector’s face–I see–blood–I hear Andromache crying–and all the people of Troy wailing in the streets–“Hector is dead!–Hector is dead!”

Troilus: That’s enough, sister!

    (Cassandra gives Hector a long, sad look.)

Cassandra (Softly): Goodbye, brother.

    (She leaves.  Priam looks frightened.)

Hector: Don’t listen to her.  She’s in another world.–Father, just go and mix with the people.  Put on a big smile and tell them everything will be all right.  I think today’s our day to whip the Greeks.


Priam (Softly): I hope you’re right.–Farewell, Hector.  May the gods protect you.

    (Hector and Priam leave separately.  Alarms of battle are heard.)

Troilus: Diomedes, I’m coming to get you, you son of a bitch.

    (Troilus starts to leave, but Pandarus rushes in with a letter.)

Pandarus (In a hoarse voice): Troilus!  Here’s a letter for you–from Cressida.

    (Troilus takes the letter and reads it silently, looking disdainful.)

Pandarus: I’m so hoarse today.  I feel so sick.–And worrying about that girl.–God, my whole body is hurting me.–What does she say?

Troilus: Just words–useless words.  (He tears up the letter.)  Lies.  She sends me her lies, but she goes to another man.

    (Troilus leaves in the direction of the battlefield.  Pandarus is walking slowly, head down, in the direction of the city as the curtain ends the scene.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  On the battlefield.  Distant sounds of battle are heard.  Thersites comes in.

Thersites (To the audience): Now they’re back to killing each other.  What a show!  And that bastard Diomedes is fighting with that sleeve on his helmet.  I hope he and Troilus bump into each other.  One of them will get killed, and it doesn’t matter to me who.  Either it’ll be one less snake or one less fool on the earth.–Oh, these Greeks think they’re so smart.  That old fart Nestor and that wise guy Ulysses.  Remember how they schemed to use Ajax to get Achilles back in the war by having Ajax fight Hector?  It didn’t work.  And what’s even worse, now Ajax is acting like a prima donna, and he doesn’t feel like fighting today either.  It’s all chaos.  And everybody tells you that the Greeks are the real thinkers of the world.–Bullshit!  (He sees something.)  Oops!  I think I’d better hide for a minute.

    (Thersites moves to a suggested place of concealment.  Then Diomedes comes in, followed quickly by Troilus.)

Troilus: Don’t run from me, you bastard!

    (Diomedes turns and confronts Troilus.)

Diomedes: I wasn’t running from you–boy!  I was just getting away from the crowd.

Troilus: You’re wearing her sleeve, and for that you’re going to die!

    (They fight.)

Thersites (Aside): That’s it!  Kill each other!  Go on!  That’s it!  Kill!

    (The fighting moves offstage, and Thersites comes out of concealment.)

Thersites (After them): That’s it!  Go on!  Whoever wins gets that whore Cressida!

    (Hector comes in, his sword out.)

Hector: Who are you, Greek?  Are you a soldier?

Thersites: Who, me?  No, no.  I’m just a dirty, no-good bum.

Hector: That’s just what you look like.–Stay out of trouble.

    (Hector goes out.)

Thersites (After him): Thank you, sir!  (Makes a vulgar gesture.)  Break a leg.–Now I want to see what’s happening with Diomedes and Troilus.

    (Thersites goes out.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  Elsewhere on the field.  Diomedes comes in with his Servant.

Diomedes: Go take Troilus’s horse to Cressida.  Tell her I beat him and she can forget about him.

Servant: Yes, my lord.

    (The Servant leaves.  Then Agamemnon comes in, looking frazzled and out of breath.)

Agamemnon: We’re getting killed out there!  Some of our best soldiers are dead or wounded.  And Patroclus is missing.  I’m afraid to think what’s happened to him.–Listen, we have to get organized.  We have to–do something.–Oh!

    (Nestor and some Soldiers come in carrying the body of Patroclus.)

Agamemnon: Patroclus!–I was afraid of this.–How did he die?

Nestor: It was Hector.  (To the Soldiers) Take him to Achilles.  And tell Ajax to get his armour on.  We need him desperately.  (To Agamemnon) Hector’s everywhere.  It’s like there’s a dozen Hectors on the battlefield.

Agamemnon: I know.

    (There is an interval where they listen to distant battle sounds, as if listening for Hector’s voice.  This interval is needed to stretch the time.  Ulysses comes in.)

Ulysses: Achilles is putting on his armour–finally.  And so is Ajax.  He lost one of his friends–to Troilus.

Agamemnon: Troilus!

Ulysses: Yes.  He’s fighting like a demon.  I’ve never seen him fight like this before.

    (Ajax comes in.)

Ajax: That goddamn Troilus!  I’ll kill him!  I’ll chop his head off!

Diomedes: Take it easy.  The most important thing right now is to reorganize.

Nestor: Yes, yes.  We have to restore some order.

    (Achilles comes in, armed.)

Achilles: Hector’s mine today.  Nobody else goes near him.

Agamemnon: You’ll get your chance, but we have to restore order first.

Achilles: I have all the order I need.  I want my revenge now.

    (Achilles goes out, and everyone else follows.)

Act 5, Scene 6.  On the battlefield.  Ajax comes in.

Ajax: Troilus!  Where are you?  Show yourself!

    (Diomedes comes in.)

Diomedes: Where’s Troilus?  I’m going to finish him off this time.

Ajax: Oh, no!  He’s all mine!

Diomedes: I want him first.

Ajax: No!

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Diomedes, you bastard!  You stole my horse!

Ajax: He’s mine!

Diomedes: No, I’ll get him!

    (Troilus fights them both, and the fighting moves offstage.  Then Hector comes in, looking around.)

Hector (Loudly): Where are you, brother?  Troilus!  Keep at ’em, boy!

    (Achilles comes in.)

Achilles: Hector!

Hector: I didn’t expect to see you.

Achilles: You killed Patroclus!

    (They fight.  After a while, both seem to tire.)

Achilles: I’m out of shape.  I have to let you go.  Consider yourself lucky.

    (Achilles runs out.)

Hector (After him): You’re the lucky one!–I should’ve saved my strength.

    (Troilus comes in.)

Hector: Troilus!

Troilus: Ajax has captured Aeneas!  We have to save him!

Hector: Which way?

Troilus: I’m not sure.  I’ll go this way.  You go that way (Indicating).

    (Troilus runs out.  Then an unnamed Greek Soldier comes in to fight Hector.  Hector fights him off and then pursues him offstage.) 

Act 5, Scene 7.  Elsewhere on the battlefield.  Achilles comes in with a group of Soldiers wearing a distinctive uniform.  (Author’s note: In the original, these were referred to as the Myrmidons.  They were a warlike people from Thessaly and were followers of Achilles.)

Achilles: All right, now listen.  You guys stick with me, and when we find Hector, I want you to surround him.  Just watch me, and when I strike, you strike, too, from all directions.  And strike hard.  I want him dead.

    (Achilles leads his party out.  Then Menelaus comes in, fighting with Paris.  As they fight, Thersites comes in, remaining apart.)

Thersites (To the Audience): Finally!  I’ve been waiting for this!  Menelaus and Paris–ha!–Watch out for his horns, Paris!–Ha, ha!–You put them there!

    (The fighting moves offstage.  Then Margarelon comes in, brandishing his sword.)

Margarelon: You–Greek!

Thersites: Who are you?

Margarelon: Margarelon–the bastard son of Priam.

Thersites: I’m a bastard, too.  You don’t want to kill me.

Margarelon: Why not?

Thersites: Why should one bastard kill another?  It isn’t right, man!

    (Thersites runs out.)

Margarelon: Hey, you!  Come back here!

    (Margarelon follows him out.)

Act 5, Scene 8.  Elsewhere on the battlefield.  Hector drags in the body of the unnamed Greek Soldier he was last seen chasing.

Hector: Another dead Greek to add to my score.  (He drops the body.)  Sucker!  (He shows fatigue.  He drops his sword and takes off his armour.  Then Achilles comes in with his party of Soldiers.)

Achilles: Take one last look at the sun, Hector.  Night falls on you now.

Hector: Hey, wait.  I’m not armed.  You can’t kill me like this.

    (The Soldiers surround Hector.)

Hector: Hey, Achilles.  This isn’t honourable.  I would never do this.  I spared many Greeks who were helpless.

Achilles: Strike!

    (Achilles and the Soldiers strike Hector from all sides.  He falls dead.)

Achilles: Death to Hector!  And death to Troy!

    (The Soldiers cheer.)  

Achilles: When you get back to camp, tell everyone that Achilles killed Hector.

    (A trumpet retreat is heard.)

Soldier: That’s their retreat.  They’re finished, too, my lord.

Achilles: This is my day’s work.  This is the one that mattered.  Tie him to my horse’s tail.  I want to drag him outside the walls of Troy so they can all get a good look.

    (They leave, with the Soldiers dragging Hector’s body.)

Act 5, Scene 9.  On the battlefield.  Agamemnon comes in with Ajax, Menelaus, Nestor, and Diomedes.  Excited shouting is heard at a distance.

Agamemnon: What’s all the commotion?

Soldiers (Within): Hector’s dead!  Achilles killed Hector!

Diomedes: What’s that?–My lord, Hector is dead!  Achilles killed him!

Ajax: If he did, he’d better not brag about it.  Hector was every bit as good as him–if not better.

Agamemnon: Let’s go to my tent.  Somebody go tell Achilles to meet us there.  If Hector really is dead, Troy is finished.  It’s just a matter of time.  They can’t win.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 10.  On the battlefield.  Aeneas, Paris, Antenor, and Deiphobus come in.

Aeneas: We can still hold the field if we camp out here all night.

Deiphobus: Without food?

Aeneas: Yes.  We can go hungry for one night.

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Hector is dead.

Others: No!–How?

Troilus: He didn’t die like a soldier.  He was murdered by Achilles when he was unarmed.  And his body was tied to Achilles’ horse and dragged across the field.  (He looks up at heaven.)  How you gods must hate Troy!–Don’t draw it out.  Get it over with.  Destroy us quickly and be done with it.

Aeneas: My lord, don’t say that.

Troilus: Oh, I’m not afraid.  Don’t get that idea.  I’ll face any dangers that the gods or the Greeks can throw at us.  I don’t care any more.  Without Hector, Troy is lost.–The people can’t go on after this.  It’s a knife in their hearts.  (He turns and faces the Greek camp, raising his sword.)  Achilles–you coward!  I will kill you, or I will haunt your dreams forever!  (To the others)  Let’s go back to Troy.  From now on we live only for revenge.  Victory is out of the question.

    (As they start to leave, Pandarus rushes in.)

Pandarus: My lord Troilus!

Troilus: Get out of my sight, you miserable pimp!

    (All leave, except Pandarus, who now stands there looking deflated and tired.  The final speech is addressed directly to the audience.  Pandarus speaks haltingly.  He rubs his hands nervously and seems uncertain and lost.)

Pandarus: Pimp.–Is that the thanks I get?–It’s the same with whores, isn’t it?–Sought after now and despised later.–I get to have the last word, it seems.–But what good is it?–There was a time when people sought me out for help and advice.–But now?–Now I’m just a sick, rejected old man on the losing side of a war.–I know I don’t have long to live.–Perhaps I’ll sell my house and go to some brothel and ask them to take me in.–I wouldn’t be a bother to them–Just give me a little room, and I’ll keep to myself.–That would be all right.–And I would feel that I was dying among friends.

    (He leaves.  Curtain.)


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com


(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/  )

Main Characters

Valentine — a gentleman of Verona

Proteus — a gentleman of Verona

Speed — Valentine’s servant

Launce (or Lance) — Proteus’s servant

Antonio — Proteus’s father

Pantino (or Panthino) — Antonio’s servant

Julia — Proteus’s sweetheart in Verona  (When she is disguised as Sebastian, her speech prefix will be “Sebastian.”)

Lucetta — Julia’s waiting-lady

Duke of Milan

Sylvia (or Silvia) — the Duke’s daughter

Thurio — suitor to Sylvia

Eglamour — a gentleman of Milan

Host — innkeeper in Milan


Gist of the story: Valentine and Proteus are young gentlemen and best friends in Verona.  Valentine is sent to Milan by his father to get some worldly experience.  He meets Sylvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan, is engaged as her servant, and falls in love with her.  But the Duke wants Sylvia to marry Thurio, whom she dislikes.  Meanwhile, Proteus gets engaged to Julia in Verona.  He leaves her reluctantly when his father insists that he should go to Milan, too, and gain some advancement and experience.  Lonely and impatient, Julia disguises herself as a man (Sebastian) and goes to Milan to look for Proteus.  Proteus has since forgotten all about her because he has also fallen in love with Sylvia, for whom he has also been engaged as a gentleman servant.  He plots to steal her from Valentine by telling the Duke of Valentine’s plan to elope with her.  Valentine is banished, and Sylvia is put under house arrest.  Proteus plots to undermine Thurio’s hopes to wed Sylvia but it does him no good since she now hates him for what he’s done.  Julia, disguised as Sebastian, is hired by Proteus as a page and witnesses first-hand his disloyalty.  Sylvia escapes with the help of Eglamour.  Valentine, meanwhile, has met some outlaws and has become their leader.  The outlaws capture Sylvia.  She is rescued by Proteus, but he attempts to win her love by force.  Valentine stops him, and Proteus is overcome with remorse.  Valentine forgives him and then offers to give up Sylvia to him.  Julia, in disguise, faints.  When she recovers, she reveals her identity.  She and Proteus are reunited, and the Duke, who is there to see it all as a prisoner of the outlaws, gladly gives his blessing to Sylvia and Valentine.  Only Thurio does not enjoy a happy ending.

(TGV has been one of Shakespeare’s most harshly criticized plays.  It has some significant flaws, but it’s the last scene that has drawn the most fire.  The reversals between Proteus and Valentine are simply not credible.  Yes, Shakespeare’s comedies often stretch our willingness to believe human behaviour, but nobody believes this ending.  I’ve tried to help it a little, but I can’t change it.  Despite its weaknesses, the play has a good story line and many funny bits that I have made the most of.  TGV has also attracted considerable attention from the “queer studies” faction of every English Department.  We are assured that there is a homoerotic theme to the play because the friendly love between Valentine and Proteus is weighed against their romantic love for Sylvia.  It’s all b.s., but academics call it “research.”  Trust me on this.  There are no gay characters in this play.  Plenty of pooftah professors will insist otherwise, but you know where they’re coming from, don’t you?) 

Act 1, Scene 1.  A street in Verona.  Valentine and Proteus come in.  (Author’s note: Their ages are not given, but you should take them to be around eighteen.)

Valentine: Don’t try to change my mind, Proteus.  I’m going to Milan.

Proteus: I wish you wouldn’t.

Valentine: Hey, there’s a whole, big world out there.  I have an opportunity to advance myself.  I’m going to work in the Duke’s court in Milan.  I’d take you with me, but you don’t want to leave Julia. 

Proteus: I can’t help it.  I love her.  I’ll stay in Verona forever.  I don’t care.

Valentine: You’re too young to tie yourself down like that. 

Proteus: Yeah, anyway, just think of me when you’re having a good time–or even if you’re having a bad time.  I’ll be praying for you.

Valentine: Yeah, you’ll be praying for me to fall in love, just to teach me a lesson.

Proteus: Ha, ha!–Well, I’ll pray for you as a best friend.

Valentine: I really appreciate that.  And I’ll miss you when I’m gone.  I just wish I could shake you out of that mind-set you’re in.  Being in love is ninety-percent torture.  I’ve seen it happen to other guys.  You get all obsessed over a girl, you can’t think straight, you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and all you’re hoping for is, like, maybe she’ll smile at you.  It’s not worth it.

Proteus: So am I a fool because I love a girl?

Valentine: You will be if you go on like this.  Love is like a master and you’re like a slave.  I don’t want that to happen to me.

Proteus: It happens to everyone sooner or later.  It’ll happen to you, too.

Valentine: If it does, I hope I get over it in a few days like a cold.  Listen, I have to rush.  My father’s got the carriage waiting for me.  But I’ll write  to you a lot, okay?  I’ll give you all my news.  And I want to hear your news, too.

Proteus: You will.  I promise.–Hey, good luck, man.

    (They embrace.)

Valentine: Hey, you, too, man.

    (Valentine leaves.  Proteus is rather downcast.)

Proteus: He’ll do all right for himself.  He’s going places.–Me?  All I do is think about Julia.  I’ve given up everything else.  I don’t see my friends.  I don’t do my studies.  I don’t have any fun.  All I do is mope.–Julia, Julia, Julia–day and night.  It’s making me sick.

    (Speed comes in, in a hurry.)

Speed: Proteus, have you seen Valentine?

Proteus: He’s just gone to leave for Milan.

Speed: Damn!  If he leaves without me, I’m in big trouble. 

Proteus: A servant should never be late–especially if his name is Speed.

Speed: I know, I know.  I’d better be on that carriage or his father will make me walk all the way to Milan.

    (He starts to leave, but Proteus holds him by the sleeve.)

Proteus: Hey, just a minute.  Did you deliver my letter to Julia?

Speed: Yes.

Proteus: And?

Speed: And what?

Proteus: What did she say?

Speed: What did she say?  Let me think.–I’m trying to remember.  (He makes a gesture with his thumb and fingers indicating that he expects to be paid.)

Proteus: I have to pay you?  Is that the game?

Speed: Hey, be cheap with your own servant.  I’m entitled to a tip.

    (Proteus gives him a coin.)

Proteus: So what did she say?

Speed: Nothing.

Proteus: Nothing at all?  Not one word?

Speed: She just nodded politely and stood there.  She didn’t even open the letter.  She didn’t seem to care about it.

Proteus: I can’t believe it.

Speed: No offense, sir, but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree with a girl like that.  I don’t think she has any heart at all.  But good luck anyway.  I have to catch up with the boss.  Goodbye.

    (Speed leaves quickly.)

Proteus: What a waste!  Maybe if I’d sent a better messenger, I would’ve gotten an answer.

    (He leaves, looking downcast.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  In Julia’s house.  Julia comes in with Lucetta.

Julia: Lucetta, I want your opinion about something.

Lucetta: Yes, madam.

Julia: Of all the available gentlemen, who do you think is the best one for me?

Lucetta: Oh–I would say–Proteus.

Julia: Why?

Lucetta: Just–because.

Julia: But you must have some reason.

Lucetta: No, nothing specific.  I just feel he’s the best match for you.

Julia: But he’s never shown any sign that he loves me.

Lucetta: He’s probably too shy to show it.  But I believe he does love you.

Julia: I wish I knew what he really thinks of me.

Lucetta: Then I suggest you read this.

    (Lucetta gives Julia a letter.)

Julia: It’s addressed to me–but who is it from?

Lucetta: Open it and you’ll see.

Julia: Where did you get this?

Lucetta: It was given to me by Valentine’s servant, Speed, although it came from Proteus.  I, uh, pretended I was you, so Speed gave it to me.

Julia: Lucetta!  You shouldn’t have!  How do I know what’s in that letter?  I’m a proper girl.  I’m a virgin.  I have a reputation to worry about.–A mysterious letter–from somebody else’s servant?–You take it right back where you got it.  I insist.

    (Julia gives the letter back to Lucetta.)

Lucetta: I should think this letter deserves a kinder response.

Julia: Just go!

Lucetta: I shall go, madam–just long enough for you to change your mind.

    (Lucetta leaves.  Julia paces a bit and is obviously conflicted.)

Julia: I should have read that letter.  Now I’m going to feel like an idiot.  (Calls)  Lucetta!

    (Lucetta returns.)

Lucetta: Yes, madam?

Julia: Em–is dinner almost ready?

Lucetta: Almost.

    (Lucetta drops the letter deliberately and then picks it up.)

Julia: What’s that?

Lucetta: Just a paper.  Nothing to do with me.

Julia: If it’s nothing to do with you, then let it lie on the floor.

Lucetta: Let it lie?  If it is a true letter, it will not lie.

    (Julia takes the letter from her.)

Julia: You want me to read this, don’t you?

Lucetta: If it’s addressed to you, you should, madam.

Julia: Because it’s from Proteus.  That’s what you mean.

Lucetta: Yes, madam.

    (Julia hesitates, begins to open the letter, and then tears it up impulsively.  Lucetta bends down to pick up the pieces.)

Julia: No!  Leave the pieces where they are.  Just go and take care of dinner.

Lucetta: Yes, madam.–And if he sends another letter, will you tear that up, too?

Julia: If he’s a gentleman, he won’t persist by sending another letter.

Lucetta: But even though he’s a gentleman, you’ll still refuse to read the first one.

    (Julia is startled by the smart remark, but Lucetta is already walking out.  Julia is angry at first, then overcome by curiosity about the letter.  She picks up one piece, reads the words, and reacts with silent emotion.  She picks up two more pieces, reacting to each one silently.  She clutches the pieces of paper to her heart and looks into space longingly.  She tries to conceal the pieces when Lucetta returns.)   

Lucetta: Dinner is ready,madam.  And your father is here, too.

Julia: All right.  I’m coming.

Lucetta: Shall I pick these up?  (There are some pieces of paper on the floor.)

Julia: Suit yourself.

Lucetta: I shouldn’t leave them on the floor.  They’re not rubbish.

    (Lucetta picks up the pieces.)

Julia: Are you sure?

Lucetta: Of course, I’m sure, madam.  I can see that much.

Julia: Let’s sit down to dinner.

    (Julia leaves first, followed by Lucetta after she has picked up the remaining pieces.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  In the house of Proteus.  Antonio comes in with Pantino.

Antonio: Pantino, what were you talking about with my brother?

Pantino: He was talking about your son, sir.

Antonio: What about him?

Pantino: He wonders why you let Proteus stay here in Verona.  He seems to think it would do the boy a world of good to leave home and find his fortune somewhere.  After all, he’s young and he hasn’t been anywhere or done much of anything.

Antonio: I think my brother’s been reading my mind.  I’ve been thinking about that very thing.  The boy should go out in the world and get some experience.  But where?

Pantino: His friend Valentine went to Milan and now he’s a gentleman servant in the Duke’s court.

Antonio: That’s an excellent position for a young man.

Pantino: So send Proteus to Milan, too.  With a few good letters of reference he could be in the Duke’s court, too.

Antonio: That’s an excellent idea.–Yes.  He’d be rubbing shoulders with the nobles–learn about courtly manners–learn what they know.–And his friend Valentine could introduce him to people, show him the ropes–that sort of thing.

Pantino: It would be a great opportunity for advancement.

Antonio: Absolutely.  It’s the best thing that could happen to him.  Pantino, my mind’s made up.  I’m going to send him to Milan.

Pantino: There’s a party of gentlemen going to Milan tomorrow.  You know all of them.  They’ll be calling on the Duke.  I think they can squeeze Proteus in.  You can send his luggage on later if you have to.

Antonio: That works out perfectly.  Who’s leading the party?

Pantino: Don Alphonso.

Antonio: Oh, yes, Alphonso will be happy to do it.

    (Proteus comes in slowly, distracted by a letter he is reading.)

Proteus (Aside): She loves me.  She really loves me.  She wants to marry me.

Antonio: There you are, my boy.  We were just talking about you.–Em, what’s that letter?  Anything interesting?

Proteus: Oh–this?  Em–it’s from Valentine.

Antonio: Oh, that’s nice.  Let me see it.  I want to read his news.

Proteus: Em–there’s no news–as such.  He just sends his greetings.  He says he wishes I could be there with him.

Antonio: Ah, does he now?  And would you like that?

Proteus: Me?–To go to Milan, you mean?

Antonio: Yes.  What would you think of that?

Proteus: Em–well–whatever you think is best, of course.

Antonio: Good.  I happen to think Valentine’s instincts are right.  You should be in Milan with him.  It would be splendid for you.

Proteus: It would?

Antonio: Of course.  Just think of it–being in the Duke’s court–as a gentleman servant, let’s say.  What an opportunity!  Big town.  Lots of people.  New friends.  Learn what they know.  Move up in the world–eh?

Proteus: Em–yes.

Antonio: And don’t worry about money.  I’ll make sure you have what you need.

Proteus: Oh–so I’m going to Milan, then?

Antonio: Yes.  Tomorrow.

Proteus: Tomorrow?  Just like that?

Antonio: Yes, why not?  Don Alphonso and some mutual friends of ours are going tomorrow, and you’ll travel with them.

Proteus: But father, I need time to make preparations.

Antonio: No, you don’t.  You’ll travel light, and I’ll send your luggage after you.  The timing is perfect.  I’ll send Pantino right now to arrange everything.–Come on, Pantino.

    (Antonio and Pantino leave.)

Proteus: Oh, God.  This means I have to leave Julia.  I should have told him the letter was from her, but I was afraid to.–How can I be so happy and so miserable on the same day?

    (He walks out slowly.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  In Milan.  Valentine and Speed come in.  Speed is carrying a glove.

Speed: Sir, your glove.

Valentine: Eh?–No, that’s not mine.  I’m wearing mine.

Speed: I think this belongs to you, sir.

Valentine: Let me see that.–Ah!  It’s Sylvia’s!–Sylvia–Sylvia–

Speed (Calling): Sylvia!–Paging Sylvia!

Valentine: What are you doing?

Speed: She doesn’t answer, sir.

Valentine: Why did you call her?

Speed: I thought you were calling her.  I just assumed–

Valentine: Assumed what?

Speed: Well, I mean, since you love her–

Valentine: How do you know that?

Speed: How do I know?  It’s pretty obvious.  It’s that  lovesick expression on your face.  The way you react to romantic songs.  The way you’re so self-absorbed.  And you don’t even eat any more.  “I’m not hungry.”  That’s what you say.  These are all signs of a young man in love.–Quite pathetic, really.

Valentine: Oh, you think so, do you?

Speed: Yes.  And you always stare at her over the dinner table.  God only knows why.

Valentine: Why?  Because she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, that’s why.  She’s beyond beautiful–beyond all words for beautiful.  She’s even beyond–

Speed: Beyond the beyond.  Yes, I know.  It’s all an illusion, sir.  It’s what you see, not what she really is.

Valentine: Oh, so I’m a fool–is that what you’re saying?

Speed: All young men in love are fools–like your friend Proteus.

Valentine: What about Proteus?

Speed: Didn’t you ridicule him because he was in love with Julia?

Valentine: I didn’t ridicule him.  I just commented about it, that’s all.

Speed: Well, whatever you said to him, look in the mirror and say it to yourself, because it applies to you equally.

Valentine: I don’t care.  I love her.  I can’t help it.

Speed: Raging hormones.  That’s all it is.

Valentine: You’re very cynical.

Speed: Has she said anything to you–I mean, of a personal nature?

Valentine: Well–she did ask me to write a love letter to someone–that is, in her behalf.

Speed: To who–I mean, whom?

Valentine: She wouldn’t say who–whom.

Speed: A love letter.  Very interesting.  And did you write it?

Valentine: Yes.

Speed: And it’s supposed to be from her to a man she loves, but you don’t know who–or whomever.

Valentine: Right.

Speed: I’m sure it’s a lousy letter if it’s going to your competition.  It doesn’t do you any good, does it?

Valentine: Maybe not, but I did the best I could.  I think it’s actually a rather good letter.–Ah, here she comes now.

    (Sylvia comes in.)

Speed (Aside to the audience): This should be interesting.

Valentine: A thousand good days to you, madam!

Speed (Aside to the audience): That’s generous.  Now she’s good for the next three years.

Sylvia: Master Valentine–and servant–two thousand good days to you.

Speed (Aside to the audience): He should lend her a thousand crowns.  He’d get two thousand back.

Valentine: I’ve written that letter you asked for.–I didn’t really want to, but since you asked me as a favour–

    (He gives her the letter.)

Sylvia: Thank you.  I’m curious to see what you’ve written.  (She reads the letter silently.)  It’s certainly written in an educated style.  Everything’s very correct.  And the penmanship is quite elegant.

Valentine: It was very hard to write, believe me.

Sylvia: Oh?  Perhaps I put too much of a burden on you.

Valentine: Oh, that’s all right.  I mean, if it helps you–I’m glad to be helpful.–And in the future–whenever–

Sylvia: You’re very kind, I’m sure.  But I won’t trouble you a second time.–Here, you can have this back.

    (She gives the letter back to Valentine.  Speed gives the audience a twisted smile.)

Valentine: Oh.–Don’t you like it?

Sylvia: It’s all right as a composition, but it’s not quite in the style I would have used.  I would have been more–how shall I put it?–more emotional–more romantic.

Valentine: You can keep it if you like.

Sylvia: No, no.  You wrote it at my request, so I want you to keep it–as a reward for the labour you put into it.

Valentine: Shall I write you another?

Sylvia: You can if you want to.  And if you think it’s good, keep it.  We’ll pretend that it’s been properly delivered.–Good day to you both.

    (Sylvia leaves.)

Speed (Aside to the audience): Now that was clever.  But he still doesn’t get it.

Valentine: That’s awfully strange.  What do you make of that, Speed?

Speed: Why, sir, she had you write a love letter for her to an unknown gentleman–and then she gave it back to you.  (Valentine looks perplexed.)  You don’t get it?

Valentine: I have no idea what you mean.

Speed: She’s after you.  She loves you.

Valentine: She does?  How do you know?

Speed: She couldn’t write you a love letter herself.  A proper lady can’t do that.  And suppose it fell into the wrong hands?  It would be a huge social embarrassment.  So she has you write the letter for her.  You give it to her, and she gives it back to you.

Valentine: But I didn’t even know who it was for–whom.

Speed: What’s the difference?  It was a love letter from her–and she told you to keep it.  And if you write another, keep that one, too, and it’s properly delivered.  Don’t you see?

Valentine: Are you sure about all this?

Speed: Totally.  She loves you.–Now let’s go to dinner.

Valentine: I’m not hungry.

Speed: Well, I am, so let’s go.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In Verona.  Proteus comes in with Julia.

Proteus: I hate to leave you, Julia.  But I won’t be in Milan forever.  I’ll come back as soon as I can.

Julia: I’ll try to be patient–but every day without you will be so lonely.–Here. I want you to have this ring so you’ll always think of me.

    (She gives him a ring.)

Proteus: And you keep mine and think of me.

    (He gives her a ring.)

Julia: Is this your promise–that I’m to wait for you?

Proteus: Yes.  (They embrace.)  We’re engaged now.  I swear my love to you no matter how far apart we are.  And if I’m ever untrue to you, may the devil come out of hell and take my soul.

Julia: You must go.  If I delay you with kisses, your companions will be annoyed.–Goodbye, Proteus.

    (She leaves.)

Proteus (After her, sadly): Goodbye.

    (Pantino comes in.)

Pantino: There you are, sir.  Come along now.  The carriage is waiting for you.

Proteus: Yes, yes.  Let’s go.

    (They leave.)    

Act 2, Scene 3.  Launce comes in with his dog, Crab.  He looks very sad.

Launce: Do you realize how sad I am, you stupid dog?  No, of course not.  You have no heart.  My mother cried, my father cried, my sister cried, and the maid cried–and even the cat.  But not you.  Do you understand we’re going to Milan?  With Master Proteus?  Just like that, with one day’s notice.  That’s the life of a servant for you.–And don’t you dare complain about anything, that’s all I’ve got to say.  I don’t want any problems with you.–I swear, you are a stupid dog.–Crab!–That’s your name.  Do you know your own name–Crab?

    (Pantino comes in.)

Pantino: Launce, come on, man!  Proteus is waiting for you.  If he leaves without you, you’ll be out of a job. 

Launce: I’m leaving my family.  I’m going so far away.

Pantino: Three days by carriage.  Stop being so sad about it.

Launce: Why does he have to go to Milan anyway?

Pantino: It’ll be good for him, and you’ll serve him there the same way you serve him here.   So what’s there to be sad about?

Launce: All right.  But Crab’s coming, too.

Pantino: He’d better behave.

Launce: He will.–Come on, Crab.

    (They leave.  [Author’s note: In the original, Shakespeare has Launce and Proteus travel by boat!  If you look at a map of Italy, you can see plainly that it’s a land trip.])

Act 2, Scene 4.  In the court of the Duke of Milan.  Valentine and Speed come in together, ahead of Sylvia and Thurio, who are together.  Thurio is trying to impress her, but she is politely neutral.  Speed is hanging closely on Valentine, talking to him privately.  Valentine looks serious.

Speed (Aside to Valentine): Hey, boss, Thurio is trying to make a move on your girl.

Valentine (Aside to Speed): Yeah, I know.

Speed (Aside to Valentine): He made a face at you before, when you weren’t looking.  Why don’t you punch him out?

Valentine (Aside to Speed): Gentlemen in the court don’t beat each other–except with words.  Now you scoot.

Speed: Okay, boss.

    (Speed leaves.)

Sylvia (To Valentine.): My new servant, you are not happy today.

Valentine: Oh, I am, madam.

Thurio: He appears what he is not, madam.  Take note.

Valentine: So do you, Thurio.

Thurio: Me?  In what way?

Valentine: You give the appearance of being smarter than you really are.

Thurio: Ha!–The sage from Verona!–If you tried to match my wit–or my money–you’d soon be bankrupt.

Valentine: You need a lot more than I do to get by.

Sylvia: Now, gentlemen, let’s not quarrel in my father’s court.  We must all be friends.–Ah, here’s my father now.

    (The Duke comes in.)

Duke: There you are, Sylvia–with not one, but two fine gentlemen to escort you–ha, ha!–Master Valentine, your father has written to say he is fine.  And I have some news I think you will like.

Valentine: Yes, your Grace?

Duke: You know Don Antonio from Verona, don’t you?

Valentine: Yes, my lord.  He’s the father of my best friend, Proteus.

Duke: And what can you tell me about Proteus?

Valentine: He’s a wonderful guy, my lord.  You’d like him a lot if you met him.

Duke: Well, in fact I’m going to.  He’s coming today to join you in the court as a gentleman servant.  I’ve gotten excellent letters of recommendation about him.

Valentine: This is the best news, my lord.  I’m very happy about this.

Duke: You make him feel welcome.–And you, too, Sylvia–and Thurio.  Be nice to him.–I’ll see you later.

    (The Duke leaves.)

Valentine: This is great!–Madam, I told you about Proteus.  He would’ve come to Milan with me, except that he has, like, a girlfriend in Verona.

Sylvia: Maybe they broke up and that’s why he’s coming.

Valentine: I’m sure that’s not it.  He’s totally sick in love with that girl.–Oh!  Here he is!

    (Proteus comes in.  He and Valentine embrace and greet each other.)

Valentine: Madam, this is my friend Proteus.–Proteus, this is Lady Sylvia, the Duke’s daughter.

    (Proteus is struck by her beauty, and there is a very brief pause before he kisses her hand.)

Proteus: Your servant, madam–now and forever.

Sylvia: You’re very welcome here, Master Proteus.  Your friend Valentine speaks highly of you, and that’s good enough for me.

Valentine: Hire him, madam.  You won’t be sorry.

Sylvia: Oh, but he should serve a queen, not a humble lady like me.

Proteus: You’re worth a hundred queens, madam.  I am scarcely worthy to be in your presence.

Sylvia (Flattered): Oh, sir!  Would you really want to serve an insignificant lady like me?

Proteus: I would strike any man who called you insignificant.  It is I who must rise to be worthy of you.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: Madam, your father wishes to speak to you.

Sylvia: Yes, at once.  (The Servant leaves.)–Thurio, come with me.–Proteus, I’ll leave you with Valentine for now.  We’ll talk some more later.

Proteus: Yes, madam.  Thank you.

    (Sylvia and Thurio leave.)

Valentine: How are things in Verona?

Proteus: Great.  You have regards from all your friends.

Valentine: And how’s your girlfriend?

Proteus: You mean Julia?

Valentine: Who else would I mean?

Proteus: Oh, you don’t want to hear about that stuff.  You don’t believe in love.

Valentine: I didn’t used to, but now I do.  I made fun of you back in Verona, and now you can make fun of me all you want, because I’m really hooked.

Proteus: With who?

Valentine: The boss lady.  (He nods in the direction of Sylvia’s exit.)

Proteus: Sylvia?

Valentine: Yeah.

    (Proteus reacts as if unimpressed, but this is feigned.)

Proteus: Oh–well–she’s all right.

Valentine: All right?  Get outa here.  She’s a goddess.  She’s the most beautiful woman in the world.

Proteus: Maybe second, after Julia.

Valentine: Okay, that’s fine.  You stick with Julia.  She can be maid of honour at the wedding.

Proteus: Whoa!  Slow down, man.  You’re getting married to Sylvia?

Valentine: It’s a secret.  Don’t tell the Duke.  He wants her to marry Thurio because he’s loaded.  Sylvia and I are secretly engaged.  We’re going to elope.

Proteus: Elope!  Seriously?

Valentine: Yes.  I have it all worked out.  I’ve got a rope ladder, and I’m going to climb up to her bedroom and bring her down.–Listen, come back to my room with me.  I want to talk this over with you.

Proteus: Oh, uh–later.  I have to go and see to my accommodations and check on my guy, Launce.

Valentine: All right.  I’d better go see what Thurio’s up to.  I don’t trust that guy.

    (Valentine leaves.  [Author’s note: In the Folger edition, Speed leaves with Valentine at this point, but in the New Penguin edition, he leaves near the beginning of the scene.  I have followed Penguin on this point because it seems more sensible.  Shakespeare’s plays are loaded with little details like this, which editors disagree about, but you’re not aware of them unless you’re following different editions simultaneously.  I’ve cited numerous examples in Shakespeare For White Trash.]  There is a pause for effect.  Proteus looks very serious.  The following speech is spoken slowly.)

Proteus: Sylvia–Sylvia–why did I have to meet you now?–Everything is changed now.–Julia’s out.–And as for Valentine–he’s less a friend than a rival–and that’s how I intend to treat him from now on.–I want that woman.  She’s a goddess, all right.–And I’ll do whatever it takes to get her.

    (He walks out slowly.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  Speed comes in, meeting Launce and his dog coming in, opposite.

Speed: Hey, Launce, welcome to Padua!  [Author’s note: Shakespeare wrote “Padua” in the original, and no one knows why.  The original has several geographical mistakes, so this scene does a spin on that.]

Launce: Padua?

Speed: I mean Milan.–What the heck was I thinking?

Launce: You must have been thinking about Padua.

Speed: No, no.

Launce: You do know where you are, don’t you?  You’re not stoned?

Speed: No, I’m not stoned.  This is Milan.

Launce: Good, because I don’t know anyone in Padua.

Speed: Do you know anyone in Milan?

Launce: Only you–so far.  So buy me a drink, okay?

Speed: Sure.  I know a pub.  But tell me, is your boss going to marry Julia?

Launce: I guess that depends on how they get on.

Speed: How do you mean?

Launce: If she gets on top and he doesn’t mind, they’ll probably get married.

Speed: Wise guy.

Launce: If he can–stand–for it!  (He makes an obscene gesture with his groin.)  I could–stand–for it!  Couldn’t you?

Speed: You dope!

Launce: Donkey!

Speed: You’re a hoser.  [Author’s note: Canadian slang for “jerk.”]

Launce: You’re another.

Speed: So are they getting married or not?  And give me a straight answer.

Launce: Ask the dog.  If he barks, it means yes.  And if he wags his tail, that means yes, too.

Speed: How does he say no?

Launce: He never says no–at least not to me.  After all, I’m the one who feeds him.

Speed: So I assume they’re getting married.

Launce: Assume what you like.  I never tell a secret–except maybe in code.–Eh, Crab?  What do you have to say?–He has nothing to say.  He’s a discreet dog.

Speed: Yeah, I can tell.

Launce: So what’s up with your boss,Valentine?

Speed: He’s getting along really well here. In fact, he’s become quite a lover.

Launce: A lubber?  

Speed: Lover, not blover–I mean, not blubber–I mean–

Launce: You’re all right.  He’s not a blubber.

Speed: He’s a–lover.–There, I got it.

Launce: That’s new, isn’t it?

Speed: What is?

Launce: His being a lover.  He wasn’t like that in Verona.

Speed: Well, he’s changed.  Change of scenery.  That must be it.

Launce: Good.  So are you going to buy me a drink or not?

Speed: Of course.  I know the best cheap pub in Mantua.

Launce: Mantua?

Speed: Fuck–not Mantua–Pantua–no, I mean–

Launce: You’re stoned, man.

Speed: Am not.

Launce: Sounds like it.

Speed: I don’t know where my brain is today.

Launce: Where did you last see it?

Speed: Very funny.–Right here in Pandua–oh, fuck.

Launce: I’m not drinking the water here, that’s for sure.  I’m sticking to ale.

Speed: Milan!–There.  It’s Milan.  Mi-lan.

Launce: You’re all right.  Just lead and we’ll follow.–Come on, Crab.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 6.  Proteus comes in alone.

Proteus: Valentine’s in my way.  I’ve got to get rid of him.–I’ll tell the Duke they’re going to elope.  He’ll banish him for sure.–As for Thurio, I’ll have to think of some way to trip him up.  (Longer pause)  Why am I doing all this?–Because I want Sylvia.  I’ve got to have her.–Is love a bad thing?  No.  Love justifies anything.  So if I have to treat other people badly for the sake of love, that’s okay.–And if somebody up there brought me this far, let them help me get to the end of this.

    (He leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 7.  In Verona — Julia’s house.  Julia and Lucetta come in.

Julia: I have to go and see Proteus.  Think of some way I can go.

Lucetta: It’s a long trip for a woman traveling by herself–and hardly appropriate for a proper lady.  You should just wait for him to come back.

Julia: I can’t wait any longer.  I can’t stand being without him.  I have to go.

Lucetta: You shouldn’t let your emotions drag you away on a misadventure.

Julia: I live in my emotions.  I live to love Proteus.  I’ll do anything to be with him.

Lucetta: A lady can’t go by herself.  It’s not safe.

Julia: I’ll dress like a man.  That’s what I’ll do.

Lucetta: And cut your hair?

Julia: My hair?  Goodness, no.  I’ll tie it up and wear a cap over it.

Lucetta: If you’re going to dress like a man, you’ll have to wear a codpiece.

Julia: A codpiece?  Oh, no.  That’s too gross.

Lucetta: It’s a standard part of a gentleman’s attire.  You’ve got to wear it.

Julia: All right.  I’ll rely on you to dress me so I can pass as a man.  I just hope I don’t ruin my reputation by going.

Lucetta: It doesn’t matter what other people think.  It only matters what Proteus thinks.

Julia: I’m sure he’ll be glad to see me.  I mean, after all, we are engaged.  And he said such loving things to me when he left–how he’d always be faithful.

Lucetta: Men are changeable creatures, even when they’re not lying.  You mustn’t have too much faith in them.

Julia: That may be true of some men, but not Proteus.  I have total faith in him, and you must, too.

Lucetta: I just don’t want you to be hurt, madam.

Julia: Proteus is pure in his heart.  He’s like an angel.  Whatever he says, I believe.  He’s not capable of being false.

Lucetta: I truly hope you’re right, madam.

Julia: Come and help me get ready.  I’m very impatient.  I want to get going.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  The Duke’s court in Milan.  The Duke comes in with Proteus.

Proteus: My lord, I have to tell you something–only you mustn’t think the worse of me for it.  It’s very difficult for me because it involves my friend Valentine.  But as a matter of duty I have to tell you.

Duke: All right.  I’m listening.

Proteus: Valentine has been seeing Sylvia secretly.  In fact, they plan to elope–tonight.

Duke: Huh–I had a feeling something was going on between them, but I didn’t want to confront him without being sure.  You’re a good man to come forward like this and tell me.  I won’t forget your loyalty.

Proteus: Thank you, my lord.

Duke: Sylvia’s on an upper floor.  I can have her watched.  She won’t be able to leave the house or receive anyone without my knowing.

Proteus: But I know Valentine’s plan, sir.  They’re going to use a rope ladder to get her down by the window.

Duke: Ah!  Really!

Proteus: Yes.  And I know for a fact he’ll be carrying it under his coat right now.  You can intercept him and see for yourself.  Only don’t make it obvious I told you.  I don’t want him to think I’ve betrayed him.

Duke: I understand perfectly.  Leave it to me.  I’ll handle it in my own way.  You won’t be implicated.

Proteus: Thank you, sir.  I’d better leave now.

Duke: Yes, yes.  You go on.

    (Proteus leaves.  Then Valentine come in, looking somewhat nervous and in a hurry.)

Duke: Valentine, what’s your hurry?

Valentine: Oh–my lord–em, there’s a messenger waiting for me.  I have to give him some letters.

Duke: That can wait.  I just wanted to talk to you about something personal.  And I’m sure I can trust you to keep this between us.

Valentine: Of course, my lord.

Duke: I’m sure you know I want my daughter to marry Thurio.

Valentine: Yes, my lord.  And I agree it’s a good match–assuming, of course that she likes him–which I’m not entirely sure of.

Duke: That’s the problem.  She just doesn’t want to marry him.  And I’m very disappointed about that.  And I’m disappointed in her.  You understand that in matters of marriage–and I mean particularly in noble society–it’s the responsibility of parents to find a suitable match for their children.

Valentine: Yes.  Absolutely.

Duke: And the children have a duty to obey their parents.

Valentine: Absolutely.

Duke: After all, what do young people know about love?  Their emotions are all over the place.  They can’t judge calmly.  But parents have wisdom and experience.  And the children should trust the choice of the parents.  It doesn’t have to start with love.  It usually doesn’t.  But if the choice is wise, love will follow.  And that’s the plain truth about life and about love and marriage.

Valentine: My lord, I absolutely, totally agree with you.

Duke: So I’ve decided that if Sylvia won’t obey me, she won’t get any dowry.  If she thinks she can get a husband without a dowry, let her try.  She can marry anyone she wants, but she won’t get a penny out of me.

Valentine: It’s her loss, sir.  And I think you’re doing the right thing.

Duke: Glad to hear you say so.–As for me–well, if my daughter leaves me, I think I should marry again.  I’m not too old, and I don’t want to be alone.

Valentine: Good idea, sir.  Do you have anyone in mind?

Duke: Yes.  There’s a lady I like very much.  But to be quite honest, I think I’ve lost the knack for courtship.  And times have changed since I was a young man.  People probably do things a bit differently now.  So that’s why I wanted your advice.  What should I do to win this woman over?

Valentine: Win her with gifts, I suppose.  All women like gifts.

Duke: I tried that.  I sent her a nice gift, but she sent it back.

Valentine: Ah, that’s just a woman’s trick.  When they pretend they’re not interested, it means you should try harder.  It excites them.  So you mustn’t give up.

Duke: Ah, so when they say no, it means yes, is that it?

Valentine: No can mean yes or maybe.  Either way, if you’re really determined, you can win her over.

Duke: I see.–Unfortunately, her relatives have fixed her up with a rich, young man, and they’ve made it impossible for anyone to get near her.

Valentine: So visit her at night.

Duke: It’s impossible.  She’s being kept behind locked doors.

Valentine: So go in through the window.

Duke: She’s on an upper floor, and there’s no way to climb up.

    (Brief pause, suggesting Valentine is being cautious.)

Valentine: You could use a rope ladder.

Duke: A rope ladder!  Why didn’t I think of that?  Where could I get one?

Valentine: How soon would you need it?

Duke: Tonight.

Valentine: Tonight?–Hmm.–I could get you one by, let’s say, nine o’clock.

Duke: How will I carry it?

Valentine: Just stick it under your coat.  It’s not that heavy.

Duke: Really?  So, I could carry it under a coat like yours, for example?

Valentine: Em–yes.

Duke: Let me see how much room there is under your coat.

    (He opens Valentine’s coat, and a rope ladder and a letter fall to the floor.  Valentine is too shocked to speak.  The Duke picks up the letter and the rope, then studies the letter.)

Duke (Reading): “To Sylvia–”  (He continues reading silently, frowning all the while, then looks harshly at Valentine.)  So–Master Valentine–this is how you repay my kindness.

Valentine: My lord, I–I’m at a loss for words.

Duke: There’s nothing you can say anyway.  You’ve deceived me.  You’re a traitor, a liar, and a phony.  I don’t want you in my court.  You’re banished.  In fact, you’re banished from all of Milan.  I order you to leave my court within the hour.  And if I ever find you in Milan again, God have mercy on you.

    (The Duke leaves, taking the rope ladder and letter with him.)

Valentine: I might as well be sentenced to death.  To leave here and never see Sylvia again–that’s the same as death.

    (There is a silent pause, which is needed to fill time.  Then Proteus and Launce come in hurriedly.)

Proteus: Valentine!  We’ve just heard the news!

Valentine: News about what?

Launce: There’s a proclamation that you’re banished, sir.

    (Valentine nods sadly.)

Proteus: This is terrible!  I’m so, so, so sorry for you!

Valentine: Does Sylvia know?

Proteus: Yes.  She protested against it, and the Duke put her under house arrest.  [Author’s note: In the original, Sylvia is put in prison, but this causes confusion later on as to where she actually is.]

Valentine: I might as well be dead.  There’s nothing for me to live for.

Proteus: Don’t say that.  The only thing to do now is just to accept it and hope that somehow everything will work out later.  If you want to write to Sylvia, send the letters to me and I’ll see that she gets them.

Valentine: I appreciate that.  You’ve always been a true friend, Proteus.

Proteus: Hey, for you I’d do anything.  Tell you what, I’ll escort you to the city gate.

Valentine: Okay.–Launce, do me a favour and look for my servant, Speed.  Tell him to meet me at the north gate.

Launce: I’ll do that, sir.  Trust me.

    (Valentine and Proteus go out.)

Launce: Well, I may be a fool, but I have enough wits to know that my boss is a son of a bitch.  But that’s his business.  I’m keeping my mouth shut–for now.

    (Speed comes in.)

Speed: Launce, wassup?

Launce: Speed, you’re to meet your boss at the north gate.

Speed: What for?

Launce: He’s been banished.

Speed: Banished?

Launce: Kicked out.  Evicted.  He’s no longer welcome in Milan.

Speed: Holy shit!  How did this happen?

Launce: He’ll tell you.  Now you’d better make speed–Speed.

Speed: Okay, I will.–Tsk!–God!–Banished!–See you later–I hope.

Launce: Good luck.

    (Speed runs out.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  The Duke comes in with Thurio.

Duke: Don’t worry, Thurio.  Now that Valentine’s gone, my daughter may reconsider.

Thurio: But she hates me now more than ever.

Duke: It’s just a reaction.  It’ll pass.  Once she gets over Valentine, you’ll have a good chance to marry her.

    (Proteus comes in.)

Duke: So–he’s gone, is he?

Proteus: Yes, my lord.  I saw him off personally.

Duke: Sylvia’s taking it hard.

Proteus: It’ll pass.

Duke: That’s what I just told Thurio, but he’s still discouraged.

Thurio: She hates me.  What can I do?

Duke: What can we do for Thurio?  Suggest something.

Proteus: Well, you could make up some bad stuff about Valentine.  Like, make him out to be a liar and a coward, and so forth–and say something bad about his family.  Make her believe he’s not the great guy she thought.

Duke: If I said that, she would just dismiss it as a lot of slander.  She wouldn’t believe it.

Proteus: I suppose.–However–if she heard it from a friend of his, she’d take it seriously.

Duke: Yes.  That makes sense.  Then you do it.  You were his best friend–and I guess you still are.

Proteus: Yes, my lord, I am.–But my conscience would bother me.  I mean, to slander a guy I’ve known all my life.  I just couldn’t–unless I had to, of course–that is, if you told me to, let’s say.

Duke: Yes, I want you to.  And look at it this way.  If your praise couldn’t do him any good at this point, your slander couldn’t do him any harm either–I mean, as far as I’m concerned.

Proteus: You have a point, my lord.

Duke: And don’t let your conscience bother you about it.  I don’t question your integrity for a moment.

Proteus: Thank you, my lord.  I’ll speak to Sylvia.  But even if I can turn her against Valentine, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll love Thurio.

Thurio: Then you must try to praise me as much as you slander Valentine.

Proteus: I can try.

Duke: I know you can do this, Proteus.  I know you’re very sincere in matters of love.  Valentine always said so.  So you’ll help Thurio with this.

Proteus: Of course.

Duke: Sylvia’s under house arrest in the tower, but you’ll have access to her.  She’ll be allowed to talk to you.

Proteus: I’ll do my best.  But Thurio has to make an effort, too.  (To Thurio)  You’ve been too passive.  You have to try harder.

Thurio: Like how?  I’ve bought her good stuff–really expensive stuff.

Proteus: Young women aren’t so impressed with that.  They’re sentimental.  They like things that are romantic–like love songs and poems.  You know, mushy stuff.

Thurio: That could be a good idea.  But I’m not the creative type.  I wouldn’t know how to make up a poem or a song.

Proteus: It’s just a matter of stringing together a lot of cliches and making them rhyme.  You could talk about making a sacrifice on the altar of her beauty–and tears flowing from your eyes like a river of sorrow–and your sighs and moans, and how even the animals in the woods pity you.  Like, you’re totally in pain because you ache for her love–stuff like that.

Thurio: Huh.–Yes.–I think I get it.

Proteus: And how about serenading her–with a mandolin or something?

Thurio: I don’t know how to play anything.

Proteus: That’s okay.  Just hire some musicians and have them play under her window.  They’ve got hundreds of songs in their heads.  They do this sort of thing for a living, you know.  They just fill in the blanks with the lady’s name, get it?  And they can play any style of music.

Duke: You sound like you know a lot about this sort of thing.

Proteus: Oh, just a little.

Thurio: Sounds like a good idea to me.  I’m ready to do it tonight–if you can help me find some musicians.

Proteus: No problem.  We’ll go now if you like.

Thurio: Yes!

Duke: Good luck!

    (Proteus and Thurio leave.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  On a road.  Valentine and Speed come in from one side and encounter three Outlaws coming in from the other side.

Speed: Boss!  Outlaws!

1st Outlaw: Stop!  Stand and deliver!

Valentine: Don’t rob us!  We have nothing!

2nd Outlaw: You look like a gentleman to me.  And you have a servant.  So you must have money.

Valentine: I’ve been banished from Milan.  My page and I have nothing but the clothes on our backs.

3rd Outlaw: What were you banished for?

Valentine: Em–(He looks at Speed for help.)

Speed: It was murder.

1st Outlaw: Murder?

Other Outlaws: Oooh!

Valentine: Well, em–yes, technically I suppose it could be called murder.

1st Outlaw: Why did you do it?

    (Valentine looks at Speed again for help.)

Speed: It was a matter of honour.

Valentine: Em–yes.  It was.

1st Outlaw: Honour about what?

Speed: Some villain insulted his hat.

Valentine: Yes.  Right.

2nd Outlaw: Hypersensitive, are you?

Valentine: Em–yes, I suppose.  I’m not defending what I did, mind you.  I’m just saying it couldn’t be helped.  Happened so fast–ha, ha.  After that, of course, I was cast out.

3rd Outlaw: We know the feeling, sir.  Some of our gang are gentlemen, too, and we’ve suffered as you have from cruel circumstances.

1st Outlaw: Where are you going?

Valentine: We were on our way to Verona.

1st Outlaw: Bit of a trip.–Have you traveled much?

Valentine: Oh, sure.  Here and there.

    (The First Outlaw huddles quickly with the other two.  There is a brief private conversation.)

1st Outlaw: Can you speak different languages, sir?

Valentine: Why, yes.  I can speak Italian, French, Spanish, English, and a bit of German.  Why?

1st Outlaw: Would you like to be our leader?  We need someone multilingual.

2nd Outlaw: You meet all kinds of travelers these days–all different nationalities–and if you can talk to them in their own language, it’s easier to rob them.

3rd Outlaw: It’s a courtesy.  They appreciate it.

2nd Outlaw: Of course, if they’re talking some gibberish that doesn’t sound like a proper language, we just assume they’re gypsies and we kill them.

    (Speed nods to the audience and gives a thumbs-up.)

1st Outlaw: So how about it?  We have lots of good loot at our hideout.  You can help yourself to anything you like.

Valentine: Let me confer with my page.

    (Valentine confers briefly with Speed.)

Valentine: Em–do we have a choice on this?

    (The First Outlaw looks to the others before replying.)

1st Outlaw: Not as such.  No.

Valentine: Then I accept.  The only thing I will insist on is that there must be no molestation of women or harming the poor.

1st Outlaw: Fine.  We’re with you on that.  Now come along with us, and we’ll introduce you to the rest of the gang.

Valentine: Okay.–Come on, Speed.

    (As they all leave, Speed gives another thumbs-up to the audience.  [Author’s note: Speed is not seen again after this, and Shakespeare does not give any explanation.])

Act 4, Scene 2.  In front of the tower where Sylvia is kept.  Proteus comes in.

Proteus: I’m not getting anywhere with Sylvia.  She won’t have me.  And she accuses me of betraying Valentine–and Julia–which is true, of course.–And now it’s Thurio’s turn to get thrown under the carriage, because I’m not giving up.

    (Thurio comes in with the Musicians.)

Thurio: Proteus, you’re here early.

Proteus: Yes, I had a brief word with Sylvia.  I told her how bad Valentine was and how great you are.

Thurio: And what did she say?

Proteus: Oh–I would say she’s considering.

Thurio: Ah, splendid!  Where is she?

Proteus: She’s inside.  She’ll be listening, don’t worry.

Thurio: Good.–Musicians, you can tune up.

    (The Musicians are tuning their instruments.  At the other side of the stage, by the wing, Julia appears with the Host, who is an innkeeper.  Julia is disguised as a man.  She looks unhappy.  Her conversation with the Host is aside from the others onstage.  She doesn’t see Proteus yet, because the Musicians are blocking her view.  [Author’s note: Since Julia is now posing as Sebastian, her speech prefix will be “Sebastian.”])

Host: You needn’t be sad any more, sir.  They’re going to play some music here, and you’ll see your friend that you were looking for.

Sebastian: I hope so.

    (The Musicians begin to play and Proteus sings, which causes Julia to react with a look of shock.)

Proteus (Singing):

    Who’s the lady we adore
    And camp all night before her door?
    Sylvia–sweet Sylvia.
    Who has beauty, style, and grace
    And makes us dream of her embrace?
    Sylvia–sweet Sylvia.
    Fairer than fair, truer than true,
    Lips made for kissing, and eyes so blue–
    Sylvia–sweet Sylvia.

Sebastian (Aside to the Host): Why is Proteus singing about Sylvia?  Does he love her?

Host: Yes.  He’s crazy about her.  (Julia reacts by covering her face and looking away, trying not to betray herself.)  That’s what his servant Launce told me.  Proteus ordered him to give his dog as a present to Sylvia, and Launce was very upset about it.  In fact, I don’t think they’re together any more.

Thurio (To Proteus): That’s a good song.  You’re really clever at this.

Proteus: It’s all for your sake, my friend.  You just leave it to me and she’ll be all yours.

Thurio: Isn’t she coming to the window to talk to me?

Proteus: I still have to work on her some more.  You can go back now and take the musicians.  I’ll see you later.

Thurio: Okay.  Thanks a lot.–Come on, fellas.  Good job.

    (Thurio and the Musicians leave.  Then Sylvia appears at the window.) 

Sylvia: Was someone playing for me?

Proteus: Yes, madam.

Sylvia: And were you singing for me?

Proteus: Who else would sing to you of love?

Sylvia: Anyone as false as you.

Proteus: Madam, how can you say that?

Sylvia: I know you betrayed Valentine.  You’re the only one he would have trusted.  There’s no other way my father could have known.

Proteus: Madam, it was for your own good.  I’m much better for you than Valentine is.

Sylvia: And am I better for you than Julia–your girlfriend in Verona–whom you were engaged to marry?

Proteus: Forget about her.  She’s dead.

Sylvia: So you say.  And what about Valentine?

Proteus: He’s dead, too.

Sylvia: If he’s dead, then my love is buried with him in his grave.

Proteus: Then let me dig it out and bring it back.

Sylvia: Never.

Proteus: Why won’t you give me a chance?

Sylvia: I could never love you.  Go away.  I don’t believe anything you say.

Proteus: All right.  I’ll go away if that’s what you want.  But grant me one little favour.  Let me at least have a little picture of you–to carry close to my heart.

Sylvia: A picture?  Yes, you can have a picture.  That’s as close as you’ll ever get to me.  Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you one, and you can speak all your sweet lies to it, and I won’t have to hear them.  Good night.  And goodbye.

    (Sylvia leaves the window, and then Proteus leaves.)

Sebastian: Where is Proteus staying?

Host: At my inn.–You don’t look well, sir.  Are you all right?

Sebastian: Just tired.  I’ve had a long trip, that’s all.

Host: A good sleep will put you right.  Come along.  I’ll walk back with you.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  Outside the tower.  Eglamour comes in quietly.

Eglamour (Calling softly): Madam Sylvia!–Madam Sylvia!

    (Sylvia appears at the window.)

Sylvia: Eglamour!  Thank God!

Eglamour: I came as soon as I got your message.

Sylvia: Oh, thank you!  Eglamour, I need your help.

Eglamour: Anything for you, madam.

Sylvia: You’re the only one I can trust.  You know about my relationship with Valentine, don’t you?

Eglamour: Yes, madam.

Sylvia: And you know my father wants to marry me off to Thurio, and I can’t stand him.

Eglamour: Yes, madam.

Sylvia: You understand my feelings, Eglamour.  You, of all people–from your own past misfortunes.

Eglamour: I do indeed, madam.

Sylvia: I have information that Valentine is in Mantua.  I need you to take me to him.  I couldn’t possibly go alone.  You must help me to escape.  Please.  I beg you.

Eglamour: I’ll help you, madam.  Your father may kick me out of Milan for this, but I’m on your side.  When do you want to go?

Sylvia: Tomorrow night.  Meet me outside of Friar Patrick’s cell at sunset.  I’m supposed to go there for confession.

Eglamour: Trust me, madam.  I’ll be there.

Sylvia: Thank you, Eglamour.  Until tomorrow.

Eglamour: Good night, madam.

    (They leave, she within the tower.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  (Author’s note: This scene has gotten a major overhaul.  Launce has been deleted, and the staging problem has been fixed.  Launce is not seen again after this point.  In the original, he quarrels with Proteus in this scene.  The quarrel was referred to in 4.2 instead.)  Outside the tower.  Proteus comes in with Sebastian, who is Julia in disguise.

Proteus: You’re a good guy, Sebastian.  I like you.  How would you like to be my page?

Sebastian: All right.  I’ll do whatever I can for you.

Proteus: I need someone sweet and innocent like you.  I have a personal matter I need you to help me with–concerning a lady. 

Sebastian: I understand.

Proteus: I have this ring here, and I want you to give it to Madam Sylvia for me.  Also this letter.  (He gives Sebastian the ring and letter.)  And she’s supposed to give me a picture of her.

Sebastian (Recognizing the ring): This is a lovely ring, sir.  Did you buy it for her?

Proteus: No.  Actually, it was given to me by another lady.  But we split up, so there’s no point in keeping it.

Sebastian: Tsk!–Too bad.

Proteus: Why do you say that?

Sebastian: I feel sorry for her.  She probably still loves you.

Proteus: It’s possible.  But Sylvia’s the one I love now.  You’re a man.  You can understand these things.

Sebastian: I certainly do.  And does Sylvia love you?

Proteus: Not yet, but I’m working on her.  She won’t speak to me at the moment, so I need you to give her the ring and the letter.  You can do this, can’t you?

Sebastian: Of course, sir.

Proteus: Good.  I’ll leave you to it then.  She’s up there.

    (Proteus leaves.)

Sebastian: My sweet, little ring–given with all my love–and all my faith.–And now he wants to give it to a lady who doesn’t even love him.–Poor, little ring.  You are so abused.–And now I must be the messenger from the one who abandoned me to my rival.  I should never have left Verona.  The truth can be worse than not knowing.

    (Sylvia appears at the window.)

Sylvia: Who are you, sir?

Sebastian: My name is Sebastian.  I am sent by Master Proteus to deliver something to Madam Sylvia–if that is you.

Sylvia: I am Sylvia.  I suppose he wants that picture.

Sebastian: Yes, madam.  And I have something to deliver to you.

Sylvia: I’m in detention up here, but I can come down to you just for a minute.

Sebastian: Thank you, madam.

    (Sylvia leaves the window and then comes in below with Attendants.)

Sylvia: You may give this to Master Proteus.

    (Sylvia gives Sebastian the picture, which is very small and encased like a locket.)

Sebastian: Thank you, madam.  He sends you this letter.

    (Sebastian gives Sylvia the letter.  She tears it in half without reading it.)

Sylvia: The words of a liar are not worth reading.

Sebastian: And he sends you this ring, madam.

    (Sebastian gives Sylvia the ring.)

Sylvia: I know where this comes from.  This is the ring given to him by his beloved Julia in Verona.  He told me about her.  He should feel very guilty to give me this ring, and I would feel very guilty to accept it.  It would be like slapping Julia in the face, and I won’t do that to a lady I never met, and one who is probably a very good, decent, kind-hearted lady.  You take it back.

    (Sylvia returns the ring to Sebastian.)

Sebastian: I thank you for that, madam.

Sylvia: Why do you thank me?

Sebastian: I know Julia, and she is just as you describe her.  If she were here, she would thank you for being so gracious.

Sylvia: What really happened between them?  He told me she was dead, but I don’t believe it.

Sebastian: He swore his love for her and then abandoned her–for you.

Sylvia: I suspected as much.  Does she know he’s abandoned her?

Sebastian: I believe she knows by now, madam.

Sylvia: She must be devastated.

Sebastian: I believe she is, madam.

Sylvia: Tell me, is she beautiful?

Sebastian: She was beautiful, but I believe this tragedy has affected her and she doesn’t look so beautiful any more.

Sylvia: Have you known her a long time?

Sebastian: Since childhood, madam.

Sylvia: I can tell you’re a devoted friend to her–and I think you’re a very honourable gentleman.  I’m glad I met you.  Let me give you this.  (She gives Sebastian a small purse of money.)  A kindness from me to you–for your devotion to Julia.  And may she yet find the happiness she deserves.

Sebastian (Holding back tears): Thank you, madam.  And if you ever meet Julia, she will thank you herself.

Sylvia: I must return now.  Goodbye.

    (Sylvia and her Attendants leave–i.e., within the tower.)

Sebastian: A gracious lady.  (She looks at the picture.)  My rival.  Is she fairer than me?  I don’t think so.–To think that this picture attracts the love that I no longer attract.  Which is the image, and which is the real person?–Little picture, for the sake of your mistress, whom I respect, I’ll treat you decently.

    (Sebastian leaves.)  

Act 5, Scene 1.  Outside Friar Patrick’s cell at sunset.  Eglamour comes in.  He paces a bit, waiting for Sylvia.  Then she comes in.

Sylvia (In a hushed voice): Eglamour! 

Eglamour: Ah, there you are, madam.

Sylvia: Listen, I’m sure I’ve been followed.  The only way we can escape is to slip out by the back gate.

Eglamour: Okay.  The light’s fading, so that’ll help.  It’s about six miles to the forest.  If we can get there, you’re free.  Come on.

    (They leave.)    

Act 5, Scene 2.  Thurio and Proteus come in, along with Sebastian, who is Julia in disguise.

Thurio (Eagerly): Well?  How did it go?  What did she say?

Proteus: I would say she doesn’t have any extreme objections to you.  So it’s not so bad.

Thurio: Ah.

Proteus: I think the main problem is physical attraction.

Thurio: Why?  Doesn’t she like my face?

Proteus: Oh, she says it’s fair.

Thurio: Fair?  Not with my complexion.  I’m dark.

Proteus: Not dark enough.  You should try to be darker.  Some white girls go for, uh–ebony shades–if you get my drift–ha, ha.

Thurio: Well, I don’t know if I want to look like one of those.  But what does she think of my speech?

Proteus: It’s fine–as long as you speak as little as possible.

Thurio: Oh–well, I’ll try.  But how about my courage?  Does she think I’m brave?

Proteus: She’s willing to assume that much–based on no evidence either way.

Thurio: I see.–And how about my birth–you know, my family lineage and so forth?

Proteus: She thinks you were quite properly born.

    (Thurio is slightly puzzled by that.)

Thurio: Well, then–what about my possessions?

Proteus: She asked me if they were rented.

Thurio: Rented?

Proteus: I said renting was socially okay.  Plenty of rich people do it.

Thurio: They do?

Proteus: It’s all right.  She didn’t mind.

Thurio: So–overall–how do you think I’m doing with her?

Proteus: Not too bad, not too bad.  It’s a process.  Give it time.

Thurio: Well, I sure appreciate your help.

    (The Duke comes in.)

Duke: Have any of you seen Eglamour?

Thurio: No.

Proteus: I haven’t.

Duke: Or my daughter? 

Proteus and Thurio: No.

Duke: She never came back from confession.–That means they’ve escaped–the two of them.

Thurio: Sylvia and Eglamour?  Escaped?

Duke: Yes.  Friar Lawrence saw them in the forest.  Or at least he saw Eglamour with a lady, and she looked like Sylvia.  And Friar Patrick says she never showed up for confession.

Proteus: What’ll we do, my lord?

Duke: We have to go out and look for her.  Get your horses.

Proteus: But where are we supposed to look?

Duke: Friar Lawrence said they were headed in the direction of Mantua.  We’ll try to catch up with them.  Meet me at the gate.

    (The Duke leaves.)

Thurio: What a foolish girl to run from me like that!  I thought you said I was doing all right with her.

Proteus: Blame it on Eglamour.  He helped her escape.

Thurio: Wait till I get my hands on him!  I’m getting my horse now!

    (Thurio leaves.)

Proteus: What a hero.  (To Sebastian)  I’m joking, of course.  Come on.  You stick with me.  I may need your help.

    (Proteus leaves, but Sebastian lingers just for a moment.)

Sebastian: You’ll get more hindrance than help from me.

    (Sebastian leaves, following.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  In the forest.  The Outlaws come in holding Sylvia captive.

1st Outlaw: It’s all right, miss.  No one’s going to hurt you.  We’re just taking you to our captain.

Sylvia: I’m not afraid of you.  I’m not a wimp.

2nd Outlaw: Ha!–Unlike your escort.  What’s his name?

Sylvia: Sir Eglamour.

1st Outlaw: Sir?  He’s no gentleman to run away and leave you like that.

3rd Outlaw: All I did was growl at him.

2nd Outlaw: He probably soiled his pants.

3rd Outlaw: He should be called Sir Egg McMuffin.

1st Outlaw: You see, miss?  It just goes to show you.  Even a gentleman can’t be trusted these days.

Sylvia: I’ve learned that the hard way.

1st Outlaw: Don’t you worry, though.  The captain doesn’t intend to do you any harm.  He’ll just want to figure out what you’re worth in ransom–ha, ha!

Sylvia: I’m not worth much.  My father’s so angry with me he may not pay anything to get me back.

1st Outlaw: In that case we’ll keep you as a cook–ha, ha!

2nd Outlaw: And for laundry–ha, ha!

3rd Outlaw: And for mending–ha, ha!

Sylvia (Aside): Oh, Valentine–if you only knew what I’ve gone through for you.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  In the forest.  Valentine comes in alone.

Valentine: I think I’m getting used to this.  In fact, I think I like it better out here than in a town–the trees, the birds, the gurgling streams–and the solitude.  I could live here–if I had Sylvia.

    (Sounds of fighting are heard.  The Outlaws are fighting with someone.  Valentine conceals himself.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare’s staging here is awkward.  Valentine is not hiding out of fear.  He is being cautious and curious.]  Then Proteus, Sylvia, and Sebastian come in.  Proteus is brushing himself off, after his fight with the outlaws.)

Proteus: You’re safe now, madam.

Sylvia (Coldly): Thank you.

Proteus: Is that all I get for saving you from those outlaws?

Sylvia: What more do you expect from me?

Proteus: How about a nice smile–with some love in it?

Sylvia: I can’t smile if I’m still unhappy.  And my love is not for you.

Proteus: Where’s your gratitude?  This is where the hero is supposed to get a big kiss.  Don’t you read romantic stories?

Sylvia: Do you expect me to love you out of gratitude when I rejected you long ago?  I’m not that shallow.  And as for kisses, the only one I will ever kiss is Valentine–if I ever see him again.

Proteus: You’re crazy not to know who really loves you.

Sylvia: And who really loves you?  Julia.  And how did you treat her?  You ditched her.  And what about Valentine?  He was your best friend and you betrayed him so you could have me.

Proteus: Love before friendship.  That’s the way it is.

Sylvia: Speak for yourself.

Proteus: Hey, I don’t have to argue with you.  I could have you right now.

    (Proteus grabs her.  She resists.)

Proteus: A little loving will change your mind!

    (He tries to take her by force, and she screams.  Valentine jumps out of concealment.)

Valentine: Get your hands off her!

Sylvia: Valentine!

    (Proteus lets go of her.  He is too stunned to speak.)

Valentine: So much for friendship.  I believed in you.  Even after I was exiled, I still believed you were my friend.  Now I had to see with my own eyes what sort of friend you really are–you traitor.  You scoundrel.  

Proteus: Valentine, I–

Valentine: It’s true what they say.  No enemy can hurt you the way a friend can hurt you.

    (A pause for effect.  Proteus is overcome with shame.)

Proteus: I’m sorry.–I’m so ashamed.–I know you’ll never forgive me.–I don’t deserve to be forgiven.–I’ve been so wrong–so stupidly wrong.

    (Another pause.)

Valentine: So you haven’t lost your soul after all.

Proteus: My soul is damned.  I’m guilty.  And I’m sorry.

Valentine: The soul that repents is forgiven.  And hearing you repent is like getting back a friend I thought was lost.

Proteus: Do you mean it?

Valentine: Yes, I mean it.  And I’ll prove it.  As one friend to another, you can have anything you want from me–including Sylvia.

    (Sebastian faints.)

Proteus: My page!

    (Valentine and Proteus both bend down to help Sebastian.)

Valentine: What’s the matter, boy?  Come on, get up.  Come on.

    (They pull Sebastian to his feet.)

Valentine: What did you faint for?

Sebastian: I, uh–I just remembered that I forgot to give a ring to Madam Sylvia that my master asked me to deliver.

Proteus: Where is it?

    (Sebastian reaches into his pocket and gives Proteus the wrong ring by mistake.)

Sebastian: Here it is.

Proteus: This?  This isn’t the ring.  This is the ring I gave to Julia before I left Verona.

Sebastian: Oh, sir, my mistake!–Here’s the ring you meant for Madam Sylvia.

    (Sebastian gives Proteus the other ring.  Proteus looks at them and is puzzled.)

Proteus: Sebastian, how is it that you had both these rings?  How could you have gotten this one? (Indicating the ring given to Julia)

Sebastian: I got it from–Julia. 

    (Julia removes her disguise–i.e., removes her cap and lets her hair down.)

Proteus: Julia!

Julia: Surprised to see me?  (Proteus is too stunned to answer.)  I disguised myself and came to Milan because I couldn’t live without you.  And what did I find?  I found that you had betrayed me–after all your promises to me.

    (Proteus bursts into tears.)

Proteus: Julia!–I’ve been such a fool!

Julia: You must really have been blind not to know it was me.  Or did you need to carry a picture instead?

Proteus: I was blind.  But now I can see clearly again.–Oh, Julia!

    (Proteus takes her hand tentatively, not knowing if she forgives him.  When she gives him an affectionate touch, he embraces her.)

Valentine: That’s more like it.  I think we’ve saved these two.

    (The Outlaws come in noisily, leading in Thurio and the Duke as prisoners.)

1st Outlaw: Oy!  Hostages, Captain!   They’ll be worth some ransom!

Duke: Valentine!–Sylvia!

Valentine (To the Outlaws): Let them go.  I know them.  This one’s my lord the Duke.

    (The Outlaws release the Duke and Thurio.)

Duke: Valentine!  What are you doing here?

Valentine: After you banished me, I fell in with these outlaws purely by chance.

Duke: Sylvia!  What happened to you?

Sylvia: I was captured and Eglamour ran away.  Then Proteus–(Pause)–rescued me, and we ran into Valentine–purely by chance.

Thurio: And purely by chance I’ve found you again, Sylvia!  Finally!

Valentine: Forget it, Thurio.  Sylvia’s mine–unless you want to duel it out for her.

Thurio: Duel it out?  Certainly not.  What do you think I am–crazy?  I like her a lot, but I’m not going to risk my life for her.

Duke: Well!–This is a revelation.  I can see I was wrong about you, Thurio.  You’re not the husband for my daughter.–Valentine, I never should have banished you.  I made a mistake.  I’m sorry.  You’re a good man.  The best.  And as of now you are–Sir Valentine–and my future son-in-law.

    (Sylvia goes to Valentine, and they embrace.)

Valentine: My lord, you’ve made us both very happy.  And now I have one little favour to ask.

Duke: For you, anything.

Valentine: These outlaws have been good to me, and I know they’re not evil men.  They deserve a second chance.  Please pardon them for whatever they’ve done and let them return to society and lead normal lives again.

Duke: If you say so, I trust you.  Consider it done.  They’re pardoned.

    (The Outlaws cheer.)

Duke: Now let’s all go back home and celebrate.

Valentine: Oh, by the way–(He puts his hand on Julia’s shoulder.)  What do you think of Proteus’s new page?

Duke: Page, is he?–Hmm–well, he has a codpiece but–I don’t know.–I guess I’d say the boy has grace.

Valentine: More grace than codpiece.

Duke: Eh?  What do you mean?

Valentine: I’ll tell you on the way, my lord.  It’s a fantastic story.  No one would believe it.  It’s all about the twisted, tangled paths of love.

    (They start walking out.)

Duke: And where do they lead?

Valentine: In this case, to a happy ending.

    (All leave.)


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

 (Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/  )

Main Characters

Ferdinand, King of Navarre

Biron, Longueville, and Dumaine — lords attending on the King  (Alternate spellings are Berowne and Longaville.)

Princess of France (Name not given)

Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine — ladies attending on the Princess

Boyet — lord attending on the Princess

Don Adriano de Armado — Spanish gentleman

Moth — Armado’s page

Costard — a country bumpkin  (“Costard” is a humourous archaic word for “head.”)

Jaquenetta — a country girl

Dull — a constable

Nathaniel — a curate

Holofernes — a schoolmaster


Marcade — French messenger

Gist of the story: The King of Navarre decides to turn his court into an academy of learning and persuades three lords — Biron, Longueville, and Dumaine — to join him.  They sign an oath promising to give up women for three years and devote themselves to studying books.  Their good intentions are soon forgotten, however, when the Princess of France arrives on diplomatic business with three of her ladies.  The King falls in love with the Princess, Biron falls in love with Rosaline, Longueville falls in love with Maria, and Dumaine falls in love with Katherine.   Meanwhile, Don Armado, who was to have joined the King’s court, falls in love with Jaquenetta, who is the girlfriend of Costard.  The King and his three lords attempt to woo the ladies with love poems, letters, and gifts, then by disguising themselves as Russians, and finally by entertaining them with an absurd pageant.  The Princess and her ladies are not to be swayed, however.  A messenger brings news that the King of France has died, so the Princess and her ladies must depart.  But they set conditions for the men to meet if they seriously want to marry them.

(Unlike Shakespeare’s other plays, there is not much of a story line here.  The play is mainly a showcase of clever speeches, jokes, and word-play.  And nobody gets married at the end, which is unlike the other comedies.  The ending is rather weak, with two characters singing songs of spring and winter, representing the carefree single life and the comforts of married life.  Shakespeare’s ending may be a revision, but we’ll never know what he originally wrote.  I’ve tweaked the ending to make it work better.  Like many of his plays, the origins of Love’s Labour’s Lost are somewhat shrouded in mystery.  The title itself is a bit of a poser.  Is the second apostrophe a possessive or a contraction?  If it is a contraction, the title means “Love’s labour is lost.”  If it is a possessive, it means “Those lost in (or by) the labour of love.”  The earliest surviving text, the Quarto version of 1598, is no help, as it has no apostrophes at all!  So my own theory is that Shakespeare deliberately pitched us a title that would be ambiguous.  And that would be entirely in keeping with the spirit of the play.  Love’s Labour’s Lost was disliked by critics of the time and was out of favour for more than two centuries.  It has since found an appreciative audience.  And this is the BEST and FUNNIEST restyling of the play ever published — guaranteed!  And if any director out there is brave enough to fill a theatre with white trash and present my version, a lot of people who never read a book in their lives will become instant Shakespeare fans.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  (Author’s note: The setting of this play is the former kingdom of Navarre, in northern Spain and southwestern France.  Everything happens in or near the park.  The stage will be pretty bare most of the time.)  Coming in are Ferdinand, the youthful King of Navarre, and three of his Lords — Biron, Longueville, and Dumaine. 

King: When we think of ancient Greece, what do we think of first?  The philosophers.  Socrates.  Plato.  Aristotle.  They had their own academy, and they devoted themselves to deep philosophical questions.  And that’s sort of what I want to do here in Navarre, now that I’m King.  I want Navarre to be known as a place of scholarship.  Deep thinking.  Studying.  And you fellows will be part of it.  Together we’ll make my court a great academy.

Lords: Yes, yes.

King: But it’ll be a war–a war between the mind and the natural instincts of the body.  Desire.  That sort of thing.

Lords: Yes, yes.

King: You must be tough.  You must be brave.

Lords: Yes, yes.

King: I’ve written it all down.  (He takes out a paper.)  This is our oath.  The three of you–Biron, Longueville, and Dumaine–my fellow scholars–and my favourite lords, of course–agree to live here in my court for three years and devote yourselves to serious intellectual study–and to do without the, uh, you know, company of women, partying, luxuries–that sort of thing.  All the rules are written down.  Just sign the oath, and we’re all in this together for the next three years.–Here, Longueville.  You can sign first.  (He gives Longueville the paper.)  Right below my signature.

Longueville: Okay, my lord.  Three years isn’t too long.

    (Longueville signs.)

King: Very good.–Dumaine, you sign.

    (Dumaine takes the paper.)

Dumaine: Fine.  I’ll be a serious philosopher for three years.  Forget about worldly pleasures.  Great idea.

    (Dumaine signs.)

King: Excellent.–Biron?

    (He presents the paper to Biron.)

Biron: Okay, okay.  Just let me look at it, my lord.  I already agreed verbally to this idea yesterday, but there were some rules you talked about that I’m not entirely sure of.

King: Like what?

Biron: Like not even seeing a woman for three years.  And fasting one day a week and only eating one meal on the other days.  And sleeping only three hours a night.  You were just talking, right?  You didn’t actually put that in here.

King: It’s all in there.

Biron: Well–my lord–I don’t know if I’m prepared to go that far.

Longueville: Come on, Biron, you agreed.

Biron: Well, I may have said I would agree, but I didn’t actually, like, agree.  I didn’t perform any act of agreement.  It was just a few words out of my mouth, right?

King: Ah–you see?  That’s what a philosopher would say.  You’re a born philosopher, man!

Biron: My lord, if I may ask, what is the end purpose of all this studying we’re going to do?

King: The purpose is to learn those things we would not otherwise know.

Biron: You mean things that we couldn’t just learn by our own senses, living day by day.

King: Exactly.  Our quest is for hidden knowledge.  Secret knowledge.

Biron: Oh, I’m all for secret knowledge–like who serves the best roast beef in town, or how to pick up babes–or even how to get around an oath without actually breaking it.

King: We’re forgetting all about physical pleasures and desires.  This is about study.  Books.  Enlightenment.  What is the middle of the word ‘enlightenment’?  ‘Light.’

Biron: It’s not exactly in the middle. It’s closer to the front.

King: That’s okay.  Just think of light–brilliant, radiant, overwhelming.

Biron: That much light would blind a man, and then he’d be in darkness.  So what’s the good of all that reading?

King (To the other Lords): Now there’s an interesting point of logic.  Don’t you agree?

Dumaine: I think he just wants to back out.

King (To Biron): Is that it?  You’re backing out?

Biron: Well, I’m not saying that.  It’s just that, well, you know, it’s okay to want to study books and find knowledge, but what’s the point of creating these strange rules and imposing them on yourself–and us?

    (The King takes back the paper.)

King: Fine.  You don’t want to sign?  Don’t sign.  You’re obviously not equal to the challenge.

Biron: Oh, wait, wait, wait.  Just give me a chance to read what I’m signing. 

    (The King gives Biron the paper.  Biron scans it, reading aloud occasionally.)

Biron: Mm–mm–“I shall keep a mile away from any woman.”

King: Yes.  Longueville thought of that. 

Biron (To Longueville): Did you now?

Longueville: Yes.  The King wanted a kilometer, but I said a mile, just to be safe.

Biron (Shaking his head): I don’t know.–What else?–“If any man is seen talking to a woman during the term of three years, he shall be publicly humiliated in a manner to be decided by the rest of the court.”

King: Precisely.

Biron: I foresee a problem with this, my lord.

King: What’s the problem?

Biron: Have you forgotten that the French king’s daughter is coming here on diplomatic business?

King: Oh.–She is, isn’t she?

Longueville and Dumaine: Yes, my lord.

King: I totally forgot.  Why didn’t you remind me?

Longueville: I guess we forgot, too.

King: Well, it’s all right.  We’ll make an exception for her–on mere necessity.

Biron: On mere necessity–ah!  Okay.  So if we can make exceptions on mere necessity, we’re not breaking the oath, are we?

King: Right.

Biron: Good.  Now I feel better.  I’ll sign.

    (He signs the oath and returns it to the King.)

King: Good.  We’re all on board.

Biron: So what are we supposed to do for amusement for the next three years?

King: I’ve thought of that.  I’ve invited a Spanish gentleman named Don Armado to spend time with us.  He’s living here in Navarre now.  He’s got tons of great stories.  The heroic knights of Spain and all that.  And his own heroic adventures.

Biron: Ah.  Good.

King: He’s very enthusiastic about the academy idea.  He may even join us.  Anyway, he’ll be around to amuse us.

Biron: Good.  Even if his stories are all lies, I won’t mind.

Longueville: And we also have Costard to amuse us.

Biron: Costard?  That country burmpkin?

Longueville: Yes.

Biron: Well!  In that case the next three years should be loads of fun.

    (Constable Dull comes in with Costard.  Dull is holding a letter.)

Dull: I seek the Duke’s own person.

Biron: The Duke is his own person–but he’s the King now.

Dull: That’s all right.  Either one will do.

King: Force of habit–ha, ha.

Biron: The Duke is now the King, understand?  Now, who are you?

Dull: I am the petty constable of the King of Navarre, and in this capacity I reprehend him.

    (Looks of bewilderment.)

King: All right, then.  What’s your business, constable?

Dull: My lord, Senor Arm–uh, Ad–

King: Armado?

Dull: Yes.  Senor Armado commends you and says there is villainy afoot.  He sends you this letter.

    (Dull hands the King the letter.)

King: Ah!  A letter from the illustrious story-teller.

Biron: This better be good.

Costard: I’d like to explain, my lord.  The letter is about me and Jaquenetta.  You see, I was rather taken by the girl–or taken with her, I’m not sure which.  And it was mutual.  Now, it’s true I was seen with her.  After all, I was with her, and vice-versa.  And I was speaking to her in my own manner, and as manners go, I think mine are pretty normal.

King: Perhaps I should just read the letter.

Biron (To the audience): ‘The Sordid Affair of Costard and Jaquenetta’–by–(To the King)  What’s his full name?

King: Don Adriano de Armado.

Biron (To the audience): By Don Adriano de Armado.

King (Reading): “Great divine deputy and all-powerful ruler of Navarre, object of my devotion, and my soul’s joy–”

Biron: I’ll bet he’s asking for a loan.

Costard: No, sir.  It’s about me.  You’ll see.

King: Just let me read this.–“So it was that, being in a condition of deep melancholy, an occasional change of mood by which great men are sometimes afflicted, I sought to expunge my ill humour by means of the wholesome air of your magnificent and intricate hedge-park, and repaired thence to stroll–”

Biron (To the audience): He didn’t feel so good, so he went for a walk in the park.

King (Reading): “It was about six o’clock, a time when cows are grazing, birds are pecking, and good men sit down to their well-deserved supper–”

Biron (To the audience): Cows graze at six o’clock?  I didn’t know that.

King (Reading): “And so it was, and still is in point of fact, that I espied a most obscene scene–”

Biron (To the audience): An obscene scene.  Take note.

King (Reading): “Which prompted me–later, of course–to take pen in hand and report with ink and paper what I am now compelled to report–”

Biron (To the audience): Finally.

Costard: It’s about me.

Biron: Don’t interrupt.  This is art.

King (Reading): “The location was precisely north-northeast and by east from the west corner of the hedge-park.  And there did I see that low-minded hillbilly doofus, that detestable minnow–”

Costard: What?

King (Reading): “That illiterate, mindless cretin–”

Costard: What?–Hey, that can’t be me.

Biron: Too late.  You already stepped in it.

King: Quiet.  I’m reading a masterpiece.–“Who, as I recall goes by the name of Costard–”

Costard: Ah.  So it is me.  I told you it was about me.

King (Reading): “Who consorted in a very vile manner, contrary to your wisest laws and moral sanctions, with a person I choose to refer to as–”

Costard: A wench.  She’s just a wench.  She’s normal.

King (Reading): “A descendant of Eve, or as it were, a female, or more commonly a woman.  And being pricked by my sense of duty to your Majesty, I have sent this miscreant to you for punishment under the escort of your Majesty’s officer, Anthony Dull–”

Dull: That’s me.  Anthony Dull.

King (Reading): “A man of good repute, bearing, and estimation.  As for the female, whose name is Jaquenetta, I am keeping her here in detention until, by your determination, she shall go to trial and face the full fury of your laws.  Yours truly, in all-consuming devotion, Don Adriano de Armado.”

Biron (To the audience): And you thought the fine art of letter-writing was dead, didn’t you?

King (To Costard): Well, what do you have to say about this?

Costard: I was with the wench, sir.  I don’t deny it.

King: Don’t you know the law?

Costard: Yes, my lord, I know it.  I just don’t pay any attention to it.

King: You could get a year in prison for being caught with a wench.

Costard: A year?–Oh, sir, now that I think of it, she wasn’t really a wench.  She was a damsel.

King: The law includes damsels.

Costard: How about virgins?

King: The law includes virgins.

Costard: Well, she’s no virgin.  I can tell you that, sir.

King: Then what would you call her?

Costard: A maid.

King: That won’t do you any good.

Costard: That maid would do me a lot of good, sir.

King: Well, based on the facts, Costard, I find you guilty.  Your sentence shall be–(He pauses, exchanging a look of uncertainty with the Lords.)–Your sentence is that you shall fast for one week on bran and water.

Costard: I would gladly do a month on mutton and pudding, sir.

King: I will let Don Armado take custody of you.–Biron, you can take him back to Armado.–Longueville–Dumaine–let’s get started on our studies.  We are now the Academy of Navarre.

    (The King, Longueville, and Dumaine leave.)

Biron: Morality laws–oaths–they’re all like tissue paper.  What’s the point?–Costard, I’d be on your side if you weren’t socially my inferior.

Costard: Oh, pity me, sir.  I am crushed by the weight of the law, just because I took a liking to Jaquenetta, and she to me.  Now wherever I go, sorrow and misery will be my only companions, attached to me like a ball and chain–as it were.

Biron: A real victim of oppression, aren’t you?

Costard: Yes, sir.

Biron: I know plenty of guys who would gladly do a week on bran and water to get laid.  You did get laid, didn’t you?

Costard: Almost, but not quite, sir.

Biron: Then I do pity you.

Costard: Thank you, sir.

Biron: Come on.

    (Biron escorts Costard out.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Armado and Moth come in.

Armado: Moth.

Moth: Yes, boss?

Armado: Have you noticed how downcast I’ve been lately?

Moth: Yes, I have noticed.

Armado: And what do you think that means?

Moth: It means that you’re sad, sir.

Armado: In other words, downcast.

Moth: No, just sad.

Armado: Aren’t they the same thing?

Moth: No, sir.  You haven’t been cast down, as I can plainly see you standing up.  But I can tell by your mien that you are sad.

Armado: My mien?  You mean my countenance.

Moth: You may countenance whatever you wish, sir.  You’re the boss.  However, when I say mien, I mean mien.

    (Armado pauses, giving Moth an ambiguous look.)

Armado: You’re rather clever for a short guy, aren’t you?

Moth: It’s all relative, sir.  One would equally have to suppose that there are those who are rather stupid for being tall guys.

Armado: Was I smart to hire you as a page?

Moth: Of course, sir.

Armado: Why–specifically?

Moth: With most pages you just get one page.  With me you get a whole book.

    (Armado shares a twisted smile with the audience.)

Armado: Very well, my book-like page.  Can you guess why I am lately so sad in my mien?

Moth: Being as close to you as I am, sir, and ruling out all other possibilities, I must conclude it’s got something to do with a woman.

Armado: You are astute.

Moth: Thank you, sir.  The world needs more stutes.

Armado: The problem for me is that I’ve agreed to study for three years with the Duke.

Moth: He’s the King now, actually.

Armado: Yes, yes.  I keep thinking of him as the Duke of Navarre.  I like dukes better than kings for some reason.  For instance, the Duke of Sherbourne.  Ever hear of him?

Moth: Oh, yes!  But let’s not go there–at least not here.

Armado: All right.  But getting back to my situation, all those who agree to join the Duke of Navarre in his intellectual enterprise are expected to study deep things.

Moth: How deep?

Armado: As deep as possible.

Moth: You want to be careful, sir.  Men have fallen into deep places and have never been seen again.

Armado: How true.–And I’ve already fallen–in love, that is.

Moth: Oh.  Too bad, sir.  Unless, of course, she’s a lady of high rank.  Then it’s okay.

Armado: She has no rank.  She’s just a country girl–a wench.

Moth (To the audience): That’s a good word–wench.  You never hear it any more.  We should bring it back.

Armado: She’s not a slut.  Don’t get that idea.

Moth (To the audience): Not a slut.  A wench is not a slut.

Armado: She’s just an ordinary rustic girl.

Moth: Right.  I get it.  (To the audience)  Wenches are rustics.  They live in the country.  The sluts are all in the cities–where they have more opportunities.

Armado: I’m a gentleman.  That makes it worse.  I’m falling in love below my social class.

Moth: It happens, sir.  But then, it’s your life and you can do what you want.

Armado: But the Duke has made a rule that those who join him in his academy can’t have any contact with women for three years.

Moth: Rules get broken all the time, sir.  You just have to be clever about it.

Armado: My love is–what’s the word?–immaculate.

Moth: No, it’s not.

Armado: It’s not?

Moth: Not if you’re normal.  And who is the girl in question, sir?  (Aside to the audience)  As if I couldn’t guess.

Armado: She’s the girl I saw in the park making out with that stupid yokel Costard.

Moth: Ah.  It’s Jaquenetta.

Armado: Yes.  Jaquenetta.  She could do a lot better than Costard, but she doesn’t realize it.  She could have me.

Moth: A man of rank.

Armado: Yes.

Moth: Not high rank.  Just a regular gentleman.

Armado: Pity me, Moth.  My situation is hopeless.

Moth: Okay, boss, I pity you.  On the other hand, if she’s that good in bed–

Armado: Stop it!

Moth: Okay, boss.

    (Costard, Dull, and Jaquenetta come in.)

Dull: My lord, the Duke’s instructions are that you take custody of this man Costard.  He is to have nothing but bran and water for a week.  As for the girl, I’ll be keeping her in the park, although she’s allowed to work in the daytime as a dairy maid.

Armado: That’s a very good idea.  (To Jaquenetta)  Em, I will visit you at the lodge now and then–just to see how you’re doing.

Jaquenetta: That’s close by.  Then you won’t be far away from me, will you?

Armado: No–ha, ha–I won’t, will I?  (Aside)  This girl makes me so hot.  (To Jaquenetta)  We have things to discuss, actually.

Jaquenetta: Do we now?  Imagine!

    (Armado draws her to him and whispers.)

Armado: I love you.

Jaquenetta: Oh, go on.

Armado (Normal voice): Now you just go with the constable, and everything will be all right.

Jaquenetta: Good day to you, sir.

Dull: Come on, miss.

    (Dull escorts Jaquenetta out.)

Armado (To Costard): You villain, you’ll have to fast for a week for your sinful ways.

Costard: If I can start on a full stomach, I won’t mind so much.

Armado (To Moth): Take him away and lock him up.

Moth: Come on, you slave.

Costard: If I must fast, at least let me loose.

Moth: Ah!  You wish to be fast and loose, is that it?  Well, there’ll be none of that, you criminal.

Costard: Then I will–I will be exceedingly silent–as an act of protest.  See how you like having a silent prisoner.  Silence can be deafening.

Moth: We won’t listen to a word you don’t say.    I advise you to be patient.

Costard: I have as little patience as the next man, for which I thank God.

Moth: Come on.

    (Moth takes Costard out.)

Armado: That girl–I want to lick every inch of her body.  (Looking up)  Cupid, you son-of-a-bitch!  Next thing, you’ll be making me write love songs!

    (He leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  The Princess of France comes in with her three waiting-ladies — Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine–and three attending Lords, of whom only Boyet is named.

Boyet: Now, madam, you must use all your wits for the mission at hand.  And don’t be shy about using your feminine charms to best advantage.

Princess: Boyet, I’m above that sort of thing.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my intelligence is entirely my own.  Now, I have a task for you.  I’m given to understand that the Duke of Navarre–I mean the King of Navarre–has closed off his court to women so he and his favourite lords can study like monks for three years–or something equally stupid.  I don’t wish to barge in if I’m not wanted, so you go first and tell him that the Princess of France is here on diplomatic business and requests a conference.  We’ll wait here in the park to know his pleasure..

Boyet: Your faithful servant always, madam.                                                       

    (Boyet goes out.)

Princess (To the other Lords): Imagine–turning a court into a sort of academy for ascetics and not allowing women in.

First Lord: It’s pretty strange, madam.

Second Lord: I say it’s un-Christian.

Princess: Maybe the King really is that serious.  I don’t know him.  Who are the other lords in his court?  Do you know?

First Lord: One of them is Longueville.

Maria: I know him, madam–just slightly.  He’s quite handsome and intelligent.  If he has one flaw, I’d say it was his cruel wit.

Princess: I know the type.  They usually end up in their old age with senile dementia.  Who else is there?

Katherine: Dumaine is another one.  He’s a nice enough fellow, I’d say.  What he lacks in wit, he makes up for in looks–and vice-versa.

Princess: Now there’s a unique description.

Rosaline: The most interesting one is Biron.  He’s very charming, very funny.  But he is a mocker–far worse than Longueville. 

Princess:   Well!  My ladies are very well-informed.  Perhaps you’re looking for husbands.

Ladies (Laughing): No!  No!

    (Boyet returns.)

Princess: So what does Navarre have to say, Boyet?

Boyet: The Duke–em, King–and his three lords are looking forward to greeting you, madam.–However, owing to the rules that they are imposing on themselves, the King intends to lodge you out here.

Princess: Out here?  In the park?

Boyet: Em–yes. 

    (The King, Longueville, Dumaine, and Biron come in.)  

King: Princess, welcome to my court.

Princess: Is this your court?  I don’t see any roof.

King: Ha, ha.  You’re welcome anyway, roof or no roof.

Princess: So.  The Princess of France and her party–on a diplomatic mission–are to be camped out of doors.

King: I’m sorry, madam.  It’s just that my lords and I have sworn an oath.  Nothing to do with you personally.

Princess: Is it true you’re not allowing any women into your court for three years so you can study books?

King: Something like that, yes.  We want to follow strict rules, the way they do in a monastery.  Actually, we’re making a big exception just to come out and greet you like this.

Princess: I see.–I’m not quite sure what to make of this.–At any rate, I have a letter from my father, the King of France.  Perhaps you would just like to settle this here and now, in which case my ladies and I won’t even bother to unpack.

    (She gives the King a letter.  He reads it silently.)

Biron (To Rosaline): Didn’t I dance with you in Brabant once?

Rosaline: If you did, you’d remember.

Biron: I’m sure I did.

Rosaline: Then you needn’t have asked.

Biron: Oh!–Well, sorry.

King (To the Princess): I’m not quite following this.  Your father refers to a payment of a hundred thousand crowns–which is half of what he owed my father for his help in the wars.–And he says instead of repaying the other half, we can keep half of Aquitaine, which was pledged to secure the loan.

Princess: That’s right.

King: I don’t know anything about the payment of a hundred thousand crowns.  I don’t want Aquitaine.  No offense to you or Aquitaine.  It’s a nice territory.  But I’d rather have the money.

Princess: But as far as we’re concerned, the debt is settled.  Perhaps your father didn’t keep you informed about the matter.

King: That’s possible.  But if there was a repayment, you must have a receipt, or something.  Have you got any documentation?

Princess (To Boyet): Do we?

Boyet: Em–no, madam.  I don’t think we have any paperwork on that–at least not with us.  But we could send word to your father, and he could send it.

    [Author’s note: The Aquitaine business is unimportant to the story, but many readers don’t understand it because it isn’t explained clearly.  Here’s the correct explanation — and if you’re a student, you can write this in your essay and you’ll get an A.  The previous King of Navarre, Ferdinand’s father, loaned money to the King of France as assistance in a war that France was fighting.  France promised to repay the money and pledged the large territory of Aquitaine in western France as security.  France repaid half the money — one hundred thousand crowns — and now wants to relinquish half of Aquitaine in lieu of repaying the rest of the debt in cash.  Ferdinand was never told by his father that one hundred thousand crowns had already been repaid.  None of this matters to the story, but I want my readers to understand it.]

Princess: All right.  (To the King)  I will send a messenger and have the documentation sent as soon as possible.

King: Fine.  In the meantime, you and your party are welcome to enjoy the park.  It’s quite lovely, and the weather is very pleasant right now.  I can send a few servants to put up tents for you and take care of you.

Princess: Yes.  Well, diplomats must be quick to adapt to local conditions, mustn’t they?

King: Ha, ha–exactly.  Really, I’d love to bring all of you inside, but, you know, with the oath and all.–Anyway, I’ll come out and see you again tomorrow.

Princess: Thank you, my lord.  Don’t worry about us.  We’ll be just fine.

King: Until tomorrow, then.

    (The King and his Lords leave, except for Biron, who moves closer to Rosaline.)

Biron: Lady, I will make a little place for you in my heart.

Rosaline: How wonderful.

Biron: Can you hear it beating?  It beats for you.

Rosaline (Pretending to hear it): Sounds sick to me.

Biron: It’s only sick for what it lacks–love.

Rosaline: You should see the doctor.  He must have a pill for that.

    (Biron sighs and walks out.  Then Dumaine returns and takes Boyet aside.)

Dumaine: Sir, I just wanted to ask you.  Who is that lady?  (Indicating Katherine)

Boyet: Her name is Katherine.  She’s related to the Duke of Alenc,on.  [Author’s note: That’s supposed to be the French “c” with a curl, pronounced like “s”.]

Dumaine (Sighing): Katherine!

    (Dumaine leaves.  Then Longueville returns and speaks to Boyet.)

Longueville: Who is that lady?  (Indicating Maria)

Boyet: That’s Maria.  She’s related to Lord Falconbridge.

Longueville (Sighing): Maria!–Oh–oh–

    (He walks away.  Then Biron returns and takes Boyet aside.)

Biron: I’ve met that lady before, but I can’t remember her name.  (Indicating Rosaline)

Boyet: That’s Rosaline.

Biron: Is she married?

Boyet: No, but you’d have better luck with a lottery ticket.

Biron: Ah.–I see.

    (Biron leaves.)

Princess: Good answer, Boyet.

Boyet: He was just trying his luck, like the others.  I would’ve done the same thing in his place.

Rosaline (Humourously): Would you now?  And do you think you would’ve had better luck?

Boyet (Humourously): We should discuss that later–in your tent.

Rosaline: Ha!

Princess: Save your wits for the Duke and his lords.

Boyet: He’s the King, madam.

Princess: I’ve demoted him. 

Boyet: I think he likes you, madam.

Princess: Do you?

Boyet: Yes.  His eyes were all over you.

Princess: Were they, now?–Huh.–First he takes an oath with his lords to avoid women for three years.  Then he makes us camp in the park–the Princess of France and her ladies.–And now all of them want to make a move on us.  I think we should make them all suffer a little.

Ladies: Yes.–Definitely.

Boyet: If you play your cards right, you could end up with him and all of Navarre.

Princess: You’re funny, Boyet.–Come, ladies.  Let’s make our camp.  We’ll pretend we’re in some strange land–which apparently we are.

    (They all leave, with Boyet trailing, making sly eye contact with Rosaline.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  Armado comes in with Moth.

Armado: Moth, I’ve decided to let that hillbilly Costard out.  (He hands Moth a key.)  Let him out and bring him to me.

Moth: What do you have in mind, boss?

Armado: I’m going to use him as a messenger.  I’m going to have him deliver a love letter to Jaquenetta.

Moth: You think you can win her over with a letter?  I’ll bet she can’t even read.

Armado: Do you have a better idea?

Moth: Yes.  I’d say you should consider the girl’s culture and environment.

Armado: How do you mean?

Moth: Well, for example, you can imitate the mating call of the Spanish fruit bat.  Like this–(He makes a weird call.)   Then you can imitate the mating dance of the brown-speckled sandpiper.  Like this–(He demonstrates an idiotic dance.)   And best of all, you can imitate a bull during rutting season.  Like this–(He demonstrates a bull.)  Use the nostrils alternately–like this–(He blows noisily from each nostril.)  You see?  That’s how it’s done.  Believe me, sir, these country girls get hot over that sort of thing.

Armado: And where, may I ask, did you learn all this?

Moth: I read it in The Australian Journal of Ecosemiotics.

    (A pause for effect.)

Armado (To the audience.): Either this kid is putting me on, or I’m seriously behind the curve.  (To Moth)  Just go and get Costard, okay?

Moth: Yes, boss.  (Walking out)  And the horse shall be the messenger for the ass.  (Leaves)

Armado: What?

    (Armado paces slowly, deep in thought.  He is looking the other way when Moth and Costard return and are standing next to him.  Armado turns around and is startled and jumps.)

Moth: Boss, Costard says he had a little accident.

Armado: What sort of accident?

Costard: I fell forward and hurt my ass.

    (Armado does a puzzled double-take.)

Armado: Well, there’s an enigma for you.

Costard (Covering his ass in fright): Oh, no!  You’re not giving me an enigma!

    (Armado looks at the audience for effect.)

Armado: Never mind.  Costard, I’ve decided to enfranchise you.

Costard: You’re going to make a franchise of me?  Like Costard’s Donuts, or something like that?

Armado: No, no.  I’m setting you free, man.

Costard: Free!  Oh!  Thank you, sir!

Armado: You just have to perform one little service for me.  You’re to deliver this letter to Jaquenetta.  (He hands Costard the letter.)  And I’ll even give you this remuneration.  (He gives Costard a coin.)

Costard: A remuneration!–Oh.–I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those before.  (He studies the coin.)  Isn’t remuneration Latin for three farthings?

Armado: No.  A remuneration can be any amount.  It’s not a specific value.

Costard (Puzzled): Oh–Then this is surely a collector’s item.  I’ll never part with it, sir.

    (Biron comes in.)

Biron: Ah, there you are, Costard.  I see you’ve been given your liberty.

Costard: Yes, sir.  And I’ve been given a remuneration as well.  How much can I buy with it, sir?

Biron: What’s it worth?

Costard: I don’t know, sir.

Biron: Then I don’t know what you can buy with it.

Costard: Ah–of course.  Then I suppose I shall just have to take my chances with it.

Biron: Yes.  Or else just hold on to it.  It might rise in value.

Costard: Ah.  Now there’s an idea.  Thank you, sir.

    (Costard starts to leave, and Biron holds him by the sleeve.)

Biron: Wait.  Don’t go away.  Listen, how would you like to do me a little favour, my happy rustic?

Costard: When, sir?

Biron: This afternoon.

Costard: All right, sir.  I’ll do it.

    (He starts to leave again and is held back by the sleeve.)

Biron: Wait.  You don’t even know what it is yet.

Costard: Oh.  Am I to know in advance, then?

Biron: Of course, you donkey.

Costard: All right, sir.  Whatever is more convenient for you.

Biron: Good.  Now pay attention.  There is a certain lady in the Princess’s party named Rosaline.  I want you to ask for her and give her this letter.  (He gives Costard a letter.)  And, of course, you’re entitled to a guerdon for this service.  (He hands Costard a coin.  Author’s note: “Guerdon” means tip or remuneration.)

Costard: A guerdon, sir!  Oh!  This looks bigger than a  remuneration.  That’s very generous of you, sir.  Thank you.

Biron: You’re welcome.  Just make sure Rosaline gets that letter.

Costard: I will, sir.–A whole guerdon–wow!

    (Costard leaves.)

Moth (To Biron): So it’s Rosaline, is it?

Biron: Keep it to yourself.–(Sighing) Rosaline–Rosaline.–I have been whipped by the whip of love, wielded by that giant dwarf Cupid–

Moth: Giant dwarf?  That’s an oxymoron.

Biron: Lord of all sighs and moans, keeper of all hearts, master of the codpiece.  And so forth.  He has planted Rosaline in my brain.  I dream of her day and night.  I will write poetry.  I will pray.  I will writhe on the floor in agony.  I will fight off a large pack of small wolves for her–or a small pack of large wolves.–Oh!–Rosaline–

    (He walks out, distracted.  Others remain.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  In the park.  Coming in are the Princess, Maria, Katherine, Rosaline, Boyet, the two unnamed Lords, and a Forester.  The Forester is holding a bow and arrow for the Princess.

Princess: Forester, where’s the best place to shoot from?

Forester (Pointing): Over there at the edge of the woods, madam.  You should be able to get a good shot at a deer.  Can you shoot, madam?

Princess: Of course, I can shoot.  As well as any man, in fact.

Forester: Ah.  And do you like venison, or do you like to mount the deer’s head on the wall?

Princess: Neither.  I just want people to know what I’m capable of.

Forester: I’m sure the King will be impressed.

Princess: That’s the idea.

    (Costard comes in.)

Boyet: Here’s a good citizen.  Not our equal but still a good citizen.

Costard: Excuse me, I’m looking for the head lady.

Princess: We all have heads.

Costard: I mean the highest.

    (The Ladies look at each other humourously, comparing heights.)

Princess: Highest?  That’s hard to say.  One of us could always climb up a tree.

Costard: The biggest, then.

Princess: One does not ask a lady her weight.

Costard: No, not weight.  I mean, em, you know–the chief woman.

Princess: Ah.  The chief woman.

Costard: You sort of look like the chief woman to me, madam.

Princess: Do I look like her?  Then I must have a double I didn’t know about.  Does she live here in Navarre?

Costard: Em, no–that is–

Princess: Well, if she doesn’t live in Navarre, where does she live, and have you been there?

Costard: I’m very confused now, madam.–Oh–I hate it when this happens.

Princess: Never mind.  Just take a deep breath and compose yourself.–(Costard takes a deep breath.)–Now, tell me what your business is.

Costard: I have a letter from Biron, which I am to give to your lady Rosaline.

Princess: I’ll take it.  (She takes the letter from him.)  It’s all right.  Biron’s a friend of mine.

Rosaline (Complaining): Madam!

Princess: It’s all right, my dear.  You’ll get your letter.–Boyet, why don’t you read it first, just to make sure it isn’t obscene.

Boyet: Gladly, madam.  (He takes the letter and examines the outside.)  Oh.  There’s some mistake here.  It’s addressed to someone named Jaquenetta.

Princess: Jaquenetta?

Boyet: Yes, madam.

Princess (To Rosaline): Is that your alias?

Rosaline: Certainly not, madam.

Princess (To Boyet): Read it–aloud.

    (Boyet opens the letter and reads.)

Boyet (Reading): “You are fairer than fair, more beautiful than beautiful, and dreamier than a dream.  And just as King Cophetua conquered by love the poor beggar Zenelophon–”

Princess: Who?

Boyet: I never heard of them.  (Continues reading)  Just as so-and-so, et cetera–“I come to conquer you, not by force, not by command, but by the outpouring of my deepest love, which gushes like a fountain.  I throw myself at your feet.  I will give you fine clothes to replace your poor rags. and a title to add to your name.  I am kissing every inch of your fair body–in my thoughts.–Yours in the most sincere devotion, Don Adriano de Armado.–P.S.  The lion roars against thee, who standest as his prey.  But if thou art a gentle lamb of love, he shall purr like a cat and invite thee to play.”

    (Pause for effect.)

Princess: That may possibly be the worst love letter ever written in human history.

Boyet: The spelling and punctuation are all right.

Princess: What kind of bonehead would concoct such a piece of rubbish?

Boyet: Don Armado is a Spaniard.  He’s hanging out with the King and the lords.  He’s supposed to be in on that academy thing–you know, studying books and all that.

Princess: Then I’d say he’s seriously conflicted.

Boyet: He is a bit of a wacko, from what I hear.

    (The Princess takes the letter from Boyet.)

Princess (To Costard): Who gave you this letter?

Costard: Lord Biron, madam.

Princess: And who was it for?

Costard: Lady Rosaline.  But now that I think of it, there was another letter.–Oh–I’m confused today.

Princess: I think you’ve made a mistake.

Costard: I–I’m very embarrassed, madam.

Princess: Never mind.  (To Rosaline, handing her the letter)  You hold on to this, Rosaline.  It may prove useful.–Come, everyone.  Let’s go bag a deer.

    (All are leaving, but Costard mistakenly assumes he has been invited, so Boyet stops to dismiss him.)

Boyet: Not you.

Costard: Oh.  Sorry.

    (Boyet takes a coin out of his pocket and gives it to Costard.)

Boyet: Here.  You’ve earned it.

    (Costard examines the unfamiliar coin.)

Boyet: It’s a pourboire.  [Author’s note: French for “tip”.]

Costard: A what, sir?

Boyet: A pourboire.

Costard: Pourboire.–Mm.–I’m going to add this to my collection.  Thank you, sir.

    (Costard and Boyet leave separately.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Coming in are Dull, Holofernes, and Nathaniel.

Nathaniel: That was quite a fine deer the Princess bagged.

Holofernes: Yes.  It was full of blood, like a ripe pomegranate which hangs like a jewel in the sky–that is, heaven, or the celestial sphere–and then falls to earth–meaning the soil, or terra firma–there to break and send forth its seeds in the wind.

Nathaniel: Spoken like a true scholar, sir.  Your erudition does equal justice to the language, the pomegranate, and the deer.  It was a five-year-old buck, wasn’t it?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Holofernes: No, sir.  It was not more than four.

Dull: No, it was just two years old.

Holofernes: Two years old!  Listen to him!

    (Holofernes and Nathaniel laugh.)

Holofernes: How does he reason–by innuendo, or by insinuation?  It certainly isn’t by deduction.  (To Dull)  What is your modus operandi, you unlettered rube?

Dull: Eh?

Nathaniel: The constable is benighted, Master Holofernes.

Holofernes: Indeed, he is, Master Nathaniel.

Dull: Knighted!  I’m to be knighted?

    (Holofernes and Nathaniel laugh.)

Holofernes: You are a simpleton, aren’t you?  You could be a poster boy for ignorance.  And you’re small enough to fit on the poster.

Nathaniel: Don’t be hard on him, sir.  He is not educated as we are.  His mind has not been enlarged by the dainty delicacies of book learning.  He’s just a dull creature.

Holofernes: And aptly named–Dull.

Dull: Yes, that’s my name.  Anthony Dull.

Nathaniel: Nevertheless, God makes all creatures for a purpose.   Some are made to be looked down upon–with compassion and charity, of course.

Holofernes: Well said, Master Nathaniel.

    (Jaquenetta and Costard come in.  She is holding a letter.)

Jaquenetta: Master Parson, please read me this letter.  It’s from Don Armado.  Costard gave it to me.

Nathaniel: All right, my dear.  (He takes the letter, opens it, and peruses it.)

Holofernes: Can you not read, girl?

Jaquenetta: No, sir.

Holofernes: What does it say, Master Nathaniel?

Nathaniel: It’s a love poem.

Jaquenetta: Oh!  A love poem!

Holofernes: Read it aloud.  I like poetry–if it’s good.

Nathaniel (Reading):

    “My love is like the humble prune
     Made from the purple plums of June,
     And so beneath the glowing moon
     I pray that I will be yours soon–”

Jaquenetta: Oh!

Nathaniel (Reading):

    “My heart is like the gurgling stream
      That flows through meadows as I dream
      Of you and me in love’s moonbeams–
      Or so it seems.”

Jaquenetta: Oh!

Holofernes: Let me see that.

    (He takes the letter from Nathaniel and studies it.)

Holofernes: Wait a minute.  (To Jaquenetta)  This letter is not from Don Armado, and it was not sent to you.

    (Costard is nodding to himself in embarrassment.)

Jaquenetta: It wasn’t?

Holofernes: No.  It’s to Lady Rosaline–from Biron.

Jaquenetta (Downcast): Oh.  (She gives Costard a harsh look.)

Costard: I was afraid to tell you.

Holofernes: Lady Rosaline is one of the ladies attending the Princess of France.  (To Nathaniel)  She’s here on diplomatic business, you know.

Nathaniel: Yes.–Say, do you suppose Biron is trying to interfere in some way?

Holofernes: Interfere?  You mean, like helping the Princess instead of the King?

Nathaniel: Something like that.  There could be something going on that the King wouldn’t like.

Holofernes: Yes, yes.  It’s possible.  (To Jaquenetta)  Now you take this letter and deliver it to the King.  He’ll want to see it.  It could be a matter of treason.  (He gives her the letter.)

Jaquenetta: Yes, sir.  I’ll do that.  Thank you, sir.–Costard, you come with me..

Costard: All right. 

    (Jaquenetta and Costard leave.)  

Holofernes: Maybe it’s not treason.  Anyway, what did you think of the poem?

Nathaniel: Not too bad for an amateur.

Holofernes: I didn’t like it.  I thought it came across as too pedantic.

Nathaniel: Do you think so?  I don’t.

Holofernes: Let’s discuss it over dinner.  I have an invitation at the home of one of my pupils, and I’m sure they won’t mind if I bring you along.

Nathaniel: Thank you, sir.  I’d be glad to.

Holofernes: You can come, too, Master Dull.  I’m sure you’ll find the conversation most enlightening–after which you will no longer be benighted.

Dull (Downcast): All right, sir.  I’ll come along, just to be polite–although I was very much looking forward to being knighted.

    (They leave, with Holofernes and Nathaniel laughing.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  (Get ready for brilliant stagecraft!)  Biron comes in holding a paper.

Biron: If ever there was a fool for love, it’s me.  How I suffer for it.  I’ve already sent Rosaline one love poem, and now I’ve written another.  I’ve lost my mind over that girl.–Oh!  I see the King.  I’d better hide.  I think I’ll hide behind this convenient bush.

    (He turns toward the rear of the stage, expecting a bush, and reacts with confusion and annoyance.  The suggestion is that there has been a mistake.)

Biron (Louder, toward the wing): I said–I think I’ll hide behind this convenient bush!

    (A stagehand comes out, holding a tree branch, and holds it at the rear, and Biron “hides” behind it.  The stagehand remains there holding the branch.  Then the King comes in.)

King (Sighing): Ah!–Princess of France!–I’m in love.  And this is my love poem to you.  (He recites)

     “The smell of lilacs in the morning dew
       Cannot compare with the smell of you,
       Nor bluebells blooming at sunrise
       Compare with the blue of your lovely eyes.
       I shed tears for you upon my pillow,
      As rain bends down the weeping willow.
      O queen of queens, O supreme goddess,
      I would cry my tears upon your bodice.”

Uh-oh, it’s Longueville.  I’d better hide.  (He turns and sees what has happened at rear stage.  Louder, and with some annoyance)  I’ll hide behind a convenient bush–but a bigger one!

    (The stagehand gestures to another stagehand in the wing, and the suggestion is that there is confusion offstage.  Then the second stagehand gives a somewhat larger tree branch to the first stagehand, who now holds it up for the King to hide behind.  Then Longueville comes in, holding a paper.)

Longueville: I should be ashamed of myself for breaking the oath.  I wonder if I’m the first.

Biron (Aside, behind the bush): No.

King (Aside, behind the bush): No.

Longueville: I couldn’t help it.  (Sighing)  Maria!–Maria!–I hope she likes this poem.  (He reads)

     “The tears I cry on my pillow
      Make the bedbugs feel sorry for me.
      The pain and heartache that keep me wide awake
      Break the heart of each louse and each flea.
      The mosquitoes and flies make their own little cries,
      The nits and the silverfish moan.
      It’s the song that they sing as I pull on my ding,
      Oh, why must I sleep all alone?”

Biron (Aside, behind the bush): He’s really sick.

Longueville: Uh-oh, I see Dumaine coming.  I’d better hide behind a bush.

    (He turns to the rear, expecting a bush, and there is confusion among the stagehands.  Finally, the second stagehand comes in with a large piece of plywood the size of a door.)

Longueville (Annoyed): Or something!

    (There is further confusion about where the board should be positioned and who is supposed to hold it.  The Director can come out and participate in this chaos, with people talking quite audibly, arguing and correcting each other.  Longueville acts very embarrassed and finally hides behind the board.  The second stagehand asks Longevueville, “Do you want me to hold it up for you, or do you want to hold it yourself?”  The second stagehand finally holds it up with one hand while facing the rear and pretending to be inconspicuous to the audience.  The Director can elaborate on this chaotic interval, but it must be done deadpan so it seems genuine.  Eventually, Dumaine comes in, holding a paper.  He pauses for effect as if stunned by the onstage mishap.)

Dumaine (Sighing): Oh, Kate!–Wonderful Kate!–I can’t get her out of my mind.  She’s in my blood.  She’s like a fever.  I’m sweating.  I’m delirious.

Biron (Aside, behind the bush): He’s got malaria.

Dumaine: I know she’ll love this poem.  It’s postmodern.  Very experimental.  (He reads)  “If the molecules of your panties found their way to my nose, then they would go to my brain.  Then I would both possess the molecules and be possessed by them–”

Biron (Aside, behind the bush): What?

Dumaine (Reading): “Alive in the sight of you, wishing a bite of you, my eyes eat you, my brain digests you like meat.  And then, sucking out the nutrients of love, I must excrete you.  And so is my love complete.”

Biron (Aside, behind the bush): He belongs in a psycho ward.

Dumaine: Alas, I have broken my oath.  I’ve fallen for a woman.  Of course, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it if I weren’t the only one.

    (Longueville steps forward.)

Longueville: What a horny devil you are, Dumaine!  And I thought you were the most innocent one.

Dumaine: What?  You heard me?

Longueville: Yes.  So you’re in love with Katherine, eh?  Ha, ha!  So much for your will power.

    (The King steps forward.)

King: You’re one to talk, Longueville.  You’re hot for Maria.

Dumaine: He is?

King: Yes.

Longueville: Oh.  Did you hear me?

King: Yes.  You should both be ashamed.  You swore to be serious scholars and avoid women for three years, and as soon as the Princess of France shows up, you fall in love with two of her ladies.–Tsk!  I’m very disappointed.  And wait till Biron finds out.  I’m sure he’ll have something to say about it.

    (Biron steps forward.)

Biron: Well!  Well!  Is the pot calling the kettles black?

King: Eh?  Where’d you come from?

Biron: The King is madly in love with the Princess.

Dumaine and Longueville: No!–Is he!

King: Oops!–I guess you overheard my, uh, uh–

Biron: Your love poem.  Yes.

King: Oh, hell.

Biron: And the others.  Not very good poems, any of them.  However, at least you’re better at writing poetry than you are at honouring an oath.  Really, I have every right to criticize all three of you.  Falling in love and writing love poems.  Getting all sentimental over a woman.  You wouldn’t catch me doing that.  I’m the only one who has stuck to the oath.

Longueville: Who’s that coming?

King: It’s Jaquenetta and Costard.

Biron: Okay, gotta run!  I have an appointment!

    (Biron starts to leave, but the King grabs him by the sleeve.)

King: What’s the matter?

    (Jaquenetta and Costard come in.  Jaquenetta is holding Biron’s letter to Rosaline.)

Biron (Nervously): Nothing.

Jaquenetta: God bless the King.

King: Hello, miss.  What have you got there?

Costard: It’s treason, sir.

Biron: It’s not treason!

King: How would you know?

Biron: Em–it doesn’t look like treason, that’s all.

King (To Costard): What’s the treason–specifically?

Costard: Em, I don’t actually know, sir.

Jaquenetta: Master Holofernes, the schoolmaster, said I should bring you this letter.  He said it could be treason.

    (The King takes the letter.)

King: Where did you get this?

Jaquenetta: I got it from Costard, sir.

King (To Costard): Then where did you get it?

    (A nervous look is being exchanged between Biron and Costard.)

Costard: Em–em–Ah, now I remember.  It was Don Armado.  That Spanish fellow.  He gave it to me.

King (Laughing): Treason from Armado?  That’s funny!  (He looks at the letter without opening it.)  I’m sure it’s a joke.–Here, Biron.  You read it to us.

Biron: Me?

King: Yes, why not?  You have a good sense of humour.  Go on.  Read it.

    (Biron takes the letter nervously, opens it and looks at it, afraid to read.)

King: Go on.  Read it aloud.

Biron: Ha, ha, ha, ha–it’s nothing!  (He tears it up.)  There’s no treason.  Forget it.  Nothing to worry about.

King: It must be funny if you’re laughing.

Biron: I’m not–ha, ha!–Just a nervous reaction, that’s all!–Em, may I be excused, sir?  I have an appointment.

Longueville (To the King): It’s something to do with Biron, obviously.  (To Biron)  Isn’t it?

Biron: No!

    (Dumaine picks up the pieces of paper and examines them.)

Dumaine: Why, I do believe this is your handwriting, Biron.

Biron: No, no!  It’s not mine!

Dumaine: You know what this looks like?  This looks like–a love letter.

Biron: Oh, damn!  (He makes a silent threatening gesture at Costard.)

Dumaine: It’s Rosaline!  Biron’s in love with Rosaline!

Biron: Oh, damn, damn, damn.  Bloody hell.

King: Biron, you’re in love with Rosaline?

Biron: Yes.  I confess.

King (Mimicking Biron): Falling in love and writing love poems?  Getting all sentimental over a woman?  You wouldn’t catch me doing that.  I’m the only one who has stuck to the oath.

    (Biron is disgusted and goes over and shoves the stagehands offstage and throws and kicks the plywood and tree branches, all the while cursing.)

Biron (To Jaquenetta and Costard): Who don’t you two go and pick some hemlock and brew yourselves some tea!

Jaquenetta: Oh!–Well!–Come along, Costard.  (To the King)  By your leave, sir.

    (Jaquenetta and Costard leave.)

Biron: All right, it’s all out in the open.  But we’re all guilty of the same thing, aren’t we?  We’ve all forgotten the oath and made fools of ourselves.  However–my excuse is Rosaline.  She would turn any man into a total fool.  She’s totally awesome.

King: You think so?  I don’t think she’s such a big deal.

Dumaine: She’s just average.

Longueville: Not even that. 

Biron: Oh, yeah, right!  I should open an eye clinic.  I’d get rich on the three of you.  The other women are nothing compared to Rosaline.

Dumaine: Get a grip, Biron.

Longueville: Maria’s the best.

Dumaine: No.  Kate is the best.

King: Well, I say you’re all wrong, but this is the sort of argument that goes nowhere, so let’s forget about it.  I’m just very unhappy that we made an oath, and we all failed miserably in sticking to it.  It hurts my pride.

Biron: Well–there must be a loophole in it somewhere.

King: Is there?  Okay, so find it.

Biron: Okay.  I’m thinking.–We said we wanted to study things that were unknown to us, right?

Others: Yes.

Biron: It could be in books, but it could also be outside of books–right?

Others: Yes.–Could be.

Biron: Now, we all feel changed in some way by falling in love, don’t we?

Others: Yes.

Biron: So we must have encountered something previously unknown to us, right?

Others: Yes.

Biron: Well, there you go.  We were true to our mission, weren’t we?

Others: Yes.–I suppose.

Biron: And furthermore, wouldn’t you agree that if we were to shut these women out of our lives now because of an oath, that would be stupid, wouldn’t it?

Others: Yes.–For sure.

Biron: And we didn’t take an oath to be stupid.  We took an oath to be enlightened, didn’t we?

King: Yes.  Biron, I’m not sure it’s logical, but it makes sense.

Biron: We’re not lawyers, are we?  Common sense is good enough for us, right?

King: You’re right.

Biron: Fine.  So let’s just agree that we’re not guilty and consider the matter closed.

Others: Yes!–Agreed!

    (Biron begins a comical sequence of handshakes, with everyone saying “Not guilty!” and “Congratulations!”)

Biron: Gentlemen, there is still one big problem.

King: What’s that?

Biron: How do we win them over?  How do we get them to love us?

    (The King thinks for a moment.)

King: Let’s do something to entertain them.  They must be terribly bored out there in the park.

Biron: Yes, that’s a good idea–entertainment.  But we need something else, too–before the entertainment.  We need to think of some clever way to get close to them and pair off–you know, test the waters.

Longueville: How?

Dumaine: Disguise ourselves as African natives–ha!

King: That would be too silly.

Biron: Hmm–Dumaine, hold that thought.

King: We’ll think of something.  Come on.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Holofernes, Nathaniel, and Dull come in.

Holofernes: I’m stuffed.  Satis est quod sufficit.  [Author’s note: “Enough is enough.”]

Nathaniel: It was more than enough.

Holofernes: Ab ovo usque ad mala.  [Author’s note: “From egg to apple”–i.e., a complete banquet.]

Nathaniel: I must say it is a pleasure to share a dinner with a man of such erudition.

Holofernes: I was about to say that myself–ha, ha!

Nathaniel: Intellect without pretense is such a rare quality, isn’t it? 

Holofernes: Indeed, it is.

Nathaniel: Some smart people can be very annoying–like the King’s friend Don Armado.

Holofernes: Oh, you needn’t tell me.  I know him too well.  A pompous man–and rather odd, if I may say so.

Nathaniel: Yes, I agree.

Holofernes: His verbosity is prodigious, yet his pronunciation is evidence of a certain lack of sophistication.  When he says the word “debt,” for example, you can’t hear the “b.”

Nathaniel: He doesn’t fool us.

Holofernes: Not for a moment.

    (Armado, Moth, and Costard come in.)

Armado: Master Holofernes–Master Nathaniel–greetings.

Holofernes and Nathaniel: And to you, sir.

Armado: I’m glad I found you.  I need to consult with your learned selves.

Holofernes: Consult away, by all means.

Armado: The King desires to entertain the Princess and her party during the posteriors of this day–which common folk would refer to as the afternoon–ha, ha!

Costard (Aside to Moth): The posteriors of the day?

Moth (Aside to Costard): I’m his page.  I have to listen to this all the time.

Holofernes: It follows logically, sir, as the anteriors are behind us, being the morning.  And yet–paradoxically–etymology would demand that the anteriors should always be before us and the posteriors should always be behind us.  Is that not so?

Nathaniel (To the audience): Now that is real smartness for you.  You wouldn’t have heard that in any other theatre.

Armado: Your paradox has me flummoxed, sir.  I throw myself at your feet and beg for mercy–ha, ha!

Holofernes: Have no fear.  This is but a harmless exercise in postprandial philosophy.  Now what about this entertainment?

Armado: As you know, sir, I am a close confidant of the King, though modesty prevents me from dwelling on that.  At any rate, he would like to entertain the ladies since they have been forced to camp in the park.  And he asked me if I had any ideas.  Well, of course, I have many, many ideas–such as, for instance, some sort of pageant, or show, or antic, or perhaps a firework.  And then I thought of you two, being two of the jolliest fellows, full of fun, ever to–to be jolly and funny–in Navarre–or elsewhere.  So I thought I would seek you out and ask you, em, what your ideas might be–possibly.

Holofernes: The Nine Worthies.  [Author’s note: A pageant presenting nine famous men of history.]  Pure history.  Nothing more exciting–especially to ladies.–What do you think, Master Nathaniel?

Nathaniel: The perfect choice, sir.  But where will you find nine actors for all the roles?

Holofernes: We can play multiple parts if we have to.  Now let’s see–You can be Joshua.  I’ll be Judas Maccabeus.  Don Armado here can be Hector.  This fellow–(Indicating Costard)–can be Pompey the Great.  And the page can be Hercules.

Armado: Him?  Hercules?  He’s too small.

Holofernes: He can represent Hercules as a child.  Don’t worry, I’ll figure out how to explain it to the audience.  It’s just a matter of stagecraft.

Armado: Fine.  I like it.  But just in case it doesn’t turn out well, we should have something else to present.  I thought maybe something short and humourous.

Holofernes: Well, it’s your project, isn’t it?  You already have many ideas.  You said so yourself.

Armado: Ha, ha–yes, I did.

Holofernes (To Dull): Master Dull, what’s the matter?  You haven’t said a word.

Dull: I’ve hardly understood a word, sir.

Holofernes: You are a dull one.  Shall we make use of you in the pageant?

Dull: I don’t know, sir.

Holofernes: Do you have any talents for entertainment?

Dull (Thinking): I can blow a whistle, sir.

Holofernes: Blow a whistle–ha, ha.  Never mind.  We’ll just keep you on hand for security.  How’s that?

Dull: I’ll do my duty, sir.

Holofernes: Good for you.  Let’s go.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  The Princess comes in with Maria, Katherine, and Rosaline.

Princess: Now it’s gifts, ladies.  This was supposed to be a diplomatic mission, but now it’s turned into something else.  Look at this diamond ring.  I got it from the King.

Rosaline: Ooh!–Sweet!  Anything else?

Princess: Yes, a long love poem.  What did you get?

Rosaline: I got a love poem from Biron.  He thinks I’m a goddess.  And I got this very expensive scarf.

Princess: What about you, Katherine?  What did Dumaine send you?

Katherine: This pair of gloves.  They’re very nice, too.  And some rubbishy poetry.  I don’t take it seriously.

Maria: I got a long love letter from Longueville, and a short string of pearls–although I would have preferred a short letter and a long string of pearls.

Princess: Ladies, listen to me.  You mustn’t take a man at face value.  You must test him.  You must even make him suffer a little to prove that he loves you.  If you’re too easy to get, he ceases to respect you.

Rosaline: Torture them.  That’s what I intend to do to Biron.  I’ll have him eating out of the palm of my hand like a dog.

Princess: You will.  All four of them are going to be perfect fools in love.  And you know why?  Because they’re so learned.  The smarter a man is, the worse the fool he becomes in love.  Consider.  They all took an oath to be serious scholars for three years and avoid women, and then when we show up, they’re writing love poems to us.

Maria: I think we should have some fun with them.

Princess: Yes.  It’s what they deserve for making us sleep in the park.

    (Boyet comes in.)

Boyet: Ladies, get ready.  The men are preparing to attack.

Princess: What do you mean?

Boyet: I spied on them.  They’re going to come disguised as Russians.  They’ll try to dance with you and make romantic talk.

Princess: Four men of Navarre are going to disguise themselves as Russians to try to impress four French women?

Boyet: Yes.

Princess: Does this make sense?

Boyet: No.

Princess: You see, ladies?  What did I just say about learned men making fools of themselves?  Such insanity must be opposed–but not right away.  Listen, I have a plan.  We’ll all wear masks.  And to compound the confusion, we’ll exchange gifts so they all think they’re talking to the right lady.–Rosaline, you switch with me.–And Maria, you switch with Katherine.

    (The Ladies exchange presents.)

Princess: We’ll let them try to court us, and the next time we meet them undisguised, we’ll be able to embarrass them.

Rosaline: So, are we going to dance with them or not?

Princess: Not.  We’ll just act totally uninterested.  I want to see them squirm.

    (A horn sounds, but not a trumpet.  Rather, something atypical and weird.)

Boyet: That’ll be them.

Princess: Masks, ladies!

    (The Ladies rush out and return quickly in masks.  Then the King and his Lords come in disguised as Russians, preceded by Moth, as himself, serving as a herald.)

Moth: All hail the most beautiful ladies in the world!

    (The Ladies turn their backs to him.)

Moth: Em, the most beautiful ladies who ever showed their–backs–to human sight.

Biron (To Moth): Eyes, stupid.

Moth: Who ever showed their eyes to human sight.–Em–

Biron (To Moth): Go on.

Moth: Grant us the favour–not to behold–

Biron: To behold, stupid.

Moth: To behold with your sun-beamed eyes–em–your sun-beamed eyes–

Boyet (To Moth): They’re ignoring you.

Moth (To Biron): Sir, they’re ignoring us.

Biron: Oh–just get lost, you idiot.

Moth: You still have to pay me for this.

    (Moth leaves.)

Rosaline (Posing as the Princess): What do these characters want, Boyet?  Do they speak our language?

Boyet: I’ll ask.  (To the disguised Lords)  What do you want with the Princess?

Biron: Just a friendly visit.

Boyet (To Rosaline): They’re just here for a friendly visit, madam.

Rosaline: Fine.  They just had it.  Now they can go.

Boyet (To Biron): She says you’ve had your visit, and now you can go.

King: But tell her we have measured many miles to come here.

Boyet (To Rosaline): They say they have measured many miles to come here, madam.

Rosaline: How many feet have they walked?  If they’ve measured, they ought to know.

Boyet (To the King): How many feet would that be, sir?

Biron: Look, just tell her we’ve walked a lot of weary steps.  I don’t know how many feet it would work out to.  (To the Ladies)  Hey, give us a break, all right?  Please show us your beautiful faces so that we may worship them like the humble savages we are.

    (The Ladies turn around and face the Lords.)

Rosaline: We are not in the mood to show our faces today, just as the sun doesn’t show its face on a cloudy day.

King: Well, uh–Say, how about a little dancing?

Rosaline: But there is no music.

King: No problem.

    (The King snaps his fingers, and an accordion player appears suddenly and starts playing a polka.)

Rosaline: I’m sure that’s not Russian music, sir.

King: That’s okay.  It’s danceable. 

    (He nods to the Lords.  All the men now pair up with the Ladies of their choice — erroneously, of course — and attempt to dance with them, but the Ladies refuse to move.)

King: You’re not dancing.

Rosaline: That was very nice.  Thank you.  Now you may leave.

    (The King nods to the accordion player, who leaves.)

King (To Rosaline): Well, uh–how about a friendly chat, then?

Rosaline: In private, I suppose?

King: Yes, yes.  That would be sensational.

    (The King moves apart with Rosaline for a private conversation.)

Biron (To the Princess, posing as Rosaline): Shall we have a nice, little chat, madam?

Princess: All right, but keep it clean.

    (Biron takes the Princess aside.  Dumaine now approaches Maria, who is posing as Katherine.)

Dumaine: Madam, shall we get better acquainted?

Maria: All right, but don’t get any ideas.

    (Dumaine takes Maria aside.)

Katherine (To Longueville): I suppose you’ll be wanting a friendly tete-a-tete with me, won’t you?

Longueville: Oh, yes, indeed!

Katherine: Why–specifically?

Longueville: Why?–Well–obviously–em, here we are and, well, I just thought, you know–

Katherine: Did you really walk all the way from Russia?

Longueville: Em, well–part of the way.  We also took a boat.

Katherine: Did you come by way of Dnepropetrovsk or Cherepovets?

Longueville: Em–I’m not sure, actually.  I, uh, slept a lot.

Katherine: I’m very interested in geography.  You can tell me more about your trip.

Longueville: Heh, heh–actually, I, uh, wanted to talk about something more personal.

Katherine: As you wish.

    (Longeville takes Katherine aside to talk to her.)

Boyet (To the audience): These guys are getting turned like shish-kebab.

    (After an interval, Rosaline speaks.)

Rosaline: That’s enough, girls.  They’ve had their chat.

    (The Ladies regroup, and the Men regroup.)

Biron: Jeez!  They’re so unfriendly.

King: These women are crazy.  I’ve had enough.  Let’s get out of here.

    (The King and his party leave.  Then the Ladies unmask.)

Princess: So much for the Academy of Navarre.

Rosaline: I’m sure we made them feel like idiots.

Princess: I really made Biron suffer.

Maria: I thought Dumaine was going to cry.

Katherine: I thought Longueville was going to throw up.

Princess: They still want us.  I’m sure of that.

Rosaline: I wonder what they’ll do next.

Boyet: They’ll be back.  They won’t give up.

Rosaline: You think so?

Boyet: After a humiliation like that, they’ll want to redeem themselves.  They’ll come back without disguises and try again.

Princess: What do you think we should do?

Rosaline: Let’s switch our presents back.  Then when they come back, we’ll tell them about the stupid Russians who were here. 

Princess: Perfect!

Boyet: Better do it now.  I see them coming.

Princess (To the Ladies): Come.

    (The Ladies leave.  Then the King and Lords return in their normal guises.)

King: Excuse me, good sir.  Can you tell me where the Princess is?

Boyet: In her tent, your Majesty.  Shall I convey a message in your behalf?

King: Yes.  Please ask her if she would be kind enough to come out and speak to me for moment.

Boyet: I will, sir, and I know she will, too.

    (Boyet leaves.)

Biron: He’s a slick one, that Boyet.  I think he’s managing this whole game.

King: Could be.

Biron: Maybe he wants to boink those ladies himself.

    (Boyet returns with the four Ladies.)

King: All hail, ladies, and we bid you a fair day.

Princess: Hail on a fair day?  That would be a meteorological impossibility.

King: Ah–yes.  I know what you mean.  In fact, I was going to invite you and your party to come inside, in the court.

Princess: Oh, but sir, you mustn’t break your oath.  We’re just fine out here in the park.

King: But the lords and I have agreed to disregard the oath for your sake.  And, em, we like you all very much.

Princess: Oh, but sir, that makes us the cause of your breaking the oath, and we would feel guilty about that.

King: But you must be lonely out here all by yourselves.

Princess: Not at all.  In fact, we were just recently visited by a traveling troupe of Russian clowns.

King: Em–clowns, madam?

Princess: I don’t know how else to describe them.  They were quite strange. 

Rosaline: They tried to hit on us.

Biron: Did they now?

Rosaline: Yes.  They were such a bunch of losers.  I was glad to see them go.

Biron (Offended): Well!–I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say.

Rosaline: Why should you be offended?

Biron: Me?  I’m not.  I only meant, em–I don’t know what I meant.  You know, you’re very harsh with your tongue, madam.

Rosaline: Ha, ha, ha!  Am I now?

Biron: Yes.  And I’d feel very offended if I were referred to as a loser.

Rosaline: Which Russian were you, then?

Biron: Me?

Rosaline: Yes.

    (The King and Lords huddle aside quickly.)

King: They know it was us.

Dumaine: Let’s just admit it and laugh it off as a joke.

Princess (To Rosaline): I think you just kicked them in a private place.

Rosaline: Biron looks sick.–Did you have a stormy trip from Russia, Biron?–Ha, ha!

    (Biron throws his hat on the ground in anger.)

Biron: That’s it!  I’ve had it!  Go ahead and ridicule me.  I don’t care any more.  I’ll never ask you to dance again.  I’ll never write you another poem.  I’ll never wear a costume.  I won’t even try to be clever or intellectual.  I’m just going to be simple, simple, simple.  Just me.  Just plain old Biron.  (Brief pause)  I’m going to say this just once.  I love you, Rosaline.  That’s it.  There, I’ve said it.

Rosaline: Plain and simple, eh?  I don’t believe it.  Everything with you is calculated.

Biron: Look at us!  We are sick men.  We have a plague.  And you ladies are it.  We looked in your eyes–and we were done for.

Princess: You mustn’t blame us.  We never did anything to encourage you.

Biron (To the Lords): I give up.  You say something.

King (To the Princess): Madam, what can we say or do to be on your good side?

Princess: You were the Russians.  Admit it.

King: Yes.  We were.

Princess: And what did you whisper in the ear of the lady you loved?

King: I told her I respected her more than anyone else in the world.

Princess: And what if she were to contradict you?  Would you cease to love her?

King: No.  I would throw myself at her mercy.

Princess: Rosaline, what did he say to you?

Rosaline: He said he would either marry me or die as my lover.

Princess: Fine.  It appears that the King will die as your lover.

King: Wait a minute.  I never said that to Rosaline.  I never even spoke to her.

Rosaline: You put this pretty kerchief in my hand when you were speaking to me.  (She shows a kerchief.)  But you can have it back if you want.

King: What?–Wait a minute.  I gave that to the Princess.  I recognized her from the diamond ring I sent her.

Princess: Rosaline was wearing it.  We all switched present.  You were speaking to her, and Biron was speaking to me.–Do you want your scarf back, Biron?

Biron: No!  I don’t want it, or you either.  (To the Lords)  You see how mean they are?  They just want to make us look ridiculous.  (To Boyet)  You knew it all along, didn’t you?  It was probably your idea.

Boyet: We are French, sir.  We have a sense of humour.

Biron: Nuts!

    (He picks up his hat.  Then Costard comes in, dressed as Pompey the Great.)

Costard: My lord, the three Worthies want to know if they should come in now.

Biron: Three?  Aren’t there nine Worthies?

Costard: They’re playing multiple parts, sir–except for me.  I’m Pompey the Great.

King: You?  You’re Pompey the Great?

Costard: Yes, my lord.  They thought I’d be suited for it.  I don’t know anything about him, but I agreed.

Princess: Are we to be entertained?  How wonderful!

King: Em, yes, madam.  But this is not what you would call professional quality.

Princess: That’s all right.  I love amateur productions.

Biron (To Costard): Yes.  All right.  Get on with it.

Costard: It’ll be a good show, my lords.  Don’t worry.

    (Costard leaves.)

King (Aside to Biron): This is going to be a disaster.

Biron (Aside to the King): So what?  We can’t look any worse than we do now.  If they put on a bad show, we might look better by comparison.  Let the ladies laugh at them instead of us.

King (Aside to Biron): Then let’s make sure of it.

    (Biron whispers to Dumaine and Longueville.  Then Armado comes in.  He bows profusely to the King.)

Armado: My royal liege, your exalted Highness and most majestic Majesty, here is the program for our pageant.

    (Armado presents a paper to the King, and the two of them move apart while the King studies it.)

Princess (To Biron): A friend of yours?

Biron: No.  He’s a visitor from space.

Princess: That’s all right.  As long as he’s not Mexican.

Armado (To the King): The schoolmaster may be a little too over the edge for his part, but it’ll work out.  I promise.

King: Yes, yes.  I don’t need any explanations.  Just put on your show.

Armado: Thank you, my lord!

    (Armado bows profusely, walking out backwards.  The King returns to the others.)

King (To the Ladies): It’s a little pageant for your amusement–The Nine Worthies.  Armado–that was him–will be Hector of Troy.  Costard is Pompey the Great.  Nathaniel, the curate, will be Alexander the Great.  The page Moth will be Hercules.  And Holofernes, the schoolmaster, will be Judas Maccabeus.  And if those four go over okay, they’ll change costumes and present the other five.

Biron: Those are five already.

King: No, four.

Biron: Five.  Hector, Pompey, Alexander, Hercules, and Judas.

King: Oh–right.  Whatever.–Anyway, ladies, I can promise you a show unlike any other you’ve ever seen.

Biron: Or will ever see again.

Princess: We can hardly wait.

Ladies: Yes!  Yes!

    (Costard comes in as Pompey, armed with sword and shield.)

Costard: I am Pompey–

Biron: No, you’re not.

Costard: Sir, the pageant is in progress.–Ahem.–I am Pompey–

Boyet: His colours and coat of arms are wrong.

Biron (Calling toward the wing): Who’s in charge of wardrobe?

Costard: Ahem!–I am Pompey the Big.

Dumaine: Great, not Big.

Costard: Right.  I meant Great.–I am Pompey the Great.  I’m fresh from battle and I was walking along the coast, minding my own business, and what do I see here but this sweet French lady–from France.  So I laid my arms at her legs–that is, my weapons, not my actual arms.  I have to keep those.–And I hope she accepts them.

    (He lays the sword and shield before her.)

Princess: Thank you, great Pompey.

Costard (To Biron): That was all right, wasn’t it?

Biron: Unforgettable.  Who’s next?

King: Alexander the Great.

    (Costard stands aside as Nathaniel comes in, dressed as Alexander the Great.)

Nathaniel: When I was alive, I was the world’s commander.  That is why they called me Alexander.

Boyet: No.  You were born with that name.

Nathaniel: Don’t interrupt.–To the furthest corners of the earth I spread my conquering might.  My army was the biggest.  It was quite a sight.

Biron: Who said history was dull?

Boyet: He doesn’t have Alexander’s nose.

Biron: I think it depends on the angle.–Pompey!

Costard: Yes, my lord?

Biron: See how obedient he is?  He’s Pompey the Great but he listens to me.–Pompey, get rid of Alexander.  He’s made enough trouble.

Nathaniel: What?  This is an insult!

Costard: Yes, my lord.  (To Nathaniel)  O great conquering Alexander, you must leave.  You are no longer worthy.

Nathaniel: This is very improper.  I’m very disappointed.

    (Nathaniel retires to the wing.)

Costard (To Biron): I hate to hurt his feelings, sir.  He’s a nice man–and a very good bowler.

Biron: Never mind.  History is full of hurt feelings.

Princess: Who’s next?

King: Two more, madam.

    (Costard stands aside as Holofernes comes in as Judas Maccabeus and Moth as Hercules.)

Holofernes: This midget is the mighty Hercules when he was a child.  You can tell he was destined to become a great hero.  He killed the three-headed dog Cerberus and strangled various horrible creatures with his bare hands–later on, of course, when he was grown up.

    (Moth poses proudly, not noticing Holofernes’s signals to leave.  Finally, Holofernes whispers to him and pushes him toward the wing, where he retires.)

Holofernes: I am Judas–

Dumaine: Judas?  You traitor!

Holofernes: Not Judas Iscariot.  Judas Maccabeus.

Biron: Jew!

Holofernes: Yes, I am a Jew.  The Maccabees were Jewish patriots.

Dumaine: Jude-ass!

Longueville: Go eat some pork.

Holofernes: You’re ruining my speech.

Boyet: Is he really a Worthy?

Biron: Yeah, worthy of this!  (He blows a loud Bronx cheer.)  Get lost!

Holofernes: I protest!  This is not nice!  It’s not nice at all!

    (Holofernes retires to the wing.)

Princess: Poor Judas Maccabeus!

King: Are you enjoying this, madam?

Princess: Oh, yes, very much.–Aren’t we, ladies?

Ladies: Yes!  Yes!

Princess: Please continue.

    (Armado comes in as Hector.)

Biron: Here’s Hector of Troy.

Dumaine: Troy, New York?

King: No, not Troy, New York.  The old Troy–somewhere in Asia Minor.

Boyet: I don’t believe he’s Hector.

Longueville: I think his feet are too big.

Dumaine: How would you know?

Longueville: Just look.  It’s obvious.

Biron: His haircut is historically wrong. 

Dumaine: Are you sure?

Biron: Yes.  Hector wore a ponytail.

Dumaine: He did not.

Biron: He did.

Armado: Quiet!–Mars, the god of war, gave Hector a gift–the city of Troy.  From morning to night he would fight.  I am that flower.

Biron: Flower?

Dumaine: He’s a pansy.

Longueville: Ha!

Armado: Shut up!

Dumaine: A daffodil?

Armado: Shut up!  (To the King)  My lord, you asked for an entertainment.

King: Yes, yes.  It’s fine.  Continue.

Armado (To the Princess): Madam, please hear my speech.

    (Biron pulls Costard aside and whispers to him.)

Princess: Yes, good Hector.  You have our full attention.

Armado: I Hector, surmounted Hannibal–

Costard: Hector mounted Jaquenetta.

Armado: What!

Costard: You mounted her and now she’s two months pregnant.

Armado: How dare you!  Do you realize whom you are talking to?  I am Don Adriano–I mean, I am Hector–of Troy!

Costard: I don’t care.  You’ll be whipped for knocking up Jaquenetta.

Biron: That’s telling him, Pompey.

Armado: This is an outrage!

Dumaine: Now he’s pissed.

Biron: Hector’s going to duel Pompey.

Dumaine: Yes, I should think a duel is definitely called for here–unless Hector is afraid.

Armado: By the North Pole, I challenge you!

Costard: Why should I go to the North Pole?–Where’s my armour?  Where’s my weapons?

Dumaine: Make room, everyone.

Costard: Oh, I gave my stuff to the Princess.–Never mind, I’ll just fight in my shirt.

Dumaine: Good man!

Moth (To Armado): Shall I help you out of your coat, master?

Armado: I don’t have a shirt on underneath.

Moth: You’re wearing Jaquenetta’s dishcloth.  (To the others)  He wears it on his heart.

Holofernes (Stepping forward): This is not in the pageant.  You’re ruining everything.  (To the King)  My lord, I wrote the script.

King: Yes, yes.  It’s good.

    (A messenger, Monsieur Marcade, comes in.)

Marcade: God save you, madam.

Princess: Monsieur Marcade.  You have some news?

Marcade: Sadly, yes, madam.  Your father, the King–

Princess: Ah.–He’s dead.–Isn’t he?

Marcade: Yes, madam.  It’s unfortunate.  I share your grief.

Biron: Worthies, go home.  The show’s over.

    (The Worthies leave.)

King: My condolences–your Majesty.  [Author’s note: The King is addressing the Princess as if she were Queen, which, in effect, she is, as the heir to the throne.  The Oxford edition now changes the Princess’s speech prefix to “Queen.”  The Pelican edition, however, continues the speech prefix as “Princess.”  As much as I respect Oxford, I am siding with Pelican on this point.]

Princess: Thank you.–Boyet, start making preparations.  We are leaving tonight.

King: Oh, madam, please don’t go.

Princess: My lord, I thank you and the other lords for your hospitality, and I ask you to forgive us if we seemed harsh with you.  We didn’t mean it.

King: We’re certainly glad to hear that, madam.

Princess: And since the business regarding Aquitaine has been settled satisfactorily for both sides, there’s no reason for my ladies and me to linger.

King: Frankly, madam, I wish we had more time–to talk about personal matters, that is.

Princess: Personal matters?

    (The King looks to Biron for help.)

Biron: What the King means is that we still want to win you over, so please don’t leave us hanging like this.

Princess: Your poems and letters and gifts were all very nice, but we know you were just being friendly, and perhaps humourous.

Biron: No madam.  We were serious.

Dumaine: Yes.

Longueville: It should have been obvious.

    (Rosaline and the Princess share a look before Rosaline answers.)

Rosaline: We’re just not convinced.

Biron: If we haven’t proven ourselves yet, at least stay and give us a chance.

King: In plain English, madam, the four of us want to marry the four of you.

Princess: My lord, I can’t–we can’t make that sort of decision all of a sudden just when we’re on the point of leaving.  If you want us to give you a chance, it has to be on our terms.

King: All right.  I’ll agree.  We’ll agree.

Lords: Yes.  We agree.

Princess: Very well.  My lord, you must leave your palace and go live in some little hut without any luxuries for a year.  If you still want to marry me after that time, I’ll know you’re sincere and I’ll accept you.

King: I’ll do it.  Gladly.

Dumaine: Lady Katherine, what about me?

Katherine: If the King can hold out for a year and still wants to marry the Princess–and if you still want to marry me–you can seek me out.  And if I have any love in me, I’ll give you some.

Dumaine: Thank you!  I’ll be there.

Longueville: Maria, will you have me?

Maria: If you can wait a year, I’ll have you.

Longueville: It’ll feel like a decade, but I’ll wait.

Biron: Rosaline–sweetheart–darling–love of my life–tell me what I have to do to marry you.

Rosaline: You’re such a mocker, Biron–sometimes too much.  I have to put you to the test on that.

Biron: All right.  What do you want me to do?

Rosaline: For the next year–and that means every day–you have to visit the sick and dying in hospitals, and you must try to cheer them up with your clever wit.

Biron: The dying?  I’m supposed to cheer them up?

Rosaline: You must try.  And then you’ll understand that the value of a joke is to be found in the ear of the hearer, not the mouth of the speaker.  If the sick and dying appreciate your wit, I will accept you as you are.  If they don’t, you’ll change.  You’ll come to me as a reformed man–and I’ll accept you.

Biron: Every day for a year visiting people in hospitals–I won’t like it, but I’ll do it.

Princess (To the King): And now my lord, we really must leave.

King: We could escort you part of the way.

Princess: No, thank you.

Biron: Forget it, my lord.  This isn’t going to end like a typical comedy, with people getting married.

King: In a year it will.

Biron (Indicating the audience): These people aren’t going to sit and wait for a year.

    (Armado comes in, bowing profusely.)

Armado (To the King): Most illustrious lord, great Colossus of the world, peerless and magnificent ruler–

King: There you are.  I was wondering about you.  What have you decided about Jaquenetta?

Armado: Oh.–Well, I’ve agreed to wait three years for her to marry me. 

King: Three years?  Then she’s not pregnant, is she?

Armado: Certainly not, my lord.

King: Good.

Armado: My lord, the players did have another amusement to present.  Just two songs.  The owl and the cuckoo.  I thought it up myself.  I hate to see it go to waste.

King: Yes, yes.  Let’s hear it, whatever it is.

    (Armado signals, and the Worthies return, with Nathaniel and Holofernes in normal attire.)

Armado: Master Holofernes is the cuckoo, and he will sing the song of spring.  And Master Nathaniel is the owl, and he will sing the song of winter.

King: That sounds all right.  You don’t have summer and fall?

Armado: Em, no.  This is, em, conceptual–or, em, symbolic.  Anyway, I think everyone will get it.

King: All right.  Carry on.

Holofernes: The Song of Spring–

     When flowers bloom and birdies sing
     In the happy months of spring,
     Then young men fasten with their eyes
     On pretty ladies’ hips and thighs,
     And nature is the reason why,
     And so the cuckoo sounds his cry–
     The cuckoo mocks all married men
     Who wish they could be young again,
     No chance for those who tied the knot,
     They must be happy with their lot.
     Cuckoo!–Cuckoo!–You married men,
     Never to be free again.

    (Holofernes bows, and everyone applauds.  Then Nathaniel sings.)

Nathaniel: The Song of Winter–

When frozen winds blow on the land,
     And labour’s done by freezing hands,
     Then tired men sit by the fire
     And watch the hands that never tire,
     Dear wife is cooking for the sire,
     Which wise old owl must admire.
     Whoo-whoo! he says, Whoo-whoo!–
     Who is the sad one now,
     Who never cared to make a vow,
     Who ages and must go through life
     Without the comforts of a wife?
     What will the winter do for you?
     Husbands have hearths and links of gold,
     While bachelors are freezing in the cold.

    (Nathaniel bows, and everyone applauds, somewhat more loudly.)

Armado: To marry, or not to marry.  Shall we be owls or cuckoos?

King: We were cuckoos, but we’ll transform into owls.

Princess: Come and see us in a year, and we’ll see what there is to see.–Come, ladies.–Come, Boyet.  We go our way, and they go theirs.

Armado (To the audience): And you go yours, through the marked exit doors.  And whether you find wind or rain, heat or frost, may the labour of your love never be lost.

    (All leave.)


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/ )

Main Characters

Coriolanus (a.k.a. Caius Martius) — Roman general

Menenius — old noble and closest friend of Coriolanus

Cominius — Roman Consul and commander-in-chief

Titus Lartius — Roman general

Sicinius and Brutus — tribunes

Volumnia — Coriolanus’ mother

Virgilia — Coriolanus’ wife

Valeria — noble lady

Young Martius — Coriolanus’ son

Lieutenant of Titus Lartius

Aufidius — leader of the Volsces

Nicanor — Roman traitor

Adrian — Volscian spy

Lieutenant of Aufidius

Three Conspirators — henchmen of Aufidius

Three Servants of Aufidius

Two Watchmen

Two Officers (Referred to as Aediles in the original.  These are low-ranking officers assigned to assist tribunes.)

Roman Senators and Nobles

Citizens (Plebeians) of Rome


Volscian Senators

Gist of the story: This play takes place in the early years of the Roman Republic, circa 493 B.C.  Caius Martius, a Roman general, is heroic in battle against a barbarian tribe known as the Volsces.  He captures their capital of Corioles, for which he is given the honourary name of Coriolanus.  The Roman Senate nominates him for Consul, but he must be approved by the common people (plebeians), whom he despises.  An inflexible man, he is really unsuited for political office.  He forces himself to speak to the people, and at first they approve him.  But two hostile tribunes, Brutus and Sicinius, instigate a show of public hostility and accuse Coriolanus of treason.  As punishment, he is banished from Rome.  Furious at such treatment, he goes to the Volsces and offers to lead their army against Rome.  The leader of the Volsces, Aufidius, accepts the offer.  Coriolanus leads the Volscian army and is on the verge of capturing Rome when his mother pleads with him to make peace.  He agrees and takes the army back to the Volscian town of Antium to explain what has happened.  Aufidius, however, accuses Coriolanus of betrayal, and his henchmen assassinate the Roman general. 

(Historically at this time the plebeians, or common people, were gaining some power, so the theme of class conflict is prominent in the first half of the play.  Coriolanus is a patrician, or noble, who is against giving power to the people, so he is very much a reactionary.  His inflexibility and short temper are tragic flaws in an otherwise noble, heroic character.  So, like some other characters in Shakespeare, he fits the formula for a protagonist in a Greek tragedy.  And like the protagonists of Greek tragedies, we can appreciate him without having to like him.  This is the way he comes across in Shakespeare’s original.  However, in this restyling I think our white trash audience will like him, despite his class consciousness.)

Act 1, Scene.  A street in Rome.  A crowd of angry Citizens comes in shouting “Mutiny!”  They are armed with sticks and clubs.  Only the “2nd Citizen” is unarmed and self-restrained. 

1st Citizen: We’ll fight the bastards before they starve us to death!  Are you with me?

Citizens: Yes!–We’ll get them!–The rich bastards!

1st Citizen: And who’s our biggest enemy?

Citizens: Caius Martius!

1st Citizen: We’ll kill him, and then we’ll have all the corn we want!

Citizens: Yes!–Kill him!–No more starving!

2nd Citizen: Wait!  Wait!–Please, good citizens–

1st Citizen: Good citizens?  If we were good citizens, the nobles wouldn’t let us starve.  They treat their dogs better than they treat us.  We could get fat eating the scraps from their tables.  They want us to stay poor so they can feel more superior.

2nd Citizen: But what do you have against Caius Martius?

Citizens: He hates us!–He’s a patrician snob!

2nd Citizen: But think of what he’s done for Rome–all the battles he’s won as a general.

1st Citizen: Whatever he did, he wasn’t thinking of Rome.  He did it for his own inflated ego–and to please his mother.

    (Distant shouts are heard — a similar mob scene.)

1st Citizen: You hear that?  They’re rioting on the other side of the city, too!

    (Menenius, an old noble, comes in.)

2nd Citizen: It’s Menenius.  He’s a good guy.

1st Citizen: That he is.  I wish all the nobles were like him.

Menenius: My good neighbours, what’s the problem here?  Why are you so angry?

1st Citizen: The Senate knows what we’re angry about.  We’ve been complaining for weeks about the food shortage.

Menenius: But rebelling like this will only lead to your ruin.

1st Citizen: We’re already ruined.  We’ll be dead of starvation if we don’t rebel, so what do we have to lose?

Menenius: No, no, no–it isn’t like that, believe me.  The senators are always thinking of your well-being.  Don’t blame them for the shortage of food.  Blame the gods.  It’s foolish to rebel against the state.  The state is too strong.  You mustn’t get carried away by your emotions.

1st Citizen: The nobles have storehouses full of corn, but they let us starve.  They make laws to protect themselves, not us.

Menenius: Now, now.–Let me tell you a little story.  It will help you to understand.

A Citizen: Yes, tell us a good story.  (To the audience) We love good stories, don’t we?

Menenius: Fine.  Here it is.–Once upon a time, all the other parts of the body rebelled against the stomach.  They said, “Why do you get to do all the eating while we have to do all the hard work?”  And the stomach replied, “If I didn’t eat, you couldn’t do anything.  When I eat, all the nourishment is digested and goes through the blood to all of you.”  That’s the way it is with the Senate of Rome.  They are the stomach, and you are the other parts of the body.

Same Citizen: Ah, I get it.  It’s what they call trickle-down economics.

1st Citizen: I call it a crock.  We want food!  And we’ll rebel if we have to!

Citizens: Yes!  Yes!

Menenius: You have a big mouth.  You just want to be some kind of revolutionary hero.  But if you had to face real danger, you’d run like a coward.  (To the Citizens) If you’re feeling aggressive, save it for the barbarians.  You’ll be fighting them soon.

    (Caius Martius comes in.  The Citizens boo.)

Menenius: Hail, noble Martius!

Martius: Yeah, whatever.  (To the Citizens) What are you riffraff doing here, looking for trouble?  Go home before I kick all your butts!

1st Citizen (To the others): He loves us, doesn’t he?

Martius: The white trash of Rome!  Always bitching!  (To Menenius) What are they bitching about now?

Menenius: Food shortages.  They blame the nobles.

Martius: What a bunch of bums!  If the Senate agreed to look the other way for just one day, I’d slaughter all these rats!

Menenius: It’s just a little show of emotion.  Don’t worry about it.–What’s going on over on the other side?

Martius: Same thing.  Another bitching mob.  The Senate agreed to one of their demands.

Menenius: What was it?

Martius: They get to choose five tribunes to represent them.  They’ve already picked Brutus and Sicinius–and some other jerks, I forget who.  Big mistake, believe me.  Give in to the rabble, and it won’t stop.  Now if I were in charge–(He puts his hand on his sword to frighten the Citizens)–Go home, you dogs!

    (A Messenger rushes in.)

Messenger: Message for Caius Martius.

    (He presents a clipboard and ballpoint pen to Martius, who is puzzled by the unfamiliar objects.)

Martius: What the fuck is this?

Messenger: You’re supposed to sign, sir.

Martius: Sign for what?

Messenger: The message, sir.

Martius: Sign for the message?

Messenger: Oh, wait–sorry.  My mistake.  It’s a verbal message.  You don’t have to sign for it.

    (Martius breaks the clipboard and pen.)

Martius (Shouting): What’s the fucking message?  

Messenger (Cowed): Em–the Volsces, sir.

Martius: What about the Volsces?

Messenger: They’re arming against us, sir.

Martius (Delighted): Oh!  Right on!  I get to kill fucking barbarians!  (To the Citizens) You’re all drafted–ha, ha!  You can fight, too!  The Volsces have plenty of corn!  You’ll like that, won’t you?

    (Cominius, Titus Lartius, and Senators come in, along with Brutus and Sicinius.)

Martius: Ah!–The cream of Rome–(Contemptuously, at Brutus and Sicinius) and a couple of sour curds.

1st Senator: Martius, you warned us, and you were right.  The Volsces are preparing to make war against us.

Martius: And you know who their leader is–Tullus Aufidius.  He’s the real deal, let me tell you.  If I couldn’t be me, I’d be him.

Cominius: You’ve fought him before.

Martius: I sure have.  He’s never beaten me, but I’ve never been able to kill him.  He’s a lion.  He’s the only one who’s worthy to fight me.

1st Senator: The Senate places its full trust and confidence in you, General.  You will be second-in-command under Cominius.

Cominius: I’m sure you don’t mind.

Martius: Mind?  Hey, it’s an honour.–Titus Lartius, I expect you to be there when I fight Aufidius–and kill him.

Lartius: For sure.

Martius: Or were you going to take your vacation–ha!

Lartius: No, no.  No holiday for this general.  I wouldn’t miss this show for anything.

1st Senator: You’re all primed for action, ha, ha!  That’s good.  Let’s go back to the Capitol.  Our friends are waiting for us.

Lartius (To Cominius): After you, Consul.  (Cominius proceeds.  To Martius) After you, General. 

    (They leave, with Cominius leading, followed by Martius, followed by Lartius, followed by the Senators.  The 1st Senator turns to the Citizens.)

1st Senator: Go–home!

    (Martius laughs.  The Citizens slink away, looking defeated.  Only Brutus and Sicinius remain.)

Sicinius: That guy Martius is the most arrogant son-of-a-bitch on earth.

Brutus: Tell me about it.  Personally, I wouldn’t be too unhappy if he got killed by the Volsces.

Sicinius: Me neither.  Let’s see how long Cominius can put up with him.

Brutus: I think Martius doesn’t mind being Number Two.  I mean, look, if things go wrong, the blame will be on Cominius.  And if things go right, Martius will take all the credit–whether he deserves it or not.

Sicinius: Yeah.–Let’s get back to the Capitol and listen to the war talk.

Brutus: With you, bro.

    (They leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 2.  In Corioles, the capital of the Volsces.  Aufidius comes in with Senators, a conversation in progress.

1st Sen: So, then, I take it, my lord Aufidius, you think the Romans know what we’re doing.

Aufidius: Hell, yes.  They have their spies, the same as us.  In fact, I have this report from one of our men.  (He takes out a letter.) This was written four days ago.  (Reads) “Rome is bothered by public protests because of the famine.  The Senate has raised a large army, led by Cominius.  Also commanding, Caius Martius, your old enemy, who is hated by the people, and Titus Lartius.  Their objective is not known for sure, but you should assume they intend to attack you.”

1st Sen: Our army’s already in the field.  We were expecting trouble with the Romans anyway.

Aufidius: That was a mistake.  You tipped our hand prematurely.  I was hoping to capture as many towns as possible along the way before the Romans realized what was happening.

2nd Sen: My lord, I would suggest you march your forces out now and let us guard Corioles in the event they try to lay seige to the city–which I don’t think is likely.

Aufidius: You don’t, eh?  You may change your mind about that before too long.  I have more recent information that part of their army is headed in this direction.  I’ll take my forces out and try to intercept them.  And if I meet Martius, only one of us will return alive.

Senators: May the gods be with you!

Aufidius: And with you.  Try to keep your butts out of trouble.  See you later.

Senators: Good luck, my lord! 

    (Aufidius leaves.) 

Act 1, Scene 3.  In the house of Volumnia.  Curtain up reveals Volumnia and Virgilia sewing.

Volumnia: What’s the matter, daughter?  Aren’t you happy your husband is away at war?

Virgilia: Please, madam.

Volumnia: I would be thrilled if I were in your place.  When Martius was just a boy I could tell that he was destined to be a great soldier.  I was so happy when he returned from his first battle.   He was all decorated with honours.

Virgilia: And what if he had died?

Volumnia: Then I would have been proud for the rest of my life hearing other people speak of him as a hero.  A mother lives for such honour.

    (Virgilia puts her sewing down and shakes her head.  Then a Gentlewoman comes in.  [Author’s note: She is an attendant or waiting-lady.])

Gentlewoman (To Volumnia): Madam, Lady Valeria is here.

Virgilia (To Volumnia): Let me retire.  You can entertain her.

Volumnia: No, no.  Stay.  She may have some news about Martius.–Ah, I can just see him now on the battlefield, killing barbarians left and right and shouting at his troops “Come on, you slackers!  Don’t you want a piece of this action?”–Ha!

Virgilia: I feel sick.

Volumnia: Where’s your spirit, girl?  (To the Gentlewoman) Tell Valeria to come in.

Gentlewoman: Yes, madam.

    (The Gentlewoman leaves.)

Virgilia: I hope he doesn’t meet up with Aufidius.

Volumnia: I hope he does.  He’ll chop him into a thousand pieces.

    (Valeria comes in.)

Valeria: Hello, ladies.  How are you?

Volumnia and Virgilia: Fine.–Very well, thank you.

Valeria (To Virgilia): And how is little Martius?

Virgilia: He’s fine.  He’s going to look just like his father when he grows up.  You should have seen him chasing butterflies the other day.  He would catch them and then let them go and then chase after them again.

Volumnia: He’ll be a great soldier–like his father.

Valeria (To Virgilia): Would you like to come out with me today?  There’s a sick lady I want to visit.

Virgilia: I’m not budging until Martius is back safe and sound.

Valeria: Aw, come on.  I have some good news about him.

Virgilia: Already?

Valeria: Yes.  I overheard a senator talking about the war, and he said Cominius was attacking the Volscian army in the field and your husband and Titus Lartius have gone straight to Corioles to lay siege to it.

Virgilia: You call that good news?

Volumnia: Of course, it’s good news.

    (Virgilia appears faint.)

Virgilia: If you don’t mind, I’d rather not go out.

    (Volumnia gets up.)

Volumnia: I’ll go with you.  She’s too gloomy to make good company right now.

Valeria: Virgilia, are you sure?

Virgilia: Yes, yes.  You go on without me.

Valeria: All right, then.  See you later.

Virgilia: Goodbye.

    (Valeria and Volumnia leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 4.  Before the gates of Corioles.  Martius, Titus Lartius, and Soldiers carrying ladders come in; also a Trumpeter.

Martius: Here it is–Corioles, capital of the Volsces!  We’ll storm it!  Everyone ready?

All: Yes!  Yes!

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger (To Martius): General, Cominius and the Volscian army are in the field about a mile and a half away.  You can just barely see them.

Martius: Have they engaged yet?

Messenger: Not yet.

Martius (To the Soldiers): All right, listen up!  We’re going to take Corioles as fast as possible and then get out in the field and reinforce Cominius.  (To the Trumpeter)  Sound a parley.

    (The Trumpeter blows.  Two Senators appear on the wall.)

Martius (To the Senators): Is Tullus Aufidius inside the city?

1st Sen: No.  He’s out in the field with his army.  (Distant sounds of battle are heard.)  He’s beating your forces!

Martius: Like hell, he is!  Surrender the city now! 

1st Sen: No!  We will not!  Get lost, Romans!

Martius (To his Soldiers): Put up the ladders!  Without Aufidius, they can’t stop us!

    (Suddenly the gates open and Volscian Soldiers rush out and attack.)

Martius: Fight ’em, boys!  Fight ’em!

    (There is much confused fighting.  The Romans are beaten back, chased offstage by the Volscians, who pursue.)

Senators (Calling): Fuck you, Romans!

    (The Senators leave from the wall, laughing.) 

Act 1, Scene 5.  [Author’s note: Of the two texts I’m referring to, Oxford has a scene break here, but Penguin doesn’t.  For the rest of Act One, the scenes are intended to follow quickly.]  Same setting.  The gates of Corioles are closed, and Martius is returning, shouting behind him.  The suggestion is that the Volscians have gone back inside after chasing the Romans away.

Martius: Come on, you wimps!  You call yourselves Romans?  Are you going to let yourselves get chased by a bunch of barbarians?  Come on!  Follow me!

    (The gates open again, and the Volsces come out to fight.  Martius single-handedly drives them back inside the gates, which close behind him.  Several Roman Soldiers come in, tentatively.)

1st Soldier: Martius is trapped inside!  Should we force our way in?

2nd Soldier: No way!  I’m not going in there!

3rd Soldier: He’s a goner.  It’s too late to save him.

    (Titus Lartius comes in with Soldiers carrying ladders.)

Lartius: Where’s Martius?

1st Soldier: In there (Pointing).  He chased the Volsces inside and they shut the gates behind him.

Lartius: Oh, God!–Martius!–We’ve got to get in and save him!

    (The gates open.  Martius, bloody, is fighting the Volsces.)

Lartius: He’s alive!  Come on, men!

    (The Romans rush into the gates.)

Act 1, Scene 6.  Inside Corioles.  Several Roman Soldiers come in carrying loot.

1st Soldier: Look what I got!  Gold!

    (He shows off some object made of gold.)

2nd Soldier: And I got this!  Look at these jewels!

    (He shows off some object covered with gemstones.)

3rd Soldier (Coming in last): I got this art treasure!

    (He shows off a cheap bust of Elvis.  Distant alarms of fighting beyond the city.  Martius comes in with Titus Lartius.)

Martius (Shouting): Is this what you came for–booty?  We’re not finished yet!  Get out of here, you bums!

    (The Soldiers leave.  More distant alarms.)

Lartius: Sounds like Cominius has his hands full with Aufidius.

Martius: Listen, you take half our men and secure the town.  I’ll take the rest and go help Cominius.

Lartius: You can’t fight in that condition.

Martius: It’s just a scratch.

Lartius: That’s an awful lot of blood.

Martius: So what?  It’ll scare the shit out of the Volsces–ha!

Lartius: The gods must be on your side today.

Martius: Yours, too.  Don’t worry.  I’ll see you later.

    (Martius leaves.  Some Roman Soldiers come in from within the city.)

Lartius: To the marketplace!  Secure the town!

    (They all leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 7.  On the field.  A trumpet is sounding a retreat.  Cominius and Soldiers come in, retreating.

Cominius: Don’t worry, men.  We’ll be all right.  This is just a tactical retreat.  The Volsces know they’re in a fight.  We’ll regroup and attack them again.  Our forces at Corioles must have taken the town by now.

    (Martius comes in slowly, drenched in blood.  He is grinning.)

Cominius: Who is that?–It looks like–

Martius: Am I too late for the party?

Cominius: Martius!  My god, you’re covered in blood!

Martius: Volscian blood!–Ha!

    (Martius and Cominius embrace.)

Cominius: Did you take Corioles?

Martius: Of course.  Titus Lartius has the town under control.  The Volsces drove us back at first, and my men got scared, but I went back and attacked by myself and they followed me in.  What’s your situation here?

Cominius: Aufidius is leading the soldiers of Antium, his home town.

Martius: We can beat them.  Give me your bravest men and point me in the right direction, and I’ll beat those bastards.

Cominius: I believe you.  But a general shouldn’t look so bloody.  I wish you could take a bath first.

Martius: Ha!  I love Volscian blood!  I could swim in it!  (To the Soldiers) What do you say, men?  Do you want to get bloody with the blood of the Volsces?

Soldiers: Yes!

Martius: I can’t hear you!

Soldiers (Louder): Yes!

Martius: Do you love this war?

Soldiers: Yes!

Martius: Are you ready to kill?

Soldiers: Yes!

Martius: Then I will be your sword!

    (The Soldiers cheer and shout.)

Cominius: Men, victory is yours–and the spoils of war!

    (Cheering and shouting as Martius leads the Soldiers out.)

Act 1, Scene 8.  Outside the gates of Corioles.  Titus Lartius comes out of the city with his Lieutenant [i.e., second-in-command], Soldiers, and a Scout.

Lartius: Lieutenant, you know your orders.  Keep all the gates well-guarded.  I have to go back and support Cominius and Martius.  If I need help from you, I’ll send a message.  We have to make sure the Volsces are beaten in the field, otherwise we’ll never hold on to the town.

Lieut: I understand, General.  You can count on me.

Lartius: Shut the gates behind us and keep them shut.

Lieut: Yes, sir!

    (The Lieutenant reenters the gates and is closing them as the scene ends.)

Lartius: Where’s my scout?–You.–You know the way.  Get us to the other camp.

    (They all leave, the Scout and Lartius leading.)  

Act 1, Scene 9.  The battlefield.  Sounds of battle.  Martius and Aufidius come in from opposite sides.

Martius: Aufidius!  Now at last I get to kill you!

Aufidius: Martius!  I’ve been waiting for this!

    (The two men duel vigorously.  Then several Volsces come in to help Aufidius, but they are clumsy and get in his way.)

Aufidius: You’re in my way, damn it!

    (Martius drives them all out and pursues.)

Act 1, Scene 10.  On the field.  A heroic trumpet flourish.  Cominius and Soldiers come in from one side and meet Martius and other Soldiers coming in from the other.  Martius has his left arm in a sling.

Cominius: Are you hurt bad?

Martius: Not much.  Aufidius took a lot worse from me.

Cominius: Martius, I have to say you’ve been more than heroic.  You’ve been spectacular.  When I make my report in Rome, every citizen will thank the gods that Rome has such a soldier.

Martius: Don’t flatter me.  Only my mother is allowed to do that.  Anyway, I’m disappointed I didn’t kill Aufidius.

Cominius: Never mind that.  This has been a great victory, and I’m going to see to it that the Senate gives you proper recognition.  But right now I’m going to give you a more material reward.  You can have one-tenth of the spoils–and that’ll be a lot.

Martius: Thank you, General, but I don’t need any spoils.  I fight for honour.  That’s my reward.  Let the soldiers have my share of the spoils.

    (The Soldiers cheer.)

Cominius: If you go back to Rome with nothing to show for your heroism, I will feel personally embarrassed as your commander-in-chief.  So I’m giving you my best horse–with all the trim.  And don’t you dare say no.

Martius: Thank you very much, sir.

Cominius: And–to recognize your victory at Corioles, you shall now be known as Caius Martius Coriolanus.

    (A drum roll, and the Soldiers cheer.  [Author’s note: From this point on, Martius’ speech prefix will be “Coriolanus.”])

Coriolanus (To the Soldiers): You can’t tell with all the blood on my face, but I think I’m blushing.–General, I will do right by your horse, and I will do honour to my new name.

Cominius: Good.  Now let’s get you cleaned up.  You want to look good when we get back to Rome.

    (They all leave.)

Act 1, Scene 11.  Elsewhere on the field.  Tullus Aufidius, bloody, comes in with some of his Soldiers.

Aufidius: The Romans have the city.

Soldier: We’ll get it back, sir.

Aufidius: No chance.  We’ll have to negotiate to get it back, but it’ll be on their terms.–That goddamn Martius has beaten me five times on the battlefield.  From now on, no more fair fighting.  If I can beat him with some kind of trick, I will.–You–go check out the city and size up the Roman forces and see how many hostages they’re holding.

Soldier: Yes, General.

Aufidius: I’ll be at the cypress grove conferring with my staff.  Meet me there.

Soldier: Yes, General.

    (The leave, the Soldier separately.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare left a serious glitch in the original play.  Titus Lartius appears in this scene, but he is supposed to have stayed behind in Corioles to negotiate with the Volsces.  So he is in two places at once.  I have done my best to smooth this over.]  A street in Rome.  Menenius comes in with the tribunes Sicinius and Brutus.

Menenius: The soothsayer says we’ll be getting news about Martius.

Brutus: Good or bad?

Menenius: That I don’t know.  Why, are you hoping for bad news?

Brutus: No, no.

Menenius: The plebeians are probably hoping for bad news.

Sicinius: The common people have their instincts about who their friends and enemies are–just the way animals do.

Menenius: An apt comparison.–You don’t like him, do you?

Sicinius: Well–

Menenius: Tell me, what fault does he have that you don’t have?

Sicinius: He’s too proud.

Brutus: He brags.

Sicinius: He’s full of himself.

Brutus: Yes.  And he loves power.

Menenius: Uh-huh.–Well, I can tell you that you are not exactly held in high esteem by the nobles.

Sicinius and Brutus (Offended): Why?–What do you mean?

Menenius: Ah, look who’s proud now.

Sicinius and Brutus: Oh!–Oh!

Menenius: Am I pissing you off?  Too bad.  Any little thing pisses you off.

Brutus: We stand with many who dislike Martius.

Sicinius: Indeed, we do.

Menenius: People like you always stand with many.  You wouldn’t have the guts to stand alone, the way Martius does.

Sicinius and Brutus: Oh!–Oh!

Menenius: Just look in the mirror and you’ll see two fools as big as any in Rome.

Sicinius: Some people think you’re a fool, too.

Menenius: I trust my reputation enough that I allow it to precede me wherever I go.  I speak plainly, I stay up late, and I have my little indulgences.

Brutus: We know about you, Menenius.–(To Sicinius) Don’t we?

Sicinius: We sure do.

Menenius: You two don’t know anything.  You’re supposed to be magistrates and you spend two days hearing a complaint between a fishmonger and a laundress.  You have no brains.

Brutus: You think you’re so smart with all your educated talk over the dinner table, but in the Senate you’re really a nobody.

Menenius: You are annoying little men who were nothing until recently.  Now you have a little bit of power, and it’s gone to your heads.  Your cleverest words are like bird shit falling to the ground.  And as for Martius, he is superior to you and all your ancestors put together.–I take my leave you.  Good evening.

    (Menenius starts to leave but meets Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria coming in.  Brutus and Sicinius stand aside.  [Virgilia will be very serious throughout this scene.])

Menenius: Ah!  The three fairest and noblest ladies in Rome.  How are you?

Volumnia: We are well, sir.  Martius is back in Rome.  He’s coming now.

Menenius: Wonderful!  The soothsayer was right.

Volumnia: And everyone’s cheering for him–including the plebeians.

Menenius: Ah–indeed!  (With a sideways look at Sicinius and Brutus) That’s excellent.  I’m not at all surprised.

Volumnia: We got letters from him.  You’ll find one at your house waiting for you.

Menenius: I look forward to reading it.  Tell me, is he wounded?

    (Overlapping replies)

Virgilia: No! No!

Volumnia: Yes, yes–and I thank the gods for it.  It’s glorious.

Menenius: But he won the battle?

Volumnia: Of course, he won.  He always wins.

Menenius: Did he run into Aufidius?

Volumnia: They fought, but Aufidius got away–badly wounded, of course.

Menenius: So I take it the Senate has the news by now?

Volumnia: Yes.  Cominius sent them letters and he described how Martius practically won the battle all by himself.  It’s the greatest victory of his life.

Menenius: Where was he wounded?

Volumnia: In the left arm and shoulder and a few other places.  He’ll have some big scars to show off to the people.–(A significant look to Virgilia) When the time comes.

    (Trumpet flourish.  Coming in are Cominius and Titus Lartius, with Coriolanus between them, wearing a garland, plus Captains and Soldiers, and a Herald.  The trumpet blows for the Herald.)

Herald: Let all Rome know that Caius Martius fought the Volsces at the town of Corioles and conquered it.  For this heroic deed, he shall be given the honourary name of Coriolanus!

    (Cheering and applause.)

Coriolanus: Please, you don’t have to applaud.

Cominius: I think your mother’s happy.

    (Coriolanus kneels before his mother and kisses her hand.)

Coriolanus: I’m sure you begged the gods to give me victory.

Volumnia: Oh, I prayed, but you still did it.–My son the soldier.  (He rises.)  And now you’re Coriolanus, are you?  I’ll have to get used to that.–Now greet your wife.

    (Coriolanus embraces his wife in a restrained way.  The suggestion is that she is secondary to his mother.)

Coriolanus: You’re so quiet, Virgilia.  How would you be if I’d come home in a coffin?  (To Valeria) And Valeria!  It’s wonderful to see you, too.

Valeria: Welcome back, hero!

Menenius: All three generals are heroes.  And I hope all of Rome celebrates and gets drunk!–(Sideways look at Brutus and Sicinius) except for a few grouches who suffer from indigestion.

Coriolanus: Let’s go, ladies.  (He takes Volumnia and Virgilia by the hands.)  We have to visit the nobles before I go home.

Volumnia: Ah, yes, the nobles.  I have one last wish to be fulfilled, and I expect that will happen soon.  Rome must honour you as you deserve.

Coriolanus: Oh, please, mother.  I’d rather serve in my own way as a soldier than in somebody else’s way.

Cominius: On to the Capitol!

    (A trumpet flourish.  All leave except Brutus and Sicinius, who return to centre stage.)

Brutus: I can see what’s coming.

Sicinius: He’ll be made Consul of Rome.

Brutus: That won’t be good for us.

Sicinius: However–as much as he may be a war hero, he was never made for politics.  Right now he’s got a huge fund of goodwill from the people, but he could lose it very easily.

Brutus: With a little help from us.

Sicinius: Exactly.  The people are fickle.  They can be manipulated.

Brutus: I know.

Sicinius: He’s got to get their approval to be Consul.  Can you imagine him going to the marketplace and trying to talk nice to them?

Brutus: Ha!  I don’t think he can do it.  I don’t think he can hide his attitude.

Sicinius: And we’ll remind them, if necessary, how he really feels about them.

Brutus: If he’s true to his character, he’ll never be Consul.

Sicinius: Let’s hope so.

Brutus: Let’s go back to the Capitol and see what happens.

Sicinius: With you, bro.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In the Capitol.  A trumpet flourish.  Coming are the Senators, Cominius, Menenius, and Coriolanus, followed by Sicinius and Brutus, and finally an Officer who remains at the door.  The Senators sit; Sicinius and Brutus sit apart from them.  Cominius, Menenius, and Coriolanus remain standing.  Cominius whispers to Menenius, prompting him to speak.

Menenius: Most honoured senators–and honoured tribunes–after having come to very favourable terms with the Volsces, our last item of business is to acknowledge the exemplary service of Caius Martius Coriolanus.  And for that, there is no one better suited to speak than our present Consul and commander-in-chief, Cominius.

    (Menenius signals Coriolanus to sit.)

1st Senator: Speak, Cominius, and leave nothing out.  (To Sicinius and Brutus) And we want you to pay close attention and give a favourable report to the people.

Sicinius: We shall be glad to, sir.

Brutus: If Coriolanus shows a little more affection to the people than he has in the past.

Menenius: Stop it.  You’re being impertinent.  Just listen to Cominius.

Brutus: I’ll listen, sir.  Buy my remark was quite pertinent.

Menenius: Coriolanus loves the people well enough.  He doesn’t have to get into bed with them.–Cominius, we’re all ready to listen to you.

    (Coriolanus gets up.)

Coriolanus: Excuse me.  It might be better if I left the room.

Menenius: No, no.  Sit down.

1st Senator: Don’t leave now, sir.  Don’t you want to hear Cominius talk about your exploits?

Coriolanus: To be perfectly honest, no.  My wounds will heal faster if I’m not reminded of how I got them.

Brutus: I hope I haven’t offended you, sir.

Coriolanus: Hell, you can say what you like.  And as far as the–plebeians–go, they have as much of my affection as they deserve.

Menenius (Interjecting quickly): Yes, yes, all right.  Just have a seat.

Coriolanus: Really, I have no interest in hearing my service as a soldier exaggerated.  I’ll just step outside.–Excuse me, gentlemen.

    (Coriolanus leaves.)

Menenius (To the Senators): See how he is?  Now that’s a real hero.  He’d rather risk his life on the battlefield than be praised for it afterwards.–Cominius, we are ready to hear from you.

Cominius: Thank you.–Gentlemen, I can hardly find words to do justice to Coriolanus.  We Romans hold courage to be the greatest of all virtues.  And no one in the world can match Coriolanus for courage.  When he was only sixteen, he fought against the last of the tyrant kings, Tarquin.  And although it was his first battle, everyone was astonished by the way he fought–like an experienced soldier.  He outshined everyone.  And he has done the same in seventeen battles since.  At Corioles he turned defeat into victory.  He stormed the town by himself, slaying Volsces left and right.  His men were emboldened by his example, and Corioles was taken.  But he wasn’t through yet.  Despite his exhaustion and wounds, he returned to the field where the rest of us were fighting Aufidius and his brigade, and he routed them, sealing the victory for Rome.

    (The Senators burst into enthusiastic applause and cheers.)

Menenius: Is he not worthy, my lords?

1st Senator: He is more than worthy.

Senators: A Consul!  A Consul!

Cominius: And let me add that he refused to take any of the spoils of war.  He let his soldiers have his share.  He doesn’t care about material rewards.  He believes in service for the sake of service.

1st Senator: Call him back in here.  We have to nominate him as Consul.

Senators: Yes! Yes!

    (The Officer at the door nods and steps out.  He returns immediately with Coriolanus.)

Menenius: Coriolanus, the Senate has decided to name you Consul.

Coriolanus: Thank you, my lords.  My life belongs to Rome–in service.

Menenius: All that remains is for you to speak to the people and get their approval.

1st Senator: Yes.  That’s the custom.  You’ll have to put on a gown of humility and go down to the marketplace and talk to them and convince them that you’d be a good Consul.

Coriolanus: Well–if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather skip that part.  (Sicinius gives Brutus a siginificant tap on the arm.)  I mean, the idea of dressing down to their level, so to speak, and showing off my war wounds, and asking for their approval–well–it’s rather degrading, isn’t it?

Sicinius: Sir, the people must be given the opportunity to approve or disapprove.  You can’t just skip it.

Menenius: Yes.  The tribune is right.  Just go through with it, even if you don’t want to.  All the Consuls have had to do it.

Coriolanus: I would feel phony about it.  It’s a bad custom, if you ask me.  We could do without it.

Sicinius and Brutus: Oh!–Oh!

Coriolanus: I mean, I didn’t do all that fighting just to gain the approval of the plebes.  Am I supposed to pitch myself like a politician?  You know I’m not like that.

Sicinius (Aside to Brutus): Told you.

Brutus (Aside to Sicinius): I told you.

Menenius: Please don’t make an issue of it.  It’s just routine.  (To the Senators) He’ll do it, don’t worry.–Tribunes, please inform the people of the Senate’s choice.–And to our new Consul we wish all happiness and honour.

Senators: Hear! Hear!

    (The Senators stand and applaud.  There is a trumpet flourish and all leave, except for Sicinius and Brutus.)

Brutus: This should be something.

Sicinius: Yeah.  An attitude that big can’t be covered by any gown of humility.

Brutus: That’s for sure.  Let’s go to the marketplace and give the people the news.

Sicinius: With you, bro.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  On the street.  Seven or eight Citizens come in.  A conversation is already in progress.

1st Citizen: Okay, no more arguing.  If he asks us to support him, we will.

2nd Citizen: We’re not obligated, you know.

3rd Citizen: Of course, we’re not obligated, but look.  The guy’s a war hero, right?  If we turn him down, how does that make us look?  Like ungrateful bastards, that’s how.

2nd Citizen: Well, I don’t know.

3rd Citizen: It’s going to be a majority vote anyway.  Listen, the best thing is not to meet him all at once but in two or threes.  That way he have a better chance to size him up.  All right?

2nd Citizen: That’s a good idea.  Let’s take a little walk and plan this.

    (The Citizens leave.  Then Coriolanus comes in, dressed in a gown of humility and a poor man’s cap.  He is accompanied by Menenius.)

Coriolanus: I feel like a fucking fool.

Menenius: Oh, come on, it’s nothing.  It’s just a little custom.  You say a few nice words to the plebes and it’s all settled.

Coriolanus: What am I supposed to say to these mangy mutts?–“Oh, please give me your votes.  Here, look at my war wounds.  I got them fighting honourably while some of your friends and relatives turned and ran like a bunch of fucking–”

Menenius: For God’s sake, don’t talk like that!  I swear, for a guy who does everything right on the battlefield, you’re totally left-footed when it comes to politics.

Coriolanus: You know why?  Because fighting is honest.  It’s always honest.  But politics is bullshit, and it’s always bullshit.

Menenius: Look, this is for the consulship!  The highest position in Rome!  You’re this close to it!  (Indicates with thumb and forefinger.)  This matters just as much as winning a battle.  Just be polite.  You’ve got to stroke them.

Coriolanus: I’d rather hang them.

Menenius: Please–listen to an older man.  I’m your mentor, and I’m your friend, too.  I’m telling you–put your feelings in your back pocket and keep them out of sight.

Coriolanus: There’s no pocket in this fucking sack.

    (Menenius gives Coriolanus a pat of encouragement.)

Menenius: You can do it.  Just put your mind to it.  Just be polite.  And remember that this is a gown of humility.  For a noble to wear such a gown and walk among the plebes, it means he identifies with them–he cares about them.–Okay, I’ll leave you to it.

    (Menenius leaves.  Coriolanus frowns, looking at his gown.  Then three Citizens come in.)

3rd Citizen: Greetings, sir.

Coriolanus: Greetings, citizens.  Well, I suppose you know why I’m here.

3rd Citizen: Tell us in your own words, sir.

Coriolanus: The Senate has chosen me to be Consul–but I would just as soon not trouble you about it.

3rd Citizen: Well, we want to be sure, sir.  You want our support, but we want something, too.

Coriolanus: That figures.  All right, what’s your price?

1st Citizen: Our price is simply to ask us nicely.

Coriolanus: Fine.–Please–support me as Consul.  I’ve served in battle.  I have wounds to prove it.  Just don’t ask to see them.  I don’t show them in public.–So, okay, what’s it gonna be?  Yes or no?

Citizens: Mm–yes–all right.

Coriolanus: Good.  That’s three votes in the bag.  Thank you, and have a nice day.

   (The Citizens go out slowly, talking to each other.)

3rd Citizen: That was rather odd.

1st Citizen: Not too friendly.

2nd Citizen: Maybe we shouldn’t–nah, never mind.

    (The Citizens leave.  Then two others come in.)

Coriolanus: Hello, citizens.  Here I am in the required gown of humility to beg for your votes.  May you find me worthy.

4th Citizen: Sir, I would say that you are worthy and not worthy.

Coriolanus: How do you mean?

4th Citizen: Well, you’ve been a scourge to the barbarians, but you haven’t exactly been our friend.

Coriolanus: I’m more particular about my friends than I am about my enemies.–But knowing the way the common people think, I will gladly say that you are all my beloved brothers, upon whom I smile day and night.  Even when I’m in the john contemplating, every little thing reminds me of you.  I long so much to be your Consul.  Please say yes.

5th Citizen: We just hope you’ll be our friend, sir.  We’ll support you.

4th Citizen: You’ve got a lot of war wounds, don’t you?

Coriolanus: Dozens.  But I prefer not to show them.

5th Citizen: May the gods protect you anyway, sir.

    (The Citizens leave.)

Coriolanus: Dirty faces and crooked teeth.  These people make me sick.–Here’s some more.

    (Three more Citizens come in.)

Coriolanus: Citizens!  For your votes I fought against our enemies.  For your votes I took two dozen wounds and fought in eighteen battles.   All for your votes, kind citizens.  So–will you support me as Consul?

6th Citizen (To the others): How can we say no after all he’s done?

7th Citizen: Let him be Consul.

8th Citizen: Yes.  Why not?

Citizens: May the gods protect you, sir–our noble Consul.

Coriolanus: Thank you.  Thank you.  (Aside) I knew I could con you.

    (The Citizens leave.  Then Menenius comes in with Sicinius and Brutus.)

Menenius: Well done, sir.  The people support you.

Sicinius: Yes–apparently.

Coriolanus: Whew!  Glad that’s over.

Menenius: All that’s left is to return to the Senate for the official ceremony.

Coriolanus: Fine.  Can I take off this sack now?

Menenius: Yes, yes.  Come along with me.  I’ll escort you.  (To Sicinius and Brutus) Coming?

Brutus: We’ll catch up with you later.

Sicinius: We just want to mingle with the people.

Menenius: All right.

    (Menenius and Coriolanus leave.)

Brutus: Looks like he’s got it.

Sicinius: Not so fast.  The people have been known to change their minds.

    (All the Citizens return.)

Sicinius: Well!  Have you decided to support Coriolanus?

1st Citizen: Yes, we’ll vote for him.  Why not?

Brutus: I hope you don’t regret it later.

2nd Citizen: Actually, I thought he was rather condescending.

3rd Citizen: Yeah, I thought so, too.

1st Citizen: Aw, that’s just the way he is.

2nd Citizen: He wouldn’t show us his war wounds.

Sicinius: Oh, really!

3rd Citizen: He said he wouldn’t show them in public.  As if we’re not good enough to look at them.  I thought he treated us with some contempt.  He was, like–“What’s it gonna be?  Yes or no?”  And then–“Have a nice day.”

Sicinius: Then why did you agree to support him?

3rd Citizen: I don’t know.  The guy’s a war hero, you know?  It just seemed like the right thing to do.

Brutus: We told you guys what to say to him, didn’t we?  We told you to remind him that he was always against you, that he was always down on the people.  And when you were hungry and wanted food, he didn’t care if you starved.

Some Citizens: Yeah, yeah.

Brutus: And if he loved you at all, he would’ve been really sweet to you when he came to ask for your support.  You should have said that to him right to his face.

Sicinius: Then you would’ve gotten a reaction out of him.  He would’ve blown up, and then everyone would’ve seen exactly what kind of man he is.

Brutus: What do you think he’ll be like as Consul?  Once he has all that power, he’ll crush you.  You’ll be worse off than you are now.

Sicinius: Do you really want him as Consul?

1st Citizen: Well, it’s too late now, isn’t it?

Sicinius: No.  You can change your minds.

1st Citizen: Can we?

Brutus: Yes.  He hasn’t had the ceremony yet.

    (The Citizens huddle for a moment, murmuring.)

1st Citizen (To the Tribunes): Okay, then.  We want to change our votes.  We don’t want him as Consul.

Sicinius: Fine.  Just pass the word to everyone and meet outside the Senate.

2nd Citizen: I’m going to tell everyone I know.

Other Citizens: Yeah.–Me, too.

Brutus: Okay.  Great.  But make sure–and this is important–make sure to say that you only voted for him at the beginning because Sicinius and I urged you to.

Sicinius: Right.  Brutus and I were totally in favour of Coriolanus, and you went along with us just to be nice.  But afterwards, when you thought about it yourselves with your own free minds, you decided it would be a mistake.

Citizens: Yes! Yes!

Brutus: Okay, scoot.  Spread the word.

    (The Citizens rush out.)

Brutus: The shit’s gonna hit the fan at the Senate.  You’ll see.  Coriolanus will blow up like a volcano. 

Sicinius: Power to the people!–Right?

Brutus: You said it.

Sicinius: Come on.  We gotta be firemen–and make sure there’s a good fire–ha!

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  The Senate-house.  Coming in leisurely are the Senators, Coriolanus, dressed formally as Consul, Menenius, Cominius, Titus Lartius, and other Nobles.  [Author’s note: Once again Shakespeare presents us with a little problem with Titus Lartius, the general who can be in two places at once.  In this scene, the inference is unavoidable that Lartius has been out of Rome, dealing with the Volsces.  Shakespeare gives him a few lines and has him leave for no specific reason.  Some directors build out the scene for Lartius’ sake, but I’m leaving it alone.]

Coriolanus: Has Aufidius raised a new army?

Lartius: Yes.  That’s why we made peace with him quickly.

Coriolanus: He could strike us again.

Cominius: I don’t think he will.  I think the Volsces have had their fill of war for a long time to come.

Coriolanus (To Lartius): Did you speak to him yourself?

Lartius: Yes.  He was angry with his troops for letting him down.  And he definitely wants to get even with you personally.

Coriolanus: Where is he now?

Lartius: Antium.

Coriolanus: If I had a good excuse, I’d go out there and fight him one-on-one.  Anyway, you did a good job handling the negotiations.

Lartius: Thank you–my lord Consul.

Coriolanus: Lord Consul–ha, ha!  I’m getting used to that.

Lartius: I’ll see you later.

Coriolanus: All right.  Good night.

Lartius: Good night–Generals.

Cominius: Good night.

    (Lartius leaves.  Then Sicinius and Brutus come in, remaining apart.  Coriolanus frowns when he sees them.)

Coriolanus (Aside to Cominius): The two big-mouths of the people.

Sicinius (Approaching): Sir!  I advise you not to go outside dressed as Consul.

Coriolanus: What?

Brutus (Approaching): That’s right, sir.  The people will be offended.

Menenius: Why should they be offended?

Cominius: They already gave their approval.

    (Crowd noise is heard outside.–“No to Coriolanus!”–“No Consul!”–“No!”)

Brutus: Well–originally they approved–but they have since changed their minds.

Coriolanus: You put them up to it!  This is your doing!

Brutus: No, no.  We were on your side. 

Sicinius: That’s right, sir.  They had second thoughts after you met them in the marketplace, and they agreed that you had the wrong attitude for a Consul.  And they remembered that you were against them when they demanded food.

Coriolanus: You reminded them, I’m sure.

Brutus: No, no.  Don’t blame us.

    (More crowd noise is heard.)

Sicinius: You can hear how unhappy they are with you, sir.  You should blame yourself.

Menenius: Okay, let’s just be calm about this.–Please.–We can talk this over in a nice way.

Cominius: It’s pretty obvious that these tribunes have worked the crowd up against Coriolanus.  This is not proper.  This is not the way the Republic is supposed to work.  Coriolanus deserves to be Consul.

    (More crowd noise.)

Coriolanus: Bloody plebeians!  The more you give them, the less satisfied they are!

Menenius: Please, my friend!  Not now!

1st Senator (To Coriolanus): Hush, sir!  Please!

Coriolanus: My noble friends, you’ve all allowed yourselves to be duped by the idea of giving power to the people!  (He spits.)  There!  That’s what I think of them!

Menenius (Moaning): Oh, God.

1st Senator: Don’t make things worse, sir.

Coriolanus: Sharing power with that mob is like letting the bilge rats steer the ship!

Brutus: With an attitude like that, it’s no wonder they won’t have you.

Sicinius: Sir, it has been decided.  You shall not be Consul.

Coriolanus (Mimicking): You shall not be Consul!–Listen to this jerk–the king of the minnows.–You shall not be Consul!–Senators, you made the laws, and what have we got?  A mob of morons and a couple of asshole tribunes stirring them up.  I say, to hell with the whole idea of having tribunes, and to hell with giving power to the people!

Sicinius: This is treason!

Brutus (To the Senators): You heard what he said!  You’re all witnesses!

Coriolanus: Eat my shit–brute.

Sicinius: Is this a Consul for Rome?  No!  This is a traitor!

Brutus (Calling): Officers!

    (Two Officers rush in.)

Brutus: Call in the people!  We are arresting Coriolanus for treason!

    (The Officers rush out.)  

Sicinius: Sir!  In the name of the people, I arrest you as a traitor!

    (Sicinius tries to seize Coriolanus, who punches him in the nose, knocking him down.)

Coriolanus: You turd!

Sicinius: Help!  Help!  Citizens!  Citizens!

    (A mob of Citizens rushes in, followed by the Officers.  The Senators and other Nobles immediately stand in front of Coriolanus to protect him.)

Menenius: No violence!  No violence!  Please!  Let us reason together!

Sicinius (Getting up, pointing to Coriolanus): You see that man?  He’s the one who would take away all your rights and freedoms!  He wants to be a tyrant over you!

Citizens: No!–Never!

Brutus: Officers, seize him!

    (There is confused fighting, but without weapons.  The Citizens and Officers struggle with the Senators and Nobles.  Coriolanus stands apart.  He reaches for his sword, but Menenius stops him from drawing it.)

Menenius: Tribunes!  Make them stop!–Sicinius!  For God’s sake!

Sicinius: Stop, citizens!  Stop the fighting!  Stop!

    (The fighting stops.)

Sicinius: Let me speak.

A Citizen: All right, tribune.  Speak.

Sicinius: This man–Caius Martius–whom you originally supported as Consul–will take all your freedom from you.

Citizens: No!  No!

Menenius: Shame on you, Sicinius!

1st Senator: Think of the city!

Sicinius: The people are the city.

Citizens: Yes!  Yes!

Brutus: We are the people’s tribunes.  We have been chosen by them.

Citizens: Yes!  Yes!

Menenius: Yes, of course, you are the tribunes.  No one is disputing that.

Coriolanus: This is how the Republic will end–with evil tribunes and stupid people.

Sicinius: You hear that?  That’s treason.  And what is the penalty?  Death?

Citizens: Death!  Death!  Death!

Brutus: The people speak.

Menenius: Wait!  Wait!  Wait!–Please, tribunes.  Let me speak.

Brutus: Go ahead.

Menenius: If you care about Rome, you don’t resort to violence.

Brutus: Where the threat is great, the remedy must be greater.

    (Coriolanus draws his sword.)

Coriolanus: You won’t take me alive.  I’ll kill a hundred of you bastards first.

Sicinius: You see what a threat he is?  This proves my point!

Brutus: We have no choice!–Officers!  Citizens!

    (The Citizens and Officers attempt to get to Coriolanus, but this time the Senators and Nobles draw their swords and drive the mob out.)

Menenius (To Coriolanus): You’ve got to go home.  You’re not safe here.

Coriolanus: Why should I run?  We have as many friends as enemies. 

1st Senator: Oh, no, please!  We don’t want a civil war!  You should go home.  We’ll deal with this situation–somehow.

Cominius: He’s right.  I’ll walk with you.

Coriolanus: They’re just like barbarians.  They’re not true Romans.

Cominius: This is not the time for a confrontation.  We don’t want this to blow up.

Menenius: Take him home, Cominius.  I’ll try to figure out how to patch this quarrel over.

Cominius: Right.–Come on.

    (Cominius links arms with Coriolanus and leads him out.)

2nd Senator (Shaking his head): And he was this close (Indicates with fingers) to being Consul.  And you know what I think?  He blew it.

Menenius: He wasn’t cut out for politics.  He’s too blunt–and inflexible.

    (Crowd noise is heard again.)

2nd Senator: I think they’re back. 

    (Sicinius, Brutus, and the Citizens return, but the Citizens are more restrained.  The suggestion is that the tribunes control them.)

Sicinius: Where is that traitor?

Menenius: Tribune, please–

Sicinius: Treason cannot go unpunished.  We have laws–to protect the people.

Citizens: Yes!  Yes!

Menenius: Tribune, remember your place.  You speak for the people, but you don’t administer the law for serious offenses.

Sicinius: Obviously, you’re on his side.

Menenius: Listen, I’ve known the Consul all his life–his virtues as well as his faults.

Sicinius: Consul?  And who would that be?

Menenius: Coriolanus.

Brutus: He’s not Consul.

Citizens: No!  No!

Sicinius: The people have decided he must die tonight.

Citizens: Yes!–Yes!–He dies!

Menenius: Citizens, please!–Hear me out.  What you are asking for offends the gods.  And it’s–it’s un-Roman.  Rome does not execute a hero to whom it owes so much.

Sicinius: He was a hero before–but now he’s a threat.  (To the Citizens) Did he not threaten to kill us?

Citizens: Yes!  Yes!

Menenius: He was just reacting like a soldier.  Now listen–you must meet us half-way on this.  I will arrange to have Coriolanus brought before the people so he can answer the accusations against him.

1st Senator: Yes.  That’s the proper thing to do.  Otherwise, there’ll be a civil war.  You don’t want that, do you?

    (Sicinius and Brutus exchange a significant look.  The suggestion is that they have no choice but to concede.)

Sicinius: All right, Menenius.  We’ll leave it with you.  You can be the people’s officer.  (To the Citizens)  All right, citizens.  We’re going to leave peacefully.  We’ll meet in the marketplace.  (To Menenius)  You bring him there.  If he doesn’t show up, the people will deal with him in their own way.

    (The Tribunes and Citizens leave.)

Menenius (To the Senators): Come with me.  I may need some help.

Senators: Yes, yes.

    (Menenius and the Senators and Nobles leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  The house of Coriolanus.  Coriolanus comes in with some Nobles, a conversation already in progress.

Coriolanus: Bloody tribunes!  Bloody plebeians!  Fuck ’em all both!  I’m not giving in to them!

    (Volumnia comes in, looking serious and disapproving.)

Coriolanus: Mother, before you start lecturing me, don’t lecture me, okay?

Volumnia: You let them push your button, didn’t you?

Coriolanus: Okay, so maybe I did.

Volumnia: Sometimes the greater strength is in self-restraint.

Coriolanus: They can all drop dead.

Volumnia: I agree with you, but this is politics, not the battlefield.

    (Menenius and the Senators come in.)

Menenius: You blew up at them.  That was absolutely the wrong thing to do.

Coriolanus: Maybe.

Menenius: You’ve got to meet with them again and apologize.

Coriolanus: Fat chance.

1st Senator: There’s a lot riding on this, sir.  This will affect the whole city.  We need you.

Volumnia: Listen to them, son–and to me.  We all have feelings, but as we get older we learn to balance them with good sense.

Menenius: Well said, madam.

Coriolanus: What do you expect me to do?

Menenius: Go back to the tribunes.  Say you’re sorry.  You didn’t mean what you said.  You got carried away.  And say it to the people as well.

Coriolanus: Why should I say I’m sorry when I’m not?

Volumnia: You’re being stubborn now.

Coriolanus: That’s how I won so many battles–by being stubborn.

Volumnia: Son, listen to me.  Look at it this way.  If you were at war and you had an opportunity to take a city with words only, wouldn’t you do it?

Coriolanus: Yes.

Volumnia: Even if those words were a deception?

Coriolanus: I suppose.–Yes.  Why not?

Volumnia: All right, then.  Think of the tribunes and the plebeians the same way.  You want something–the consulship.  You won’t get it by fighting them, but you can get it by speaking the right way.  Even if you don’t mean it, so what?

Menenius: She’s right.  You have to understand how the plebeians think.  They’re fickle.  Their emotions go back and forth.  If you apologize to them, they’ll forgive you.  They supported you until you rubbed them the wrong way.

Coriolanus: It was the tribunes who manipulated them, and you know it.

Menenius: All right, I suppose they did.  But you can still win the plebeians back.

    (Cominius comes in.)

Cominius: Hello!

Menenius: What’s happening, Cominius?

Cominius: The people are in the marketplace, and they’re in a foul mood.  (To Coriolanus)  You either have to go and speak to them calmly and politely–and with a lot of contrition–or don’t go at all.  And the latter option is worse.

Volumnia: He’ll go.  Of course, he’ll go.  (To Coriolanus)  You have to speak to them very nicely.

Coriolanus: I’ve never been in such a humiliating position in my whole life.  No battle was as bad as this.

Menenius: We’ll come with you.  It’ll be all right.

Volumnia: Do it for me.  If you do this, I will praise you more than for any battle you ever won.

Coriolanus (Gritting his teeth): All right.  I’ll do it.  I’ll be totally insincere and lie through my teeth.

Cominius: Be mild with them.–Mild.

Coriolanus: Oh, yes–mild.  That’s my nickname–Martius the Mild.  I’ll be–extremely–mild.–All right, here we go, then–to the marketplace to be extremely mild–with the intelligent and sweet-smelling plebeians and their honourable, altruistic tribunes.

Menenius: That’s the spirit!

    (Coriolanus leaves, and is followed by Menenius, Cominius, and the Senators.)  

Act 3, Scene 3.  At the marketplace.  Sicinius and Brutus come in, already in conversation.

Brutus: That’s the way to push his button–accuse him of tyranny.   Also, how much he hates the people.

Sicinius: Right, right.

    (An Officer comes in.)

Officer: He’s coming.

Brutus: Who’s with him?

Officer: Menenius, Cominius, and the Senators.

Sicinius: Have you rounded up all the people who hate him the most?

Officer: Yes.  I did exactly what you told me to do.

Sicinius: Good.  Now you tell them to follow my cues.  I’m speaking for them, so they have to back me up.

Officer: Understood.

Sicinius: And I want them to be loud.

Officer: Oh, they’ll be loud, don’t worry.

Sicinius: Okay.  Go.

    (The Officer leaves.)

Brutus: We want to make him lose his temper right away.  You saw the way he blew up in the Senate-house.

Sicinius: Right.

Brutus: He doesn’t want to do this.  He’s primed for another explosion.

Sicinius: I’m sure he is.  And we’re going to score points for not calling for the death penalty.

Brutus: Right.  We’re–what’s the word?–magnanimous.

Sicinius: Magnanimous.  That’s what we are.–Okay, here he comes.

    (Coriolanus, Menenius, Cominius, and the Senators come in.)

Menenius (Aside to Coriolanus): Remember–be mild.

Coriolanus (Aside to Menenius): Yeah, yeah.–(To the Tribunes) Greetings, tribunes.  May the gods keep all the people safe and give us all peace and love.  (He makes a “peace” sign, which he shares with the audience.)

1st Senator: Hear! Hear!

Menenius: Very noble!  (He claps.)

Sicinius: Thank you, sir.  The people will hear you now. 

    (Sicinius turns and gives a signal, and the Officer leads in the Citizens, who are grumbling loudly.)

Officer: Quiet, please!  Give your attention to the tribunes.

Coriolanus (Clearing his throat): Ahem.–If I may speak.

Sicinius and Brutus: Yes, yes.

Coriolanus: Whatever the problem is, we’re going to deal with it here and now, and you’re going to stick to what’s already been referred to and not invent any new accusations. 

Sicinius: Fine.  And you agree to submit to the will of the people–whatever it may be.

Coriolanus: Yes.

Menenius: Citizens, if I may speak.  Coriolanus is a military hero, as his many wounds prove–

Coriolanus: Forget that.

Menenius: Shh!–(To the Citizens)  He is a soldier, and he speaks like a soldier, and if he speaks harshly at times, that’s just his way of speaking, and you shouldn’t take it personally.  Heroes don’t always express themselves the way–

Cominius (Aside to Menenius): Don’t make a speech.

Coriolanus: Let’s get on with this farce.   What’s your charge against me?

Sicinius (Harshly): The people charge you with treason–

Coriolanus: What!

Menenius: Shh!

Sicinius: In attempting to subjugate them to your will and make yourself a tyrant over them!

Coriolanus: What a crock of shit!  May you rot in hell–the whole bloody lot of you!

Citizens (Loudly): Oh!–Oh!–Oh!

Sicinius: You hear that, citizens?  Such hatred!  Such malice!  And you saw him drive us out of the Senate-house!

Citizens: Yes!–Down with him!

Officer: Peace!–Quiet!

    (The Citizens quiet down.)

Sicinius: Such a crime of treason could be punished by death.

Brutus: However–taking into account your rather good service to Rome–

Coriolanus: Rather good service!  You miserable worm!

Menenius: Shh!

Coriolanus (To Menenius): I want to bash this guy’s head in.

Menenius: Please, sir.  Think of your mother.

Sicinius: The tribunes have urged moderation on the part of the people, and by their agreement and consent–(He gives a subtle signal to the Citizens.)–the punishment shall be–banishment from Rome!

Citizens: Banishment!–Banishment!–Get out of Rome!–Begone!

Cominius: No!  No!  Wait!  Please!

Sicinius: There’s nothing more to be said.  He is banished.  His own words have convicted him.

Cominius: I plead for mercy for him!

Brutus: I’m sorry, sir.  The matter is closed.

Coriolanus (To Cominius): Don’t waste your breath.  If they want me gone, I’ll go.  (To the Citizens)  And I’ll leave you stupid dogs to your miserable fate!  You are your own worst enemies, and you’ll find that out the hard way–after you’ve driven out all your defenders and there’s no one left to defend you from the barbarians!  I spit on you!   I piss on you!  I’ll go somewhere else and be happier than I could ever be in Rome!

    (Coriolanus storms out, followed by his friends.) 

Brutus: He was the enemy, and now he’s gone!

Citizens: Hooray!–No more Coriolanus!–He’s gone!

Sicinius: Follow him to the gates and let him know how glad you are to be rid of him!

    (The Citizens leave noisily.)

Brutus: That was great.

Sicinius: It was perfect.  (To the Officer)  Good job.

Officer: Thank you, sir.

Sicinius: You stick with us.–Let’s go.

    (They all leave in the other direction.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 2.  On the Street.  Sicinius, Brutus, and the Officer come in.

Brutus: I think from this point on, we want to be–you know–less pushy.

Sicinius: Keep a lower profile.  Keep it hunble.

Brutus: Exactly.–But I’ll tell you, it’s great to have such a sense of power.

Sicinius: It sure is.  (To the Officer)  Coriolanus is gone by now, so you can tell the people to go home.  And tell them–tell them they should be proud of their strength.

Officer: I will, sir.

    (The Officer leaves.)

Brutus: Uh-oh.  Here comes his mother.

Sicinius: Better duck.  I don’t want to see her.

Brutus: Too late.

    (Volumnia, Virgilia, and Menenius come in.)

Volumnia: A plague on you tribunes!

Menenius: Please, madam, not so loud.

Volumnia: Why not loud!  I’ve a right to be loud!

Sicinius: We were just going, madam.

    (He and Brutus try to go past her, but the two ladies block their path.)

Volumnia: Don’t you walk away from me!

Sicinius: I’ve no desire to listen to a crazy woman. 

Volumnia: You miserable bugs!  You banished a man who has struck more blows for Rome than you’ve eaten dinners!

    (She slaps the two Tribunes.)

Menenius: Oh, goodness!

Sicinius: She’s insane!

Volumnia: I hope my son finds you somewhere where you don’t have a mob to protect you, and then he’ll chop you to pieces.

Menenius: Madam–please.

Sicinius: If your son hadn’t alienated the people, he’d still be here.

Volumnia: It was you two who roused the mob against him!  A mob of idiots!  White trash!

Brutus (To Sicinius): I think we’ve heard enough.

Volumnia: I hope you’re proud of yourselves.  You brave tribunes.  You’re not worthy to lick my son’s shoes.

    (Brutus and Sicinius leave.)

Volumnia (Calling after them): I curse you to the gods!  I will curse you every day for the rest of my life!

Menenius: They’re gone, madam.  You certainly told them off.  I hope they’re very ashamed of themselves.–Em, will you come to my house for dinner?

Volumnia: I don’t want food.  My anger is my food–and I will starve by feeding.–Come, Virgilia.  We’re in this together.

    (Volumnia and Virgilia leave.)

Menenius: Tsk–this is terrible.

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  Somewhere between Rome and Antium.  Nicanor, a Roman traitor, and Adrian, a Volscian spy, come in cautiously from opposite sides.  They stop when they see each other.  Nicanor recognizes Adrian first.

Nicanor (Cheerfully): Hey–Volsce!

Adrian (Warily): Roman.

    (Nicanor approaches.)

Nicanor: I know you.

Adrian: Do you now?

Nicanor: You’re Adrian.  You’re a spy.  (Adrian reacts nervously.)  Hey, relax.  You know me.

Adrian: Do I?

Nicanor: A spy should recognize a traitor when they’re on the same side.

    (Nicanor is smiling, so Adrian relaxes.  He is trying to remember Nicanor’s name.)

Adrian: Oh–yeah.  You’re, em–em–begins with an “N”–

Nicanor: Nicanor.

Adrian: Nicanor!  That’s it.

    (They shake hands and slap each other on the shoulder.)

Nicanor: What are you doing out here?

Adrian: What am I doing?  I was sent to find out what’s going on in Rome.  What else would I be doing?

Nicanor: Then it’s a good thing you bumped into me.  We can save each other a long walk.

Adrian: Okay, so what’s happening in Rome?

Nicanor: A lot of trouble.  The plebes banished Coriolanus, and the nobles are pissed off about it.

Adrian: Wow!  He’s banished?  For what?

Nicanor: Treason, supposedly.  But it’s all bullshit.  The tribunes didn’t like him, and they were working the mob up against him, and there was a blow-up in the marketplace.  Of course, he didn’t help himself much with that big mouth of his.  He hates the plebes, and he makes it obvious.

Adrian: We heard rumours that something was going on, so Aufidius started making preparations for war again.

Nicanor: I’d say his timing is good.  With Coriolanus gone, Rome is very divided right now.  It’s not a civil war or anything, but there’s a lot of bad feelings bubbling under the surface.

Adrian: Aufidius will be glad to hear it.

Nicanor: And I’m glad to be the one to tell you.  Listen, come back to my house for supper and I’ll give you all the news.

Adrian: Excellent.–Hey, you can expect a nice reward for this.

Nicanor: Good, because I like rewards.

    (They leave, in the direction of Rome.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  Antium.  Coriolanus comes in disguised in poor clothes and muffled.

Coriolanus: So this is Antium.  Nice town.  God knows how many widows I’ve made here.

    (A Citizen comes in, passing by.)

Coriolanus: My friend!

Citizen: Eh?

Coriolanus: Can you tell me where is the house of Aufidius?

Citizen (Pointing): That’s the house, sir.

Coriolanus: Thank you, my friend.

Citizen: You’re welcome, sir.

    (The Citizen goes out.)

Coriolanus: Rome must be punished.  And who’s going to help me do it?  Aufidius. 

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  The entrance hall of the house of Aufidius.  Two Servants pass back and forth across the stage, carrying trays.  Heard within are sounds of a dinner party.

1st Servant: We need more wine.

2nd Servant: Yes, yes.

    (Both Servants are briefly gone when Coriolanus comes in.)

Coriolanus: Nice house.  (Sniffs the air)  Smells good.

    (The First Servant comes in, passing through, and pauses.)

1st Servant: Who are you?  You can’t come in here.  Get out.

    (The First Servant leaves.)

Coriolanus: He thinks I’m a bum.

    (The Second Servant comes in, passing through, and pauses.)

2nd Servant: We don’t feed beggars.  Get lost.

Coriolanus: No.  You get lost.

2nd Servant: What?  Me?  Do you know where you are?  Go to the mission if you want a free meal.

Coriolanus: I didn’t ask for anything.

2nd Servant: You have no business here anyway, so begone.

Coriolanus: You are insolent.

    (The Second Servant is shocked.  He leaves.  Sounds of whispering offstage.  Then the Second Servant returns with a Third Servant.)

3rd Servant: Who are you?

Coriolanus: A gentleman.

3rd Servant: You’re not dressed like a gentleman.

Coriolanus: I know that.

3rd Servant: We don’t want any trouble, so just get out.

    (The Third Servant grabs Coriolanus by the arm, and Coriolanus brushes him away.)

Coriolanus: Don’t touch me.

3rd Servant (To the 2nd): Get the master.

2nd Servant: Yes!

    (The Second Servant leaves.)

3rd Servant: Don’t you have a home?

Coriolanus: My home is wherever I choose to sleep–indoors or out.

3rd Servant: Oh.–You’re one of those.

Coriolanus: You’re starting to bug me.

3rd Servant: Well, isn’t that too bad!

    (Coriolanus grabs him and throws him out.  Then the Second Servant returns with Aufidius.)

Aufidius: Where is this character?

2nd Servant: Here he is, sir.  We told him to leave, but he won’t.

Aufidius: Who are you?  Where do you come from?

    (Coriolanus unmuffles.)

Coriolanus: Tullus Aufidius–don’t you recognize me?

    (Aufidius studies him for a moment.)

Aufidius: You bear yourself like a noble–but you’re dressed like a commoner.

Coriolanus: In war I was your bitterest enemy.  And when I captured Corioles, my commander-in-chief gave me the name Coriolanus.  And now that name is all I have left.

Aufidius: Caius Martius!

Coriolanus: I’m here to offer myself as your ally.  I’ve been banished from Rome, and now I want to go back with an army and punish them.  So now we have a common cause.  Of course, at this moment I’m at your mercy, and if you want to kill me, you can.

    (Aufidius is deeply affected emotionally and takes a moment to let this sink in.)

Aufidius: Caius Martius–as much as I hated you in battle, I respected you as my equal.  For you to come to me like this–to be my ally–it’s the most sublime moment of my life.  (He takes Coriolanus by the shoulders.)  When two giants stand together, who can stand against them–eh?

Coriolanus: The gods have blessed me, sir.

Aufidius: Come.  I’ve got all my most important nobles sitting in the dining hall.  I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces.  (They start walking out.)  I’ll give you command of my army.  You can do whatever you want.  If anybody knows how to conquer Rome, it’s you.

    (Coriolanus and Aufidius leave.  Then the First Servant comes in and joins the other two Servants, who are standing with open-mouthed astonishment.)

1st Servant: Who is that guy?

2nd Servant: It’s Caius Martius.

1st Servant: What!

3rd Servant: He’s come to join up with Aufidius and conquer Rome.

1st Servant: Conquer–Rome?   (He pauses to let this sink in.  Then he jumps enthusiastically.)  Yes!

    (The three Servants exchange high-fives.)

Servants: Vol-sces!  Vol-sces!  Vol-sces!

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 6.  In Rome.  Sicinius and Brutus come in.

Sicinius: You see?  Rome can get along very nicely without Coriolanus.  The people are happy, and his friends can’t say anything any more.

Brutus: We made our stand, and we won.

Sicinius: Yes.–Oh–I see Menenius coming.  You notice he’s been totally polite to us lately.

Brutus: He knows the score.  The people have the power now.

    (Menenius comes in.)

Menenius: Good morning, tribunes!  How are you today?

Sicinius: Just fine, sir.  And the city’s fine, too.

Brutus: The world hasn’t come to an end–has it?

Menenius: No, and I’m certainly glad of that.  Although I must say, many of the nobles–including myself–are, well–disappointed–in the way things turned out.

Sicinius: They’ll get over it.

Menenius: I wish Coriolanus had handled the situation in a more moderate way.  I do miss him.  After all, we were very close.

Sicinius: I understand, sir.  Have you heard any news about him?

Menenius: Nothing.  And his mother and wife haven’t heard anything either.

    (Three or four Citizens pass by.)

Citizens: Hello, tribunes!–Long life to you!

Sicinius and Brutus: Thank you, friends!–The same to you!

    (The Citizens go out.)

Sicinius: See how happy they are?

Menenius: Yes.  I can’t deny it.

    (An Officer comes in.)

Officer: Tribunes, there’s something you ought to know.  We have a guy in prison who says the Volsces are marching on Rome.  We locked him up for spreading false rumours, but I came to tell you anyway–in case they’re not false.

Menenius: Aufidius!  He must have heard about Coriolanus’ banishment, and now he intends to attack us.

Brutus: Ridiculous!  I don’t believe it!  (To the Officer)  Make sure that guy gets a good whipping.

Menenius: No, no.  Don’t do that.  We need to know the facts.  You should question him calmly.

Sicinius: To hell with that.  The guy is lying.

Brutus: Yes.  I agree.

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: Tribunes, we’ve gotten reports from several people that Caius Martius and Aufidius have joined up and they’re on their way to Rome with the Volscian army.

Sicinius: Bullshit!

Brutus: These are obviously false rumours being spread by some of his friends who want him back.

    (A Second Messenger comes in.)

2nd Messenger: Gentlemen, you’re wanted at the Senate-house.  There’s a Volscian army coming this way, and they’re being led by Martius.

Sicinius: Who says so?

2nd Messenger: The reports are flooding in from the territories, and they’re detailed.

Sicinius: What the hell?

    (Cominius comes in.)

Cominius: Well, I hope you tribunes are happy.

Menenius: Is it true?  Coriolanus is leading the Volscian army?

Cominius: Yes, and they’re destroying everything in their path.  He’s out for revenge, and so are the Volsces.

Menenius: He’ll destroy the city–unless we beg for mercy.

Cominius: Who’s going to ask–the tribunes?  Us?  We told him to face the people.  And we didn’t stop them from banishing him.  And the same with all the senators and nobles.  We all caved in.

Menenius: Yes.  I guess we did.  But these tribunes started it.  They conspired to get rid of him.  They’re responsible.

Brutus: Hey, hey–don’t blame us.

Sicinius: We were just representing the people.

    (Several Citizens come in, very alarmed.)

Citizens: Is it true?–Is Martius coming?–Is he coming to attack us?

Menenius: You wanted power and you got it.  And what did you do?  You banished Caius Martius–purely out of personal hatred.  And you humiliated him when he left.

1st Citizen: I didn’t really mean it.  I was just going along with everyone else.

2nd Citizen: I felt sorry for him.  I didn’t really want him to go.  But I’m just one person.

3rd Citizen: It was just, you know, a crowd thing.  We all got carried away.  Nobody was really thinking.

Cominius (To Menenius): Welcome to the Republic–government by the people.  This is what we overthrew the kings for.–Come on, we’d better get to the Capitol.

    (Cominius and Menenius leave.)

Sicinius: Citizens, I suggest you just go home.  These reports are greatly exaggerated by those who want Martius to return.  Just go home and be calm.  Everything will be all right.

1st Citizen (To the others): We made a mistake.  Now he’ll kill us.

2nd Citizen: I don’t know about you, but I’m going to hide.

3rd Citizen: We’d all better hide.

    (The Citizens leave, muttering to each other — “We shouldn’t have”–“I didn’t mean it”–Me, neither”.)

Brutus: Fucking hell.  Now what’ll we do?

Sicinius: I don’t know.

Brutus: Maybe it’s a false alarm?–Eh?

Sicinius: I kinda doubt it.–Come on, we should get to the Capitol.

    (They leave, followed by the Officer and Messengers.) 

Act 4, Scene 7.  In the camp of Aufidius.  [Author’s note: Historically, Aufidius stayed home while Coriolanus took the Volscian army to Rome.  Shakespeare has Aufidius accompany the expedition.]  Aufidius comes in with his Lieutenant.  [In this context, “Lieutenant” means second-in-command.]

Aufidius: So our men are still following Coriolanus?

Lieut: They’d follow him to the gates of hell, never mind the gates of Rome.  They worship the guy.  I almost think they’ve forgotten you, my lord.

Aufidius: It can’t be helped.  I need him to take Rome.  I’m not going to interfere with his command.

Lieut: Frankly, I think it would have been better if you’d given him total command and stayed home yourself, or else assumed total command yourself, with him as an advisor.  This shared command with him leading sort of puts you in his shadow.

Aufidius: Well, let’s just see what happens when we get to Rome.  He has his agenda, and I have mine.  As long as he’s serving mine, I’ll let him.  Otherwise–(A significant look to the Lieutenant).

Lieut: I understand, sir.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  In Rome.  Menenius, Cominius, Sicinius, and Brutus come in.

Menenius (To the Tribunes): Why should I go and talk to him?  He wouldn’t talk to Cominius.

Cominius: That’s right.  He just ignored me.  And after I left, he sent his demands in writing.  It’s all bad news for Rome.

Menenius (To the Tribunes): Why don’t you go?  You can crawl on your hands and knees and beg for mercy for Rome.

Sicinius: Oh, but sir, we’re not his friends.

Brutus: He wouldn’t listen to us.

Cominius (To Menenius): He’s shut his heart to all his friends.  He feels we let him down.

Menenius: I think we did.

Sicinius: My lord, if anyone can sway him, you can.  After all, you’re the wise, old man of Rome.  You’re his closest friend.  You’re his mentor.

Menenius: Ohh–

Brutus: At least try, sir.

Menenius: What if he refuses to see me?

Sicinius: Then Rome will know that at least you tried.

    (Menenius considers.)

Menenius: All right.  I’ll do my best.

Sicinius and Brutus: Thank you, sir!–Good luck, sir!

Cominius: May the gods be on your side, Menenius.

    (Menenius leaves.)

Cominius: Coriolanus won’t hear him.

Sicinius: Why not?

Cominius: He’s come all this way, and he’s got Rome in the palm of his hand.  I could read it in his eyes.  All he wants is revenge.–The only thing I can think of–

Sicinius and Brutus: What, sir?

Cominius: His mother and his wife.  He might listen to them.  We should go talk to them.

Sicinius and Brutus: Good idea.–Yes.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  The Volscian camp, a few miles from Rome.  Two Watchmen are on guard when Menenius comes in.

1st Watch: Stop!  Who are you?

Menenius: I’m a noble of Rome.  I’m here to speak to Coriolanus.

1st Watch: He’s not speaking to anyone from Rome.

Menenius: He’ll speak to me.  Tell him it’s Menenius.

2nd Watch: We don’t care who you are.  Just go back where you came from.

Menenius: The general and I are old friends–like that.  (He presses two fingers together.)  We’re almost like father and son.

2nd Watch: Our orders are not to admit anyone from Rome.

1st Watch: Do you think an old fool like you is going to make him stop?  You and your people banished him.  Now you can pay the price.

Menenius: Old fool, am I?  Do you think I’m a nobody?  If he finds out you wouldn’t let me pass, you’re going to be in mighty big trouble.

    (Coriolanus and Aufidius come in.)

Coriolanus: What’s the matter here?

1st Watch: This old guy–

Menenius: May the gods save you, sir!  Listen to me now.  You’re like a son to me.  Have mercy on Rome.  Forgive us.  Please.  You should be angry with these guards instead.  They wouldn’t let me pass.

Coriolanus: Go home, Menenius.

    (A pause of stunned silence by Menenius.)

Menenius: But–my old friend–

Coriolanus: Old friendships don’t matter any more.  And this is a Volscian expedition and only they can pardon Rome.

Menenius: What can I say to you?  I’m Rome’s last hope.  Tell me the right words.

Coriolanus: There’s nothing you can say.  (He takes out a letter.)  I wrote you this letter, out of respect.  I was going to send it, but you can take it now.  (He gives the letter to Menenius.)  We have nothing more to say to each other.  Goodbye.

    (Coriolanus turns to leave with Aufidius, who speaks on the way out.)

Aufidius: I admire your firmness.

    (Coriolanus and Aufidius go out.)

1st Watch: I believe you were saying how we’d be in big trouble.

Menenius: You can go to hell.

2nd Watch (Pointing): That’s the way back to Rome.

1st Watch: Don’t try to hide the silverware.

    (Menenius leaves.  Watchmen remain.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  The Volscian camp.  Coriolanus and Aufidius come in.  Coriolanus sits in the commander’s chair, while Aufidius remains standing.  Throughout this scene, Aufidius is deliberately neutral and does not react to anything.

Coriolanus: By tomorrow we’ll be at the gates of Rome.  And when we get back, you’ll be able to tell your nobles that I did exactly what I promised to do.

Aufidius: Yes.  You did.  Even when your best friends pleaded with you.

Coriolanus (After a pause of reflection): Sometimes a leader must suppress his personal feelings–by sheer force of will.  You understand, don’t you?

Aufidius: Of course.

    (Arguing is heard offstage.  Volumnia and her party are arguing with the Watchmen.  Then Volumnia, Virgilia, Valeria, and Young Martius come in, followed by two Watchmen.  Coriolanus stands and signals the Watchmen to leave, and they do.  Coriolanus is struggling with his emotions as he indicates to Aufidius who the visitors are.)

Coriolanus: My wife, Virgilia–my mother, Volumnia–my boy, Martius–and our friend Valeria.  (To them)  Lord Tullus Aufidius.

    (Aufidius nods slightly as his only gesture of courtesy.  Virgil and Volumnia are making intense eye contact with Coriolanus.  Throughout this scene they are working on him as hard as they can.)

Virgilia: My husband.

Volumnia: My son.

Coriolanus: What am I supposed to say to you?

    (Virgilia steps forward and kisses him, and he is struggling to control his emotions.)

Coriolanus: I thank the gods for such a noble wife–and the noblest mother in the world.

    (Volumnia kneels before him.  This gesture shocks him.)

Coriolanus: Mother, don’t kneel.

Volumnia: For the first time in my life, I am kneeling to you.

Coriolanus: Please don’t, mother.

    (He lifts her to her feet.)

Volumnia: My warrior.  I helped make you what you are.  And perhaps someday your son will follow in your footsteps.

    (Young Martius takes Coriolanus by the hand.)

Young Martius: I want to be a soldier like you, father.

Coriolanus: May the gods make you noble in thought as well as in deed, so that your fellows look up to you as an example.

Volumnia: We are all here to beg of you, my son.  Stop this invasion.

Coriolanus: Please, mother!  Don’t ask me to dismiss my soldiers.  And don’t expect me to make peace with those who banished me.

Volumnia: We are asking!  And if we fail, it will be because of your stubbornness.

    (Coriolanus sits in his chair, gripping the arms of the chair in a significant gesture.)

Aufidius: Do you want me to leave?

Coriolanus: No.  I will have no private conferences with Rome.  (He takes a deep breath and composes himself.  To Volumnia)  Say what you want to say, mother.

Volumnia: Can you imagine how we feel now–the four of us?  We should be the happiest people in the world, to see you well.  Instead, we have to look upon you with dread as the destroyer of Rome.  To which gods shall we pray now, and for what?  We have always prayed for our country, and we have always prayed for you.  How shall we pray now?  If we do nothing and let the war take its course, the outcome will be bad, no matter what.  So we come to you to persuade you to make an honourable peace for both sides.  If you won’t listen, then you might as well march over our bodies.

Young Martius: Not my body!  I’ll run away and hide until I’m a big man, and then I’ll fight!

    (Coriolanus rises and turns his back to them to conceal his emotions.)

Coriolanus: But I have given my word.

Volumnia: Don’t go away.  We’re not asking you to betray the Volsces.  Just make an honourable peace between them and Rome.  Then they’ll be able to say that they showed mercy to Rome as magnanimous victors, and Rome will be grateful.  And both sides will praise you for making such a peace.–But if you continue in your present course and conquer Rome, how will you be remembered?  As a conqueror, yes, but one to be hated for all time.  Your name will be cursed.  All your great deeds will be swept aside.  You will only be remembered as a noble who lost his nobility and destroyed his own country for the sake of revenge.

Coriolanus: I don’t want to hear this!

Volumnia: We kneel to you.

    (Volumnia kneels, and the other ladies and Young Martius kneel, too.)

Volumnia: Look at us for the last time–because we will go back to Rome and die among our friends.–Look at us, Martius.  Here is your son.  Look at him.  Will you deny him?

    (Coriolanus faces them but is silent.  He is obviously conflicted.)

Volumnia (To her party): Come.  We have spoken our piece.

    (They rise.)

Volumnia: Tell us to go.  I must hear you say it.

    (Coriolanus takes her hand, and there is a long silent pause as he considers.  [Caution to Director: An overly-long pause will ruin this scene.  Remember who the audience is.])

Coriolanus (Weeping): Mother!

    (She embraces him, after which he resumes speaking.)

Coriolanus: You have won a happy outcome for Rome.–But as for me–I am undone.  Everything is changed.  The planets have shifted.  I am no longer the man I was.  I have to accept whatever happens.  (To Aufidius)  Aufidius, I can’t give you an outright conquest, but I can give you an honourable peace on good terms.  If you were in my place, what would you have done?

    (There is a signficant pause before Aufidius replies with measured neutrality.)

Aufidius: I was very moved.

Coriolanus: I’m sure you were.  Let us consult on the terms of the peace.  Then after it’s signed, we’ll go back to your people and explain everything.  (To his mother and wife)  Mother!–Wife!

    (Coriolanus speaks privately to his Mother and Wife.)

Aufidius (Aside): When we get back, everything will be settled–to my advantage.

Coriolanus (To Volumnia and Virgilia): Yes, yes, but you’ll stay and drink with us.  Then you can return to Rome with the articles of peace.  And I hope they build statues for you, because you made this peace possible.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scenes 4 and 5.  [The scene break has been eliminated.]  In Rome.  Menenius and Sicinius come in.

Menenius: I tried my best, but it seems impossible.  There’s no moving him.

Sicinius: I’m very surprised.  You were his closest friend.

Menenius: His heart has become hardened–and perhaps I should say cold as well.  He may end up ruling Rome and all its territories like one of the old kings.  He’ll kill all his enemies.  And we can thank you and Brutus for it–assuming you’re still alive–which I doubt.

Sicinius (Moaning): Oh, God.

    (A Messenger rushes in.)

Messenger: Good news!  Rome is saved!

Menenius: What!  How?

Messenger: The ladies did it.  His wife and his mother.  There’s a peace treaty.

Sicinius: Thank God!

Menenius: Where is Martius?

Messenger: He’s going back with the Volsces.

Sicinius: Where are the ladies?

Messenger: They’re coming now.  (He points.)

    (There is a burst of triumphal music, and then Volumnia’s party arrives, escorted by Senators and Nobles.)

Senator: There’s our heroine!  She saved Rome!  They all saved Rome!

    (General cheering.  Then many Citizens come in from all directions, cheering and shouting “Rome is saved!”–“Peace for Rome!”–“Praise the Gods!”  Scene ends without an exit.)

Act 5, Scene 6.  [Author’s note: This scene takes place either in Corioles or Antium, depending on which text you’re following.  Penguin says Corioles; Oxford says Antium.  Historically, Coriolanus returned to Antium, but Shakespeare’s text is contradictory.  My preference is Antium.]  There is dead silence and total darkness before the curtain goes up for this scene.  Then there is an ominous sound effect or lighting effect.  Aufidius comes in with an Attendant.  He looks grim.

Aufidius: Tell the senators I’m back.  Give them this letter. 

    (He gives the Attendant a letter, and the Attendant leaves.  Then three Conspirators come in.)

1st Con: Welcome back, General.  You don’t look too happy.

Aufidius: No.  I’m not.  I trusted–that Roman–and he broke his word.  When he gets here, he’s going to tell the people what a great job he did.

2nd Con: If you still want us to help you get rid of him, we’re still ready.

Aufidius: We’ll see.  It depends on the feelings of the people.

3rd Con: You know what they’re like.  They blow with the wind–first one way, then the other way.  They just need the right prompting.

1st and 2nd Cons: Right.–Heh, heh.

Aufidius: Yes.  I just have to make the accusation credible.  And, of course, it is credible.  He came to me and offered to be my ally, and I let him do what he wanted.  Then he hogged all the glory and treated me like an inferior.

1st Con: And then just when Rome was ripe for the taking–

Aufidius: That’s it.  Here’s a guy who is supposed to be so tough and uncompromising that he’d sooner get banished than suck up to the plebeians and become Consul–and then when he gets to Rome, he lets his mother talk him out of an easy victory.

2nd Con: Of course, he’ll try to put a good spin on it.

Aufidius: I won’t give him a chance.  He’s famous for his hot temper.  I intend to make him show it.

3rd Con. (Placing his hand on his sword): We’ll be ready for action.

Aufidius: If I call him a murderer, that’s your signal to strike.

Cons: Okay.

    (Triumphant drums and trumpets are heard, with cheering.)

Aufidius: That’s him making his grand entrance.  I didn’t get a welcome like that.

    (The Senators come in.)

Senators: Welcome home, sir!

Aufidius: Thank you.  Did you read my letter?

1st Sen: Yes.  I must say we’re shocked.

2nd Sen: Going all that way and then letting the Romans off the hook like that.

1st Sen: It’s incredible.  There’s no excuse for it.

Aufidius: He’s coming now.

    (Coriolanus marches in with drums and colours.  [Three Soldiers are needed here.]  They are followed closely by some Volscian Citizens.)

Coriolanus: Hello!  Greetings to the senators!  We had a very successful expedition.  Along the way we collected enough booty to more than pay for the whole trip.  And we forced the Romans to sign this treaty, which is very honourable to the Volsces–and the Romans have certainly learned a lesson.

    (He presents the treaty to the Senators, but no one takes it.)

Aufidius: Don’t bother reading it.  It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.–It’s the work of a traitor!

Coriolanus: Traitor?  You’re calling me a traitor?

Coriolanus: Yes, Martius.  You are a traitor.

Coriolanus: You’re calling me Martius now?

Aufidius: Caius Martius.  That’s who you are.  Should I call you Coriolanus to honour you for butchering our people in Corioles?  (To the others)  This traitor promised to seize Rome–and he broke his word–because his wife and mother begged him on their knees to spare the city!  Of course, the wives and mothers of Corioles had no such influence!  He just slaughtered everyone in sight!  But when he took our army to Rome, he turned into a sniffling little boy, crying on his mother’s shoulder!

Coriolanus (Looking up at heaven): Mars, do you hear this?

Aufidius: Don’t talk to the god of war.  He doesn’t listen to weaklings.

Coriolanus: Weaklings!  How dare you!  You liar!  You piece of snot I blow out of my nose!  You’ve still got the scars from the last time I whipped your barbarian ass on the battlefield!

    (The Citizens react as if very offended.)

1st Sen: Please!–Let’s not have a quarrel.

    (Coriolanus bares his throat.)

Coriolanus: Go ahead!  Cut me to pieces!–Volsces!  I’m not afraid!  (To Aufidius) You loser!  What do your historians say about Corioles?  If they write honest history, they’ll write how I took the city by myself!

    (The Citizens are now reacting with great offense.)

Cons: He must die!  Do you agree?

Citizens: Kill him!–Kill him!–He killed my brother!–He killed my father!

2nd Sen: No!  No!  We mustn’t have violence!

    (Aufidius has been baiting Coriolanus with a contemptuous sneer.  Coriolanus draws his sword.)

Coriolanus (To Aufidius): I’d kill you right now, and all your family!

Aufidius: You villain–you traitor–you murderer!

    (The three Conspirators discreetly draw their swords.)

Citizens: Kill him!  Kill him!

Senators: No! No!

    (Coriolanus is momentarily distracted by the Citizens, and the Conspirators rush him and strike him, killing him.  The Citizens cheer.  Then Aufidius raises his hands for quiet.)

Aufidius: Quiet!–Peace!

    (Aufidius steps on the body of Coriolanus.  There is a long pause, with dead silence on stage.  The suggestion here is that Aufidius’ anger has been purged.  He removes his foot.  He now looks at Coriolanus with pity.  He speaks softly for the rest of the scene.)

Aufidius: My lords, when all the facts are explained to you, you will understand that this man was a great threat to us all.  If you wish me to appear in the Senate, I will answer all your questions, and you can decide what you want to do to me.

2nd Sen: We wouldn’t judge you too harshly for your anger, sir.

Other Sens: No.

Aufidius: I once hated this man more than anyone else in the world.  Now that he’s dead, I bury my anger with him.  And our historians can write that we buried him in a  manner worthy of a Roman noble.  His own city cast him out–and we, his enemies, now give him a proper place of rest.–Soldiers, let’s pick him up.

    (The three Soldiers of the drums and colours and Aufidius pick up Coriolanus’ body and carry it out, as a dead march is heard.)


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-Mail: crad166@yahoo.com

(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010. — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/ )  

Main Characters

Duke Vincentio — ruler of Vienna  (His disguise is “Friar Lodowick”.)

Escalus — old lord

Angelo — the Duke’s Deputy

Lucio — white trash friend of Claudio  (Shakespeare refers to him as a “fantastic,” whatever that means.  His most noteworthy trait is his lack of loyalty.)

Two Gentlemen

Mistress Overdone — brothel madam


Juliet — Claudio’s fiancee

Isabella — Claudio’s sister

Provost  (Similar to a chief magistrate)

Mariana — Angelo’s former fiancee

Pompey — pimp and bartender for Mistress Overdone

Friar Thomas

Friar Peter

Francisca — a nun


Elbow — constable

Froth — customer in the brothel

Abhorson — executioner

Barnardine — prisoner

Varrius — friend of the Duke

Gist of the story: Duke Vincentio leaves Vienna apparently for unspecified reasons and leaves Lord Angelo in charge.  In reality, he’s still in Vienna, disguised as a friar.  Vienna has gotten morally slack.  The old laws haven’t been enforced.  The Duke thinks it’s time to be stricter, but he doesn’t want to be the one to do it.  He knows Angelo will be a tougher disciplinarian.  But the Duke will remain as a secret observer to make sure things go all right.  Angelo’s new power goes to his head.   He sentences Claudio to death for getting his fiancee, Juliet, pregnant.  Claudio’s sister, Isabella, who is preparing to become a nun, goes to Angelo to plead for Claudio’s life.  Angelo propositions her: if she will have sex with him, he’ll pardon Claudio.  Deeply offended, she reports this to Claudio.  He, too, is offended — but he also wants to live.  The Duke, disguised as Friar Lodowick, intervenes by suggesting a way out.  Angelo’s former fiancee, Mariana, will substitute for Isabella in the darkened room, Angelo won’t know the difference, and he’ll pardon Claudio.  Unfortunately, Angelo breaks his promise and decides to execute Claudio anyway.  Friar Lodowick tricks Angelo by sending him the head of another condemned criminal.  Then he stages his “return” to Vienna and has Mariana and Isabella confront Angelo and expose him for his hypocrisy.  Angelo is mortified and asks to be put to death.  The Duke shows mercy, however.  Angelo will marry Mariana.  Claudio will marry Juliet.  And the Duke intends to marry Isabella.

(Scholars have gotten very bogged down analyzing this play as a complex problem of morality.  None of the characters seems to be consistent.  But that’s Shakespeare’s point.  Nobody’s perfect.  Almost everyone in the play is put into a strange moral situation where nothing is clear-cut.  The focus of attention is, of course, Angelo, whose moral weakness is shocking.  Our audience will put him in the same category as the evangelist caught in a motel with a hooker.  The play is a showcase of human frailties.  But, as in all Shakespeare comedies, goodness overcomes the frailties and averts a bad outcome.  And as many people as possible get married.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  Vienna.  Duke Vincentio comes in with Escalus and Attendants.

Duke: Escalus, I’m going to Poland for a while, and I have to leave somebody in charge while I’m gone.  You know as much about the city government as anyone, so you can be a big help.

Escalus: I’m ready to serve, sir.

Duke: Fine.  Actually, I want a Deputy who will be–mm, shall we say–rather strict.  That’s why I want to leave Angelo in charge.  (To an Attendant)  Go get Angelo.  (The Attendant leaves.)–So, what do you think?  Is he the man for the job?

Escalus: I think so.  He’s very moral and strict with himself, so he’ll be that way with others.  I’ve always known him to be a model of integrity. 

Duke: Yes.  I agree.–Ah, here he comes.

    (Angelo comes in.)

Angelo: Your Grace.

Duke: Angelo, everyone agrees that you’re a perfect example of honour and virtue–and the most moral man in Vienna.

Angelo: Thank you, sir.  I’ve always tried to live by the highest standards a good Christian can aspire to.

Duke: Indeed.  Of course, virtues are given to us so that we can put them to use in everyday life.

Angelo: Oh, yes.  Absolutely.

Duke: I’m leaving Vienna for a little while.  I have some, uh, confidential business in Poland.  I want to put you in charge while I’m gone.  You’ll have complete power as my Deputy.  Escalus will be your second-in-command.  What do you say?

Angelo (Feigning uncertainty): Oh–such responsibility–I hardly know if I’m ready.

Duke: None of that.  You’re ready.  I’ve made up my mind.  You’ll be in charge.  Just enforce the laws as you see fit.  Use your own judgment.  I’ll keep in touch.  You’ll get letters from me from time to time.

Angelo: When are you leaving?

Duke: Immediately.

Angelo: Oh, but we should organize some sort of public send-off.

Duke: No, I have no time for that.  And I don’t like that sort of thing anyway.–So, good luck.

    (The Duke shakes hands with Angelo and Escalus.)

Angelo: Have a good trip, and may God protect you.

Escalus: Good luck, sir, and come back to us soon.

Duke: Thank you.  I will.

    (The Duke leaves.)

Escalus: Well, my lord, we should discuss what my duties will be.

Angelo: Yes, yes.  We’ll go and discuss it right now.

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  A street.  Lucio comes in with two Gentlemen.  All three are a bit seedy.

Lucio: Did you hear the one about the pirate ship that sailed with the Nine Commandments nailed on the wall?

1st Gent: Nine?

Lucio: Yeah.  One was cut out and tossed away.

1st Gent: Which one?

Lucio: Thou shalt not steal.

All Three: Ha, ha!

2nd Gent: You should’ve guessed that.

1st Gent: Hey, you want to hear a disease?

Lucio: Hear a disease?

1st Gent: Yeah.

Lucio: Okay, let’s hear it.

    (The First Gentleman claps his hands once loudly, and they all laugh.)

Lucio: You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?

1st Gent: What do you mean?  I’m perfectly healthy.

Lucio: Well, I’ll drink to your health, but I wouldn’t drink from your cup.

2nd Gent: That’s telling him!

Lucio: And we know where his (Clap) came from, don’t we?

1st Gent: You’ve both been there, too, so don’t talk.

Lucio: And speaking of which, here comes the madam herself.

    (Mistress Overdone comes in.)

1st Gent: Mistress overdone — the housemother of Try My Pie Sorority.


Mist. Over: Wise guys.  Hey, do you know who’s been arrested?

2nd Gent: No.  Who?

Mist. Over: Claudio.

1st Gent: No way!

Mist. Over: Yes.  I saw him get arrested.  And he’s going to be executed.

Lucio: Executed!  What the hell for?

Mist. Over: He got his fiancee, Juliet, pregnant.  They’re taking him to jail now.

Lucio (To the Gentlemen): We gotta check this out.  Come on.

    (Lucio and the two Gentlemen leave.  Then Pompey comes in.)

Pompey: Mistress, there’s a proclamation just been posted.

Mist. Over: About what?

Pompey: All the brothels in the suburbs are going to be shut down.

Mist Over: Oh, fucking hell.–What about the ones in the city?

Pompey: For the time being, they’re still okay.

Mist. Over: That won’t be for long.–Damn.  Business was bad enough, but now–

Pompey: Don’t worry.  You’ll get set up somewhere else, and I’ll still be your bartender.

Mist. Over: We’ll see.  Come on, we’d better go back to the house.

    (They leave.  Then the Provost comes in with Claudio as a prisoner, followed by Juliet and Officers.)

Claudio: Do you have to parade me through the streets like this?  If you’re going to take me to prison, just take me to fucking prison.

Provost: I’m just the Provost.  I’m just following Lord Angelo’s orders.

Claudio: He’s an asshole.  Now that he’s in charge of the city, he thinks he’s God.

    (Lucio and the two Gentlemen return.)

Lucio: Claudio!  What the fuck happened, man?

Claudio: Oh–don’t you know I’m the worst criminal in the history of Vienna?  I got her pregnant.

Juliet: We are married–by agreement, at least.  Just not officially.

Claudio: That’s right.  We have a marriage contract.  But there was just a little hang-up about the dowry, that’s all.  But that would’ve been straightened out.  We were definitely going to get married.  Okay, so she got pregnant.  You know, it happens sometimes.  But just because we haven’t had the actual legal ceremony yet, technically it’s a crime–and I can be executed for it.

Lucio: But nobody enforces that law any more.  It hasn’t been enforced as long as Vincentio has been Duke of Vienna.

Claudio: Tell that to Deputy Rat-Fucker Angelo.  The big holy moralist.  He’s on a power trip.  He wants to make a name for himself.  Probably wants to be made a saint.  What a sanctimonious prick!

Lucio: Send word to the Duke.  He’ll overturn the death penalty.

Claudio: I can’t.  He’s gone.  I don’t know how to reach him.–Look, do me a favour.

Lucio: Sure.

Claudio: My sister, Isabella, is at the convent.  She’s going to become a nun.  Go and tell her what’s happened.  Tell her to go and talk to Angelo and try to change his mind.  She’s a sincere girl.  She knows how to talk to people.  If anyone can persuade him, she can.  And tell her to do it as soon as possible.

Lucio: I’ll go and see her.  Don’t you worry.

Claudio: Thanks a lot, bro.

Provost: We have to get going, sir.

Claudio: Yeah, yeah, I know.

    (They all leave, but Lucio separately.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  A monastery.  The Duke comes in with Friar Thomas.

Duke: Friar Thomas, I’ve come to see you for a confidential reason.

Friar Thomas: Of course, my lord. You can trust me.

Duke: As you know, I’ve left Lord Angelo in charge of Vienna as my Deputy.  Everyone thinks I’ve gone to Poland, but I intend to stay here as an observer.  And I want to be disguised as a friar.

Friar Thomas: You’re certainly welcome here, sir.  But what’s it all about?

Duke: Well, you know, Vienna has gotten a bit too loose over the years–I mean, a bit too immoral and undisciplined.  I should blame myself.  There are certain laws on the books that I never bothered to enforce.  I didn’t want to be too strict with the people.  I’m not really a disciplinarian.  But Lord Angelo is just the opposite.  He’s a ramrod, you know–very straight.  I’d rather let him be the one to enforce the laws.  That way the people won’t be angry with me.  But I have to stay here to see how he handles things generally.

Friar Thomas: I get it.

Duke: And I have to know if he’s the sort of man he appears to be, or whether all this power will have some kind of bad effect on him.

Friar Thomas: Yes, yes.  You want to be right here in case something goes wrong.

Duke: Exactly.  So I need to get fitted out like a real friar, and maybe you can coach me a bit.

Friar Thomas: Of course, my lord.  No problem.

Duke: And remember–this is top secret.

Friar Thomas: Right, sir.

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 4.  A convent.  Isabella comes in with Francisca, a nun.

Isab: Are those all the rules of the Order of Saint Clare?  You have no other privileges?

Fran: Why, did you want more?

Isab: Oh, no.  I was actually hoping the Order would be more strict.

Fran: Well, we are a conservative order, but we’re not extremists.

Lucio (Heard within): Hello?  Anyone here?

Fran: I can’t talk to a man.  I’m not allowed to.  But you’re not officially a nun yet, so you can.  Find out what his business is.

    (Francisca leaves.)

Isab: Who’s calling, sir?

    (Lucio comes in.)

Lucio: Greetings, virgin!  My name is Lucio.  I’m looking for Isabella, Claudio’s sister.

Isab: I’m Isabella.

Lucio: Your brother sent me, miss.  He’s in trouble.

Isab: What’s the matter?

Lucio: He’s in prison.

Isab: Prison!  What for?

Lucio: Aw, nothing bad, really.  It’s just that he got his fiancee pregnant, and now it’s a big legal thing.

Isab: You’re kidding me.

Lucio: Nope.  I wouldn’t lie to a holy lady like yourself.

Isab: Oh, please–you’re making fun of me.

Lucio: You are going to be a nun, aren’t you?

Isab: I’m not one yet.  And I wouldn’t call myself holy anyway.  That would be vanity.  But how did his fiancee get pregnant?

Lucio: How?  What, do I have to explain it?

Isab: No, I didn’t mean it that way.  I mean, well, they’re not married yet?

Lucio: No.

Isab: Tsk!–They couldn’t wait?

Lucio: Well, they just–you know.  I mean, as for as they’re concerned, they’re married.  They just didn’t have the ceremony to make it official.

Isab: Oh, dear.

Lucio: Do you know Juliet?

Isab: Of course.  We went to school together.  So why don’t they just get married now?

Lucio: Well, if the Duke were here, I’m sure they would and there’d be no problem.  But he went off to Poland–supposedly.  Personally, I don’t believe it.  And he made Angelo his Deputy.  And that guy is a totally cold-blooded s.o.b.–pardon my language–and he wants to enforce those old laws that nobody enforced for so many years, and he wants to make an example of your brother.–So–he gave him a death sentence.

Isab: Oh, no!

Lucio: Yeah.  Anyway, your brother is asking you to go talk to Angelo and try to get him to change his mind.

Isab: Me?  What can I do?

Lucio: What can you do?  I don’t know what you can do.  You can try to be charming, I don’t know.  Soften him up.  Give him a reason to think it over.  Maybe he’ll listen to a lady.  Your brother thinks you can persuade him.

Isab: I’ll try.

Lucio: Best be quick about it.

Isab: I’ll go today.  Tell my brother I love him, and I’ll really try my best for him.  I just have to tell the Mother Superior that I have to leave for a family emergency.

Lucio: All right, then.  Goodbye.

Isab: Thank you for coming.  Goodbye.

    (They leave separately.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  A hall in Angelo’s house.  Angelo, Escalus, a Justice, and the Provost come in.

Angelo: The law has to be enforced.  If we have laws and we don’t enforce them, then who will respect them?

Escalus: Yes, I understand, and I agree with you in principle.  But sometimes there should be–shall we say–gentleness in the application of the law.  I wouldn’t execute Claudio.  I knew his father.  He was a noble man.  Perhaps Claudio made a mistake, but nobody’s perfect.  I think anyone could yield to temptation under the right circumstances–even someone as virtuous as you.

Angelo: It hasn’t happened yet.  And anyway, temptation is one thing, and actual crime is another.  We can’t just say that everyone has temptations, so we shouldn’t punish any crimes.  When it’s as obvious as this, it has to be punished.  And I would apply the same standard to myself.  If I committed such a blatant crime, I’d deserve to be punished the same way.  The matter is settled.  Claudio must die.

Escalus: Tsk!–It’s a pity.

Angelo: Provost, I want the execution carried out at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.  You can arrange for a priest to visit him.

Provost: Yes, my lord.

    (The Provost leaves.)

Escalus (Aside): Some people sin all their lives and get away with it, and some make just one mistake and pay for it.

    (Elbow and Officers come in with Pompey and Froth as prisoners.  [Author’s note: Elbow’s mangling of the English language is reminiscent of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing.  The slightly stupid constable is a funny Shakespearean touch.])

Elbow: Come on, you louts!  His lordship will hear all about your vile abusages!

Angelo: What’s all this about?  Who are you?

Elbow: Constable Elbow, sir, your loyal servant.  I’ve brought these two odorous benefactors.

Angelo: Benefactors?  Aren’t they malefactors?

Elbow: They may be malefactors, too, for all I know.  I wouldn’t put it past them.  They’re two villains if I ever say one–or rather two–and if they ever had any of the vices or virtues that good Christians are supposed to have, I would have known it at once–assuming I had seen them.

    (Escalus is rolling his eyes for the benefit of the audience.)

Angelo: Who are these men?

Elbow: Their names are Pompey and Froth.  (Indicates Pompey)  He’s a bartender and pimp who works for Mistress Overdone.  Her whorehouse was shut down, and now she runs a bath house, which I think is just a front for another whorehouse.

Escalus: How do you know?

Elbow: My wife was there and she told me.

Escalus: What was your wife doing in a whorehouse?

Elbow: She went looking for stewed prunes.  She’s pregnant, you see, and she has these cravings.  And everyone knows all the whorehouses serve stewed prunes.

Froth: They respect tradition.

Elbow: And that’s when she got into an alternation with this rascal here (Indicates Froth).  But the important thing is that they did have prunes–only they wouldn’t give her any.

Pompey: We only had two left, my lord, and we were keeping them in a fruit dish–not a fancy one, just one of those cheap three-penny dishes–although not to cast any dispersions on the manufacturers, who I’m sure make the best they can for three pennies.

Escalus: We don’t care about the damned dish.  Just tell us what happened.

Pompey: Yes, my lord.  We only had two prunes because my friend Master Froth here ate the rest–but very honestly, mind you, because he paid for them.

Froth: Yes, I always pay.

Pompey: And they’re good for you.  And the clients like them.

Froth: Yes.  That’s why I go to the house–to have a nice bath and eat prunes.

Escalus: Will you get on with it!  I want to know the origin of this complaint.

Pompey: We shall get to the origin because that comes last.  Now, sir, look into this man’s face (Indicating Froth).  This is the face of a man who earns eighty pounds a year.  His father died on Halloween–didn’t he?

Froth: The night before, actually.

Pompey: And he–that is, Master Froth, not his father–was sitting in his favourite chair in the Bunch of Grapes–which is our VIP lounge–correct?

Froth: Yes, yes.  It’s quite comfy in the winter, being well ventilated.

Angelo (Exasperated): I’ve had enough of this.  (To Escalus) You deal with it.  And make sure they get a good whipping.

    (Angelo leaves.)

Escalus (After him): Good night, my lord!–(To Pompey)  Now. then, what happened to Elbow’s wife, once more?

Pompey: Oh, sir, nothing was done to her once.

Elbow (To Escalus): I beseech you, sir, ingratiate this man until he tells the truth.  I deplore you to show no mercy.

Escalus: Yes–right.–Now, what happened?

Pompey: Your Honour, I ask you to look in this man’s face.  (On cue, Froth smiles stupidly.)  Do you not see the honesty in that face?  Even cats and dogs can see it.  That’s why they run to him.  Have you ever seen such a face in your whole life, sir?

Escalus: I have to admit I haven’t.

Pompey: Do you see any evil in that face?

Escalus: Mm–no.

Pompey: Well, sir, his face is the worst part of him.  And if there’s no evil in it, then how could he do the constable’s wife any harm?  Eh?

Escalus: That’s an interesting point.  Very logical.–Constable, what do you say?

Elbow: My lord, this man’s establishment is absolutely reputable, and so is he, and so is his mistress.

Pompey: Oh, really!  Well, your wife is more reputable than all of us put together!

Elbow: You liar!  No one has ever called my wife reputable!

Pompey (To Escalus): She was reputable even before she married him.

Elbow: Don’t believe this scoundrel, sir.  If you can imagine that I would marry a reputable woman–much less propagate with her–then fire me from my job now.

Escalus: That’s all right, constable.  I believe we’re getting to a proper resolution of the problem.

Elbow: Thank you, sir.  I knew I could count on your resolvency.

Escalus: Yes, yes.  Now, it seems that this fellow has some latent offenses.

Elbow: Eh?  What kind?

Escalus: Latent.

Elbow (Nodding knowingly and looking seriously at Froth): Ah.–Indeed.

Escalus: And in order for you to discover them properly for the law, you should let him continue in his activities until you have discerned his crimes.

Elbow: Disurned?

Escalus: For purposes of the law, naturally.

Elbow (Nodding again and looking at Froth): Ah.–Well–if this fellow thought he could get away with anything, he’ll be sadly mistaken.  (To Froth)  You hear that?  Now you have to continue in your crimes–in Latin–and you’ll be disurned–until you have no more urns..  And all your three-penny dishes won’t save you, will they, you villain?–With or without prunes, eh?

Escalus (To Froth): Where are you from?

Froth: From here, sir–Vienna.

Escalus: Well, I advise you not to frequent the sort of establishment you were found in.

Froth: I shall miss it, sir.

Escalus: There’s too much bad company in a place like that.  Now you go home, and I don’t want to hear another word about you.

Froth: Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.

    (Froth leaves.)

Escalus: And you–Pompey.  What do you have to say for yourself?

Pompey: Truly, sir, I’m just a poor fellow trying to get by.

Escalus: As a pimp and bartender in a brothel?  Is that a lawful occupation?

Pompey: If the law would allow it, sir.

Escalus: But the law doesn’t allow it.  We won’t allow it in Vienna any more.

Pompey: And what shall you do to all the men in the city–neuter them?

Escalus: No.  The punishment for such vices is hanging.

Pompey: If you did that, sir, there’d be no one left in the city.  And all the property values would collapse.

Escalus: Maybe so.  But in any case, I don’t want to see you here again for any sort of complaint or you’ll be sorry.  Consider this a fair warning.

Pompey: Thank you, sir.  (Aside to the audience)  A fair warning but a useless one.

Escalus: Go home now.

Pompey: Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.

    (Pompey leaves.)

Escalus: Master Elbow, how long have you served as a constable?

Elbow: Seven and a half years, sir, in the service of the Duke.

Escalus: I can tell it’s a strain on you.  I’d say you need some help.  Recruit a half dozen fellows you think are up to it, and bring them to my house.

Elbow: There aren’t many who have the brain for it as I do, but I’ll do my best, sir.  Thank you, sir.  Good night.

Escalus: Good night.

    (Elbow leaves.)

Escalus: What time is it, Justice?

Justice: Eleven, sir.

Escalus: Come home with me, and we’ll have a late dinner.

Justice: Thank you, sir.  I will.

Escalus: I hate to think of what’s going to happen to Claudio.  And I can’t do anything about it.

Justice: Lord Angelo is awfully strict.

Escalus: I suppose he has to be that way–for the general good of the city.  But I still feel sorry for Claudio.

Justice: Me, too, sir.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Another room in Angelo’s house.  Angelo is present when the Provost comes in.

Provost: Sir, do you still want Claudio executed tomorrow?

Angelo: Yes.  I gave you orders, didn’t I?

Provost: Yes, my lord.  I was just thinking that perhaps–well–it might not go over too well with the people.

Angelo: That’s not for you to worry about.  You just carry out your orders.  Otherwise I’ll replace you with someone who will.

Provost: Of course, sir.  As you say, sir.–Em, what shall we do about Juliet?

Angelo: Take her someplace where she can have her baby.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: My lord, the sister of the condemned man Claudio wishes to see you.

Angelo: Sister?  I didn’t know he had one.

Servant: Yes, my lord.  Her name is Isabella.  She’s preparing to join the sisterhood of Saint Clare.

Angelo: Is she, now?–All right, show her in.  (The Servant leaves.)  See that the pregnant woman gets what she needs, but no more than that.

Provost: Yes, my lord.

    (Isabella and Lucio come in.)

Angelo: Stay a minute, Provost.–Yes, miss, what can I do for you?

Isab: I’ve come to plead with your Honour.

Angelo: I’m listening.

Isab: What my brother did–of course, it’s an immoral act that should be punished.  Yet, at the same time, I am pleading for his life.  Condemn the act, but don’t condemn my brother to death.

    (The Provost is reacting by praying silently to heaven.  The suggestion is that he’s on Isabella’s side.)

Angelo: You can’t separate the criminal from the crime.  The law condemns the crime.  I’m just enforcing the law.

Isab: The law is just, of course–and may heaven protect you, sir.

Lucio (Aside to Isabella): Don’t agree with him, for God’s sake.  Put your heart into it.

Isab: But must he die, sir?

Angelo: Yes, I’m afraid so.

Isab: Still, no one would fault you if you pardoned him.

Angelo: I won’t pardon him.

Isab: But you could.

Angelo: If I won’t, I can’t.

Isab: It would do no harm to pardon him.

Angelo: It’s too late.  He’s been sentenced.

Lucio (Aside to Isabella): Try harder.

Isab: But, your Honour, it would be a good thing for you as a man of authority to show mercy.  If you were in my brother’s place and he were in yours, he would show you mercy.

Angelo: You are starting to bore me, miss.

Lucio (Aside to Isabella): Don’t give up.

Isab: If I were in your place, sir, I would not be so mean to a petitioner.

Angelo: Your brother is guilty, so what is there to discuss?  You’re wasting my time.

Isab: We are all sinners in the eys of God, but He gave us the means of redemption.  If God were as rigid as you are, how would you appear in his eyes?  Would you want to be condemned for one mistake?  No.  You would want mercy.  So show it now.

Angelo: Miss, it is the law that has condemned your brother.  I am impartial.  I would do the same if he were my own brother.  He must die tomorrow.

Isab: No!  Not tomorrow!  He isn’t ready!  My lord, many men have committed the same offense, but they weren’t executed for it.

Angelo: Only because the law wasn’t enforced.  If it had been enforced from the beginning, the offenses would never have continued.  If I don’t enforce it now, they will continue.

Isab: Please, your Honour, have pity!

Angelo: My pity is reserved for future offenders.  If I deter them by enforcing the law now, I save them from punishment.

Isab. (More angrily): So!–You must be the enforcer, and my brother must be the one who dies.  It must feel wonderful to have such power.  But it is cruel to use it.

Lucio (Aside to Isabella): That’s telling him.

Isab: If every man with authority acted like God, the angels would laugh and find us ridiculous.

Provost (Aside, praying): Please, God.

Lucio (Aside to Isabella): Keep going.

Isab: When men presume to be god-like, it is profane.

Angelo: Why do you persist?

Isab: Because men of authority can be wrong, but they have the power to correct their mistakes.  Look inside yourself, sir.  Are you so free of guilt that you would execute my brother?  Do you not have normal human weaknesses?

   (Angelo turns his back to her and hesitates before replying.) 

Angelo: I have heard your appeal.  Now you may go.

Isab: Please give me an answer.

Angelo (Hesitating): I will think it over.  Come back tomorrow.

Isab: I’ll do whatever it takes to change your mind, sir.

   (Angelo reacts nervously before replying.)

Angelo: What do you mean?

Isab: I’ll pray, my lord.  I’ll pray for heavenly rewards for you if you’ll spare my brother.

Angelo (Hesitating, looking at her with intense interest): Come back tomorrow.  I must consider.

Isab: Heaven keep you, sir.  What time shall I come?

Angelo: In the morning–any time in the morning.

Isab: God save you, sir.

    (Isabella, Lucio, and the Provost leave.  Angelo is silent for a moment and obviously upset.)

Angelo: That woman makes me hot.–I swear, I could never be tempted by the dirtiest whore in Vienna–but she’s just the opposite.  She’s so pure.  She wants to be a nun.–A nun.–I’d fuck her.  Hell, yes, I’d fuck her.

    (He leaves.) 

Act 2, Scene 3.  A room in the prison.  The Duke, disguised as a friar, his head covered by a cowl, comes in, meeting the Provost.

Duke: Hello, Provost.–You are the Provost, aren’t you?

Provost: Yes, I am.  What can I do for you, friar?

Duke: I’ve come to minister to the spritual needs of the prisoners.

Provost: Good.  There’s one in particular you must speak to.

    (Juliet comes in.)

Provost: This is Juliet.  She and her fiance committed a, uh–shall we say–an indiscretion–as you can see from her condition.  Unfortunately, the young man, Claudio, has been sentenced to death for it.

Duke: Ah.–And when is this going to happen?

Provost: Tomorrow–apparently.  (To Juliet) I’ve made arrangements for you.  I’ll take you shortly.

Duke: Are you sorry for what you’ve done?

Juliet: Yes, father.

Duke: Do you love the man who wronged you?

Juliet: Of course–as much as he loves the woman who wronged him.

Duke: Then it was a mutual thing, was it?

Juliet: Of course.  He didn’t force me.

Duke: Well, I think you’re more to blame than he is.

Juliet: Yes, I admit it.  And I’m sorry.

Duke: That’s fine.  But we should repent not out of fear of heaven but out of love for heaven.

Juliet: And I do.  And I accept my shame in that spirit.

Duke: Good.  I’m going to talk to your young man now.  God be with you.

    (The Duke leaves.)

Juliet: Poor Claudio.  To think that he’s going to die tomorrow because of me.

Provost: I wish it were otherwise, my dear, believe me.–Come.

    (They leave.) 

Act 2, Scene 4.  A room in Angelo’s house.  Angelo comes in. 

Angelo: I can’t stop thinking about that girl.  I want to fuck her.–Me, the ruler of Vienna–the paragon of virtue.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: Your Honour, that girl Isabella is here.

Angelo: Send her in.

    (The Servant leaves.  Angelo puts his hand on his heart.)

Angelo: I can feel my heart pounding.  This never happened to me before.

    (Isabella comes in.)

Angelo: Hello, my dear.

Isab: I have come to know your pleasure, sir.

Angelo: My pleasure.–Ah–indeed.–If you would know it.  (More sternly)  Your brother shall be executed.

Isab: If that’s your decision, sir, so be it.  God keep you anyway.

Angelo (Changing his tone): However, it doesn’t have to be right away.

Isab: I would be grateful for any reprieve so he might be better prepared.

Angelo: Not that I would pardon a sexual crime such as his.–Fornication–lust.–It’s just as bad as murder–(Slyly) don’t you think?

Isab: They’re both sins, but as crimes they’re not equal.

Angelo: Ah.  Then tell me this.  Which would you prefer–to see your brother executed, or to save him by giving up your body?

Isab: I’d rather give up my body than my soul.  The body is something temporary, but the soul is eternel.

Angelo: I’m not talking about your soul.  What I meant was–would you commit a sin as an act of charity to save your brother’s life?

Isab: I am not understanding you, sir.

Angelo (Coughs): Ahem.–Perhaps I’m not making myself clear.–Look, your brother is facing a death sentence.  Now suppose there was someone in a position to save him from this death sentence–and he wanted you to commit a charitable sin–by having sex.

Isab: Having sex?  With who?

Angelo: With me.

Isab: With you?

Angelo: Yes.  If you have sex with me, I’ll spare your brother. 

Isab: No!  It’s better for him to die and go to heaven than for me to sin and go to hell.

Angelo: You would let your brother die?  Then why did you come and plead with me in the first place?

Isab: Because I love him.

Angelo: So you are willing to overlook his crime.

Isab. (Hesitating): I don’t condone his crime.–I just want him to live.

Angelo: Then have sex with me, and he will live.–Damn it, I love you!  I want you!

Isab: You don’t mean it.  You’re just testing me.

Angelo: I do mean it.  Don’t you understand?  It’s a small sin to have sex with me.  You’d be doing it for your brother, not out of any desire to sin.  Your soul wouldn’t be damned for it.

Isab: You wicked man!  You hypocrite!  And everyone thinks you’re so–moral!  I will denounce you!  I’ll tell everyone–unless you pardon my brother now!

Angelo: Who would believe you?  Who’s going to take your word against mine?  You’ll only make a fool of yourself.  Now be sensible.  (He tries to take her by the hands, but she pulls away.)  Give me what I want.  I want your body.  Isabella–

Isab: No!

Angelo: Then your brother will die.  And I’ll see to it that it’s a painful death.–I’ll let you think it over.

    (Angelo leaves.)

Isab: Who would believe this?–Such wickedness!–It’s incredible!–I’ll tell my brother.  He’ll understand.  He’d rather die a dozen times than see his own sister disgraced.

    (She leaves.) 

Act 3, Scene 1.  A room in the prison.  The Duke, disguised as a friar, is present with Claudio and the Provost.

Duke: Do you think Lord Angelo will pardon you?

Claudio: I can always hope–although I think it’s a long shot.

Duke: Steel your mind to accept death.  Material existence is full of illusions and hardships.  The afterlife is what really matters.  Death comes to all of us.  It’s not worth fearing.  If we feared it, every day on earth would be unbearable.

Claudio: Thank you, friar.  I won’t be afraid.

Isab. (Within): Hello!–Peace to all!

Claudio: That’s my sister, Isabella.

    (Isabella comes in.)

Isab: I must speak to my brother–in private.

Duke (To the Provost): Let’s step outside.

    (The Duke leads the Provost out but pauses to speak to him aside.)

Duke (Aside to the Provost): Not too far.  I want to hear what they say.

    (The Duke and the Provost go and stand in the wing, just visible to the audience.)

Claudio: Well, sister–what news?

Isab: Nothing good, I’m afraid.  Lord Angelo is determined to–you know.

Claudio: So there’s no hope.  Well, I’m not surprised.

Isab: At least, there’s no hope that you would accept.

Claudio: What do you mean?

Isab: Lord Angelo made a proposition–a totally vile proposition.

Claudio: What did he say?

Isab: He said he would spare you–if I–if I gave up my virginity to him.

Claudio: Angelo said that?  Why, that bloody son-of-a-bitch!  That hypocrite!

Isab: He is.

Claudio: Of course, you won’t do it.  It’s out of the question.

Isab: I’d give up my life to save you–but I can’t give up my soul.

    (Claudio turns away from her to think.  He is reconsidering.)

Claudio: Of course, as sins go, it’s a rather minor one.

Isab: What do you mean?

Claudio: I mean–well–it’s not as bad as murder–or witchcraft.  (He waits for her to answer, but she remains silent.)  Look at it this way–would he suggest it and take such a sin on himself if he knew he’d be damned for it–or if he thought you’d be?

Isab: What are you saying, brother?

Claudio: Well–can you not see the lesser of two evils?–my death, or losing your virginity?

Isab: Would you have me dishonoured?  Would you have me live in shame for the rest of my life?

Claudio: Would you rather have me executed tomorrow?

Isab: Claudio! 

Claudio: Look, I want to live.  If you can save my life just by–

Isab: Shame on you, Claudio!

Claudio: Isabella, just listen to me, will you?

Isab: No, no, no!  It’s better that you should die!

Claudio: Isabella!

    (The Duke returns.)

Duke: Ahem!–Excuse me, my dear.  If I could just speak to your brother for a moment–sort of privately.  You don’t have to leave.

    (Isabella moves apart and does not hear the following conversation.)

Duke (To Claudio): Listen.–Angelo was only testing your sister.  Trust me on this.  So forget about getting pardoned.  [Author’s note: The reader should understand that the Duke is saying this to try to save Angelo’s reputation, since he’s responsible for appointing him as Deputy.] 

Claudio (After a pause): I’m sorry, Isabella.–I’m not afraid to die.  To hell with life anyway.

Duke: Why don’t you go and rest now.

    (Claudio leaves.  The Duke goes to the wing and whispers to the Provost.  The suggestion is that he wants privacy.  The Provost nods and leaves.)

Duke: I know you’re a good girl, Isabella.  I’m very surprised that Angelo propositioned you.  What do you intend to do?

Isab: I’ve already said.  I’m not going to do it.  When the Duke gets back, I’m going to tell him the truth about Angelo.   Whether people believe me or not, I’m going to do my best to expose him.

Duke: Of course, he’ll deny everything.  He’ll just say he was testing you.

Isab: I suppose.

Duke: Now listen.  I believe there’s a way out of this.  You can save your brother’s life and also do a good deed for a lady who has been wronged–and you won’t have to have sex with Angelo.

Isab: If this is possible, I’ll do whatever you suggest.

Duke: Excellent.  Do you remember a lady named Mariana?  She was the sister of a soldier named Frederick, who was lost at sea.

Isab: I’ve heard of her.  I heard she was a good lady.

Duke: Yes, she is.  Now here’s the story.  Five years ago, Angelo was supposed to marry Mariana.  They were engaged.  But when Frederick was lost at sea, her dowry was lost, too.  When Angelo found out, he broke off the engagement.

Isab: Really?  That’s terrible.

Duke: Yes.  And she never got over it.  She still loves him, even though he never spoke to her again.  He made up some phony excuse that she was promiscuous, but that was a lie.

Isab: What a terrible way to treat a lady.  Where is she now?

Duke: She lives in seclusion on the farm at Saint Luke’s.  You can help her–and your brother–at the same time.

Isab: What do you want me to do?

Duke: You go back to Angelo and tell him you accept his proposition, but the meeting has to be short, and it has to take place in a darkened room, and in complete silence.  I’ll arrange for Mariana to take your place.  Angelo won’t know the difference.  Afterwards, he’ll pardon your brother, and when he finds out it was Mariana he had sex with, he’ll be forced to marry her.

Isab: What an ingenious plan!  I’ll do it.

Duke: Good.  I’ll go to Saint Luke’s and talk to Mariana.  You go to Angelo and tell him you agree.  Then make an excuse to leave and come and meet me at Saint Luke’s, and we’ll escort Mariana back to the rendezvous place.

Isab: Very good, father.  Thank you.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  On the street in front of the prison.  The Duke, still disguised, comes in from one side and meets Elbow, Officers, and Pompey (as a prisoner) coming in from the other side.

Elbow: We shall have no more of this prostitution business in Vienna, otherwise we’ll end up with a city full of strange-looking, illiterate children!  Do you want Vienna to look like London?

Duke: What’s going on here?

Pompey: It’s oppression, father.  There’s nothing wrong with prostitution.  It makes a lot of men happy.  Crack down on the money-lenders instead.  That’s what I say.

Elbow: Shut up, you.–Good day to you, father.

Duke: And to you.  What’s he in trouble for?

Elbow: Procuring, father.  He procures.  And he works for a madam who is a procuress.  It’s a sinful vice of procuration–or procurence.

Duke (To Pompey): You are a wicked man–living off the avails of prostitution.  What a filthy way to make a living!  It stinks!

Pompey: Oh, now, sir, I wouldn’t exaggerate.  It only smells a bit now and then.

Duke (To Elbow): You’re taking him to prison, then? 

Elbow: Yes.  The Deputy will deal with him–(To Pompey) with a rope!

Pompey: Hold on.  Here’s a friend who’ll bail me out.

    (Lucio comes in.)

Lucio: Well, well, Pompey.  Still pimping for old Mistress Overdone, are you?  How is the old crone?

Pompey: She’s sick.  I think she caught a dose of–one of those diseases.

Lucio: That’s just what she deserves.  And so do you, come to think of it.  So, you’re off to prison, eh?  Well, have a good time.

Pompey: Wait, wait, wait!  I was hoping you’d put up my bail for me.

Lucio: Put up your bail for you?  What a silly idea!  And besides, you need a change of scenery–the longer the better.

Pompey: What?  You won’t bail me out?  I thought we were friends?

Lucio: Of course.  And I’m so happy for you.

Elbow (Dragging Pompey): Come on, you!

    (Elbow, Pompey, and the Officers leave.)

Lucio: Well, friar, any news of the Duke?

Duke: The Duke?  No, I haven’t heard a thing.  Why?  What have you heard?

Lucio: Only rumours.  Some people think he’s visiting the Emperor of Russia–though I can’t imagine why, can you?

Duke: No, I guess I can’t.

Lucio: He shouldn’t have left.  Lord Angelo has been a terrible Deputy.

Duke: Do you think so?  I thought he was doing a good job.

Lucio: He’s an asshole–pardon my language.–This crackdown on vice has gone too far.

Duke: Vice must be dealt with, though.

Lucio: What’s the point?  You’re going to execute people for being normal?  For having sex?  It’s just a minor vice.  You might as well execute them for drinking, or gambling, or overeating.  That Angelo is cracked.  And he’s a bad guy, believe me.  I’ll bet when he pisses, it’s ice-cold.

Duke: I can see you have strong opinions about him.

Lucio: Yes, I do.  And I’ll tell you something.  The Duke would never hang a man for getting his fiancee pregnant.  He has more sympathy in him than that.  And there’s a good reason.

Duke: Oh?

Lucio: Yes.  The Duke–(Leans closer as if to speak confidentially) has his wild side–if you get my drift.–Eh?  Ha, ha!

Duke: You mean with ladies?

Lucio: Of course.  Underneath his robe, he’s a rascal like everyone else.–Not you, of course.

Duke: I don’t believe it.

Lucio: Don’t be naive, friar.  I know.  He’s got his kinky side.  And he likes to get drunk now and then, too.

Duke: I’m sure you’re wrong, sir.

Lucio: No, no.  I know him petty well.  In fact–I believe I know the real reason why he left town.

Duke: And what would that be?

Lucio: He went off to have a good time somewhere where he wouldn’t be recognized.  Probably disguised himself as a low-ranking gentleman of some sort.

Duke: Really, sir, I think you’re slandering him.

Lucio: Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I like the guy well enough.  It’s just that he’s not exactly what people think.

Duke: Is that so?

Lucio: For instance, people think he’s smart, but he’s actually somewhat of a fool.  He doesn’t understand government.  Escalus is the brain of the government.  Without him, the Duke would be lost.

Duke: Hmm.–When the Duke gets back, I intend to tell him what you said.  What’s your name, by the way?

Lucio: Lucio.  The Duke knows me.  I don’t care what you say to him.  He wouldn’t dare punish me.  I know all his secrets.

Duke: Ah–I see.

Lucio: Em, by the way, is Claudio going to be executed tomorrow?

Duke: Apparently.

Lucio: Tsk!–What a crock.  Angelo’s an asshole.–Well, I’ll be going now, friar.  Goodbye.  (He starts to leave but stops.)  Oh–and another thing about the Duke.  He eats meat on Fridays–and he would French-kiss a bag-lady.–And you can tell him I said so.  Goodbye.

    (Lucio leaves.)

Duke: Well!  Where was my bad reputation hiding all these years?

    (Escalus, the Provost, and Officers come in with Mistress Overdone as a prisoner.)

Escalus: Come on!  You’re going to jail!

Mist. Over: Oh, please, sir!  Have pity!

Provost: Eleven years in this dirty business, your Honour.  But now that we have a sworn complaint, she’s finished.

Mist. Over: Don’t listen to Lucio!  He hates me!  He got one of my girls pregnant and he promised to marry her, and then he jilted her.  I’ve been taking care of the baby ever since, and he thinks I’m doing it to spite him.

Escalus: We’ll deal with him in due course, but right now you’re going to jail.  (To the Officers)  Take her.

    (The Officers take Mistress Overdone out.  She complains.  Escalus, the Provost, and the Duke watch them leave.  After a pause, Escalus speaks.)

Escalus (To the Provost): Angelo won’t change his mind.  Claudio is sentenced to die tomorrow.  See that he gets a visit from a priest.

Provost: The friar’s already done that.

Escalus: Good evening, friar.

Duke: Blessings to both of you, my lords.

Escalus: Em, I don’t think I got your name.

Duke: Lodowick.

Escalus: Ah.–You’re not from around here, are you?

Duke: No.  I’ve been sent from Rome on special business for the Pope.

Escalus: Oh.  How interesting.  And what’s the news of the world?

Duke: The world?–Pfff!–Going to hell–in a manner of speaking.  Morality is collapsing everywhere you look.  But that’s hardly news, is it?–Em, so tell me–what sort of fellow is your Duke?

Escalus: He’s a good man.  A thoughtful man.

Duke: And what are his pleasures?

Escalus: Pleasures?  Oh, he doesn’t care about pleasures for himself.  He only wants others to be happy.  (Sighs)  And I wish we had him back now.–So, you’ve seen to Claudio, have you?

Duke: Yes.  He’s resigned to his fate.  For a while he thought he might get out of it, but I told him frankly that there was no hope.

Escalus: Then you’ve done your duty.  I tried to appeal to Angelo for mercy, but he wouldn’t budge.

Duke: If he’s as moral as the morality he imposes on others, God bless him.  If not, it’ll come back to haunt him.

Escalus: Now there’s a thought.  (To the Provost)  We’d better go see Claudio.–Goodbye, father.

Duke: Peace to you both.

    (Escalus and the Provost leave.)  

Duke: Well!–I put Angelo to the test by leaving him in charge, and now I’m finding out there’s another side of him I didn’t know existed.  But he’ll be put in his place before this is over.

    (The Duke leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  The farm at Saint Luke’s.  Mariana is pacing slowly, looking depressed.  The Duke comes in. 

Duke: You look unhappy, Mariana.

Mariana: As usual, I suppose, father.

Duke: I’ve come to see you to enlist your aid.  It would mean happiness for you and a tremendously good deed for three nice, young people who need help.

Mariana: What is it, father?

Duke: It involves a very good lady.–Ah, here she comes.

    (Isabella comes in.)

Duke: This is Isabella, the sister of Claudio, a nice, young man who is condemned to die.–Isabella, have you made the arrangements?

Isab: Yes, father.  It will be in the garden-house after midnight.  There’s a vineyard behind the garden, and a gate.  I can find it in the dark.

Mariana: What’s this all about?

Duke: We’ll explain it to you on the way.–Come.

    (They all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  A room in the prison.  The Provost comes in with Pompey.

Provost: Now–come here.  Listen to me.  Can you cut off a man’s head?

Pompey: I always thought that was a wife’s job.

Provost: Never mind that.  The heads in question are not married.  There are two condemned men scheduled for execution tomorrow morning–Claudio and Barnardine.  The executioner needs a helper.  If you agree to help him, you’ll be set free.

Pompey: All right.  In that case, I’ll do it.  But he’ll have to instruct me.

Provost: He will.  Hold on.–(Calling)  Abhorson!  Yo!

    (Abhorson comes in.)

Abhor: You called, sir?

Provost:  Yes.  This fellow will help you with the executions tomorrow.  He has no experience, so you’ll have to explain it to him.  If you like him, you can hire him full-time, but that’s up to you.  I should tell you, however, that he’s a pimp by profession.

Abhor: A pimp?  Well–I think that might bring some discredit to my profession.

Provost: I rather doubt it.  Anyway, I’ll leave him in your hands.

Abhor: Very good, sir.–Come on, you.  I’ll explain what you have to do. 

Pompey: Thank you for the opportunity.  I always wanted to get ahead. 

Provost: And send in Claudio and Barnardine.

Abhor: Yes, sir.

    (Pompey and Abhorson leave.)

Provost: That other guy–Barnardine–he’s the one who really deserves to die.  He’s a murderer, and he totally doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything.  There’s no reason for him to exist at all.

    (Claudio comes in.)

Provost: Claudio, I have the warrant for your execution.  It’ll be at eight a.m.  It’s after midnight now.  I don’t suppose there’s any point in trying to get some sleep.  Where’s Barnardine?

Claudio: He’s drunk and sleeping.  He doesn’t care.

    (A knock is heard within.)

Provost: All right, you go back and sit in your cell.

    (Claudio leaves.  Then the Provost leaves to answer the knock and returns with the Duke, still disguised.)

Provost: Glad to see you, father.  Come to be with the condemned on their last night?

Duke: Yes.–Em, has Isabella been here tonight?

Provost: No.  Are you expecting her?

Duke: Yes, actually.

Provost: Is there any hope for Claudio?

Duke: There may be.

Provost: Oh, really?  Do you know something I don’t?

Duke: Just wait.

    (A knock is heard.  The Provost leaves and returns with a Messenger.)

Duke: Ah!  I’ll bet this is Claudio’s pardon.

Messenger (Handing a letter to the Provost): The Deputy sends you these instructions and says to follow them exactly.

Provost: Of course.  Thank you.

    (The Messenger leaves.)

Duke: Good news for Claudio?

Provost: It’s odd that he would send me a letter now, as if I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

Duke: Read it.

Provost (Reading in part): Hmm–“Have Claudio executed at four a.m., and Barnardine in the afternoon.–Send me Claudio’s head as proof by five a.m.”–And he says, don’t fail or I’ll be sorry.–What do you make of it?

Duke: I’m flabbergasted!–I thought–

Provost: You thought what–that it was a pardon?

Duke: Yes.

Provost: Why?

Duke (Hesitating): Never mind.  I was mistaken.

Provost: I wonder why he wants Claudio executed so early?

Duke: Who’s Barnardine? 

Provost: Oh, he’s a murderer–a low criminal type.  He’s been a prisoner for nine years.

Duke: Really.–I would have thought he’d have been executed a long time ago.

Provost: Appeals.  He has friends on the outside.  But his luck has finally run out.

Duke: How is he taking it?

Provost: It means nothing to him.  He’s not afraid of death, and he’s not afraid of the law.  He doesn’t care.  He’s sleeping right now–drunk.

Duke: You let him drink?

Provost: Yes, what’s the difference?  He’s well-behaved.  He has the run of the place.  We couldn’t force him out if we tried.  He gets fed.  He doesn’t have to work.  He doesn’t care how long he lives.  He doesn’t place any particular value on his life.

Duke: Provost, I want you to do me a favour.  I can prove to you that Claudio is no guiltier than Angelo.  Just give me a few days.

Provost: What do you mean?

Duke: Don’t execute him–at least not yet.

Provost: But I have my orders.  I’m stuck with them.

Duke: Just trust me.  I’m a friar, okay?  I wouldn’t have you do anything wrong.  What I want you to do is execute Barnardine in Claudio’s place and send his head to Angelo.

Provost: But he’ll know it’s not Claudio.

Duke: No, no, you can fake it.  Shave his head and his beard.  That’ll throw Angelo off.  He probably won’t look closely.  He won’t know the difference.

Provost: Oh, but father–

Duke: Listen, I promise, if you get in any trouble for this, I’ll back you up.  I’m the Pope’s man, remember.

Provost: But it’s against my oath.

Duke: Your oath is to the Duke, right?

Provost: Yes–and to those he delegates.

Duke: The Duke won’t disapprove of this.

Provost: How do you know?

Duke: I didn’t really intend to resort to this, but–(He rummages in his pockets and produces a seal and a letter.)–Here.–This is the Duke’s seal.–And this is a letter in his handwriting.  Recognize it?

Provost: Yes, but how did you–?

Duke: I can’t explain now.  Just believe me that I’m in a position to know more than Angelo knows.  He’s going to get letters with conflicting information about the Duke.–The Duke is dead, or he’s in a monastery, or whatever.–But, in fact, the Duke is returning in two days.–It says so right here (Indicates the letter).

Provost: This is very confusing, I have to tell you.

Duke: I know, I know.  It’ll all be clear later.  But right now just do as I say.  Have Barnardine executed at four a.m.  I’ll go speak to him now.  It’s my duty in any case.

Provost: Okay, father.  I guess I’ll just trust you on this.

    (They leave.)  

Act 4, Scene 3.  Another room in the prison.  Pompey comes in with Abhorson.

Pompey: This place is almost like home.  It’s full of customers from the whorehouse–thieves, murderers, con artists–

Abhor: Never mind them now.  Go wake up Barnardine.  It’s his time.

    (Pompey goes out, and the following conversation is heard offstage.)

Pompey: Barnardine!  Wake up!

Barn: What do you want?

Pompey: The executioner orders you up, sir.  You are to be hanged.

Barn: Fuck off!  I’m sleeping!

Pompey: You can sleep later.

Barn: Fuck off!  I’m drunk!

    (Pompey returns.)

Pompey: He won’t come, sir.

Abhor: Damn it!  You’re supposed to be my helper!  Drag him out here if you have to!

    (Pompey goes out.  Cursing and complaining are heard offstage.  Then Pompey returns with Barnardine, who is drunk.)

Barn: Master Abhorson, why do you wake me up so early?

Abhor: I have your warrant for execution.

Barn: I’m drunk.  I’m not fit to be executed.

Pompey: At least you’ll avoid a hangover.

Barn: Fuck off!

Abhor: The friar’s here for you.

    (The Duke comes in.)

Duke: Master Barnardine, I’ve come to comfort you in your last hour.  I will pray with you.

Barn: I’m not in the mood.  I’m drunk, and I’m not ready.

Duke: But you must, sir.

Abhor: I have the warrant.

Barn: I don’t give a fuck about any warrant.  I don’t intend to die today, and that’s final.  Come back tomorrow.

    (Barnardine goes out.)

Duke: Tsk!–He’s not fit to live or to die.

Abhor (To Pompey): Come on.

    (Abhorson and Pompey go after Barnardine.  Then the Provost comes in.)

Provost: Is Barnardine ready for execution? 

Duke: No.  If I don’t pray with him first, his soul will be damned to hell.  But he won’t let me.

Provost: Hmm.–Oh, by the way, we have a prisoner who just died of fever a little while ago.

Duke: Who?

Provost: A pirate named Ragozine.  He was the same age as Claudio.  He could probably pass for him.  Suppose we were to send his head–

Duke: Brilliant!  (He looks up at heaven.) Thank you!–You see how God works?–Now, you take that fellow Ragozine’s head to Angelo, and that’ll give me some time to prepare Barnardine.

Provost: What about Claudio?

Duke: Hide him–somewhere–anywhere.  I guarantee you, within two days the problem will be solved.–Hurry.

Provost: Okay, father.  I’m trusting you.

    (The Provost leaves.)

Duke: Now I’ll send a letter to Angelo, by way of the Provost, telling him that I’m on my way back to Vienna, and he should meet me tomorrow three miles outside of town and escort me in with a formal procession.

    (Isabella comes in.)

Duke: Ah!–There you are.

Isab: Father, did Lord Angelo send my brother’s pardon?

    (The Duke hesitates before answering.  The suggestion is that he has some reason for lying.  The audience will have to wait till the last scene to know why.)

Duke: Em–I’m sorry, my dear.–Your brother was executed.

    (Isabella bursts into tears.)

Isab: He lied!–Angelo lied!–He broke his word!

Duke: There, there, my dear.  Your brother’s in a better place.

Isab. (Sobbing): Angelo is a snake!  He’s the devil!

Duke: Now listen.  The Duke is returning tomorrow.  You can tell him everything.  I promise you you’ll have justice.

Isab: Will I?

Duke: Yes.–Collect yourself now.  (He gives her a letter.)  Take this letter to Friar Peter.  He’s the one who knows what the Duke is doing.  Tell Friar Peter to meet me at Mariana’s house tonight.  I’ll explain everything to him, and he’ll arrange it that you can speak to the Duke.  I won’t be there, but you must trust me.  I know you’re terribly hurt, but you must bear up as bravely as possible, and you’ll see how things will work out all right for you.

    (Lucio comes in, upset.)

Lucio: Good evening, friar.–Isabella, I’m so sorry.  I loved your brother.

Isab: Thank you.

Lucio: If that damn Duke had been here instead of going off on a vacation, it wouldn’t have happened.

Isab: Please–don’t blame it on the Duke.–I have to go now.  Good night.

Duke: Good night, Isabella.

    (Isabella leaves.)

Duke: That’s not a nice thing to say about the Duke.

Lucio: He’s no saint.  He’s off indulging his vices.  I know.

Duke: You should bite your tongue.

Lucio: No, I’ll wag it.  Come along with me and I’ll tell you plenty of dirty things about the Duke.

Duke: What do you have against him anyway?

Lucio: Aw–just a bit of trouble a long time ago.  I knocked up this wench.  I swore I didn’t–otherwise I would’ve had to marry her.

Duke: Well, you’re no saint either, are you?

Lucio: I never said I was.–Are you leaving?

Duke: Yes, I suppose.

Lucio: I’ll walk with you.  Don’t worry, I’ll watch my language for your sake. 

Duke: All right.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  In Angelo’s house.  Angelo and Escalus come in.  Escalus is holding letters.

Escalus: The Duke’s letters contradict each other.  I don’t know what to believe.

Angelo: Maybe he’s lost his mind.  Why does he want me to meet him at the gates?

Escalus: I don’t know.

Angelo: I thought he didn’t like public gatherings for his sake.  Now he wants us to announce to everyone an hour before he arrives that he’s coming, and if anyone has any complaint against either of us, they can speak it openly.

Escalus: Maybe he just wants to hear the complainers right away instead of giving them time to make up lies.

Angelo: Well, you deal with it.  And round up everyone of rank.  Might as well give the Duke a proper greeting.

Escalus: Okay, no problem.  Good night.

Angelo: Good night.

    (Escalus leaves.)

Angelo: I don’t like this at all.–That girl–suppose she shoots her mouth off?–No.  She wouldn’t.  It would be too embarrassing.  And nobody would believe her anyway.–Tsk!–I wish I hadn’t executed Claudio.–But what else could I do?  He would’ve killed me for fucking his sister–a future nun, no less.–Aw, fucking hell.  One wrong move leads to another.  That’s how it goes.

    (He leaves.) 

Act 4, Scene 5.  The fields outside of town.  The Duke, no longer disguised, comes in with Friar Peter.

Duke: Friar Peter, I want you to deliver these letters (Gives him letters).  The Provost is in on it.  Tell Flavius, Valentius, Rowland, and Crassus where I am and have them bring the trumpeters to the gates.

Friar Peter: Right, my lord!

   (Friar Peter leaves.  Then Varrius comes in, out of breath.) 

Duke: Ah!  Varrius!

Varrius: I came as quick as I could, my lord.

Duke: Come with me.  We have to meet up with some friends.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 6.  A street near the city gate.  Isabella and Mariana come in.

Isab: I hate to be the one to accuse Angelo, but Friar Lodowick said I should.  He said there was a reason.

Mariana: Then just trust him.

Isab: And he said not to be surprised if he or anybody else spoke against me.

Mariana: Then he must have everything figured out somehow.  Just do as he says.–Where is Friar Peter?

Isab: Here he comes.

    (Friar Peter comes in.)

Friar Peter: Everything’s ready.  I’ll take you to the gates.  Come on.

    (They all leave.) 

Act 5, Scene 1.  At the city gate.  Standing to one side are Isabella and Mariana, both veiled, with Friar Peter.  Coming in slowly (from within the city) are Angelo, Escalus, the Provost, Lucio, Lords, Officers, and Citizens.  Then, coming in opposite (from outside the gates) are the Duke (as himself), Varrius, and Lords.

Duke: Angelo!  Escalus!  It’s good to see you!

Angelo and Escalus: Welcome back, my lord.

Duke: I hear you’ve done an excellent job running city in my absence.  I’m grateful to you.

Angelo and Escalus: Thank you, my lord.

    (Friar Peter steps forward with Isabella.)

Friar Peter: My lord, this lady must have a word with you.  Her name is Isabella.

    (Isabella unveils.  Angelo reacts nervously.)

Isab: My gracious Duke, I have been wronged–terribly wronged–and I ask for justice.

Duke: All right.  What’s the problem?

Angelo (Perturbed): Don’t listen to her, my lord.  She’s not in her right mind.  I had to execute her brother.

Isab: I speak the truth, my lord–although it might seem hard to believe.–This man–your Deputy–is a murderer, a hypocrite, and a virgin-violator.

Duke: Oh, that’s ridiculous!

Isab: No, my lord.  Your Deputy, Lord Angelo, whom you regard as so honourable and so good, is a villain of the worst sort.

Angelo: Shut up, you troublemaker!–My lord–

    (The Duke raises his hand for silence.)

Duke: Miss, what is your complaint–specifically?

Isab: My brother, Claudio, was sentenced to death for having sex with his fiancee and getting her pregnant.  I was about to enter the sisterhood when he sent Lucio to me to try to appeal to Lord Angelo for mercy.

Lucio: That’s right.  Her brother sent me.

Duke: I didn’t ask you to speak.–Go on, Isabella.

Isab: I went to see this scoundrel Deputy of yours–

Duke: Now, now, just tell me the facts.

Isab: I begged Lord Angelo to spare my brother.  And he said–the only way he would spare him–was if I had sex with him.  (Reactions of shock from the crowd)  So I agreed.  I accepted the shame–and the sin–and I had sex with him.  And then he broke his word and had my brother executed anyway.

Angelo: Lies!  All lies!  She’s crazy!

Duke: What an absurd story!  Do you expect me to believe that Lord Angelo, a man of spotless character, would do something so vile and hypocritical?  Someone put you up to this, I think.  Who was it?

Isab: The truth will come out, sir–God willing.

Duke: You’ve slandered a highly-respected lord.  You’ll be punished for that.  Now, who put you up to it?

Isab: Friar Lodowick.

Duke: Lodowick?  I never heard of him.–Does anyone here know him?

Lucio: I do, sir.  He’s a troublemaker.  If he wasn’t a friar, I would’ve punched him out for the bad things he said about you.

Duke: Indeed!  Well, I’ll take care of him!  (To Friar Peter) Do you know him?

Friar Peter: Yes, my lord.  He’s not a troublemaker.  And he never said anything bad against you.

Lucio: Oh, but he did!

Friar Peter: Well, I’m sure he can speak for himself, but at the moment he’s in bed with a cold.  He sent me here to speak for him.  Isabella is lying about Lord Angelo having violated her, and I have a witness to prove it.  (He points to Mariana, still veiled.)

Duke: Just as I thought.  (To an Officer)  Take her away.

    (The Officer takes Isabella out.  Then Mariana steps forward, still veiled.)

Duke: You see, Lord Angelo?  No one’s going to slander you as long as I’m around.–Take off your veil, madam, so I can see your face.

Mariana: I’m sorry, my lord, but I can’t show my face until my husband tells me to.

Duke: Oh.  You’re married?

Mariana: No, my lord.

Duke: Then what are you–a virgin?

Mariana: No, my lord.

Duke: A widow?

Mariana: No, my lord.

Duke: What, then?

Lucio: Probably a prostitute.

Duke: Nobody asked you.

Mariana: My lord, I was never married, and I’m not a virgin.  I had sex with my husband, but he doesn’t know it.

Lucio: He must have been drunk at the time.

Duke: Will you shut up!

Lucio: Yes, my lord.

Mariana: I will explain, my lord.  Isabella, who accuses Lord Angelo, also accuses my husband of having sex with her, but I can swear that I was in bed with him at the time.

Duke: But if you were never married, then who is your husband?

Mariana: Lord Angelo.  He thought he was having sex with Isabella, but it was really me.

Angelo: This has gone far enough!  Take off that veil and let’s see who you are!

Mariana: My husband orders me.  (She removes her veil.)  You know me, Angelo.  You once promised to marry me–remember?  I was the one you had sex with in the dark, not Isabella.

Duke (To Angelo): Do you know this woman?

Angelo: Yes, my lord.  Five years ago we were engaged, but I broke it off.  Partly it was because she couldn’t provide the dowry she promised–but mainly it was because I found out she was a woman of loose morals.  I haven’t seen her for the past five years.  I swear it.

Mariana (To the Duke): My lord, I am engaged to Angelo, and he had sex with me Tuesday night in his garden-house.  I swear it.

Angelo: My lord, give me justice!  Both these women are crazy.  Someone has put them up to this.  Probably that Friar Lodowick.

Duke: All right.  Whoever it is, you can deal with them as you wish.  Escalus will help you.  (To Friar Peter)  And you said Lodowick wasn’t a troublemaker.  That puts you under suspicion, too.  Where is he?

Friar Peter: The Provost knows where he is.  It was Lodowick put them up to it, sir.

Duke (To the Provost): Go get him.

    (The Provost leaves.)

Duke: Angelo, I’ll leave you to deal with this.  I must go.

Angelo: Thank you, my lord!

    (The Duke leaves.)

Escalus: Lucio, didn’t you say Friar Lodowick was a troublemaker?

Lucio: Yes, my lord.  Under that robe of his he’s a damned villain.  And he slandered the Duke.  And if he says anything bad about me, you can be sure it’s a lie.

Escalus: You stay here.  You can confront him when we get hold of him.  (To an Attendant) Bring back that girl Isabella.  I want to question her myself.

    (The Attendant leaves.)

Lucio: My lord, I think she’d be more likely to confess in private than in front of all these people.

Escalus: You think so?–Mm–could be.

    (The Officers return with Isabella, and the Provost returns with the Duke, disguised as Friar Lodowick.)

Escalus (To Isabella): We have a witness who says you were lying.–(To the Duke) And you–Friar Lodowick–did you encourage these women to slander Lord Angelo?

Duke: No.

Escalus: Sir, you are in some serious trouble.

Duke: I don’t have to talk to you.  I’ll talk to the Duke.

Escalus: We are delegated by him to act in this matter.  You speak to us.

Duke: Oh, sure.  You and Angelo.  He’s going to investigate himself, is that it?

Lucio: I told you he was a troublemaker.

Escalus: Just shut up a minute, okay?–(To the Duke) What kind of friar are you, inciting these women to tell lies about Lord Angelo?  I don’t care if you’re a friar.  I’ll have you put in the stocks and whipped.

Duke: Not so fast.  The Duke wouldn’t dare punish me.  I’m the Pope’s man, remember.  I came here to observe your city, and I want to tell you it stinks with corruption.  And your laws are a joke.

Escalus: I won’t stand for this!  You’re going to jail!

Angelo: Lucio, tell us what you know about this man–whatever bad things you know.

Lucio: I’ll expose him for you, my lord.–(To the Duke) You remember me, don’t you?

Duke: Yes.  We met in the prison.

Lucio: And what did you say about the Duke?  That he was a womanizer and a drunk!

Duke: No, that’s what you said about him.

Lucio (To Angelo): What a liar he is!  You should have heard him slander the Duke!

Duke: I love the Duke as I love myself.

Angelo: Ha!  That’s just what a liar would say!

Escalus: This man insults our intelligence.  Take him to prison–and these women, too–and Friar Peter!

    (The Provost lays hands on the Duke, who brushes him off.)

Duke: No, you don’t!

Angelo: You’re resisting arrest?–Lucio, help the Provost.

Lucio: Gladly, sir!–(To the Duke) You lying son-of-a-bitch!–And why don’t we just get a good look at the face of a liar!

    (He pulls off the friar’s hood, revealing Duke Vincentio.  Gasps of shock all around.)

Lucio: Uh-oh.

Duke (Looking sternly at Angelo): If you have anything to say, better say it now.

Angelo (Weakly): My lord–it seems you know everything.–I can’t defend myself.–I’m guilty.–Punish me as you see fit.–I deserve to die.

    (The Duke beckons to Mariana, who steps forward.)

Duke: You were once engaged to this woman, weren’t you?

Angelo: Yes.

Duke: Fine.  Now you’re going to marry her, as you should have done five years ago.–Friar Peter, you do the marriage–right now.–Provost, you go with them.

    (Angelo, Mariana, Friar Peter, and the Provost leave.)

Escalus: This is incredible!

Duke: Come here, Isabella.  I was on your side before, and I’m on your side now.

Isab: My lord, I’m sorry if I’ve caused any trouble.

Duke: No, no, don’t worry about it.  I know you’re still heartbroken over your brother’s death.  And you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just step out of my disguise and save him.–Well, it all happened so fast.  But he’s in a better place now, and you should take comfort in that thought.

Isab: I do, my lord.

    (The Duke gives her a long, admiring look.  Then Angelo, Mariana, Friar Peter, and the Provost return.)

Duke: Well, that was fast.

Friar Peter: I gave them the special short service.

Duke (To Isabella): For Mariana’s sake, I would ask you to forgive Angelo.–However–seeing as how he condemned your brother to death for doing what he himself did and tried to take advantage of you and then broke his promise, I think the law is pretty clear on this.  Angelo must die.  Measure must be answered by measure.–Angelo, I sentence you to death.

Mariana: My lord, please don’t do this to me now that I have a husband.

Duke: He owed you the marriage as a matter of honour.  Now you’ll inherit everything he owns, and you’ll have a good dowry to find yourself a better husband.

Mariana: He’s the only one I want.  I love him.  I never stopped loving him.

Duke: Sorry, but my mind’s made up.

Mariana: Isabella, help me.  Speak for me.

Duke: Don’t ask her to help you.  Her brother’s ghost would rise from his grave if she were to plead for Angelo’s life now.

Mariana: Isabella!  Angelo is sorry!

Duke: Doesn’t matter.  He has to die.

Isab. (Kneeling before the Duke): My lord, have pity on Angelo.

Duke: You would spare him?

Isab: I would show him more mercy than he showed my brother.  In this he may find redemption and be a better person.  I believe he was sincere–and when he saw me, he had a moment of weakness.  And although he intended to have sex with me, he didn’t actually.

    (The Duke gestures for her to rise, and she does.)

Duke: There’s another reason why Angelo must die.–Provost, why was it that Claudio was executed at such an unusual hour?

Provost: Those were my instructions.

Duke: And was that in the warrant?

Provost: No.  I received the instructions by messenger.  You were there at the time.

Duke (Looking at Angelo): A serious breach of the law.–(To the Provost) Did you not realize that it was an improper instruction?

Provost: I wasn’t sure what to think.  It was only later that I decided I had made a mistake–which I regretted.  Another prisoner can vouch for that.  He should have been executed, but I kept him alive to speak for me now.

Duke: Who is he?

Provost: His name is Barnardine.

Duke: Go get him.

    (The Provost leaves.)

Angelo: Sir–I am so ashamed.  I deserve to die.

Duke: I think so, too.

    (The Provost returns with Barnardine, Claudio [muffled by a hood], and Juliet.)

Duke: Which one’s Barnardine?

Provost (Indicating): This one.

Duke: A certain friar told me about you.  He said you were a stubborn man with no awareness of an afterlife.  You live for today and never think of tomorrow.  Is that true?

Barn: It’s true, my lord.  I’m sober now and I’ll speak true to you, seeing as how I never had any grievance against your lordship.  Whatever the friar said, I’m sure it was true.  I admit it openly.  And whatever the Provost says, you can believe that, too, as he never mistreated me and never told a lie in all the years I was in prison.

Duke: You were rightly condemned to death–but now I pardon you.  And I hope my mercy inspires you to live a better life.

Barn: Thank you, my lord.  God bless you.

Duke: Friar Peter, I leave him to you for spiritual counseling.–Now–who’s this other fellow?

Provost: He’s another prisoner I saved.  He should have died the same time as Claudio.  In fact, he’s Claudio’s double.

    (The Provost unmuffles Claudio.)

Isab: Claudio!

Claudio: Isabella!

   (They embrace in tears.)

Isab. (To the Duke): You said things would work out all right for me–and they have.  I have my brother back.

Duke: I’d have him as my brother, too–if you were to marry me.  [Author’s note: In the original, Isabella has no more lines, leaving us unsure of what she will do.  But Shakespeare’s intentions are obvious by now.  Isabella will marry the Duke, and her expression must signal to the audience that she is willing.]  Forgive me for keeping this a secret, but I had to make Angelo believe he had really executed your brother.–(To Angelo) Consider yourself reprieved from a death sentence.  You’ve been given a second chance.

    (Angelo, overwhelmed, kneels and kisses the Duke’s hand.)

Angelo: Thank you, my lord!

Duke: Who’s left to deal with?–You, Lucio!

Lucio: Em–

Duke: So I’m a drunk, am I?  A fool?  A womanizer?

Lucio (Very nervously): Heh, heh–I was only joking, my lord.  Please don’t hang me.  Perhaps just a good whipping.

Duke: Oh, you’ll get a good whipping, all right.  And right after that, you’ll get what you deserve.

Lucio (Moaning): Oh, God!

Duke: If any woman can say that you made her pregnant, you will have to marry her.

Lucio: You mean–the girl from the whorehouse?  Oh, please, sir, don’t make me!

Duke: You will marry her.–Officers, take him to prison.

    (The Officers take Lucio out.)

Duke: Claudio, now you can marry Juliet.–Mariana, be happy with Angelo.–Escalus, you’ve been a good and trustworthy friend.  I owe you a lot.–Provost, you’re due for a promotion.

Angelo: My lord–whose head–?

Duke: Oh, yes–the head.  It was a criminal named Ragozine.   It was a complicated plot.  I can see some of you are still bewildered, so come back to the palace with me, and I’ll tell you all about it.–And Isabella, you and I have things to talk about–privately.

    (They all leave.) 


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

 (Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/ )

Main Characters

Timon — rich lord of Athens





Lucilius, Flaminius, Servilius — servants of Timon  (Note: another servant with a significant speaking part is unnamed.)

Flavius — Timon’s steward 

Old Athenian

Apemantus — churlish philosopher

Alcibiades –Athenian captain  (Historically, a general of Athens in the Peloponnesian War)

Ventidius — friend of Timon

Lucius, Lucullus, Sempronius — lords

Five Ladies (as Amazons)

Cupid (boy dressed as Cupid)



Caphis — senator’s servant

Servants of Varro, Isidore, Titus, Lucius, Hortensius, and Philotus



Three Strangers

Phrynia and Timandra — mistresses of Alcibiades

Three Bandits

Soldier of Alcibiades

Gist of the story: Timon is a rich lord of Athens, whose generosity is out of control.  He realizes too late that he is broke and deeply in debt.  But when he seeks help from his flattering friends who benefited from his generosity, they all turn him down.  He is so unhinged by this betrayal that he leaves Athens and goes to live in a cave.  He is down on the whole human race.  In a subplot, Alcibiades, a young captain and friend of Timon, gets into an argument with some senators and gets himself banished.  Timon discovers gold on the land where he is living and decides it is only good for corrupting others.  He gives some to Alcibiades and urges him to destroy Athens.  Alcibiades is out for revenge against the senate but doesn’t want to kill everyone.  When he threatens to attack Athens, the senators try to make peace with Timon and Alcibiades.  Timon rejects them and predicts his own death.  When Alcibiades sends a soldier to him, he learns Timon has died.  The senators express remorse for the mistreatment of both Timon and Alcibiades and beg Alcibiades to take revenge only on the guilty.  Alcibiades agrees.

(Timon of Athens was never finished.  Shakespeare left us what appears to be a first draft.  Also, a second writer almost certainly wrote parts of it.  For scholars it is a textual headache, and for our non-literary audience it would be an impossible read.  The play was apparently never performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime and perhaps has never been performed as it was originally written.  Other writers have “finished” it for the purpose of stage performance.  But even so, it has had a very limited performance history.  The only historical figure is Alcibiades, who was a prominent general in the Peloponnesian War [431 – 404 B.C.], but his appearance in the play is not based on historical events.  Shakespeare probably liked him and decided he was a suitable character to punish a decadent Athens.  Shakespeare doesn’t tell us how Timon died or who buried him, which is proof enough that the play was never finished.  I have tweaked the ending to deal with this.  Despite its difficulties, Timon of Athens has a good story that our non-literary audience will like.  Our intention has been to give it a modern restyling and thereby to bring this obscure play out of the shadows and let it shine for a new generation of admirers.  This is the first modernized version of Timon of Athens ever published.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  A hall in Timon’s house in Athens.  A Poet, Painter, Jeweller, and Merchant meet, coming in from different doors.  The Painter is carrying a picture, and the Poet is carrying a manuscript.  [Author’s note: Some texts include a Mercer, but he is deleted here.]

Poet: Painter, how are you?

Painter: My friend the poet.  I’m fine.  You’re looking well.

Poet: So how goes the world?

Painter: It’s getting old and tired.

Poet: That’s what everyone says.  But where there’s money, there’s life.

Painter: Can’t argue with that.  The merchant agrees with me–don’t you?

Merchant: I do indeed.  And there’s plenty of both in Timon’s house–eh, jeweller?

Jeweller: That’s why I’m here.  I’ve brought him this jewel.

Merchant: Let’s see it.

    (The Jeweller shows off the jewel.)

Merchant: Is that a gift, then?

Jeweller: Well–yes and no.  He’ll pay me for it, of course.  But it’s a gift in the sense that I’m bringing it to him instead of somebody else.

Merchant: Because he’s the most generous man in Athens.

Jeweller: Exactly.

Poet (Reciting):

    When we are paid to praise the vile,
    Then who will pay us when we praise
    With our most honest phrase
    That which is worthwhile?

Painter: That’s the arts in a nutshell.  Do you have a new book for Timon?

Poet: Of course.  He’s my patron.  Do you have a picture for him?

Painter: Yes.  Have a look.

    (The Painter shows off his picture.)

Painter: Not bad, eh?

Poet: Excellent.  It looks just like him.

Painter: It’s not my best work, but it’s pretty good.

Poet: I like the facial expression–and the gesture.  It seems to be saying a lot–although I’m not sure what.

Painter: He’ll like it.  That’s all that matters.

    (Several Senators pass across the stage, talking happily amongst themselves.)

Painter: VIP’s.

Poet: Senators of Athens.  You see what prestigious company Timon keeps?

Painter: Yes, indeed.  So what is your book about?

Poet: It’s about a man that everyone loves and wants to be close to.  Not anyone in particular, of course.

Painter: Uh-huh.  And what happens?

Poet: Well, it’s like this.  Consider the way everyone wants to be Timon’s friend.  He’s rich, so people flatter him, right?

Painter (Somewhat embarrassed): Well–

Poet: Not Apemantus, of course.  He’s an exception.  He’s such a grouch he doesn’t speak nicely to anyone.  But Timon loves him anyway.

Painter: Never mind.  Get back to the story.

Poet: Right.  Okay.  Now, you see, there’s a beautiful high hill.  And on top of the hill is the goddess of Fortune.  And everyone is looking up to her, hoping to be called.  And she looks down and beckons to one man–someone just like Timon.  And he is raised high above all the other hopefuls.

Painter: Yeah.  People like us.

Poet: Don’t interrupt.  Now–the others–they see that he’s been chosen, so they follow at his heels, whispering in his ear–“I’m your friend.  I’m your friend.  Don’t forget me.”–And he’s such a generous fellow, he says, “Yes, yes, come along.”  And they all benefit from his good fortune.

Painter: And what happens next?

Poet: Well!–Here’s what.–Fortune changes her mind.  She’s no longer interested in the chosen one.  So she throws him down the hill.  And no one who followed him up reaches out to save him on the way down.

Painter: Yes, Fortune is like that.  It’s an old moral theme.  There are a thousand paintings about it.  But it sounds like a good book.  Timon will like it.

    (Trumpets sound.  Timon comes in, trying to converse with a Messenger from Ventidius while several hangers-on are asking for favours.  Timon is politely acknowledging them.  Following are Lucilius and other Servants.)

Timon (To the Messenger): In prison, you say?  He’s in prison?

Messenger: Yes, my lord.  He owes five talents and he can’t pay.  His creditors are being very tough about it.  (Author’s note: One talent equals about $1,200.]

Timon: My poor friend Ventidius!–Well, I’m not going to let him rot in a debtor’s prison.  You go and tell him I’ll pay his debt for him.  And have him come and see me when he gets out.  He may be needing some additional help.

Messenger: May the gods bless you for you kindness, sir!

    (The Messenger bows and leaves.  Then an Old Athenian comes in.)

Old Ath: My good lord Timon, I must speak to you.

Timon: Of course, sir.  What can I do for you?

Old Ath: You have a servant named Lucilius.

Timon: Yes.  (He beckons to Lucilius.)–Lucilius.

    (Lucilius joins them.)

Old Ath: My lord, this servant of yours has been coming to my house at night to visit my daughter.

Timon: Oh?

Old Ath: Yes.  She’s the only daughter I’ve got, and I certainly have no intention of giving her away to a–a common servant, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.  I’ve told him to stay away, but he won’t listen.  So it’s up to you to keep him away from my daughter.

Timon: Oh–but Lucilius is an honest fellow.

Old Ath: He may be honest, but that won’t support a wife–at least, not my daughter.

Timon: Does she love him?

Old Ath: Yes, but she’s young and inexperienced.  She doesn’t think sensibly about her future.

Timon (To Lucilius): Do you love the girl?

Lucilius: Yes, my lord.  And she loves me.

Old Ath: If she marries this fellow, I’ll disinherit her.  I’ll throw her out.

Timon: Well, hold on a minute.  What sort of dowry were you intending for her?

Old Ath: Three talents for now, and later she inherits everything.

Timon: Hmm–Suppose I were to match that out of my own funds?

Old Ath: Oh!–Well–in that case, I would have no objection.

Timon: He’s been a good servant.  He deserves to be happy.  I’ll match your daughter’s dowry.

Old Ath: Every servant should have such a generous master.  Sir, we have a deal.

   (The two men shake hands.) 

Lucilius: Thank you, my lord, from the bottom of my heart.  May my fortune in life always depend on you.

    (Lucilius leaves with the Old Athenian.)

Poet: My lord, the book I have worked on for such a long time is finished.  May it please you.

Timon: Excellent.  I’ll look at it later.  Stick around.–Painter, what have you got?

Painter: A fine picture for you, my lord.  My best work.   May it please you.

Timon (Taking a quick look): Very good.  You’ll stay for dinner.–You, too, jeweller–and the merchant.

Jeweller: I hope you like this, sir (Showing the jewel).

Timon: It is not as praised.

Jeweller: What?  Is it worse?

Timon: No, better.  If I paid you a seller’s price, it would cost me a fortune.

Jeweller: Ah, but it becomes more valuable the moment you wear it.

Timon: Ha, ha–well said!

    (Apemantus comes in.)

Timon: Look who’s here–Apemantus.  Prepare to be scolded, everyone.

Jeweller: We’ll bear it.

Merchant: I’ll grit my teeth.

Timon: Good day to you, gentle Apemantus!

Apem: You’ll have a good-day from me when I am gentle–and when you’ve become your dog, and when these thieves become honest.

Timon: How can you call them thieves?  You don’t even know them.

Apem: They’re Athenians, aren’t they?

Timon: Of course.

Apem: Then they’re thieves.

Jeweller: Hey, do you know me?

Apem: Yes.  You’re a thief.

Timon: Tsk!–Are you proud, Apemantus?

Apem: Yes–proud that I’m not like you.

Timon: Oh!–Ha, ha!–Where are you going?

Apem: To find an honest Athenian and beat his brains out.

Timon: That would be a crime.

Apem: Only if I find one.

Timon: How do you like this picture the painter did?

Apem: As bad art goes, it’s excellent.

Timon: You don’t think it’s good?

Apem: It sucks–like the one who made it.

Painter: You dog!

Apem: Your mother’s the same breed as me.

Timon: Will you eat with us?

Apem: I will neither eat nor be eaten.

Timon: How do you like this jewel?

Apem: I’m sure it’s rare–but not as rare as an honest man in Athens.

Timon: What do you think it’s worth?

Apem: Whatever the seller can get for it.

Poet (To the others): He thinks he’s a philosopher.

Apem: You’re a liar.

Poet: Aren’t you a philosopher?

Apem: Yes.

Poet: Then I’m not a liar.

Apem: Aren’t you a poet?

Poet: Yes.

Apem: Then you’re a liar.  In your last work you pretended Timon was a worthy man.

Poet: I wasn’t pretending.  It’s true.

Apem: Oh, yes, he’s worthy of the likes of you.  The one who loves to be flattered is worthy of his flatterers.

    [Author’s note: The joke about having no angry wit to be a lord has been deleted because nobody has ever been able to figure it out.]

Apem. (To the Merchant): Aren’t you a merchant?

Merchant: Yes.

Apem: May your business ruin you, if the gods don’t ruin you first.

Merchant: The gods decide how my business goes.

Apem: Business is your god, and may it ruin you.

    (A trumpet is heard.  A Messenger comes in.)

Timon: Whose trumpet is that?

Messenger: Alcibiades and twenty of his men, sir.

Timon: Wonderful!  (To the others)  Alcibiades is here!

    (Alcibiades comes in with several of his men.)

Alcib: Timon!  You’re a sight for sore eyes!

Apem. (Aside cynically): Fuck me.

Timon: You’re just in time for dinner, Alcibiades!–Let’s all go to dinner!  Come on, everyone!

    (Everyone leaves except Apemantus.  He does a sour-faced pantomime mocking courtly manners and the Painter, Poet, and Jeweller.  This is interrupted by the entrance of two Lords.)

1st Lord: What time is it, Apemantus?

Apem: Time to tell the truth.  You’re either too early or too late.

2nd Lord: Are you not going to dinner?

Apem: Only to watch scoundrels devour flesh and idiots get drunk on wine.

2nd Lord: Farewell, farewell.

Apem: I don’t need two farewells.  Keep one for yourself.

1st Lord: Fuck off.

Apem: Tell your friend.

2nd Lord: You son of a bitch.

Apem: I’ve already been called a dog today, so I don’t care.

    (Apemantus leaves.)

1st Lord: What a misanthrope.–Shall we go eat?  Timon always puts on a good feast.

2nd Lord: He’s generous, all right.  If you give him a gift, he’ll give you a much bigger one in return.

1st Lord: Now that’s nobility.

2nd Lord: And may he never run out of it.

1st Lord: Never.

    (They leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 2.  A banquet room in Timon’s house.  The sound of oboes.  Coming in are Timon, Senators, Lords, Ventidius, Alcibiades, Flavius (the Steward), and Servants.  Apemantus follows them, keeping apart.

Vent: Lord Timon, my father passed away and left me a lot of money, so I can repay you the five talents you loaned me to get me out of jail.  And I thank you again for your great kindness.

Timon: No, no, no, Ventidius.  Keep the money.  There’s no kindness in lending to be repaid later, only in giving freely.

Vent: Sir, you have a noble spirit.

    (Everyone stands ceremoniously to show respect to Timon.  He smiles with embarrassment.)

Timon: Oh, please, my friends, you’re not here to show me any ceremony.  You’re here because you’re my friends, and I love you, and I want you to have a good time.  Whatever’s mine is yours.  Please sit.

    (They all sit at a large table, but Apemantus remains apart, looking aloof.  On one side is a small table for one person.)

Timon: Apemantus, what are you standing there for?  You’re welcome, too.

Apem: Don’t welcome me.  You should throw me out instead.

Timon (To the others): Don’t mind him.  He’s like that.  (To Apemantus) All right, if you insist on being a grouch, sit by yourself.

    (Timon signals to a Servant to lead Apemantus to the isolated table.)

Apem: I’ll stay, but only to observe–and say what I think.

Timon: You can say what you like.  I’ll ignore you.  Besides, you won’t be able to speak if your mouth is full.

Apem: Your meat is for flatterers.  I would choke on it.

    (Timon gives him a dismissive gesture.  All the guests eat and drink.  Apemantus sits sullenly, accepting only water and a radish.)

Apem (Saying grace): Gods above, give me nothing material.  Make sure I never trust any man’s promise, or any woman who cries, or any sleeping dog, or anyone who has power over me, or any so-called friends if I am ever in need.  Amen.–Water and a radish–that’s all I need.

    (Apemantus watches contemptuously as the other guests eat and drink.)

Timon: Captain Alcibiades, I suppose your heart is out on some battlefield.

Alcib: My mind may be on a battlefield, but my heart is always at your service.

Timon: You’d probably prefer to make a breakfast of your enemies than have dinner with your friends.

Alcib:  If my enemies were dead and bloody, I’d enjoy that the most.

Apem. (Aside): You ought to murder all these flattering bastards.

1st Lord: My lord Timon, you should give us a chance to show you how much we love you.

Timon: But you’re already doing that right now, just by being here.  The only benefit I ever want is just to have you as friends.  What greater riches could any man ask for?  After all, why are we on earth?  To give to others.  (He raises his cup.) I drink to you all!

    (They all raise their cups.  Cheering and laughter.)

2nd Lord: My lord, the same selfless feeling of love springs from our hearts like a new baby sprung from the womb.

Apem. (Aside): Except that it’s illegitimate.

    (A trumpet sounds.  A Servant enters.)

Servant: My lord, there are some ladies here to see you.  They have sent a spokesman to greet you in their behalf.

Timon: Wonderful!  Let them in.

    (The Servant beckons, and Cupid comes in [a boy dressed as Cupid].)

Cupid: Hail to thee, gracious Timon, and to all your friends!  The five senses regard you as their patron, and they come to pay tribute to you!

Timon: Ha, ha!–They are welcome!

    (Cupid goes out.  Lute music is heard.  Cupid returns with five Ladies dressed as Amazons, playing lutes and dancing.)

Apem. (Aside): What a crock of shit.

    (The Lords rise from the table and dance with the Amazons until the music stops.)

Timon (Clapping): Wonderful!  Wonderful!  You ladies have made this feast twice as delightful.  I thank you.

1st Lady: My lord, we show you our best.

Apem. (Aside): If you showed us your worst, I’d throw up. 

Timon: There’s food in the other room, where you can sit down.  Go and help yourselves.

Ladies: Thank you, my lord.

    (Cupid and the Ladies go out.)

Timon: Flavius!

Flavius: Yes, my lord.

Timon: Bring me the jewel box.

Flavius: Yes, my lord.

    (As Flavius turns to leave, he speaks aside.)

Flavius (Aside): More jewels.  He’s going broke, and he doesn’t know it.

    (Flavius goes out frowning.  He returns with the jewel box and gives it to Timon.)

Timon: I have a little surprise for all of you.

    (He starts passing out jewels to his Guests.)

Guests: Oh!–My lord!–You are too kind!–How beautiful!–Thank you!

Timon: It’s nothing.  You honour me by accepting these humble tokens of my love.

    (Apemantus looks disgusted.  Flavius approaches Timon and tries to speak to him discreetly.)

Flavius: My lord, if I could just have a word with you about an important matter–concerning yourself.

Timon: It can wait.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: My lord, your friend Lord Lucius has sent you four white horses with silver trappings as a gift.

Timon: Has he now?  Well, I’m happy to accept them, but he’ll get something from me worth even more.

    (Another Servant comes in.)

2nd Serv: My lord, your friend Lord Lucullus invites you to go hunting with him tomorrow, and he sends you four greyhounds as a gift.

Timon: Fine.  I’ll be glad to go hunting with him, and he’ll get something from me to match those greyhounds and then some–ha!

Flavius (Aside to the audience): He’s broke.  All the gifts he’s giving away are putting him in debt.  His lands are already mortgaged, and he’s paying interest on that.  All these friends of his have sucked him dry.

Lords: You are so generous, my lord.

Timon: The more I give, the richer I feel.  I could give away kingdoms and be happier for it.

A Lord: Here’s to Timon!

    (They all raise their cups to Timon and cheer.)

A Lord (To his Servant): Get our horses.  (The Servant goes out.)–We must leave now, my lord.  We wish you long life and happiness, and may you always be prosperous.

Guests (Banging the table): Hear! Hear!

    (The Guests rise, and Timon sees them out.)

Apem. (Aside but a little too loud): What a bunch of leeches.  And what a waste of money.

Timon: Still in a grouchy mood, Apemantus?  You know, if you weren’t so anti-social, I’d give you something, too.

Apem: Oh, no.  Spare me.  I want to feel free to criticize you.  I mean, what’s the bloody point of all these feasts and gifts?  You’re going to end up in debt.

Timon: You’re such a cynic.  Come back when you’re in a better mood.

    (Timon leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  A room in a Senator’s house.  As the curtain goes up, we find the Senator at a table or desk looking at papers.

Senator: Another five thousand crowns.  And he owes nine thousand to Varro and Isidore.  And add in what he owes me–that’s twenty-five thousand.–Hell, if you gave him a stray cat, he’d give you back its weight in gold.  It’s crazy.  There’s no way he can keep this up.–Caphis!  Ho!

    (The servant Caphis comes in.)

Caphis: Yes, Senator.

Senator: I want you to go to Timon and ask for the repayment of my loan.  And don’t let him put you off.  I need that money.  Hell, I have my own debts to pay.  Don’t take no for an answer.

Caphis: Yes, sir.  I’ll go now.

    (Caphis leaves.) 

Act 2, Scene 2.  [Author’s note: This scene takes place either outside of Timon’s house or inside, depending on which edition you’re reading.  For me, it makes more sense outside.]  Flavius comes in with many bills in his hand.

Flavius: He just won’t listen.  Every time I try to talk to him about money, he puts me off.  I’ve got to make him understand he’s in deep trouble.

    (Flavius goes out.  Caphis and the Servants of Varro and Isidore come in.  [Caution to the reader: Servants may address each other by the names of their masters.  This is what you have in the original.])

Caphis: Varro, are you here to collect money?

Var. Serv: Yes.  Aren’t you?

Caphis: Yes.–Isidore?

Isid. Serv: What else?

Caphis: I just hope he can pay us all.–Here he comes.

    (Timon comes in with Alcibiades, Lords, and Attendants.)

Timon: That was good hunting.  Let’s go out again after dinner.

Caphis: Excuse me, my lord.  I have a note here from my master requesting money–repayment, that is.

Timon: Eh?  Well, go see my steward, Flavius.  He takes care of that sort of thing.

Caphis: I’ve already been to see Flavius several times.  He keeps saying come back later.  Now, sir, my master’s got obligations of his own to meet, and he asks you humbly to repay the money you owe him.

Var. Serv: My master, too, sir.  I come from Varro.

Isid. Serv: And mine, sir.  Isidore asks for repayment.

Var. Serv: It’s past due, sir.

Isid. Serv: Yes, sir, mine, too.

Caphis: My master must be paid today, sir.

Timon: Okay, take it easy.  I don’t know what the details are.  My steward handles all the bills.  But I’ll take care of it.  (To Alcibiades and the rest of the party) I’m sorry.  We’ll have to cut things short for today.

Alcibiades: Yes, yes, it’s all right.–Come on, everyone.

    (Alcibiades leaves with his party.)

Timon (Calling): Flavius!

    (Flavius comes in.)

Flavius: Yes, my lord.

Timon: What’s going on here?

Flavius: A matter of accounts, sir.  (To the Servants)  I told you guys to quit bugging me.  Let Lord Timon have his dinner and then we’ll get everything taken care of.

Timon: Yes, yes.  After dinner.  (To Flavius)  I’ll deal with it later.

    (Timon leaves.)

Flavius: Do you want to sit in the yard or something?

Caphis (Seeing someone offstage): Em–no.  That’s all right.  We’ll stay here.

Flavius: Suit yourselves.

    (Flavius leaves.)

Caphis: It’s Apemantus and the fool.  We’ll have some fun with them.

    (Apemantus and the Fool come in.)

Var. Serv: Hang this fool!

Isid. Serv: A plague upon him!

Apem: Are you speaking to your shadow?

Var. Serv: I wasn’t talking to you.

Apem: No.  To yourself.  (To the Fool) These bastards are the servants of loan sharks.

Servants: What are we?

Apem: You’re jackasses.

Servants: Why?

Apem: Because you don’t know what you are without asking me.–Eh, fool?  What do you say?

Fool: How do you do, gentlemen.

Caphis: How’s your mistress?

Fool: She’s boiling water to cook you.  Drop by the brothel.

Apem: Ha!

    (A Page comes in.)

Fool: Here’s my mistress’s page.

Page (To the Fool): Hello, captain.–Hello, Apemantus.  Do you have any wise philosophy for me?

Apem: Bend over and I’ll kick your ass.  There’s wisdom in that.

Page: Ha, ha!  You’re so funny.  Here, do me a favour.  Read the addresses on these letters for me.

    (He hands Apemantus the letters.)

Apem: Why?  Can’t you read?

Page: No.

Apem: So much for our school system.–This one’s addressed to Timon–and this one’s addressed to Alcibiades.  (Hands the letters back)  You were born a bastard, and you’ll die a pimp.

Page: That’s progress.  You were raised like a dog and will die like one.  I’m gone.

    (The Page leaves.)

Apem: Gone and already forgotten.–Come, fool, let’s see what Timon’s up to.

Isid. Serv: He’s coming now.

    (Timon and Flavius come in.)

Flavius (To the Servants): Just wait over there, okay?  I’ll speak to you in few minutes.  (The Servants move to the wing, out of sight.  To  Apemantus)  Can we have some privacy?

Apem: Yes, yes. 

    (Apemantus and the Fool leave.)

Timon: Why didn’t you tell me I was going broke?

Flavius: I tried to, sir, but you wouldn’t listen.

Timon: Oh, you didn’t try, or I would’ve listened.

Flavius: That’s not true, sir.  Plenty of times I brought you your accounts, and you always brushed them aside.

Timon: I’m not good with paperwork.  You know that.  You’re much better with money than I am.

Flavius: Yes, sir.  And every time you told me to send somebody an expensive present–after they sent you a cheap one–I felt like screaming because I had to scrape up the money somehow.  And when I tried to explain things to you very politely, you always put up a wall and refused to listen.  Now, sir, I have to tell you straight.  You’re deeply in debt, and all your assets don’t even cover half of what you owe.

Timon: Oh–pfff!– Mortgage my lands if you have to.

Flavius: They’re already mortgaged, and some you’ve already forfeited.

Timon: What!

Flavius: And you’re paying interest on all that debt, and now you can’t even keep up with that.

Timon: But my lands extend all the way to Lacedaemon.

Flavius: It doesn’t matter.  If you owned half the western hemisphere, you’d have given it away by now.

Timon: You know I don’t think the way you do.  I don’t even like to think about money.

Flavius: I know that, sir.  And every time you threw a feast and gave away expensive gifts, I wanted to go off somewhere and throw up.

Timon: Please, I don’t want to hear any more.

Flavius: You have to hear it all, sir.  All those people who praise you and flatter you–“Noble Timon!”–“Worthy Timon!”–“Royal Timon!”–What are they going to say when they know you’re broke?  Do you think they’ll still be your friends?

Timon: Of course.  I never gave to others to buy their friendship.  I gave sincerely–from the heart.–Perhaps I was a little unwise.  But my friends are still my friends.  If I ask for help now, they’ll all help me.  You’ll see.

Flavius: You think because you’re generous, others must be, too?

Timon: Flavius, I appreciate the fact that you try to watch out for me.  But you’re exaggerating this whole business.  It’s a minor inconvenience.  Entirely temporary.  Everyone knows me.  My credit is good.

Flavius: Used to be.  Not any more.  I’ve been borrowing discreetly in your behalf trying to keep up with your spending.  That’s why those guys are here demanding money.  And everyone charges interest.  It’s strictly business to the lenders.  But you’ve finally hit a brick wall.  You’re a bad risk, and now everyone wants to be paid.

Timon: Don’t worry.  As long as I have my friends, I’m not in any trouble.  (Calling)  Flaminius!–Servilius!

    (Flaminius, Servilius, and an unnamed Servant come in.)

Servants: Yes, my lord?

Timon: I’m sending you on errands.–(To Servilius) You go to Lord Lucius.–(To Flaminius) You go to Lord Lucullus.–(To unnamed Servant) And you go to Sempronius.–Give them my kindest greetings and tell them I need a loan.–Em, perhaps fifty talents–or whatever they can manage on short notice.

Servants: Yes, my lord.

Flavius (Aside, cynically): Good luck.

    (The Servants leave.)

Timon: And I’ll send someone to the senators, too.  I’m sure they’ll help me out.

Flavius: Sir, I anticipated this.  I already asked your so-called friends for a loan of money. 

Timon: You did?

Flavius: Yes.  And they all said no.

Timon: What!

Flavius: They all gave excuses.–“Oh, I would if I could, but I can’t.”–“Business is slow.”–“I have no cash.  It’s all tied up.”–“Maybe in a few months.”

Timon: I can’t believe this!  My friends?

Flavius: But they were full of sympathy.–“Tell him I’ll pray for him.”–“It’s so unfair that he’s in a jam.”–“I feel for him.”–“I’m so sorry.”

Timon: Then to hell with them!  (Thinking)  Wait a minute–Ventidius will come through for me.  (Calling)  Servant!–He has money.  He was going to repay me the five talents, remember.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: Yes, sir?

Timon: Go to Ventidius.  Say that I send him my friendliest greetings–and I will need those five talents after all because I’m in a bit of a bind.

Servant: Yes, my lord.

    (The Servant leaves.)

Timon: When I get those five talents, you can pay off those fellows who came today.  That’ll do for now.  You’ll see, Flavius.  Everything will be all right.

Flavius: I pray that you’re right, sir.

    (They leave.) 

Act 3, Scene 1.  A room in Lucullus’s house.  Flaminius is waiting.  He is holding a box for money or valuables.  A Servant comes in.

Servant: Lord Lucullus will be right down.

Flaminius: Thank you.

    (The Servant leaves.  Then Lucullus comes in.)

Lucullus: Hello, there!  I remember you–Flaminius, right?

Flaminius: Yes, my lord.  I am sent by Lord Timon.

Lucullus: Oh, that’s nice.  And how is he?

Flaminius: He is well, my lord.

Lucullus: Splendid.  Glad to hear it.–I see you have a box there.  Has Lord Timon sent me a present?

Flaminius: Em–no–Actually, the box is empty.  My lord Timon is in need of a loan.  He needs fifty talents.  He was hoping you could help him out and fill this box.

Lucullus: Ah.–He’s a good man, that Timon.  I always said so.  But too lavish.  Every time he would invite me to dinner, I tried to warn him.–“Watch your expenses.”–But he always ignored my advice.

Flaminius: He has been quite lavish, sir.  There’s no denying it.

Lucullus: Indeed.  So you agree.  You’re  a wise fellow.  You’ve got a good head on your shoulders.  You’re sensible.  I like that.

Flaminius: Thank you, sir.

Lucullus: I know you’re doing your duty as a good servant to come to me like this, but seriously, you understand that this is no time to be lending money just on friendship.–I mean, with no collateral?  You see my point, don’t you?

Flaminius: Yes, sir.

Lucullus: You’re a good man, Flaminius.  (Lucullus gives him a few coins.)  Here’s a few shillings for you.  Now you go back to Timon and tell him you weren’t able to see me, okay?

    (Flaminius looks at the coins and then at Lucullus with contempt.)

Flaminius: Keep your money, sir.

    (He drops the coins.)

Lucullus: You’re a fool–just like your boss.  Begone!

Flaminius: What a phony you are.  What a hypocrite.  After all the food and wine you’ve swallowed at Timon’s table.  Shame on you, sir!

    (Flaminius leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  A street in Athens.  Lucius comes in with three Strangers.

Lucius: Timon?  Yes, of course, I know him.  He’s a good friend and an honourable gentleman.

1st Stranger: We don’t know him personally, but we know him by reputation.  And the word is, sir–that Timon is broke.

Lucius: No!  I don’t believe it.

2nd Stranger: You can believe it, sir.  One of his servants went to Lord Lucullus to ask for a loan, and Lucullus turned him down.

Lucius: Did he really?

2nd Stranger: Yes.  Turned him down, he did.

Lucius: I’m very surprised.  It’s shameful.  Absolutely shameful.  You know, I’ve received many small gifts from Timon–money, silver, jewels–little things like that.  Not as much as Lucullus has gotten, but still, if he’d sent to me for a loan, I wouldn’t have turned him down.

    (Servilius comes in.)

Servilius: My lord Lucius, I’m very glad I found you, sir.

Lucius: Ah, Servilius!  How nice to see you.  I was just going.  Say hello to Lord Timon for me.

    (He turns to leave.)

Servilius: Please wait, sir.  Lord Timon sent me.

Lucius: Oh, really?  Oh.  How nice.  Has he sent me a gift?

Servilius: No, sir.  In fact, he is very much in need of a loan–fifty talents, if you could, possibly.

Lucius: Heh, heh–seriously?

Servilius: Oh, yes, sir.

Lucius: Tsk!–Darn.  What bad luck.  You see, just yesterday I committed all my available cash to an investment.  I’m temporarily tapped out.  These men will vouch for it.  (The three Strangers look at each other in puzzlement.)  Please tell Lord Timon how terribly, terribly sorry I am that I’m unable to help him right now.  Bad timing, that’s all.  But please convey to him my sincerest love and respect, and, em–I’m sure everything will work out for him somehow or other.

Servilius: Yes, sir.  I will.  Thank you.

Lucius: I must go.  (To the Strangers)  We’ll take a meeting next week.

    (Lucius leaves as the Strangers share a puzzled look.  Then Servilius leaves in the other direction, looking sad.)

1st Stranger: Some friend, eh?

2nd Stranger: Oh, yeah.  We’ll vouch for it.

1st Stranger: Small gifts–just money, silver, and jewels–little things like that.–Fucking hell.  He’d have no roof over his head if it wasn’t for Timon.  [Author’s note: How would he know if he’s a stranger?  This is a sign of a first draft.]

3rd Stranger: Makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?

1st Stranger: Welcome to Athens.  World-class city, doncha know.  Our slogan: “Business before honour.”

3rd Stranger: Gods, have mercy!

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  The house of Sempronius.  The unnamed Servant of Timon comes in with Sempronius.  They are in the middle of a conversation.

Semp: Why does he have to bother me for money?  Why doesn’t he ask Lucius, or Lucullus, or Ventidius?

Servant: My lord, he’s already asked them, and they all said no.  [Author’s note: Typical Shakespeare glitch, not worth fixing.  Do you see what’s wrong?]

Semp: Really!  So now he calls on me after they turned him down.  So I’m the last resort, is that it?  I’m not good enough for him to come to me first, or even second–even though I was the first person he ever gave a gift to.  It just shows what little regard he has for me.  Really, I’m quite offended.

Servant: My lord Sempronius–

Semp: I have my pride, you know.  If he’d sent to me first, I would’ve been delighted to help him.  Now you go back and tell him that if he ranks me so low among his friends, he doesn’t deserve my help.–Good day, young man.

    (Sempronius walks away.)

Servant: That guy is so wicked he shames the devil.  There’s no one to save Timon now.  He’ll have to lock himself in his house against his creditors.

    (The Servant leaves.)  

Act 3, Scene 4.  A foyer or antechamber in Timon’s house.  When the curtain goes up, we find the Servants of Titus and Varro waiting.  Then the Servants of Lucius and Hortensius arrive.

Luc. Serv: Well, well–looks like a convention of creditors.

Var. Serv: Servant of Lucius, good morning.–And good morning, servant of Hortensius.

Hort. Serv: Man of Varro–man of Titus–good morning.

Titus Serv: Expecting to collect money?

Hort. Serv: I’m going to try.

    (The Servant of Philotus comes in.)

Luc. Serv: Ah, and last but not least, the man of Philotus.

Phil. Serv: Good morning.  Do I take a number and wait to be served?

Others: Ha, ha!

Phil. Serv: Is Timon up yet?

Luc. Serv: We haven’t seen him.

Phil. Serv: It’s almost nine.  He should be up.

Titus Serv: Maybe he’s gone into hibernation to escape his creditors.

Luc. Serv: I wouldn’t be surprised.  I hear he’s flat broke.

Titus Serv: It’s ironic, you know.  All of our masters have gotten plenty of gifts from Timon over the years, and now they’re being totally ruthless about collecting debts from him.

Hort. Serv: I feel embarrassed that I have to do this.

Var. Serv: Varro’s demanding three thousand crowns.

Luc. Serv: Hell, Lucius wants five thousand.

    (Flaminius comes in.)

Titus Serv: Oh!–One of Timon’s men.

Luc. Serv: Flaminius, is Lord Timon up yet?

Flaminius: He’s up, but he’s not ready to present himself.

Titus Serv: We’re all waiting for him.  Our masters sent us to collect debts.  You should tell him.

Flaminius: He doesn’t need to be told.  He knows.

    (Flaminius leaves.  Then Flavius comes in, passing through, concealed under a cloak.)

Luc. Serv: It’s the steward.–Hey, Flavius, hold on!

Other Servants: Flavius!

Flavius: What do you guys want?

Titus Serv: You know what we want–money.  Our masters want to be repaid.

Flavius: Ah–really.  They should have asked when they were stuffing themselves at Timon’s dinner table.  It would have been an education for him.

Luc. Serv: Flavius, come on–

Flavius: Timon’s got no money for your masters–understand? 

Luc. Serv: Well, I’m sorry, but that won’t do.  That’s just not good enough.

Flavius: All your masters are miserable bastards, so fuck off.

    (Flavius leaves.)

Var. Serv: What nerve!

Phil Serv: Never mind.  He hasn’t got a pot to piss in any more, so he has nothing to lose by being rude.

    (Servilius comes in.)

Titus Serv: Servilius!  Where’s Lord Timon?  We’ve got notes to collect.

Servilius: Come back some other time.  He isn’t feeling well.  He’s staying in bed.

Luc. Serv: A likely story.  If he’s that sick, maybe he should pay his debts before he croaks–for the sake of his soul.

Servilius: It’s your masters who should worry about their souls!

    (A commotion is heard within.  Then Timon storms in, followed by Flaminius.)

Timon (Angrily): Must I be a prisoner in my own house?

All the Servants: My bill, sir!–And mine, sir!

Timon: What do you want from me?  An arm?  A leg?  A quart of blood?  Should I cut my heart out?

The Servants: Fifty talents, sir!–Five thousand crowns, sir!–Three thousand crowns, sir!

Timon: Go to hell!

    (Timon leaves, followed by Flaminius.)

Hort. Serv: I have a feeling nobody’s collecting anything today.  There’s no point in hanging around.

    (Mumblings of agreement.  The Servants leave.  Then Timon returns with Flavius.  Timon is calmer.)

Timon: Flavius, I want you to do something.

Flavius: Yes, my lord.

Timon: I want you to invite all my creditors and my so-called friends to dinner.  I’ll give them a feast they’ll never forget.

Flavius: But how can you afford it, sir?

Timon: Don’t worry about that.  I will provide.–Go.

    (They leave separately.)

Act 3, Scene 5.  The Senate House.  Three Senators are standing and conversing.

1st Sen: I agree with you, gentlemen.  I’m going to vote for the death penalty.

2nd Sen: Yes.  We have to be strict.  It’s the law.

    (Alcibiades comes in.)

Alcib: Good morning, Senators.

1st Sen: Captain Alcibiades.

Alcib: My lords, I’ve come to plead for mercy for my soldier.

2nd Sen: But he killed a man.  That’s murder.

Alcib: But he was provoked, and he acted in anger.

1st Sen: That’s no excuse.

Alcib: But he’s a soldier.  A soldier has a sense of honour.  And I can vouch for his courage in battle.

1st Sen: Sometimes the courageous thing is to accept an insult and not react with violence.

2nd Sen: We can’t apply different standards for soldiers and civilians.  The law is the law.

Alcib: But these are the soldiers that you count on to protect you from your enemies.  They keep Athens safe.

2nd Sen: You’re wasting your breath, Captain.

Alcib: Doesn’t his service to the state count for anything?  Doesn’t mine?

1st Sen: Your soldier has a reputation as a hot-head.  His service to the state means nothing.

2nd Sen: He must be put to death.

Alcib: I’ll give you my personal guarantee that he won’t get into any more trouble.  If you feel he owes the state his life, at least let him lose it on the battlefield with honour.

1st Sen: Ha, ha, ha!–Honour!

2ns Sen: Don’t defend a murderer and speak of honour.

3rd Sen: You’re out of line arguing with us, Captain.  And you’re interfering with justice.

Alcib: Fuck your justice, you ungrateful sons of bitches!  Is this what I’ve fought for and bled for all these years?  Do you want to see my scars?

1st Sen: That’s it.  We’re not taking this from you.  You’re banished.

Alcib: Banished?–Me–banished?

1st Sen: Be out of Athens in two days–or suffer the consequences.–Come, gentlemen.

    (The Senators leave.)

Alcib: Fucking senators!–Assholes!–Who did the fighting while they stayed home and counted their money?  I risked my life for them.–Goddamn sons of bitches.–Well, I’ll teach them a lesson.  I’ll round up my men and stick it to this degenerate, evil city.

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 6.  A banquet room in Timon’s house.  Numerous Lords come in.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare never finished this scene.  The original is a first draft.  The speakers are not specified by name, and there is a stage direction near the end that requires a scene break.  I’ve cut out that last part.  The Lords must include Lucius, Lucullus, and Sempronius.  I am following the original speech prefixes, and the Director can decide who gets which lines.]

1st Lord: I never expected Timon to invite us back for dinner.

2nd Lord: I think he must have been testing us the other day.

1st Lord: Must be.  Otherwise, how could he afford to feed us?

2nd Lord: Right.  But now I’m embarrassed that I turned him down.

1st Lord: Me, too.

3rd Lord: So am I.–Oh, here he comes now.

    (Timon comes in.) 

Timon: I’m so happy to see you, my friends.  How are you today?

Lords: Fine.–Thank you.

1st Lord: Em, about the other day.  I hope you’re not angry.

Timon: No, no, no!  Not in the least.

2nd Lord: It was just bad timing for me.  If you’d sent your man just two hours sooner–

Timon: Don’t even think of it.  Put it out of your minds, all of you.  Please sit down.

    (The Guests sit down.  The Servants come in with covered plates, which they set before the Guests.)

3rd Lord: Oh!  Is this going to be a surprise?

Timon: You bet.  You’ll remember this surprise as long as you live.

1st Lord (To the 3rd Lord): What’s the news about Alcibiades?

3rd Lord: He’s been banished.

Other Lords: No!  Really?

3rd Lord: Yes.  He had an argument with the senators, and they got pissed off.

Timon (Clinking a cup for attention): Let us give thanks to the gods.  For their gifts to us, let them be praised.  But let them not give too much, lest we take them for granted and diminish our praise.  And let us be like them to each other and give only what is deserved.  (His tone becomes less friendly.)  For instance, where the senators of Athens are concerned, let us give them what they deserve for their faults.  And as for my dinner guests, they deserve what I have set before them.–And so, gentlemen, enjoy your dinner.

    (When the dishes are uncovered, they contain stones and warm water.)

Some Lords: Stones?

Other Lords: Warm water!

Timon: May you never have a better meal than this for the rest of your lives–you–villains!

    (He picks up dishes and silverware and throws them at the Guests.)

Timon: Parasites!–Phonies!–Hypocrites!–Bastards!

Lords: He’s mad!–He’s out of his mind!–Let’s get out of here!

    (The Guests flee.)

Timon: And the same to all of Athens!–Rotten, rotten Athens!

    (He leaves.)  

Act 4, Scene 1.  Outside the walls of Athens.  Timon comes in.

Timon: Goodbye, you miserable city of Athens!  Wolves!  Thieves!  Hypocrites!  May your children revolt against their parents!  May the slaves and fools rule!  May all your virgins become whores!  May all debtors cut the throats of their creditors!  May all the servants steal from their masters!  May there be riots and confusion in the streets!  May you be struck by every plague, fever, and infection known to man, until you are reduced to sickly skeletons crawling in the dust!  You sick, corrupt, poisonous city!  I renounce you forever!  I renounce all humanity forever!  I’ll go live in the woods with the beasts–beasts that are better than all of you!  Gods, fill my heart with hatred until the day I die!

    (He leaves.) 

Act 4, Scene 2.  Timon’s house.  Flavius comes in with three Servants.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare doesn’t name them, and I am just following the speech prefixes as given, and the Director can decide who they are.]

1st Serv: But Flavius, what’s to become of us?

Flavius: What can I tell you?  He’s gone, and there’s nothing left.

1st Serv: I can’t believe it.  Such a noble master–ruined.

2nd Serv: Abandoned by his friends–people we served many times in this house.

3rd Serv: Our lord Timon a beggar.–It breaks my heart.  And now we’re doomed to be beggars, too.

Flavius: Well, I have a little money of my own.  Not much, but I’ll share it with you.

    (He takes out his purse and distributes the money.)

Servants: You’re a good man, Flavius.  Thank you.

Flavius: Good luck to you.

    (He embraces them.)

Flavius: For Timon’s sake, if we ever meet again, let’s always be friends–and think of happier times.

Servants: Aye.  We will.

Flavius: I’m going to look for him.  He needs me.

Servants: You do that.  Good luck.

    (Flavius leaves separately from the Servants.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Timon emerges from a cave.  His physical appearance is different now.

Timon: A plague on humanity!  If I never see another human face as long as I live, that’ll be fine with me.–Now maybe I can find some nice bitter roots for my breakfast.

    (Timon digs in the dirt and is startled.)

Timon: What the–!

    (He bends down and examines closely.)

Timon: Gold?–Is that gold?  (He looks up at the heavens.)  Is this some kind of joke?  Are you trying to corrupt me?  What the hell am I supposed to do with gold–eat it?

    (Drums and marching are heard.  Timon stuffs his pickets with gold nuggets and covers the rest with dirt.  Then Alcibiades comes in, dressed for battle, accompanied by two mistresses, Phrynia and Timandra.)

Alcib: Who are you?  Or what are you?

Timon: A beast, like yourself.

Alcib: What’s your name?

Timon: You can call me Misanthropos.

Alcib: A hater of man–is that what you are?

Timon: Yes.  I hate the sight of all people.  I’d like you better if you were a dog.

    (Alcibiades studies Timon more closely.)

Alcib: What a minute.–You’re Timon!  You know me–Alcibiades.

Timon: Yes, I know you.

Alcib: What’s happened to you?  What are you doing out here?

Timon: Haven’t you heard?  I gave away all my wealth and ended up broke and in debt.  And all my friends deserted me when I needed them.

Alcib: I heard a rumour about that, but I didn’t know whether to believe it.

Timandra (To Alcibiades): Is this that rich Athenian everyone used to talk about?

Alcib: Yes.

Timon: Who are you?

Timandra: Timandra.

Alcib: My, uh, friends.–And this is Phrynia.

Timon: I hope you’re both whores and infect all of Athens with venereal disease.

Timandra: Oh, you rude man!

Alcib: Don’t mind him.  He hates everyone now.  He said so.–Timon, I’m almost broke myself.  My soldiers want to be paid, and I have no money for them.  But if you’re in such bad shape, I’ll give you what little I have.

Timon: Forget it.  I have no use for money any more–certainly not out here.

Alcib: Wait till I’ve conquered Athens.  Then I’ll get you set up like before–

Timon: You’re fighting against Athens?

Alcib: Yes.  The Senate’s been very bad to me, and I intend to get even.

Timon: In that case, I’m going to give you gold.–Here.  (He puts some gold nuggets in Alcibiades’s hands.)

Alcib: Where’d you get this?

Timon: It’s here in the ground.  Now go and punish Athens!  Slaughter them!  Kill everyone!  Even the women and children!  Destroy the whole city!  Show no mercy!

Alcib: Well, I’ll take the gold.  Thanks.  But as for killing and destroying, I wasn’t intending to go quite that far.

Timandra and Phrynia: Give us some gold, Timon.

Timon: Only if you promise to be whores and devote yourselves to corruption.

Timandra and Phrynia: Oh, yes!  Yes!  We will!

    (He gives them gold.)

Timon: This gold will damn you all.  That’s all it’s good for.  But let it damn others first.

Timandra and Phrynia: All right.  Thank you, Timon.

Alcib: Let’s go, girls.–Timon, if things work out for me, I’ll come back and see you.

Timon: I don’t need to see anyone.  I’m through with the human race.  Just take your slut girlfriends and go.

Alcib. (To Timandra and Phrynia): He’s being ornery.–All right, Timon.  Goodbye.

   (Alcibiades, Timandra, and Phrynia leave.)

Timon: I never did find a goddamn root.

    (He digs and finds a root and begins chewing on it.)

Timon: Mmm–bitter.–I like it.

    (Apemantus comes in.)

Timon: More visitors?  Begone!  I’m off humanity!

Apem: I was told some lunatic was hiding in a cave and pretending to act like me, so I had to come and see for myself.

Timon: Go catch a cold.

Apem: What’s the point of hanging around here?  Your ex-friends don’t give a shit.  They’ve already forgotten you.  Why don’t you learn to be a flatterer yourself?  Just suck up to people and you’ll see how nice they are to you.

Timon: Bah!

Apem: You wouldn’t listen to me before, and now look where you are.  I think if you had money again, you’d repeat the same mistakes.  So quit trying to be like me.  It’s a pose.

Timon: If I were like you, I’d throw myself away.

Apem: You have thrown yourself away.  Do you expect to get better treatment from Mother Nature?  Are the squirrels going to flatter you?  Are the birds going to sing for you?  Are the trees going to do you housework?

Timon: Fuck off.

Apem: You know what?  I actually like you better now than I used to.

Timon: So now you flatter me in my misery.

Apem: No, no.  I still think you’re wretched.

Timon: Then why are you here?

Apem: Just to bug you.

Timon: That’s all you’ve ever done.

Apem: You know, if you had come out here to punish yourself for your stupidity, that would be fine.  But you’re just being miserable out of sheer masochism.  So why bother to live at all?

Timon: I wouldn’t expect you to understand.  You started out as nothing, and you’re still nothing.  You didn’t lose anything.  I raised myself to a very high position in life and then lost it all–like that (Snaps his fingers).  I have good reason to hate mankind, but you don’t.  Who ever flattered you?  Nobody.  Be angry with your parents.  They made you what you are.

Apem: Are you through ranting?

Timon: Get lost.  I’m having my breakfast.

    (He chews on his root.)

Apem: What should I tell them back in Athens?

Timon: Tell them I have gold–ha!  (He shows off his gold nuggets.)

Apem: You can’t spend that out here.

Timon: True.  But at least it can’t do me any harm if it stays in the ground.

Apem: You know what your trouble is?  You only know the extremes of human existence–the very top and the very bottom.  The middle part you don’t know at all.  You have no wisdom, just illusions.

Timon: Come back and see me when you’re the only other human being in the world.  Then you’ll be welcome.

Apem: You’re the king of all fools.

Timon: You’re too dirty to be worth spitting on.

Apem: And you’re too cursed already for me to curse you.

Timon: Slave!

Apem: Toad!

    (Timon picks up a gold nugget.)

Timon: Shall I throw this gold at you?  I hate to waste a perfectly good rock.

Apem: Save your gold.  When the word gets out, you’ll have a whole mob up here.

Timon: Please show me your back–and let it recede in the distance.

Apem: Enjoy your misery.

    (Apemantus leaves.  Timon has his back to the wing where three Bandits appear.  They are huddled together, whispering.  Then they step forward.)

Bandits: Timon!

Timon: Who are you–thieves?

Bandits: No, no.  We’re soldiers.

Timon: Bullshit.

1st Bandit: We just want whatever you’ve got.

Timon: Help yourselves!  This is Mother Nature’s supermarket.  You can dig roots out of the earth.  You can pick nuts off the trees.  You can pick berries off the bushes.  You can catch game and fish.

1st Bandit: No, no.  We can’t live on that.

Timon: Then you are thieves.  Fine.  I’d rather meet real thieves than those pretending to be in some other profession.  Nature loves thieves.  The sun steals from the sea, the moon steals from the sun, and the earth steals from the dung of animals.–You want gold?  Here’s some gold.  (He gives them gold nuggets.)   Go and be villains.  Rob everyone in Athens.  Loot.  Kill.  Destroy.  All your victims will be thieves themselves, so what’s the difference?

2nd Bandit: Gee–I almost don’t want to be a thief any more.

3rd Bandit: Let’s go to Athens and party.

1st Bandit: Yeah, let’s do that.  (To Timon)  Hey, thanks a lot.  Seriously.  You’re okay, man.

    (The Bandits leave.  Then Flavius comes in.  He reacts with shock at Timon’s appearance.)

Flavius: My lord?–Is that you?

Timon: Go away.  I’m nobody’s lord.

Flavius: You can’t have forgotten me.

Timon: I’ve forgotten everyone.  I never had an honest man about me.

Flavius: May the gods strike me dead if I was anything else.  My lord, no poor steward was ever more broken-hearted over his master than I am now. 

    (Timon pauses.  He is obviously touched.) 

Timon: My steward–the one honest man I ever knew.–Forgive me, Flavius.  Whatever curses I have hurled at humanity were never intended to include you.  (He is momentarily suspicious.)  Or are you here to get something out of me?

Flavius: You would suspect me now after all you’ve been through?  You should have suspected your flattering friends a long time ago.  I tried to protect you.

Timon: It’s true.  You did.  And I should have suspected them.  (Brightening)  Flavius, you’re in luck.  The gods put gold in this ground, and you can have it.  (He shows him some nuggets.)  Build yourself a house.  Be happy.–But don’t be good to anyone.  Let the beggars starve in the streets.  Let the orphans die or end up in prison.  Just take care of yourself.

Flavius: That’s not what I want.  I just want to serve you and take care of you.

Timon: And listen to me curse humanity constantly?  No.  You’d get sick of me.  So spare yourself the emotional upset.  I appreciate your kind thoughts, but I don’t want to be served or helped.  I don’t even want to look another human being in the eye.  I just want to be alone.  You should go, Flavius.

Flavius: Very well, sir.

    (Flavius leaves. sadly.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  The Poet and Painter approach Timon’s cave.  He is out of their sight but visible to the audience.  He can hear the following conversation.

Painter: He’s living out here somewhere.

Poet: Does he really have gold?

Painter: That’s what I’ve heard. 

Poet: Maybe this whole thing was a put-on to test his friends.

Painter: That’s what I think.  Just wait.  He’ll be back in Athens pretty soon, and he’ll be a big man just like before.  If we suck up to him the right way, he’ll be our patron again.

Poet: And even better than before.

Painter: Absolutely.  Have you got a poem for him?

Poet: No, but I’ll promise him one.

Painter: And I’ll promise him a painting.  A promise is better than the real thing.  It keeps people expecting and hoping.

    (Timon is reacting by making obscene gestures for the benefit of the audience.)

Poet: I’ll tell him I’m writing a poem about phonies and materialism.

Painter: That’s good.  And I’m doing something like, um–something surreal about Athens burning for its sins.

Poet: He’ll love that!

    (Timon comes out of his cave, smiling.)

Poet and Painter: Hail, Timon!

Timon: Well, well!  Can this be true–not one but two honest men come to visit me?

Poet: Oh, sir, we heard about your terrible misfortunes.  It’s just terrible the way people treated you.

Painter: It certainly is.  Just terrible.  We really felt bad, so we came looking for you to see if we could do anything for you.

Timon: But you heard that I had gold, right?

Painter: Em, we did hear something vague to that effect, but that’s not the reason why we’re here.

Poet: No, not at all.  We came out of the goodness of our hearts.–And–I’m going to write a poem about you that will shame your false friends.

Painter: And I’m going to do a painting about Athens on fire and the wicked people burning to death.

Timon: That’s wonderful.  I know how talented you fellows are.  You’re both masters of illusion, in your own way.

Poet and Painter: Oh, thank you, sir!

Timon: But I must tell you that there are two villains who want to ruin you.

Poet and Painter: Oh?

Timon: Yes.  And they’re people you know.

Painter: I’m sure I don’t know anyone like that.

Poet: Me, neither.

Timon: Oh, believe me.  I know things.  You have enemies.  Now, I want to help you in your careers, but you’ve got to get rid of your enemies first.  If you do, I’ll give you plenty of gold.  (To the Poet)  Now, you go that way and you’ll find your enemy.  (To the Painter, indicating the opposite direction)  And you go that way and you’ll find yours.–Don’t stop until you find them.

Poet and Painter (Confused): Em–

Timon: Just keep going in a straight line until you meet on the other side of the earth.–Go on, now.

    (The Poet and Painter leave separately.  Timon returns to his cave.  Then Flavius comes in with two Senators.  [Author’s note: These must be Senators not previously seen.])

Flavius: He may not speak to you, Senators.  He doesn’t want anything to do with people any more.

1st Sen: We promised the Athenians we would speak to him.

2nd Sen: At least we have to try.

Flavius: All right.  He’s in that cave.–Lord Timon!  Two senators want to talk to you!

    (Timon comes out of his cave.)

Timon: Don’t you understand that I came out here to get away from everyone?  Speak and be hanged!  Your words mean nothing to me.

1st Sen: My lord Timon, the senators of Athens send their greetings.

Timon: Fine.  I would send them back the plague if I had it.

1st Sen: Everyone’s sorry about the way you were treated.

2nd Sen: If you come back, we’ll restore your wealth and position–better than before.

Timon: If I were a fool, I’d be deeply touched.

1st Sen: Athens needs you, sir.  We need you to be our leader.  You can have complete power.

2nd Sen: Alcibiades is threatening to make war on us.  You can stop him.  You have influence with him.

Timon: You can go back and tell Alcibiades that I personally don’t give a rat’s ass what he does to Athens.  It’s not my problem.  Furthermore, I endorse his actions.

Flavius (To the Senators): I told you.

Timon: However–there is one measure of relief that I can give to the high and mighty of Athens.

Senators (Excitedly): Yes?  Yes?

Timon: I have a big tree nearby that I was intending to cut down.  Tell your friends that they are welcome to come and hang themselves from it while it’s still standing.

Senators: Oh!–Sir!

Flavius: Forget it.  Just leave him be.

Timon: You may say to Athens that they may look for my grave on the beach.  I’m already writing my epitaph, and my gravestone will bear the last words I ever say to Athens or the rest of humanity.  If anyone cares to bury me, they are welcome to do so.

    (Timon leaves [into the cave].)

1st Sen: It’s useless.

2nd Sen: Let’s go back.

    (Flavius and the Senators leave.) 

Act 5, Scene 2.  This scene is deleted. 

Act 5, Scene 3.  Flavius is standing beside Timon’s grave, shovel in hand.  A Soldier of Alcibiades comes in.

Soldier: Alcibiades has sent me for Timon.  Do you know where he is?

Flavius (Indicating the grave): Here.

Soldier: How did he die?

Flavius: I think he just willed himself to die.  I found him dead, so I buried him.

Soldier: It’s too bad.  Alcibiades was hoping Timon would help him subdue Athens.

Flavius: You can take back Timon’s last words.  I copied his epitaph.

    (He gives the Soldier a paper.)

Soldier: Thank you.

    (The Soldier leaves.  Flavius remains by the grave.) 

Act 5, Scene 4.  Before the walls of Athens.  Trumpets sound.  Alcibiades and Soldiers come in.  Senators appear on the walls [including those in Act 5, Scene 1, but not any seen previously].

Alcib: Senators of Athens, it is time to meet your fate.  For all the wrongs you have done, a price must be paid.

1st Sen: Sir, we have tried to reconcile with you.  We want to make peace.

2nd Sen: And we’ve tried to reconcile with Timon, too.  We weren’t all bad to him.

1st Sen: We’re not all guilty.  The whole city shouldn’t suffer.

2nd Sen: If you must have your revenge, let it be on those who have truly offended you and Timon.

1st Sen: Don’t punish the innocent with the guilty.  Remember that Athens is your city.

2nd Sen: If you will agree to punish only the guilty, throw down your glove to make your promise, and we’ll open the gates willingly.

    (Alcibiades tosses his glove on the ground.)

Alcib: There.  You have my promise.  And those who are to be punished will be tried by your own laws.

Senators: We agree.

    (A Senator signals behind , and the gates open.  Then the Soldier arrives with Timon’s epitaph.)

Soldier: My general, Lord Timon is dead.  His steward copied his epitaph and asked me to give it to you.

    (The Soldier gives Alcibiades the paper.)

Alcib. (Reading): “Here lies a wretched corpse, whose wretched soul is gone.  I, Timon, did hate all living men.  Pass by this grave and curse me as you will, but linger not, nor come again.”–My noble friend Timon is dead.  And all his faults I do forgive, and I will remember him generously as a good man who was hurt more than he could bear.–Now let justice be done–and then let us have peace.

    (Alcibiades and his Soldiers leave, entering the city.) 


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

 (Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — https://cradkilodney.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/ )

Main Characters

Leontes — King of Sicilia

Mamillius — young Prince of Sicilia

Hermione –Queen to Leontes

Camillo, Antigonus, Cleomenes, Dion — Lords of Sicilia

Perdita — daughter of Leontes and Hermione

Paulina — wife of Antigonus and closest friend to Hermione

Emilia — waiting lady to Hermione

Polixenes — King of Bohemia

Florizel — Prince of Bohemia

Old Shepherd

Clown — his son

Autolycus — rogue

Archidamus — Lord of Bohemia



Mopsa and Dorcas — shepherdesses

Three Gentlemen

Two Waiting Ladies

Two Officers

Time (a silent figure in this version) 

Gist of the story: Polixenes, King of Bohemia, comes to visit his old friend Leontes, King of Sicilia, for an extended visit.  Leontes believes wrongly that Polixenes and Queen Hermione have been having an affair and that Hermione’s pregnancy is attributable to Polixenes.  Leontes orders Camillo to poison Polixenes, but Camillo warns Polixenes, and they flee to Bohemia.  The Queen has been put in prison, and young Prince Mamillius is sick from grief.  When the Queen’s baby is born, Leontes orders Antigonus to take the infant girl to a remote place and abandon her.  Leontes has sent to the oracle of Delphi for confirmation of the Queen’s guilt, but the oracle replies that she is innocent.  A servant announces the death of Mamillius, and Paulina announces the death of Hermione.  Leontes is crushed by guilt and remorse.  Antigonus has taken the baby to Bohemia, where he dies from a bear attack.  The baby is found by two shepherds, who name her Perdita and adopt her.  They can tell she is of high birth.  Sixteen years later, Prince Florizel and Perdita fall in love, but Polixenes will not allow his son to marry a shepherdess.  Florizel and Perdita flee to Sicilia after being advised by Camillo.  Polixenes chases after the young couple, accompanied by Camillo and the two shepherds.  In the court of Leontes, the truth is revealed.  Perdita is the long-lost baby of Leontes and Hermione.  Polixenes consents to the marriage.  Paulina now leads everyone to her house to view a statue of Hermione.  But the statue is actually Hermione herself, who has stayed in hiding until her daughter should be found and returned.  All the characters are reconciled, and the widowed Paulina is married off to Camillo. 

(This play has one of the most complicated plots in all of Shakespeare, and in its original form it’s a monster for a non-literary audience.  Nevertheless, there are wonderful elements of comedy, tragedy, fantasy, and romance, and characters we can identify with.  Our mission, as always, has been to take what Shakespeare has given us, add our own inspiration, and make it work for an audience of ordinary people.  The “experts” tell us that The Winter’s Tale is about the struggle between good and evil, with evil being represented by Leontes.  I’m going to disagree.  Good people can make terrible mistakes, especially if blinded by jealousy.  The issue is, can a man who has erred as badly as Leontes still find redemption?  The Winter’s Tale is not considered one of Shakespeare’s best plays, but you will find this restyling of it memorable and enjoyable.  This is the first modernized version of The Winter’s Tale ever published.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  [This scene is intended to be done somewhat like a vaudeville comedy routine.]  Sicilia.  Camillo and Archidamus come in from opposite sides and meet at mid-stage and face the audience.

Arch: Camillo!

Camillo: Archidamus!  How are you?

Arch: Just fine.  How are you?

Camillo: I’m great.  You hardly ever come to Sicilia any more.

Arch: Well, you know, King Polixenes is so busy looking after Bohemia, he doesn’t get to travel much.  So a visit like this is a big deal.  I’m sure it’s the same with your King.

Camillo: Yes, Leontes is a busy man.  But old friendships never die.

Arch: That’s true.  Polixenes and Leontes go way back.  They went to school together.

Camillo: Yes.  The Sicilian Boys’ Academy of Smartness.  It used to be a great school.

Arch: Used to be?  What about now?

Camillo: Ach!  It’s so different.  It’s completely infected by political correctness.

Arch: Oh?  Who’s the Principal?

Camillo: A real asshole–Dr. John Frank Corvino.

Arch: Dr. John Frank Corvino?  Who’s he?

Camillo: He’s a phagocyte with an attitude.

Arch: A phagocyte with an attitude?

Camillo: A gay activist.

Arch: Uh-oh.  One of those.  Does he teach anything?

Camillo: Yes. Philosophy.

Arch: Oh, well, I suppose you have to be smart to teach philosophy.

Camillo: No.  He’s a jerk.  In fact, he’s so stupid he offended the Duke of Sherbourne.

Arch. (Shocked): He offended the Duke of Sherbourne?

Camillo: Yup.

Arch: Whoa!–Maybe he didn’t realize who he was dealing with.

Camillo: That’s entirely possible, but it won’t stop the Duke from getting revenge.  The Duke of Sherbourne never forgets an insult.  He’ll stick it to Corvino.

Arch: What’ll he do?

    (Camillo whispers in Archidamus’s ear.)

Arch: Oh!  Brilliant!

Camillo: Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

Arch: That’s what they say.

Camillo: So anyway, how are all the Bohemians?

Arch: They’re fine.  They hang out in the coffee houses.  They drink espresso, play bongos, and read beat poetry.  You should come–you and the King.

Camillo: We will.  He intends to visit next summer.

Arch: It’ll be hard to match your hospitality.  You guys really roll out the red carpet.

Camillo: Well, it’s all for the sake of friendship, you know.  Leontes and Polixenes must be the two closest friends who ever lived.  Leontes spares no expense.

Arch: Say, that little Prince of yours is such a cute kid.

Camillo: Mamillius.  Oh, yes, everyone loves him.  The nicest boy who ever lived.  And smart, too.  The old people refuse to die until they see him become King.

Arch: How old is he?

Camillo: Seven.

Arch: And they refuse to die until he becomes King, eh?

Camillo: That’s what they say.  We may have an awful lot of really old people in Sicilia.

Arch: And I suppose the day after he becomes King, they’ll say, “Okay, now I can die.”  And then they’ll die.  Is that it?

Camillo: Well, maybe not the day after.

Arch: They might need a few days to think it over–and make suitable arrangements.

Camillo: Yes, I suppose.  So what would you like to do while you’re in Sicilia?

Arch: Em–well, I was, uh, planning to visit a certain cultural attraction,

Camillo: Which would be what–specifically?

Arch: The Sicilian Girls’ Beauty School.

Camillo: The Sicilian Girls’ Beauty School?  I’m not sure I know it.

Arch: Sure, you do.  It’s the one with no sign in front.–The one will the red door.–You know.

Camillo: Oh–that beauty school.  Right.  I do know it.–Not from the inside, of course.

Arch: I’ve got my vacation money–(He jingles coins in his pocket)–and I’m going to spend it.

Camillo: Well, have a good time.  And if anyone asks for you, what excuse should I give?

Arch: I’m looking at art.

Camillo: That’s believable.  All right, then.  Have a good time.

Arch: I will.

    (They leave separately.  On the way out, Archidamus says, “Phagocyte with an attitude.  That’s funny.”)

Act 1, Scene 2.  In the court of Leontes.  Leontes, Hermione, and Polixenes are seated at a table.   They’ve just finished lunch.  Hermione, who is pregnant, is sitting between the men.  Sitting apart are Mamillius and Camillo.  Camillo is playing with the boy.

Polixenes: I’m sure I’ve exhausted your hospitality as well as your patience, Leontes.  Nine months I’ve been here.  How much longer can you stand me?

Leontes: Nine months?  It hardly seems that long–does it, Hermione?

Hermione: Ha!  That’s because you’re not pregnant!

Polixenes: Ha, ha!–But seriously, I must return to Bohemia.  I have my duties, after all.

Leontes: There’s no rush.  Stay another week at least.

Polixenes: If I stay another week, it’ll turn into a month.  No, I really must go.  I’ve made up my mind.

Leontes: Tell him to stay, Hermione.

Hermione (Humourously): Yes, I’ll make him stay.  I’ll just make him my prisoner.  (To Polixenes) How would you like that?  I’ll put you in a room and lock you in.

Polixenes: Uh-oh!

Hermione: But I’d much rather be your hostess than your jailer.  Wouldn’t you prefer that?

Polixenes: If you put it that way.

Hermione: Good.  Then it’s settled.  You’ll stay another week.  (To Leontes)  You see how persuasive I am?

    (Leontes reacts with an ambiguous expression, as if he is vaguely bothered by something.)

Hermione: Tell me, Polixenes, when you and Leontes were schoolboys, which of you was naughtier?

Polixenes: We were both as innocent as lambs, madam.  And we remained that way until we met our wives–eh, Leontes?–ha, ha!

    (Leontes grunts.) 

Hermione: So we corrupted you, did we?

Polixenes: How else did we end up married?

Hermione: Then we’re devils, are we–leading you astray?

Polixenes: Always.  Women have their power over men.–Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we, Leontes?

    (Leontes grunts.)

Hermione: What’s the matter, Leontes?

Leontes: A bit of indigestion, that’s all.  Why don’t you take Polixenes outside and show him the garden.

Hermione: He’s seen it a hundred times.

Leontes: See how the hemlock is doing.

    (Hermione isn’t sure what to make of that remark, so she just shrugs.  She gets up and takes Polixenes by the arm.)

Hermione: All right, then.  Come, Polixenes, we’ll go look at all the pretty flowers–and the hemlock.

    (Hermione and Polixenes go out.  Leontes gets up and beckons Mamillius to him.)

Leontes: Mamillius, are you really my boy?

Mamillius: What do you mean, father?

Leontes: I mean, am I your father, and are you my son?

Mamillius: Of course, father.  Don’t I look like you?  Everyone says I do.

Leontes: Yes.–All that’s missing is two little horns on your head.  Then you’d look exactly like me.

Mamillius: Two little horns?  I don’t understand.

Leontes: Never mind.  It’s a joke only grown-ups understand.  Now be a good boy and go play in your room.  I want to talk to Camillo in private.

Mamillius: All right, father.

    (Mamillius leaves.)

Leontes: Camillo, did you notice that Polixenes wouldn’t stay when I asked him to, but he agreed to stay when the Queen asked him?

Camillo: Em–yes, my lord.

Leontes: And why do you suppose he changed his mind?

Camillo: To make you happy, my lord.

Leontes: No!  Not to make me happy–to make the Queen happy!

Camillo: My lord?

Leontes: Didn’t you see the way they were playing footsie under the table?

Camillo: No, my lord.

Leontes: The two of them have been playing games the whole time he’s been here.  Remember when the Queen made that joke about being pregnant?  Think about it, Camillo.  He’s been here nine months, and the Queen is almost nine months pregnant.  What does that tell you?

Camillo: It’s just a coincidence, my lord.

Leontes: Don’t tell me it’s a coincidence!  I’ve seen them hold hands.  And the way she takes him by the arm.  And all those times they go off by themselves to be alone.  And all the sly looks, and all the little jokes and innuendoes.  And the way he compliments her.

Camillo: They’re just being friendly, my lord.  And I haven’t seen anything unusual.

Leontes: Are you blind, Camillo?  Are you stupid?

Camillo: No, my lord.

Leontes: Or do you think I’m stupid?

Camillo: No, my lord.–I, uh–I hope you’re not suggesting what it sounds like.

Leontes: I’m not just suggesting.  I’m saying it outright.  The Queen is–how shall I put it–loose in her morals.

Camillo: Oh, now really, sir, you can’t mean that.

Leontes: I certainly do mean it.  Do you think I’m wrong?

Camillo: Well–I should hope so, sir.

Leontes: If I were imagining all these things, then I’d be crazy, wouldn’t I?  Do you think I’m crazy?

Camillo: Well–no, sir.–Perhaps merely mistaken.

Leontes: I’m not mistaken.  I’ve been dishonoured.  It’s like a knife in my heart.  At a time like this I need those people close to me to be loyal.  You must do something for me, Camillo.

Camillo: Yes, my lord.

Leontes: Tonight at dinner you’ll bring him his cup of wine, as usual.  There’ll be something in it–something that will solve my problem.

Camillo: My lord–you know I’m loyal.  I always have been.  But please don’t ask me to do such a thing.

Leontes (Angrily): Would you have me be dishonoured?  I gave you your position.  Don’t forget that.  You owe me this favour.–And think of my poor boy.  Do you want his life to be ruined?  My dishonour will be his.

Camillo (Very pained): I’ll do as you say, my lord.  But promise me that when it’s done, you’ll reconcile with the Queen–for the sake of the boy.

Leontes: Yes.  I will.

Camillo: Then you can count on me, sir.

Leontes: Until then, we must both act as if nothing is wrong, so he won’t suspect.

    (Leontes leaves.  Camillo is clearly unhappy.  He ponders.)

Camillo: Nobody ever murdered a king and was better off for it.  If I obey, I lose.  And if I disobey, I lose as well.  I’ll have no future in Sicilia.

    (Polixenes comes in.)

Polixenes: Camillo, is everything all right?

Camillo: All right, sir?–I–I hardly know.

Polixenes: Is something bothering the King?

Camillo (Turning away): I–wouldn’t say so, sir.

Polixenes: You’re hiding something.

Camillo: No, sir.

Polixenes: Yes, you are.  Something’s the matter.  (Camillo is silent.)  Perhaps I can help.  But I have to know what it is.

Camillo: The King–he’s–sick.

Polixenes: Sick?  In what way?

Camillo: It’s because of you, sir.

Polixenes: Because of me?  What have I done?

Camillo: Sir, if I tell you the truth, I’m finished here in Sicilia.  I’m supposed to be loyal to the King.

Polixenes: Yes, yes, you’re loyal, but never mind that.  If this concerns me, I have a right to know, don’t you think?  Would it not be honourable to tell me?  Do I not deserve that consideration?

Camillo: Yes, sir.

Polixenes: Then tell me.

Camillo: My lord–the King believes–that you–and the Queen–have been having–immoral relations.

Polixenes: What!  That’s ridiculous!

Camillo: It’s what he believes, sir.  And furthermore–he gave me instructions to give you poisoned wine at dinner.

Polixenes: Poisoned wine!  Good God!  Has he lost his mind?

Camillo: I can only think so, sir.

Polixenes: I’ll talk to him.  I’ll reason with him.

Camillo: My lord, you can’t reason with him any more than you can reason with a forest fire.  His emotions are out of control.  You must get away–tonight.  I can arrange it.  I’ll get you and your people out of the city before he knows anything.–Of course, if I stay here, I’m dead.

Polixenes: Then you’ll come with me to Bohemia.  You’ll be all right there.  I’ll take care of you.

Camillo: Thank you, my lord.–Now you’d best come with me.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  In the court of Leontes.  Hermione and two of her Waiting Ladies are playing with Mamillius.

Mamillius: Everyone’s always kissing me.  I’m not a baby.

First Lady: We kiss you because we love you.

Mamillius: When I grow up, I won’t let anyone kiss me.

Second Lady: You say that now, but you’ll change your mind later–won’t he, madam?

Hermione: Yes.


Mamillius: Mother, am I going to have a brother to play with?

Hermione: Yes.  Either a brother or a sister.

Mamillius: I’d rather have a brother.  Can you make sure it’s a brother?

Hermione: I can’t make sure.

Mamillius: Oh, but you must!


Second Lady: He’s a funny boy.–Mamillius, tell me a joke.

Mamillius: All right.  (Thinks.)  What is the longest word in the world?

Second Lady: I don’t know.  What?

Mamillius: “Smiles”–because there is a mile between the first and last letters.


Hermione: Isn’t he clever?–Now tell us a tale.

Mamillius: A sad tale or a happy one?

Hermione: Whichever you prefer.

Mamillius: A sad tale is best for winter.

Hermione: Why is that?

Mamillius: Because a sad tale would spoil a summer’s day, but in the winter the days are already spoiled, so a sad tale can do them no harm.

First Lady: The boy’s a philosopher!

Second Lady: Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s King.

Mamillius: I shall be a wise King–and ladies may only kiss me if I like them very much, and if they don’t pinch me on the cheek.

    (Laughter.  Then Leontes storms in with Antigonus and two Lords.)

Leontes (To his party): He’s gone?  And all his party?  And Camillo, too?

First Lord: Yes.  They were getting on their ship.

Leontes: Aha!  Just as I thought!  And Camillo was in league with Polixenes all along!

Hermione: My lord, what’s the matter?

Leontes: Give me my son!  (He takes Mamillius by the arm.)  I don’t want him near you.  (To the First Lady)  Take him to his room.

    (The First Lady takes Mamillius out.)

Hermione: Is this some sort of game?

Leontes: You’re the one who knows all about games.  You’ve been playing one with Polixenes.

    (For the rest of this scene, Hermione remains composed and dignified.) 

Hermione: I’ve been playing a game with Polixenes?

Leontes: Yes.  And there are your winnings.  (He points to her belly.)

Hermione: I could swear that you’re wrong, but I prefer merely to say that you’re wrong–because a silly accusation should not be answered with an oath.

Leontes (To his party): Look at her!  Your Queen!  The adulteress!

Hermione: If anyone else called me that, he’d be a villain of the worst sort.  You, on the other hand, are simply mistaken.

Leontes: I’d call you what you really are, but such language is not fit to be heard in a king’s court.  So I will just say that you are an adulteress–and a traitor–like your friend Camillo, who was obviously acting as your go-between with Polixenes.

Hermione: The planets must be lined up very badly to drive a king out of his mind.  That’s the only explanation I can think of.

Leontes: If the planets were lined up to drive me out of my mind, they would have driven the rest of the world out of their minds as well.  But that plainly is not the case.  Therefore, I am not mad.  Therefore, you will go to prison.  (To one of the Lords) You take her.

Lord: Yes, my lord.

Hermione: You would put a pregnant woman in prison?  At least let me have my ladies with me.

Leontes: As you wish.

Hermione: I’m sorry for you, my lord–not so much for what you’re doing now, but for how you’ll feel about it later, when you’ve regained your sanity.

    (Hermione and the Second Lady leave, escorted by the Lord.)

Second Lord: Your Majesty, please call her back.

Antigonus: If you’re wrong, sir, it will be terrible for you, and the Queen, and your son.

Second Lord: Yes, my lord.  I can’t believe the Queen is what you say she is.

Antigonus: I don’t know who put the idea in your head, sir, but it’s just impossible.

Leontes: Impossible?  No.  You’re just too dull-witted to see the obvious.  Camillo took off with Polixenes.  Why?  Because he wanted to protect Polixenes and himself.  And why?  Because Polixenes was guilty of having sex with the Queen, and Camillo was guilty of helping them.  It’s perfectly logical.

Antigonus: And what will the people think of all this, sir?

Leontes: The people will understand when I have the truth confirmed by the oracle at Delphi.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare actually refers to Delphos, or Delos — a minor error.]  I’ve sent Cleomenes and Dion to the temple of Apollo.  They’ll come back with the confirmation.–Come.  I must explain it to the people.

    (They leave, but Antigonus pauses to speak aside.)

Antigonus: But what if the oracle doesn’t confirm?

    (He leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  A prison.  Paulina comes in.

Paulina (Calling): Jailer!

    (The Jailer comes in.)

Jailer: Yes, madam?

Paulina: You know me, don’t you?

Jailer: Yes, madam–Paulina, the wife of Antigonus.

Paulina: I wish to speak to the Queen.

Jailer: I’m sorry, madam.  I’m not allowed to admit visitors.

Paulina: Well, could I at least speak to one of her ladies?  Could I speak to Emilia?

Jailer: Oh–I suppose.  Wait here.  I’ll get her.

    (The Jailer goes out and returns with Emilia.)

Paulina: Emilia, how is the Queen?

Emilia: She had her baby.

Paulina: Already?

Emilia: Yes.  It was a bit early, but they’re both fine.  It’s a girl.

Paulina: That’s wonderful.  The King should be told.  In fact, he should see the baby.  It might change the way he feels.  Ask the Queen if she’ll trust me to take the baby to show the King.

Emilia: Do you think it would do any good?

Paulina: I think so.  At least let me try.

Emilia: I’ll see what she says.

   (Emilia leaves.)

Jailer: Madam, I have no instructions about letting the baby out.

Paulina: Were you instructed to put the baby in prison?

Jailer: No.  She wasn’t even born yet.

Paulina: Right.  The King hasn’t given you any instructions either way because he doesn’t know about her.  Therefore, he can’t criticize you for letting her out.

Jailer: Well–if you put it that way.

Paulina: I’ll take full responsibility.  Don’t worry about it.

Jailer: All right, madam.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  In the court of Leontes.  Leontes comes in with Antigonus, Lords, and Attendants.

Leontes: I can’t get any sleep just thinking about that bitch.  I’m so angry with her, I’d just as soon burn her at the stake.  (To an Attendant)  How is Mamillius?

Attendant: Still sick, sir–but he slept better last night.

Leontes: It’s her fault that he’s sick.  He knows his mother has been disgraced.  How can a child that age deal with it?  (To the Attendant)  Go stay with him.

    (The Attendant leaves.)

Leontes: If I ever get my hands on Polixenes and Camillo, I’ll murder them.  But that’ll have to wait.  Right now it’s the Queen who’s going to pay.

    (Paulina comes in with the baby.)

Leontes: You keep out of here!

Paulina: I will not!

Antigonus (Aside to Paulina): Not now, for God’s sake.  He’s in a bad mood.  He hasn’t slept.

Paulina (Loudly): I’ve brought medicine for his sleep.

Leontes: Antigonus, I told you to keep your wife out of here.

Antigonus: I’m sorry, my lord.

Paulina: My good King, let me speak.  I come from your good Queen.

Leontes: Don’t call her good.

Paulina: She is good.  And if I were a man, I’d defend her honour with a sword.

Antigonus (Aside): Oh, God.

Leontes: Go away.  I’m not listening to you.

Paulina: My lord–this is your daughter!

    (She puts the baby down.)

Leontes: You’re on the Queen’s side!  Get out!  (To the others)  Get rid of her!  (To Antigonus)  Give that bastard kid back to her!

Paulina (To Antigonus): Don’t you dare.

    (Antigonus stands there looking helpless.)

Leontes (To Antigonus): You let your wife dictate to you like that?

Antigonus: My lord, I–

Leontes: You’re all traitors!  I’m surrounded by traitors!

Antigonus: My lord–

Paulina: There are no traitors here–just an angry King who would slander his own Queen, make his son sick, and disavow his own daughter.

Antigonus (Aside): Oh, God.

Leontes: The baby is not mine!  It belongs to Polixenes!  Let ’em all burn at the stake!

Paulina: She is your daughter.  Look at her features.  The only thing missing is your jealous rage.

Leontes (To Antigonus): If you can’t control your wife, I’ll have you hanged!

Antigonus: My lord, if you hanged every husband who couldn’t control his wife, there’d be very few men left in the kingdom.

Leontes (To Paulina): Perhaps it would be simpler to have you burned at the stake.

Paulina: Do as you wish, sir.  I’m not afraid.  My conscience is clear.  And I will tell you face to face in front of everyone that everything you believe about the Queen is purely a figment of your imagination.  You have no evidence to accuse her.

Leontes: How dare you!  (To Antigonus)  Get her out of here!  That’s an order!  Or I’ll have her thrown out by force!

Paulina: You don’t have to use force, my lord.  I’ll go.  But I leave your daughter with you.  May the gods protect her.  (To Antigonus and the other Lords)  You’re not doing the King any good if you don’t speak up.–Goodbye.

    (She leaves.)

Leontes: Did you put her up to this?

Antigonus: Certainly not, my lord.

Leontes: But you let her get away with it, so it’s all the same.

Antigonus: It seems I can’t please you today, no matter what, my lord.

Lords: It’s not his fault, sir.

Leontes: You’re all traitors!  (To Antigonus)  I want you to take that baby and throw it in the fire!  That’s an order!  You do it now, and when it’s done, you come back and tell me it’s done!  Otherwise I’ll have you executed!

First Lord: Please!  My lord!  This is wrong!

Second Lord: We beg you, sir!

    (Leontes pauses and calms himself somewhat.)

Leontes (To Antigonus): I suppose you don’t want to kill the baby, do you?

Antigonus: No, my lord.

Leontes: But if I relieve you of that responsibility, you’ll do whatever I order?

Antigonus: Yes, my lord.

Leontes: All right, then.  This is what you’ll do.–You’ll take the baby far away–to some remote place–and leave it there.  What happens after that is not your doing.  We’ll leave it to Nature–or Fate.–Now, go ahead.  Pick it up.

    (Antigonus picks up the baby, reluctantly and sadly.  He just stands there.)

Leontes: Go on now.  Take it away.

    (Antigonus goes out with the baby.  Then a Servant comes in.)

Servant: My lord, Cleomenes and Dion are back from Delphi.

Leontes: Ah!  That was quick.  It must mean good news.  Now we’ll get the truth straight from the oracle.–You lords make arrangements for the Queen’s trial.  I want everything to be open and public.  I want everyone to know that I’ve been right about her all along.–Go now.

    (All leave except Leontes.)    

Act 3, Scene 1.  This scene is deleted. 

Act 3, Scene 2.  A court of justice.  Leontes, Lords, and Officers come in.

Leontes: The Court is now in session to hear the charges against Queen Hermione.  And you will all see soon enough that any suggestion that I have been cruel or unfair is absurd.  (To an Officer)  Bring her in.

    (The Officer goes out and returns immediately with Hermione, who is escorted by two of her Ladies and Paulina.)

Leontes (To another Officer): Read the indictment.

Second Officer (Reading): “Hermione, Queen of Sicilia, you are accused of treason in committing adultery with Polixenes, King of Bohemia, and conspiracy with Camillo to conceal knowledge of this adultery from the King, and counseling  Polixenes and Camillo to flee from Sicilia.”  How do you plead?

Hermione: I could plead not guilty, but why should I bother?  Those who are already convinced of my guilt will count whatever I say as a lie.  It’s better to let divine powers shame those who accuse falsely.  Before Polixenes came to Sicilia, no one ever said anything bad about me.  My King was as happy then as I am unhappy now.  (To Leontes) If I was kind and sweet to Polixenes, it is just as I should have been to your oldest friend–nothing more.

Leontes: That’s just what I’d expect you to say.

Hermione: And as for conspiracy, it’s only a word to me.  I don’t know how it’s done. I always regarded Camillo as an honest man.  I have no idea why he left.

Leontes: You knew all about it.  And you probably agreed to do certain things when he was gone.

Hermione: These things are in your imagination.

Leontes: Your actions create what I imagine.  Where did that bastard child come from–out of my imagination?  No.  It was real enough.  And I have cast it out to die.  And the same will happen to you.

Hermione: I’m not afraid of death.  I count myself as dead already.  My husband has turned against me, my baby is cast out to die, and I am publicly denounced as an adulteress.  Can there be anything worse for a queen?  If you intend to kill me, then go ahead and do it.  But don’t call it justice.  It’s just an act of personal hatred inspired by your sick jealousy.  For justice, I leave it to the oracle, for the oracle never lies.

Leontes: Indeed.  As you say, the oracle never lies.  And the final evidence against you shall be presented now.–Officer!

    (An Officer goes out and returns immediately with Cleomenes and Dion, one of them holding a scroll.)

Officer: Your names, for the record.

Cleomenes: Cleomenes.

Dion: Dion.

Officer: Do you swear that you are returned from the oracle at Delphi, bearing the scroll of the priest of Apollo, and that his seal is unbroken, and no one else knows what is written in it?

Cleomenes and Dion: Yes.  We swear.

Leontes: Break the seal and read.

    (The Officer takes the scroll, opens it, and reads.)

Officer (Reading): “Hermione, Queen of Sicilia, is chaste and virtuous–”  (Murmurings in the Court) — “Polixenes, King of Bohemia, is innocent of any wrongdoing.  Camillo is loyal and honourable.  King Leontes is a jealous tyrant, the baby is his, and he shall have no heir until that which is lost is found again.”

    (Louder murmurings in the Court.)

Leontes: Give me that!  (He snatches the scroll away and reads it.)  These are lies!  Lies!

    (He throws down the scroll.  Shocked murmurings in the Court.)

Lords: That’s blasphemy!

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: My lord!

Leontes: What?

Servant: Sir–the young Prince–

Leontes: Yes?  The Prince what?

Servant: The young Prince–is dead.–He was overcome by grief about his mother.

    (Hermione faints.)

Paulina: Oh!–The Queen!  She’ll die!

Leontes: Take her to her room.  Look after her.  Do whatever you have to do.

    (Paulina and the Ladies take Hermione out.  Leontes is stricken with remorse.  [A silent pause is needed here to fill time.])

Leontes (Speaking slowly): I’ve offended the gods.–I’ve been wrong.–The oracle doesn’t lie.–My Queen is innocent.  Polixenes is innocent.  And Camillo–thank God he disobeyed my orders.  He’s the good one.  He’s as good as I’ve been bad.

    (Paulina returns, looking angry.)

Paulina: Hail, tyrant!

Leontes: What?

Paulina: A tyrant like you must surely be praised for accomplishing so much wickedness in such a short time.  Shall I be next?  Shall I be boiled in oil?  Or shall I merely be thrown to lions or wolves?

Leontes: What?

Paulina: You blacken the name of your own Queen, you try to murder your best friend, you drive away a loyal subject, you cast out your own baby to die, you sicken your son with such grief that he dies–and now–your Queen, my lord–lies dead.

Leontes: No!  Say it isn’t so!

Paulina: She is dead–her noble heart broken–her will to live destroyed–thanks to you.  I hope you’re proud of yourself.

    (Leontes falls to his knees in tears.)

Leontes: No!–No!

Lord: Paulina!  Stop!  The King is sorry!

    (Paulina sees the King crying and takes pity on him.)

Paulina: Forgive me, my lord.  I spoke too harshly.

Leontes: No–not too harshly.–Not harshly enough for the wrongs I’ve done.  (He rises.)  Let me see my Queen and my son one last time.  I will have them buried together.  I’ll visit their grave every day for the rest of my life–and remind myself of my foolishness–and my wickedness.

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  A seacoast in Bohemia.  [Author’s note: We’re supposed to forget that Bohemia had no seacoast.  Only Shakespeare could get away with this.]  Antigonus, holding the baby, comes in with a Mariner.

Antigonus: You’re sure this is Bohemia?

Mariner: Yes, my lord.  And from the look of the sky, there’s a bad storm coming.  Perhaps the gods are angry with us. 

    [Director may sprinkle in some lightning and thunder in this scene.]

Antigonus: They may well be.  You’d best get aboard your ship.  I’ll signal you when I’m through with my–my errand.

Mariner: Be quick about it, sir.  And don’t go inland.  There are wild animals in this country.

    (The Mariner leaves.)

Antigonus: Poor baby.  I must leave you in this god-forsaken place.  (To the audience)  I had a dream.  The Queen appeared to me and told me to leave the baby in Bohemia.  And the baby shall be named Perdita–meaning, the lost one.  And for my part in carrying out this sad mission, I shall never see my wife, Paulina, again.–Hermione must be dead, otherwise how else could her spirit come to me like that?  And why Bohemia, unless Polixenes really is the father of this baby?  (To the baby)  Poor baby, I lay you down now.  (He lays the baby down.)  And if there is goodness in you, may the gods have mercy and see you live.

    (He looks about.  Then he hears the roar of a bear.  He screams and runs out, chased by the bear.  After a brief interval, an old Shepherd comes in.)

Shepherd: What sort of lunatics would be out hunting bears on a day like this?  Young hotheads looking for thrills.  And they’ve scattered my sheep in the process.  Where the hell are my sheep?  (He sees the baby.)  Whoa!–What the!–(He investigates more closely.)  Oh, my God, it’s a baby!  (He picks the baby up.)  Who left you here?  Are you illegitimate, or what?–Oh, well, I can’t leave you out here.

    (The Clown comes in.  This is the Shepherd’s son.)

Clown: Oy!  Oy!

Shepherd: What are you oy-oying about, you idiot? 

Clown: You won’t believe what I saw.

Shepherd: What did you see?

Clown: I saw a ship go down.  It was terrible.  And on the beach there was a man who was attacked by a bear.  He was dying.  I couldn’t help him.

Shepherd: Terrible!  Terrible!–I wonder if it has anything to do with this.–Look what I just found.

Clown: A baby?

Shepherd: Yes.

Clown: Is it alive?

Shepherd: Yes.  It’s a little girl.  And look at this.–Feel that material.

    (The Clown examines more closely and finds something, but the audience can’t see what.)

Clown: Hey–look at this!

Shepherd: Oh, my!

Clown: This is no ordinary baby.

Shepherd: She must belong to somebody rich.–You know, I was told by fairies that I’d be rich someday.

Clown: Then we’d better take good care of this baby.–What shall we call her?

Shepherd: We’ll call her Perdita–the lost one.–Now listen, this is our secret, understand?

Clown: Right–You go home, and I’ll bury that poor guy on the beach.

Shepherd: That’s a good deed for you.  And this is my good deed.  Let’s hope it means good luck–and riches–for both of us.

    (They leave separately.) 

Act 4, Scene 1.  This scene is deleted.  In its place, a silent figure representing Time comes out before the curtain and holds up a sign: “16 Years Later.”  Time leaves as the curtain rises for the next scene.

Act 4, Scene 2.  The court of Polixenes in Bohemia.  Polixenes comes in with Camillo.

Polixenes: Aw, Camillo, I don’t want you to go back to Sicilia.

Camillo: I know, but it’s been so many years that I’ve been away.  And Leontes has written to me.  He wants me back.  He’s changed.  I feel sorry for him.  

Polixenes: Bah!  Let him stew in his juices.  Besides, I need you here.  You’ve become very valuable to me.  I couldn’t replace you.

Camillo: It’s been an honour and a pleasure to serve you, my lord.  But I want to be buried in the place I was born.

    (A silent pause.)    

Polixenes: Have you seen my son, the Prince?

Camillo: Not for three days.  He’s hardly ever around lately.

Polixenes: There’s a reason.

Camillo: What, my lord?

Polixenes: I’ve had him followed.  It seems he goes to visit a certain shepherd.

Camillo: Florizel is visiting a shepherd?

Polixenes: Yes.  Only this particular shepherd has gotten quite prosperous.

Camillo: Do you mean the one with the beautiful daughter?

Polixenes: That’s the one.  I think Florizel likes her.

Camillo: I get the picture.

Polixenes: Yeah.  I’m worried he might do something stupid.  Mother Nature doesn’t recognize differences of social class.

Camillo: Quite right, sir.

Polixenes: I want you to go over there with me and investigate.  We’ll disguise ourselves as shepherds, okay?

Camillo: Yes, my lord.  I’ll do that for you.

Polixenes: I knew I could count on you.–Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  On a country path in Bohemia.  Autolycus comes in singing.


    When roses are in bloom

    And chickens are a-clucking,

    I like to sport with ladies

    Who are very good at–(He stops and covers his mouth to tease the audience.  Then he continues.)

    When laundry’s drying on the line,

    I think of it as giving–

    To me, that is, because a thief

    Has got to make a living.

    (He speaks directly to the audience.)

Auto: Autolycus.  Your servant.  Where do you keep the silverware?–Ha!–I’m not named Autolycus for nothing.  Autolycus was a famous thief in mythology.  And I was conceived under the planet Mercury, so my father knew I’d grow up to be a thief.  Now, I don’t claim to be the King of Thieves, or even the Prince of Thieves.  No, no.  That would be too high-profile.  A clever thief doesn’t want to attract attention.  A little bit here, a little bit there, and I get by–know what I mean?  There’s a sucker born every minute–thank God–Oh!  And I see one coming now.

    (Autolycus moves far apart as the Clown comes in, walking slowly and trying to calculate on the palm of his hand.)

Clown: Let’s see–eleven sheep make a tod–twenty-eight pounds of wool–one tod will sell for one pound and a shilling–fifteen hundred sheep–that makes, em–

Auto (Aside to the audience): I’m gonna shear this sheep.  Just watch.

Clown: I can’t do it.–Now, what do I have to buy for the sheep-shearing feast?–Three pounds of sugar, five pounds of currants–and Perdita wants rice–I don’t like rice, but she’s in charge.  She made twenty-four wreaths of flowers for the shearers.  Imagine that.–Oh, and I need saffron, and mace, and dates–I don’t like dates–and nutmeg, and ginger, and prunes, and raisins–

    (Autolycus lies on the ground and pretends to be in distress.)

Auto: Oh!–Oh!–I’m hurt!

Clown: My goodness!  What’s the matter?

Auto: Help me, sir!  I’ve been beaten and robbed!

Clown: Oh, you poor man!  Let me help you.

    (The Clown helps him up.  Autolycus is clinging to him.)

Auto: You are too kind, sir.–Ouch!–My shoulder blade really hurts.  Would you hold me up?

Clown: Of course.

   (Autolycus leans on the Clown and discreetly picks his pocket.)

Clown: Do you need any money, sir?

Auto: No, no.  It would hurt my pride to accept anything.  But you’re very kind to offer.

Clown: Who was it who robbed you?

Auto: Some fellow who used to be a servant of Prince Florizel–but he got fired because of his virtues.

Clown: His virtues?  Oh, no, you mean his vices.

Auto: Yes, yes, vices–of course.  I merely think of them as virtues.  This man has been a carnival performer.  He had a trained monkey.  Then he was a bill-collector.  Then he did puppet shows.  Then he married a tinker’s widow not far from my estate.  But he’s a rogue through and through.  Why, he even stole my clothes and gave me these rags to wear.

Clown: My goodness!–What’s his name?

Auto: Autolycus.

Clown: I’ve heard of him.  He’s a thief, that’s what he is.

Auto: As you say, sir.

Clown: And a coward, too, from what I hear.  If you’d acted tough, he would’ve run away, most likely.

Auto: I’m not the fighting sort, sir.  I’m–well–meek, you might say.

Clown: The meek shall inherit the earth.

Auto: Indeed, they shall.  And if they’re clever, they can get an advance on their inheritance.

    (The Clown is puzzled by the joke.)

Clown: Em–are you feeling any better, sir?

Auto: Oh, yes, much better, thank you.  I think I can walk to my cousin’s from here.

Clown: Shall I escort you?

Auto: No, no, thank you.  You’ve already done me great service.

Clown: All right, then.  I’ll be on my way.  I have to buy some things for our sheep-shearing feast.  Goodbye.

Auto: Goodbye, sir.

    (The Clown leaves.)

Auto: I like a good sheep-shearing feast.  Plenty of pockets to pick.

    (He goes out singing.)

    Oh, every day’s a bright one,

    And every road’s a good one,

    And every tart’s a sweet one

    To a happy rogue like me.

Act 4, Scene 4.  Outside the Shepherd’s cottage.  Florizel and Perdita come in.  She is wearing garlands of flowers.  He is dressed simply, like a country person.

Florizel: You look like a goddess with all those flowers.  You’ll be the queen of the sheep-shearing feast.

Perdita: I’m as overdressed as you are underdressed.  I wouldn’t dare go around like this if it weren’t for the feast.  People like to be a bit silly.  It’s the custom.

Florizel: And falconing is a royal custom.  I wouldn’t have found you if my falcon hadn’t flown over your land.

Perdita: Some accidents are happy.  But your father won’t be happy if he finds you here.–A prince consorting with a shepherd?  And the way you’re dressed.  Not exactly royal.

Florizel: If I didn’t dress like this, how could I come and see you?  Even the gods in mythology sometimes disguised themselves to get close to the ones they wanted to seduce.  Not that I want to seduce you, of course.  I intend to be a gentleman with you, no matter how I feel about you.

Perdita: Gentleman or not, your father will break us up if he finds out.

Florizel: Oh, don’t think about it now.  It’s a holiday.  Everyone is supposed to be happy.  Pretend it’s our wedding.

Perdita: Oh!  If only!

Florizel: I see you have some guests coming, so just be cheerful.

    (The Shepherd and Clown come in, followed by Polixenes and Camillo in disguise, other Shepherds and Shepherdesses, including Mopsa and Dorcas.  Dorcas is holding many flowers of different kinds.)

Shepherd: Daughter, you’re neglecting your duties.  When my wife was alive, she was the perfect hostess.  She looked after all the visitors.  We have some strangers here who have come to enjoy the feast with us, so be nice to them.  We want them to be our friends.

Perdita: Yes, father.  (To Polixenes)  Welcome, sir.  (To Camillo)  And welcome to you, too, sir.–Dorcas, let me have those, please.  (She takes the flowers from Dorcas and gives some to Polixenes and Camillo.)  Here’s rosemary for remembrance–and rue for grace.

Polixenes: Ah–winter flowers.  A suitable choice for older people.

Perdita: This time of year everyone else has pink carnations, but I don’t care for them.

Polixenes: Why not?

Perdita: They’re too artificial, don’t you think?  The gardeners cross the reds and the whites and make pinks.  I think that’s unnatural.

Polixenes: Not at all.  It’s still pollination.  Nature provides the means.  The gardeners simply make use of it.

Perdita: I suppose you could look at it that way.

Polixenes: You should go ahead and grow them.

Perdita: Oh, no, that’s not for me.  I wouldn’t want them in my garden any more than I’d paint myself to attract a suitor.  (She gives flowers to the other Shepherds.)  For you, my friends, here’s lavender, and marjoram, and marigold.  These are mid-summer flowers–just right for people of a middle age.

Shepherds: Thank you.

Camillo: Shepherdess, if I were one of your flock, I wouldn’t bother to graze.  Just looking at you would be food enough.

Perdita: Then you would surely starve, sir.  (She gives flowers to the Sheperdesses.)  And for you, daffodils–flowers of the spring–suitable for young maidens.  (Aside to Florizel)  And if I had any lilies for you, I’d cover you with them.

Florizel (Aside to Perdita): Like a corpse, eh?

Perdita (Aside to Florizel): No, to lie upon you–in love.

Florizel (Aside to Perdita): Is there a sweeter girl in all the land?  Everything you do is perfect.

Perdita (Aside to Florizel): You flatter me too much–Doricles.  [Author’s note: Florizel has assumed the name Doricles to conceal his identity when he is among the shepherds.  Only Perdita knows his real identity.]

Florizel (Aside to Perdita): It’s not flattery.  (He takes her hand.)  I’ll never leave you.

Polixenes (Aside to Camillo): She’s quite extraordinary for a country girl, isn’t she?

Camillo (Aside to Polixenes): Yes.

Polixenes (Aside to Camillo): You’d almost think she must come from a noble family.

Camillo (Aside to Polixenes): Yes, she does give that impression.–They’re certainly sweet on each other.  That’s pretty obvious.

Clown: Let’s have some dancing.  What do you say? 

Dorcas: Dance with Mopsa–if you don’t mind garlic breath.

Mopsa: You should talk, Dorcas.

    (Music is heard.  [It just  comes out of nowhere.  This is Shakespeare, okay?]  The Shepherds and Shepherdesses pair off, and Florizel dances with Perdita.)

Polixenes (To the old Shepherd): Who’s the fellow dancing with your daughter?

Shepherd: He calls himself Doricles.  Says he has a big farm.  He loves my daughter, and she loves him, too.  And I’ll tell you confidentially, if he marries her, he’s in for a very big surprise.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant (To the Shepherd): Master, there’s a traveling vendor, and he’s got ballads to sell, and lots of other good stuff.

Clown: I love a good ballad.  I especially love sad ballads sung happily and happy ballads sung sadly.

Shepherd: You always were a weird kid.

Clown: Bring in that vendor.

    (The Servant goes out.)

Perdita: I hope they’re not dirty songs he’s selling.

    (Autolycus comes in carrying a big sack.  He is dressed differently or disguised so the Clown doesn’t recognize him.)

Auto: Hello, hello!  Fine merchandise for everyone.  Men, buy something for your sweetheart.

Mopsa (To the Clown): Buy me something.  You promised.

Dorcas: Maybe he’s got one of those specialty rubber items for ladies.

Mopsa: Shut up, you.

Clown: Stop now.  No fighting.

Mopsa: Buy me something nice in lace, or a pair of gloves.

Clown: I told you someone stole my purse.  Don’t you remember?

Auto: There are too many thieves in this country, that’s for sure.

Clown: Well, you won’t be robbed here, don’t worry.  Now then, what about those ballads you’ve got?

Auto: Oh, yes!  Ballads!  (He takes a bunch of CD’s out of his sack.)  Let’s see what we’ve got here–Ah!  Here’s a good one–“Sheep-Shearing Ballads of Western Australia,” sung by Mel Gibson–And here we have “Sheep-Shearing Ballads of the Tibetan Buddhist Monks”–“Favorite Sheep-Shearing Ballads of the Mormons,” featuring Donnie and Marie Osmond–“Sheep-Shearing Ballads of Nova Scotia,” sung by Anne Murray–“Butcher My Sheep,” by Metallica–“Sheep-Shearing Songs and Marches of the Luftwaffe”–“Motivational Sheep-Shearing Songs,” by Dr. Wayne Dyer–“I’m Walking to a Farm to Shear Sheep,” by Ivor Cutler–“Hot Blood From a Sheep’s Throat,” by Iron Maiden–“Hip-Hop Sheep-Shearing, Volume One”–“Sheep-Shearing Polkas”–“Mr. Spock’s Sheep-Shearing Songs of the Vulcans”–Justin Bieber, “Sheep-Shearing For Lovers”–“A Glutton For Mutton,” by Gordon Ramsay–and last but not least–“Don’t Tell Me I Love My Sheep Too Much,” by Boy George.

Clown (To Mopsa): I think I’d enjoy that one.

    (Mopsa makes a bad face.  Then the Servant returns.)

Servant (To the Shepherd): Master, there are some entertainers come to entertain us with their jumping.

Shepherd: Jumping?

Servants: Yes.  They call themselves the Jumping Fairies From Church and Wellesley.

Shepherd: All right.  Let’s see ’em.

    (The Servant goes out.  A moment later, several effeminate men in ridiculous costumes come in jumping and doing a sort of pseudo-ballet.  There is stunned silence as everyone observes them.  Then they go out jumping.)

Shepherd (To the Clown): I suppose we should tip them.  (He gives the Clown some coins.)  Go and thank them for the entertainment.  And make sure they don’t come back.

Clown: All right.–Mopsa and Dorcas, come with me.

    (The Clown, Mopsa, and Dorcas leave.)

Auto: Oh, well, if you’ll excuse me.  I think I’ll go look for some customers for my wares.

    (Autolycus leaves.)

Polixenes (Aside to Camillo): I think it’s time I broke up this romance.

Camillo (Aside to Polixenes): You know best, sir.

Polixenes (To Florizel): When I was your age, I would’ve spent all my money on a girl I liked.  But you haven’t bought this girl anything.

Florizel: Oh, she’s not interested in trifles.  She values those things that come from the heart.  And so do I.  Even if I were the richest man on earth, it would mean nothing to me without her love.

Shepherd: What do you say to that, Perdita?

Perdita: I agree with Doricles perfectly.

Shepherd: Then I’d say we have a marriage waiting to be done.  (To Polixenes and Camillo)  You can be witnesses.  I give my daughter to Doricles–and a lot goes with it.

Florizel: A lot more goes with me, sir–that is, someday when I inherit.

Shepherd: Yes, yes.  Come now, join hands.

    (Florizel and Perdita join hands.)

Polixenes: Excuse me.  Just a minute.  (To Florizel)  Do you have a father, by any chance?

Florizel: Yes, of course.

Polixenes: Does he know about this?

Florizel: No, he doesn’t.  And he won’t.

Polixenes: Why?  Is he feeble-minded?  Is he bedridden? 

Florizel: No, he’s quite well.

Polixenes: Then shouldn’t he be here at his son’s wedding?

Florizel: No, I don’t think so.

Polixenes: Don’t you think you should at least talk this over with him?

Florizel: No.

Polixenes: I think he deserves to know what you intend to do.  After all, he’s your father.

Shepherd: Yes, I agree.–Doricles, tell your father.  I’m sure he’ll be happy.

Florizel: But I don’t want him to know.  I want you to marry us now.

    (Polixenes removes his disguise.)

Polixenes: Well, you can forget about this damn marriage!  Some son you are!  And a prince, no less–dressed like a country bumpkin!  (To Perdita) And you, young lady–don’t pretend you didn’t know he was Prince Florizel.

Shepherd (Swooning): Oh!

Polixenes (To Florizel): If you ever see this girl again, you can forget about inheriting anything–and that includes the throne.  (To the Shepherd)  You keep your daughter away from my son, or you’ll be in big trouble.  (To Perdita)  And you, girl, have no business flirting with a prince.  If you persist, you’ll be severely punished.–This party’s over!

    (Polixenes leaves.  [Extraneous characters can leave at this point.])

Perdita: I was afraid of this.  (To Florizel)  You have to leave, for your own good.–Leave me to cry alone.

Shepherd: And here I thought I was going to be happy in my old age.  Now I feel ruined.  (To Perdita)  You  knew he was the Prince.  You should’ve known you could never marry him–foolish girl!

    (The Shepherd leaves.)

Florizel: I don’t care what my father says.  It’s my life, and I’ll do what I want.

Camillo: Your father’s in a bad mood, sir.  Don’t quarrel with him now.

Florizel (Finally recognizing Camillo): Camillo!

    (Camillo removes his disguise.)

Camillo: Yes, my lord.

Perdita: I told you this would happen.

Florizel: Nothing’s changed.  No power on earth can keep me from you.  And to hell with my inheritance.

Camillo: Ach–how youth is ruled by emotion.

Florizel: So what?  It’s my emotion.  I’m just being true to myself.  If my father can’t deal with that, it’s his problem.

Camillo: Be careful what you say, my lord.

Florizel: I’m being honest, that’s all.  I promised to marry Perdita, and I’m going to.  If that means not seeing my father again, so be it.–If you have any influence with him–and I know you do after all these years–try to make him see things my way.

Camillo: I could try, but not while he’s as angry as he is now.

Florizel: Well, I don’t intend to wait for him to be in a better mood.  I’m taking matters into my own hands.  I’ll take Perdita away from here.

Camillo: To where?

Florizel: Whichever way the winds blow.  It doesn’t matter.

Camillo: My lord, I wish you’d think about this more rationally.

    (Perdita takes Florizel aside for a private conversation.)

Camillo (Aside): He’s made up his mind.  He’s going to leave.–If there were some way I could steer this in the right direction, I might be able to do them some good–and–get myself back to Sicilia and my old King.

    (Florizel and Perdita return.)

Florizel: It’s decided.  Perdita will go with me.  There’s a ship we can take.

Camillo: Ah–yes–em–I’ve been thinking.  There may be a way out of this.  I have an idea.

Florizel: What is it?

Camillo: Go to Sicilia and present yourself and Perdita to King Leontes.  He’ll be glad to see you.  He and your father have been on the outs for many years, but I know Leontes would like to patch up with him.

Florizel: I’m going to have to have some pretext for showing up in Sicilia.

Camillo: You tell Leontes that your father sent you, for the sake of their old friendship.–Em–You know what, I’ll write everything down for you because it’s a bit complicated.  The main thing is that he has to believe your father sent you.

Florizel: You’re giving me hope now.  I appreciate it.

Camillo: I can’t guarantee the outcome, but it’s certainly a better plan than sailing off at random and leaving it all to chance.  Who knows where you’d end up?  And if you ended up in a rotten place, it might wreck your marriage.

Perdita: True love can survive any hardship.

    (Camillo gives her a look of admiration before replying.)

Camillo: You really are a remarkable girl.

Florizel: She’s not like any other shepherdess you’ll ever meet.

Camillo: She has too much wisdom for a shepherdess.

Perdita (Bashfully): Oh–sir.

Florizel: There’s just one problem, Camillo.  If I’m supposed to be sent by my father, we can’t show up in Sicilia dressed like rustics.

Camillo: I’ll take care of that.  I’ll get you some proper gear.–Here, I’ll tell you what–

    (Camillo takes the two of them aside and huddles in a private conversation.   Now Autolycus comes in without his sack.)

Auto (To the audience): Ha!  These hillbillies are such easy marks.  I sold every piece of crap in my bag.  I was like a one-man bazaar.  And I lifted plenty of wallets, too–ha, ha!

    (Camillo, Florizel, and Perdita return.)

Camillo: It’ll be okay.  My instructions will take care of you in Sicilia, and when Leontes writes back to me, I’ll use his letters to smooth everything over with your father.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare doesn’t stick to this, however.  Camillo doesn’t wait to get any letters back from Leontes.  The way we should understand this is that Camillo is telling Florizel something plausible to reassure him.]

Perdita: Thank you, Camillo.  We’d be lost without you.

Camillo (Noticing Autolycus): Maybe we can use this fellow.–Hold on.

Auto. (Aside to the audience): Oops!  Hope they didn’t hear me.

Camillo: You there!  Vendor!

Auto: I’m innocent, sir, innocent.  I’m just a poor traveling vendor.

Camillo: Yes, yes.  No one’s accusing you of anything.  I just want you to swap coats with my young friend here.  [Author’s note: Florizel is wearing nicer clothes than Autolycus at the moment.]

Auto: Are you sure, sir?

Camillo: Yes.  I’ll even throw in a little tip for you.  (He gives Autolycus some money.)

Auto. (Aside): What’s the catch?

Florizel (Taking off his coat): Come on.  We’re in a hurry. 

Auto: All right, sir.

    (Autolycus takes off his coat, and the two of them trade.)

Camillo (To Perdita): And you’ve got to hide your face.  Take Florizel’s hat and pull it down real low and try to be as inconspicuous as possible while you’re on the ship.

    (Florizel gives her his hat.)

Camillo (Aside to the audience): After the kids leave for Sicilia, I’ll tell Polixenes where they’ve gone and persuade him to chase after them–with me, of course.–(To Florizel and Perdita)  Come.

    (Camillo, Florizel, and Perdita leave.)

Auto: This is my lucky day.  Of course, to be a successful crook, you have to keep your wits about you.  As for that Prince, if I were an honest man, I’d tell his father that the kid is running away with the fiancee.  But am I an honest man?  No-o-o-o.

    (The Shepherd and Clown come in.  The Shepherd is holding a small bundle.)

Auto (Aside to the audience): They won’t recognize me in this coat.  Let’s see what I can do with them.

Clown (To the Shepherd): Father, you just have to explain to the King that Perdita isn’t your flesh and blood.  She’s adopted.  So if he’s angry with her, he shouldn’t take it out on you.–And besides, you can show him those secret things that we’ve been keeping all these years.

Shepherd: You think this is the time?

Clown: Yes.  The King will see everything differently.

Shepherd: I should think so.  And I’ll tell him his son was the one who started the relationship, not Perdita.

Clown: That’s right.  And what’s more, the last thing in the world you’d want is to be an in-law to the King.

    (The Shepherd does a double-take to this comment.)

Shepherd: Well, anyway, let’s go see the King.

Auto. (Aside): Oops!  I’ve gotta slow these guys down.  (He takes off his false beard and assumes an air of authority.)–Ahem!–And where might you humorous rustic gentlemen be going?

Shepherd: To the palace to see the King.

Auto: Oh, to the palace to see the King.  Just like that, eh?  And who are you?  Where do you live?  What’s your business with the King?  What’s your occupation?  Do you have a criminal record?

Clown: We’re just plain, simple shepherds.

Auto: You don’t look like shepherds to me.  Anyone around here can say they’re shepherds just because there are plenty of them around here.  But that doesn’t make it true.

Shepherd: Are you a courtier, sir?  [Author’s note: A close associate to the King; one who frequents his court.]

Auto: Of course.  Can’t you tell by the way I look–and my condescending attitude?  What do you take me for–an impostor?

Shepherd: Oh, no, sir.  No disrespect intended.

Auto: Good.  Now, then–do you have something, em–of a communicative nature for the King?

Shepherd: Eh?

Clown: He means, do we have any contagious diseases?

Shepherd: No, no, nothing like that.  We’re in perfect health.

Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): He’s obviously a man of authority.

Shepherd (Aside to the Clown): His coat’s all right–but it doesn’t fit him.

Auto: What’s in that bundle you’re carrying?

Shepherd: Secrets, sir.  Secret things which must be communicated–em, that is–things we must show to the King.  At the palace.  As soon as possible.

Auto: Well, I’m sorry, old man, but he’s not at the palace now.  He’s gone aboard a ship to purge his melancholy.

Clown: I didn’t know he had a collie.  Does he mean to drown it?

Auto: Melancholy–sadness–grief–you lummox.

Shepherd: Ah, I understand.  It’s about his son, the Prince.  The Prince wants to marry a shepherd’s daughter–or so I’ve heard.

   (The Shepherd and Clown exchange a guilty look.)

Auto: That shepherd–if he’s not in prison yet, he’d better run for his life.  Do you know what’ll happen to him?

Shepherd: Em–no–not really.

Auto: He’ll be whipped.  He’ll be stretched on a rack.  He’ll be beaten.  He’ll be starved.–In what order I’m not sure.–Brr!–I shudder to think of his fate!

Clown: Really, sir?

Auto: Yes.  And those close to him, too.  They’ll be punished the same way.–Ah, well, it has to be, you know.  It’s the law.

Clown (Nervously): And does this shepherd have any–sons–for instance?

Auto: Yes, he has a son, as I’m given to understand.  And that poor boy has no idea what horrible, unspeakable, ghastly, vile, ghoulish, and excruciatingly painful tortures await him.–But never mind those criminals.  You seem like good, honest fellows.  Tell me what business you have with the King.  You’ll need my help to see him.–And a little consideration for my efforts will expedite your business–if you understand my meaning.  I’ll take you straight to him–on the ship.

Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): I think you have to give him some gold.

Shepherd (Aside to the Clown): Gold?  You think so?

Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): I’m thinking about those tortures.  Best to be on the safe side. 

Shepherd (To Autolycus): We’d appreciate your help, sir.  I can give you whatever gold I have on me, and an equal amount later.  This young man–my son–

Clown: Cousin!–Very distant cousin.–Not close at all.

Shepherd: Yes–my cousin–fourth cousin, three times removed. 

Clown: I was removed twice originally, but I removed myself a third time just to be on the safe side.

Shepherd: He’ll be my guarantee for the rest of the gold.

Auto: Very good, sir.

    (The Shepherd gives Autolycus his gold.)

Auto: Thank you, sir.  You are generous.  (To the Clown) And are you a party to this business, too?   

Clown: Em–yes–in a way.  My business hangs on his.

Auto: Oh, let the criminals hang–ha, ha!  It’ll be an example to others.

    (The Shepherd looks momentarily sick.)

Clown (Aside to the Shepherd): We’ve got to get to the King and show him what we have.  That’s the only way to save ourselves.  (To Autolycus)  Em–sir–I’ll give you the same amount of gold as my old cousin here if you’ll get us to the King.

Auto: I have faith in people, so I trust you.  Now you just come with me.–Em, why don’t you just go on ahead.  I’m going to stop and take a whiz.  I’ll catch up with you.

    (The Shepherd and Clown go out.)

Auto: How can a man be honest when Fortune is so generous to a crook?  And on top of that, I get to do a good deed for the Prince.  I’ll take these guys to him, and if it gives him some advantage to hold on to them, he’ll reward me.  Otherwise, if he doesn’t want them, I’ll take them to the King, and he’ll reward me.

    (He leaves, following the Shepherds.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  The Court of Leontes in Sicilia.  Leontes, Cleomenes, Dion, Paulina, and Servants are present when the curtain goes up.

Cleomenes: My lord, you’ve repented enough for your mistakes.  The gods have forgiven you by now, so try to forgive yourself.

Leontes: I can’t.  I wronged my kingdom and destroyed the finest queen who ever lived.

Paulina: That’s for sure.  You’ll never find another like the one you–killed.

Leontes: Please, Paulina.–It’s true, but it hurts to be reminded.

Cleomenes: Paulina–really.  A lady should speak more gently.

Paulina: You want the King to marry again.

Dion: Why shouldn’t he marry again?  The kingdom should have a queen–and an heir.

Paulina: There’s no one else who is worthy to take the place of Hermione.  And besides, what did the oracle say?  The King would have no heir until his lost child was found.–Which is very unlikely since Antigonus never came back.  (To Leontes)  Forget about having any more children.  When you’re gone, the kingdom will chose someone else to rule–whoever is worthiest.

Leontes: I should have listened to you sixteen years ago.  Then I’d still have my Queen–and my two children.  (Pause)  If I were to marry again, I suppose Hermione’s ghost would return to haunt me.

Paulina: As well she should.

Leontes: I won’t marry.  You’ve convinced me.

Paulina: At least–agree not to marry unless I approve.

Cleomenes: Paulina!

Leontes: Yes, yes.  I promise.

Paulina: You are witnesses.  The King has promised.

Cleomenes: Madam, you are overstepping yourself.

Paulina: My thinking is very clear on this.  For the King to marry again, I must find someone that Hermione’s ghost would approve of.–And that will happen when Hermione breathes again.

Leontes: You speak in riddles, Paulina–but I promised to leave the decision to you.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: My lord, a gentleman who claims to be Prince Florizel, the son of Polixenes, has arrived–with his Princess.  He wishes to see you.

Leontes: What!–Prince Florizel?

Servant: Yes, my lord.

Leontes: I can’t believe it.–Does he have a large party with him?

Servant: No, my lord.  Hardly anyone.

Leontes: And he has a Princess, you say?

Servant: Yes, my lord.  And she’s the most beautiful lady I’ve ever seen.

Paulina: Ha!

Servant: Oh, but she is, madam.  Wait till you meet her.

Leontes: Cleomenes, bring them in.

Cleomenes: Yes, my lord.

    (Cleomenes leaves.)

Leontes: What a surprise–the Prince of Bohemia showing up out of the blue.  It couldn’t have been planned or he’d have a large party with him.

Paulina: Just think–if Mamillius were alive, he’d be the same age as Florizel.

Leontes: Please, Paulina.  Don’t remind me of my son.

    (Cleomenes returns with Florizel, Perdita, and a couple of Servants.)

Leontes: Prince Florizel!  (He takes the boy by the shoulders affectionately.)  You’re the spitting image of your father, my boy.  I’m delighted you’ve come.–And your Princess!  She’s so beautiful.

Florizel: Her name is Perdita.

Leontes: Perdita–the lost one.  Welcome.

    (Leontes kisses her hand.  Paulina reacts to the words “the lost one.”)

Leontes: Ah, to think if my son and daughter were alive, they’d probably look very much like you.–But I lost them because of my foolishness.  And I lost your father’s friendship.  How I wish I could see him again.

Florizel: My father sends you his most heartfelt greetings.  He’d be here himself, but he isn’t well enough to travel.  But he wants you to know that he thinks of you every day with the greatest possible love that old friends can have.

Leontes (On the verge of tears): Oh, Polixenes!–The finest gentleman I ever knew.   To think he would find it in his heart to forgive an old fool like me after the way I wronged him.–My boy, you and your Princess are welcome here.  Is she from Bohemia?

Florizel: No, she’s from Libya, my lord.  She’s the daughter of King Smalus.

Leontes: Really!–Well!

Florizel: We were returning to Bohemia, and I stopped here at my father’s request to see you.  The rest of my party have gone on to Bohemia to let my father know that I’m married and all is well.

Leontes: I’m very happy for you.  And your father deserves the happiness of your marriage–something that I’ll never know, unfortunately.

    (A Lord comes in.  [Author’s note: The text is ambiguous about whether this is a Sicilian Lord or one who has just arrived with Polixenes.  But I say it’s a Sicilian Lord.])

Lord: My lord, King Polixenes has arrived–(Reactions of shock from everyone)–He sends you greetings–and–he asks you to place his son under arrest for fleeing from Bohemia with a shepherd’s daughter.

    (Gasps of astonishment.)

Leontes: Polixenes is here?  In Sicilia?

Lord: Yes, my lord.  I’ve just come from him.  He followed the Prince here.  And he’s got the father and brother of the girl with him.

Florizel (To Perdita): We’ve been betrayed.  Camillo betrayed us.

Lord (To Florizel and Leontes): He’s here, too.

Leontes: Who is–Camillo?

Lord: Yes, my lord.  He was conferring with the two shepherds.  The King is very angry with those shepherds.  He was threatening to have them executed.

Perdita (To Florizel): Oh, no!–We won’t be married after all.

Leontes (To Florizel): You said you were married.

Florizel: No–we’re not.  And we’re not likely to be now.

Leontes: You said she was the daughter of a king.

Florizel: She would be if she married me.

Leontes: Oh, now, Florizel–You’re in the wrong, you know.  A prince can’t just marry any girl he falls in love with.  It’s no wonder your father is angry.

Florizel (To Perdita): I still love you, no matter what.

Perdita: And I still love you.

Florizel (To Leontes): My lord, think of when you were young and in love.  That’s how we feel now.  Talk to my father.  Please.  Try to change his mind.  Tell him it would be a favour to you.  He’ll do it out of friendship.

Leontes (Gazing at Perdita): If he won’t let you marry her, I’m tempted to marry her myself.

Paulina: You forget your age, sir.

Leontes: Of course, I was being facetious.  But she does remind me of Hermione.–Doesn’t she, Paulina?

Paulina: Yes.  There is some resemblance.

Leontes (To Florizel): My boy, if your intentions are honourable and not just a youthful whim, I’ll plead your case to your father.–Come.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  Outside the palace of Leontes.  Autolycus comes in with a (First) Gentleman.

Auto: What happened inside the court, sir?

First Gent: I didn’t catch it all, but the old shepherd was telling how he saved this bundle from the day he discovered an abandoned baby.  And then they opened it, and everyone was astonished, and we were all ordered out of the room.

Auto: Really!  I’d love to know what was in that bundle.

First Gent: So would I.  Whatever it was, it made the King and Camillo look at each other with tears in their eyes.  Whether they were  happy or sad, I don’t know.–Wait.  Maybe Rogero knows more.

    (The Second Gentleman, Rogero, comes in.)

First Gent: Rogero!  What happened in there?

Second Gent: The oracle’s prophecy has been fulfilled.  The King’s daughter has been found.

First Gent: The King’s daughter?  You mean that shepherd girl?

Second Gent: Yep.  She’s the King’s long-lost daughter.

First Gent: How is that possible?

Second Gent: Here comes Paulina’s steward.  He’ll explain it.

    (The Third Gentleman comes in.)

Third Gent: Well, gentlemen, the King has found his heir.  That girl is his daughter.  Even Florizel didn’t know.  Even she didn’t know.

First Gent: How did they find out?

Third Gent: The old shepherd opened the bundle he was saving since the day he found the girl abandoned.  And inside was Queen Hermione’s mantle and her favourite jewel.  And there were also letters in Antigonus’s handwriting.  And, of course, the girl looks like both her parents.

Second Gent: What a revelation to both the Kings!

Third Gent: You said it.  They were hugging each other and crying for joy.  And Leontes was hugging Florizel and calling him “son.”  And the old shepherd was crying, too.

Second Gent: Whatever happened to Antigonus?

Third Gent: He died from a bear attack, of all things.  And the ship that brought him sank in a storm, and all the evidence of the baby’s identity was lost.  The shepherd who found the baby examined the bundle she was wrapped in, and they could tell from what they found inside that it was no ordinary baby.  But they didn’t know who she was or where she came from.

Second Gent: It’s really sad about Antigonus.  I feel sorry for Paulina.

Third Gent: Yeah, it was sad to be reminded of him, but at least she found out how he died.  She was very happy to meet the girl, though–Perdita.  And Perdita wanted to know everything about her mother from Paulina, because Paulina and the Queen were very close.  And then Leontes confessed what happened sixteen years ago.  That was a painful moment for him, and for the girl, too.

First Gent: Are they still in the court?

Third Gent: No.  It seems that there’s a statue of Hermione that Paulina commissioned on her own that she’s been keeping secret all this time.  It’s in her house on the outskirts of town.  It’s supposed to be so life-like that you’d think it was a living person.  It was done by a sculptor named Romano.  They’ve all gone to see it.

Second Gent: That’s interesting.  You know, ever since Hermione died, Paulina’s been going to that house every day, and she would never say what for.

First Gent: Well, I want to see that statue.  Let’s go.

    (The three Gentlemen go out, leaving Autolycus alone.)

Auto (To the audience): Huh!–If I didn’t have such a virtuous reputation, I could’ve come out of this with some sort of title.  I mean, I did contribute to these events–sort of.  Anyway, here’s what happened.  I took the two shepherds to the Prince’s boat, and I told him they had some sort of mysterious bundle.  Unfortunately, he was in no mood to talk to me, and he told me to get lost.  So after he sailed off, I took them to the King’s boat.–And that was a little embarrassing for me because by now they figured out I wasn’t a courtier at all.  But I did deliver them to the King, which is what I promised.  Unfortunately, he was only thinking about chasing after his son, and he was too angry with the shepherds to listen to anything about their bundle.  We were under way by then, and the King said he’d deal with them when we got to Sicilia.  Camillo made sure they stayed out of sight as much as possible.–Oh!  Here they are now.

    (Autolycus smiles excessively as the Shepherd and Clown come in, now wearing new clothes.)

Shepherd: Just think, son.  We’re in-laws of two kings now.  And your children will be ladies and gentlemen–by birth, ha, ha!

Clown (To Autolycus): There you are, you faker!  You refused to fight me when we were on the ship because I was beneath your rank.  Well, look at me now!  (Indicates his clothes.)  I dare you to say now that I’m not a gentleman born.

Auto: Oh, indeed you are, sir–a gentleman born.

Clown: Yes–and for a good four hours now.

Shepherd: Me, too.

Clown (To Autolycus): But I was a gentleman first because the Prince took my hand and called me “brother,” and then the two Kings called my father “brother.”  And then the Prince and Princess–my sister, of course–both called my father “father.”  And we all cried tears of joy.

Shepherd: And may we cry many times more.

Clown: Yes, otherwise what’s the good of being gentlemen?

Auto: I beg you to forgive any wrongs I may have done to your worships–and put in a good word for me to the Prince, okay?

Shepherd (To the Clown): We should.  Now that we’re gentlemen, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Clown: Ah–Yes.  (To Autolycus) Will you reform yourself and lead a virtuous life?

Auto: As much as it pleases your worship.

Clown: Good.  Then I will swear to the Prince that you are as honest as any man in Bohemia.

Shepherd: You shouldn’t swear.  Just say it.

Clown: Just say it?  That’s for the lower classes.  No, no, I’ll have none of that.  Now that I’m a gentleman, I’ll swear–a lot.

Shepherd: And what if it turns out to be untrue?

Clown: I’m sure it will be as true as I please it to be.

Auto: In the sense of wish.

Clown: Yes, all right.

Auto: Then neither of us will be lying.

Clown (To the Shepherd): There, you see?  (To Autolycus) I’ll even swear to the Prince that you’re sober and brave.

Auto: I appreciate that, sir.  And I give you my word that I shall wish to be as much as you wish it to be.

Clown: Good.  (To the Shepherd)  You see how good I am at this?  I may even end up with a title.

Shepherd: My son, the noble.

Clown: Now, the Kings and the other lords and ladies, of whom we are of a kindred nature, have gone to see the Queen’s statue.  (To Autolycus)  Come with us.  We’re your masters now.  And don’t worry.  We will be as good as you would wish to be if you were in our place.

Auto: Oh–you’re very kind, sir.

    (They all leave.) 

Act 5, Scene 3.  Paulina’s house in Sicilia.  There is a curtain covering the statue.  Paulina, Leontes, Polixenes, Florizel, Perdita, Camillo and Lords come in.

Leontes: You have a wonderful collection of art, Paulina.  But now we want to see that statue of Hermione.

Paulina: I’ll show it to you now.  I keep it separate from everything else.  It is without a doubt the finest work of art you will ever see in your life.  I think of it as living art because it looks perfectly real.  But you will see Hermione not as you remember her sixteen years ago.  The sculptor has added the features of age to show how she would look today.  (She goes to the curtain.)  Behold. 

    (She removes the curtain, revealing Hermione standing like a statue.  There are reactions of hushed awe.)

Leontes (Sadly): My Hermione.–She is older, but still beautiful.–How I wish I could have her back instead of this statue.–My heart aches!  (He covers his face in grief.)

Perdita: My dear mother!–Dearest, dearest Queen.–I would kiss your hand.

    (Perdita reaches for Hermione’s hand, but Paulina stops her.)

Paulina: No, madam, you mustn’t.  The colour is not dry yet.

Leontes: Neither shall my eyes be dry–until I am dead.

Camillo: Our sorrows always outlive our joys.

Polixenes (To Leontes): My brother, I would gladly take half your pain as my own.  In a way, I feel responsible.

Leontes: No one else is responsible.  Let me bear my pain.  It is well-deserved.

Paulina: I didn’t intend to upset you, my lord.  Let me cover the statue.  I can see it’s upsetting you.

Leontes: No, no.  Leave it.  I want to look at it.

Paulina: If you keep looking at it, your mind will convince you that it’s alive.

Leontes: It must be alive.  I could swear I saw it move–just a little.  How could an artist do this?–Polixenes, am I imagining things, or is this statue alive?

Polixenes: It certainly looks alive.  I can’t explain it.

Paulina: Perhaps this is too much for you, my lord.  I should draw the curtain.

Leontes: No!–If I’m mad, then let me be mad–as long as I can look at her.  It gives me comfort.–I want to kiss her.

Paulina: No, my lord!  The colour on her lips is still wet.  You might ruin it.

Perdita: She’s so real.  I could stand here forever.–This is my mother–the mother I never knew.

Leontes: Oh, daughter–blame me for that.

Paulina: My lord, if you think you can bear the shock, I can make this statue step down and take your hand.  But I don’t want you to accuse me of witchcraft.

Leontes: No.  I wouldn’t accuse you of anything.  Whatever you can make her do, I’ll be grateful for it.

Paulina: Those who have faith should stay.  Those who object should leave.


Leontes: We’re all staying.  Go ahead.

Paulina: Music!  Awake her!  (Music is heard.)  The time has come.  Be stone no more.  Hermione–you live!

    (Hermione moves slowly at first.  She steps down and takes Leontes by the hand.  Gasps of astonishment.)

Leontes: Her hand is warm!  She’s alive!

    (Hermione embraces him.)

Leontes: Hermione!

Perdita: Mother!

Camillo: She lives!  The Queen lives!

Paulina (To Hermione): Your daughter, madam–Perdita.

    (Hermione embraces Perdita.)

Polixenes: She was never dead–was she?

Paulina: No.  I hid her here.

Hermione: Daughter, where were you all these years?  How did you come back?

Perdita: Oh, mother–It’s a long story.  I’ll need all night to tell you.

Leontes (To Paulina): You kept her here for sixteen years?

Paulina: Yes–until the oracle’s prophecy might be fulfilled.

Hermione: Paulina told me what the oracle’s prophecy was, and it gave me a reason to hope that my daughter would someday be found.  I’ve waited patiently for that to happen.

Paulina: Spread the word throughout the kingdom.  That which was lost has been found.  And the Queen lives.–So be happy again.–As for me, I have only the sorrow of my loss to grow old with–the memory of my beloved Antigonus.

Leontes: Ah, no, Paulina.  I won’t let that happen.  For what you’ve done for me, you deserve happiness for the rest of your life.  You must marry again.–And I know just the man for you.  As good and honourable a man as I’ve ever known–Camillo.

    (He takes Paulina’s hand and Camillo’s hand and joins them together.)

Leontes (To Hermione): Our old friend Polixenes is now our brother.–This is his son, Florizel.  He’s going to marry Perdita.

    (Hermione embraces Florizel.)

Hermione: My son.

Leontes: We have sixteen years of history to catch up on.–Paulina, you be the hostess.  Lead us.

Paulina: Gladly, my lord.–This way, everyone.

    (Paulina leads them all out.  Curtain.)


    Copyright@ 2012 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com