George and his landlord, Mr. Krashinsky, sat at a table in McDonald’s in Paducah, Kentucky.  They were having a coffee.  Krashinsky was talking about fungi, one of his favorite subjects.

    “There are those that are edible and those that aren’t.  The ones that are…”

    George was looking over Krashinsky’s shoulder at the Chinese student sitting at the next table.  The student had stopped eating and seemed to be staring into space.

    “…Which are found in France and which are very expensive, of course…” said Krashinsky.

    And as George watched, the Chinese student slumped down slowly in his chair and seemed to shrink.  His head slowly sank below the table.

    “…Some mushroom pickers make mistakes and pick something poisonous, and then, of course, what can happen is…”

    And the Chinese student sank to the floor and dissolved into a puddle, which evaporated very quickly, leaving only a pile of clothes and a faint stain on the floor.

    “…So you must consult a guidebook to be on the safe side.  One time when I was out picking…” continued Krashinsky.

    A McDonald’s employee cleaned off the table where the Chinese student had been sitting, swept up the clothing from under the table, straightened the chair, and moved on.

    George looked around.  No one had noticed anything.

    “…Isn’t that something?” said Krashinsky.  “Eh?  What do you think?”

    George felt his cup.  “My coffee’s cold.  Can we just leave now?”

    “Sure, sure, if you wish,” said Krashinsky.

    And they got up and walked out.

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

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The Bum In the Restaurant

September 22, 2013

    There is no such thing as things happening for no reason.  There is a reason for everything, even if we do not know what it is.  This is what holds the universe together.  We call it “cause and effect.”

    So it was that due to extraordinarily complex causation, the dirtiest, foulest-smelling bum in the city was suddenly found seated at a table in the Intercontinental Restaurant.  The maitre d’ rushed to the table and was about to speak angrily but instead found himself at a loss for words.

    The bum said, “I don’t need a menu.  Just bring me a sirloin steak, baked potato, and asparagus, and a bottle of red wine.  Any wine you think is suitable.”  The maitre d’ gasped, astonished, and went into the kitchen.

    Of the next twenty minutes nothing is known, as everyone’s memory has been mysteriously erased.

    After that, a waiter brought the bum his meal.  The bum ate the food and drank the wine.  No doubt, everyone must have wondered, “What will happen next?  How will he pay?”

    Suddenly the lights went out, gun shots were heard, and someone screamed.

    After a few seconds, the lights came back on, everything was normal again, and no one had been hurt.  But the bum had disappeared.

    Promise me you will never speak of this to anyone.

    Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

Dragounian

September 20, 2013

    Twice there was a man named Dragounian.  You weren’t paying attention the first time he was, but his existence should not be negated because of your inattention.  That would be unfair.

    Nothing happened the second time he was.  The first time he was, something did happen, but you don’t deserve to know, you bastards.

    Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

Is Arthur Ripstein Gay?

September 17, 2013

    The University of Toronto Department of Philosophy will present its annual Jackman Memorial Lecture on Thursday, October 31st, 8 p.m., in the Main Floor Lecture Hall of the Jackman Humanities Building.  The lecture is titled “Are Animals People?”  It will be presented by Prof. Arthur Ripstein, who must be gay, because he looks just like John Frank Corvino, another gay philosophy professor.

    Prof. Ripstein is Canada’s foremost expert on the philosophy of veterinary law.  He poses this hyposthesis: If some animals are smarter than some people, then the categories of animals and people cannot be absolutely separate.  It therefore follows that some animals must be people, and vice-versa.

    Paradoxes are nothing for this Jewish Viking, who slices through them like a sword through soft cheese.  The Globe and Mail has called him “The Golem of Canadian philosophy, striking terror into the hearts of his enemies — especially those who would pose tricky questions to his innocent graduate students, for whom he feels a gender-neutral protectiveness.”

    Prof. Ripstein championed the cause of humanitarian treatment of lobsters sold in Kensington Market and pushed City Council to pass a bylaw to protect live seafood.

    Prof. Ripstein bets on horses occasionally and is a supporter of the horseracing industry.  His best-known book is Fast Hooves, Hot Men, an intimate behind-the-scenes look at jockeys.

    Refreshments will be provided by Diana Raffman, Director of Graduate Studies, who is famous for her very spicy sausage rolls.

    Margaret Opoku-Pare, Graduate Administrator, will also entertain the audience with her pet monkey, Bozo, who smokes cigarettes and does various amazing tricks.

    Anita DiGiacomo will, as always, be in charge of the decoration theme.  Each lecture has had a different unusual theme.  This year it is inspired by the waiting room of Sudbury’s bus station.

    The annual Jackman Memorial Lectures address important academic issues of relevance to today’s politically confused world.  Additionally, they offer a rare opportunity to mingle with the high and the mighty of Canadian academia.

    Admission is free, but a voluntary donation will be appreciated to help sustain the Department’s Outreach Correspondence School, serving residents of penal and psychiatric institutions throughout Canada.

    Seating is limited to 200.  Please call Office Manager Suzanne Puckering if special arrangements are required for the obese.  The number is (416) 269-8416.

Copyright@ 2013 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 

Bertram — Count of Rousillon (spelling may vary)

Countess of Rousillon — Bertram’s mother

Helena — ward of the Countess

Lafeu (spelling may vary) — an old lord

Parolles — follower of Bertram

King of France

Duke of Florence

Page

Clown (named Lavache)

Steward (named Rinaldo)

Diana

Widow — Diana’s mother

Mariana

Gentlemen (Including the two Lords Dumaine, who are brothers)

Lords (various speaking roles)

Soldiers

(Violenta is deleted)

Gist of the story:  Young Bertram has become the new Count of Rousillon after the death of his father.  Helena, who lives in the same house, is secretly in love with him, but he has no interest in her because she is not of his social class.  When the King of France becomes ill, he sends for Bertram, who is his ward.  Helena’s father was a brilliant doctor, who left her his secret remedies, so she decides to go to the King’s court in Paris to try to cure the King and perhaps end up marrying Bertram as her reward.  She is successful on both counts, but Bertram doesn’t love her.  He runs away to fight in a war in Italy rather than consummate his marriage with Helena.  He sends word back to his mother that he will never accept Helena as a wife until she gets his favourite ring off his finger and presents him with a child (which, of course, isn’t possible if they’re not together).  Furthermore, he won’t return to Rousillon as long as Helena’s there.  Sadly, Helena decides to go away on a religious pilgrimage so Bertram can come home.  She doesn’t want him to get killed in the war.  He receives a report that she has died, but in fact she is now in Florence, where he is — entirely by coincidence!  Bertram is hot for a local girl named Diana, whose widowed mother owns the lodging house where Helena is staying.  Helena contrives with Diana to invite Bertram into her bed with the lights out.  Helena takes her place and Bertram doesn’t know the difference.  Bertram has already given up his ring to Diana, and now, in bed, Helena gives Bertram a ring given to her by the King.  The war over, Bertram returns to Rousillon, and the King has gone there for a visit.  Following Helena’s instructions, Diana and her mother follow the King, seeking “justice” because Bertram had promised to marry Diana and ran off after “deflowering” her.  The King notices the ring Bertram is wearing, which is the one the King gave to Helena.  He tells a lie to explain how he got it.  With Helena believed dead, Bertram looks guilty of something bad.  Then Diana and her mother show up (with Helena behind them, in hiding), and Diana shows the ring she got from Bertram.  Bertram follows one lie with another and Diana speaks in riddles until the King becomes vexed with both of them.  Then Helena walks in and explains the deception.  She is pregnant with Bertram’s child — and she did get his ring off his finger, fulfilling his own promise.  Bertram is stricken with remorse and vows his love to Helena.  Diana is rewarded with the promise of marriage to the man of her choice, with her dowry to be paid by the King.

(This play was never performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and it has not been all that popular.  Shakespeare’s text has numerous problems, and even scholars have difficulty with it.  Obscure passages, awkward stage directions, and logical inconsistencies are all present.  But, really, one finds such glitches in all of Shakespeare’s plays.  His fans are used to them, but our non-literary audience is not.  So it is up to us to fix, patch, improvise, condense, and clarify so everyone has a good time.  This is what we have done, and what you are getting is quite a good, entertaining play.  The main weakness in the story is that the male protagonist, Bertram, is a foolish young man we don’t really like that much; and we have to wonder why the female protagonist, Helena, is so in love with him.  The experts call this a “problem play” or “dark comedy.”  Perhaps I see it as funnier than they do, and I have biased this restyling that way.  As always, our mission has been to take what Shakespeare has given us, add our own inspiration, and pitch it to you in such a way that you are now a Shakespeare fan, even if you never read a book before in your life.  This play concludes the series “Shakespeare For White Trash.”  This is the first time that all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays have been rewritten by one author and published in one place.  [Hey, where’s my Lifetime Achievement Award?  Where’s my honourary doctorate?]  Throughout our ambitious project we have been helped by the spirits of dead writers.  We don’t know who they are, but we thank them.  May posterity look kindly upon our contribution to the literature of the English language.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  The  palace of the Countess of Rousillon in France.  Coming in are the Countess, Bertram, Helena, and Lord Lafeu, all dressed in black.  Helena looks especially sad.  (Author’s note: Bertram and Helena are both presumed to be younger than eighteen.)

Countess (To Bertram): Your father’s gone and now I have to lose you, too, Bertram.  It’s almost like two funerals.

Bertram: I hate to leave you, mother, but the King wants me with him.  And legally he’s my guardian, so I have to go.

Lafeu: Bertram will be in good hands, madam.  The King loves you both.  He’ll treat Bertram like his own son.

Countess: I suppose.–I’ve heard he’s not well.  Is that true?

Lafeu: I’m afraid so.  He’s quite sick, really.  His doctors don’t seem to be able to cure him.  He’s pretty much given up on them.

Countess: Helena’s father was an excellent doctor.  He died six months ago.  If he were alive, I’ll bet he could cure the King.

Lafeu: And who was he?

Countess: Gerard de Narbon.

Lafeu: Oh, yes.  I’ve heard of him.  The King has spoken of him.  (To Helena) The King admired your father.  His passing was a great loss to France.

    (Helena is too sad to reply.  She just nods shyly.)

Bertram: What’s wrong with the King anyway?

Lafeu: He has a fistula.  It’s on the outside–about here.  (He indicates.)

Bertram: Ugh!–That must be awful.

Lafeu: It is.  (To the Countess) So Helena lives here now?

Countess: Yes.  The good doctor made me her guardian before he died.  I promised him I’d see to her education–and see that she made a good marriage someday.  She has all the fine qualities of her father.  She’s a very good girl.

    (Helena cries a bit.)

Lafeu: Oh!–You praise her so highly you’re making her cry.

Countess: She’s been crying a lot lately.–Come now, Helena.  Too much crying makes a bad impression.  People might take it as an act.

Helena: They can take it any way they want.  Only I know what I feel.

Lafeu: It’s normal to mourn for someone who has died–but in moderation.

Countess: Exactly so.  (To Helena) You see?  Lord Lafeu agrees with me.  One should not grieve too much–(With a subtle change of tone, meant to be significant to Helena)–even for one who is living.

Lafeu: Eh?

    (Author’s note: We should understand that the Countess knows that Helena is really crying over Bertram’s departure because she is in love with him.  The Countess is dropping a hint to Helena to restrain herself.  Lafeu senses a hidden meaning in the Countess’s remark, but at this point Bertram interrupts clumsily, unaware of what is really happening.)

Bertram: Wish me good luck, mother.

    (The Countess hugs him.)

Countess: I will pray to heaven to watch over you.  Just remember that you’re your father’s son and you must try to be like him.  Be good to everyone you meet, but be careful whom you trust.  Don’t let an enemy get any advantage over you.  Never abandon a friend.  And know when to keep your mouth shut.–Lord Lafeu, you keep an eye on him.  He’s a good boy but still inexperienced.

Lafeu: I understand, Countess.  You needn’t worry.

Bertram: Well, goodbye, then, mother.

    (Bertram gives her a kiss and begins to leave, but the Countess tugs him on the sleeve.)

Countess: Say goodbye to Helena.

Bertram: Oh.–Yes, of course.–Well, goodbye, Helena.  Be sure to help my mother with the, uh, chores and stuff.

    (Bertram makes no physical contact.)

Helena (Sadly): Goodbye, Bertram.

Lafeu: Goodbye, Helena.  Nice to have met you.  And don’t cry too much over your father.

Helena: Yes, my lord.

    (Bertram goes out with Lafeu.  The Countess watches them briefly and then goes out the other way, leaving Helena alone.)

Helena: He thinks I’m crying over my father, but I’m not.  It’s because of Bertram.  I can’t bear to see him go.  He’s the only star in my sky.  I adore him.  I love every little thing about him.  Now I could just lie down and die.  It’s quite hopeless.  He’s a noble.  He’s the Count of Rousillon now.  And what am I?  Just a humble doctor’s daughter.  I’m not in the same class.  I have no chance with him.  (Sighs) Oh, Bertram!

    (Sound of someone coming in.)

Helena: Who’s that?–Parolles.  That miserable bug.  The only good thing about him is that his defects fit him as perfectly as a suit.  If he wasn’t Bertram’s friend, I wouldn’t bother to be civil to him at all.

    (Parolles comes in.)

Parolles (Humourously): God save the Queen!–Just came in to say goodbye.

Helena: Oh.  Well.–God save the King.

Parolles: The King?  Not I?

Helena: Well, then, I’m not the Queen either.

Parolles: Not the Queen.  Just a virgin, eh?  Well, enjoy the joys that go with it–ha, ha!

Helena: Yes.  What else?–Tell me, Monsieur Parolles–as you are a soldier and a man of experience–what’s a virgin to do when every man is her enemy?

Parolles: Just keep him out.

Helena: But man is always on the attack.  What defense can a girl fall back on?

Parolles: Don’t fall back.  That’s the worst thing you can do.  Then the man will just tunnel through your defenses and–blow you up!–In the belly, of course–ha. ha!

Helena: It’s most unfair, I think.

Parolles: No, no.  Virginity is not worth defending in the first place.

Helena: You don’t think so?

Parolles: No.  It goes against nature.  If every woman tried to preserve her virginity, there’d be no human race, now, would there?

Helena: The human race would get along just fine without my adding to it.

Parolles: Where would you be if your mother had felt that way?  Virginity is a pretty idea but not so pretty in the flesh.  Keeping it is like keeping a piece of fruit until it shrivels up.  There’s no beauty in that.  Away with the whole idea!  Find a man and marry him.

    (Pause.)

Helena: Your friend the Count will probably have all the women he wants when he settles in at the King’s court.  They’ll probably throw themselves at him, I’m sure.  And they’ll be ladies of his social class.

Parolles: Sure.  Why not?

Helena: Well, anyway, I suppose it’s perfectly normal for a young man of his rank.  I wish him well, no matter what.–But it’s a pity.

Parolles: What is?

Helena: That I can only wish.  That’s all a girl can do if she’s not of a certain social class.

    (A Page comes in.)

Page: Monsieur Parolles, my lord Bertram is calling for you.

Parolles: Yes, yes, at once.–Well, Helena, if I think of it, I’ll remember you–at the King’s court.

Helena: Thank you for thinking of me–if you remember–at the King’s court.  Clearly, you were born under a charitable star.

Parolles: Mars.

Helena: Oh, yes, of course–Mars, the god of war.  Who else?  You’ve seen a lot of war, haven’t you?  Over your shoulder, that is.

Parolles: Over my shoulder?

Helena: Yes, while you’re running away.

Parolles: Ha, ha!  Clearly, you don’t understand the art of war.  The correct term is “tactical retreat.”

Helena: Others might call it something else.  But never mind.  You just keep doing whatever you’re good at.

Page: Monsieur–

Parolles: Yes.  Coming.  (To Helena) I’m going to be a courtier, you know.  I’m going to learn a lot–at the King’s court.  Then I can come back and give you a much-needed education–so you don’t die in ignorance.  If you get bored, say your prayers.  And keep busy enough so you have an excuse not to do favours for your friends.  And find a husband and use him the same way he uses you.  Farewell!

    (Parolles gives an exaggerated bow and leaves with the Page.)

Helena: That guy will be even more detestable as a courtier than he is now.–Ach!  Helena, Helena, Helena.  What are you going to do, girl?  (A pause for reflection.)  We look to heaven to solve our problems, but the remedy lies in ourselves.  Nothing is impossible but fear of failure makes it so.  I must find a way to be with Bertram.  (She thinks.)  The King is ill.  My father could have cured him.  And he left me the formulas for all his medicines!–And so, to the King’s court!

    (She leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Paris.  The King’s palace.  Flourish of cornets.  The King comes in holding a letter and accompanied by two Gentlemen.  (Author’s note: Shakespeare’s speech prefixes for these characters are inconsistent.  These are the two Lords Dumaine, who are brothers.  For the sake of consistency, they will be designated throughout this version as the First and Second Gentlemen.)

King: Florence and Sienna are at war.  This letter is from the Duke of Austria.  He says Florence is sure to ask me for help.  He advises me to stay out of it.

1st Gent: His advice has always been reliable, my lord.

King: Yes, and I’m going to follow it.  However, if any of our gentlemen want to go over and fight, that’s their business.  I won’t stop them.

2nd Gent: It would probably do them some good, my lord.  You know what they say.  Too much peace makes men soft.  A gentleman should have some experience in war.

King: I think you’re right.–Oh.  We’ve got visitors.

    (Lafeu, Bertram, and Parolles come in.)

Lafeu: Your Majesty!  Here’s the new Count Rousillon–Bertram.

Bertram:  Your Majesty!

    (Bertram bows, but the King lifts him up and embraces him.)

King: Welcome!  Welcome, my boy!  No need to be so formal.  My, my, you’re the spitting image of your father.  I’m very happy that you’re here.

Bertram: Thank you, my lord.  I was sad to leave my mother, but now I’m glad to be here.

King (Indicating the Gentlemen): You’ll want to be friends with these fellows.–Lord Dumaine–and the other Lord Dumaine.  They’re brothers.

    (Bertram and the Gentlemen exchange bows.)

Bertram (To the King): And this is my friend Monsieur Parolles.

    (Parolles bows effusively.)

Parolles: Your Majesty!

King: Welcome to Paris, sir.  (To the Gentlemen) Bertram’s father was a good friend of mine.  And a damned good soldier.  (To Bertram) We were tough in those days–before time caught up with us.  I miss him.

Bertram: I do, too.

King: And considering how sick I am, I think I’d rather be with him than inside this old, useless body.

Bertram: Oh, sir.  I’m so sorry you’re sick.

King: I feel like hell.  That’s the truth.

Bertram: It will pass, sir.  All illnesses do.

King: Except the one that kills you.  You know what your father used to say?  He said, “I never want to get so old and feeble that all the foolish young dandies laugh at me.”  He had a somewhat dim view of the younger generation of gentlemen.–Present company excluded.–He compared them to mannequins.  Every season they’d be dressed in the latest fashion, but underneath they were still the same dull pieces of wood.  But the world changes.  There’s no denying it.  The old generation is supposed to die off and get out of the way of the younger one.  There’s no room for a sick, old man like me.

2nd Gent: You’re still loved as much as ever, my lord.  And you’ll be missed when you’re gone.

King: I’m just marking time.  I don’t deceive myself.  My doctors haven’t been able–Oh, that reminds me.  Doctor Narbon.  He was living in Rousillon.  How long ago did he die?

Bertram: Six months ago.

King: Now there was a doctor.  He was the best.  If he were still alive, I’ll bet he could cure me.  My doctors have worn me out with all their useless treatments.  Anway, I’m glad to have you here, my boy.

Bertram: I’m your servant, sir.

King (Laughing): No, no, no!  I have plenty of servants.  The King is your guardian now.  That makes you–almost a prince, ha, ha!

Bertram: I shall always be devoted to you, my lord.

King: Come.  Lend me your arm.  We’ll have a drink.–Everyone.  Come along.

    (They go out, with the King holding Bertram’s arm.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  Rousillon.  The Countess’s palace.  The Countess comes in with her Steward and the Clown.  (The Clown is following at a distance.)

Countess: Steward, you’re my eyes and ears in this house.  I need to know what’s happening with Helena.

Steward: Madam, for your sake I’ve been a pretty good spy.  And I can tell you–

Countess: Just a minute.  Excuse me.–You, clown!  What are you doing here?

Clown: I live here, madam.

Countess: I’ve heard a lot of bad things about you.  I don’t necessarily believe them all, but I know you’re capable of them.

Clown: Ah, madam, you know I am just a poor man.

Countess: A poor man.  Indeed.  And I suppose you want something from me.

Clown: Just your permission, madam.

Countess: Permission for what?

Clown: To marry Isbel.

Countess: If you’re so poor, why would you want to get married?

Clown: It’s the devil, madam.  And God.

Countess: The devil and God?

Clown: The devil is in my flesh, as he is in every man’s.  That’s why God created marriage.

Countess: And that’s your reason?

Clown: There’s another reason, too.  I have been wicked, as you already know.  So I wish to repent.

Countess: I think you will repent of your marriage before your wickedness.

Clown: No, madam.  If I marry, I will make new friends–for my wife’s sake.

Countess: For your wife’s sake?  Why?  Do you want to be cuckolded?

Clown: If they are generous to her, I won’t mind.

Countess: Oh, you rogue!  Get away from me!  We’ll discuss this later.

Steward: Madam, have him send Helena in.  You need to talk to her.

Countess: All right.–Clown, tell Helena I want to see her.

Clown: Helena of Troy!  The face that launched a thousand ships!

Countess: What?

Clown: How does that song go?  “Among nine bad, if one be good, there’s yet one good in ten.”

Countess: What are you talking about, you foolish man?

Clown: If only one woman in ten were born good, that would make for a happy world.

Countess: Go!

Clown: Yes, madam.  I will send Helena.

    (The Clown goes out.)

Steward: I don’t know why you keep him, madam.

Countess: My husband found him amusing.  For the sake of his memory, I let the fool stay.  Now, then.  What about Helena?

Steward: I overheard her in her room.  I just happened to be outside her door.  She was talking to herself.  She loves your son.  But she’s afraid that because she’s not of his social class, she can’t marry him.  She also spoke about going to Paris.

Countess: I see.  I suspected she was in love with him.  You must keep this matter confidential.

Steward: Of course, madam.

Countess: Thank you, steward.  You may go.

Steward: Yes, madam.

    (The Steward goes out.)

Countess: Such is youth–to ache for love.  I was the same way.

    (Helena comes in.)

Helena: You wanted to see me, madam?

Countess: Madam?  It’s rather funny that you call me “madam.”  It would sound more natural if you called me “mother.”

    (Helena reacts with some shock.)

Helena: Oh!

Countess: Why?  Is there something wrong with that?  I practically am your mother now.  Couldn’t you think of me as your mother?

Helena: But madam, if you were my mother, then the Count–Bertram–he’d be my brother.–And I wouldn’t want him to be my brother.

Countess: Why not?

Helena: Well–if he were my brother, then–(She stops, unable to find words.)

Countess: Then you couldn’t marry him.  (She waits for a reply, but Helena bites her lip in embarrassment.)   You love him, don’t you?

Helena: Madam, I–(She stops.)

Countess: It’s obvious that you do.  Why don’t you admit it?

Helena: Please don’t be angry with me.

Countess: I’m not angry.

Helena: I haven’t done him any harm.  I haven’t chased after him.  I know I’m not his equal.

Countess: I’m not saying you did anything bad.  Tell me, is it true that you were intending to go to Paris?

Helena: Yes.

Countess: Why?

Helena: Because the King is sick.  My father left me all the prescriptions that he devised himself.  They’re very strong medicines.  I know that they would cure the King.

Countess: Is that the only reason why you want to go to Paris?

Helena: Yes.

Countess: But if you went to Paris, what makes you think anyone would take you seriously?  You’re just a girl with no particular training, and the King’s own doctors have been unable to help him.

Helena: I know my father’s remedies will work.  I have faith in them–and in heaven.  All I want is a chance.–To save the King, that is.

Countess: All right.  If you’re that confident, I’ll provide what you need to make the trip.  And I’ll pray for your success.

Helena: Thank you, madam!

(Scene ends without an exit.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  Paris.  The King’s palace.  The King comes in with three Gentlemen, who are bound for Italy; also Bertram and Parolles.  (The First and Second Gentlemen are the Lords Dumaine.)

King (To the Gentlemen): Now you fellows take my advice and you’ll be all right.

1st Gent: With any luck we’ll be back from the war in a short time and your Majesty will be completely recovered.

King: Ach!–I wish.  In any case, don’t be thinking about me.  Just go out there and show those Italians how a Frenchman can fight.  Kick some butt, eh?  Get famous!

2nd Gent: We won’t disgrace you, my lord.

King: And watch out for those Italian girls.  They love soldiers–especially foreign ones.  Don’t let them seduce you before you even get into the war.

2nd Gent: We won’t, sir.

King: I know you’ll do just fine.  (To the Third Gentleman) A word with you, please.

(The King takes the Third Gentleman aside for a private conversation.)

1st Gent (To Bertram): Not coming with us?

Parolles: I’ve been trying to persuade him.  I know he wants to.

2nd Gent: War is the real test of a man.

Bertram: I’d love to go, but the King doesn’t want me to.  He thinks I’m too young.

Parolles: You should go anyway.

Bertram: No, I’m stuck here.  The only sword I’ll get to wear is one of those cute little ones you wear in the ballroom.  But I really would love to go.

1st Gent: We’d be glad to have you with us.

Parolles (To Bertram): Go on.  Why don’t you?

Bertram: I can’t.  The King’s my guardian.

2nd Gent: Then we’ll say goodbye.–And you, too, Monsieur Parolles.

Parolles: Say, if you run into an Italian captain named Spurio, give him my regards.  He’s got a scar on his cheek.  I gave it to him.  Tell him I’m alive and well–in the King’s court.  I’d love to know how he reacts.

2nd Gent: We’ll let you know.

Parolles: May Mars, the god of war, be with you.

(The Gentlemen leave, including the Third Gentleman, who has finished his conversation with the King.  The King has wandered offstage, musing to himself.)

Parolles: Well?  What do you intend to do?

Bertram: I have to stay here.  The King insists.

Parolles: We should at least walk out with the lords.  You didn’t say goodbye properly.  We should wish them good luck.

Bertram: All right.  Let’s go.

(Bertram and Parolles go out, and Lafeu comes in with the King.)

Lafeu: My lord, have I got good news for you!

King: Do you now?

Lafeu: My lord, do you want to be cured?

King: No.

Lafeu: Aww!–But you will, sir!  A new doctor has arrived.–Well, sort of a doctor.

King: Do I know him?

Lafeu: Not him.  Doctor she.

King: Doctor who?

Lafeu: No, sir, not Doctor Who.  Doctor she.  A woman.–Well, a young lady.–Or an older girl.

King: A girl?

Lafeu: She insists on seeing you, sir.  She’s quite determined.  Believe me, you won’t be sorry.

King: Now you’ve got me curious.  All right, bring her in.

Lafeu: Good!

(Lafeu goes out and returns with Helena.)

Lafeu: This is the King.–My lord, this is Helena.  I’ll leave you two alone to talk.

(Lafeu goes out.)

King: Now, girl, what is your business with me?

Helena: My lord, I’m the only child of the late Gerard de Narbon, who I’m sure you knew.

Helena: Oh!  The doctor.  Yes, yes.  What about him?

Helena: Well, sir, before he died, he entrusted me with certain medicines–very strong medicines.  And when I learned of your condition, I decided to bring you one of my father’s medicines that I knew would cure you.

King: Ah.  Cure me.  Well, it’s very nice of you to think of me, but after all I’ve been through with my doctors, I’ve more or less reconciled myself to death.  I wouldn’t want to get my hopes up and then be disappointed.  It would make things even worse.  I think you can understand.

Helena (Discouraged): Oh.–Then I’ve made the trip for nothing.

(The King is considering.)

King: I’m very grateful for your kindness, of course.  I can tell you’re a fine girl.  Your father was a good man.  (Pause.)  It’s just that I’m really very sick.  You’ve no idea.

(Helena revives her courage.)

Helena: But if you would just give me a chance, my lord.  I know I’m not a doctor, but sometimes heaven sends a humble believer to do a great work.  Sometimes when no one else believes, heaven works a miracle.

King: A miracle.  No, no, no.  A dying man mustn’t hope for a miracle.  It’s too–foolish.  Dying is bad enough.  One should not look like a fool at the very end.

(The King turns partly away, but his body language suggests he wants to believe Helena.)

Helena: My lord, I am sure.  If I had any doubt about my father’s medicines, I wouldn’t have come.  I know you can be cured.

King: Your father was a brilliant doctor.  I know that.–And you’re really that confident?

Helena: Yes, my lord.

King: And how long would it take to cure me?

Helena: Two days.

King: Two days!  That fast?

Helena: Yes, my lord.  And I would stake my life on it.

King: Would you really?

Helena: Yes, my lord.  If my father’s remedy fails to cure you, you can have me executed.

(Pause.  The King is amazed.)

King: You’re some girl.  You’ve got a real spirit inside you.  I’m willing to believe you–even against my own common sense.

Helena (Nervously): And if you are cured, my lord, what would my reward be?

King: Anything you like.

Helena: Then–I would want–a husband–from the gentlemen in your court.

King: You have a deal.  (He shakes hands with Helena.)  You can have your pick from the available bachelors.  That’s if you cure me.  Come along.

(They go out.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Curtain up finds the Countess at home.  She is holding a letter.

Countess (Calling): Clown!

(The Clown rushes in and bows in an exaggerated way.)

Clown: Your loyal clown, madam!

Countess: I need a messenger.

Clown: Yes, madam!

(The Clown rushes out.)

Countess (Calling): No, no!  Come back!

(The Clown returns.)

Countess: I meant–you will be my messenger.

(The Clown looks puzzled.)

Clown: When, madam?

Countess: Right now.

Clown: Oh.–Am I to be two things at once?

Clown: Of course, you fool.

Clown: And a fool?  Madam, how can I be three things at once?

Countess: Don’t be silly.  A clown and a fool are the same.

Clown: No, madam.  A clown is of a higher social class–or so I’ve always believed.

Countess: I didn’t know that.

Clown: I think so, madam.  But if I cannot be silly, then I cannot be either a clown or a fool.  So where does that leave me?  Without employment?

Countess: You can be a messenger now and a clown when you return.  Or a fool, if you prefer.

Clown: I prefer to be a clown.

Countess: Fine.  I assume you know how to deliver a message.

Clown: Yes, madam.  I’ve done it before.  Perhaps not recently, but I’m sure I remember how.

Countess: I hope so.  Show me how you do it.

Clown: I need a letter, madam.

(The Countess gives him the letter.)

Countess: Here.  Now show me how you would deliver it to–Monsieur Le Grand.

Clown: Monsieur Le Grand?  I’m afraid I don’t know the gentleman.  What does he look like?

Countess: He’s standing right over there.  Now let me see you deliver the letter to him.

(The Clown looks where the Countess has indicated and becomes nervous.)

Clown: I don’t see him, madam.

Countess: Never mind that.  He can see you.  He’s right in front of you.  Now deliver the letter.

(The Clown steps forward tentatively, looking around.)

Clown: Em–Monsieur Le Grand?

(The Clown feels the air, trying to find the imaginary Le Grand.)

Countess: Go on.

Clown (Nervously): Em–Monsieur Le Grand.  A letter for you, sir.

(The Clown holds out the letter.)

Clown: He’s not taking it, madam.

Countess: Yes, he has taken it.  Now bow–but don’t overdo it–and take your leave of him.

(The Clown bows.)

Clown: Should he not tip me, madam?

Countess: No.  You’re not to expect a tip in the King’s court.

Clown (Excitedly): The King’s court?  Is that where I’m going?  To Paris, you mean?

Countess: Yes.

Clown: Oh!  So Monsieur Le Grand was never here, was he?–Ha, ha!

(The Countess laughs.)

Clown: You were just testing me, weren’t you, madam?  Very clever, madam.  Very clever.

Countess: Now pay attention.  You are to deliver that letter to Helena.  She is at the King’s court.  And you are to bring back her answer.  And give my love to Bertram, too.

Clown: Yes, madam.–Em–and what about Monsieur Le Grand?

Countess: Oh.–Him.–Tsk!  I’ve just received word that he died horribly.  A piano fell on him and killed him.

Clown: Oh, my goodness!  That’s terrible!–And when did you find this out, if I may ask?

Countess: Just now.  The messenger brought me word.

Clown: The messenger?  (He looks around.)  I don’t see any messenger.

(The Countess points.)

Countess: He’s right there.

(The Clown looks around nervously.)

Clown: Where–exactly?

Countess (Pointing): Right there.

Clown (Nervously): Oh.–That messenger.–Of course.

Countess: He’ll be happy to accompany you to Paris.

Clown: He’ll–accompany me–to Paris?

Countess: Yes.  He’ll be right beside you the whole way.  Isn’t that nice of him?

Clown: Oh.–Yes.–Yes, it certainly is.–Very nice.

Countess: Fine.  Now you run along and be quick about it.

Clown: Yes, madam.  I’ll go at once.

(The Clown leaves, looking around nervously.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  The King’s palace.  Bertram, Lafeu, and Parolles come in, remaining to one side of the stage.

Lafeu: It’s like a miracle!  Medical science said it wasn’t possible.

Parolles: It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

Bertram: And in only two days.

Lafeu: Just like she said.

Bertram: She?  Who’s she?

Lafeu: You’ll see.

(The King and Helena come in from the other side, with Attendants.)

Parolles (To Bertram): It’s Helena!

Bertram: What in the world?

King (To an Attendant): Bring in those bachelors.

(The Attendant goes out.)

King (To Helena): I promised you the bachelor of your choice to marry, and I have some fine, young lords for you to meet.–Ah, here they are.

(The Attendant returns with four young Lords.)

King (To Helena): I have guardianship over these fellows, and I can arrange a marriage for any of them.  Anyone you like.

Helena: I’m happy to meet you, gentlemen.

Lords: Our pleasure, madam.

Helena: As you know, with God’s help I have cured the King.

Lords: Bless you, madam.

Helena: It’s only fair to tell you, however, that I’m just a commoner with no title or lands or wealth.

(The Lords exchange discreet sideways looks.  The suggestion is that they are discouraged but are forcing themselves to be polite.  Helena approaches the First Lord.)

Helena: Bachelor number one–

King: Ha, ha !  That’s funny.  Bachelor number one.

Helena: Whom would you obey first–the King or your own heart?

1st Lord: The King, madam.

Helena: And so you should.

(She approaches the Second Lord.)

Helena: Bachelor number two.  I can tell you were meant for great things.  I wish you twenty times more wealth than the one who seeks to marry you.

2nd Lord: At least–ha, ha!  Thank you, madam.

(She moves on to the Third Lord.)

Lafeu (Discreetly to Bertram): What’s wrong with these guys?

Helena: Bachelor number three.  Don’t be afraid that I’ll take your hand.  I wouldn’t do you wrong.  May you find greater fortune.

3rd Lord: Thank you, madam.

(She moves on to the Fourth Lord.)

Helena: Bachelor number four.  You, sir, are too happy and too good to make a son for yourself out of my blood.

4th Lord: Oh, no, no, no.

Lafeu (Discreetly to Bertram): That’s the spirit.

(Helena turns and goes to Bertram, which startles him.)

Helena: My lord of Rousillon, I would not presume to say I take you.  Rather, let me say that I give myself to you.

Bertram: Me?

King: Take her, Bertram.  She’s your wife,

Bertram (Upset): Em, but my lord, I–I–

King: What’s the matter?

Bertram: Well, I–I–I really would prefer not to be forced into a marriage.

King: But you know this girl.  She lives in your house.  You should be close friends by now.

Bertram: Well, em–I suppose.  But, em–

King: Don’t you know what she did for me?  She cured me.  She saved my life.

Bertram: Yes, my lord.  It’s wonderful.  We’re all extremely happy.–Em–but just because she cured you, that shouldn’t mean that I have to marry her.  I mean, well, she’s just a poor girl.  Relatively.  She has no rank.  Her father was a doctor, not a lord.  It would be an unequal match.

King: Why should that matter to you?  She’s a wonderful girl.  She’s one of the nicest, sweetest girls I’ve ever met.  And she has a noble character.  That’s why heaven helped her.  If you’re concerned about social rank, I’ll give her a title.  I’ll give her money.  You mean you couldn’t love a fine girl like this?

Bertram: Well–no, my lord.  To be honest.  And I wouldn’t force myself to try to love her.

Helena (To the King): My lord, if he doesn’t want to–

King: Never mind.  I made a promise, and I’m going to keep it.–Now listen, Bertram, you stop being foolish.  I’m your guardian, and if I can make a good marriage for you, I will.  This is a wonderful girl, and I say you’re going to marry her.  If you don’t–I’m kicking you out of here.

(Pause for effect.  Lafeu clears his throat loudly for Bertram’s benefit.)

Bertram: Ah.  Well.–Considering that you have such a high opinion of her–and it goes without saying that you’re much wiser than I am–I will agree to marry her.

King: That’s better.  And don’t worry about money.  She’s going to get plenty from me.

(Bertram forces a smile and takes Helena’s hand.)

Bertram: I’m taking her hand, my lord.  See?

King: Good.  And I think we’ll do this marriage immediately.  Come with me.

(All leave except for Parolles and Lafeu.)

Lafeu: Your master did well to defer to the King.

Parolles (Angrily): My master?

Lafeu: Yes.  You’re the Count’s man, aren’t you?

Parolles: No.–Well–yes–sort of.–But he’s not my master.

Lafeu: Don’t mince words.  If you’re his man, then he’s your master.  It’s all the same.

Parolles (Raising his fist): Why, you–!  It’s lucky for you you’re such an old man or I’d give you such a beating!  I swear!

(Lafeu gives Parolles a smile of contempt and takes his time answering.)

Lafeu: You know, for a while I thought you were more or less okay and a gentleman.  Now I see that you’re just a poser.  You’re just a jerk with an attitude.

Parolles: I swear, if you weren’t an old man–!

Lafeu: Oh, go chew on your underwear, Parolles.

Parolles: This is an insult!  An insult!

Lafew: Yes, and well-deserved, too.–Excuse me.

(Lafeu goes out.)

Parolles: What a bastard!  He thinks he can get away with insulting me because of his age.  He knows I’m too–high-class–to beat up on an old man.  Well, I’m not letting this pass.  If he doesn’t apologize–

(Lafeu returns.)

Lafeu: Your master is now married.  That means you have a new mistress, too.

Parolles: Now listen here, Lafeu.  The only master I have is the one up there.  (He points to heaven.)

Lafeu: Who?  God?

Parolles: Yes.

Lafeu: No.  Your master is down there.  (He points down.)  The devil is the master of all pretentious little men like you.

Parolles: Don’t push your luck with me, sir!

Lafeu: Honestly, if I were just a year younger, I’d beat you.  You’re nothing but a general nuisance to polite society.

Parolles: Lafeu, I’m warning you!

Lafew: Oh, go on.  You got your ass kicked in Italy by a fruit-seller.  Whatever social status you have is an accident of birth.

Parolles: Lafeu–!

Lafeu: I leave you.  Goodbye.

(Lafeu goes out.  Then Bertram comes in, looking unhappy.)   

Parolles (Pretending to pursue Lafeu): Yeah, you’d better get lost before I punch you out!–That guy burns me, I swear.

Bertram: I’m screwed, Parolles.

Parolles: What’s the matter?

Bertram: What’s the matter?  I’m married.  That’s what’s the matter.  (He holds up a gold wedding band.)  It’s official.  I’m a slave.  But I swear I’m not going to consummate this marriage.  No way.  I’d sooner run off to Italy and get in that war.

Parolles: That’s a great idea!  Let’s go!

Bertram: My mother wrote a letter to Helena, but I don’t know what it’s about.

Parolles: Forget about it.  We’ll go to Florence and fight against Sienna.  That’s a man’s work.  You don’t want to go back to Rousillon and be tied to a wife.

Bertram: Yeah.  I know what I’m going to do.  I’ll send her back home to my mother, and I’ll write her a letter explaining what’s happened.  The King has given me some money.  That means I can buy some fighting gear and go to Italy.  I’ll write him a letter, too–after I sneak out of here.

Parolles: Now you’re talking!  Take control of your life!–Em, I’m coming with you, right?

Bertram: Sure, if you want to.

Parolles: Hell, yes!  Your fortune is my fortune.

Bertram: I’m glad you think so.  Good.  Let’s go.

(They go out.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  The King’s palace.  Helena comes in with the Clown.  She is holding the letter from the Countess.

Helena: And how is my mother?  Is she well?

Clown: Your mother?–Oh, you mean the Countess.

Helena: Yes.

Clown: I suppose she’s well.  Or else I’m not well.

Helena: What do you mean?

Clown: Either she sees invisible people–or I don’t know what.  (Looking around)  I hope he’s not still here.

Helena: Who?

Clown: The messenger.

Helena: What messenger?

Clown: The one who brought word of Monsieur Le Grand’s death.

Helena: Who is Monsieur Le Grand?

Clown: I don’t know, but a piano fell on him and killed him.

Helena: A piano?  Where did that happen?

Clown: Right here.  Wasn’t he here in the court?

(Helena is puzzling over this when Parolles comes in.)

Parolles: Lucky you, madam.

Helena: I hope you mean that sincerely.

Parolles: Am I not the very soul of sincerity?  My prayers have been all for you from the very beginning.

Helena: The beginning of what?

Parolles: You know.  Whatever.  It’s just a figure of speech, that’s all.  I’m on your side.  I always have been.

Helena: Ah.  And when do I get that much-needed education–so I don’t die in ignorance?

Parolles: Eh?

Helena: That’s what you said you’d give me after your stay at the King’s court.

Parolles: Did I say that?

Helena: Yes.

Parolles: Oh, if I said that, I’m sure I was joking.  (He addresses the Clown to change the conversation.)  And how does the Countess?

Clown: How does she do what?

Parolles: Whatever.

Clown: Whatever what?  Whatever you say?

Parolles: Me?  I’ve said nothing.

Clown: Then you’re a wiser man than I.  To say nothing, to do nothing, to know nothing,  These are your best qualities, sir.

Parolles: What?–Take a hike, you beatnik.

Clown: You first, sir.  Whither thou goest, I shall follow.

Parolles: I find you tedious in the extreme.

Clown: If you have found me at all, count it as a small victory.  And I hope the search was worth the effort.

(Parolles is about to lose his temper but then remembers he came to speak to Helena.)

Parolles: Ahem.–Madam, my lord the Count regrets that he must go away on serious business.  He will not be able to, em–you know–like, consummate the marriage thing–at least temporarily.–But he wants you to know that the, uh, eventual, you know, whatever, will be worth the wait.  So to speak.

(Pause.  Helena is unhappy and somewhat suspicious.)

Helena: So what am I supposed to do?

Parolles: He would like you to return to Rousillon and wait for him.

Helena: Am I to go now?

Parolles: Well, yes.  Like tonight.  Of course, you should make some excuse to the King about leaving.  And the Count will have a quick word with you before you go.

(Pause.  Helena is trying to understand this.)

Helena: All right.  Whatever he wants.

Parolles: Very good, madam.  I’ll tell him.

(Parolles goes out.)

Helena (To the Clown): You come with me.

(Helena goes out, with the Clown following.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  In the King’s palace.  Lafeu and Bertram come in.

Bertram: You’re not to say a word to the King about Italy until I’m out of here.

Lafeu: You’re taking Parolles with you?

Bertram: Of course.

Lafeu: You think you can depend on him in a war?

Bertram: Sure.  He’s a good soldier.

Lafeu: Or so he says.

Bertram: I’ve heard it from other people, too.

Lafeu: If they’re right, then I don’t know how to size up a man after all my years of experience.

Bertram: My lord, I have complete confidence in Monsieur Parolles.

Lafeu: Then perhaps I’m guilty of underestimating him.

(Parolles comes in.)

Parolles (To Bertram): I spoke to her.  Everything’s arranged, just as you wanted.

Bertram: She’s going tonight?

Parolles: Yes.

Bertram: Good.  That simplifies my life.

Lafeu (To Parolles): Off to Italy to fight, eh?

Parolles: Yes. (Stiffly) If that’s quite all right with you.

Lafeu: I wouldn’t think of discouraging you.  Just make sure you pack a white flag and learn how to surrender in Italian.

Parolles (Angrily): You–!

Bertram: Is there a quarrel between you two?

Parolles: I don’t know why his lordship is being so critical.

Lafeu: Perhaps you’re right.  I should not criticize a fool for being foolish.

Bertram: I think you are mistaken about Monsieur Parolles, my lord.

Lafeu: He’s a shell without a nut inside.

Parolles: Oh!  (To Bertram) You see?

Lafeu: If I were to judge you solely by your appearance, Monsieur Parolles, I would esteem you more highly than you deserve.–Farewell, gentlemen.

(Lafeu leaves.)

Parolles: That guy’s a jerk.

Bertram: Everyone says he’s the wise man of the court.  I guess he just doesn’t like you for some reason.–Oh.  Here comes the bitch.

(Helena comes in, followed by the Clown.  [Author’s note: Oddly, the Clown appears here in the Yale edition but not in the New Penguin edition.])

Helena: I’ve done as you asked, my lord.  I’ve spoken with the King.  I’ve told him I’m returning to Rousillon.  He’d like a word with you before you go–wherever it is you’re going.

Bertram: Yes, yes, I’ll speak to him.  You mustn’t be annoyed that I’m going away.  I know it’s a very inconvenient time, but, em, you know, important business happens when it happens.  Sorry I can’t explain it in detail.  Anyway, the best thing is for you to go home and wait for me.  I’ve written a letter to my mother.  You can give it to her.

(He gives Helena a sealed letter.)

Helena: How long will you be away?

(Bertram and Parolles exchange ambiguous looks.)

Bertram: Em–not too long.  A few days, let’s say.  You can keep yourself occupied, I’m sure.

Helena: Of course, I will do as you wish.  I intend to be an obedient wife.

Bertram: Oh–ha, ha!  Whatever.

Helena: And I will always try to raise myself to a stature more deserving of my good fortune.

Bertram: Yes, yes.  Good for you.  Anyway, I’m in a hurry.

Helena: Don’t I at least get a goodbye kiss?

Bertram: A kiss?–Oh–pfoof!  That’s so silly.  I know how you women are about goodbyes.  I’ll never get out of here–ha, ha!  So just, you know, get on your horse and, uh, have a nice trip.  That’s a good girl.

Helena (Downcast): Whatever you say, my lord.  (To the Clown) Am I packed?

Clown: Yes, madam, you’re all ready to go.

Helena: Goodbye, then, gentlemen.

(Helena and the Clown leave.)

Bertram: Good riddance.–Are we ready to go?

Parolles: All set.

Bertram: Then let’s roll.

(They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  The Duke’s palace in Florence.  Trumpet flourish.  The Duke comes in with the two Gentlemen who are the Lords Dumaine.

Duke: So now that I’ve explained the reasons for the war, you can understand why I refuse to back down.

1st Gent: I agree you’re totally in the right, my lord.

2nd Gent: The fault is obviously with Sienna.

Duke: Yes, it should be obvious to anyone.  That’s why I’m disappointed that the King of France has chosen to stay out of it.

2nd Gent: I’m sure he has his reasons.  He doesn’t necessarily divulge them to others.

Duke: I suppose.

1st Gent: On the other hand, he didn’t stop anyone from coming here.  And I think a lot of fellows will want to come over.  It’s a bit of adventure for them.  Better than sitting around playing cards.

2nd Gent: Right.

Duke: They’ll be welcome here.  We need them.  And you two fellows will be captains–as soon as two captain positions become vacant–if you get my drift.

1st Gent: We get it, my lord.  Don’t worry.  We’re not afraid.  And we’ll do a good job for you.

Duke: I know you will.  You’ll be on the field tomorrow.  But right now, I’ll open a nice bottle of wine for you.  Come on.

(They all go out.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  The Countess’s palace in Rousillon.  The Countess comes in with the Clown.  She is holding a sealed letter.  (Author’s note: Shakespeare’s stage directions in this scene have required major fixing.  In particular, the two Gentlemen who show up are supposed to be the same ones we just met with the Duke of Florence.  But that would be preposterous.  They wouldn’t go to Florence, then travel to Rousillon, and then travel back to Florence.  So we have to have two others appearing here, whom we shall call Lords.)

Countess: Bertram didn’t come back with her?

Clown: No, madam.  But two lords offered to escort us.

Countess: But why didn’t Bertram come?

Clown: He made some excuse that he had to go away on important business.  I got the impression that he just wanted to get rid of her.

Countess: Tsk!–What is going on?

Clown: I assume his letter explains it.  Helena’s carrying another one.  The Count gave me this one.  I offered to run on ahead to bring you word of her arrival, but actually I wanted to give you a chance to read this first, in case it was something bad.

Countess: Thank you.  That was smart.

(A noise is heard — people arriving.)

Countess: That must be them.  Go help with Helena’s baggage.

Clown: Right, madam.

(The Clown goes out.  The Countess opens the letter and reads it.)

Countess (Reading aloud): “Dear Mother, I have married Helena, as the King demanded, but I’ll be damned if I treat her like a wife.  By the time you get this, I will have made my escape, so to speak.  Ha, ha!–Your unfortunate son, Bertram.”–Made his escape?  Of all the stupid things!

(The Clown returns.)

Clown: Helena’s here with the two gentlemen from the King’s court.

Countess: All right.  Leave us.

(The Clown goes out as Helena comes in with the two Lords.)

1st Lord: God save you, madam.

Countess: Where’s my son?

Helena: He’s gone away–for a long time, I’m afraid.

2nd Lord: No, no, madam.  Just a short time.

Countess: Can someone tell me what’s going on?

2nd Lord: Madam, the Count has gone to Florence to fight in the war against Sienna.

Countess: What!  What on earth for?

Helena: He gave me a letter for you.  I took the liberty of reading it.

(She gives the Countess the letter.  The Countess reads it, her face expressing shock.)

Helena: He says–when I can get his beloved ring off his finger and present him with a child–then–I can call him “husband.”  Of course, how can I have a child with him if he’s in another country?

Countess: Oh, for goodness sake!–Helena, I don’t know what to say.  I’m speechless.  I wanted him to marry you, you know.

Helena: I appreciate that.  It means a lot to me that you approve.–But now–

Countess: Now he’s lost his mind.  (To the Lords) He’s actually run off to fight in the war?

2nd Lord: Yes, madam.

Countess: To avoid being with his wife?

(The Second Lord shrugs.)

Countess: He basically admits it.  He says he won’t return as long as he has a wife in France.

1st Lord: We’re sorry to bring you such bad news, madam.

Countess: I’m disgusted with my son.  I feel disgraced.

1st Lord: Maybe he only acted on impulse, madam.  You know, the adventure of war and all that.

Helena: He doesn’t want me.  That’s plain enough.  He’d rather risk getting killed.

Countess: My dear, you are too good for him.  (To the Lords) Whom did he run off with?

1st Lord: Monsieur Parolles.

Countess: Parolles!–That low-life.  I’ll bet it was his idea to run off to Florence.

1st Lord: That could very well be, madam.

Countess: Are the two of you going to Florence?

1st Lord: Yes, madam.

2nd Lord: A lot of the gentlemen of the court are going.

Countess: I’m being a poor hostess.  Please let me serve you something before you return.  You’re both very kind to escort my daughter-in-law.  Come with me.

Lords: Thank you, madam.

(The Lords follow the Countess out.)

Helena: Well, Helena–your husband will never return as long as he has a wife in France.  He’ll fight in a war instead.–And perhaps die.–And it’ll be my fault.–So there’s only one thing I can do if I want to save his life.  I must leave.  I must get out of France.  Then he can come back.

(Helena goes out, on the verge of tears.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  Florence.  Before the Duke’s palace.  Trumpet flourish.  The Duke comes in with Bertram, Parolles, and Soldiers.

Duke: Count of Rousillon!  As of this moment you are general of the cavalry.  I have every confidence in you.

(Parolles give a thumbs-up as an aside to the audience.)

Bertram: General of the cavalry!  Wow!–I mean–I shall do my best to prove worthy of this assignment.  Even in the face of extreme death.

Duke: Good.  Now you go out there and lead us to victory.  And may Lady Luck ride with you.

Parolles: On the same saddle–ha, ha!

Duke: Ha, ha!  Very good.

Bertram: Lady Luck and Mars, the god of war!

Parolles: A winning combination!

Duke: Ha, ha!  Excellent!–Let’s go!

(They all leave.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  Rousillon.  The Countess’s palace.  The Countess comes in with her Steward.  She is holding an opened letter.

Countess: Didn’t you realize when she gave you a letter that she was going away?

Steward: I didn’t want to disturb you so late at night, madam.  And besides, she said no one could stop her from leaving.  She was determined to go.

Countess: I’m so upset now!  (She looks at the letter.)  She’s going to the shrine of Saint Jacques.  She blames herself for putting Bertram in danger.  She wants me to write to him to tell him he can come home now.  (Holding back tears)  And she doesn’t care if she dies!

(The Steward tries to say something to comfort her, but he can’t find the words.)

Countess: My foolish son!  Heaven is looking down on him and frowning.  Heaven’s against him for sure.–But she still loves him.–She cured the King.  Heaven was on her side then.  So she’s the only one who can save Bertram’s soul now.  Otherwise he’s lost.  Lost from me, lost from the world.  He’d rather fight in a war than be with the most wonderful wife in the world.  He’s lost his mind, Rinaldo.

Steward: So it appears, madam.

Countess: I’m so upset I can’t even hold a pen to write.  Rinaldo, you write him a letter for me.  Tell him Helena is gone and he should come home.–Maybe–maybe she’ll come back to him.  That’s all I can hope for.–I’m exhausted.  I must lie down.  Just do this for me.

Steward: I will, madam.  Trust me.

(They go out.)

Act 3, Scene 5.  Outside the walls of Florence.  A crowd is waiting on the road.  The Widow, Diana, and Mariana are there.  Distant drums and trumpets can be heard.  (Violenta is deleted from this scene as she has no lines.  An Author’s note is required here.  Helena shows up in this scene dressed as a pilgrim.  She is supposed to be on her way to the shrine of Saint Jacques.  Shakespeare would have us believe that she has just happened to stop in Florence by coincidence.  The New Penguin edition observes that the Saint Jacques shrine is in Spain, which makes it geographically impossible for Helena to pass through Florence on her way there.  The Yale Shakespeare edition of 1926 says that this shrine has not been identified.  So where does that leave us?  We know that Shakespeare sometimes disregards geography and does what he wants to move the story along.  But moving Helena to Spain via Florence is absurd.  The online plot summary provided by the Shakespeare Resource Center says that Helena has deliberately followed Bertram.  But this contradicts her speech in 3.2.  Another possibility is that Helena lied in her letter to the Countess about her intended destination.  However, we find out shortly that other pilgrms to Saint Jacques are also staying in Florence.  The best explanation for this geographical mystery is that Shakespeare chose the name “Saint Jacques” for a fictitious shrine in Italy, and it is not intended to be related in any way to the one in Spain.  That’s my contribution to Shakespeare scholarship, and you will please forgive the extended note and rejoin the story!)

Widow: I love a parade!  I can’t wait to see the Florentine army.  I hope we’re standing in the right place.

Diana: They say that French count has been brilliant.

Widow: Your friend Rousillon–ha, ha!  I think he likes you.

Diana: Mm, perhaps.

Widow: I think the trumpets are going the other way.  We’re going to miss them.

Mariana: It doesn’t matter.  We’ll hear all the excitement.–You, Diana, should think about your honour.

Diana: I do, Mariana.

Mariana: Once you give in to a man–even if he is a noble–your value goes straight down!

Widow: His sidekick has been coming around.  He’s come on to you, hasn’t he, Mariana?

Mariana: Oh, that miserable Monsieur Parolles!  I don’t like him.  I wouldn’t trust him any more than a snake.–You be sensible now, Diana.  The only thing those Frenchmen care about is seducing women–especially when they’re in another country.  And the nobles are the worst.

Diana (Humourously): Don’t worry about me.  My honour is–intact!

(Helena comes in, dressed as a pilgrim.)

Widow: Here, lady, are you looking for a place to stay?

Helena: Yes, actually.

Widow: Are you a pilgrim?

Helena: Yes.  I’m going to Saint Jacques.

Widow: I thought so.  I own a lodging house–the Saint Francis.  I have some other pilgrims staying.  I have room for you.

Helena: Oh!  Thank you very much.  That solves that problem.–Is there something happening here today?

Widow: We’re waiting to see our troops pass by.  We’re in a war, you know.

Helena: Yes.  So I’ve heard.

Widow: You’re French, aren’t you?

Helena: Yes.

Widow: One of your countrymen has made himself rather famous.  With any luck we’ll see him.

Helena: Oh, really?  What’s his name?

Diana (Lovingly): The Count of Rousillon.  Have you heard of him?

(Helena forces herself to hide her emotions.)

Helena: Only by reputation.  He’s supposed to be–quite noble.–However, I wouldn’t recognize him.

Widow: My daughter rather likes him.  And he definitely likes her.

Helena: Oh.–Isn’t that nice.

Diana: They say–he was forced to marry against his will by the King of France.  And he came here to Florence to get in the war just to get away from his wife.  Do you think that’s true?

Helena: Yes, I think so.  I’m slightly acquainted with her, as it happens.

Diana: Are you now?  What’s she like?

Helena: Apart from her chastity–which I assume she still has–she hasn’t much to recommend her to anyone noble.  She’s simply not his equal socially.

(The Widow gives Diana a cautionary look.)

Widow: Something for you to remember.

Diana (To Helena): There’s a gentleman who’s a friend of the Count, who speaks rather badly of the wife.

Helena: Who?

Diana: Monsieur Parolles.

Helena: Ah.–Well, whatever he says, I wouldn’t presume to disagree.

Diana: Still, I do feel sorry for her.  Imagine getting married and then having your husband run away to a war because he doesn’t love you.

Widow: My daughter could have him if she wanted.  That is, if he were available.  Parolles brings messages and presents from the Count.

Helena (To Diana): Does he–love you?

Diana: Yes.  Or so he says.  I think it’s just physical.  After all, I have no title or lands.  I’m just a commoner.

Widow (To Helena): The Count is seriously interested, but Diana is not giving in to him.–Are you, dear?

Diana: Not as things stand.–Oh!  Here they are!

(The troops come marching in, with drums and colours in front, and Bertram, Parolles, and the Soldiers behind.  Parolles looks annoyed as one drummer apparently is holding drumsticks but no drum.)

Widow: Ah!  He’s there!

Helena: Which one is the Count?

Diana (Pointing): That fellow there, with the plume on his helmet.  Isn’t he handsome?

Helena: Yes.

Diana: The one next to him is Parolles.  I don’t like him.

Mariana: I think he’s annoyed with one of the drummers.  He must have lost his drum.

(Parolles is chastising the drummer, then sees the ladies and gives them an exaggerated bow.)

Mariana (To Helena): He’s trying to impress me, but I’m not impressed.

Widow: He’s such a phony.

(The troops all march out.  The bystanders clap.)

Widow (To Helena): You’ll come stay at my house, all right?

Helena: Yes, I will.  And if you will be my guests at dinner, I have some things to tell you that will be to your benefit.

Widow: A wise pilgrim!  I welcome them all.–Come along.

(The ladies leave.)

Act 3, Scene 6.  (Author’s note: In the original text there are two Lords in this scene, who are the same ones who met the Countess in Rousillon.  Presumably, Shakespeare meant them to be the Dumaine brothers.  But we made a change in that scene and have saved the Dumaines for this scene.  They will be identified as the First and Second Gentlemen.)  The army camp at Florence.  Bertram comes in with two Gentlemen, who are now captains.  These are the Dumaines.

1st Gent: My lord, believe me.  Just put him to the test and you’ll find out what sort of person he really is.

2nd Gent: He’s a total faker and a phony.

Bertram: But he’s my best friend.  Could I be that wrong about him?

1st Gent: Yes, you could.  Maybe you’re too close to see him for what he really is.  He’s a coward and a liar.

2nd Gent: You need to find this out, sir.  We’re thinking of your own good.  Otherwise you might depend on him at a critical moment and then find out too late that he can’t be trusted.

Bertram: What sort of test am I supposed to put him to?

2nd Gent: He’s been bitching about a lost drum.  Tell him to go and find it.

1st Gent: We’ll prank him.  I’ll round up a few soldiers he won’t recognize, and we’ll capture him and blindfold him and take him somewhere.  We’ll tell him we’re on the side of Sienna, and we’ll force him to tell us everything about the Florentine army.  You’ll be there as a witness.  You’ll see how quick he is to betray Florence to save his own life.

Bertram: If you’re so sure about this, okay, I’ll go along with it.  I hope you’re wrong, though.

(Parolles comes in, frowning.)

Bertram: What’s the matter, Parolles?  Still angry about your lost drum?

2nd Gent: It’s only a drum.  It’s not that important.

Parolles: Only a drum!  Only a drum!  Why, man, you can’t lead an army into battle without all your drums!  You need discipline!  You need order!  Otherwise everything will get confused.  Command and control.  That’s what it’s all about.

2nd Gent: Drums get lost occasionally.  I’m sure Julius Caesar must have lost a drum or two in his time.

Parolles: But there’s also the question of honour.  The drum is a symbol of honour.  What if they stole it?

Bertram: If they stole it, I don’t see that there’s anything we can do about it.

Parolles: We have to get it back.  Somehow.

Bertram: How?

Parolles: I’m sure there’s a way.  It just takes some superior thinking.

Bertram: Do you think you could do it?

(Parolles thinks for a moment.)

Parolles: Yes!  I could.  And I would–provided that I got full credit for doing it.–You know, tell the Duke who did it.

Bertram: Do you have a plan?

Parolles: A plan?  (Pretends to think)  Why, yes, as a matter of fact.  Of course, I have to keep it a secret.  It’s rather intricate.  But it’s got mathematical logic behind it.  And I’ve got nerves of steel.  You know that.

1st Gent: Oh, yes.  Nerves of steel.

Bertram: I tell you what, Parolles.  If you can recover that drum, I’ll see to it that the Duke learns all about it, and you can expect very high honours.

Parolles: Then consider it done.  I speak as a soldier.

Bertram: You must do it tonight.  If you sleep on it, you may change your mind.

Parolles: Ha!  Change my mind!  I’ll do it tonight, don’t worry.  In fact, you can expect good news by midnight.  I’ll go to my tent right now and go over all the details of my plan–make sure I’ve got everything figured out with mathematical precision.

Bertram: Is it all right if I tell the Duke what you intend to do?

(Parolles hesitates.)

Parolles: Em–don’t make it sound like a guarantee.  Just tell him I’m going to try.

Bertram: I’ll tell him I have the highest confidence in you.

Parolles: Excellent.  Thank you.–(He snaps to attention.)  Gentlemen, seeing as how I’m a man of few words, I bid you adieu.–So to speak–ha, ha!

(He salutes and leaves.)

1st Gent: If he’s a man of few words, then there’s no such thing as a wet fish.

2nd Gent (To Bertram): You’ll see what happens.  He won’t be able to do it, and then he’ll make up some bullshit excuse.

Bertram: He seems quite serious about it.

2nd Gent: It’s all words.

1st Gent: I’m going to get things ready.

Bertram: All right.  I want to talk to your brother.

1st Gent: I leave you, gentlemen.

(The First Gentleman leaves.)

Bertram: I want to take you to have a look at this girl I told you about.

2nd Gent: I take it that you haven’t actually–you know what I mean.

Bertram: Not yet.  I’ve been using Parolles as my go-between.  But every little present I send her, she sends back.  She’s really a beauty, though.  I just want you to see her.

2nd Gent: Sure.  I’m curious.

Bertram: Come on.

(They leave.)  

Act 3, Scene 7.  The Widow’s lodging house in Florence.  Helena and the Widow come in. 

Helena: It’s true.  I swear it.  Count Rousillon is my husband.  The only way I could prove it to you would be to step out of my disguise and confront him.  But that would ruin my plan.

Widow: Madam, I’m just a humble lady, and all I’ve got is this business and my good reputation here in town.  I don’t want to be involved in anything that could be embarrassing to me or my daughter.

Helena: Trust me.  I wouldn’t put either of you in any sort of jeopardy.  Nothing bad will happen.

Widow: Well–you do seem to be a lady of means.  And very smart.  I guess I’m willing to believe you.

Helena: Here.  Take this purse.  (Helena gives the Widow a purse.)  Consider this a down payment for your help.  There’ll be more for you when this is all over with.  Now here’s my plan.  The Count wants to have sex with Diana.  Let her agree to it.  But he has to give her his ring.  It’s his most precious possession.  Once she gets it from him, she’ll tell him when to meet her in her room.  The room will be dark when he arrives.  I’ll be in her bed.

Widow: Ah, I get it.

Helena: If she does this for me, I’ll guarantee that she gets a nice dowry so she can get married someday.

Widow: Well, that’s all right, then.

Helena: You see how this is a good thing.  Your daughter keeps her virginity, and I get my husband back.  Nobody is doing anything wrong.

Widow: You are a clever lady.  And quite determined.  I’m glad to help you.

Helena: Thank you!

(They go out.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  Evening near the Florentine camp.  The First Gentleman (Lord Dumaine) comes in with five or six Soldiers.  (The stage is dimly lit for this scene.)

1st Gent: Okay, here’s the plan.  Parolles is going to come this way.  You’ll ambush him and blindfold him immediately.  Now, we have to be foreigners, okay?  So we all have to talk in some fake foreign language.  Just gibberish, not any real language.  He’ll assume we’re allies of Sienna.–(To the First Soldier) You’re going to be the interpreter, and I’m going to be the general.  You’ll be the one Parolles has to talk to, and you’ll pretend to translate.  We want him to be scared, okay?  We’ll take him to our tent and make him spill his guts–you know, tell all the military secrets.  Count Rousillon will be there to hear everything.  Do you think you can pull it off?

1st Soldier: Sure.  Parolles doesn’t know me or my voice.

1st Gent: Good.–Does everyone understand?

Soldiers: Yes!

1st Gent: Okay.  Now we’re all going to hide.–(To the First Soldier) You stick with me.  When I tap your shoulder, you jump out screaming, and everyone else follows.–(To the Soldiers) Understand?

Soldiers: Yes!

1st Gent: Who’s got the blindfold?  (A Soldier holds up the blindfold.)  Good.  You have to get it on him right away.  I don’t want him to recognize me.–And the rest of you hold him and tie his hands.  Okay, everyone?  Let’s do this real fast, and remember to scream a lot of gibberish.–Okay, let’s hide.

(They all conceal themselves.  After a short interval, Parolles comes in slowly.)

Parolles: Fuck me.  What did I talk myself into?  Me and my big mouth.  It’s ten o’clock and I said I’d have that drum by midnight.  What am I gonna tell them?  (Thinks)  I was–let’s see–I was attacked by the enemy.  I had to fight them off.–I’ll have to mess up my clothes to make it convincing.–Or else–wait a minute–I had to jump out of a window into a river to escape.–I’ll have to get wet.–No, I’m not sure they’d buy that.–Damn!–All because of a lousy drum.  How the hell was I supposed to find a drum out here?

(The First Gentleman taps the First Soldier on the shoulder as a signal.  The First Soldier jumps out screaming, followed by the other Soldiers.  They blindfold and tie the terrified Parolles.  Then the First Gentleman steps out of concealment.)

Soldiers: Gragga nabagga!–Thranavacki!–Krooba bonkago!–Vunu casca!

Parolles: No! No!  Who are you?  What do you want?

1st Soldier: Flanamabaga!

Soldiers: Breeno!–Fazooma!–Glaka!

Parolles: Please don’t hurt me!  I can speak French, Italian, German, or Dutch!

1st Soldier: I understand you.  The others do not.  You will speak to me.

Parolles: But who are you?  Where are you from?

1st Soldier: You are with Florence, so you are our prisoner.

Parolles: You’re with Sienna?  But what are you?  Russians?  Hungarians?

1st Soldier: Never mind.  You will obey if you want to live.

1st Gentleman: Bwana oscorbidendo.

1st Soldier: The General will spare your life–but only if you tell us everything we want to know.

Parolles: Okay!  Yes!  I’ll cooperate!

(The First Gentleman holds one Soldier by the sleeve and signals to the others to take Parolles away.)

1st Gent: Boogna lithero!

1st Soldier (To Parolles): You come with us to our camp.  You make any trouble and we kill you.

Parolles: No trouble!  I promise!

(All the Soldiers except the one held back by the First Gentleman take Parolles out.)

1st Gent (To the Soldier): You run back and get Count Rousillon and my brother and bring them to the tent.  We’ll wait for you before we start making Parolles talk.

Soldier: Right!

(They leave separately.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Florence.  In the Widow’s house.  Bertram and Diana come in walking softly.  They speak softly throughout the scene, as if not to be overheard.

Bertram: Aw, come on, honey bun, why don’t you give me a chance?  Don’t you have any female passion in you?

Diana: I’m an honest girl.  And you, sir, are married.

Bertram: Don’t remind me of that.  I was forced into it.  But you’re the one I love.

Diana: You men are all alike.  You’re just out for another conquest.

Bertram: No, no.  I really love you.  I swear it.

Diana: Any man will swear anything if it’s convenient.  But it’s just words.

Bertram: But I’m sick over you.  Can’t you see?  It’s like an illness.  And only you can cure it.

Diana: Ha!–Illness.  It’s just your hormones.

Bertram: What do I have to do to prove I’m sincere?

Diana: You must give me something.  Like that ring.

Bertram: This?  (Indicating the ring)  No, not this.  This is an heirloom.  It’s been in my family for generations.

Diana: My virginity is just as precious to me as that ring is to you.  It’s a fair exchange.

(Bertram considers.)

Bertram: All right.  Take it.

(He gives her the ring.)

Diana: Good.  Come to my bedroom window tonight at midnight.  The room will be dark.  You can get in.  You can stay for one hour only, and you mustn’t speak.  There’ll be no talking at all.

Bertram: Why not?

Diana: Because that’s the only way I’ll do it, that’s all.  When we’re in bed I’ll put a ring on your finger.

Bertram: What for?

Diana: It’s just something I want you to wear at all times.  Just indulge me.  You’ll understand later.  Now, will you do this my way, or not?

Bertram: Sure.  Whatever you want.  Thank you!

Diana: Go now.  I’ll see you tonight.

(Bertram gives her an awkward kiss on the cheek and then leaves.)

Diana: Huh!–Just as my mother predicted.

(She goes out.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  Near the Florentine camp.  Evening.  The two Gentlemen (Lords Dumaine) come in.

1st Gent: Where’s the Count?

2nd Gent: He’s coming.  He just had to go see his girlfriend.

1st Gent: Who’s that?

2nd Gent: The girl at the Saint Francis.

1st Gent: Oh.  The widow’s daughter.

2nd Gent: He’s desperate to fuck her.  I’ll tell you, he’s complicating his life more than he should.  He abandoned his wife, and the King’s unhappy with him.

1st Gent: I’d like to talk some sense into him, but I think I’d be wasting my breath.

2nd Gent: Best leave it alone.

1st Gent: Oh!  I almost forgot!  Big news!

2nd Gent: What?

1st Gent: Florence and Sienna are signing a peace treaty.

2nd Gent: Oh!  Brilliant!  The war’s over!

1st Gent: Yeah.  We won, of course.

2nd Gent: There was never any doubt.  So what’s the Count going to do?  Return to France?

(The First Gentleman nods, then becomes very serious.)

1st Gent: He got a letter from his mother, by the way.  Some bad news.  Although maybe he doesn’t think it’s so bad.

2nd Gent: What is it?

1st Gent: His wife is dead.

2nd Gent: No!  Really?

(Author’s note: The false report of Helena’s death is never satisfactorily explained.  Either the Countess got a false report and sent the news to Bertram, or she originated the false report herself, or Helena instructed the Countess to give a false report to Bertram.  There is no evidence in the text that supports any of these possibilities, and that is a serious defect.  We are not going to fabricate a solution to this mystery.  We’re just going to leave it alone.)

1st Gent: Yes.  As I understand it, she left Rousillon two months ago and went on a pilgrimage to the shrine at Saint Jacques.  And supposedly she died there–from grief.  That’s according to the rector who runs the place.

2nd Gent: Wow, that’s something.

1st Gent: This isn’t going to help his reputation back home.  Which is too bad because he really did a great job commanding the cavalry.

2nd Gent: It seems pretty tasteless that he’d want to fuck a local girl right after finding out his wife is dead.

1st Gent: Well, as you said–best leave it alone.

2nd Gent: Yeah.

(Bertram comes in.)

Bertram: Hi.  Sorry if I kept you waiting.

1st Gent: My lord, are you returning to Rousillon?

Bertram: Yes.  Tomorrow.  I just said goodbye to the Duke.  He gave me a nice letter of commendation for the King.

1st Gent: That’s good.  I hope you and the King can patch up.

Bertram: Yes, I think we can.–God, I’ve been so busy today.  I’ve had so much to deal with.  And I still have another appointment later tonight.

1st Gent: Rather late, isn’t it?

Bertram: Yeah, I suppose.  It’s personal.  Anyway, what about Parolles?  You wanted me to be a witness to something.

1st Gent: We’ll take you now.  I think you’ll find this very interesting.

Bertram: All right.

(They all go out.  [Author’s note: This is an extra scene break because the interrogation of Parolles has to take place in the tent.  The staging in the original text is too awkward.])

Act 4, Scene 4.  In the tent.  Parolles is blindfolded and tied to a chair or stool.  He is attended by the Soldiers we met previously.  Bertram and the two Gentlemen come in quietly and remain well apart so they can converse privately while Parolles is being interrogated.  The First Gentleman is continuing to act as the general, and the First Soldier as the interrogator.  The First Soldier and First Gentleman confer in whispers regarding the interrogation to follow.  Then the interrogation begins.

1st Gent: Porto romonosso!  Agato mango!

1st Soldier (To Parolles): The General says you will be tortured if you refuse to talk.

Parolles: I’ll talk!  I’ll talk!  I’m cooperating!

1st Soldier (To the 1st Gent): Bosko chimurcho.

1st Gent: Boblibindo churchomurcho.

1st Soldier (To Parolles): You must answer all our questions.

Parolles: Yes, yes, I will!

1st Soldier: How many cavalry troops does the Duke have?

Parolles: Five or six thousand.  But they’re not very good.  And their commanders are idiots.

(Bertram reacts to this insult.)

1st Soldier: And how many foot soldiers does the Duke have?

Parolles: Mm–let me think.  (He mumbles numbers, adding them up.)  All together–just under fifteen thousand.  But half of them are useless, believe me.  They’re rotten cowards.

(The First Gentleman gives a signal, pointing to himself.)

1st Soldier: Em, yes.–Now, then, tell me about Captain Dumaine, the Frenchman.

Parolles: Which one?  There are two of them.  They’re brothers.

1st Soldier: The older one.

Parolles: He’s a bum.  He was a tailor’s apprentice in Paris, but he got fired for knocking up some retarded girl.

(The First Gentleman reacts by raising his hand to strike Parolles, but his brother and Bertram restrain him.)

1st Soldier: And what sort of reputation does he have with the Duke?

Parolles: The Duke thinks he’s a piece of shit.  In fact, he wrote me a letter advising me to get rid of him.  I sure I still have it.

1st Soldier: Let’s see.

(The First Soldier begins to search in Parolles’s pockets.)

Parolles: It’s probably not on me!  I probably left it in my tent!

(The First Soldier finds a letter.)

1st Soldier: Ah!  Maybe this is it.  Shall I read it?

Parolles: No!

1st Gentleman: Thrabaska!

1st Soldier: The General says to read it.

Parolles: Oh.–Well, in that case–

1st Soldier (Reading): “Dear Diana, The Count is a rogue–”

Parolles: No!  Wrong letter!

1st Soldier: What’s this about, then?

Parolles: I was writing to this girl Diana in Florence.  I was warning her to watch out for Count Rousillon because he’s such a shameless womanizer and he only wants to fuck her.

(Bertram raises a hand to strike Parolles, but the two Gentlemen restrain him.)

1st Soldier (Reading): “Don’t let him have his way without paying you a lot of money up front, otherwise he won’t give you anything.  I’m advising you because I care for your well-being.  If you score big, I hope you will remember me with a little reward.–Parolles.”

2nd Gent (Aside to Bertram): What do you think of your best friend now?

Bertram (Replying aside): The son of a bitch.

1st Soldier: Now, then, getting back to Captain Dumaine, would you say he is honest?

Parolles: Hell, no.  He’d steal money out of a church collection plate.  He’s also a drunk, and his personal habits are strictly low-class.

1st Soldier: And what would you say about him as a soldier?

Parolles: His only skill is marching in a parade.

1st Soldier: Do you think he could be bribed?

Parolles: For sure.  He’d sell his soul to the devil for a gold crown.

1st Soldier: And what about his brother, the other Captain Dumaine?

Parolles: He’s a bird of the same feather, only more evil and cowardly.

(The Second Gentleman raises his hand to strike Parolles but is restrained by the other two men.)

1st Soldier: And if we spare your life, will you defect to our side?

Parolles: Absolutely!  I’ve always loved Sienna.

1st Soldier: And will you tell us everything about Count Rousillon?

Parolles: Yes.  Anything you want to know.

1st Soldier: I will confer with the General.

(The First Soldier confers in whispers with the three men while Parolles looks afraid.)

1st Soldier: I’m sorry, sir, but the General says you must die.

Parolles: No! No!

1st Soldier: There’s no reason for a traitor like you to live.–Executioner!

Parolles: No! No! Don’t kill me!  Take off my blindfold!  Please!

1st Soldier: Yes, I can do that.

(The First Soldier removes the blindfold and signals the other Soldiers to untie Parolles.)

1st Soldier: Recognize anyone?

(Parolles stands up slowly.  He is stunned speechless.)

Bertram: Captain Parolles.

1st Gent: Our noblest captain.

2nd Gent: Do you have any message for Lord Lafeu?  We’re going back to France.  The war is over.

Parolles: Uh–uh–

Bertram: Come on, guys.  Let’s go.–Well done, soldiers.

(They all go out, leaving Parolles alone.  He collects himself and speaks calmly.)

Parolles: Very well.  So be it.  A man must live according to his nature.  I wasn’t meant to be a hero–or even a soldier.  I was meant to be–a schemer.  I was meant to live by dishonesty.  And for a dishonest man who knows what he is, there’s always a place in this world.  (He faces in the direction of the party that just left.)  Gentlemen, I thank you.

(He goes out in the same direction.)

(Author’s note: Bertram’s midnight tryst in Diana’s bedroom occurs at this point, but Shakespeare skips over it.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  (Scene 4 in the original.)  The Widow’s house in Florence.  Helena, the Widow, and Diana come in.

Helena: I promised you a dowry for Diana for helping me, and I intend to keep my promise.  The King will guarantee it.  We must go to Marseilles to meet with him.  Bertram believes I’m dead, and he’s returning to Rousillon.  We’ll try to get there before he does.  You’ll see how this all works out for all of us.

Widow: We’ve trusted you so far, madam.  We’ll see it through to the end.

Helena (To Diana): This may get a bit unpleasant before it’s over.

Diana: It’s all right.  I can take it.

Helena: Our transportation is arranged.  We’re leaving now.

Widow: All right.  (To Diana) Come, my dear.

(They all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 6.  (Scene 5 in the original.)  The Countess’s palace in Rousillon.  The Countess comes in with Lafeu.  (Author’s note: Most of the Clown’s lines have been cut and his entrance is deferred until just before the end of the scene.)

Lafeu: I blame it on that guy Parolles.  He’s a bad influence on your son.  He was the one who persuaded your son to run off to fight in the war.  If Bertram hadn’t done that, I suppose Helena would still be alive today.

Countess: That girl was very dear to me.  I wish Parolles had never been born.

Lafeu: It’s very sad about Helena.  She was a wonderful girl.  (Pause.)  Em, I’ve had a talk with the King about your son and my daughter.

Countess: Oh?

Lafeu: After all that’s happened, I think Bertram is wiser and more mature than he was before.  And he is a good fellow.  And now that he’s–you know, single again–I’d like him to marry my daughter.  The King’s in favour of it.  And it would certainly help patch things up between the two of them.  How would you feel about it?

Countess: Why, Lord Lafeu, I would be honoured.

Lafeu: The King is coming here from Marseilles.  He’s moving his court again.  I expect him to arrive tomorrow.

Countess: That’s fine.  I’ll be very happy to see him.  My son writes that he’ll be here tonight.  [Author’s note: You see this all the time in Shakespeare.  Messages seem to travel at the speed of light.]  Will you stay until the King arrives?

Lafeu: I was hoping you’d ask.

Countess: My lord, you are always welcome.

(The Clown comes in.)

Clown: Madam, your son has arrived.  He’s got a bandage on his head.

Lafeu (To the Countess): Just a little war wound, no doubt.  Nothing to worry about, I’m sure.  He did quite a good job over there, as I’ve been told.

Clown: And there’s a party of gentlemen with the Count.  Very nicely dressed.  Very polite.  But Monsieur Parolles is not with them.

Countess: Thank God for that.–Come, my lord.

(They all go out.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Marseilles.  Outside the King’s palace.  Helena, the Widow, and Diana come in.  (Author’s note: In this play we are given an example of a “movable court.”  In common usage, the term refers to a judicial court that meets in various locations.  Here the King is holding his court in Marseilles and presently in Rousillon, although usually he’s in Paris.) 

Helena: You two must be exhausted.  I’m sorry to drag you on such a long trip.

Widow: We’ll survive.

(A Gentleman comes in.)

Helena: Oh!  Sir!  I know you from the King’s court, don’t I?

Gentleman: I’m there sometimes.  Yes.

Helena: I have a letter for the King.  Can you deliver it to him?

Gentleman: Oh, he’s not here, madam.  He left last night–in some hurry, too.

Helena: Oh, dear!  We came all the way from Florence.  Where has he gone?

Gentleman: To Rousillon.  He moves his court around now and then.  I’m just on my way there now.

Helena: Then you’ll get there before us.  Please take this letter to the King.  I want him to read it before I get there so he has an answer for me as soon as I arrive.

(She gives the Gentleman the letter.)

Gentleman: Yes, madam.  I can do that for you.

Helena: Thank you.  (To the Widow and Diana) I’m sorry.  We have to go to Rousillon.

Widow (Wearily): Yes, yes.  (To Diana) Come on, girl.

(They all go out.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  The Countess’s palace in Rousillon.  The Clown comes in, followed by Parolles.  The Clown has a disdainful expression.  Parolles is ragged and dirty.  He is holding a letter.

Parolles: Please, Monsieur Lavache–

Clown (Turning to the audience): Ha!  You hear that?  It’s Monsieur Lavache now!

Parolles: Good sir, kind sir–I beg you to give this letter to Lord Lafeu.

Clown: Give it to him yourself.  I don’t do favours for beggars.

Parolles: Oh, sir, fortune has been cruel to me.

Clown: I never argue with fortune.

Parolles: I was once a gentleman.  Look at me now.  I’ve lost all my friends.  All  doors have been shut to me.

Clown: You smell.  You’re going to stink up the whole house.

(Lafeu comes in.)

Clown: My lord, this foul creature crawled out of a sewer, and he seems to want something.  I leave him to your pleasure.

(The Clown goes out.)

Parolles: My lord, have pity on me.  I have been treated so cruelly by fate.

Lafeu (With a contemptuous smile): Monsieur Parolles!  How have you been?  Did you have a fine adventure in Italy?

Parolles: My lord, things have gone so badly for me.  I have nothing.

Lafeu: Did you ever find that drum?

Parolles: Please, sir.  Don’t torment me.  You’re my last hope.  I’m begging you.

Lafeu: My, my, how you’ve changed.  I think this is your true self.

Parolles: Help me, sir.

Lafeu: I believe the local authorities have funds available for the poor.  Why don’t you go to them?

Parolles (Beginning to cry): Oh, sir!

(Distant trumpets are heard.)

Lafeu: Oh!  The King’s trumpets!

Parolles: Oh, sir!

Lafeu: Answer me this, Parolles.  It’s a riddle.  What is it that always gets to where you’re going before you do?

Parolles: I don’t know, sir.

Lafeu: Your reputation.

(Parolles sobs pathetically.)

Lafeu: You’d better come with me.  I’ll give you something to eat, just to keep you out of sight.

Parolles: Thank you, sir!

(Lafeu leads Parolles out.)  

Act 5, Scene 3.  The same.  Coming in are the King, the Countess, the two Dumaines, and several Attendants.  (The Dumaines have no lines in this long closing scene, which is an odd oversight, even for Shakespeare.  Nevertheless, the Director will use them to react to the action.)

King: We lost a fine girl in Helena.  I liked her very much.  Your son was very foolish to leave her.

Countess: It’s all in the past, my lord.  We must try to understand it as a mistake of youth.

King: Yes, I suppose.  For your sake I’m willing to forgive him.  But another king might not be so lenient.

Lafeu: My lord, if I may say so, I think the greatest wrong he’s done is to himself.

King: As always, you’re the wise one, Lafeu.  I must agree with you.–Well, I’m willing to patch up with him.  (To an Attendant) Have the Count come in, please.

(The Attendant goes out.)

King (To Lafeu): So you still want him as a son-in-law–after all this?

Lafeu: Yes, my lord.

King: And what does he say about it?

Lafeu: He says it depends on you.

King: Well!  Now there’s a change of attitude.  All right.  I’ll have him marry your daughter.  I did get quite a good report on him from the Duke of Florence.  I have to give him credit for that.

(Bertram comes in with the Attendant.) 

King: Bertram, I won’t deny I was angry with you.  But I’m not angry any more.  So we’re friends again.

Bertram: I’m very grateful, my lord.  I hope you can forgive–whatever–

King: Yes, yes.  It’s water under the bridge.  Now let’s get down to business.  You know Lord Lafeu’s daughter Maudlin?

Bertram: I do, sir.  I’ve always admired her, but I never had the nerve to speak up.  And then, of course, when I had to marry Helena–after that, well–

King: Yes, yes.  Now then, if you’re still fond of Maudlin, your mother and I and Lord Lafeu are in agreement that you should marry her.

Bertram: I agree, too, my lord.

Lafeu: I welcome you as a son, Bertram.  Will you give her something as a token of your love?  I want to bring her something tangible from you so she knows the marriage has been agreed to.

Bertram: She can have this.

Lafeu: Splendid.

(Bertram gives Lafeu a ring.  Lafeu looks at it closely.) 

Lafeu: That’s odd.  I could swear this ring once belonged to Helena.

Bertram: No, no.

King: Wait a minute.  Let me see that.  (The King takes the ring and examines it.)  This is the ring I gave Helena after she cured me.  How did you get it?

Bertram: You must be mistaken, my lord.  She couldn’t have had that ring.  I got it–(He stops himself.)

Countess: How did you get it, Bertram?

(Bertram hesitates.  He is embarrassed.)

Bertram: Em–let me think.–Oh, yes, now I remember.  I got it in Florence.  A lady threw it to me from a window with a note wrapped around it.  She wanted to marry me.  When I told her I was already married, she let me keep it.

King: What?  Don’t lie to me, Bertram.  I know this ring.  I gave it to Helena.  It’s one of a kind.  And she said she’d never take it off her finger except for her husband–in bed.  But you never slept with her.  Did you?

Bertram: No.

King: Then how did you get it?  (Bertram is speechless.)  The only explanation is that you took it from her by force.  Or after she was dead.

Bertram: No! No!  Definitely not!

King: Everyone knows you hated her.  And now she’s dead.  At least that’s what we were told.  This ring simply proves it.

Bertram: My lord, I–I can’t explain this, but I didn’t kill her!  I couldn’t have!  She was never in Florence, so how could I have met her there?

King: Well, I don’t know.  I just find this too damned suspicious.  I’m going to have to put you under house arrest for the time being.  (To the Attendants)  You two–take him to his room and lock him in.

(Two of the Attendants take Bertram out.)

Countess: I can’t believe he’d murder Helena, my lord.

King: I don’t know what to think.  But he has to stay put until we can figure this out.

(The Gentleman from Marseilles comes in with the letter from Helena.)

Gentleman: My lord, I was given this letter for you from a lady from Florence.  She was looking for you in Marseilles, but she just missed you.  She’s just arriving any minute, but she said this letter was important and she wanted you to read it at once.

King: All right.

(The King takes the letter and reads it.  He refers to it indirectly in the following speech.)

King (Frowning): It’s about your son, madam.–He told this girl he wanted to marry her.–Then he seduced her–in Florence.–And then he ran away.–She’s a poor maid–wants her honour back–wants justice–and so on.–She’s following him back to France.–Wants me to make things right.–Well!

Countess: Who is she?

King: Diana Capilet.

Lafeu: I’m disgusted.  The marriage is off.  I don’t want him any more.

King: Good thing this letter arrived when it did, Lafeu.  (To the Gentleman) Is the girl here now?

Gentleman: The carriage was right behind me, my lord.  She should be here any minute.  She’s with two other ladies.

King: I’d better deal with this.  A girl from Florence, after all.  And the Duke is my friend.  I don’t want any bad feelings.–Better show them in.  (To an Attendant) And bring the Count back in.  He’s going to have to answer for this.

(The Gentleman and the Attendant go out.)

King: This is looking very bad for your son, madam.

Countess: I trust you to be fair, my lord.

King: Oh, yes, I’ll be fair.

(Bertram comes in with the Attendant.)

King: I’m having some serious concerns about you, Bertram.  You hated the wife you married, you seduced a girl in Florence after promising to marry her, and now you claim you’re ready to marry Lafeu’s daughter.  Of course, that’s off now.

(Bertram is unable to reply.  Then the Gentleman returns with Diana and the Widow.  Bertram reacts with embarrassment.)

King: Are you Diana Capilet?

Diana: Yes, my lord.  And this is my mother.

King: Bertram, do you know these ladies?

Bertram: Em–yes, my lord.  I’m acquainted with them.  But I have no idea why they’re here.

Diana: You told me you wanted to marry me.  Then you–you had your way with me.  Now I demand that you marry me.

Bertram (To the King): Don’t believe her, my  lord.  She’s only after my money.  I just had a few laughs with her in Florence, that’s all.  You know, a drink or two.  Whatever.  Nothing serious.  Surely, you don’t think I’d promise to marry this–this commoner.  I’m a gentleman.

Diana: He had sex with me, my lord.

King (To Bertram): Did you?

Bertram: Well–I mean–she slept with all the soldiers.  She’s just a cheap whore.

Diana (To the King): If I were a cheap whore, he wouldn’t have given me–this!

(She holds out Bertram’s ring.  He reacts with shock.)

Countess: Bertram, that’s your ring.  (To the King) My lord, that ring is a family heirloom.  If Bertram gave it to this young lady, he must have promised to marry her.

Bertram: No, no!  It’s a misunderstanding!  I never did anything with her!  I never promised her anything!

King (To Diana): Can anyone else corroborate what you’re saying?

Diana: Yes, my lord.  The Count’s friend, Monsieur Parolles.

Widow: He was the go-between, my lord.  He brought the Count’s letters and gifts to my daughter.  He knew all about what was going on.

Bertram: Ha!  He’d deny that if he were here.  I’m quite sure.

Lafeu: Let’s ask him.  He’s here.

Bertram: What!

Lafeu (Calling): Monsieur Parolles!  Please come out here for a minute!

(Parolles comes in, looking nervous.)

Bertram: Parolles!  Don’t tell them–I mean, tell the King I never had any relations with this girl.

King (To Parolles): Do you know these ladies?

Parolles: Yes, my lord–the widow lady who runs the Saint Francis lodging house in Florence, and her daughter, Diana.

Widow (To Parolles): You carried the Count’s messages.  He was after my daughter.  Tell the truth now.

Lafeu (To Parolles): Yes, if you have a speck of honour left in you.

Parolles: Your Majesty–my lord Lafeu–it’s true.  I was the Count’s messenger.  He was eager to seduce the girl.

Bertram: Liar!–My lords, don’t believe this lying scum!  Look at him!  He’s a low-down piece of dirt!  We exposed him in Florence as a traitor and a liar!  These two gentlemen were there.

(He indicates the two Lords Dumaine, who nod in agreement.)

Parolles (To the King): My lord, I threw away my honour in Florence.  I admit it.  And I’m paying for it.  Now permit me to salvage what little speck of honour I still have, as Lord Lafeu says.  I am telling you the truth.

King (To Bertram): The girl has your ring.  What do you say to that?

(Bertram squirms in embarrassment.)

Bertram: My lord–I–Yes, all right.  I did have sex with her.  But she seduced me.  She used all her female tricks to make me give up my ring, and she lured me into her bed.  It was a moment of weakness on my part.  I’m sorry.  I’m very embarrassed.  But I shouldn’t be forced to marry her, and I don’t want to.

King: If she demands it, I’m ready to support her claim.  It would be legal.

(Bertram moans.)

Diana: My lord, it’s obvious the Count couldn’t go through with it.  It would be a disaster for both of us.  Therefore–I release him from his obligation, and return his ring to him–(Bertram breathes a sigh of relief.)–provided that he returns my ring to me.

Bertram: Your ring?

King: What ring do you mean?

Diana: My lord, it’s identical to the one you’re holding.

King: This? No, no.  This belonged to his late wife, Helena.  I gave it to her.  It’s one of a kind.

Diana: That’s the ring he received in my bed.

King (To Bertram): You said a lady threw it to you from a window.

Bertram: Em–I don’t recall now, actually.

King: Wait a minute.  This is getting too confusing.–Parolles, the Count had sex with this girl, right?

Parolles: Yes, my lord.

King: Was he in love with her?

Parolles: No, it was purely sexual.

King: And he gave her his family heirloom ring.

Parolles: Yes.

King: Okay.  That much I understand.  But what I don’t understand–(Turning to Diana)–is how you could have given this ring–(Indicating Helena’s ring)–to the Count.  This one belonged to  his wife, Helena.  Did she give it to you?

Diana: No, my lord.

King: Did you find it?  Did you buy it?

Diana: Neither, my lord.

King: Then how could you have given it to him?

Diana: I didn’t.

King: Well, how did you get it?

Diana: I never got it, my lord.

King (Angrily): I’ve had enough of this!  You’re wasting my time!  And I don’t trust you!  I think you’re making a false accusation, and we have laws against that!  I’m going to put you in jail!

Diana: Mother, I will need bail.

Widow (To the King): Excuse me, my lord.

(The Widow goes out.)

Diana (To the King): My lord, the owner of the ring shall speak for me.  The Count knows he abused me, although he never did me any harm.  So I release him.  But he did defile my bed and get his wife with child.  She knows because she can feel it inside her.

King: I have no idea what you’re talking about.  This is all nonsense.

(The Widow returns with Helena.  Everyone is shocked, and there is a pause for effect.)

King (Barely able to speak): Helena?

Countess: Oh!

Bertram: Helena!

Helena (To Bertram): Remember the letter you wrote to your mother?  You said you would not be my husband until you gave up your ring and I had your child.  Well, you did give up your ring–to Diana.  I took her place in bed.  And I gave you my ring.  And now I have your child.

(Everyone looks at Bertram, who is momentarily speechless.  Then he bursts into tears and embraces Helena.)

Bertram: Forgive me!

Helena: Are you my husband?

Bertram: Forever!

(The Countess clasps her hands and looks up to heaven.)

Countess: Thank you, God!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Lafeu (To Parolles): Lend me your handkerchief.  I think I’m going to cry.

(Parolles gives him his handkerchief.)

Lafeu: Stick around and we’ll talk about a job for you.

Parolles: Thank you, my lord!

King (To Diana): Young lady, if you are still a virgin–

Widow: She is, my lord!

King: All right, then.–Young lady, you’ve done us a service.  And in return, I will let you choose a husband.

Helena: And your Majesty will provide the dowry.

King: And I’ll  provide the–what?–Oh, all right.  I’ll provide your dowry.

Diana and the Widow: Thank you, my lord.

King: Countess, is the kitchen open?

Countess: Wherever you move your court, my lord, the kitchen is open all night.

King: Good.–Lafeu, take everyone into the kitchen and help  the Countess break out the wine.  Let’s all be happy!

Lafeu: Gladly, my lord!

(Lafeu and the Countess lead everyone out, leaving the King alone.  The King now  delivers the epilogue to the audience.)

King:

For us humble players, your love is everything,
You can make us beggars or make us kings,
We’ve spun you the strangest, twistiest story we could tell,
And we hope that for you–and for us–it has all ended well.

END

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

One of Islam’s most illustrious spiritual leaders, Imam Rustem Safin of Kazan, Tatarstan, has declared holy war against Scott Mullin of the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

“This man is worse than an ordinary infidel.  He is a suppressor of culture and an enemy of all civilization,” declared the Imam in an exclusive telephone interview conducted recently.  “So I have declared a jihad, or holy war, against him.  It is the duty of faithful Muslims to destroy this man.”

“But what’s he done?” I asked.

“I do not have to enumerate his many crimes.  This is not a judicial process.  He knows what he has done.  He is an enemy to all civilized people, not just Muslims.”  The Imam described Mullin with unbridled vituperation.  “His asshole is like a moon crater.  I have seen it.”

I asked the Imam if a holy war meant that Mullin must die.  The Imam chose his words carefully.  “An enemy must be destroyed.  What this means is open to interpretation.  In the Muslim world, words have a different cultural context than they do in the West.  This is the cause of much misunderstanding between the West and Islam.  Of course, Islam is about peace.  We want peaceful relations with all mankind.  But at the same time, we have a right to defend our values.  And when something is wrong, we should not be shy about calling the world’s attention to it.”

I shifted the conversation to a hypothetical context.  “Theoretically, how should an enemy of Islam be destroyed — by bombs, by bullets –?”

“No, no,” he answered quickly.  “This is not the traditional way.  The traditional way is by stoning — the stoning of the head, so that it resembles the crushed insides of the beautiful pomegranate.”

“Who should carry out this jihad against Scott Mullin?” I asked.

“Muslims in Toronto, obviously.”

“So you want Muslims in Toronto to stone Scott Mullin?”

“That is one possible interpretation of the word ‘destroy’,” he said.  “Of course, there are others.  The inspiration must come from almighty Allah.”

“Is there any way that Scott Mullin can escape this jihad?”

The Imam thought this over for a moment and then replied, “If he leaves the Toronto-Dominion Bank and never works in financial services again, that would be fine.  Otherwise, he should move to some very cold place, like your Northwest Territories.  We do not like such cold places.  He would probably be safe there.”

“Couldn’t he just pay you off?” I ventured, half-facetiously.

As I expected, the Imam laughed contemptuously.  “This is the mistake all banking infidels make.  They worship money so much, they think they can buy their way out of trouble and into heaven.  His entire bank does not have enough money to do that.”

I asked Imam Safin if there were any other people at the Toronto-Dominion Bank he was angry with.  “Not at this time, but if I decide otherwise, I will let you know.”

I thanked the Imam for giving me this interview and promised to communicate his words to my readers.

Imam Rustem Safin, it is worth noting, is the only Imam ever to win an Olympic medal.  But if you’re guessing target-shooting, you’re wrong.  He won a bronze in skating, believe it or not!  And, oh, yes, he wants everyone to know that he loves Canada and he follows the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad 166@yahoo.com

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

Main Characters

Theseus — Duke of Athens

Hippolyta –wife of Theseus

Emilia — sister of Hippolyta

Pirithous — Athenian general

Artesius — Athenian captain

Arcite and Palamon — the kinsmen (cousins); also nephews of King Creon of Thebes.

Valerius — a noble of Thebes

Three Queens

Jailer

Jailer’s Daughter

Jailer’s Brother

Two Friends of the Jailer

Suitor (in other texts referred to as “Wooer”)

Executioner

Doctor

Six Knights

Hymen

Gentlemen

Herald

Four Countrymen

Two Attendants with Emilia

Narrator (for Prologue and Epilogue)

(Gerrold, the Schoolmaster, is deleted, as is the unnamed Captain.)

Gist of the story: Two cousins, Arcite and Palamon — both nephews of the King of Thebes — are taken prisoner in a battle with Athens.  They are imprisoned, but they console each other with their unbreakable bond of friendship.  However, when they see Emilia, sister-in-law of Theseus, from the window of their cell, they quarrel over who gets to marry her.  Arcite is freed and sent into exile, while Palamon remains in prison.  Arcite doesn’t want to give up Emilia to Palamon, so he contrives to disguise himself and return to Athens to compete in a tournament.  Meanwhile, the jailer’s daughter has fallen in love with Palamon and decides to help him escape.  The disguised Arcite wins the tournament and is assigned to Emilia as her servant.  Palamon escapes and waits in the woods for the jailer’s daughter to return with files for his chains.  There he encounters Arcite, and the cousins resume their quarrel over Emilia.  They are about to duel when they are discovered by Theseus.  When he learns what the quarrel is about, he asks Emilia to choose who shall live and who shall die.  Emilia doesn’t want to choose.  She wants nothing to do with the quarrel and has no interest in marriage.  Finally, Theseus decides that the cousins will return in thirty days with friends to engage in a non-lethal combat for Emilia’s hand in marriage, with the losers to be executed.   Arcite defeats Palamon.  Palamon and his friends are about to be executed when Arcite suffers a fall from his horse.  Before he dies, he gives up Emilia to Palamon.  The jailer’s daughter marries the suitor she was originally engaged to.

(The Two Noble Kinsmen is not on every list of Shakespeare plays, as it was co-written with John Fletcher.  However, I wanted to include it in this series.  It is not quite a tragedy or a comedy.  Instead, it is in the category of “Late Romances.”  Arcite and Palamon are so similar that we, as readers, don’t want to set one above the other.  So our strongest sympathy goes to Emilia, the dedicated virgin, who, recognizing the worth of both men, finds it impossible to choose one to marry and condemn the other to death.  The most important scene is Act 5, Scene 1, where Arcite prays to Mars, Palamon prays to Venus, and Emilia prays to Diana.  This is the essence of the whole story.  TNK is one of Shakespeare’s least-performed plays, which is too bad, because the story is wonderful.  The main weaknesses of the original play are the long speeches and extraneous action.  This version is very streamlined, however, and would work as well on stage as it does in print.  This is the first modernized version of The Two Noble Kinsmen ever published.  You’re going to dig it!)

Prologue.  The Narrator comes in and addresses the audience.  He looks annoyed.

Narrator: Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a story in verse called “The Knight’s Tale.”  But did you read it?  No-o-o-o!  You wouldn’t read a story!  You only play stupid video games!  And then William Shakespeare and John Fletcher took Chaucer’s story and made it into a play — The Two Noble Kinsmen.  But did you read it?  No-o-o-o!  You still wouldn’t read Shakespeare!  He’s too boring!  He’s too hard to understand!  And then finally, this Canadian writer, Crad Kilodney, who is probably dead now, said to himself, “What the fuck can a writer do with a stupid audience of non-readers who think that Shakespeare must be boring and way too hard to understand?”  (He pauses and adopts an exaggerated smile.)  Well, you’re about to find out.

    (Narrator leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  Athens.  Before a temple.  Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” is heard as a wedding procession comes in.  Leading is Hymen, a young man ridiculously attired in jockey shorts, a bra, and sneakers.  He has a stubbly beard.  He is strewing flower petals before the procession.  Following him is Theseus, attended by two boys dressed in white; Hippolyta, attended by two girls dressed in white; Emilia, holding Hippolyta’s train; and finally Pirithous and Artesius.  Hymen finishes strewing the petals and addresses the audience.

Hymen: I am Hymen, god of marriage–also including gay marriage and common-law marriage.  Today is the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens (Trumpet flourish)–and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons! (Slightly different trumpet flourish.)–With honoured guests–Emilia, sister of the bride (Sound of harp strings)–Pirithous, general of the army (Sound of drums)–and Artesius, captain of the army! (Sound of drums.)–All Athens rejoices!

    (Coming in suddenly are three Queens, dressed in black.  The First Queen falls at the feet of Theseus, the Second Queen falls at the feet of Hippolyta, and the Third Queen falls at the feet of Emilia.)

1st Queen: My lord Duke, in the name of pity and nobility, hear my plea!

2nd Queen: Renowned Queen of the Amazons, for the sake of all the children you will bear, hear my plea!

3rd Queen: Honourable lady and most virtuous virgin, for the love of the husband you will someday marry, hear my  plea!

    (Theseus looks bewildered.)

Theseus: All right, stand up.  (The Three Queens rise.  To the First Queen)  Is there a problem?

1st Queen: My lord, we are the queens whose kings died in battle against Creon, the tyrant of Thebes.  Their bodies lie rotting on the battlefield, and he will not allow them to be given a decent burial.  Crows have pecked out their eyes, and worms have eaten their flesh.  Pity us, my lord!  Take up your sword and go to Thebes and bring back the remains of our kings so that we can bury them in the chapel.

Other Queens: Yes! –Yes!–Please!

Theseus: Oh.–That’s very sad.  I knew your husbands.–Tsk!–Well.–I must consider.

    (Theseus turns away and moves a few steps apart.  The Second Queen kneels before Hippolyta.)

2nd Queen: Great and fearsome Hippolyta, you have slain wild boars, you have slain bears and lions, and you almost captured Theseus and made him your slave.  And you would have if he hadn’t defeated you first and decided to marry you.  Let your kindness and pity match your prowess as a warrior queen and plead our cause to Duke Theseus.

Hippolyta: Good lady, I am deeply touched by your distress, and so is the Duke.  He is considering.  I’ll speak to him.

3rd Queen (Kneeling to Emilia): Gracious madam, I so grieve for my king.  I must have his remains to bury.  And I want revenge against Creon!

Emilia: I can see the pain on your face, madam.

3rd Queen: What you see on my face is nothing compared to what you can’t see–the pain in my heart!

    (Emilia gently lifts the Third Queen up by the hands.)

Emilia: It will be all right, madam.  I will make the Duke understand.

    (Theseus now rejoins them.)

Theseus: Yes.  Well.–Em, first things first.  We must go to the temple and get this marriage done.

1st Queen: My lord, what will the world think if you let our husbands lie like dead animals, consumed by maggots and forgotten?

2nd Queen: How can we sleep in our beds knowing they don’t even have proper graves?

3rd Queen: Even criminals get proper graves.

Theseus: But I’m getting married today?  Can’t this wait?

1st Queen: If you get married and spend the night with your bride you’ll never be able to tear yourself away from her.

Hippolyta: That’s for sure!

1st Queen: Please, my lord.  You must go now.  Creon won’t be expecting you.

2nd Queen: He’ll be celebrating his victory.  He’s probably already drunk at this moment.

3rd Queen: And his soldiers have been paid and released from duty.

Theseus: Mm.–Yes.–I see your point.–Artesius, gather our forces–as many as you think we’ll need.  We’ll get going right after the wedding ceremony and the banquet.

1st Queen: My lord, our hope decreases with every minute’s delay!

2nd Queen: We know we’ve come at an inopportune time, but how could we wait?

Theseus: But I’m getting married.  This is the biggest day of my life.

1st Queen: Mars, the god of war, is beating his drum.  But if you let Venus charm you, she’ll keep you under her spell and you’ll never go.

Hippolyta: She’s right, my lord.  And as much as I look forward to our wedding night, I still think like a warrior.  You must pick up your shield and cover your heart.

Emilia: If you love my sister, do what she asks–or I’ll never marry.

    (Theseus lets out a long breath of resignation.)

Theseus: All right.  I can see I’m not going to win this argument.–Pirithous, you take the bride to the temple and stand in for me.  It’ll have to be a proxy wedding.  And pray to the gods for my safe return, and all that.–Artesius, you round up the men here in the city, and I’ll round up some more at Aulis.  You meet me there.

Artesius: Yes, my lord!

    (Artesius salutes and leaves.)

Theseus (To Hippolyta): Give me a kiss for good luck.

    (They kiss.)

Pirithous: I really should come with you, my lord.

Theseus: No, no.  You stay here in Athens.  Keep the party going till I get back.  Hopefully, this won’t take too long.–Go ahead, everyone.  Have a good time!

    (The procession leaves to go to the temple.  Theseus and the three Queens are left onstage.)

1st Queen: Thank you, my lord.  The world honours you.

2nd Queen: You stand beside Mars himself.

3rd Queen: If not above him.

Theseus: Well, I’m just doing the right thing.  Duty before pleasure, as they say.–Come along.

    (They go out.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Thebes.  Arcite and Palamon come in, looking unhappy.

Arcite: Cousin Palamon, my number one cousin.

Palamon: Cousin Arcite, my number one cousin.

Arcite: I gotta say, I’m totally sick of Thebes.  This city sucks.  We’ve got no future here.

Palamon: I think you’re right.  This place is one slow spiral into hell.  Look at the soldiers, for instance.  What have they got to show for themselves?  They thought they’d get rich fighting for Thebes, and they have nothing to show for it.  And now that we have peace, they’ll become slackers and lose their edge.  It’s like they have no other purpose in life.

Arcite: That’s not what’s wrong with Thebes.  It’s not just about the soldiers.

Palamon: I know.  It’s a general condition.

Arcite: People are getting decadent.  Thebes has become a decadent city.  It’s just evil everywhere.  I don’t want to live with these people any more.

Palamon: Neither go I.  Everyone’s so phony.  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want to conform to a lot of phoniness and bullshit.  I don’t want to be like one horse tied behind a bunch of other horses.  I don’t want to be led.  I want to be free to go where I want to go.  I don’t want to be told “Go this way.  Go that way.  Do this.  Do that.”

Arcite (Smiling): Great speech.

Palamon: Really, we both know what the root cause of it is.

Arcite: Uncle Creon–our glorious King.

Plamon: The glorious tyrant.  I can’t believe we’re blood to him.  That guy is so bad.  He takes credit for what everybody else does.  Like the soldiers, for instance.  They do the fighting, but he keeps the booty and hogs all the glory.

Arcite: I say we leave.  Get away from him.  Get out of Thebes.

Palamon: I’m with you, cousin.

    (Valerius comes in.)

Palamon: Valerius!  Wassup?

Valerius: The King wants to see both of you.

Palamon: Oh, hell.

Valerius: It’s all right, you can take your time.  He’s just blowing a head valve, that’s all.  Let him calm down.

Palamon: What happened?  Did he see a mouse?

Valerius: No, it’s because of Theseus.

Palamon: The Duke of Athens?

Valerius: Yeah.  He’s declared war. He’s coming.

Arcite: He doesn’t scare me.  Of course, if the gods are behind him, then I’m scared.  Otherwise, I’m not.

Palamon: Well, we can’t stand here debating theology.  If there’s going to be war, we have to fight for Thebes–even if we hate the King.  It’s our obligation.

Arcite (To Valerius): So this is a definite thing, or just a possibility?

Valerius: It’s definite.  We’re at war.

Palamon: We’d better go see the King.  Like it or not, we’re soldiers again, cousin.  Whatever happens, happens.

Arcite: It’s in the hands of the gods.  Okay, let’s go.

    (They all leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 3.  Athens.  Pirithous, Hippolyta, and Emilia come in.  Pirithous appears to be in a hurry. 

Pirithous: Ladies, I’ll say my goodbye here.

Hippolyta: Tell Theseus I’ll be praying for his success–although I have no doubt he’ll win.

Pirithous: I will.  Forgive me for rushing off like this.  He probably doesn’t need me, but if I hang around here worrying about him, I’ll go nuts.

Emilia: We understand.

Pirithous: Hopefully, the war will be over by the time I get there and we’ll all be back soon.

Hippolyta: I’m sure it will.  Goodbye, Pirithous.

Emilia: Goodbye, Pirithous.

Pirithous: Great wedding, by the way.  Okay, see you later.

    (Pirithous leaves hurriedly.)

Emilia: I could tell his mind was with Theseus.  There was no way he was going to stay here in Athens.

Hippolyta: That’s devotion for you.

Emilia: They’re as close to each other as if they were married–in a manner of speaking.

Hippolyta: That’s the mentality of a general.  And I should know.  But you were never a warrior or married, so you don’t really know.

Emilia: But I did love another girl when I was little.  In my own innocent way it was like a marriage.

Hippolyta: Someday you’ll love a man the way you loved her.

Emilia: I don’t think so.  I was meant to be a life-long virgin.

Hippolyta: Only until the right man comes along.

Emilia: Only if the gods will it.

Hippolyta: Come.  Let’s go in and say a prayer for a quick victory.

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 4.  With lights dim and curtain down, sounds of battle are heard.  Then trumpets of victory.  The stage brightens and the curtain goes up.  Theseus, in battle dress, comes in triumphantly with Soldiers.

Theseus: Well done, men!  Victory is ours!  (The Soldiers cheer.)–And sooner than I expected.–Where’s the captain?  (Calling) Artesius!  [Author’s note: In the original, it’s just an unnamed captain.  But Artesius is a captain, so why didn’t Shakespeare put him in here?]

    (Artesius comes in and salutes.)

Artesius: My lord!

Theseus: Go retrieve the remains of those three kings.  We have to transport them back to Athens for burial.

Artesius: Yes, my lord!

    (Artesius salutes and leaves.  Then a Herald comes in.)

Herald: My lord, we’ve captured two of Creon’s nephews–Palamon and Arcite.

Theseus: Where are they?

Herald: The surgeon’s got them.  They’re wounded rather badly.  What do you want done with them?

    (Theseus considers briefly.)

Theseus: I want them alive.  Tell the surgeon to do his best to save them.  We’ll take them back to Athens, and I’ll decide what to do with them later.

Herald: Very good, sir.

    (The Herald leaves.)

Theseus: The queens will be happy now.  They can bury their husbands.  And I get to be with my new wife!–Let’s go.

    (They all leave.)

Act 1, Scene 5.  This scene is deleted.

Act 2, Scene 1.  (Author’s note: The next two scenes have been simplified for the sake of staging.  The Signet edition combines them as one scene, which only works if you have a big stage with full action visible on two levels.  The Folger edition has Scene 2 follow Scene 1 as a segue, presumably without a curtain down.  But this is not any better.  My solution works for a smaller theatre where action can only be presented on one level.)  Athens.  A garden outside the prison.  The Jailer comes in with the Suitor.

Jailer: As long as I’m alive, you should only expect a modest dowry for my daughter.  Some people think I must be loaded because I run this prison and it’s supposed to be for a higher class of prisoners.  But I don’t really get that many.  When I die, my daughter gets everything, of course.

Suitor: I understand, sir.  It’s perfectly all right.  I’m not poor.  I have a little estate of my own.  Your daughter will be just fine.

Jailer: But has she told you that she wants to marry you?

Suitor: Oh, yes.

Jailer: Well, then, it’s all right with me.

Suitor: Ah–here she comes.

    (The Jailer’s Daughter comes in.)

Jailer: We were just talking about you.

Daughter: Ah, that’s nice.

Jailer: After all the wedding celebrations are over for the Duke, we can deal with, uh–your own business.

Daughter: Ah.  Yes.

Jailer: In the meantime, you have to look after the new prisoners.  They’re nobles, so they should get very nice treatment.

Daughter: I know.  It’s a pity they’re in prison.  They’re such nice gentlemen.

Jailer: They’re nephews of Creon.

Daughter: I could tell right away they were high-class. 

Jailer: They’re prisoners of war.  I heard they were the only two who really fought well for Thebes.

Daughter: I’m sure they’re very brave.  They don’t seem to mind at all being in prison.

Suitor: I haven’t seen them.  When did they arrive?

Jailer: The Duke brought them in himself last night.  I don’t know what he intends to do with them, though.

Daughter: I hope he’s lenient with them.

Suitor: What are their names?

Jailer: Arcite and Palamon.

Daughter (Somewhat excitedly): Palamon’s the taller one.  He’s–quite handsome!

    (The Jailer and Suitor exchange looks.)

Jailer: Yes.  Well.  You just look after them properly.  That’s your job.

Daughter: Oh, I will!

Jailer (Dubiously): Hmm.

    (They all go out.  The Suitor links arms with the Daughter, who appears not to notice.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In the prison cell.  Curtain up finds Palamon and Arcite sitting.

Palamon: I wonder if we’ll be stuck here forever.

Arcite: I don’t care.  I can take it.

Palamon: You know, if we’d won, we’d be heroes now.  We’d be wearing medals.  We’d be the biggest men in Thebes.

Arcite: That’s almost funny, considering we both hate the place.–Ah, well.–We can forget about medals.  And we can forget about getting married and raising children.  The world will just go by without us.

Palamon: I guess.

Arcite: But at least we have each other, eh?  If I have to spend the rest of my life here, it’s not so bad being with my number one cousin and best bud.

Palamon: Same here.  And as the years pass and we get old, we can tell each other we don’t look a day older.  We’ll be immortal–ha!

Arcite: For sure.  And we can pretend this is our castle and we don’t have to put up with idiots or nagging wives.

Palamon: Right.  And whatever bad shit is happening out in the world, it doesn’t affect us one bit.  And no more Uncle Creon to deal with.

    (Arcite blows a Bronx cheer while closing his elbow around his fist.)

Arcite: Fuck him!

Palamon: In a way we’re lucky.  We’re the tightest two guys who ever lived (He gestures with two fingers pressed together)–straight guys, I mean.  So this is really a pretty good situation.

Arcite: Absolutely.  And nothing will ever come between us as long as we live.

Palamon: Nothing.  No quarrels.  No competition.

Arcite: That’s right.  Two cousins united by blood.  And we think alike.

Palamon: We sure do.–Hold on.

    (Palamon hears something and goes to the window.  [The outside conversation is not heard by the audience.])

Palamon: Somebody’s down in the garden.

Arcite: Who?

Palamon: Two women.–Looks like a noble lady and her servant.–The lady’s a real hottie.

Arcite: Let me look.

    (Arcite goes to the window.)

Arcite: Wow!  She’s dynamite!

Palamon: She’s a goddess.

Arcite: Who is she?

Palamon: Shh!–Let me listen.

    (They listen quietly for a moment.)

Palamon: It’s the Duke’s sister-in-law.

Arcite: Hippolyta’s sister?

Palamon: Yeah.–Oh, there they go.–Wow!  She’s amazing!  I’d marry her in two seconds.

Arcite: So would I.  And if I ever get out of here, I will.

Palamon: Oh, no.  I saw her first.

Arcite: I don’t care if you saw her first.  I’m marrying her.

Palamon: Forget it, dude.  No way.

Arcite: What do you mean, no way?  You’re telling me I can’t marry her?

Palamon: That’s right.

Arcite: What are you, the boss of me?

Palamon: No, I’m your cousin.  Are you going to steal a woman from your own cousin?

Arcite: Are you?

Palamon: It’s not stealing if I saw her first.

Arcite: Saw her first!–Ha!–What a crock!  If we were outside right now, would you be willing to duel for her?

Palamon: Hell, yes!  You expect me to back down to make you happy?  Just because you’re my cousin?

Arcite: What a fucking traitor you are!  This is how you treat me?

Palamon: Traitor?  You’re the traitor!

    (A jangling of keys is heard.)

Palamon: Quiet!  It’s the jailer.

    (The Jailer comes in.)

Jailer: And how are you gentlemen today?

Palamon: Terrific.

Arcite: Groovy.

Jailer: Lord Arcite, the Duke wants to see you.

Arcite: He wants to see me?  What for?

Jailer: I don’t know.  You’ll find out when you see him.

Arcite: Maybe it’s–(He and Palamon exchange an ominous look.)–Okay, whatever.

    (The Jailer and Arcite go out.  Palamon goes to the window.  The following speech is delivered with pauses.)

Palamon: If I could just see her again.–I’d be the happiest man in the world.–Maybe Arcite isn’t going to be executed.  Maybe he’s getting his freedom.–Maybe he’ll ask the Duke if he can marry his sister-in-law.–It’s possible.  He’s got the charm for it.–Damn!–I’ve got to have her–somehow.

    (The Jailer returns.)

Jailer: My lord Palamon.

Palamon: Yes?

Jailer: Your cousin has been–

Palamon: Yes?

Jailer: Banished.

Palamon: Banished!

Jailer: Prince Pirithous put in a good word for him, and the Duke agreed to let him go.  However, he can never set foot in Athens again.

Palamon: Lucky guy.  He’ll get a warm welcome back in Thebes.  Probably get a lot of honours for his fighting.  (Aside) Then he just might get to marry the Duke’s sister-in-law after all.  If I could just get out of here–

Jailer: And the Duke also gave instructions concerning you.

Palamon: Oh.–Am I to be executed?

Jailer: No, no.  But you’re to be moved to another cell–one without a window.

Palamon: No, no, no!  I want to be able to see the garden!

Jailer: Too bad.  I have to move you.

Palamon: You’ll have to kill me first and carry my dead body!

Jailer: If you’re going to be difficult, we’ll just clap the chains on you.

    (Palamon moves to the window.)

Palamon: I’m not leaving this window!  I swear I won’t!

Jailer: Don’t make a fool of yourself, sir.  I’ll just call my guards.

Palamon: Chains will never hold me!

Jailer: Have it your way.–(Calling) Guards!  Bring the chains!

    (Two Guards come in with chains, and as the curtain comes down, Palamon is being dragged out.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  A country road on the outskirts of Athens.  Arcite comes in.

Arcite: Banished.–Okay, I’m alive.  But how will I ever see Emilia again?  Palamon, on the other hand, gets to stay in Athens.  And one way or another, he’ll find a way to speak to her.  All he needs is that one chance, and he could win her over.  So I can’t leave.  I’ve got to figure out a way to get back there.

    (Four Countrymen come in, talking happily.  Arcite moves to the wing, suggesting concealment.)

1st Countryman: It’ll be great!  May Day!  Fun and games!

2nd Countryman: I want to see the knights in the tournament.  I love that sort of thing.

3rd Countryman: And there’ll be girls we can chat up.

4th Countryman: Don’t tell your wife!

3rd Countryman: No, you don’t tell my wife, and I won’t tell your wife!

2nd Countryman (Laughing): Listen to them!

1st Countryman: Yeah, as if any girls would be interested in a couple of broken-down hillbillies like them!

3rd Countryman: Aw, go on!  We’re just going to be friendly.

4th Countryman: Sure.  It’s May Day.  Everyone’s supposed to have a good time.

2nd Countryman: I like to see the knights in action!  All that manly competition!

3rd Countryman: That’s what brings out the girls.  They love that sort of thing.

    (Arcite steps forward.)

Arcite: Hello, there!

1st Countryman: Hello!

Arcite: I couldn’t help overhearing.  You say there’s going to be games on May Day?

1st Countryman: Yes.  People come from all over.  It’s a holiday.  It’s fun.

2nd Countryman: Are you not from around here, sir?

Arcite: Em, no.  I’m from–not too far.  So tell me, what sort of games do they have?

1st Countryman: Oh, the usual tournament stuff.  Games of skill.  Wrestling, running, riding, archery–that sort of thing.

Arcite: Is that where you’re going now?

1st Countryman: Yes.  You want to come along with us?

Arcite: Em, no, thanks.  I’ll probably go later.

1st Countryman: All right.  Perhaps we’ll see you there.–Come on, fellows.

    (The four Countrymen leave.)

Arcite: I’ve got an idea.  I’ll disguise myself and compete in those games.  Hell, I can do all that stuff as well as anyone.  And if I win, Emilia will be impressed.  Then I’ll have a chance with her.

    (He leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  The Jailer’s Daughter comes in alone.

Daughter: Oh, Palamon!–I love him!–But how can I have him?  He’s a noble.  He’s quite above me.–But he’s always nice to me.  He’s so polite.  Once he even gave me a little kiss!–Oh!  When I hear him sing, I love him so!  And when he’s sad, I feel sad, too.–What can I do to make him love me?  (Pause)  If I were to set him free!–My father would be furious.  I’d be in a lot of trouble.–But I don’t care.  I love Palamon!  I must do it!  He’ll have to love me then!  I know he will!

    (She goes out.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  Outdoors.  The games are just ending.  Sounds of cheering and flourishes of horns.  Coming in are Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Emilia, and Arcite, disguised.  Arcite is wearing a garland of victory, but he is dressed rather poorly.

Theseus: The winner!  Well done, sir!  Hercules himself would consider you his equal.

Arcite: Thank you, my lord.  I’m happy that I performed well for you.

Theseus: What’s your name, by the way?

Arcite: Em–Bruce.

Theseus: That’s an unusual name.  It’s not Greek.

Arcite: Em, no, my lord.  My mother was, em–a Viking.

Theseus: Ah.  That’s interesting.  And where do you come from?

Arcite: From this country, sir–but it’s a place so small it’s not even on the map.

Theseus: Are you a gentleman or a commoner?

Arcite: My father always said I was a gentleman.  At least, he brought me up that way.

Theseus: Well, your father would be proud.  Tell me, what are your best talents?

Arcite: Oh, I can do just about anything.  And I consider myself a good soldier.

Theseus: You are a talented fellow.  Anyone can see that.

Pirithous: He is.  He’s exceptional.

Emilia: Yes.

Pirithous (To Hippolyta): What do you think, madam?

Hippolyta: He’s a remarkable man.  Very accomplished for his age.

Emilia: I’d say he had a beautiful mother.

Hippolyta: I’d say he got his strength and courage from his father.

Pirithous (To Hippolyta): Even with his simple clothes, you can tell he has a noble character.

Hippolyta: I agree.

Theseus: Why did you come here, Bruce?

Arcite: My lord, I came to make a good impression in the most important court in the world.  Your court.  The court of Athens.

Theseus: I’m glad you did.–Pirithous, you can take charge of Bruce.  Give him a good position.  A man like this should live in Athens.

Pirithous: I will, my lord.  (To Arcite)  How would you like to serve this noble lady?  (Indicating Emilia)

Arcite: It would be the greatest reward I could hope for.

Pirithous: Good.–Emilia, will you have him?

Emilia: Most happily.

    (Arcite kisses her hand.)

Arcite: Madam, I am scarcely worthy of you.  And if I ever offend you, you need only command me to die, and I shall.  On the spot.

Emilia (Laughing): I’d never do that.  I can tell you’re worthy.  And I’ll treat you well, I promise.

Pirithous: You’ll need some clothes and other things.  I’ll get you properly fitted out.

Theseus: Tomorrow we’ll do the usual observance for May Day in Dian’s Wood.  (To Arcite)  You’ll join us, of course.–Emilia, he’ll need a horse.

Emilia: I have horses.  (To Arcite)  You can take your pick.  And if there’s anything else you need, I’ll see that you have it.

Arcite: Madam, your beauty is matched by your kindness.

Theseus: Sister, I think this man will make some lady a fine husband someday–eh?

Emilia (Laughing): Don’t go there!

Hippolyta (To Arcite): Private joke.

Theseus (To Arcite): Come, my friend.  Walk with me a bit.  We must celebrate your victory and let the people see us together.

Arcite: I am honoured, my lord.

    (They all leave.)

Act 2, Scene 6.  In the prison.  The Jailer’s Daughter rushes in excitedly and addresses the audience directly.

Daughter: I’ve done it!  I set him free!  I took him about a mile out of town and hid him in the woods.  He still has those stupid chains on him, so I have to bring him some files–and also food.–Oh!  I love him!  I’m crazy for him!–And I told him I’d run away with him wherever he wants to go.  I’ll be his, to do whatever he wants with.  If I’m caught and punished, I don’t care.  Honest women will bury me like a martyr to love.–It’s strange, though.  When I offered to set him free, he didn’t want to leave.  He said it was the wrong thing to do.  And he didn’t even thank me.–But he will.  When he thinks it over, he’ll understand how much I love him.  And he’ll love me.  And then we’ll run away and be happy together.–Oh!  Soon I’ll be in his arms!  My gorgeous Palamon!

    (She goes out quickly.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  In the woods.  Background sound of cornets and people laughing and talking.  Arcite comes in alone and addresses the audience.

Arcite: Wow!  How luck changes!  A few days ago I was a prisoner, and now I’m the hero of the games, I’m out here celebrating with the royalty–and I’m serving the lady that I love–Emilia!  I know she likes me.  She always smiles at me.  She’s always complimenting me.  And she gave me two outstanding horses that any king would love to own.  My cousin thinks I’m back in Thebes.  He thinks he’s the one who’s going to win Emilia.–Palamon, if you only knew!–It’s a perfect set-up for me.  It’s just a matter of time before I get to marry her.  She thinks she was meant to be a virgin all her life, but she’ll change her mind.  The Duke even dropped a hint, remember?

    (Palamon stumbles out of the bushes, still wearing chains.)

Palamon: You traitor!

Arcite: Hey, cousin!  What did you do, break out of prison?

Palamon: A friend helped me escape.  If I didn’t have these chains on, I’d give you what you deserve!

Arcite: Hey, calm down.  I’m your cousin, remember?

Palamon: Cousins don’t do what you did to me!

Arcite: I didn’t do anything.  It’s all in your mind.

Palamon: There’s nothing wrong with my mind.  And there’s nothing wrong with my arms if I ever get hold of a sword.

Arcite: Stop carrying on like a loony.  If you want to vent your anger, look in the mirror.  You can argue with your reflection.

Palamon: You can’t pretend to be a good cousin six days of the week and then be a villain on the seventh.  That makes you a villain, period.

Arcite: You know, among gentlemen this sort of talk often leads to a duel.  Is that what you want?

Palamon: Yes.  Just get me a file so I can get rid of these chains, and give me a sword and one last meal, and then we’ll settle this.  If you beat me, fine, you’re the better man and Emilia is yours.

Arcite: If you want it that way, fine with me.  You go to your hiding place and I’ll fetch you some gear and some food.  Then if you still want to duel me, we’ll duel.  But I’ll win.

Palamon: Deal!

Arcite: I’m showing you every consideration.  Even though you want to hate me, I refuse to hate you.

Palamon: Never mind that.  You go ahead and hate me.  When we have it out, I won’t show you any consideration.

    (Sound of horns.)

Arcite: Ah!  I have to go.–To join my beloved mistress, Lady Emilia.  I’m her man now.

Palamon: Enjoy the moment.  That’s all it is.  When this is all over, she’ll be mine.

Arcite: Dream on.

Palamon: Just bring me that stuff.  Now you can go back to your party.

    (Palamon leaves first, then Arcite leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  The Jailer’s Daughter comes in alone.  She looks depressed and speaks slowly.

Daughter: He’s gone.  I told him where to hide, but he’s not there.  I don’t know what happened to him.  He must still have his chains on, so he couldn’t have gone far.  Maybe he was killed by wild animals.  I don’t understand this.  Why didn’t he wait for me?  My father’s being blamed for letting him escape.  He might even be sentenced to death.  Then I’ll just have to confess.  Let them hang me instead.  I don’t see any life without Palamon.  There’s no future.  There’s nothing out there in the world for me.  I see only–death.

    (She goes out.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  In the woods.  Arcite comes in with files and a couple of bundles.

Arcite (Calling): Hey, Palamon!  Where are are you?

    (Palamon comes in.)

Palamon: It’s about time.  I’m starved.

Arcite: I brought you food and wine and some clothes.  And I have files for your chains.

Palamon: How do I know you’re not going to poison me?

Arcite: Don’t be stupid.  If I wanted to get rid of you, I simply would’ve left you here to be captured.–Here.

    (He gives Palamon the bundles.)

Arcite: Pour me some wine, and I’ll drink your health.

Palamon: All right.

    (Palamon pours Arcite some wine.)

Arcite: Let’s agree not to mention whatsername for the time being.

Palamon: Okay.

Arcite: To your health, cousin.

Palamon: Cheers.

    (They clink cups.)

Arcite: Eat some food.  There’s venison.

Palamon: I love venison.

    (Palamon eats.)

Palamon: Man, that’s good.  I’m starting to feel human again.

Arcite: Let’s drink to all the women we’ve ever loved–in a proper way, of course.

    (They drink together.)

Palamon: I know who you’re thinking of.

Arcite: I didn’t mention her name.

Palamon: I can read your mind.

Arcite: I brought you some clothes, and some perfume, so you don’t stink so much.

Palamon: What about the sword and the armour?

Arcite: I couldn’t carry everything in one trip.  I’ll come back in two hours with it, don’t worry.

Palamon: I’m not worried.  You should worry.

Arcite: Yeah, yeah.  I’ll see you later.  Don’t run away.

    (Arcite leaves.)

Palamon: Bastard

    (Curtain goes down as Palamon starts filing off his chains.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  (This scene represents the Jailer’s Daughter’s madness, so the Director has a free hand to use special effects to make the scene surreal.  The setting can be outdoors with a background of twisted trees, or indoors with a background of dark doorways.  Sounds of howling, wind, ghostly moans, lightning, thunder, stage smoke, strange lighting, etc.)  The Jailer’s Daughter crosses the stage slowly as if in a trance.  She calls out repeatedly, “Palamon!–Palamon!” and continues across the stage and goes out.

Act 3, Scene 5.  This scene is deleted.

Act 3, Scene 6.  In the woods.  Palamon comes in, looking very energetic.

Palamon: Okey-dokey, boys and girls.  Lord Palamon, the noblest warrior of Thebes, is totally recharged.–Thank you, Arcite.  Now I’m ready to kill you–ha!

    (Arcite comes in with swords and armour.)

Arcite: Well, you’re looking better.

Palamon: I feel better.

Arcite: I brought fighting gear, like I promised.

Palamon: Good.  I’m glad to see you’re a man of your word.

Arcite: I always was.

Palamon: If not always honourable.

Arcite: I’m not going to get into an argument.  I brought all this stuff, and we can settle our differences the way you want to–if you’re quite ready.

Palamon: Never readier.  Go ahead, pick out your gear.

Arcite: No, no.  You pick first.  I’m going to be polite.

Palamon: You can be polite, but I’m still going to try to kill you.

Arcite: Whatever.  A fair fight is a fair fight.  Go ahead.

    (Palamon chooses his sword and armour.  Then Arcite picks up what’s left.)

Arcite: I’ll help you put your gear on.

Palamon: Thanks.

    (Arcite helps him put on his armour.)

Palamon: Where’d you get this stuff?

Arcite: I, uh, borrowed it from the Duke’s armoury.–Is that too tight?

Palamon: No, it’s fine.

    (Arcite finishes with Palamon’s armour.)

Arcite: That looks all right to me.

Palamon: Okay, now I’ll help you with yours.

Arcite: Thanks.

    (Palamon begins helping Arcite with his armour.)

Palamon: This reminds me of when we fought against the three kings.

Arcite: Yeah.  I think that’s the only time you ever upstaged me in a battle.

Palamon: I had a better horse.

Arcite: I managed to stay close to you, though.  You sure scared the shit out of the enemy.

Palamon: I felt very confident because you were right behind me.–There.  How’s that?

Arcite: Perfect.  Do you want that sword, or do you want to switch?

Palamon: No, no.  I’m good with it.

Arcite: Okay, then.  Everything’s fair and square.  Anything you care to say?

Palamon: Only that my blood is in you, and yours is in me.  If you kill me, I die with honour, and may the gods forgive you.  And if I kill you, you die with honour, and may the gods forgive me.

Arcite: Then let’s shake hands for the last time.

    (The two men shake hands.  Then they stand back to back, take two paces, turn, bow, and touch swords.  They are about to duel when horns are heard.)

Arcite: Oh, hell!  That’s the Duke!

Palamon: So what?  Come on!  Duel!

Arcite: No, you idiot!  If he catches us, we’re both dead!  I was banished and you escaped!

Palamon: I only care about Emilia!  Come on, fight!

    (Palamon begins the duel and Arcite defends himself.)

Arcite: You idiot!  We’re going to get caught!

Palamon: We started it and we have to finish it!

    (More fighting.)

Arcite: You’re going to get us both executed!

    (The horns get louder.  Then Theseus comes in, followed by Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous, and Attendants.)

Theseus: Stop!  Drop those swords!

    (They stop fighting and drop their swords.)

Theseus: You guys!–You, Arcite!  Or should I call you Bruce?  I banished you!–And you, Palamon!  You broke out of prison!  I won’t stand for this!  I won’t be made a fool of!  I sentence both of you to death!

Arcite (To Palamon): I told you.

Palamon: My lord, you have every right to be angry with us.  But we have a dispute here.  My cousin has designs on your sister-in-law.  He thinks he’s going to marry her.  But I saw her first, and I said I intended to marry her.  The only way we could settle the argument was to duel it out.  At least let us finish what we started.  After that, if you still want to kill me, I’ll take my death like a man.

Arcite: So will I!

Pirithous (Smacking his forehead in astonishment): Good God!

Theseus: I’ve already spoken.  There’s not going to be any duel.

Arcite: My lord Theseus, I’m ready to put my life on the line for Emilia.  That’s how much I love her.  If that makes me a traitor, then consider me a bigger traitor than Palamon.  Ask Emilia if I should die, and if she says yes, I will–gladly!

Palamon: My lord, if you put us both to death, let him go first, so I can have the satisfaction of saying with my last breath “You will not have her!”

Theseus: I’ll grant your wish.

Hippolyta: Wait, my lord!–Emilia, say something!  Are you going to let them both die?  They’re doing this for you!

Emilia (Upset): I have no wish for either of them to die.  And I’ve done nothing to cause this.  I refuse to be involved.

Hippolyta: Sister, have you no pity?

Emilia (Very distressed): Yes, I have pity.  I don’t want anyone to die because of me.  Do you want either of these men to die?

Hippolyta: No.

Emilia: Then kneel with me.

    (Emilia pulls Hippolyta beside her and both kneel to Theseus.)

Emilia: My royal brother–

Hippolyta: Husband!  If you love me, take the smallest part of that love and bestow it on these men.  Show them mercy.

Emilia: Mercy is the noblest virtue, my lord.  It is given to us by the gods.

Hippolyta: Do this one act of kindness if you love me.

    (Theseus is conflicted.  He looks to Pirithous for guidance.  Pirithous kneels beside the ladies, but just a bit closer to Theseus and on one knee only.)

Pirithous: My lord, you would be showing your greatness and your most splendid virtue by showing mercy to these men.

    (A pause while Theseus considers.)

Theseus (To Emilia): What would you have me do?

    (The two ladies and Pirithous rise.)

Emilia: Just banish them, my lord.

Theseus: What good would that do?  You can see they’re ready to kill each other over you.  It’s no credit to you or to me.  It’s better for them to die by the law than by each other’s hands.  Besides, I’ve spoken.  I can’t go back on my word.

Emilia: My lord, words spoken impulsively out of anger can be disregarded.  But words spoken out of love have authority.

Theseus: What words?

Emilia: You once promised me that you would never deny me anything that was in your power to grant.  I hold you to that promise.  I ask you to banish these men.

Theseus: Without any conditions?  If they don’t duel here, they’ll duel somewhere else.

Emilia: Then banish them with the conditions that they must never attempt to see me again or have any contact with each other.

Palamon (To Theseus): I won’t agree to that.  I’ll never stop loving Emilia till the day I die.

Arcite: Neither will I.  I’ll die for her.

    (Pirithous turns away in astonishment.)

Theseus: Pirithous, what am I supposed to do with these two?  I don’t want to kill them.

Pirithous: Then don’t.

Theseus: Emilia, if one of them were dead, would you take the other?

Emilia: How can you ask me such a question?

Theseus (To Arcite and Palamon): Would you be willing to let Emilia choose one of you to marry–and the other one dies?

Arcite and Palamon: Yes!

Theseus: Fine.–Emilia?

Emilia: I can’t choose!  They’re both noble!  They’re both good!  I can’t send one of them to his death!

    (Longer pause.  Theseus ponders.)

Theseus: Then this is how we’ll settle it.  Both of you will go back to Thebes and select three knights to assist you.  You will return here to this exact spot in one month.  You will find a pillar planted in the ground.  You will compete in a contest of strength with the help of your knights.  You must force your cousin to touch the pillar.  The one who touches the pillar first loses, and he will be executed–along with his knights.  The one who wins gets to marry Emilia.  Does this satisfy you?

Arcite and Palamon: Yes!

Theseus: Emilia?

Emilia (Unhappily): I will do as you wish.

Theseus: Good.–Then you gentlemen will agree to a truce for one month, and you agree to the terms I’ve set out.

Palamon: We agree, my lord.  Thank you.

Arcite: It’s fair, my lord.  Thank you.

    (They all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  In the jail.  The Jailer comes in with his (First) Friend.

Jailer: What did they say about me?  Are they still blaming me for Palamon’s escape?

Friend: I didn’t hear them say anything about you.  All I know is that the ladies and Pirithous begged the Duke not to execute the two cousins.

Jailer: Oh, God.  I could be in big trouble.

    (The Second Friend comes in.)

2nd Friend: Hey, I have some good news for you.

Jailer: I was hoping.

2nd Friend: You’re in the clear.  Palamon explained everything to the Duke, so you’re not being held responsible.  And your daughter is forgiven as well.

Jailer: That’s a relief!

2nd Friend: And Palamon also pledged a chunk of money for her dowry when she gets married.

Jailer: That’s mighty nice of him.  God bless him.

1st Friend: But what about the cousins?

2nd Friend: Their dispute is going to be settled a month from now.  Some sort of contest of strength.

    (The Suitor comes in, looking worried.)

Suitor (To the Jailer): Sir, have you seen your daughter today?

Jailer: Not since this morning.  Why?

Suitor: How did she look?  Did she seem all right?

Jailer: Mmm–not really, now that you ask.  She hasn’t been herself lately.  Do you know something about her?

Suitor: I hate to tell you this, but I think she’s lost her mind.

Jailer: Why?  What’s happened?

Suitor: I was fishing by the river, and I thought I heard her voice.  She was sort of singing–or more like rambling–and it was about Palamon.  So I went to look for her, and as soon as she saw me, she jumped in the river.

Jailer: Good God!

Suitor: So I jumped in after her and dragged her out, but then she ran off toward the city, and she was yelling a lot of gibberish.  Then your brother and two other gentlemen just happened to show up, and they grabbed her because she was obviously out of control.  And I came straight away to tell you.

Jailer: I’m glad you did.  I have to do something about this.

   (The Jailer’s Brother and two other Gentlemen come in with the Daughter, who looks mentally distracted.  Her clothes are wet.  [When she sings in this scene, she sings tunelessly and haltingly.])

Daughter (Singing): Pretty little bluebirds–singing in the tree–(To the Brother) Do you know that one?

Brother: Oh, yes.  That’s a nice song.

Daughter: It’s about me and Palamon.–My wedding dress–where is it?

Brother: I’ll bring it tomorrow.

Daughter: I’ll be up early to try it on.  Has it got blue trimming?  I asked for blue trimming.

Brother: Yes, yes, my dear.  It’s just the way you want it.  (Aside to the Jailer)  You’d better just humour her.  She’s out of her mind.

Daughter (To the Gentlemen): You’ve heard of Palamon, haven’t you?

Gentlemen: Yes, yes.

Daughter: I’m going to marry him.

Gentlemen: Yes, yes.

Daughter: Many ladies have come from everywhere to marry him, but he’s going to marry me.

Gentlemen: Yes.–He will.

Daughter (Singing):

    Happy little bluebirds singing in the tree,
    They are singing for my Palamon and me,
    He is coming on a fine white horse,
    I’ll be wearing my white wedding dress,
    And our marriage bed is covered with red roses–

Jailer (Taking her gently by the hand): Come, girl.  You should rest.

Daughter: Are you the captain of this ship?

Jailer: Yes, I’m the captain.

Daughter: And these men are your crew?

Others: Yes.–Yes.–We’re the crew.

Daughter: After the wedding, Palamon and I would like to sail away.

Jailer: Yes, yes, you will.

Daughter: Some place where there are all kinds of flowers and bluebirds and–

Jailer: Yes, yes, my dear.  You shall have everything your heart desires.  You’ll be happy forever.–Come.

    (The Jailers leads his Daughter out, followed by the others.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In the palace of Theseus.  Emilia comes in alone, holding two pictures (of Arcite and Palamon).  She is very troubled.

Emilia: Why must one of these good men die for me?  (Looking at Arcite’s picture)  Arcite is so noble, so handsome.  When he was my servant Bruce, I would’ve been happy to keep him forever.  (Looking at Palamon’s picture)  Palamon is the more serious one.  He looks so sad.  Yet he is just as noble, just as handsome.–What maiden ever had two such fine men ready to die for her?  And what maiden ever had to be the cause that would send one of them to his grave?

    (She is on the verge of tears when a Gentleman comes in.)

Gentleman: Madam, the cousins from Thebes have arrived with their knights.

Emilia: For the contest?

Gentleman: Yes, madam.

Emilia: My chastity is a curse, isn’t it?  It has become an altar for the worst sacrifice ever imagined.

Gentleman: Madam, it is they who have so willed it.  There is no other way to settle the matter.

    (Theseus, Hippolyta, and Pirithous come in.)

Theseus: Sister, your two suitors have returned, along with their friends.  Whoever wins will be your husband.

Emilia: I shall weep, whatever the outcome.

    [Author’s note: The Messenger is deleted from this scene, and his lines are given to the Gentleman.]

Theseus (To Pirithous): I didn’t get a good look at the knights.  Have you seen them?

Pirithous: Yes.

Gentleman: So have I, my lord.

Theseus: What do you think of them?

Gentleman: They’re pretty awesome.  Arcite’s men, in particular.  They’re tough, but also very noble.

Pirithous: Palamon’s men are splendid beyond words.  You look in their eyes and you see courage.

Theseus: Then this should be quite a contest.  (To Hippolyta)  Are you looking forward to this as much as I am?

Hippolyta: I look forward to tomorrow.

Theseus: Pirithous, I’m putting you in charge.  You take care of all the details.

Pirithous: I will, my lord.

Theseus: All right, then.  We can all go.

    (They all leave, with Emilia lagging.  Hippolyta takes her by the hand for encouragement and they follow the men.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  Curtain up finds the Jailer, the Suitor, and the Doctor sitting in conference in the prison.

Doctor: Is she worse during the full moon, have you noticed?

Jailer: No, I don’t think it makes any difference.  She hardly sleeps or eats.  She just babbles a lot of gibberish about Palamon.  She’s in some kind of fantasy world.  I can’t get through to her.

Doctor: Has she ever been in love with anyone else besides Palamon?

Jailer: No.–Well, just our friend here.–Although it’s not quite the same, I don’t think.

Suitor: I still want to marry her if she regains her sanity.

Jailer: Oh–here she comes.

    (The Daughter comes in looking spaced-out.)

Daughter: I’m on a pretty planet with Palamon.–We’re picking flowers all day.–There’s music coming from the clouds, and the birds are flying all over the sky.–The angels are dressed in white and they bring me sweets in a basket.–I can float if I want to.–Palamon and I shall float about–high in the sky–and see all the lands–and look for a mountain of green and gold.–And we’ll go live there forever.–Palamon–Palamon–

    (She goes out, wafting her arms gently as if flying.)

Doctor: Her nerves are shot, that’s for sure.  No food.  No sleep.  She’s lost touch with reality.

Jailer: Can you cure her, doctor?

Doctor: I think so.  But our friend here has to help.

Suitor: I’ll do anything to help.

Doctor (To the Jailer): Here’s my idea.  You must put her in a darkened room–(To the Suitor)  And you have to pretend to be Palamon.

Suitor: How?

Doctor: Just play the role.  Talk like a noble with a Theban accent.  Wear some kind of perfume.  Sit with her.  Talk nicely to her.  Get her to eat and sleep.  She needs that.

Jailer: Do you think she can be fooled like that?

Doctor: Oh, for sure.  It’s the power of suggestion.  She wants to be with Palamon, so in her own mind she will be.  You just reinforce that idea.  The most important thing is to calm her nerves and get her to eat and sleep.  I’ll check on her frequently.  And I have a special treatment I’d like to try on her.  (He takes a little cloth bag from his pocket.)  I’ve got this herb here.  Actually, it’s a weed.  It’s oriental. 

Jailer: Does she eat it or drink it like tea?

Doctor: Neither.  You light it like incense and inhale the smoke.  It make you feel great.  I’ve used it before–on my patients, I mean.  It’s wonderful, believe me.

Jailer: That sounds all right.

Suitor: There’s something new every day, isn’t there?

Doctor: Yes, indeed.

Suitor: I love science.

Doctor: So do I.

Jailer (Getting up): I just want to check on her.

Doctor: Good idea.

    (They all go out.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Before the altars of Mars, Venus, and Diana.  Trumpet flourish.  Theseus, Pirithous, and Hippolyta come in.

Theseus: Before the contest begins, we’ll let the opponents pray to the gods.  It’s the right thing to do.

    (A different flourish is heard.)

Pirithous: That’ll be them.

    (Palamon and Arcite come in, accompanied by their parties of three Knights each.)

Theseus: Ah, here you are.  Before you tear each other apart, I’ll give you a few minutes to pray to the gods.  We want this to be an honourable contest.  You will, of course, conduct yourselves properly while you’re here.  As for me, I’m impartial.–So.  I leave you to your prayers.

Pirithous: May the worthiest win.

Theseus: We trust in the gods.

    (The eight combatants bow to Theseus and thank him.  Theseus, Pirithous, and Hippolyta leave.)

Palamon: Well, cousin, the day has come.

Arcite: Yes.

    (Pause.)

Palamon: Let us embrace for the last time.

    (The cousins embrace.)

Palamon: I’ll let you pray first.  I’ll give you some privacy.

Arcite: Thanks.

    (Palamon and his Knights go out.)

Arcite: My friends, you are true worshippers of Mars, as I am.  So let us ask him to give us courage and strength.

    (Arcite lights incense at the altar of Mars, and the four of them kneel in prayer.) 

Arcite: Invincible Mars, god of war, whose power turns lands and oceans red with blood–smasher of cities, destroyer of empires–thou mightiest god, who strikes terror in the hearts of great armies, who turns the tide of battle according to thy will.  Now show favour to this young follower of thy drum.  Give us sinews of iron, give us inexhaustible breath, and let our hearts be full of hot blood.  We worship you from the depths of our souls.  Give us your blessing.  And give us a sign of your favour.

    (Sound of thunder.  Arcite rises with his Knights.  They are thrilled.)

Arcite: Thank you, great god of war!  In your name we go to do battle!

    (Arcite and his Knights hug each other enthusiastically, then leave.  Then Palamon and his Knights come in.  They are very serious and solemn.)

Palamon: Men, today we must blaze like the sun–or go cold into oblivion.  We fight for love, so let us pray to the goddess Venus.

    (Palamon lights incense at the altar of Venus.  Then he and his Knights kneel in prayer.)

Palamon: Hail, goddess, who rules the hearts of all men, who has the power to make fools of the wise and make the old young again.  No shield can withstand you.  There is no distance or obstacle that you cannot overcome with a mere thought.  Look now upon your pure-hearted follower.  Never did I praise a rogue, dishonour a wife, or seduce a maiden.  Never did I betray a secret.  Never did I speak foully of natural affections or associate with men of low morals.  No man was ever truer in his love than I am.  Show me your grace.  Look kindly upon me.  Give me a sign that you are with me today.

    (Ethereal music is heard–a chorus of female voices singing without words.  Palamon rises with his Knights.)

Palamon: Venus, I give thee thanks!  (To his Knights)  Come.  The goddess is with us.

    (Palamon and his Knights go out.  After a somewhat longer interval, Emilia comes in slowly.  She is dressed in a white wedding dress and is attended by two young Girls, who hold her train.  She goes to the altar of Diana and lights incense.  Then she kneels.  The two Girls kneel also but remain apart.  Emilia speaks slowly.)

Emilia: Diana, goddess to all virgins.  You know me.  You know what is in my heart.  I have been pure.  I have been devoted to you.  And now I am dressed for marriage.  To whom, I do not know.  I would no sooner choose a husband than I would choose a man to be condemned.  However the gods dispose the coming contest, know that I have been your faithful servant.  Therefore, show your kind blessing to me, a little sister on earth.  Keep me forever in your service–or release me to the one who is worthiest.  Give me a sign.  Shall I remain pure like the white rose–or shall I be the red rose to a husband?

    (A shower of red rose petals falls.  Emilia rises, as do the Girls.)

Emilia: Most gracious goddess, you have released me for marriage.

    (Emilia smiles bravely, with an evident trace of sadness.  She goes out, with the Girls following, holding her train.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  The Doctor, Jailer, and Suitor (dressed like Palamon) come in.

Doctor: Well, how’s it working out?

Suitor: She’s buying it.  She thinks I’m Palamon.  She asked me to kiss her, so I did.

Doctor: That’s the idea.  Don’t be shy with her.  Remember we want to cure her.

Suitor: She said she would stay up with me tonight.

Doctor: Ah!  You know what that means!

Suitor: She wants to have–you know–sex–with me.

Doctor: So do it.

Jailer: Hey, wait a minute.  My daughter’s an honest girl.  He mustn’t take advantage of her like that.

Doctor: Never mind honest.  She’s got to be cured.  That’s the first priority.  And besides, he’s going to marry her anyway, right?  Assuming she gets cured.

Jailer (Grumbling): Well–I suppose.

Doctor: Bring her in.  I want to observe her behaviour.

Jailer: All right.

    (The Jailer goes out.)

Suitor: He’s not happy about–you know.

Doctor: Don’t worry.  I’m a doctor.  I understand young women better than he does.  She’s sexually normal.  That’s important if we want to cure her.  You just play your role.  Humour her.  Go along with her.  Next chance I get, I’ll have her inhale the smoke from that nice aromatic weed.

Suitor: Is it safe for me to inhale it, or do I have to leave the room?

Doctor: You can inhale it, no problem.  It’s good medicine.  Completely harmless.  In fact, I have an idea for an invention.  You take a small strip of very fine paper, you put some shredded weed on it, and then roll it up like a tube and lick it all over so it holds together.  Then you put it in your mouth and light the end and–Oops.  Wait.

    (The Doctor hears the Jailer returning, so he blows out a candle, which reduces the stage lighting.  The Jailer comes in with his Daughter.)

Jailer: Come, daughter.  Palamon is here to visit you.

Daughter: He’s so kind, father.  Did you see the horse he gave me?

Jailer: Eh?–Oh, uh–yes.  Wonderful horse.  White, was it?

Daughter: No.  Pink.

Jailer: Ah.  Pink.  Splendid.

Daughter: And he dances beautifully.

Jailer: Who?  The horse?

Daughter: No.  Palamon.–And here he is.  (To the Suitor)  Would you like to walk with me to the end of the world, Palamon?

Suitor: Em–sure.  What will we do there?

Daughter: We’ll play at lawn bowling.

Suitor: Ah.  Good.  I like lawn bowling.  And will we get married there?

Daughter: Yes.  We’ll find a blind priest to marry us. 

    (The Doctor makes a ‘crazy’ gesture with his finger around his ear as an aside to the Jailer.)

Suitor: Blind?

Daughter: So he doesn’t know who we are.  That way, he can’t object.

Suitor: Ah.  Excellent.  I’m all for it.

Daughter: Unfortunately, I don’t have my wedding dress yet.

Suitor: That’s all right.  I’ll marry you just as you are.

Daughter: Promise?

Suitor: Of course.  Absolutely.

Daughter: Then let’s go to bed.

    (The Jailer signals his disapproval to the Suitor, while the Doctor signals his approval.)

Suitor: Em–to bed?–Sure.  Why not.

Daughter: And we’ll have many children.

Suitor: Ha, ha–yes.  But not all at once.

    (A Messenger comes in and speaks to the Jailer.)

Messenger: You’re needed outside, sir.  They’re–

Jailer: Shh!

    (He takes the Messenger aside for privacy and they speak softly.)

Jailer: Are they in the field?

Messenger: Yes.  You’re supposed to be there.–You know.–For afterwards.

Jaileer: Yes, yes.  (Normal voice, to the doctor)  I have to go.  (He points away.)

Doctor: Yes.  Right.

    (The Jailer pulls the Doctor aside for a moment.  They speak softly.)

Jailer: Well?  What do you think?  Can you cure her?

Doctor: No problem.  Leave it to me.

    (The Jailer nods and leaves with the Messenger.)

Doctor (Aside to the Suitor): Stick to her like glue.

Suitor: Right.

Doctor (Aside to the Suitor): And really stick it to her, eh?–Heh, heh!  Know what I mean?

Suitor: Right.

Doctor (Aside to the Suitor): When I come back, I’ll bring that herb.  In the meantime, try to get her to eat.

    (The Doctor leaves.)

Suitor: So, em, shall we have dinner?

Daughter: All right, if you wish.

Suitor: And later we can play cards.

Daughter: It’s too dark to play cards.  I’d rather go to bed.

Suitor: Bed?–Heh, heh.–Yes.  All right.

Daughter: But you must be gentle.–You know.  (She giggles.)

Suitor: Ha, ha!  Yes, of course!

    (The Daughter takes his hand and is leading him out.)

Suitor: Yes.  Excellent idea.  Dinner–and then bed.

    (They go out.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  Near the field of combat.  Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, and Pirithous come in with two Attendants.  (Emilia is holding her own train.)

Emilia (Stopping): This is as far as I go.

Pirithous: You can’t see the fight from here, madam.

Emilia: I have no intention of seeing it.  Just hearing it will be torture enough.

Theseus: But they’re fighting for you.

Emilia: The whole idea of it makes me sick.

Hippolyta: Sister, you must watch.  You don’t want to dishonour your future husband.

Theseus: Besides, you’ll be giving them courage.  It just won’t be the same without you there.

Emilia: It’s their feud.  They started it without me, and they can finish it without me.

Theseus: All right, suit yourself.  The attendants will stay with you.

Hippolyta: I’ll know who your husband is before you do.

Emilia: Fine.  I’m staying here.

    (Theseus gestures for the others to follow.  They go out, leaving Emilia with the two Attendants.  She turns her back to the field of combat and walks a few paces away.  The Attendants, impelled by curiosity, creep closer toward the field.  They are at one side of the stage.  They talk to each other excitedly in hushed voices and stand on their toes, trying to see the contest.  A cornet is heard.)

1st Attendant: They’re getting ready to start.

    (A trumpet is heard, then crowd noise.  The two Attendants are straining to see.  Distant shouts of “Arcite!  Arcite!”)

1st Attendant: I think Arcite is winning!

2nd Attendant: Is he?  I can’t see.

    (Distant shouts of “Palamon!  Palamon!”)

2nd Attendant: They’re shouting for Palamon!  He must be winning!

    (There is prolonged crowd noise, and both names are shouted.)

1st Attendant: Who’s winning?

2nd Attendant: I can’t tell.

    (A trumpet sounds with much cheering.  A Servant comes from the field.  He is immediately intercepted by the Attendants.)

Servant: Arcite won.

Attendants: Arcite has won, madam!

Emilia: Poor Palamon.

    (Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, and Arcite come in, with others.)

Theseus: Sister, the gods have given you a husband–Arcite!

Arcite: Madam, I’ve paid the highest price for your hand.  No other woman would’ve been worth it.

Emilia (Very restrained): Congratulations.

Theseus: What a brave fighter!  You should’ve seen him!  Palamon had him within an inch of the pillar, and the six knights were straining against each other so hard I thought their eyes would pop out of their heads!  And then, like magic, Arcite made this terrific move and turned Palamon around and made him touch the pillar!  It was heroic!–Sister, aren’t you happy?

Emilia: This was never about my happiness.

Hippolyta: In any case, the matter is settled.  It was a fair contest–and well-fought.

    (Theseus claps Arcite on the shoulder.)

Theseus: Well, I’m happy.  Arcite has proven himself.

Hippolyta: Sister, try to be happy.  This man loves you.

Emilia (Not smiling): Yes.  I know.

    (She turns and walks out by herself.  Arcite looks hurt, but Hippolyta gives him a smile and a pat of encouragement, and they all walk out, following Emilia.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  As the curtain rises, we find Palamon, tied, kneeling before the chopping block.  His three Knights are also tied and kneeling.  The Jailer and Guards stand behind them.  The Executioner is holding his axe.  Theseus is also present.  (Author’s note: In the original, Theseus comes in with Hippolyta and Emilia.)

Palamon (To his Knights): I’m sorry. 

1st Knight: You needn’t apologize.  We knew the risk.

Other Knights: Aye.

Palamon: We’ll be loved and respected by plenty of people, long after our deaths.  We have just as much honour as the winners.  The gods will welcome us.–That’s not much consolation, but it’s all I can give you.

1st Knight: I would ask no more.

2nd Knight: I go with a clear conscience and no ill will toward anyone.

3rd Knight: A noble death, Palamon–for all of us.

Jailer (To Palamon): Will you be first, sir?

Palamon: Of course.–By the way, how’s your daughter?  I heard she was ill.

Jailer: She’s fully recovered.  She’s going to marry that nice fellow she was engaged to.

Palamon: I’m glad.  Give her my purse as a wedding present.  It’s got plenty of gold.

Jailer: I will, sir.  Thank you.

Palamon (To the Knights): His daughter was in love with me.  She helped me escape from prison.

1st Knight: In that case, she can have my purse, too.

Other Knights: And mine!

Jailer: The gods bless you for your kindness, gentlemen.–Executioner.

    (The Executioner positions Palamon’s head on the block.)

Palamon (To the Knights): We’ll be together very soon, my friends–in a better place.

    (The Executioner raises his axe.  Suddenly a Messenger rushes in.)

Messenger: Stop!  Stop!  There’s been an accident!

Theseus: What!

    (Pirithous rushes in.)

Pirithous: Wait!  Stop the execution!

    (He helps Palamon to his feet.)

Jailer: What’s the matter?

Pirithous: Arcite fell off his horse.

Palamon: What!  Is it bad?

Pirithous: Very bad.  I don’t think he’ll live.

Theseus: How did it happen?

Pirithous: It was a freak accident.  He was on his horse, and the  horse’s iron shoes made a spark on the cobblestones, and the spark went up and burned the horse, and he panicked and threw Arcite.  They’re bringing him now.

Theseus: Good God!  (To the Guards)  Untie them all.

    (The Guards help the Knights to their feet and untie all four of the condemned.  Overlapping this action, Arcite is carried in on a stretcher by several Servants.  He is escorted by Hippolyta and Emilia.)

Palamon: Arcite!

    (Palamon goes to his cousin and takes his hand.)

Arcite (Weakly): Cousin–

    (The Servants set the stretcher down.)

Palamon: You’ll be all right.

Arcite (Weakly): No, cousin–I have but few words left.–I was wrong.–Forgive me.–Emilia was rightfully yours.–I give her up to you.–Emilia–be happy with Palamon.

    (She embraces Arcite.  He dies in her arms.)

Emilia (Tearfully): He’s dead.

    (Palamon embraces Arcite’s body, weeping.)

Palamon: My noble–noble–cousin.

    (Theseus gently lifts Palamon and Emilia and pulls them close to him.)

Theseus: The gods in their wisdom have decided this.  And they have been true.  Mars gave the contest to Arcite.  Venus blessed Palamon for his love.  And Diana–(To Emilia)–Diana gave you the worthiest husband.  And we mortals should not dispute with the gods.–Palamon, you shall marry Emilia.  And your brave knights shall be our friends.  Arcite shall be buried with honour, and his knights shall be our friends, too.–Hippolyta–Pirithous–(Hippolyta and Pirithous join closely with Theseus)–Let us mourn–and celebrate–properly–as the gods would wish.

    (They all leave slowly.  No curtain down.  Quick segue to the Epilogue.)

Epilogue.  The Narrator comes in.

Narrator: Now, was that a great story, or what?  Surprise ending.  You’ll remember The Two Noble Kinsmen as long as you live.  And you didn’t think you’d like Shakespeare.  Now you love him!–Say “Thank you, Shakespeare.–And thank you, Whatsisname, who did the rewrite so we could understand it.”–And so, good night.

    (Narrator leaves and curtain down.)

END

    Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com