(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


Clown (named Lavache)

Steward (named Rinaldo)


Widow — Diana’s mother


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

Lords (various speaking roles)


(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.


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.)


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.


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

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’s Daughter

Jailer’s Brother

Two Friends of the Jailer

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



Six Knights




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.


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.)


    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

Cymbeline — King of Britain

Queen (name not given)

Imogen — daughter of Cymbeline from a previous marriage

Cloten — son of the Queen from a previous marriage

Posthumus Leonatus — husband of Imogen

Pisanio — servant of Posthumus and Imogen

Cornelius — physician

Caius Lucius — Roman ambassador and general

Philario — Roman gentleman

Iachimo — friend of Philario

Frenchman — friend of Philario

Belarius — exiled gentleman now living as a shepherd under the name Morgan

Guiderius — adopted son of Belarius, given the name Polydore; long-lost son of Cymbeline

Arviragus — adopted son of Belarius, given the name Cadwal; long-lost son of Cymbeline



Apparitions (parents and two brothers of Posthumus)

The God Jupiter

British Gentlemen

British Lords


Imogen’s Lady Servant

Queen’s Lady Servants

British Captains

Roman Captains

Roman Senators

Roman Tribunes

Gist of the story: The story is set in Britain in the early years of the Roman Empire, during the reign of Augustus Caesar.  Cymbeline, King of Britain, wanted Imogen, his daughter from a previous marriage, to marry Cloten, the Queen’s son from a previous marriage.  She has disobeyed him and has married Posthumus Leonatus instead.  Cymbeline banishes him, and he goes to Rome.  A rather sleazy gentleman named Iachimo bets Posthumus that he can go to Britain and seduce Imogen.  The bet accepted, Iachimo goes to Britain, hides in Imogen’s bedroom, and swipes her bracelet while she is asleep and takes note of a mole on her breast.  This false “proof” of his seduction wins the bet and turns Posthumus against Imogen.  He sends instructions to Pisanio to lure Imogen out to Milford Haven in Wales and murder her.  Meanwhile, Lucius, the Roman ambassador, tells Cymbeline he owes tribute to Caesar.  When he refuses to pay, Lucius says there will be war.  The Queen gives Pisanio what she believes is poison, obtained from Cornelius, and tells Pisanio it is good medicine.  She wants to get rid of Pisanio because he is loyal to Posthumus.  Pisanio takes Imogen to Milford Haven, where she expects to meet Posthumus.  Pisanio confesses that he was ordered to kill her.  He advises her to dress as a man and go to Rome to find out what’s going on.  He gives her the “medicine” given to him by the Queen.  Imogen, now posing as Fidele, gets lost and meets Belarius (Morgan) and his sons Guiderius (Polydore) and Arviragus (Cadwal) and is befriended by them.  Cloten goes to Milford Haven intending to murder Posthumus and rape Imogen.  He is killed in a duel with Guiderius, who chops off his head.  Imogen has taken the medicine and falls into a death-like coma.  The medicine was in fact a knock-out drug.  Mistaken for dead, she is laid beside the headless body of Cloten.  When she awakens, she sees the body, dressed in an old suit of Posthumus, and assumes it’s him.  When Roman troops arrive, Imogen asks to be taken on as a page by Lucius.  Posthumus has received a letter from Pisanio saying that Imogen is dead.  Stricken with remorse, he wants to die when drafted into the Roman army.  When he survives, he changes sides and disguises himself as an English peasant and helps Belarius and his sons rescue Cymbeline.  Still wanting to die, he changes sides again and becomes a Roman and allows himself to be captured.  The Romans are defeated.  The Queen has died of grief.  Posthumus has been given a prophecy by Jupiter in prison.  The Romans and Posthumus (appearing to be a Roman) are brought before Cymbeline to be sentenced to death.  Guiderius confesses to killing Cloten.  Cymbeline sentences him to death.  Belarius reveals his true identity as the banished gentleman who stole the King’s little boys, and reveals the identities of his sons as the long-lost sons of the King.  Posthumus reveals himself as the unknown peasant who helped save Cymbeline, and Imogen reveals her true identity.  Cymbeline grants amnesty to the Romans, Posthumus forgives the repentant Iachimo, and all ends happily.

(Without question, Cymbeline has the most complicated plot in all of Shakespeare.  And it is incredible that characters fail to recognize other characters in disguise.  All the devices and gimmicks in the play are familiar to us from Shakespeare’s other plays, but the total complexity pushes an audience to the limit of what they can keep track of.  This may be the reason why the play has remained obscure.  Also, no one character focuses the attention of the audience.  As a result, the play in its original form comes across as something of a mishmash.  Nevertheless, our mission is to make you love Shakespeare, and we know you’ll love our White Trash version of Cymbeline. The name Cymbeline, by the way, was suggested to Shakespeare by the name Cunobeline, who was a king of Britain during the last years B.C. until the 40’s A.D.  However, there is no similarity between Shakespeare’s character and this historical king.) 

Act 1, Scene 1.  At the court of King Cymbeline in Britain.  Two Gentlemen come in.

1st Gent.: Have you noticed how down everyone looks–all the people close to the King?

2nd Gent.: Yeah, I’ve noticed.  What’s the matter?

1st Gent.: He’s very angry with his daughter, Princess Imogen.

2nd Gent.: What’s she done?

1st Gent.: She got married against his wishes.

2nd Gent.: Uh-oh.

1st Gent.: I’ll tell you the whole story.  You know she’s his daughter from his previous marriage.

2nd Gent.: Right.  That makes her the heir to the throne.

1st Gent.: Exactly.  We can forget about the two boys who were kidnapped twenty years ago.  They were never seen again, and they could be dead for all we know.  So it’s just Imogen who’s in line for the throne.

2nd Gent.: Right.  I follow you.

1st Gent.: The Queen was also married before, and her son, Cloten, is from that previous marriage.

2nd Gent.: Right.  Cloten.

1st Gent.: I think he’s a prick, but don’t tell anyone I said that.

2nd Gent.: I won’t.

1st Gent.: Okay, so here’s the story.  The King and Queen both wanted Imogen to marry Cloten.

2nd Gent.: Which makes sense, I guess.

1st Gent.: Except that she doesn’t like him.  Instead, she went ahead and married that orphan that the King took in many years ago.  Posthumus.

2nd Gent.: Posthumus Leonatus.  That’s his full name, I believe.

1st Gent.: Correct.  He came from Rome, although his family was British.

2nd Gent.: A noble family.

1st Gent.: Yes, very noble.  His people died in the old wars for an earlier king.

2nd Gent.: The King should appreciate that, I would think.  What’s he got against Imogen marrying him?

1st Gent.: He’s got no money.  No money, no lands, no title.

2nd Gent.: Ah.  Well, that could be a problem.  Do you want someone like that two steps away from the throne?

1st Gent.: Oh, I don’t really care, but that’s the way the King looks at it.  Now, mind you, Posthumus is a very good guy.  And he and Imogen practically grew up together.  She loves him.  So she married him.  And the King’s pissed off, and the Queen’s pissed off.  And all the courtiers are walking around with sad faces because they’re pretending to show sympathy with the King.

2nd Gent.: Pretending?

1st Gent.: Yes.  They’re really on Imogen’s side.  They don’t like Cloten.  Or the Queen, for that matter.–Don’t tell anyone I said that.

2nd Gent.: I won’t.

1st Gent.: Frankly, I don’t like the Queen very much either.  And Imogen hates her.  She thinks she’s wicked.

2nd Gent.: Ah, a wicked stepmother–ha, ha!

1st Gent.: You got it.–Don’t repeat that.

2nd Gent.: Yeah, yeah, don’t worry.

1st Gent.: So poor Imogen is under house arrest.

2nd Gent.: No!

1st Gent.: Yes.  And Posthumus has been banished.  I think he’s still here, but he’s probably leaving today.

2nd Gent.: Tsk!–Poor guy.  I feel sorry for him.

1st Gent.: I do, too.  The guy had a future, believe me.  The King had him close to him since childhood.  He taught him everything.  He got a royal education.  And Imogen knows he’s a good guy.  She’s no fool.  She’s a good judge of character.

2nd Gent.: And she has her own mind.  She has a strong will.

1st Gent.: She certainly does.  (Pause)  It’s kind of strange about those two boys who were kidnapped.

2nd Gent.: The King’s sons.

1st Gent.: Yes.  They were just babies when they were stolen.  You have to wonder, how could somebody just break in and steal those babies.  And the nurse disappeared, too.

2nd Gent.: You think she kidnapped them?

1st Gent.: No, why would she?–It just seems very strange.  And after all these years, they’ve never been seen or heard of, even though there were searches all over.

2nd Gent.: It’s a mystery.

1st Gent.: Oh!–I see royalty coming.  Let’s take a hike.

    (The two Gentlemen are going out as the Queen, Posthumus, and Imogen come in from the other side.)

Queen: I’m not angry with you, Imogen.  I don’t want to be cast as the wicked stepmother.  The house arrest is nothing, really. You have the freedom of the palace.–And as for you, Posthumus, I’ll try to speak to the King when he’s in a better mood, and maybe something can be done.  But for now, the best thing would be for you not to cross him.

Posthumus: I’m leaving today, madam.

Queen: He doesn’t even want the two of you talking to each other, but I’ll just take a little walk so the two of you can say your goodbyes.  I’m really sorry that things have turned out like this.

    (The Queen goes out.)

Imogen: She’s a snake.

Posthumus: I’m not saying a word.

Imogen: I don’t care how angry my father is.  Let him squawk.–It’s just–too bad–that’s all.

    (She embraces him, weeping.)

Posthumus: And we only just got married.

Imogen: You won’t be gone forever.  Something will be worked out.  We’ll be together again–someday.

Posthumus: I’ll be faithful to you.  I promise.

Imogen: So will I.  You shouldn’t even give it a second thought.–Are you going to Rome?

Posthumus: Yes.  I’m going to stay with Philario.  He was a friend of my father’s.

Imogen: Does he know you?

Posthumus: Only by letters.  You can write to me there.  Write me anything.  Even if you don’t have any news.

Imogen: I will.

    (The Queen returns.)

Queen: Best be done with it now.  If the King catches you together, he’ll take it out on me.

    (As the Queen goes out, she give the audience a twisted smile and speaks aside: “I rule the King.”)

Imogen: My love, take this diamond ring.  It belonged to my mother.  Keep it as long as I’m alive.

    (She puts the ring on his finger.)

Posthumus: And you take this bracelet.  Wear it all the time and think of me.

    (He puts the bracelet on her wrist.  Then Cymbeline comes in with Lords attending.)

Cymbeline: Are you still here?  I want you out of here!  And I never want to see you again!

Posthumus: The gods preserve you, sir.  I’m going now.

    (Posthumus leaves.)

Cymbeline: And you–!

Imogen: There’s no point blowing up at me, father.  It’s not going to change the way I feel.

Cymbeline: You’ve been disobedient, as well as foolish.  You could have married Cloten.

Imogen: I’m glad I didn’t.

Cymbeline: Instead you married a–

Imogen: A what?

Cymbeline: A beggar!

Imogen: A prince!

Cymbeline: What’s he got?  Nothing!  How can you put someone like that a step away from the throne?  Who’s going to take him seriously?

Imogen: He’s ten times the man Cloten is.

Cymbeline: Bah!–You’ve lost your mind!

Imogen: Honestly, I’d be much happier right now if I’d been born a shepherd’s daughter and had Posthumus as a neighbour.  Then I could’ve married him and no one would have objected.

Cymbeline: Don’t talk foolish.  Royals have responsibilities to the position they hold.  You’re the heir to the throne.  Your husband has to be of your social class.

    (The Queen returns.)

Cymbeline: She was talking to him.  I told you I didn’t want them talking to each other.

Queen: Has he gone?

Cymbeline: Yes, he just left.

Queen: All right, then.  You can calm down.

Cymbeline: She’s under house arrest, and I’m putting you in charge of her.

Queen: Yes, yes, my lord.  Don’t worry.  Everything is fine.

Cymbeline: I’m fed up with her!

    (He leaves with the Lords.)

Queen: Just be patient and don’t antagonize him.

Imogen: I have a mind of my own.  I say what I think.

    (The Queen is about to reply when Pisanio comes in.)

Queen: Pisanio, has Posthumus left?

Pisanio: Yes, madam.  However, your son drew his sword on him.

Queen: Oh, dear.  I hope they didn’t fight.

Pisanio: No, madam.  Some gentlemen intervened to separate them.

Queen: That’s good.

Pisanio (Aside to the audience): Otherwise, Posthumus would’ve cut him to pieces.

Imogen: Didn’t you go with him?  You’re his servant.

Pisanio: I wanted to go with him, but he wanted to go alone.  He said I should stay here and be your servant–that is, if it’s all right with her Highness.

Queen: Yes, of course.  You can serve the Princess.

Pisanio: Thank you, madam.

Queen (To Imogen): Come and walk with me, Imogen.

Imogen: All right.   (To Pisanio) I’ll talk to you later.

    (The Queen and Imogen leave one way, and Pisanio leaves separately.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Cloten comes in with two Lords.  He is playfully striking the air with his sword.

Cloten: Did you see how I dealt with that bastard Posthumus?–Ha!  That was great!

1st Lord: You should change your shirt, sir.  I think you worked up a sweat.

Cloten: Nah, what for?  There’s no blood on it.  He never touched me.–Tell me, do you think I hurt him?

1st Lord: At the very least, you gave him the fright of his life, sir.

2nd Lord (Aside): You annoyed him like a fly.

Cloten: He was afraid of me.  You could see the terror in his eyes.

1st Lord: Indeed, sir.  I never saw a man so terrified.

2nd Lord (Aside): He was amused.  He didn’t take you seriously.

Cloten: I would’ve sliced him to pieces if those gentlemen hadn’t intervened.

1st Lord: Indeed you would have, sir.

2nd Lord (Aside): He could’ve sliced you to pieces if he’d wanted to.

Cloten: I don’t understand how Imogen can prefer him to me.

1st Lord: Well, beauty doesn’t always go with good sense, sir.

2nd Lord (Aside): She knows a jackass when she sees one.

Cloten: Tell you what.  Come on up to my room for a drink, okay?

1st Lord: I’d be glad to, sir.

Cloten: Frankly, I’m a little disappointed there isn’t a pool of blood on the ground to mark the encounter.

1st Lord: Me, too, sir.

2nd Lord (Aside): Preferably your blood.

Cloten (To the Second Lord): You coming with us for a drink?

2nd Lord: Sure thing, my lord.  Gladly.

Cloten: Okay, come on.

    (They all leave.)  

Act 1, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 1, Scene 4.   Rome.  Philario comes in with Iachimo and a Frenchman.

Philario: His father and I were close friends, so try to be nice to him, okay?

Iachimo: I met him in Britain when he was a kid.  I didn’t think he was anything special.

Philario: Well, that was some time ago.  You may change your opinion.

Frenchman: I met him in France.  I agree with Iachimo.  He’s nothing special.

Iachimo: Just because he married the King’s daughter, that doesn’t make him a prince, as far as I’m concerned.

Frenchman: And he was banished.

Iachimo: Right.  And don’t expect us to feel sorry for him.

Philario: Just cut the guy some slack, okay?  Just be nice.–Here he comes.

    (Posthumus comes in.)

Posthumus: My lord Philario–gentlemen–good morning.

Others: Good morning.

Philario: We were just talking about you, Posthumus.  I think you met Iachimo and Doucette a long time ago.

Frenchman: We met in Orleans, sir.  Do you remember?

Posthumus: Ah–yes.  I owe you my thanks for that.

Frenchman: I didn’t want to see anyone get hurt–especially over something so trivial.

Posthumus: I admit I was young and impulsive in those days.  But I don’t think the matter was trivial.

Iachimo: Was there an argument or something?  What happened?

Frenchman: Our young friend here got into a quarrel with one of my countrymen about the virtues of English women compared to French women.

Iachimo: Oh?  Ha, ha!  An argument about women!

Frenchman: The two of them were about to get into a duel, and I stepped in and stopped them.

Philario: Thank God for that!

Iachimo (To Posthumus): No woman is worth getting into a duel over–or women generally, for that matter.

Posthumus: You are too cynical, sir.  I disagree with you.

Iachimo: Look, women are women.  They’re basically the same all over the world.  They all strike a pose of being virtuous.  But any woman can be seduced.  You just have to know how.

Posthumus: You speak from much experience, no doubt.

Iachimo: Yes, I do.  Now take your princess, for example.

Philario: Let’s not go there, Iachimo.

Iachimo: It’s okay.  This is just man talk.  (To Posthumus)  You probably think your princess is different from other women.

Posthumus: She’s more virtuous than any woman you ever met.  That’s for sure.

Iachimo: That’s highly unlikely.  And, of course, your opinion is biased.

Posthumus: Yes, I admit it.  So what?

Iachimo: Well, now, suppose I were to propose a wager regarding her virtue?

Posthumus: What sort of wager?

Philario: I don’t like the sound of this.

Iachimo: It’s okay, we’re just talking, we’re not quarreling.  (To Posthumus)  Suppose I were to wager that I could seduce your princess?

Frenchman: Ha, ha!  Oh, boy!

Philario: Iachimo–please!

Posthumus: You’d lose that wager.

Iachimo: Would you bet that diamond ring you’re wearing?

Posthumus: This?–Yes.  Against what?

Iachimo: Ten thousand ducats.  That’s half the value of my estate.

Posthumus: And you’re going to do what–just go to Britain and seduce her?  Just like that?

Iachimo: Basically, yes.  All I need is a polite letter of introduction from you.

Posthumus: And how will I know if you’ve seduced her?

Iachimo: I’ll bring back proof, of course.  And I’ll let you be the judge if it’s proof enough or not.

Posthumus (To Philario): This guy’s so full of himself.  I can’t believe it.

Philario (To Iachimo): Please tell me you’re joking.

Iachimo: No, I’m not joking.

Posthumus (To Philario): It’s okay.  I’m going to put him in his place.  (To Iachimo)  If Imogen isn’t the woman I think she is, I’ll give you this ring, and I’ll put her out of my mind.  But if you fail, not only will I take your money, but I may challenge you to a duel as well.

Philario: Gentlemen, please!  This is going too far!

Iachimo (To Posthumus): I’m agreed if you’re agreed.  What do you say?

Posthumus: I’m agreed.

Philario: Oh, God!

Iachimo: Then let’s get a notary and put it in writing.  Shall we do that?

Posthumus: That’s fine with me.

Iachimo: Good.–We’ll see you gentlemen later.

    (Iachimo and Posthumus leave.)

Philario: You could have said something.

Frenchman: What should I say?  If two gentlemen want to make a bet, that’s their business.

Philario: Tsk!–I didn’t want this.  Iachimo shouldn’t have baited him like that.

Frenchman: The young–prince–is too hot-headed for his own good.

Philario: Damn, damn, damn.–Come on.

    (Philario and the Frenchman leave.)

Act 1, Scene 5.  Britain.  The Queen comes in with Cornelius, a physician.

Queen: Did you bring me those drugs I asked you for?

Cornelius: Em, yes, madam.  (He gives her a box.)  If you don’t mind my asking, just what were you intending to do with them?  I mean, em, they are–more or less–extremely poisonous.

Queen: Yes, I know that.  I have a knowledge of chemistry.

Cornelius: Yes, indeed, madam.

Queen: I’m conducting some experiments–on the eradication of vermin.

Cornelius: Ah.  Indeed.  Well–I would be somewhat concerned for your safety, madam.

Queen: Don’t worry about it, Cornelius.  (Aside, looking offstage)  And here’s the vermin I’d like to eradicate first.

    (Pisanio comes in.)

Queen (With a phony smile): Ah, Pisanio!  (To Cornelius)  You can go, Cornelius.

Cornelius: Yes, madam.

    (As Cornelius leaves, he pauses to speak aside to the audience.)

Cornelius (Aside): I don’t trust her.  I didn’t give her any poisons.  I only gave her knock-out drugs that will simulate death temporarily.

    (Cornelius leaves.)

Queen: Is Imogen still pining for Posthumus?

Pisanio: Yes, madam, I’m afraid so.

Queen: You know, you should forget about Posthumus.  He’s through.  He has no future.  You should try to remind the Princess of that.

Pisanio: Oh?

Queen: You have her ear now that you’re her servant.  If anyone can talk to her, you can.  Tell her to forget Posthumus and think about marrying Cloten.

Pisanio (Coughs, embarrassed): Ah.

Queen: I have a present for you.  (She gives him the box of medicines.)  These are very good medicines.  The King has used them.  They make you feel wonderful.  They’re good for almost any ailment.

Pisanio: Thank you, madam.

Queen: You should think about your own advancment in the court, Pisanio.  If you help me, you can count on big rewards.  You must try to persuade Imogen to marry Cloten.

Pisanio: I understand, madam.

    (Pisanio leaves.)

Queen: Bastard.  He’s still loyal to Posthumus.  Well, that’s all right.  If he takes any of those drugs, I’ll be rid of him.  And if the Princess continues to be stubborn–well, I just may fix her a nice herbal tea.

    (The Queen goes out.)  

Act 1, Scene 6.  Britain.  Curtain up finds Imogen alone, looking sad.  Then Pisanio comes in with Iachimo.

Pisanio: Madam, this gentleman is from Rome.  He has a letter of introduction from my lord Posthumus.

Iachimo: Your Highness!

    (He bows and presents his letter to Imogen, who reads it.)

Iachimo (Aside): She’s a hottie.  I’ll bet her hormones are raging.

    (Pisanio overhears the aside but not clearly.)

Pisanio: What?

Iachimo: Nothing.  Go keep my servant company.  (He gives Pisanio a coin.)  Go buy some candy or something.

    (Pisanio leaves.)

Imogen: Well.  My lord Posthumus says that you are a friend and that I should treat you as one.  I welcome you, sir.

Iachimo: Thank you, madam.

Imogen: And how is Posthumus?

Iachimo: He is well, madam.  (Pisanio now puts on an act of feigned emotion, embellished with theatrical gestures.)  Ach!  How some men have the eyes of apes and monkeys!

Imogen: Sir?

Iachimo: How do apes and monkeys see?  What do they see?  Do they see beauty?  No, of course not.  Man can see beauty–or should.  But some see no better than an ape.

Imogen: I don’t follow you, sir.

Iachimo: Why is it that some men, given a choice between a soft, warm bed and a foul sewer, choose the latter?  Why?

Imogen: I don’t know.

Iachimo: A man may seem civilized on the outside with all his fine clothes and polite manners, but underneath all that you may find a seething cauldrom of festering pus!

Imogen: Oh, dear!

Iachimo: Vile, demonic lust!  Like a subterranean river of lava ready to burst through a crack in the earth and spew evil everywhere!

Imogen: I’m trying to understand your meaning, sir, but–

Iachimo: Do we really know the people we think we know?  For instance, your husband–my friend–Posthumus.

Imogen: What about him?

Iachimo: I could tell you, but–no, I mustn’t.  It would hurt me to say it as much as it would hurt you to hear it.

Imogen: If there’s something I should know, I wish you’d tell me, sir.

Iachimo: It staggers the imagination.  Honestly.  How a man who is married to such a sublime, exquisite goddess as yourself could–

Imogen: Could what?

Iachimo: Could throw himself into a foul sewer–so to speak.

Imogen: Could you be more specific?

Iachimo: Rome has its dark side, madam.  All cities do.  We call those places–the stews.

Imogen: Stews?

Iachimo: Brothels.

Imogen: Brothels?  Are you saying Posthumus goes to brothels?

    (Iachimo nods sadly.)

Imogen: I don’t believe it, sir!  Not my Posthumus.  He is as faithful to me as I am to him.

Iachimo: Ah, madam, you are too innocent.  Too good.  He doesn’t deserve you.  And you don’t deserve to be forgotten by him.

Imogen: Forgotten?  Has he forgotten me?

Iachimo: Yes, I’m afraid so.  In his own mind he’s a bachelor again.  In fact, before I left, he had a conversation with our friend, who is a Frenchman.  And this Frenchman was very depressed because he missed his wife so much.  And Posthumus laughed and said, “Don’t be a fool.  Rome is full of whores.  You have money.  Go enjoy yourself.”  And he even offered to take the Frenchman to a brothel.

Imogen: No!  Not my husband!

Iachimo: Believe me, I feel your pain, madam.  And your anger.  And I know of only one remedy for it.

Imogen: What?

Iachimo: Tit for tat.

Imogen: What do you mean?

Iachimo: I mean, do the same to him.  If he’s untrue to you, you be untrue to him.  It’s what he deserves.

Imogen: But I couldn’t do that!

    (Iachimo takes her hand.)

Iachimo: Yes, you can.  Madam, we were made for each other.  I knew it the moment I saw you.  I could show you a good time.

    (She pulls away.)

Imogen: Oh!  Sir!

Iachimo: Give me a chance.  You won’t regret it.

Imogen: No!

Iachimo: I want to kiss you!  I love you!  Come on, baby doll–

Imogen: Pisanio!–You are very rude, sir!  I shall tell my father!–Pisanio!

Iachimo: Ha, ha, ha!  Just kidding, madam!

Imogen: What?

Iachimo: It was a test, that’s all.  You see, your husband praised you so highly, I had to find out if you were as virtuous as he claimed you were.

Imogen: Really, sir!–I hardly know what to say.

Iachimo: I’m sorry if I upset you.  Your husband is such a good friend, I had to find out–for his sake, of course.  He’s only just been married, after all.  I wouldn’t want him to get hurt.  I feel protective towards him.

Imogen: Oh.–I see.

Iachimo: He’s totally faithful.   He doesn’t go to brothels.

Imogen: I never would have believed it.

Iachimo: Your husband’s a wonderful guy.  Everyone in Rome loves him.  Please forgive me.  I’m sorry.

Imogen: Well–yes, all right.  I forgive you.  We shall forget all about it.

Iachimo: Thank you, madam.–Are you feeling better now?

Imogen: Yes.  Thank you.

Iachimo: Good.–Em, could I possibly ask a little favour?

Imogen: Yes, of course.

Iachimo: A bunch of the fellows in Rome chipped in so we could get a present for the Emperor, and I’m supposed to buy it.  So I’ve got all this money and jewels and gold in my trunk, and I just need to put it in a safe place while I’m here.  I was wondering if maybe I could put it in your room.

Imogen: Yes, that’ll be all right.  It’ll be safe.

Iachimo: It’ll just be for tonight.  I have to leave tomorrow.

Imogen: Oh, must you?  You could stay with us a while.

Iachimo: I’d love to, but I’m expected back within a certain time, and if I’m late they’ll worry.  If you’d like to write Posthumus a letter, you can do it tonight, and I’ll take it with me tomorrow.

Imogen: Yes, I think I will.  Thank you.  And the trunk will be perfectly safe in my room.

Iachimo: Thank you, madam.  It’s a load off my mind.

    (They leave.) 

Act 2, Scene 1.  Cloten comes in with two Lords (same ones as Act 1, Scene 2). 

Cloten: Of all the damned luck!  One bad bounce and I lost a hundred pounds!

1st Lord: This is the first time I’ve seen you lose at lawn bowling, my lord.

Cloten: And that miserable low-life has the nerve to criticize me for swearing!

1st Lord: An insolent bystander, sir.  But you showed him.

2nd Lord (Aside): Showed him how ill-mannered you are.

Cloten: If he’d been a gentleman of rank, I would have challenged him to a duel.

1st Lord: Lucky for him a noble can’t challenge a commoner.

Cloten: Sometimes I wish I had no rank.

2nd Lord (Aside): I wish you had no rank, too.  You’re no better than a commoner.

Cloten (Overhearing, but not clearly): What?

2nd Lord: I said, there’s no point picking a fight with every commoner who offends you.

Cloten: But if I offend them, that’s my privilege.

2nd Lord: Yes, you can certainly offend people when you want to.

Cloten: That’s right, I can.

1st Lord: Did you hear a foreigner arrived from Rome?

Cloten: Who?

1st Lord: A friend of Posthumus Leonatus–or so I’ve heard.

Cloten: If he’s a friend of Leonatus, he must be a scoundrel, too.

1st Lord: Well, he did meet the Princess.  And you are her equal in rank.

Cloten: You think I should meet him?

1st Lord: Mm–just for sake of appearances, let’s say.

Cloten: I wouldn’t want to lose my dignity.

2nd Lord: I assure you that’s not possible, sir.

Cloten: No, I suppose not.

2nd Lord (Aside): You can’t lose what you don’t have.

Cloten (Overhearing indistinctly): Eh?

2nd Lord: I said, maybe you can bowl with him and win back your money.

Cloten: Yeah.  That’s a good idea.  I’m sure I could nick a greasy Italian for a hundred pounds.–Come on, let’s go.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare leaves us with a loose end here, as Cloten never does meet Iachimo.]

    (Cloten leaves with the First Lord, but the Second Lord lingers to speak.)

2nd Lord: What a dumb-ass!  And to think he’s the son of a queen–especially a queen who’s such a crafty devil.–Ach–that poor princess!  What she has to put up with!  A narrow-minded father and a bitch stepmother.  And this jerk Cloten.–If ever a girl deserved a break, it’s Imogen.  I just hope Posthumus comes back someday.  I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the throne.

    (He leaves.) 

Act 2, Scene 2.  Imogen’s room at night.  She is sleeping in bed.  The trunk is nearby.  Iachimo climbs out of the trunk.  He speaks softly for the benefit of the audience.

Iachimo: Ah, she’s a beauty.  Too bad I couldn’t seduce her, but I intend to win that bet anyway.  I’ll memorize every detail of this room.–And I’ll remove this bracelet from her wrist–very carefully.  (He removes the bracelet and examines her body closely.)–Ah, perfect.  She has a little mole on her left breast.  That’s the clincher.

    (He tiptoes out of the room.  [Author’s note: In the original, he gets back into the trunk, but I don’t like that.])

Act 2, Scene 3.  Outside Imogen’s window, which is above.  Cloten comes in with several Musicians.

Cloten: Okay, you guys, I want you to play something romantic that will melt the Princess’s heart.

Musicians: Yes, my lord.

    (The Musicians play.  [Director’s choice: What is needed here is something inappropriate played very badly.])

Cloten: That was awesome.  Let’s hope it works.  Okay, you guys can go.

Musicians: Thank you, my lord.–Good luck, my lord.

    (The Musicians leave.  Then Cymbeline and the Queen come in.)

Cloten: Good morning, your Majesty–mother.–I just had some musicians here serenading the Princess.

Cymbeline: Any luck?

Cloten: So far she hasn’t said a word.

Cymbeline: She’s still thinking about Posthumus.  But don’t give up.  Keep at it.

Queen: Yes.  Be persistent.  We’re both on your side.

Cloten: I know.  But she’s a stubborn one.

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: Your Majesty, the ambassador from Rome, Caius Lucius, has arrived.

Cymbeline (To the Queen): I know the guy.  He’s all right.  But I think we’re going to have problems with Rome.

Queen: We’ll be polite to him, of course.  But remember what we talked about.  You’re not paying any more tribute.

Cymbeline: Yes, yes, don’t worry.–Cloten, when you’re finished here, come and join us.  We may need you.

Cloten: Yes, my lord.

    (All leave except Cloten.  He knocks on the door.)    

Cloten: Yo!  Princess!  Are you up?  (He puts his ear to the door.)  Somebody’s up.  (He knocks again.  Imogen’s Lady Servant opens the door.)

Lady: Who knocks?

Cloten: You know who I am.

Lady: What is your lordship’s pleasure?

Cloten: My pleasure?  Ha,ha!  That’s funny! 

Lady: Funny?

Cloten: Yes.–You know–my pleasure–the Princess–Eh?  Know what I mean?–Ha, ha!  (The Lady’s expression is blank and unamused.)  Anyway, is your mistress up?

Lady: Yes, but she’s not coming out.

Cloten: Well, just tell her I’m here.  I want to speak to her.

    (He tries to give the Lady Servant a coin, but she turns her back and goes inside.  Then Imogen appears at the door.)

Imogen: What was that godawful racket before?

Cloten: Just some music–to cheer you up, eh?

Imogen: I thought some cats were being tortured.

Cloten: Ha, ha, ha!  That’s a good one!  You’re so funny!

Imogen: What do you want?

Cloten: Aw, come on, baby, you know I love you.

Imogen: You’re wasting your time, Cloten.

Cloten: I won’t take no for an answer.

Imogen: You know, honestly, I wish you would get lost.  I’m already married, and even if I weren’t, I’d have no interest in you.

Cloten: Your mind is confused.  That’s your problem.  You’re obsessed with that–that man–whose name I refuse to speak.  And he’s never coming back, so why don’t you face it?

Imogen: You’re really exhausting my patience now.  I’m starting to get angry.

Cloten: You’re a disobedient daughter.  Your father is very angry with you.

Imogen: I don’t care if my father is angry.

Cloten: You can have the marriage annulled.  It was a mistake.  That guy is a nobody.  He’s a low-down slave.  He’s got nothing.  Your father doesn’t want him a step away from the throne, and neither does my mother.  And neither do I.  That guy is unfit to shine my shoes.

Imogen: Is that so?

Cloten: Yes.

Imogen: My Posthumus is so much better than you that his oldest suit of clothes is more manly in my eyes than you are.

Cloten: You’re crazy!  And to hell with him!  I hope he drowns in a sewer of shit!

Imogen (Seeing Pisanio): Oh, Pisanio!

    (Pisanio comes in.)

Pisanio: Yes, madam?

Imogen: I seem to have lost my bracelet.  I’m sure I wore it to bed, and now I can’t find it anywhere.

Pisanio: Oh, dear.  What can I do?

Imogen: Would you go inside and help my lady Dorothy look for it?

Pisanio: Of course, madam.  Don’t worry, we’ll find it.

    (Pisanio goes in the house.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare isn’t clear about this stage direction, but logically the only place for them to look is in the house.])

Cloten: Madam, I am very offended.  And I’m going to tell your father what you said.

Imogen: Tell your mother, too, while you’re at it.  I have nothing more to say to you.  Good day.

    (Imogen goes inside and closes the door.)

Cloten: That bitch!  I swear!  What a bloody insult!  I’m not going to forget this!

    (He leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  Rome.  Posthumus and Philario come in.  A conversation is in progress.

Posthumus: I’m still hoping the King will change his mind and let me come back.

Philario: Have you written to him?

Posthumus: Not yet.  I think I should let some time go by.  I guess you’re stuck with me indefinitely.

Philario: That’s all right.  You can stay as long as you like.  I’m glad to have you.

Posthumus: Thank you.

Philario: Speaking of your king, he should be receiving Caius Lucius by now–the Emperor’s ambassador.

Posthumus: Ah.  The Emperor’s ambassador.

Philario: A little matter of unpaid tribute.   You know about it, I suppose.

Posthumus: It’s common knowledge.  I don’t think he’ll pay.  The Queen doesn’t want him to pay, and he generally listens to her.

Philario: Our Emperor Augustus believes he will pay–otherwise there’ll be war.

Posthumus: I don’t have any interest in politics, but I can tell you the mood in Britain is that they’re not afraid of a war with Rome.

Philario: I’m sure they’re not afraid.  But do they have the skill for war?  The last time, against Julius Caesar, they didn’t do too well.

Posthumus: That was then.  The Brits are more disciplined now.

Philario: I’ll take your word for it.  But Augustus is going to want his tribute.  He’s Julius Caesar’s nephew.  He’s tough like his uncle.

Posthumus: Tough, meaning a big ego.–And speaking of big egos–

    (Iachimo comes in, smiling.)

Iachimo: Greetings!  Greetings!  Greetings!

Posthumus: Well, that was fast.  What did you do–fly?  Or did she kick your ass all the way from Britain?

Iachimo: Ha, ha, ha!–No, she didn’t kick me.  The Princess was very nice.  We got along well.–Oh–I’ve got a letter for you.

    (Iachimo gives Posthumus the letter from Imogen, which he reads to himself.)

Philario: Did you see Caius Lucius, the ambassador?

Iachimo: They were expecting him, but I left before he arrived.

Posthumus: Everything’s fine in Britain (Indicating the letter)–so I guess my diamond ring is staying on my finger.

Iachimo: Ah!–The ring.–No, I’m afraid you’ll have to give it up.  Although I confess that after spending a night with your princess, the pleasure I derived was worth the trip even without the ring.

Posthumus: You liar.  You’re so full of shit, Iachimo.  You didn’t sleep with her.  I won your money, and I just may give you a beating for the hell of it.

Iachimo: Now, you mustn’t be angry with me.  We made a wager, and I only did what you agreed to let me do and what she wanted me to do.  And furthermore, I’ve actually done you a favour.  You didn’t know the truth about her before, but now you do, thanks to me.

Posthumus (To Philario): Do you believe this clown?  (To Iachimo) I believe there’s a little matter of proof.  Remember?

Iachimo: Yes.  I have proof.

Posthumus: You have proof?  Okay, let’s hear it–or see it.

Iachimo: Well, first of all, I can describe her bedroom.  She’s got a big wall tapestry relating the story of Cleopatra.

Posthumus: Yeah, so what?  What else?

Iachimo: The fireplace and chimney are on the south side of the room.  And there’s a metalwork sculpture of the goddess Diana.

Posthumus: You could have found that out.

Iachimo: The ceiling is painted with golden angels.  And there are two matching figures of Cupid on both sides of the fireplace.

Posthumus: So you can describe her room.  Big deal.

    (Iachimo produces the bracelet.)

Iachimo: I think you recognize this.

    (Posthumus is shocked and hesitates before replying.)

Posthumus: How did you get that?

Iachimo: She gave it to me–as a token of love.

Posthumus: Maybe she told you to give it to me.

Iachimo: If that were the case, she’d say so in her letter.  Does she say anything about it?

Posthumus: No.

    (At this point, Philario, disturbed by the conversation, jumps in nervously.)

Philario: Perhaps the Princess lost it and you found it.

Iachimo (Ignoring him): So, are you convinced, or do you want one last proof?  And I really hate to tell you, but I will if you insist.

Posthumus: Tell me.

Iachimo: She has a little mole on her left breast.–Right here (He indicates).

    (Posthumus is stunned, speechless.  He turns away and stares at the ground for a long moment.  Then he takes off his ring and gives it to Iachimo, slapping it into his palm with some force.)

Posthumus: Take it!–I don’t want it.–And I never want to see her again.

Philario: Oh, Posthumus, don’t say that.  There could be some explanation–

Posthumus: Explanation?  Sure, there’s an explanation.  I’ve been fucking blind.  That’s the explanation.

Philario: Oh, Posthumus–

Posthumus: They’re all the same, aren’t they?  Lying bitches!–Look at my back!  See the knife?  It won’t kill me.  I’ll just feel it till the day I die.–That fucking bitch!

    (He walks out angrily.)

Philario: I hope you’re happy now.  You got his ring, and you tore his guts out.

Iachimo: It was a fair wager.  You were a witness.

Philario: Now I’m going to worry about him.

    (Philario starts to walk out, then pauses as if to say something to Iachimo, then changes his mind and continues out.  Iachimo follows.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  This scene is deleted.

Act 3, Scene 1.  The King’s court in Britain.  Coming in from one side are Cymbeline, the Queen, Cloten, and Lords; from the other side, Caius Lucius and (his) Attendants.

Cymbeline: Caius Lucius.

Lucius: Your Majesty.

Cymbeline: And what is your emperor’s business with us–as if I couldn’t guess?

Lucius: My lord, as you are aware, your uncle, King Cassibelan, signed an agreement with Julius Caesar, which provided that Britain should pay Rome an annual tribute of three thousand pounds.  You have fallen behind in that obligation.

Queen: We haven’t fallen behind.  We’ve simply stopped paying.

Cloten: Your emperor can blow it out his ass!  I’ll fight him myself if he wants to take me on!

Cymbeline: Take it easy.

Cloten: You Italians have big noses!  We don’t like you!  Fuck off!

Cymbeline: Son, he’s an ambassador.  (To Lucius)  He’s a good kid, really.–The point is, sir, that Britain is a country just as Rome is a country, and Rome is not the boss of us any more.

Cloten: That’s right!  No more tribute for Rome!  Fuck off and die!

Cymbeline: Calm yourself, boy.

    (Lucius clears his throat in annoyance.)

Lucius: My lord Cymbeline, the Emperor Augustus Caesar has more kings as his servants than you have servants.  If you refuse to pay, then I am authorized to tell you that our countries will be at war.  I wish it were not so.  I have always personally liked you.

Cymbeline: I feel the same about you, Lucius.  You’re welcome to stay a day or two before you return to Rome.  But my answer to your emperor has been given.

Lucius: So be it, my lord.

    (They all walk out together, very dignified, except Cloten, who makes a rude face behind Lucius’s back.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Britain.  Pisanio comes in slowly, reading a letter and frowning.  He speaks directly to the audience.

Pisanio: I don’t f’-in believe this.  This is from Posthumus.  He says Imogen is a slut.  He says she’s ruined his life.–Imogen?–A slut?–That girl is as pure as a snowflake.–And he wants her dead.–I swear, the guy’s lost his mind.–And he wants me to kill her.–Can you imagine?–He says I should take her to Wales and kill her there.–There’s another letter.  (He shows it.)–And I’m supposed to give it to her.  He says when she reads this letter she’ll go with me.–If I didn’t know his handwriting, I’d swear this has to be a hoax.–Something weird must have happened in Rome.  I just don’t know what to make of this.

    (Imogen comes in.)

Imogen: Pisanio, did you get a letter?

Pisanio: Em–yes.

Imogen: From Posthumus?

Pisanio: Em–yes.–And this one’s for you.

    (He gives her the letter.  She opens it and reads it to herself, looking happy and excited.)

Imogen: He says he’ll be waiting for me in Wales!  Milford Haven!  He misses me!  He loves me!–Pisanio, can you take me?

Pisanio: Em–I suppose I could.  It’s a long way, though.  Are you sure you want to go?

Imogen: Of course, I want to go.  Don’t be silly.  You’ll take me there.

Pisanio: If you insist.

Imogen: How do I get away, though?  (Thinks)  Listen, go to my rooms and tell my lady she’s to go home for a few days.  She’s going to take sick leave.

Pisanio: Is she sick?

Imogen: No.  She’s to pretend she’s sick if anyone asks.  Then I want you to collect whatever riding gear I’ll need for the trip.

    (Pisanio hesitates.)

Pisanio: Are you quite sure, madam?

Imogen: Of course, I’m sure.  If I don’t go now, how do I know when I’ll see him again?  Now, go on.  Just do as I say.–Oh, I can’t wait to see him!

Pisanio: Yes, madam.

    (They go out seaparately, Pisanio looking gloomy.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  A cottage in Wales.  (In Shakespeare’s original, it’s a cave, but that’s just too stupid.  These people are living simply, but they are not barbarians or outlaws.–Director, it’s a cottage, and don’t argue with me!)  Curtain up finds Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus seated, dressed as shepherds.  (Note: These are their secret true identities and will be their speech prefixes throughout the play.)

Belarius: Ah, this is the life, eh, boys?  Being shepherds in Wales.

    (Guiderius and Arviragus grunt halfheartedly.)

Belarius: We have our sheep.  We have the beauties of nature–the sky, the trees , the flowers–

Guiderius: The streams, the birds, et cetera–

Arviragus: Insects, fungi–what else?

Guiderius: Clouds.

Arviragus: Yes, clouds.  And fog–weather permitting.

Belarius: At night you see more stars than you can count.  You can watch the seasons pass, year after year.

Guiderius: Year after year.

Belarius: It’s a peaceful life.  No troubles.  And no bosses.–Just me, ha!

Guiderius: It’s boring, that’s what it is.

Arviragus: You can say that again.

Belarius: Oh!  What’s the matter?

Arviragus: Dad, we’ve never been anywhere.  We’ve never done anything.

Belarius: We have our sheep.  We hunt.  I tell stories.  What else do you want?  We have a roof over our heads.  We have what we need.

Guiderius: Dad, there’s a whole world out there.  We haven’t seen any of it.  Guys our age should be doing all kinds of stuff–traveling, seeing things, meeting lots of people–

Arviragus: Having some adventure.  Having an interesting life.

Belarius: Bah!

Guiderius: The city!  That’s where things happen.

Arviragus: Right!  The city!

Guiderius: We could see all kinds of stuff.  We could learn.  We could advance ourselves.  Maybe get rich.

Arviragus: That’s right, dad.  Nothing’s ever going to change for us out here.  It’ll just be the same, old thing, year after year. 

Belarius: Now, listen, boys.  We have the best life right here.  I used to live in the city long ago.  I knew the King himself–King Cymbeline.

Guiderius and Arviragus: We know.

Belarius: I tell you, the city is full of wicked people.  Liars.  Thieves.  Schemers.  Who’s your friend?  Who’s your enemy?  You never know.  You’re surrounded by dirty politics.  And you don’t have any real freedom.  You have to know your place.  You have to be careful what you say and how you say it.  There’s always somebody telling you what to do.  Everybody’s obsessed with power, status, and money.  And when you take a deep breath, you can smell the corruption.

Guiderius: We’ve heard this speech before.

Belarius: So I’m telling it again.–I used to be close to the King.  He liked me.  And my enemies didn’t like the fact that he liked me.  So they slandered me.  They said I was a traitor.  They said I was on the side of the Romans.–The Romans!–Me!–And he believed them–because they were–gentlemen!–And what happened?  I got banished.  I was totally innocent, totally loyal, and I got banished.

Guiderius: We know.  You’ve told us before.

Arviragus: We’re not trivializing it.  It must have been pretty bad.  But it’s, like, you know, old history.

Belarius: All right, then.  Forget about it.  Go out and check on the sheep.  I’ll be out in a minute.

    (Guiderius and Arviragus go out.  Belarius speaks directly to the audience.)

Belarius: My two sons, Polydore and Cadwal.  Polydore is the older one.  As far as they know, I’m their natural father, and they know me as Morgan.  My late wife, Euriphile, they assume was their natural mother.  But in fact, neither of us was their true parent.  They are actually the sons of King Cymbeline.  Polydore is really Guiderius, and Cadwal is really Arviragus.  And I’m really Belarius.  When Cymbeline banished me, I was so angry I stole the boys.  They were just babies.  That was twenty years ago.  Euriphile was their nurse.  She loved me.  I said, “Let’s go to Wales.  We’ll take the boys, I’ll marry you, we’ll raise them as our own sons, and we’ll have a happy life.”  So that’s what happened.  And to this day, the boys don’t know they’re actually princes.  Now, you mustn’t think too harshly of me.  It’s true that I acted out of revenge, but I always intended to do right by those boys.  My wife and I devoted ourselves to them.  I wanted to give them an honest, simple life in healthy surroundings.  We’ve been shepherds.  It’s an honest living.  And they’re good boys.  A father couldn’t ask for better sons.  I want them to be my comfort in my old age.  And I don’t want to see them get corrupted by city life.  (A hunting horn is heard.)  Oh!–They’re hunting–ha, ha!  I’ll go see if they’ve caught anything.

    (He leaves.)   

Act 3, Scene 4.  Wales.  Pisanio and Imogen come in.

Imogen: Is this the place?  Where are we?

Pisanio: This is the place, madam.  We’re near the port of Milford Haven.

Imogen: Why isn’t Posthumus here?  He said he’d meet me.


Pisanio: He won’t be here, madam.

Imogen: What do you mean, he won’t be here?  (Pisanio looks away, embarrassed.)  What’s going on, Pisanio?

Pisanio: I so much hate to tell you, madam.

Imogen: Tell me what?  Pisanio, tell me.  What’s going on?

Pisanio: Posthumus sent me this letter.  I’ll let you read it.

    (He gives her the letter.  Imogen reads it silently, her face showing shock and distress.)

Imogen: He accuses me of infidelity?  He told you to bring me out here to murder me?

Pisanio: Of course, I’m not going to, madam.  He’s lost his mind.–Or something’s happened.  I don’t know.

Imogen: This letter is a knife in my heart.

Pisanio: I knew it would be.  I didn’t want to bring you.

    (She takes his sword from his belt and tries to put it in his hand.)

Imogen: Here.  Do what he told you.  I’m already dead.

Pisanio: No, madam.

    (He takes the sword back.)

Imogen: I have no life.  If he wants me dead, I have nothing to live for.

Pisanio: Don’t talk foolish now, madam.

Imogen: Why did you bring me here?  You could have told me in London.

Pisanio: That would’ve been worse.  Everyone would’ve known.

Imogen: What am I supposed to do now?

Pisanio: Well, I’ve been thinking it over.  If I send word to Posthumus that I’ve killed you, he may be stricken with remorse.  We don’t know what’s going on in Rome.  Did something happen to him?  Did somebody tell him something?  We have no way of knowing.  But for now, let him think I’ve carried out his instructions.

Imogen: And then what?

Pisanio: You’ve got to go to Rome.  You may have been missed by now back in London, and if you go back there now, you won’t have a good explanation, and you’ll be in trouble.  The only thing to do is to go to Rome and try to find out what’s going on.

Imogen: How am I supposed to get there without being recognized?

Pisanio: I have a plan.  The Roman ambassador, Caius Lucius, will be returning to Rome by boat.  He’ll be leaving from Milford Haven.  Probably tomorrow.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare disregards geography — something we’ve seen before in his plays.  There is no reason why Lucius would go to Wales to get a boat back to Rome.  Just look at a map.  Neither text that I worked from — Signet or Folger — makes any comment about this.]  You’ll disguise yourself as a man and get him to take you along as a servant.  His page, let’s say.  I brought you some men’s clothing.  Once you get to Rome, hopefully you can find out what’s going on with Posthumus.  Of course, you’ve got to be convincing as a man.

Imogen: I’ll manage it.  If I have to, I will.

Pisanio: Oh, before I forget.  (He takes out the box of medicines given to him by the Queen and gives it to Imogen.)  The Queen gave me these medicines as a gift.  She said they’re good for almost anything.  The King has used them.  They’ll make you feel good.  You should keep them handy in case you get sick.  That way, you won’t have to ask for a doctor and risk compromising your disguise.

Imogen: Thank you.  You seem to have thought of everything.  What will you tell them when you get back to London?   

Pisanio: I’ll play it by ear.  Don’t worry.  I just want you to be all right, madam.  I’ll pray for you.  The gods will protect you.  Somehow it’ll work out.

Imogen: Thank you, Pisanio.

    (They go out.)  

Act 3, Scene 5.  The King’s court in Britain.  Coming in are Cymbeline, the Queen, Cloten, Lucius, and British Lords and Attendants, and Roman Attendants.

Cymbeline: Have a safe trip back to Rome, Lucius.

Lucius: Thank you, my lord.  You and the Queen have been generous hosts.  I’m sorry that our business has turned out as it has.  I was hoping for a different outcome.

Cymbeline: The outcome is the way our people want it.  They agree with me.

Lucius: Yes.  Quite so.–May I have a safe escort to Milford Haven?

Cymbeline: Of course.  My lords will escort you.

Lucius (To Cloten): May I shake your hand as a friend, sir?

    (Cloten accepts the handshake reluctantly.)

Cloten: For the last time, sir.  After this, we are enemies.

Lucius (To the Queen): Madam, good health and long life to you.

Queen: And to you as well, Ambassador.

Lucius: Thank you.–Goodbye, your Majesty.

    (Lucius and Cymbeline shake hands.)

Cymbeline: Goodbye, Lucius.

    (Lucius and his Attendants leave with the Lords.)

Cloten: We showed him, didn’t we?

Cymbeline: The Emperor will know what’s what before Lucius gets there.  He sent a messenger on ahead of him.  The Romans will be organizing their forces immediately.

Queen: We must do the same.

Cymbeline: I’ve already alerted the commanders.–Say, what’s become of Imogen?  I haven’t seen her for days.

Queen: She’s probably sulking in her rooms.  I guess she’s still angry.

Cymbeline (To an Attendant): Go see if the Princess is in her rooms.

Attendant: Yes, my lord.

    (The Attendant goes out.)

Queen: Try not to quarrel with her.  Just be patient.

Cymbeline: Have you seen her lately?

Queen: The last time I knocked on her door a few days ago she said she had a cold and just wanted to be left alone.

Cymbeline: Really?  That’s strange.  I hope it’s not serious.–Have you seen her, Cloten?

Cloten: Not lately.

    (The Attendant returns, agitated.)

Attendant: She’s not there, my lord!  Her chambers are empty!

Cymbeline: What!  What about her lady?

Attendant: She’s not there, sir.

Queen: What about Pisanio?  Has anyone seen him?

Cloten: I haven’t seen him either, come to think of it.

Cymbeline: I hope she hasn’t run away.–Cloten, you come with me.  (To the Attendants)  Search the palace.  And the grounds.

    (Cymbeline and Cloten go out one way, and the Attendants go out the other way.)

Queen: Pisanio.–With any luck, he’s taken those drugs and we’re rid of him.  And as for the Princess, maybe she’s run away to Rome.  That’s fine with me.  With a war about to break out, she’ll probably get locked up.  And the King will be so pissed off he’ll disinherit her for sure.  That means–my Cloten will be the next king!

    (Cloten returns.)

Cloten: She’s gone.  There’s no doubt of it.

Queen: Ah.  Indeed.

Cloten: The King’s furious.  Maybe you should go calm him down.

Queen: Yes.  Good idea.

    (The Queen goes out.)

Cloten: That bitch Imogen!  She’s probably run off to be with that fucking Posthumus.   I can’t believe she loves him and she hates me.–Well, to hell with her!  I hate her!–I’ll fix the two of them if I ever get the chance.

    (Pisanio comes in.  Cloten immediately grabs him by the collar and shakes him.)

Cloten: You slave!  Where is she?

Pisanio: Please, sir!  You’re hurting me!

Cloten: Is she with Posthumus?  Tell me!  You know where she is!

Pisanio: Sir!  Please!

Cloten: You villain!  You’d better tell me what you know or I’ll have you executed for treason!

Pisanio: Please, sir!–This letter is all I know.

    (Pisanio gives Cloten the letter — i.e., the one from Posthumus to Imogen promising to meet her in Milford Haven.  Cloten reads it to himself.)

Cloten: Is this true?  Did she go to Milford to meet Posthumus?

Pisanio: I believe so, sir.

Cloten: This is his handwriting.  He says he’ll meet her there.  Obviously, that’s where she went.  You knew about this, didn’t you?

Pisanio: She swore me to secrecy, sir.  As her servant, I was bound to obey.  Your mother would agree, I’m sure.

    (Cloten assumes a calmer, friendlier demeanor.  He smooths down Pisanio’s collar.)

Cloten: It’s all right, Pisanio.  You’re not in any trouble–as long as you help me.  The Princess is gone, so you’re my servant now.  You’ll do what I tell you–won’t you?

Pisanio: Yes, sir.

Cloten: Good, good.  We understand each other.  (Cloten gives him a gold coin.)  This is for you.  I’m your friend now.

Pisanio: Thank you, my lord.

Cloten: Now listen.  Do you still have any of Posthumus’s clothes?

Pisanio: Yes, my lord.  One of his suits.  His oldest one.

Cloten: That’s fine.  I want you to go and get it for me.

Pisanio: Yes, my lord.

    (Pisanio goes out.)

Cloten: So!  The Princess thinks his oldest suit of clothes is more manly than I am.  Well!  She’s going to pay for that insult.  I’m going to go out there to Milford Haven, and I’m going to be wearing that old suit of his.  And when I find the two of them–I’m going to murder him right in front of her–and then I’m going to rape her!–Bitch!

    (Pisanio returns with the suit.)

Cloten: You got it?

Pisanio: Yes, my lord.

Cloten: Excellent!  When did she leave for Milford?

Pisanio: Em, just recently.  I don’t think she’d be there yet.

Cloten: Good.  Take this suit to my room.  You’re to say nothing about this, understand?

Pisanio: Yes, my lord.

Cloten: I’m going to Milford, and when I catch the two of them–I’ll deal with them properly.

    (Cloten goes out.)

Pisanio: You won’t find her.  She’ll be gone by the time you get there.  (Looking up)  You gods–watch over her–and throw every obstacle in Cloten’s path.

    (Pisanio leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 6.  The cottage of Belarius in Wales.  Imogen kncoks within and calls “Hello?”, then enters.  She is wearing men’s clothing.

Imogen: There’s nobody here.  This is the first cottage I’ve seen in two days of wandering around.  I don’t even know where I am.  How could I not find Milford Haven?  (Feels her stomach)  I’m so hungry.  (She sees bread on the table.)  I’ve got to eat something.

    (She picks up the bread and eats.  Then Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus come in carrying an animal carcass as food.)

Belarius: What’s this?

Imogen: Oh!

Guiderius: Are you a thief?  We have nothing worth stealing.

Arviragus: It’s not nice to break into people’s houses.

Imogen: I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean any harm.  I was lost.  I was supposed to meet someone at Milford Haven, but I lost my way.  I was so hungry.  I had to eat something.  I knocked, but there was nobody home.

Belarius: What’s your name?

Imogen: My name is–Fidele.  I’ll pay you for the food.  I have some money.

Belarius: Ha, ha–no, that’s all right.  (To his sons)  We might as well take care of this fellow.  (To Imogen)  My name’s Morgan, and these are my sons Polydore and Cadwal.

Guiderius and Arviragus: Hi!  (They shake hands with her.)

Imogen: Polydore–Cadwal–I am honoured to make your acquaintance.

Belarius: He talks like a city man.  (To Imogen)  A city man lost in the country, eh?

Imogen: Em, yes.  You might say so.  I don’t know this region.

Guiderius (Aside to Arviragus): He looks a bit feminine, don’t you think?

Arviragus (Aside to Guiderius): He doesn’t have a beard.  You know, if he did, he’d look a bit like us, wouldn’t he?

Guiderius (Aside to Arviragus): I think you’re right.

Imogen (Aside): These boys remind me of my father, for some reason.

Belarius: You’re in luck, Fidele.  We’ve got meat for dinner.  You can stuff yourself all you want.  And then you can tell us your story.

Imogen: Thank you.  You’re very kind.

    (Curtain down without an exit.)

Act 3, Scene 7.  Rome.  Two Roman Senators come in with two Tribunes.

1st Senator: The Emperor has decided that additional forces must be raised to fight the Britons.  Lucius has been promoted to proconsul and he will be in command of those forces.  The common forces and the legions are occupied elsewhere, so these new forces must be recruited from the gentry.  You tribunes will be in charge of that.

1st Tribune: The Emperor can count on us.

2nd Tribune: Hail, Caesar!

Senators: Hail, Caesar!

    (The Senators and Tribunes leave separately.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  Wales.  Cloten comes in alone.  He is armed and is wearing Posthumus’s old suit.

Cloten: Where is that bastard?  When I find him I’ll cut off his head–and then I’ll rape that bitch.  The King won’t like it, but he’ll get over it.  After all, she was a traitor.  And my mother wears the pants in the family.  (He draws his sword and admires it.)  Fate!–Give them to me!  Give me my revenge!

    (He walks out as if hunting.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Wales.  In the woods.  Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, and Imogen (as Fidele) come in.

Belarius (To Imogen): If you’re not feeling well, go back and rest in the cottage, Fidele.  After all, you’re a city boy.  You don’t have to hunt.

Guiderius: I can stay with him.  I don’t mind.

Imogen: Oh, no.  I don’t want to ruin your day.

Guiderius: I’ll be worried about you if you’re by yourself.  Hey, you know, we like you, Fidele.

Arviragus: Yeah, we do.  You’re sort of like a brother.

Belarius: A brother?

Arviragus: Yeah, he seems like one.  It’s funny, but it feels like he should be one of us.

Guiderius: I felt that way as soon as I met him.  He could’ve been our brother.

Belarius: You boys have an imagination, I’ll say that.  (Aside)  But who is he really?

Imogen: You’re all very kind.  But I’ll just go back to the cottage and rest.  I have some medicine a friend gave me.  I’m sure it’ll make me feel better.  You three go on and enjoy your hunt.

Belarius: We won’t be gone too long.  We’ll see you later.

Imogen: All right.

    (Imogen leaves.)

Balerius (Aside): There’s something noble about that fellow.  I wonder who he really is.

Arviragus: So, dad, is he our long-lost brother?

Guiderius: Yeah, dad.  You been keeping this a secret all these years?

Belarius: Ha, ha!  He’s a good fellow.  I like him, too.  Come on, let’s go catch something for dinner.

    (Cloten’s voice is heard within: “Where are those runaways?  I’ll get them!”)

Belarius (Aside): I recognize that voice.  It’s Cloten, the Queen’s son.  [Author’s note: Yeah, right.  He’s going to remember after twenty years!  Well, that’s Shakespeare.] (To his sons)  Sounds like trouble.  We should get out of here.

Guiderius: Leave it to me.  You two get out of sight.  Just circle around and see if he’s got other people with him.  I’ll stay here and deal with him, whoever he is.

Belarius: Be careful.

Arviragus: Yell if you need help.

Guiderius: Don’t worry.  Just stay nearby.

    (Belarius and Arviragus go out.  Guiderius draws his sword.  Cloten comes in, sword out.)

Cloten: Who the fuck are you, you hillbilly bastard?

Guiderius: Hillbilly bastard?  Where the hell do you come from?

Cloten: Somewhere where your type isn’t allowed, you fucking retard!

Guiderius: You’re going to look pretty funny in about a minute–without a head!

Cloten: You fucker!  Do you know who you’re talking to?  I’m Cloten!  I’m the Queen’s son!

Guiderius: You don’t look like any queen’s son to me.  Where do you get your clothes–at Goodwill?

Cloten: You scum!  I’ll kill you!

    (They begin fighting, and the fight moves offstage.  After a moment, Belarius and Arviragus return.)

Arviragus: There’s nobody here.  Are you sure you heard Cloten’s voice?

Belarius: I could swear it.  God, I hope they didn’t get into a fight.

Arviragus: Polydore can take care of himself.

Belarius: If he kills Cloten, the King will send soldiers to hunt us down.  We’ll all be hanged for murder.

    (Guiderius comes in carrying Cloten’s head.)

Guiderius: He called me a hillbilly bastard!

Belarius: Oh, God!  That’s the Queen’s son!

Guiderius: It was a fair fight.  Better him than me.

Belarius: We’re in big trouble now.

Guiderius: He started it.  It was self-defense.–Is there anyone else around?

Belarius: We didn’t see anyone.  But I don’t think he’d come all this way by himself.  Maybe the King heard we were outlaws or something, and he sent soldiers to look for us.

Arviragus: Why would anyone think we were outlaws?  Nobody even knows we’re here.

Belarius: We can’t be sure.  There could be rumours.  People might be searching the area for something.

Arviragus: If I didn’t know better, I’d say you had a guilty conscience about something.

Belarius: No, no, no.  I’m just–speculating.

Arviragus: Well, look, Polydore had no choice.  (To Polydore)  Right?

Guiderius: Right.

Belarius (To Guiderius): What’re you going to do with him?

Guiderius: I’ll throw his head in the river.  Maybe it’ll wash up somewhere where the Queen finds it–ha!

Belarius: Don’t say that!

    (Guiderius goes out.)

Arviragus (After him): Good job, bro!  I wish I’d done it!

Belarius: Shh!–Listen, you’re not to say a word about this.  We weren’t here.  We don’t know anything.

Arviragus: Aw, take it easy, dad.  Nobody’s going to know.

Belarius: Listen, you go back and see how Fidele is and stay there and wait for us.  I’ll come back with your brother.

Arviragus: Okay.

    (Arviragus leaves.)

Belarius: My boys have the instincts of nobles.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.–I’m just worried about Cloten now.  This is going to be big trouble.

    (Guiderius returns.)

Guiderius: Where’s Cadwal?  Did he go home?

Belarius: Yes.

Guiderius: I watched Cloten’s head float down the river.  It would be funny if it floated all the way to London.

Belarius: That’s physically impossible!  And don’t joke about it!

    (Arviragus returns, carrying Imogen in his arms, apparently dead.  [Author’s note: Time and space mean nothing to Shakespeare.])

Arviragus: He’s dead!

Guiderius: What happened?

Arviragus: I don’t know.  I found him unconscious.  He’s got no signs of life.

Belarius: This is terrible!  Terrible!  The poor boy!  Such a good boy!  We never should have left him.

Guiderius: But how did he die?  A heart attack, or what?

Arviragus: I have no idea.

    (Guiderius strokes Imogen’s head.)

Guiderius: I wanted him to live with us–and be our brother.

Arviragus: So did I.–What’ll we do–bury him?

Guiderius: We should bury him beside our mother.

    [Author’s note: Shakespeare’s staging becomes very problematic here.  He needs Imogen to wake up beside Cloten’s headless body and misidentify him as Posthumus.  So, obviously, Imogen can’t be buried at all.  But what reason would there be for laying the two bodies next to each other and leaving them?  Shakespeare does not explain this properly, so I have improvised.]

Belarius: You’re forgetting Cloten–his body.

Guiderius: Who cares about him?  To hell with him.  Let him rot.

Belarius: My boy, if he did you wrong, he paid for it.  We should take pity on his soul.  People will come out searching for him.  Let him be found and be taken back to London for a proper burial.  And put Fidele’s body next to his.  That way, they’ll take him as well and give him a proper burial.  Somebody in London may know him, and he deserves to rest with his kin.  It’s the right thing to do.

Guiderius: Okay, if you think so.

Belarius: Yes.  Trust me.  And we’ll just stay away from here.  We were never here.  We don’t know anything.

Guiderius: All right.  Then we’ll leave Fidele here, and I’ll drag Cloten’s body.

Belarius: I’ll help you.

    (Guiderius and Belarius go out.  Arviragus kneels beside Imogen’s body.)

Arviragus (Holding back tears): Fidele–if only you could’ve lived.  You would’ve been our brother.

    (Guiderius and Belarius return, dragging Cloten’s body, which is placed beside Imogen.  Arviragus plucks some flowers and places them on Imogen’s body.  Then the three men stand reverently.)

Belarius: May God forgive whatever sins they may have committed and accept their souls into heaven.

Guiderius and Arviragus: Amen.

    (The three men leave.  The stage lighting dims slightly, suggesting the passing of the day.  Then Imogen awakens.  She is groggy.)

Imogen: Milford Haven–which way to Milford Haven?–Oh, my head.–I’m so dizzy.

    (She sees Cloten’s headless body and is shocked.)

Imogen: What!–My God–There’s no head!  (She examines the clothing.)  I know this suit.–It belongs to Posthumus!–Posthumus!  (She thinks.)  Pisanio!–He’s the one!  He did this!  He gave me that drug!–And then–he and Cloten waited for Posthumus–and killed him!–Oh, God!–No!–No!–No!

    (She falls on the body, weeping.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  Quick segue from previous scene.  (Author’s note: I have added a scene break because the staging in Shakespeare’s  original scene is too clumsy.)  In the woods near the previous scene.  Coming in are Lucius, two Captains, and the Soothsayer.

Lucius: Are the legions here from France?

1st Captain: They’re here, sir.  And the fleet is assembled at Milford Haven.

Lucius: Good.  And the reinforcements from Rome?

2nd Captain: They’re on the way, sir.  The Duke of Siena’s brother, Iachimo, is in charge of them.

Lucius: Fine.  I think we have the advantage.–Soothsayer, what’s your prediction for the war?

Soothsayer: My lord, I dreamed that the great Roman eagle spread its wings and flew over Britain.  That means we’re going to beat them.

Lucius: Excellent.

    (Imogen comes in slowly, head in hands, looking distracted and depressed.  The Captains reach for their swords, but Lucius gestures to them to be calm.)

Lucius: Young man, are you all right?  (Imogen is in a fog and doesn’t reply.)  Who are you?

Imogen: I am no one, sir.–I am no one without my master.

Lucius: Has something happened?

Imogen: My master was murdered.

Lucius: Good heavens!  Who did it?

Imogen: I didn’t see.  They must have been outlaws.  [Author’s note: Imogen lies in this scene to avoid trouble.  She still wants to hide her identity and maintain her disguise.]  His body is back there.  (She points.)

Lucius (To the Captains): Go look.

    (The Captains go out.)

Lucius: Who was your master?

Imogen: His name was–du Champ.

Lucius: British?

Imogen: Yes, sir.  He was–he was good to me.  I loved him.

Lucius: And what is your name?

Imogen: Fidele.

    (The Captains return and whisper to Lucius, who reacts momentarily with shock.)

Lucius: I’m very sorry about your master, Fidele.  We’ll bury him here.  We can’t take his body with us.

Imogen: Thank you, sir.

Lucius: Do you have anywhere you can go?

Imogen: No, sir.  I have no home any more.  I have nowhere to go.–Perhaps you would take me on as a servant.

Lucius: All right.  You seem like an honest fellow.  You can be my page.  I don’t know if you’ll like me as much as Lord du Champ, but you’ll be well-treated, I promise you.

Imogen: Thank you, sir.  I am grateful.

Lucius: Now wipe your eyes and think of happier days ahead.  (To the Captains)  Get some men and bury the body.

    (The Captains salute and go out.  Then Lucius, Imogen, and the Soothsayer go out slowly.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  (This is Scene 3 in the original.)  Britain.  Cymbeline comes in with two Lords and Pisanio.  A conversation is in progress.

Cymbeline: What a mess!  (To the First Lord)  Go check on the Queen.

    (The First Lord goes out.)

Cymbeline: Nothing but problems!  Cloten’s gone, and nobody knows were.  The Queen is sick with worry.  Imogen’s gone, and nobody knows where she is either–although I have a feeling she ran off to Rome to look for Posthumus.  And worst of all, we have to deal with a Roman invasion.–You!  Pisanio!  You know something about Imogen!  You’ve been holding out on me!

Pisanio: No, my lord.  I swear I don’t know where she is.

2nd Lord: Pisanio was here when Imogen went missing, my lord.  And as for Cloten, there are poeple out looking for him.  I’m sure they’ll find him eventually.

Cymbeline: I really don’t need all this shit happening at the same time.–Pardon my language.  (To Pisanio)  I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt for now.  But don’t test my patience.

Pisanio: Yes, my lord.  Thank you, my lord.

Cymbeline: The Romans have already landed.  I wish the Queen were here to advise me.  She always knows what to do.

2nd Lord: You have enough forces to meet the threat, my lord.  They’re just waiting for your orders.

Cymbeline: Yes, yes, I know.–I suppose we’ll be all right.–I just don’t feel lucky right now.–Anyway, come with me.

    (Cymbeline goes out with the Second Lord, leaving Pisanio alone.)

Pisanio (To the audience): I’ve heard nothing from Posthumus since I wrote him to say that Imogen was dead.  I sent him a bloody handkerchief for proof.  (He shows a bandage on his arm.)  And I’ve heard nothing from her either, so I have no idea where she is.  And as for Cloten, who knows where he is?  Only the gods know what’s going on–and what’s going to happen.  I just have to have faith.

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  (This is Scene 4 in the original.)  Wales.  Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus come in.  Distant sounds of marching armies.

Guiderius: You hear that?  Listen.  (Sounds of marching)  Romans and Brits marching.

Belarius: We’ve got to hide up in the mountains.  That’s the safest place.

Guiderius: What’s the point of hiding?  If the Romans find us, they might kill us anyway.

Belarius: I’m more worried about the Brits.  They might connect us with Cloten’s death.

Arviragus: Why should they waste time on us when they’ve got the Romans to worry about?

Belarius: Look, boys, I’m known back in London.  The King’s not my friend.  I don’t want to be recognized.

Guiderius: Nobody’s going to recognize you after all these years.  I want to join the Brits.  I want to fight on their side.

Arviragus: Me, too.  I’m not going to hide like a coward.  We’re British.  We should fight.

Belarius: Oh, boys, boys, boys–

Guiderius: Dad, we’re going with or without you.  It’s your choice.

Belarius: Oh, God.–(He considers.)  Since you’re so set on it–all right.  Your fate will be my fate.  Let’s go, then.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Britain.  Posthumus comes in alone, wearing a Roman uniform.

Posthumus: What an irony!  I get drafted into the Roman army and now I have to fight against my own country.  (He holds up the bloody handkerchief.)  Pisanio, just once I wish you had disobeyed me.–Now she’s dead.–Better the fates had killed me instead.  I’m the one who deserves to die.  Why should I fight for Rome when I’ve already done so much harm to Britain?  There’s only one thing for me to do.–Take off this uniform and dress like a peasant–and fight on the British side.  I won’t mind if the Romans kill me.  I’d be glad if they did.  I really don’t want to live any more.

    (He leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  Britain.  (Author’s note: Shakespeare’s stage directions for this scene are very awkward.  I’ve simplified the scene.)  Sounds of battle.  Roman soldiers drag Cymbeline across the stage as a prisoner.  Then Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus come in to rescue him.  They fight with the Romans.  The fight is even until Posthumus rushes in to help the Britons.  The Romans flee.

Guiderius (Assisting Cymbeline): You’re safe, my lord.  Come with us.

Cymbeline: Thank you, lads!

    (They all leave.  Then Lucius, Iachimo, and Imogen come in.  Imogen is still disguised as Fidele.)

Lucius: They’re giving us a hell of a fight.  This is worse than I expected.

Iachimo: They’re getting help from the locals.  They’re not even professional soldiers.  I almost got killed by some bloody peasant.  He let me go, believe it or not.

Lucius: We can still win.  There’s a narrow pass down there.  If we can force them into it, we’ll have the advantage.  But we need to concentrate our forces.–Fidele, this is no place for you.  I don’t want you to get hurt.  You have to get away from the fighting.–Iachimo, follow me.

    (They leave, Imogen separately.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  Elsewhere near the battlefield.  Posthumus and a British Lord come in from opposite sides.

Lord: Hello!  Were you, em–out there?  (He points.)

Posthumus: You mean, the battlefield?

Lord: Yes.

Posthumus: Yes.  I was there.  I think I saw you running away, though.–Didn’t I?

Lord: Em, I don’t know.  It’s possible.

Posthumus. Well, I can understand.  Our flanks collapsed and everyone was trying to escape through the only pass available.  It was too narrow.  We were getting slaughtered.

Lord: My God!

Posthumus: It would have been the end for us, except for one old man and his two sons.  They weren’t even soldiers.  They were just country folk.  The old man shouted to everyone to turn and make a stand, and then he and his sons led the troops against the Romans and broke their formation.  It was totally unexpected.  Bravest thing I ever saw.  You should have been there.

Lord: I, uh–I must have been elsewhere.

    (Posthumus gives him a long, contemptuous look.)

Lord: You seem disappointed in me.

Posthumus: No more than any other coward.

Lord (Stiffly): You are not of my social class.  I take my leave of you.

    (The Lord leaves, offended.)

Posthumus: There goes a lord of Britain.  Too afraid of dying.–As for me, I want to die and I can’t.  At least, not as a Brit.  I should go back to the Roman side and let the Brits kill me, since they seem to be winning.  I won’t even try to defend myself.–It’s what I deserve for what I did to Imogen.

    (Posthumus goes to one side of the stage and removes his peasant clothing and shows his Roman garb underneath.  Two British Captains and some Soldiers come in slowly from the opposite side.  They doen’t notice Posthumus at first.)

1st Captain: What a turnaround!  We captured Lucius!  I wish I knew who that old man was–and his two sons.  They were fantastic!

2nd Captain: And there was another guy helping them.  He looked like a peasant.

1st Captain: Yeah.  They were all commoners.  They should get medals for what they did.–(Sees Posthumus) Hold it!  You there!  Come here!

    (Posthumus approaches.)

1st Captain: Who are you?

Posthumus: A Roman.

2nd Captain: A Roman!  (He grabs Posthumus, with the Soldiers assisting.)  You’re our prisoner now!

Posthumus: Okay, I’m your prisoner.  What are you going to do, kill me?

2nd Captain: No, we’ll hand you over to the King.  He’ll decide what’s to be done with you.–Come on.

    (They all leave.  [Author’s note: In the original, Shakespeare adds stage directions here that may have been intended for a short scene that was never written.  I have deleted them as unnecessary.])

Act 5, Scene 4.  Britain.  Curtain up finds Posthumus alone in prison.

Posthumus: You gods, I’m not afraid to die.  Only death will relieve my conscience.  (Sighs)  Oh, Imogen–if I could only see you again.–I guess I will on the other side.

    (Posthumus falls asleep.  Ethereal music is heard.  Coming in are four Apparitions: Sicilius Leonatus, his father, dressed as an old soldier; his Mother; and his two Brothers.  They look at Posthumus sadly.  [Many of the following speeches are addressed to Jupiter.])

Sicilius: Jupiter, does my son deserve this?  Have you no pity?  We never met in life.  I died while he was still in his mother’s womb.  You should have been watching over him.  You’re supposed to be the father of all orphans.

Mother: An orphan indeed–the poor boy!  I died giving birth to him.

Sicilius: He came from good stock, you know.  He’s a Leonatus–like his two brothers.

1st Brother: My brother.  There was no one better in all of Britain.  Imogen could see what a good man he was.

Mother: Aye!  He shouldn’t have been exiled for marrying her.  That was very wrong.

2nd Brother: I hope you’re listening, Jupiter!  My father and brother and I all died serving our country.  We were always loyal.  We’re appealing to you, Jupiter!

1st Brother: You saw how bravely he fought for his king.  Are you going to ignore that?  He deserves a break, don’t you think?

Sicilius: Enough is enough, Jupiter!  We’re spirits.  You should be listening to us. 

Mother: Help him now!

2nd Brother: You’re the King of the Gods!  You’re the big boss!  We want some action!

    (Thunder and lightning.  Jupiter descends with a squeaking sound on a chair fashioned like an eagle.)

Jupiter: All right, already!  Quit your bitching!–This is what I get for being King of the Gods.  Everyone expects me to solve their problems.–Now, look.  What happens on earth with people is my business, not yours.  You’re just supposed to enjoy the afterlife and float around in the clouds and sing my praises and stuff like that.

Sicilius: Yes, but who else are we going to complain to?  I’m his father.

Mother: And I’m his mother.

Brothers: And we’re his brothers.

Jupiter: I know, I know.  Now, look, I haven’t forgotten him.  In face, I’ve been following his case very closely.  You know the way I operate.  I don’t give instant gratification.  I always make things a bit rough for the people I really like so that when I do help them, it’ll seem more, you know, god-like.–Here.  This is a prophecy for him.  Just put it next to him and he’ll find it when he wakes up.  (Jupiter gives Sicilius a paper, which Sicilius places beside Posthumus.)  Now stop worrying and let me handle this.  Everything will turn out all right, and he’ll get back with Imogen.  Okay?

Sicilius: Thank you, Jupiter.

Others: Thank you, Jupiter.

Jupiter: Okay, I’m going back to heaven.  (He slaps the eagle on the head.)  Come on, up!  (He starts ascending slowly, with squeaking.)  Faster!  Come on, move it!  I haven’t got all day, you stupid bird! 

    (Jupiter leaves, ascending.)

Sicilius: Okay, that was good.  You see?  It pays to complain.

1st Brother: Way to go, dad!

Sicilius: Okay, let’s cut out.

    (The four Apparitions leave.  Then Posthumus wakes up.)   

Posthumus: God, what a weird dream!–I saw my father and mother, and my two brothers who died in the old war.  And Jupiter came down, and he–(Notices the paper beside him)–What’s this?  (He reads.)  “When a lion’s cub shall be embraced by a piece of tender air, and when the dead branches chopped off of a stately cedar shall be rejoined to it and grow again, then shall Posthumus see his miseries end, and Britain shall flouish in peace and good fortune.”– What the heck does that mean?

    (The Jailer comes in.)

Jailer: Sir, it’s your time.

Posthumus: All right.

Jailer: Think of it as an end to all your miseries and all your debts.

Posthumus:  It’s okay, you don’t have to comfort me.  I’m ready to die.  I have no problem with it.

Jailer: I never heard a condemned man say that, sir.  After all, you don’t know which way you’re going (Indicating up or down).

Posthumus: I know, all right.

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: The King wants to see this one first.

Jailer: The King does?

Posthumus: He probably wants to have the last word.  That’s okay.

    (The Messenger takes Posthumus out.)

Jailer: What an odd duck!  Doesn’t seem the least concerned.  He’s not the worst fellow I evcr met, even if he is a Roman.–Tsk!  If only all men would be good!–But then I’d be out of a job!

    (The Jailer leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  The court of Cymbeline.  Coming in are Cymbeline, Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, Pisanio, and Lords.

Cymbeline: You three–Morgan, Polydore, and Cadwal–you stand here next to me.  You saved my life.  You’re heroes.

Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus: Thank you, my lord.

Cymbeline: I wish we could find that other guy–that peasant.  He’s a hero, too.

Belarius: He may have been a peasant, my lord, but he fought like a true noble.

Cymbeline: He sure did.  That’s the stuff this country is made of.–Doesn’t anyone know where he is?–Pisanio?

Pisanio: He hasn’t been seen anywhere, my lord.  We don’t even know if he’s dead or alive.

Cymbeline: Well, maybe he’ll turn up.–As for you three, I’m curious to know where you’re from.

Belarius: We’re just humble shepherds from Wales, my lord.

Cymbeline: Well, you’ve done a great service to the kingdom, and for that you’re going to get a reward.  Please kneel.  (They kneel.  Cymbeline taps them on the shoulders with his sword.)  You are now knights of Britain and Companions to the King, with all the dignities that go with it.  You may rise.

    (They rise.  Belarius hugs his sons.)

Belarius:  My sons!

    (Cornelius comes in with two of the Queen’s Ladies.  He looks grim.)

Cornelius: My lord.

Cymbeline: What’s the matter, Cornelius?

Cornelius: I’m sorry to tell you, but–(The Ladies begin crying.)–The Queen, my lord–she’s dead.

Cymbeline: What happened?

Cornelius: My lord, as her physician, I can only say that she died of grief–and madness.

Cymbeline: Because of Cloten?  We still don’t know where he is.

Cornelius: She grieved for Cloten, my lord–but there was more to it.

Cymbeline: You must tell me.

Cornelius: My lord, her ladies are here to vouch for the truth of what I’m about to tell you.  The Queen confessed–that she never really loved you.  She only married you to put Cloten on the throne someday.  And then when your daughter wouldn’t marry him, she vowed to eliminate her.  She wanted to poison her, but your daughter ran away first.  Then she intended to poison you and put Cloten on the throne, but then he ran away.  And when he didn’t come back, she felt hopeless.  She had nothing to live for.–That’s all I can tell you, my lord.

Cymbeline (To the Ladies): And this is all true?

Ladies: Yes, my lord.

    (Pause for effect.)

Cymbeline: I loved her, and I trusted her.  I never would have imagined she was capable of anything evil.–Perhaps Imogen knew her better than I did.

    (At this point, the Roman prisoners are brought in–first Lucius, Iachimo, the Soothsayer, and Imogen [as Fidele], then Posthumus behind–all escorted by Guards.)

Cymbeline: Ah–the Romans.–For all the brave Britons who died in battle, retribution is the tribute we must collect from you–Lucius!

Lucius (Very dignified): My lord, the battle could have gone either way.  If we had won, we would not have threatened British prisoners with death.  But if you insist on executing us, we will accept our fate as true Romans are expected to.  I would not plead for clemency for myself, but I will plead for it for my page.  He is British.  I took him on as a kindness because his master had been slain and he had nowhere to go.  He has been excellent in his service to me, and he has done no harm to any of your people.  If you have any respect for me, then grant me this one request and spare this young man.

    (Lucius holds Imogen beside him.  Cymbeline gives Imogen a long, curious look.  Belarius and his two sons also nudge each other.)

Cymbeline: There’s something familiar about him.  I could swear I’ve seen him before.–Young man, I don’t know why I’m doing this.  It’s not because of Lord Lucius.  It’s just something about you.  I like your face.  I’m going to spare you.  And more than that, I’ll grant you a favour.  Anything you want.

Imogen: I thank your Majesty.

Lucius (To Imogen): You don’t have to beg for my life.

Imogen: I wasn’t going to, sir.  There’s something more important that I have to do.

    (She looks intensely at Iachimo.)

Cymbeline: What is it, boy?  Do you know this fellow?  Is he kin to you?

Imogen: Hardly kin to me, sir.  He’s not even British.

Cymbeline: Well, what, then?

Imogen: I would like to tell you privately, my lord, if you’ll grant me a moment.

Cymbeline: Yes, of course.  Come along.  (He gestures for Imogen to move apart with him.)  What’s your name?

Imogen: Fidele, my lord.

    (Belarius and his sons react to the name Fidele.  Cymbeline and Imogen walk to one side and talk privately.  Belarius and his sons speak in low voices.)

Belarius: Did you hear that?–Fidele.–Has he come back from the dead?

Arviragus: I don’t know.  He looks just like the fellow we left for dead.

Guiderius: Exactly alike.  I could swear it’s him.

Belarius: But if it was him, he would have spoken to us.  Listen, don’t say anything.  We’re probably mistaken.  It must be a coincidence.

Pisanio (Aside): I know it’s Imogen.  But I’ll keep my mouth shut and let her decide when she wants to reveal herself.

    (Cymbeline and Imogen return.)

Cymbeline (To Iachimo): You.  Come here.

Iachimo (Nervously): Me, sir?

Cymbeline: Yes, you.  This young man wants to question you, and you’d better tell the truth.

Imogen (To Iachimo): Where did you get that diamond ring?

Posthumus (Aside): Why should he care?

    (Iachimo hesitates.)

Cymbeline: Come on, answer him.  Where did you get it?

Iachimo: I–I won this ring–dishonestly–in a wager–for which I’m very sorry.–This ring belonged to Posthumus Leonatus, whom you banished.  He’s a good man, sir.  I did him wrong.  I feel very ashamed now.

Cymbeline: Tell me how you were dishonest.

    (Iachimo appears ready to faint.)

Cymbeline: Don’t faint if you want to live.  You must tell me everything.

Iachimo: My lord–it was in Rome.  He praised the virtues of his wife–your daughter, the Princess.  I was feeling quite full of myself.  I wanted to cut him down a notch.  So I made a bet with him that I could seduce her.  I bet half my estate against his diamond ring.  So then I came here with a letter of introduction and met your daughter.  You may remember seeing me.

Cymbeline: Possibly.  Go on.

Iachimo: Your daughter rejected me.  It was impossible to seduce her.  But I didn’t want to return to Rome as a loser.  So I tricked your daughter.  I hid in her room.  When she was asleep, I stole her bracelet, and I noticed a small mark on her body.  When I returned to Rome, I showed the bracelet to Leonatus and described the mark on her body, and that was my proof that I had seduced her.  He believed me.

    (Posthumus steps forward.)

Posthumus: You bastard!  You rotten scum!  It was because of you that I–

Iachimo (Recognizing him): Oh!  It’s him!

Posthumus: Yeah, you know me now, don’t you?  Iachimo, you’re a villain, because you’re a liar and a cheat.–But I’m worse–because I’m a murderer.  (To Cymbeline) My lord, I deserve to die, and you can do it any way you like.  It doesn’t matter.

Cymbeline: Who are you?  I don’t understand.

Posthumus: Have you forgotten so soon what I look like, my lord–or did you simply block me out of your mind?  I’m Posthumus Leonatus.  And I’m responsible for Imogen’s death.  I gave orders to Pisanio to take her to Milford Haven and kill her.

Cymbeline:  You did that?  Why?

Posthumus: I thought she had been unfaithful.  I was angry.  (He breaks out in tears.)  Imogen!

Cymbeline: Pisanio!

Pisanio: I didn’t!  I didn’t kill her!

    (Imogen runs to Posthumus.)

Imogen: My lord!  I thought you were–

Posthumus (Not recognizing her): Leave me alone!

    (He pushes her away.  She falls down hard.)

Pisanio: Oh!  My mistress!–My lord Posthumus, this is Imogen!

    (Pisanio rushes to help her up.)

Cymbeline: What!

Posthumus (To Pisanio): You said you killed her!

Pisanio: I lied, sir!–Your Majesty, this is Imogen!

Cymbeline:  Imogen!  She’s alive?

Pisanio: Madam, are you all right?

    (Imogen slaps Pisanio.)

Imogen: You gave me poison!

Pisanio: The Queen gave me that box of medicine.  She said it was good.

Cymbeline: Oh!

Imogen: It knocked me out.

Cornelius: I can explain this.  It wasn’t poison.  The Queen asked me to make poison for her so she could kill vermin.  But I didn’t trust her.  I gave her some drugs that would only knock a person out for a while and make them seem dead.  (To Imogen)  It was in a box–about this size.  (He indicates.)   Is that what you took?

Imogen: Yes.

Belarius (Aside to his Sons): That explains it.

Posthumus: Imogen!  (He embraces her, weeping.)  I’m sorry I doubted you.  I’m sorry–

Imogen: Oh, my lord!

Posthumus: I’ll never leave you again.

Cymbeline: My daughter–can you forgive your father for being such a fool?

    (They embrace.)

Cymbeline: The bad news is that the Queen has died.

Imogen: I’m sorry for her.   

Cymbeline: She was wicked.  It was because of her that all these things happened.  Cloten disappeared, and it made her mad with grief.  We still don’t know where he is.

Pisanio: He went out to Milford Haven to look for the Princess and Posthumus.  I showed him a letter Posthumus wrote to her, telling her to meet him there.  Cloten wanted to catch them both–probably to kill them.  He dressed himself in one of Posthumus’s old suits.  I knew I was sending him on a wild goose chase.  I knew she’d be gone before he got there.  But what happened to him out there, I don’t know.

Guiderius: I can tell you what happened.  I killed him.

Cymbeline: What!–He was a prince!

Guiderius: He was a jerk.  He picked a fight with me, and I gave him what he deserved.  I cut off his head.

Imogen: The corpse without a head!  I thought it was Posthumus because of the suit!

Cymbeline: Young man, you killed a prince of the kingdom.  I can’t let that pass, even if he offended you.  This is a capital offense.  (To the Guards)  Take him away and lock him up.

    (The Guards take hold of Guiderius.)

Belarius: No!  Wait!  You mustn’t!–My lord, my son is better than Cloten was.  Don’t execute him.

Cymbeline: Old man, don’t exhaust my goodwill.  Do you defend a murderer?  Do you want to share his punishment?

Belarius: My lord–the time has come to tell you something.  I never wanted to reveal this secret, but now I must–even if it puts me in danger.

Arviragus: Your danger is ours, father.

Guiderius: We all live or die together, father.

Belarius: Boys, this is something I kept secret from you.–My lord, there was once a man in your court named Belarius.

Cymbeline: Belarius!  I remember him.  I banished him as a traitor.  That was a long time ago.

Belarius: Yes, he was banished, but he was no traitor.  He was accused falsely.

Cymbeline: And how would you know?

Belarius: Because what he is, I am, too.

Cymbeline: Then you condemn yourself, old man.

Belarius: Would you condemn your own sons, my lord?

Cymbeline: What do you mean–my sons?

Belarius: These sons of mine–are really yours.

Guiderius and Arviragus: What!–What do you mean, father?

Cymbeline: What the devil are you talking about?

Belarius: I am Belarius.

Guiderius and Arviragus: What!

Belarius: My boys know me as Morgan.  And I named them Polydore and Cadwal.  They never knew their true origins.  The one they believed was their mother was Euriphile.  Yes, I married her, but she was not their real mother.

Cymbeline: Euriphile?–The nurse?

Belarius: Yes, my lord.  When you banished me, I told her to take your baby boys and run away with me.  I raised them faithfully and taught them everything I know.  You can punish me, but don’t punish them.  Polydore is your son Guiderius.  And Cadwal is Arviragus.

    (Pause for effect.  Everyone is in shock.  Cymbeline is deeply moved and on the verge of tears.)

Cymbeline (Softly, to Guiderius): Guiderius had a little mole on his neck–like a star.–Right here (Indicating on his own neck).

Guiderius: I have such a mole.

    (Guiderius pulls down his collar and shows his mole to Cymbeline.  Cymbeline weeps and hugs his two sons.)

Cymbeline: My sons–my sons–.  Belarius, thank you.–Imogen, I’m afraid you won’t inherit the kingdom now.

Imogen: It doesn’t matter, father.  I’ve found my brothers.

Guiderius and Arviragus: Sister!

    (The three siblings embrace.)

Arviragus: She was dressed like a man when we met her, my lord.

Guiderius: She called herself Fidele.  We both thought she could have been our brother.

Arviragus: Yes, we both said so.–And then we found her dead in the cottage–or so we thought.

Imogen: I drank that medicine.–Pisanio, I’m sorry I accused you. 

Pisanio: It’s all right, madam.

    (Cymbeline is a bit faint.)

Cymbeline: This is all too much for me.  There are so many things I want to know–all the details.–But first we’ll go to the temple and give thanks to the gods.–Belarius, today you are my brother.

Imogen: And you shall be my second father, Belarius.

Belarius: Then I have two princes–and a princess–ha, ha!

Cymbeline: I almost forgot.–The Roman prisoners are free.  I grant amnesty to all.

Lucius: Thank you, my lord.

Cymbeline: Belarius, what about that brave peasant who helped rescue me?

    (Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus look at Posthumus as they confer in whispers.  Belarius points to Posthumus.)

Belarius: My lord, I could swear–

Posthumus: Yes, it was me, my lord–in yet another disguise.  And Iachimo will vouch for it.–Won’t you, Iachimo?

Iachimo: Yes.

Posthumus: We met on the battlefield, and I could’ve killed you.

Iachimo: Why didn’t you?

Posthumus: I didn’t think you deserved to die like a hero.

    (Iachimo kneels at Posthumus’s feet.)

Iachimo: But I deserve to die nonetheless.  Here is your ring–and the bracelet I stole from the Princess.  (He gives Posthumus the ring and the bracelet.)  I’m sorry.  I repent.  With this I clear my conscience–if I must die.

    (Cymbeline, Posthumus, and Imogen exchange looks.)

Posthumus: I forgive you, Iachimo.  But, of course, the King must decide.

    (Iachimo kneels to Cymbeline.)

Cymbeline: We’re too happy today to send anyone to the gallows.  You’re forgiven.

    (Iachimo rises.)

Iachimo: Thank you, my lord!  The gods preserve you!

Arviragus (To Posthumus): You helped us on the battlefield like a brother.  And now it turns out you really are one.

Guiderius: Husband to our sister!

Posthumus: My lord Lucius, perhaps your soothsayer can explain this prophecy.  (He takes out the paper.)  I found it next to me in the prison cell.  I dreamed that Jupiter left it for me.

Lucius: Soothsayer!

    (The Soothsayer steps forward and takes the paper and studies it.)

Soothsayer: Ah–yes.–You are the lion’s cub, my lord Leonatus.  And the tender air is the virtuous Princess, of course.  (To Cymbeline)  And the dead branches of the stately cedar are your sons, sir, whom you believed to be dead, but who are at last rejoined to you alive.–And the miseries of Posthumus Leonatus are at an end.  And Britain shall flourish in peace and good fortune.

Cymbeline: Peace!   Yes!–Jupiter has spoken, Lucius.  There must be peace between Britain and Rome.

Lucius: I would never argue with Jupiter, my lord.  And neither would my emperor.

Cymbeline: Then it is agreed we will have peace.  And to seal it, I will pay to Caesar the tribute which is owed.  It was the Queen’s idea to stop paying, but the gods have punished her.

Lucius: In behalf of Caesar, I thank you, my lord.

Soothsayer (To Lucius): My lord, now I understand properly the dream I had before the battle.  The eagle of Rome soared above Britain not to conquer but to unite Caesar’s favour with King Cymbeline.

Lucius: I wish you’d gotten it right the first time.  You would have saved us a lot of trouble.

Soothsayer: These things are so complicated, sir.

    (General laughter.)

Cymbeline: To the temple of Jupiter!  Let’s go and give thanks.  And after that–I think we are allowed to get rather drunk.

    (Sounds of approval.  All go out happily.)


    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

Pericles — Prince of Tyre (Also referred to as King of Tyre.  He’s young enough to be thought of as the Prince he was when his father was alive.  Now, of course, he rules as King.  Also, please note that this character is not related to the historical Pericles, who was an Athenian statesman in the 5th century B.C.)

Antiochus — King of Antioch

Daughter of Antiochus (No name given)

Helicanus and Escanes — Lords of Tyre

Simonides — King of Pentapolis

Thaisa — daughter of Simonides; later, wife of Pericles

Marina — daughter of Pericles and Thaisa

Lychorida — nurse to Marina

Cleon — Governor of Tharsus (Tarsus)

Dionyza — wife of Cleon

Leonine — servant to Dionyza

Lysimachus — Governor of Mytilene

Cerimon — lord of Ephesus; a doctor

Philemon — servant to Cerimon

Thaliard — lord of Antioch


Madam (Referred to in the original as “Bawd” — i.e., brothel-keeper.)

Pander — husband of the Madam

Boult — servant to Pander

Diana — the goddess






Gentlemen of Ephesus

Servants in Ephesus

Gower — the “Chorus” (narrator)

Gist of the story: Pericles goes to Antioch to woo the King’s daughter, but he must answer a riddle or lose his life.  He figures out that the King and his daughter are involved in an incestuous relationship, but he doesn’t want to make trouble by exposing them.  He flees before Antiochus can have him killed.  He returns to Tyre, but Antiochus sends Thaliard after him.  Helicanus advises Pericles to go away until the trouble with Antiochus blows over.  Pericles sails to Tharsus (Tarsus), a city beset by famine.  He provides food, thereby earning the gratitude of Cleon and Dionyza.  He then sails to Pentapolis, where he is shipwrecked.  He makes his way to the court of King Simonides and competes against other knights in a tournament to win the hand of Thaisa in marriage.  He wins and marries her.  Sailing from Pentapolis, the ship encounters a storm.  Thaisa apparently dies giving birth to their child, Marina, and Thaisa’s body is sealed in a coffin and thrown overboard.  Pericles stops at Tharsus and entrusts the baby Marina to Cleon and Dionyza until she is fourteen.  Meanwhile, Thaisa’s coffin washes ashore at Ephesus, where she is found still alive and is revived by Cerimon.  She stays in Ephesus and becomes a priestess.  Marina has grown into a beautiful and talented girl, which arouses terrible envy by Dionyza because her own daughter seems inferior by comparison.  Dionyza orders Leonine to murder Marina.  He is about to do so when pirates appear and kidnap Marina and take her to Mytilene, where they sell her to a brothel.  Cleon and Dionyza build a monument on Marina’s fake tomb to deceive Pericles when he returns for her.  Marina will not cooperate with the keepers of the brothel.  Governor Lysimachus arrives as a customer, but after talking to Marina, he decides to help her leave.  Pericles returns to Tharsus and is told Marina has died.  Heartbroken, he  leaves, and his ship stops at Mytilene for replenishment.  There he is reunited with Marina.  A vision of the goddess Diana tells him to go to Ephesus and tell his story to the priestess, who is Thaisa.  She recognizes him and now all are happily reunited.  Marina will marry Lysimachus.  Gower, the narrator, tells us how Cleon and Dionyza were punished.

(Pericles has one of the most bizarre, complicated plots of any Shakespeare play.  It is often compared to The Winter’s Tale, which was written about the same time.  Both plays are categorized by Shakespeare scholars as “late romances.”  (Another one is The Tempest.)  Scholars also believe that Shakespeare was working from an existing play by some unknown author and that he basically rewrote it starting from Act 3.  Although Pericles was well-liked in the 1600’s, it fell into obscurity for a long time afterwards and has only had a revival in recent times.  To me, it’s a big Hollywood movie waiting to be made.  You can’t beat this story!  Just get a couple of big names to fill the starring roles and give it to a really clever director like Julie Taymor.  We’d need a more modern title, like Voyage of Lust.  And, oh , yes, the “story consultant” should be Crad Kilodney, Duke of Sherbourne.)

Act 1, Prologue.  Before the palace at Antioch.  Gower comes in as the Chorus (narrator).  He is wearing weird or inappropriate clothes.  (In fact, every time he appears, he will be dressed differently.)

Gower: Hey, how’s it going?  My name is Gower.  I’m a writer.  I lived a long time ago, but I have good connections in the spirit world, so I get to come back once in a while to narrate stage plays.  And I get to wear anything I want from the wardrobe department.  We’ve got an incredible story for you.  It’s totally over the edge, believe me.  This here is the ancient city of Antioch–which was the ancient capital of Syria, by the way.  Now, the King of Antioch is a fellow named Antiochus.  Lucky for him he was born in the right place–ha!  Now, Antiochus is a widower, and he has a very beautiful daughter.  We won’t tell you her name.  It doesn’t really matter.  And I think she prefers not to be named–for reasons I will explain to  you.  The King loves his daughter–in the wrong way, unfortunately.  He loves her–incestuously.  Now, this relationship has been going on for some time, and he doesn’t want it to end.  But there are men who want to marry her because she’s so beautiful.  Now, the King doesn’t want her to get married, but he also doesn’t want to give the impression that he doesn’t want her to get married.  Instead, he wants to give the impression that he’s being very fussy–that he’s holding out for the best possible man.  So what he’s done is to devise a sort of test that any suitor for his daughter has to pass.  It’s a riddle.  The suitor has to answer it correctly or–he dies!  So far, nobody’s gotten it right.  And all those who have tried, have died.  The heads are supposed to be displayed on the wall behind me, but the Director was afraid that that would be politically incorrect, so he didn’t put them up.  In my day, however, there would’ve been no problem.  Hell, you could see people’s heads stuck up in plain sight in almost every town, and it was considered quite correct.  Very instructive to the young people.  I’m all for it.–Okay, so here in Antioch we have this incestuous relationship, and so far nobody has solved the King’s riddle.–But–like I said, this story is totally over the edge.  Somebody has come to Antioch to seek the daughter’s hand in marriage.  And that somebody is going to figure out the riddle.  And then–(He looks offstage as if getting a prompt from the Director)  Okay, I can’t say any more.  You’ll have to see for yourself.  I’ll see you later.

    (Gower leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  In the palace of Antioch.  (Author’s note: In the original, it says “before the palace,” which puts the scene outdoors.  But there is no reason for this action to be taking place outdoors.)  Coming in are King Antiochus, Pericles, and Lords and Attendants.

Antiochus: So, Prince Pericles, do you still want to marry my daughter?

Pericles: I do, indeed, my lord.

Antiochus: You understand that if you are unable to answer the riddle you’ll be executed?

Pericles: Yes, my lord.

Antiochus: And you’re willing to risk your life so you can marry my daughter?

Pericles: Yes, my lord.  After what I’ve heard about her beauty. I want to take that chance.

Antiochus: She is the most beautiful woman in Antioch–as you’ll see for yourself.

    (Antiochus signals, and his Daughter comes in with a flourish of music.)

Pericles: I can see why men have  been willing to risk their lives for her.

Antiochus: And so far they’ve all died.

Pericles: May the gods give me wisdom and let me succeed.

Antiochus: You have courage.  Perhaps the gods will be kind to you.–And now for the riddle.  (He produces a scroll and drops it on the floor.)  Go ahead.  It’s all yours.  Figure it out.

Daughter: Good luck to you, good Prince!   

    (Pericles picks up the scroll, opens it, and reads aloud.)

Pericles (Reading): “Father, son, and husband are three; and mother, wife, and child are three again.  Yet they are one to the other.  You would see but two if they were all before you.  If you hope to live, explain how this can be.”

    (There is a long pause as Pericles looks at the riddle, the King, and the Daughter.  He turns to the audience and speaks aside, very grimly.)

Pericles (To the audience): You know what this means?  The two of them are–(He makes a gesture representing intercourse.)  Now I don’t want her any more.  But I can’t expose him here in his own court.

Antiochus: All right, Prince.  What’s your answer?

    (A pause while Pericles considers what to say.)    

Pericles: My lord, any man who understands this riddle will no longer want your daughter–for the same reason that you don’t want him to understand it in the first place.

    (The King is startled.  The suggestion is embarrassment.)

Antiochus (Aside): He knows.  He figured it out.  (To Pericles)  Is that your answer?

Pericles: It is all that I should speak.  Anything more would do great harm.

    (Another pause for efffect.)

Antiochus: By the rules, I could have you executed right now.–However–as a kindness–I will reprieve you for forty days–to let you think it over.–I don’t want anyone to say I wasn’t totally fair with you.  In the meantime, you may have the freedom of the palace.

    (The King leaves, taking his Daughter by the hand, and followed by the Lords and Attendants.)

Pericles: The freedom of the palace?  And after forty days, what then?–He’s not going to let me live forty days.  He knows that I know his secret.  He’s not going to take any chances.  If he’s so foul that he would fuck his own daughter, he won’t hesitate to have me killed.  He’ll make it look like an accident.–Well, I’m not hanging around here, that’s for sure.  I’m getting the hell out of here.

    (Pericles leaves.  Shortly thereafter, Antiochus returns.)

Antiochus: What the hell was I thinking?  Forty days to think it over?  And then what?  Have him expose me?  He could do that at any moment.  (Ponders.  Then calls) Thaliard! 

    (Thaliard comes in.)

Thaliard: Your Majesty!

Antiochus: Thaliard, you’re my chamberlain.  [Author’s note: Manager of the household.]  I know I can trust you.

Thaliard: Absolutely, my lord.

Antiochus: I need you to do something for me, and it has to be kept secret.

Thaliard: Anything, my lord.

Antiochus: I’ve given Prince Pericles a forty-day stay of execution.  It was a mistake.  We have to get rid of him now.  Don’t ask me to explain why.  He’s a threat to the kingdom, that’s all.  You help me with this and there’s a big reward in it for you.

Thaliard: You can count on me, my lord.

Antiochus: You’re in charge of all the food and wine.  I want you to poison him.  I’ll provide you with the poison.  You figure out the best way to slip it to him.  I want it done tonight.  Can you do that?

Thaliard: Yes, my lord.

    (A Messenger rushes in.)

Messenger: My lord, the visitor Pericles is gone.  He has fled.

Antiochus: Damn!  (He takes Thaliard aside and speaks confidentially.)  Go after him.  Kill him.–And don’t fail me–(More sinister tone) or I will be very unhappy with you.

Thaliard: Don’t worry, my lord.  I’ll get him.  You can count on me.

Antiochus: Okay.  Go.

    (Thaliard leaves, and Antiochus leaves separately with the Messenger.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Tyre.  A room in the palace.  Pericles comes in, looking very grim.

Pericles: I don’t feel safe even here in Tyre.  That bastard will come after me.  He’s going to worry about me.  He might even send an army to destroy the whole city–and we’re no match for him.

    (Helicanus comes in with two other Lords.)

1st Lord: You’re looking well, my lord!  We’re so glad to have you home!

2nd Lord: We’re all happy, happy, happy!  And you do look exceptionally well, sir!

1st Lord: As I always say, a happy prince makes a happy city.–Isn’t that right?                  

2nd Lord: I couldn’t agree more.

Helicanus: Why don’t you guys shut up.

Lords: Oh!–Oh!

Helicanus: You guys are such suck-ups.

    (Pericles appears offended for a moment.  Then he signals the two Lords to leave.)

Pericles: You guys can go.

    (The two Lords leave.)

Helicanus: Sorry, my lord.  It’s just that I don’t like flatterers.

Pericles: They were only trying to cheer me up.

Helicanus: What good is that, my lord?

Pericles: You’re being contrary, Helicanus.

Helicanus: No, sir, I’m just being honest.  If there’s a problem–and there is–I want to help you deal with it.  Otherwise, what good am I as an advisor?

    (Pericles considers for a moment.)

Pericles: You’re a good man.  I appreciate your honesty.  So what do you think I should do?

Helicanus: Be patient.  Let a little time go by.

Pericles: That’s easy for you to say.  My head’s on the chopping block and Antiochus is holding the axe.  He doesn’t mind killing people.  And he’ll do whatever he has to do to make sure I don’t expose his dirty little secret.  Of course, I never had any intention of exposing him.  But if he sends an army, the whole city’s in trouble.

Helicanus: Go away for a while.  Get out of Tyre.  This whole thing may blow over.  He may calm down.

Pericles: Better he should have a heart attack and die.

Helicanus: Either way it’ll work itself out.  Take a few ships and go away for a few months.

Pericles: Who’ll run the city?

Helicanus: I will.  You can count on me.  Tyre will be safe in my hands.

Pericles: All right.  You’re the best man for the job.–I’ll go to Tharsus.  You keep me informed.  Send me letters.

Helicanus: I will.

Pericles: Good.

    (Pericles links arms with Helicanus and they leave.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  Before the palace at Tyre.  Thaliard comes in but remains to one side.

Thaliard: So this is Tyre.  I have to find Pericles and kill him.  If I succeed, I’ll be hanged here.  And if I fail, I’ll be hanged in Antioch.–Tsk!–This is what I get for being the King’s right-hand man.

    (Coming in from the other side are Helicanus, Escanes, and other Lords.  They are in conversation and don’t notice Thaliard, who makes himself inconspicuous.)

Helicanus: My lords, all I can tell you is that the Prince decided to leave and he left me in charge.

Thaliard (Aside): What?  He’s gone?

1st Lord: But can’t you tell us why?

Helicanus: Like I said, he had a little bit of diplomatic trouble in Antioch.  Exactly what, I don’t know.  But he thought he had offended the King in some way, and he felt bad about it and, em, he just wanted to go away for a while and think it over.

2nd Lord: So he’s taken a boat somewhere?

Helicanus: Yes, but I don’t know where.

Thaliard (Aside): That’s convenient.  I’ll just tell the King that Pericles was, em–lost at sea.  Yeah.  (He steps forward and addresses the Lords.)  Hello!  Greetings!  Peace to you!

Helicanus: Hello, sir.  Do we know you?

Thaliard: I’m Thaliard–chamberlain to King Antiochus.

Helicanus: Ah.–Yes.  What brings you here?

Thaliard: I was sent with a message for Prince Pericles–but it appears that he’s–gone away?  Is that the case?

Helicanus: Em, yes.  He’s taken a trip.

Thaliard: Oh.  Too bad.  My message was for his ears only.  I’ll have to report to my King that I was unable to deliver it.

Helicanus: That’s all right.  Since you’ve come all this way, you might as well stay for a while and enjoy the hospitality of the palace.

Thaliard: Thank you–my lord–

Helicanus: Helicanus.  Temporary governor.

Thaliard: My lord Helicanus.  Your friend, sir.  Thank you.

    (They all leave.)

Act 1, Scene 4.  The Governor’s house in Tharsus.  Cleon, the Governor, comes with his wife, Dionyza.  They look very worried.

Cleon: What shall we do, Dionyza?  The city is starving.  I can’t believe what’s happening.  Tharsus used to be so happy and prosperous.  Now–

Dionyza: I never thought such a famine could happen here.

Cleon: Mothers can’t even nurse their babies.  Men are killing themselves so their families can eat what little food they have.–There have even been instances of–cannibalism!

Dionyza: I never knew hunger before.  Now I do.

Cleon: I’ve lost so much weight.–How many more days can we hold out?

    (A Lord comes in as messenger.)

Lord: My lord Governor, there are ships on our shore.  One has already landed.

Cleon: Are we being invaded?  That’s the last thing we need.

Lord: I don’t think so, sir.  They’re flying white flags.  I think they come in peace.

Cleon: I hope it’s not a trick.  See who’s in charge and bring him to me.

Lord: Yes, my lord.

    (The Lord leaves.)

Cleon: If they’re enemies, we’re at their mercy.

Dionyza: They’ll be friendly.  I’m sure they’ll be.

    (After a few moments, Pericles comes in with Attendants.  [Shakespeare doesn’t say whose, but I would assume they are Tharsian.])

Pericles: My lord Cleon!  Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Cleon: Prince Pericles.–Why are you here?

Pericles: Don’t be alarmed, sir.  We come in peace.  I understand you have a famine.

Cleon: Yes.

Pericles: I’m loaded with food.  You can have it.

Cleon: Food!  Thank the gods!

Dionyza: We’re saved!

    (Cleon embraces Pericles.)

Pericles: My lord, I need a safe place to stay for a while.

Cleon: Stay here.  As long as you like.

Pericles: Thank you.  I will.

Cleon: Oh, Dionyza, this is a miracle!–Oh!–We must distribute the food.  I must get all my lords.–Dionyza, you help the visitors get settled in.

Dionyza: Yes.  At once.

Cleon: Come.  We have to get busy.

    (They all go out.)

Act 2, Chorus.  Gower comes out, dressed differently and eating an apple.

Gower:  Hi!–Gower.–Excuse me.–This is the first thing I’ve had to eat since I came back to a physical body.–Mmm!  Good!–Okay.  Let’s move the story along.  Now–Helicanus has sent a message to Pericles in Tharsus warning him that Antiochus sent an assassin to Tyre to murder him.  That was Thaliard, as you recall.  Helicanus is no fool.  He realized why Thaliard was really there.  He let him go back to Antioch, but then he worried that Antiochus might have spies out searching and might possibly learn that Pericles was in Tharsus.  So the latest message from Helicanus warns Pericles not to stay in Tharsus too long.  So Pericles, taking this advice, has sailed away, taking only his flagship.  And guess what’s happened.  He’s been shipwrecked.  Why?  Because this is Shakespeare, and people are always getting shipwrecked.  But, of course, Pericles is alive, even if everyone else on board has died and his friends back home think he’s dead.  How do I know?  Hey, if the guy was dead, the play would be over, right?  And we’ve got four more acts to show you, okay?  I told you this a hell of a story, didn’t I?  Hell, yes.  Wait till you see what happens when–(He gets a signal from offstage)–Yeah, right.–Okay, just watch and see for yourselves.–Mmm!  Good apple.  It’s a Mac-in-Tyre.  Get it?  Mac-in-Tyre?–Okay, whatever.  I’ll see you later.

    (Gower leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  The beach at Pentapolis.  Pericles staggers in wet and exhausted.

Pericles: I made it!  (Looks back)  My ship.–They’re all gone.–I’m the only one who survived.  (Looks around)  Where am I?

    (He sees someone coming and hides.  Then three Fishermen come in.)

1st Fish.: What a storm that was!  You know, sometimes I wonder how the fish can live in the sea when it storms like that.

2nd Fish.: It don’t make no difference to them.  They’re under the water.  It don’t matter what’s happening on the surface.

3rd Fish.: It only matters to people on ships.  Like those poor devils that got drowned out there.

2nd Fish.: That was terrible.  I feel so sorry for them.

1st Fish.: It would be a miracle if anyone survived.

2nd Fish.: I wonder if we can still find our nets.  They might have been destroyed.

    (Pericles steps forward.)

Pericles: Fishermen, peace to you!

2nd Fish.: Good God, man!  Where did you come from?

Pericles (Pointing to the sea): That was my ship that went down.  I think I’m the only survivor.

1st Fish.: Well, you are the lucky one!

2nd Fish.: I’ll say!

Pericles.: Where am I?

1st Fish.: Near Pentapolis.

Pericles (Shivering): I’m cold.

3rd Fish.: Here.  Take this.

    (He gives Pericles something to wear.)

Pericles: Thank you.

1st Fish.: You’d better come home with us.  We’ll take care of you.

Pericles: Thank you.  I appreciate it.

2nd Fish.: We just have to check our nets.  Just wait.

    (The 2nd and 3rd Fishermen go out.)

Pericles: Who is your king?

1st Fish.: The good King Simonides.

Pericles: You must like him.

1st Fish.: We do.  He’s a good guy.  This is a good place.

Pericles: How far is his court from here?

1st Fish.: Half a day’s journey.  Why?  Do you want to go there?

Pericles: Yes.

1st Fish.: It’ll be crowded.  There are lots of knights from all over come for the tournament.

Pericles: Tournament?

1st Fish.: Yes.  You know.  The manly skills.  That sort of thing.  Are you into that?

Pericles: Mm–yes, actually.  What’s the tournament for?  Just for fun?

1st Fish.: No.  It’s his daughter’s birthday.  Her name is Thaisa.  She’s very beautiful.  All the knights want to marry her.  So the tournament is a way for the King to size them up.

Pericles: I’d love to compete, but I lost all my gear.

    (The other two Fishermen return, dragging a net full of armour.)

2nd Fish.: Look what we found in the net!

3rd Fish.: No fish.  Just a lot of armour.  It’s pretty dirty.  We’d have to clean it up.

Pericles: That’s my gear!

2nd Fish.: Ah–well–we caught it, sir.  It’s ours by the rules of the trade.

Pericles: Please!  Let me have it.  I want to compete in that tournament.  If I win, I’ll give you all a reward.  I’ll make it worth your while.

3rd Fish.: Think you’re good enough?  There’ll be a lot of competition.

Pericles: I can win.–Of course, I’d need a horse.

3rd Fish.: I’m afraid we don’t have a horse.

    (Pericles reaches into his pocket and pulls out a jewel.)

Pericles: I have this jewel.  That’s all I’ve got.  But it should be enough to buy a horse, don’t you think?

1st Fish.: You are the lucky one, sir.  Yeah, I think we can find you a horse.

2nd Fish.: You’ll need some clothes.  You want to look respectable.

3rd Fish.: We’ll fix him up with something.  (To Pericles) Nothing fancy.  Just functional.

Pericles: So we’ve got a deal, then?

3rd Fish.: Yes, yes.  You come along with us, and we’ll feed you and clean you up.  And then we’ll escort you to the city ourselves.

Pericles: That’s great!  Thanks!

    (They all leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Pentapolis.  An open space with a pavilion at rear stage.  Simonides comes in with Thaisa, Lords, and Attendants.

Simonides: Are the knights ready to present themselves?

1st Lord: They are, my lord.

Simonides: Then let’s have a look at them.  One at a time.

1st Lord: Yes, my lord.

    (The Lord goes out.)

Simonides (To Thaisa): You see how popular you are?  All these brave knights are here to impress you.  And I can’t blame them.

Thaisa (Laughing): Oh, father!

Simonides: Now let’s see how well you’ve learned your languages.  When the knights come in, you read the mottos on their shields.

Thaisa: Okay.  I think I can do that.

    (Simonides and Thaisa sit in the pavilion, followed by other Lords.  The Lord who left returns and sits down, too.  Then a flourish of music announces each Knight, who is accompanied by his Page.  The Page holds up  the Knight’s shield.  The First Knight comes in.)

Simonides: Who is this fellow?

Thaisa: He’s from Sparta.  And his motto is “Lux tua vita mihi.”–“Thy light is life to me.”

Simonides: Very good.

    (The First Knight goes out with applause from the audience.  Then the Second Knight comes in.)

Simonides: And who is this?

Thaisa: A prince of Macedonia.  His motto is “Piu per dolcezza che per forza.”–“More by gentleness than by force.”

Simonides: Very good.

    (The Second Knight goes out, and the Third Knight comes in.)

Simonides: And where is he from?

Thaisa: Antioch.  And his motto is “Me pompae provexit apex.”–“The crown of the triumph has led me on.”

Simonides: Excellent.

    (The Third Knight goes out, and the Fourth Knight comes in.)

Thaisa: This one says, “Qui me alit me extinguit.”–“Who feeds me puts me out.”  That’s a strange motto.

Simonides: It’s a paradox.  The same beauty that inspires can also kill.

Thaisa: I’m afraid I don’t understand.

Simonides: You’re too young.  It’ll make more sense when you’re older.

    (The Fourth Knight goes out, and the Fifth Knight comes in.)

Thaisa: This one says, “Sic spectanda fides.”–“Thus is faithfulness to be tried.”

Simonides: I like that.

    (The Fifth Knight goes out, and Pericles comes in as the sixth knight, but without a page.)

Simonides: He doesn’t have a page.  But he seems very noble.  Where is he from?

Thaisa: I can’t tell.  But his motto is “In hac spe vivo.”–“In this hope I live.”

Simonides: Hope.  Yes, he must have plenty of that.

    (Pericles goes out.)

1st Lord: His armour’s rusty.  I guess he doesn’t use it much.

2nd Lord: And his clothes are a bit on the shabby side, I’d say.

3rd Lord: I don’t think he’ll do very well.

Simonides: Don’t be fooled by appearances.  It’s what’s inside a man that matters, not what’s on the outside.–Come, everyone.  Let’s go watch the action.

    (Simonides leads them all out.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  A banquet hall in the palace of Pentapolis.  Simonides comes in with Thaisa, the Marshal, Lords, Ladies, the six Knights, and Attendants.  They are conversing happily as they come in, except Pericles, who is quiet.  Simonides claps his hands for silence.

Simonides: Knights, you have performed brilliantly, and now you shall be feasted as you deserve.–Thaisa, you may have the honour of announcing the winner of the tournament.

Thaisa: The winner is–the mysterious stranger!–Sir, I crown you with this wreath of victory!

    (She puts a wreath on Pericles’s head as all applaud.)

Pericles: I was just lucky.

Simonides: Lady Luck always kisses the one who deserves her the most.–Sit down, everyone.  Eat.  Drink.  Have a good time.

Marshal (To Pericles): You’ll sit beside the King, sir.

Pericles: Oh–I’m hardly worthy.

Simonides: Yes, yes.  You sit down right here.

    (Pericles sits.)

1st Knight: He won fair and square, didn’t he?

Other Knights: Yes!

Pericles: You gentlemen are too kind.

Thaisa (Aside to Simonides): He’s handsome, isn’t he?

Simonides: You think so?  (He shrugs.)

Pericles (Aside, looking a bit sad): The King reminds me of my own father.  Now there was a man.  Better than I’ll ever be.

Simonides: I want to see everyone happy!  Drink up, gentlemen!

Knights: We’re happy, sir!

Simonides (Aside to Thaisa): This fellow doesn’t look happy.  Tell him to drink.

Thaisa: I’m too shy.

    (The King raises a cup.)

Simonides (Aside to Thaisa): Just do it.  And tell him we want to know who he is and where he comes from.

Thaisa (To Pericles): My good knight, the King drinks to you.

Pericles: I thank him.

Thaisa: And he wants to know who you are and where you come from.

Pericles: I come from Tyre, and my name is Pericles.  I was on–shall we say–an adventure.  And I was shipwrecked on your shore.

Simonides: Shipwrecked!–No wonder you seem sad.–Let’s have some music!  Let’s all be happy!  (Lively music is heard.)  You knights have a good time and sleep in as late as you want.–And you, Sir Pericles, will have the best guest room in the palace.

Pericles: I’m grateful, sir.

    (The scene ends as couples begin to dance.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  Tyre.  Helicanus and Escanes come in.  A conversation is in progress.

Escanes: Incest?  Antiochus and his daughter were committing incest?

Helicanus: Yes.  And you know what happened to them?

Escanes: No.  What?

Helicanus: They were out riding in a chariot and this great fire came down from the sky and burned them up.

Escanes: No!  Really?

Helicanus: Yes.

Escanes: Wow!  Talk about divine punishment!

Helicanus: That’s exactly how the people in Antioch took it–divine punishment.  They wouldn’t even bury them.

    (Three Lords come in, talking to each other.)

1st Lord: Do you want to tell him, or should I?

2nd Lord: No, you go ahead.

3rd Lord: You can  speak for all of us.

1st Lord: Okay.–My lord Helicanus.

Helicanus: Yes, lords.  What can I do for you?

1st Lord: Well, sir, we’ve been talking it over, and we’re very concerned about the Prince.  Nobody knows where he is or whether he’s dead or alive.  We want to go out and look for him.

2nd Lord: If it turns out he’s dead, we’d like you to be the new Prince.

3rd Lord: We all have the greatest confidence and respect for you, sir.

Helicanus: Thank you.  That’s very kind.  But I think we should wait for him a while longer.

1st Lord: But how long, sir?

Helicanus: Let’s give him another twelve months.  If he’s not back by then, we’ll assume something’s happened to him and I’ll be your new Prince.  But if you want to go out and look for him, that’s okay with me.

    (The Lords exchange nods of agreement.)

1st Lord: Yes, I think we’ll do that, sir.

Helicanus: The kingdom will be safe in any event.

1st Lord: Thank you, my lord.

    (Helicanus shakes hands with them, and the Lords leave.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  Pentapolis.   King Simonides comes in slowly, reading a letter.  Three Knights come in from the other side.

Knights: Good morning, my lord.

Simonides: Good morning, gentlemen.  I have a letter from my daughter.  She says she’s decided not to get married for another year, although she won’t say why.

1st Knight: Ah.  (He exchanges looks with the other Knights.)  That is awkward.  Could we possibly speak to her, my lord?

Simonides: I’m afraid not.  She prefers not to see any suitors for a year.

2nd Knight: Then I guess there’s no point in hanging around.  (Looking at the other Knights) Is there?  (They shake their heads.)

Simonides: I’m sorry, gentlemen.

1st Knight: Then we will take our leave of you, sir.  And we thank you for your very kind hospitality.

2nd Knight: And we wish your daughter happiness.

3rd Knight: And you, too, sir.

Simonides: Thank you, gentlemen.  It’s been a pleasure to have you here.  Good luck to all of you.

Knights: Thank you, sir.

    (They shake hands and the Knights leave.)

Simonides: Good.  They’re out of the way.  (To the audience)  My daughter wants to marry Pericles.  She’s quite insistent.  That’s all right with me.  I like the fellow.  But I won’t tell him yet.  I just want to put him to a little test.

    (Pericles comes in.)

Pericles: Good morning, my lord.

Simonides: Ah, there you are, Pericles.  I want to ask you something.

Pericles: Yes, my lord?

Simonides: What do you think of my daughter?

Pericles: I think she’s wonderful.

    (Simonides assumes a serious expression, pretending to be displeased.)

Simonides: Frankly, I think you’ve bewitched her.

Pericles: Bewitched her?  No, my lord.  Certainly not.

Simonides: Read this.

    (He hands Pericles the letter.  Pericles looks surprised as he reads it.)

Simonides: How could a virgin be so adamant about marrying a man she hardly knows–unless he did something improper to manipulate her mind?

Pericles: I’ve done nothing, sir.  I swear it.

Simonides: Liar!  Traitor!  Is this how you repay my hospitality?

Pericles (Angrily): No man has ever called me a liar or a traitor!  My conduct here has been as noble as my thoughts!  I came here to compete honourably, not to manipulate your daughter in any way!

Simonides (Aside to the audience): He’s got courage.  I like that.  (To Pericles) Well, we’ll just see what she has to say about it.

    (Thaisa comes in.)

Pericles: Madam!  Your father thinks I’ve done something–that I’ve bewitched you–to make you want to marry me.  Tell him it isn’t so.

Thaisa (Laughing): It isn’t so.  But even if it were, who cares?  I’m happy.

Simonides (Holding up the letter): So you’re quite serious about this?

Thaisa: Oh, yes.

    (Simonides winks aside to the audience.)

Simonides (Pretending to be stern): Now then, girl, you’ll not do anything without my consent.  You hardly know this man.  (Aside to the audience) Although for all I know, he could be a prince or something.  (To Pericles, pretending to be stern) And you, sir, must be governed by my wishes, not my daughter’s–otherwise–

Pericles: Otherwise what, sir?

Simonides: Otherwise–(Smiling) I shall have to marry the two of you!

    (Simonides takes both their hands and pulls them beside him.  Thaisa laughs.)

Simonides: Well?  Are you both happy now?

Thaisa: Yes!  (To Pericles) That is, if you think you can love me, sir.

Pericles: I will love you as I love life itself.

Simonides: Excellent!  We’ve made a match.  Now let’s get this marriage done with before the spell wears off!

    (Thaisa laughs.  They all leave.)

Act 3, Prologue.  Gower comes in wearing a hockey jersey and holding a hockey stick.

Gower: This is the craziest damned game I’ve ever seen.  We never had this in my day.  You have two teams with six guys on each side, and they have to run on this big sheet of ice.  And they wear these shoes with steel blades underneath, and they skate on the edges of the blades.  I swear, I don’t know how anyone can do that.  And everybody’s got a stick like this, and they try to hit this disc sort of thing–they call it a puck–and they try to whack it into a net.  It’s a bit like field hockey, except they’re constantly banging into each other.  And every now and then they get into a fight and try to beat each other up–except they’re wearing so much padding they can’t really do much, and it’s really awkward because they’re on those skates.  It looks really stupid, but the crowd loves it.  I swear, I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s very un-English, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s strictly for the wackos and misfits in the colonies.  Goodbye, London–hello, Cannibal Island.–Anyway, back to the story.  Pericles and Thaisa are married, and she’s pregnant.  Helicanus has finally found out where Pericles is, and he has sent him a letter telling him Antiochus is dead and he should return to Tyre if he still wants to be Prince.–Or King.  Same difference.–So Pericles and Thaisa and her nurse Lychorida have left Pentapolis and are on a ship headed for Tyre.  Now, since this is Shakespeare, one of two things has to happen.  Either–the ship will be attacked by pirates–or–the ship will run into a storm.  Who wants to guess pirates?  Raise your hands.–And who wants to guess storm?  Raise you hands.–Well, in fact, it’s going to be a storm.  And believe me, you don’t want to be on this ship.

    (Gower goes out.) 

Act 3, Scene 1.  On board the ship during a storm.  Pericles comes in.

Pericles: You gods stop this storm now!  Right now!  My wife is going to have a baby!

    (Lychorida comes in holding the baby.)

Pericles: Lychorida!

Lychorida: My lord–you have a daughter.

    (She gives the baby to Pericles.)

Pericles: What about Thaisa?  How is she?

Lychorida: My lord–she is dead.

Pericles (Looking up to heaven): You gods!–Have you no pity?

Lychorida: I’m sorry, my lord.–You must think of the baby.  That’s all you can do.

Pericles (To the baby): What a way to come into the world!

    (Two Sailors come in.)

1st Sailor: Are you all right, sir?

2nd Sailor: This is a terrible storm.

Pericles: I’m not afraid–not for myself.  I’m only afraid for her (Indicating the baby).

2nd Sailor: We’re sorry about your wife, sir.–But–the storm–you see, it’s bad luck to keep–

1st Sailor: The body.  It’s bad luck to keep the body on board.  The storm won’t stop until–madam’s body is thrown overboard.

Pericles: That’s superstition.

1st Sailor: No, sir.  This is the rule for all sailors.  The whole crew knows it’s bad luck.  There’ll be a panic unless your wife’s body is put over.  We have a coffin all prepared.

    (Pericles gives the baby back to Lychorida.)

Pericles: Take the baby below.  Stay close to her every moment.

Lychorida: She’ll be closer than my shadow, sir.

    (Lychorida goes out with the baby.)

Pericles: I must say goodbye to my queen.  And I want to write a letter to put in her coffin for whoever finds it.–Where are we?

2nd Sailor: Near Ephesus.

    [Author’s note.  There’s a glitch in the original play, which is not at all unusual for Shakespeare.  In the original, the sailor says they’re near Tharsus.  But Thaisa’s coffin washes ashore at Ephesus.  Since they’re about to dump the body, they must be near Ephesus, which is confirmed in Act 5, Scene 3.  After dumping the body, they go on to Tharsus so Pericles can leave the baby in safe hands rather than put her at risk in the storm.  This is awkward, however, because the two cities are very far apart, so the ship must still travel a very great distance.  Shakespeare is sometimes careless about geography.  Neither edition that I worked from — Signet or Cambridge — makes any comment about this problem of Ephesus and Tharsus.]

Pericles: All right.  We’ll do what we have to do here.  Then I want to go to Tharsus to leave the baby with Cleon.  I don’t want to put her at risk all the way to Tyre.

Sailors: Yes, sir.


Pericles: I want to give my queen a last kiss.

    (Pericles leaves, followed by the Sailors.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Ephesus.  The home of Cerimon, a doctor.  Cerimon is already present when the curtain goes up.  He looks tired.  His sleeves are rolled up, suggesting he has been working.

Cerimon (Calling): Philemon!

    (Philemon comes in.)

Philemon: Yes, my lord?

Cerimon: Have the patients been taken care of?

Philemon: They’re resting comfortably, sir.

Cerimon: Make sure they’re fed and kept warm.

Philemon: They will be, sir.  I’ll be with them every moment.

Cerimon: Good.

    (Philemon goes out.)

Cerimon: What a night!–What a storm!

    (Two Gentlemen come in.)

1st Gent.: My lord Cerimon, have you been up all night?

Cerimon: Had to.  I had a dozen men who almost drowned in the storm.

2nd Gent.: We were afraid your house would get blown down.

Cerimon: I think it almost did.

1st Gent.: You’re a hero, sir.  You’re the best doctor in Ephesus.

Cerimon: I get a certain pleasure out of cheating death.

2nd Gent.: You’ve got the knack for it.  That’s for sure.

    (Two or three Servants come in, dragging or carrying a chest, which is the coffin containing Thaisa.)

1st Serv.: My lord!  This chest got washed ashore in the storm!

Cerimon: Oh!  Let’s have a look.

2nd Serv.: Looks sort of like a coffin to me, sir.

    (Cerimon tests its weight.)

Cerimon: It’s heavy, whatever it is.  (He examines it more closely.)  Look at this. See how it’s sealed with caulking?  It must have floated despite its weight.

1st Serv.: A big wave picked it up and left it on the beach.

Cerimon: Open it.

    (The Servants pry it open with bars.)

1st Serv.: It’s a body!

2nd Serv. (To the 1st Servant): What did I tell you?

    (Cerimon examines the inside of the coffin.)

Cerimon: There’s a letter.

    (He takes the letter and reads it.)

Cerimon: Pericles–this is his wife–daughter of a king–died in childbirth–had to toss her overboard in the storm–Tsk!  The poor man!  What a tragedy!

1st Gent.: She was a beautiful lady.  And so young.

    (Cerimon examines the body.)

Cerimon: Hold on!–Wait a minute!–I think she’s alive!    

1st Gent.: Alive!  

2nd Gent.: How can that be?

Cerimon: This is extraordinary!  (To the Servants)  Get me my box of medicines.  

    (A Servant rushes out.)

Cerimon: This is something very rare, but it can happen.  The body can go into a coma for several hours and be mistaken for dead.  It can still be revived–assuming the doctor knows what he’s dealing with.–Yes.–She’s breathing–just barely.

    (The Servant returns with the box of medicines.  Cerimon takes a phial and administers the medicine, either on the lips or in the nose.)

1st Gent.: She’s moving!

Cerimon: Help her up.

    (Cerimon and the two Gentlemen help Thaisa sit up in the coffin.)

Thaisa (Confused): Where am I?–Where is my lord?

Cerimon: You’re all right, madam.  You’re safe.  (To the Gentlemen) Let’s get her into a bed.

    (Cerimon and the two Gentlemen lift her out of the coffin and carry her out.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  Tharsus.  Curtain up finds Pericles, Cleon, Dionyza, and Lychorida, who holds the baby Marina in her arms.

Pericles: My lord Cleon, you’ve been very gracious to put up with me for so long.

Cleon: Nonsense.  You can stay as long as you like.

Pericles: I’m needed back at Tyre.  They’re anxious to have me home.  Now, regarding the baby, I’ve been considering that I really shouldn’t take her back to Tyre.  With her mother gone, I can’t give her the attention she needs.  I’d rather leave her in your care–with her nurse, of course.

Cleon: No problem.

Dionyza: We’ll take good care of her, don’t you worry.  We’ll treat her like our own daughter.

Pericles: Can you keep her until she’s fourteen?  Give her a proper education?

Cleon: Absolutely.  We’ll raise her to be a queen someday.  We’ll give her the best.

Dionyza: And the people will love her.  They haven’t forgotten how you helped us during the famine.

Pericles: I may not see her again until she’s married.  Until then I won’t cut my hair or my beard.

Cleon: We’ll arrange a fine marriage for her, don’t worry.  Come, we’ll escort you to your ship.

Pericles: Thank you.

    (They all leave.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  Ephesus.  Curtain up finds Thaisa sitting on the edge of a bed or cot.  Cerimon is sitting in a chair.

Cerimon: We found certain items in the coffin–some jewels–which, of course, are yours to keep–and this letter.  Do you recognize the handwriting?

    (Thaisa looks at the letter.)

Thaisa: It’s my lord’s handwriting.

Cerimon: Can you remember what happened?

Thaisa: We were at  sea.  There was a storm.  I had just given birth.  After that I don’t know what happened.  I don’t know about my baby or my husband.–I think perhaps–perhaps the ship sank.–Maybe there’s no one else left alive.

Cerimon: Well–we can’t know for sure.

Thaisa: I think it’s best if I went someplace and just lived a secluded life.  I don’t want to marry again.

Cerimon: There’s a sanctuary where you can live.  It’s very peaceful there.  My niece can stay with you and attend to you.

Thaisa: Thank you–although my thanks are hardly enough reward for all you’ve done.

Cerimon: Seeing you well is my reward, madam.  You’ll be all right.  You’ll like the sanctuary.  It’s a spiritual place.

Thaisa: That’s what I need.–To devote myself to spiritual things.

    (Scene ends without an exit.)  

Act 4, Prologue.  Gower comes in, dressed differently again.

Gower: Pretty good story, eh?  I hope you’re following this.  Pericles is in Tyre, and Thaisa is in Ephesus, and they both think the other is dead.  Now we’re going to fast-forward fourteen years.  Marina, the baby who was left in the care of Cleon and Dionyza in Tharsus, has grown into a beautiful and talented girl.  She’s admired by everyone–even more than her companion, Philoten, who is the daughter of Cleon and Dionyza.  And that’s the problem.  Dionyza can’t stand the fact that Marina gets so much attention while Philoten is ignored.  So she has decided to get rid of Marina.  She’s going to have her murdered–by her servant Leonine.  As for Lychorida, the nurse, she has conveniently died, so Marina has no one to protect her.  Wait till you see what happens next!

    (Gower leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  The beach at Tharsus.  Dionyza comes in with Leonine.

Dionyza: You promised you’d do it.  And I’m paying you for this.  One quick blow and it’s done.  What’s the problem?

Leonine: Well–I mean–okay, but I really hate to do it.  She’s such a lovely girl.

Dionyza: She’s too lovely for her own good.  Now don’t get soft on me.  You’re my servant.  Are you going to do this or not?

Leonine: Yes, madam.

Dionyza: Good.–Here she comes now.–She’s still sad over her nurse’s death.

    (Marina comes in, looking sad.  She is a bit disheveled.)

Dionyza: There you are, Marina.  You mustn’t grieve like that.  You should take a nice walk on the beach with Leonine.  It’ll make you feel better.

Leonine: Yes.  A little walk.  That’s what you need.

Marina: I don’t really feel like it.

Dionyza: Oh, come on.  You need to snap out of it.  Suppose your father were to come back right now and find you in such a state?  He’d blame me.

Marina: When is he coming?

Dionyza: He could come at any time now that you’re fourteen.  Come, now.  Take a walk with Leonine.

Marina: I will if you insist.

Dionyza: That’s a good girl.–Leonine, remember.–You know.

Leonine: Yes, madam.

Dionyza: All right, then.–I’ll see you both later.

    (Dionyza leaves.)

Marina: I don’t really want to walk on the beach.

Leonine: Why not?

Marina: It makes me think of when I was born at sea in a storm.

Leonine: But you can’t remember that.

Marina: Nurse told me.  She told me how my father gave orders to the men so they wouldn’t panic.  He told them what to do with the ropes and sails.  Nurse said it was the most terrible storm ever.  But he saved the ship.–My mother died, of course.  She died when I was born.

Leonine: You must say your prayers now.

Marina: Say my prayers?  Why?

Leonine: I’ll give you a minute, but that’s all.

    (A pause for effect.)

Marina: What?–Leonine, are you going to–kill me?

Leonine: I have to obey the Queen.

Marina: Why does she want me dead?  What have I ever done to her?

Leonine: It’s not for me to explain.  I just have to do what I’m told.

Marina: Leonine!  You can’t be serious!  You’re not a murderer!  I can’t believe you could do such a thing!  You mustn’t!

    (Leonine grabs her.)

Leonine: I have no choice!  I’m sorry!

    (Suddenly three Pirates rush in.)

1st Pirate: You’re ours now!

    (Leonine pushes Marina into the arms of the  Pirates and runs out.)

2nd Pirate: Should we chase him?

3rd Pirate: Don’t bother.  This one’s the prize.  We’ll get a lot of money for her.  Let’s get her on the ship and get out of here.

    (The Pirates drag Marina out.  After a brief interval, Leonine returns.)

Leonine: Well, that was damned convenient!–Pirates!–Okay, this works for me.  She’s gone for good.  I’ll tell the Queen I killed her and threw her into the sea.  Problem solved!

    (Leonine leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  A brothel in Mytilene.  Curtain up finds the Madam and her husband, the Pander, sitting and looking glum.

Madam: We’re losing business.  Mytilene is full of horny men right now, and we’ve only got three girls.

Pander: And they’re worn out.

Madam: Don’t you think I know?  They’re complaining.  A woman’s got her limits.  Never mind the money.

Pander: I sent Boult to the market to search around and see if he could recruit a girl for us.

Madam: He’ll have to get lucky.  The other houses are looking for girls, too.  It’s a competitive business.

Pander: I told him if he didn’t find someone I’d fire him.

Madam: Why aren’t you out there yourself?

Pander: Me?  I’m management.

Madam (Sarcastically): Ohhh.–Management.

    (Boult comes in with the Pirates and Marina.)

Boult: Boss!  Look what I brought you!

1st Pirate: This girl’s for sale.

Madam: Well!  She is a pretty one.  Is she a virgin?

Marina: Of course, I’m a virgin!

Boult: Isn’t she a beauty?  And she ain’t low-class either.  Look at those clothes.

Pander: Yeah.  She obviously didn’t come from no slum.  (To the Pirates) Where’d you get her?

1st Pirate: Never mind.  You don’t need to know.  We just want to sell her.

Madam: How much?

1st Pirate: A thousand farthings.

Boult: It’s a good deal, boss.  Go for it.

Pander: Yeah.  (To the Pirates.) I think we can do that.  Come into the office.

    (The Pander and the Pirates go out.)

Marina: What is this place?

Madam: Don’t you know?

Boult: She’s a virgin.  She’ll make us a ton of money.

Madam: Aye, with the first customer.  After that, she has to learn.

Marina: This is a brothel!

Madam: Yes, my dear.  And you’re going to learn how to use what nature gave you.

Marina: I’d rather die!

Madam: Now, don’t be melodramatic.  You’ll get to like it.  And you’ll make friends with the other girls.

Marina: I’ll drown myself!  I’ll take poison!  I’ll–

Madam: Don’t talk foolishness.  This is a profession like any other.  We all live by selling something.–Boult, go out and circulate in the market and let the sailors and countrymen know we have a fine young girl they’ve never seen before.  The prettiest in the whole city.

Boult: I’ll do that.

    (Boult leaves.)

Madam: Now you come with me, dearie.  I have to give you a quick indoctrination.

    (The Madam takes Marina out.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  Tharsus.  The palace.  Curtain up finds Cleon and Dionyza.

Dionyza: Stop moaning about it.  It’s done with.

Cleon: But to kill such a nice girl!  I never would have approved.  What will we say to Pericles when he returns to take her home?

Dionyza: She died of natural causes.  No one can say otherwise.  Leonine has left Tharsus.

Cleon: The gods don’t like this at all.

Dionyza: Never mind the gods.  Think of our own daughter.  Her future was in jeopardy as long as she lived in Marina’s shadow.  The girl had to be gotten rid of.

Cleon: Heavens forgive us!

Dionyza: When Pericles arrives, we’ll take him to the monument, and he’ll read the inscription with all the praises about how wonderful she was.  (Sarcastically) How everyone loved her.

Cleon: I never realized you could be so wicked.  You should be ashamed.

Dionyza: No, I’m not.  And you just play your part and do what I tell you.  And forget about–the heavens!

    (Dionyza goes out.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  Gower comes in with a sprightly step, smiling.  He’s dressed differently again.

Gower: Okay.  We managed to find some pirates for you after all.  You’re getting your money’s worth.  Now, then, we’re going to fast-forward just a bit and move the story along.  Pericles and Helicanus both came to Tharsus and were taken to Marina’s fake tomb.  Very sad.  And they were completely taken in by Dionyza’s explanation.  And then they left.  And now we take you back to Mytilene and the brothel.

    (Gower leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 6.  The brothel in Mytilene.  The Pander, the Madam and Boult come in.

Pander: That girl is ruining us!  She’s preaching to the customers, telling them how wrong it is to  patronize prostitutes!  And they’re listening to her!

Madam: They won’t come back.  They told me straight out.

Pander: She’s a nut case.

Madam: The biggest.  She prays like a nun.  It’s unnatural.

Pander: Either we get her laid or we have to get rid of her.

Boult: Let me have her for one hour.  I’ll straighten her out.

Pander: Yeah, you want to rape her.

Boult: No, no.  It’s not rape.  It’s behaviour modification.

Madam: That’s rape.

Boult: Well, either way, I’d be glad to do it.

    (The Madam looks out a window and sees someone coming.)

Madam: Wait.  I have a better idea.  We have to give her to a high-class customer.  Somebody with finesse.  Somebody with experience.  And I know just the person.

Pander: Who’s coming?

Madam: The Governor.  In his disguise, of course–ha!  He doesn’t want people to recognize him.  Let’s let him deflower that virgin.

Pander: Good idea!

    (Lysimachus, Governor of Mytilene, comes in.)

Lysimachus: Hello, my friends!

Madam: Hello, your Honour!

Pander: Nice to see you again, sir!

Lysimachus: I’ve heard you have a new girl–a virgin.

Madam: We do, indeed.  In fact, we’ve been saving her for you.  And I guarantee she’s not like anyone else you ever met here.

Boult (Ironically): That’s for sure.

Lysimachus: Ah!  Well, then, I want to meet her!

Pander (To Boult): Go get her.

    (Boult goes out.)

Madam: You’re going to like her a lot.

Pander: She doesn’t have any experience.  She needs, em, you know, a man of the world like yourself to, uh–

Madam: To use finesse with her.

Lysimachus: I understand perfectly.

    (Boult returns with Marina.)

Madam: Well?  What do you think?  Ain’t she a beauty?

Lysimachus: She’s a man’s comfort, that’s for sure.  (He takes out his purse and gives some money to the Madam.)  Here.

Madam: Thank you, sir.  Let me just have a quick word with her.

    (The Madam takes Marina aside.)

Madam: Now listen, this man is a gentleman and a good friend of the establishment.

Marina: What sort of gentleman would be a friend of this establishment?

Madam: Now don’t be contrary.  This man is the Governor of Mytilene.  He’s got power and influence–and money.  If you’re nice to him, he’ll be your friend.  And you couldn’t find a better friend in all of Mytilene.

Marina: I’ll be nice to him if he shows that he really is my friend.

Madam (To Lysimachus): She’s nervous and inexperienced, your Honour.  You’ll have to make allowances.

Lysimachus: That’s quite all right.  I understand.

Madam: Then I’ll leave you to it.

    (The Madam, the Pander, and Boult leave.)

Lysimachus: What’s your name, girl?

Marina: Marina.

Lysimachus: That’s a pretty name.

Marina: I was named Marina because I was born on a ship at sea.

Lysimachus: How interesting.  And how did you get into this, em, trade?

Marina: Trade, sir?  What trade do you mean?

Lysimachus: Come, now, you know what I mean.

Marina: No, I don’t.

Lysimachus: Oh, come on.  You don’t need to be coy.  This is a brothel.

Marina: Then why are you here?  I’m told that you’re a gentleman–the Governor of Mytilene, in fact.

Lysimachus: Ah.  Your mistress told you, did she?

Marina: My mistress?  I didn’t know I had a mistress.

Lysimachus: The lady who runs this establishment.

Marina: She’s no lady.  I know what a lady is.–And I know what a gentleman is, too.  If you’re a gentleman, you have to prove it to me.

    (Lysimachus pauses.  He is surprised at Marina, but also intrigued.)

Lysimachus: What sort of girl are you?

Marina: Not the sort who belongs in a place like this, sir.  I was brought here against my will, and I want nothing to do with this place.  I’d rather be a fly and fly out of here than be a human being and be stuck here as a slave.

    (Another pause for effect.)

Lysimachus: You’re not like the other girls here.  I can see that.  You don’t belong here.  You obviously come from a better class of  people.

Marina: The best class, sir.

    (Lysimachus takes some gold from his purse.)

Lysimachus: I want to help you.  Take this.  And please forget what I came here for.

Marina: Thank you, sir.

Lysimachus: I like you.  You have character.  Just be true to yourself and have courage, and things will turn out all right for you.

Marina: The gods preserve you, sir.

    (Boult comes in, noticing Lysimachus holding his purse.)

Boult: Oh!  Do I get a tip, sir?

Lysimachus: A tip?  I’ll give you a clout on the head, you miscreant!  Nobody mistreats this girl, understand?

    (Lysimachus goes out, angry.)

Boult: What the–?  (To Marina) I can see we’re going to have problems with you.  We’ll just have to do something about that.

    (The Madam comes in.)

Madam: Where’s Lysimachus?

Boult: Gone.  She said something to him and he left.

Madam: What!

Boult: She bad-mouthed us, and now he hates us.

Madam: Damn it!–Boult, you take her and do whatever you want with her.  I should’ve known better than to buy a virgin.

Marina (Looking up): You gods are witnesses.

Madam: You damned virgin!  You freak!–Boult, you deal with her.

    (The Madam goes out.)

Boult (Smiling): You heard her.

Madam: You low-life!  You take orders from people like that?  Any dog is better off than you!

Boult: I just work here.

Marina: You call this work?  This is the lowest job on the face of the earth.

Boult: I get paid.

Marina: I’ll pay you to take me out of here and place me with a respectable family.

Boult: What’re you talking about?

Marina: The Governor’s my friend now.  He gave me money, and I want to buy my way out of here.  If I stay, I’ll chase all your customers away and you’ll all be ruined.  If you let me leave, I’ll reimburse whatever the madam paid for me, plus something extra for her trouble.  And I’ll pay you to place me with a respectable family.

Boult: As what–a laundress?

Marina: I’m a very educated girl, and very skilled.  I can tutor children.

Boult: Are you on the level?

Marina: Absolutely.

Boult: Well–it’s not up to me.  It’s up to the management.

Marina: Then let’s talk to them.

Boult: Well–okay.  I think they might go along with it.  Come on.

    (They go out.)

Act 5, Prologue.  Gower comes out, dressed differently.

Gower: Hey, you gotta love that girl!  Of course, in those days a fourteen-year-old was much more mature than she’d be today.  Hell, she’d be ready for marriage.  Juliet was thirteen when she married Romeo.  And Margaret of Anjou was fifteen when she married Henry the Sixth.–Anyway, here’s what’s happened.  Marina was able to leave the brothel, and she was taken in by a good family as a sort of nanny or tutor.  Today is a feast day in Mytilene, and the city is buzzing.  Everyone’s got the day off, and Marina and her kiddies are spending the day at the beach.  And guess whose ship is arriving in Mytilene.  Pericles’s ship.  And Governor Lysimachus has come to the harbour to welcome it.  He doesn’t know whose ship it is.  He’s just being friendly to visitors.  The ship is anchored just off shore, and the Governor  has gone out on his barge to meet it.  In a moment you’ll be on the ship.

    (Gower goes out.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  On board Pericles’s ship.  Pericles is apparently asleep on a pile of blankets or canvas on one side of the stage.  He is unshaven and unkempt.  (From this point on, we will see him with long hair and a long beard.)  He is screened off by a sheet or curtain that divides the stage edgewise to the audience.  Voices are heard from the opposite side as the Governor’s party is being received.  Helicanus, hearing the voices, comes in on Pericles’s side and passes across the stage.  He meets two Sailors coming in–one of his own and one from Mytilene.

Tyrian Sailor (To the Mytilenian Sailor): You can talk to Master Helicanus.–Oh, here he is.  (To Helicanus) My lord, a party from Mytilene.  Governor Lysimachus and some of his people.

Helicanus: Fine.  Invite them up.

Tyrian Sailor (To the party offstage): This way, gentlemen.

    (Lysimachus comes in, attended by two Lords.)

Mytilenian Sailor (To Lysimachus): This is the captain, sir.

Lysimachus: Greetings, Captain!  The gods preserve you!  I am Lysimachus, Governor of Mytilene.

Helicanus: Welcome, sir.  I am Helicanus–acting commander.  The King is, em–(Very softly, finger on lips)–resting.  I must speak softly.

Lysimachus: Oh, I see.  Where are you from?

Helicanus: We’re from Tyre.  The King is somewhat indisposed.

Lysimachus: I’m sorry to hear that.  Is he ill?

Helicanus: He’s emotionally depressed.  He’s been through a rough time.  He  lost his wife and daughter.

Lysimachus: That’s terrible.  Could I talk to him?

Helicanus: You can try, but he won’t speak to anyone.  He’s in a bad state.

Lysimachus: Oh, dear.  Well, let me at least say hello.

Helicanus: If you wish.

    (Helicanus draws back the curtain.)

Lysimachus: Your Majesty, the gods preserve you!–Em, we are your friends, sir.–Anything we can do–

    (No reaction from Pericles.)

Helicanus (Shrugging): I told you.

Lord: I know who could cheer him up.  (To Lysimachus.) That nice girl you helped.  You know, the nanny.

Lysimachus: Ah, yes!  (To Helicanus) She’s the most wonderful girl.  She’s better than any medicine.

Lord: She’s right on the beach.  We can bring her aboard in a minute.

Lysimachus: Good idea.  Go get her.

    (The Lord leaves.)  

Helicanus: If you think it’ll do any good–

Lysimachus: It’s worth a try.  I know this girl.  She’s very sweet and very intelligent.  Wait till you meet her.

Helicanus: Okay, great.–Em, the reason we stopped here at Mytilene.  We need provisions.  We have plenty of money.

Lysimachus: No problem.  We’ve got everything you need.–Em, I’m very curious to know just what happened to your King.

Helicanus: It’s a long story.  Very sad.  He was in a storm with his pregnant wife–Oh, I think your little friend is here.

    (The Lord returns with Marina and another Girl as a companion.)

Lysimachus: Ah, there you are!–Oops, we have to speak softly.  (To Helicanus) This is the girl.

Helicanus: What a beautiful girl!

Lysimachus: Tell you the truth, if I knew  more about her parentage, I think I’d marry her myself.  (To Marina) These are our friends, my dear.  Their King is deeply depressed.  He won’t speak to anyone.  I thought if anyone could snap him out of it, you could.

Marina: I’m willing to try.

Helicanus: He’s over here (Indicating Pericles).

Marina: Leave us a moment, sir.

    (Marina takes her companion by the hand and goes to Pericles, drawing the curtain behind them.  The others move away to give them more privacy.  Marina and her companion confer in whispers.  Then Marina begins to sing something sweet and soothing.  [Director’s choice.]  Pericles waves her away without looking at her, and she stops singing.  Marina and her companion confer again in whispers.)

Marina: My lord, I, too, have suffered terrible grief.  I come from a noble family like yours, but the fates tore me away from them.  I went through terrible things.

    (She pauses, discouraged by a lack of reaction.  Then, belatedly, Pericles sits up and looks at her.)

Pericles: What did you say?  A noble family like mine?  Is that what you said?

Marina: Yes, my lord.  If you knew, you’d understand that my sorrow is no less than yours.

    (Pericles regards her with curiosity.)

Pericles: There’s something about you.–Are you from this city?

Marina: Not from any city, my lord.

Pericles: Strange.–You remind me of my wife.–My daughter would have looked like you.–Tell me about yourself.  Where were you raised?

Marina: My lord, if I told you the truth, you probably wouldn’t believe me.

Pericles: No, no, I’ll believe you.  You have an honest face.  I want to know all about you.  What’s your name?

Marina: Marina.

    (Pericles reacts with shock.)

Marina: Is something wrong, sir?

Pericles: No, I–I was just–surprised.

Marina: My father named me.  He was a king.

Pericles: A king!

Marina: I knew you wouldn’t believe me.

Pericles: No, no, I believe you.  It’s just that–well, it’s just so strange.–Tell me where you were born.

Marina: I was born on a ship at sea.  That’s why I was named Marina.

    (Pericles stands up, amazed.)

Pericles: Good God!–And who was your mother?

Marina: She was the daughter of a king.  She died giving birth to me.  My nurse told me all about it. 

Pericles: Oh!–Oh!–This can’t be!

Marina: You disbelieve me, sir.

Pericles: No, no!–Just tell me–how did you come to be here?

Marina: My father left me in Tharsus, in the care of Cleon and Dionyza.  When I was fourteen they tried to have me murdered.  But I was stolen away by pirates and brought here to Mytilene.

    (Pericles is crying.)

Marina: It’s all true, sir.  My father was King Pericles of Tyre.

Pericles: Helicanus!

    (Helicanus and Lysimachus come quickly.)

Helicanus: My lord?

    (Pericles puts his arms around Marina.)

Pericles: Do you know who this girl is?

Helicanus: I don’t know, my lord.  Only that the Governor thinks the world of her.

Lysimachus: I do, sir.  I adore this girl.  But she would never tell me who her parents were.

Pericles: Helicanus, am I dreaming?  Tell me if I’m dreaming!

Helicanus: No, sir.  You’re wide awake.

Pericles (To Marina): Tell this man who your mother was.

Marina (To Helicanus): Her name was Thaisa.  She was the daughter of King Simonides of  Pentapolis.

Pericles: This is Marina!  This is my daughter!

Helicanus: But we saw her tomb!  She died in Tharsus!

Pericles: We were tricked!  Cleon and Dionyza wanted us to think she was dead!

Marina: Sir?–Am I–your daughter?

Pericles: I am Pericles!

    (Marina bursts into tears.  They embrace.)

Pericles: She lives!  My daughter lives!

Lysimachus (To Helicanus): She’s his daughter?

Helicanus: Yes!  (To Pericles) My lord, this is Governor Lysimachus.

Marina: He’s my friend, father.  He was kind to me.  He saved me from–from a very bad place.

    (Pericles embraces Lysimachus.)

Pericles: The gods preserve you, sir!  The gods bless you a million times over!–(Becomes distracted)–Oh–oh–I’m a mess.–Look at me.–I must look like a beggar.

    (Ethereal music is heard.)

Pericles: Helicanus–do you hear that?

Helicanus: Hear what, my lord?

Pericles: That music.  Can’t you hear it?

Helicanus: I don’t hear anything.

Lysimachus (Aside to Helicanus): He’s a little faint.  He should lie down.

Pericles: What heavenly music!

Helicanus: Yes, yes, my lord.  You’re all right.  Come.  Lie you down and rest.  Don’t worry about a thing.  We’ll be nearby.

Pericles: Yes.–I should lie down.–I feel a bit woozy.

    (Pericles lies down.  Helicanus gestures to the others, and they all go out, leaving Pericles alone.  Then the goddess Diana appears as a vision to Pericles.)  

Diana: Pericles.–You know me.  I am Diana.  My temple stands in Ephesus.  You must go there and make sacrifice upon my altar.  And you must tell the priestess all these things that have happened to you.  You must do this, Pericles, if you want complete happiness.

    (Diana disappears.)

Pericles (Awakening): Diana!–Diana!–I’ll do it!  I’ll go!–Helicanus!

    (Helicanus, Lysimachus, and Marina return.)

Helicanus: My lord, are you all right?

    (Pericles stands up and is very composed.)

Pericles: I’m fine, Helicanus.  I was going to go to Tharsus and pay a visit to Cleon and Dionyza.  But first, we’re going to Ephesus.

Helicanus: Ephesus?

Pericles: Yes.  I’ll explain later.–My lord Governor, we’ll need provisions.

Lysimachus: You can have whatever you need, my lord.–Oh, and, uh–I have something to ask of you.

Pericles: Whatever it is, the answer is yes.  (He sees the way Lysimachus looks at Marina.)  Ah.  Something to do with my daughter.

Lysimachus: Yes.

Pericles: I think you like her.

Lysimachus: More than that, sir.

Pericles: I can read your mind.  You want to marry her.

Lysimachus: Em–yes, actually.

Pericles: You’ve been kind to her already, so I know you’ll be a good husband to her.  Yes, you can marry her.  In Ephesus. 

Lysimachus: Thank you, my lord!  Come.  Let me escort you.

    (Lysimachus links arms with Pericles and they all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  Gower comes in, dressed differently.

Gower: Hello, hello, hello!  How are you liking it?  (Pretends to hear a comment from the audience.)  Oh, you’ve guessed everything so far, have you?  Well, good for you.  Let’s see if you can guess what happens in the last scene.  We’re going straight to Ephesus, to the temple of Diana.  Do you remember whom we left in Ephesus?–Yes, you remember.  Well, don’t leave your seats, because you don’t want to miss the perfect ending to this utterly bizarre story.–And now, by teleportation, we take you to–Ephesus!

    (Gower leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  The temple of Diana at Ephesus.  Curtain up finds Thaisa as the priestess, standing by the altar with Attendants.  She is elaborately costumed and made up.  Also present are Cerimon and other Ephesians.  Pericles comes in with Lysimachus, Helicanus, and Marina.

Pericles: Honour and reverence to the goddess Diana!  I was bid in a vision to come and tell you the things that have happened to me.

Thaisa: Welcome, stranger.  Will you make a sacrifice first?

Pericles: Yes.  Gladly.

    (Pericles cuts off some of his hair and burns it on a tray with a candle.)

Pericles: I am a king.  I was forced to leave my country for my own safety.  I was shipwrecked at Pentapolis and there I married the daughter of the king.  (Thaisa reacts to this.)  At sea in a storm, she gave birth, but she died.  Our daughter, Marina, I left at Tharsus to be raised by Cleon and Dionyza.  But they betrayed my trust and tried to murder her.  The fates intervened and brought her to Mytilene.  I didn’t know she was alive.  But when my ship arrived in Mytilene, I met her.  She knew who I was.

    (Thaisa is wide-eyed and trembling.)

Thaisa: Can it be?–Can it be?

Pericles: Madam?

Thaisa: Are you who I think you are?

Pericles: I am Pericles, King of Tyre.

Thaisa: Pericles!

    (She faints.)

Pericles: She’s fainted!  Someone help!

    (Cerimon and another Ephesian rush forward to help Thaisa.)

Cerimon: My lord, are you really Pericles?

Pericles: Yes.

Cerimon: My lord–this is your wife!  This is Thaisa!

Pericles: But, sir–that’s impossible.  My wife died in childbirth at sea.  She was sealed into a coffin and thrown overboard.

Cerimon: Off this coast, right?  Ephesus.

Pericles: Why, yes.

Cerimon: We found the coffin, and she was still alive.  I revived her myself.

Pericles: What!

Cerimon: You left a letter in the coffin, didn’t you?

Pericles: Yes, I did!

Cerimon: And jewels.–Here.  These are the jewels.  (Cerimon picks up the jewels from the altar.)  Do you recognize them?

    (Pericles looks at the jewels.)

Pericles: Helicanus!  These are the jewels!

Marina: Father!  What does this mean?

    (Thaisa has recovered and is now standing.)

Thaisa: My father gave you a ring when we were married.  Show it to me.

    (Pericles shows her the ring.)

Thaisa: This is it!

Pericles: Thaisa!

    (They embrace, weeping.)

Marina: Mother!  Mother!

Pericles: This is Marina!

Thaisa: Daughter!

    (Marina and Thaisa embrace.)

Helicanus: Bless you, madam!  My noble queen!–Oh!  Thank the gods!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Pericles (To Thaisa): Do you remember who I said I left in Tyre to run the city while I was gone?

Thaisa: It was–Helicanus.

Helicanus: I am Helicanus.  Your loyal servant, madam!

Thaisa (To Pericles): This is the man who saved my life.–Cerimon.

Pericles: I am forever in your debt, sir!

Cerimon: There is no debt, my lord.  This moment of happiness is the greatest reward I’ve ever had in my life.

Pericles: Thaisa, this is Lysimachus, Governor of Mytilene.  It was thanks to him that I was reunited with Marina.  They want to be married.

Thaisa: We’ll do it here today.

Helicanus (To Pericles): But not until you get rid of all that hair, my lord.

Pericles: Yes, yes–ha, ha!  Now I can get rid of it!

Cerimon: And afterwards we’ll celebrate at my house.  I insist.

Pericles: We’ll do that!  (He faces the altar.)  Thank you, Diana!  Thank you, all the gods!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  (He turns to the audience.)  And thank you, my friends, for sticking with us through all our miseries and sharing this joy with us.  And may you all find courage in the face of adversity and be blessed every day as long as you live.–Come, everyone.

    (Everyone goes out, and Gower comes in immediately.)

Gower: Wasn’t that a great ending?  Perfect!  All the lost peoople found each other again after all that trouble.–Now, as for Cleon and Dionyza, you want to know what happened to them.  They got what they deserved.  Cleon–the pussy-whipped wimp!–got crushed to death when a building collapsed and a slab of granite the size of a car fell on him.  Squashed him like a bug–ha!–And as for Dionyza–the bitch!–Remember what happened to Antiochus and his daughter?  The fire that came down from heaven and burned them to a crisp?  Same thing.  Dionyza was burned to ashes in a matter of seconds–ha, ha!–Unfortunately, these things only happen in Shakespeare.  (He gives the audience a two-fingered salute.)  Take ‘er easy!

    (Gower goes out.)


    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

Sir John Falstaff

Fenton — a gentleman

Shallow — a country justice

Slender — Shallow’s nephew

Simple — Slender’s servant



Mistress Ford

Mistress Page

Anne Page — daughter of the Pages

Sir Hugh Evans — a Welsh parson

Doctor Caius — a French doctor

Host of the Garter Inn

Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym — followers of Falstaff

Robin — Falstaff’s page

Rugby — servant of Doctor Caius

Mistress Quickly — housekeeper of Doctor Caius

John and Robert — servants of the Fords

Fairies (children disguised)

(William Page is deleted.) 

Gist of the story: Sir John Falstaff, an old, disreputable knight, decides to con Mistresses Ford and Page in order to get some of their husbands’ money.  He pretends to court them.  But two of his followers, Pistol and Nym, rat him out to the husbands.  Page doesn’t take it seriously, but Ford, who is extremely jealous, disguises himself as Master Brook and bribes Falstaff to try to seduce Mistress Ford to test her honesty.  Meanwhile, three suitors are competing for the hand of Anne Page — Doctor Caius, Slender, and Fenton.  Mistress Quickly pretends to be helping all three of them.  The wives pretend to love Falstaff, but their aim is to prank him and humiliate him.  The climax comes in Windsor Park at midnight, when Falstaff, disguised as a ghost, goes to meet the wives and is accosted and tormented by a gang of “fairies” led by Anne Page, disguised as the Queen of the Fairies.  Amid the commotion, Slender steals in and grabs a fairy he mistakes for Anne, and Doctor Caius also takes the wrong fairy by mistake.  Both run off to marry their intended brides, who turn out to be boys.  Fenton elopes with the real Anne, who has tricked both her parents and married the suitor she really loves.  Falstaff is well and truly humiliated by the wives, who have also proven to their husbands that they are honest.  The Pages are reconciled to Anne’s marriage with Fenton.  The repentant Falstaff is forgiven. 

(Audiences loved Sir John Falstaff so much in the two parts of Henry IV that Shakespeare reprised him for The Merry Wives of Windsor.  He’s a shameless schemer and con artist, and we love seeing him get into hilarious situations.  Although Falstaff and his followers are borrowed from Henry IV, this play takes place in Shakespeare’s own time and is a comic look at middle-class life in an English town.  It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  Before the house of Master Page in Windsor.  Coming in are Justice Shallow, Slender, and Sir Hugh Evans.  (Evans speaks with a Welsh accent.)

Shallow: Sir Hugh, don’t try to talk me out of it.  I’ll take it to the Star Chamber court if I have to.  [Author’s note: This Star Chamber was a harsh court created by Edward III and is not to be confused with the Star Chamber of the Spanish Inquisition.]  I’m not letting Sir John Falstaff abuse me like this.  I’m a justice of the peace, after all.

Slender: That he is–my uncle, Justice Robert Shallow, Esquire.

Shallow: Indeed–and Keeper of the Rolls.

Slender: Custo-rato-lorum–or rather, custalorum-ruto.–Well, anyway, he keeps the scrolls.

Shallow: Rolls.

Slender: Them, too, yes.  And signs his name to every official document so that everyone knows–Esquire costorolum of all Rolls–including affidavits, bills, and all such like.

Shallow: For three hundred years in my family.

Slender: Yes, I’ll vouch for that.  All his successors before him and all his ancestors after him.  And all with the same coat of arms with a dozen white luces.

Evans: That’s all right.  Louses are friends of man.

Shallow: Luces.–Pikes.–Fish.

Evans: Friends all the same–in salt water or fresh.

Slender: And perhaps someday a quarter of that coat will be mine.

Evans: What good’s a quarter of a coat?

Shallow: He means by marrying.

Evans: Marring?  You want to take a quarter of the coat and mar it?

Shallow: No, no, Sir Hugh.  If he marries, the coat of arms of the bride’s family goes into a quarter of our coat of arms.

Evans: You won’t cut it into quarters, though.

Shallow: No, no.

Evans: Well, that’s a relief.–Now, regarding this unfortunate business with Sir John Falstaff, I, being a parson, should like to facilitate a spiritual atonement–by which I mean a compromise–using benevolence–and Christian charity.

Shallow: I’ll drag it to the Privy Council in the Star Chamber, and there’ll be a riot when they hear it.

Evans: Oh, we don’t want a riot in the Privy Council.

Shallow: If I were a young man, a sword would settle the matter.

Evans: Oh, please, not that.  Let your friends be your sword.  I’m your friend.

Shallow: I know that.

Evans: And because I’m your friend, I am thinking of something very good for your nephew.  Someone very good.  You know who I mean.  That nice young lady Anne Page, Master Page’s daughter.

Slender (Sighing): Ohh–Anne Page.  She has nice, brown hair and a nice, sweet voice.

Evans: And more than that.  She has an inheritance of seven hundred pounds from her grandfather as soon as she turns seventeen.

Shallow: That much?

Evans: Yes, and that’s just for starters.  You can be sure her father will leave her a tidy sum also.

Shallow: He’s a good man Master Page.–You said Falstaff was in his house at the moment.  Is that right?

Evans: Would I lie?  I hate a liar as much as I hate someone who doesn’t tell the truth.  Sir John Falstaff is in there right now.  Here, let me knock for you.

    (Evans knocks at the door.)

Page (Within): Who’s there?

Evans: Parson Evans, and your friend Justice Shallow, and his nephew Master Slender, who I believe has something of importance to talk to you about.

    (Page comes to the door.)

Page: Ah!  So glad to see you all!–Thank you for the venison, Master Shallow.

Shallow: My pleasure, Master Page–although I fear someone did some mischief to it before I got my hands on it.  And how is your wife?

Page: Fine, sir.  Thank you for asking.

Shallow: I thank you, sir–always.

Page: And hello, Master Slender.

Slender: I heard your greyhound lost in the dog races.

Page: It was too close to call.

Slender: I understand.  You’d rather not say.

Shallow: He doesn’t have to say.–Bad luck, Master Page.  That’s all.  He’s a good dog.

Page: Aw, he’s a mutt.

Shallow: No, no.  He’s a good dog.–Em, is Sir John Falstaff here–by any chance?

Page: Yes, he’s here.  And I’m sorry you have a disagreement with him.  Perhaps I can help smooth it over.

Evans: Good for you, sir!  That’s the Christian way.

Shallow: He has wronged me, Master Page.  There’s no disputing it.

Page: Well, I think he more or less admits it.–Oh, here he is.

    (Falstaff appears at the door, along with Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym.)

Falstaff: Master Shallow.  I suppose you’ll be complaining to the King himself.

Shallow: Listen, you beat my servants, you killed my deer, and you broke into my hunting lodge.

Falstaff: Oh, dear.  And did I kiss your gamekeeper’s daughter, too?

Shallow: Never mind that.  Just give me an answer.  Did you or didn’t you?

Falstaff: Yes, I did.  So what?

Shallow: Well, the Council’s going to hear about it.

Falstaff: That should give them a laugh.

Slender: Your men picked my pocket!

Falstaff: Is that so?

Slender: These guys right here–Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol.  They took me to the tavern and got me drunk, and then they picked my pocket!

Bardolph: You twerp!

Slender: Don’t call me names!

Pistol: He’s a lawn ornament.

Slender: You shut up!

Nym: He’s one of those gnomes.

Slender: Never mind, you!

Evans: Peace!  Peace!  This quarrel should be judged by those who are impartial–like myself, Master Page, and the host of the Garter Inn.

Page: Yes, yes.  We’ll sort it all out politely.

Evans: Exactly.  I’ll make a note of it and I shall make some discreet enquiries.

Falstaff: Pistol, did you steal Slender’s purse?

Slender: He did!  And I had two shillings and sixpence in it!

Falstaff: Is that true, Pistol?

Pistol: No, he’s lying.  It was only two shillings.

Slender: I’m no liar.

Nym: You’re a liar and a slanderer.

Slender (Pointing to Bardolph): He’s the one who had it.–This red-faced crook.  He got me drunk.  I can’t remember much after that, but I’m no fool.

Falstaff: What do you say to that, Bardolph?

Bardolph: Don’t listen to him.  He admits he was drunk, so how can he remember anything?

Slender: I’ll never be drunk again with the likes of you–only with honest, god-fearing folks from now on.

Evans: There’s a good Christian speaking!

Falstaff: The matter is settled.  Everything has been denied.

    (Anne Page comes out of the house carrying wine, followed by Mistress Ford and Mistress Page.)

Page: That’s okay, Anne.  We’ll drink our wine inside.

    (Anne goes back inside.)

Slender (Sighing, aside to the audience): Anne Page!–I wish I had my book of love poems.  Then I could think of something to say to her.

Page: Here they are–the loveliest wives in Windsor–my own and Mistress Ford.

Falstaff: She’s an angel, Mistress Ford.

    (Falstaff gives her a polite kiss.)

Page: Wife, these gentlemen will join us for dinner.  (To the visitors) We have nice venison and enough wine to make everyone happy and forget any unpleasantness.  Come.

    (Everyone goes in the house except Shallow, Slender, and Evans, who are interrupted by Simple’s arrival.)

Slender: Simple!  Where have you been?  Have you got the Book of Riddles?

Simple: Book of Riddles?  I think you lent it to Alice Shortcake on Halloween.

Slender: Did I?  Oh, dear.  I was hoping to amuse someone with it.

Shallow: Never mind that.  Now pay attention.  Sir Hugh here is trying to make an arrangement for you.  Do you understand what I mean?

Slender (Puzzled): Well–if it’s something reasonable, then I’ll be reasonable.

Shallow: No, no, no.  You’re not following me.

Evans: Your uncle means an arrangement for your marriage.

Slender: Oh.–Marriage.–I see.

Evans: To Anne Page.

Slender: Oh!  Anne Page!–Well–whatever is reasonable, I’ll do it–if the demands are reasonable.–Whatever my uncle says.  After all, he’s a justice of the peace.

Evans: Never mind that, lad.  The point is, can you love the girl?

Slender: Love her?–Well, of course, in all cases I would try to do the reasonable thing.

Shallow: You can tell he’s never had a girlfriend.

Evans: Yes, evidently.–Come, come, now.  You must be more definite than that.  Consider your desires.  She’s a pretty girl.  Don’t  you like her?

Shallow: And she comes with a good dowry.  It would be a good marriage for you.

Slender: I’ll do whatever you say, uncle.

Shallow: I’m not asking you to do whatever I say.  I’m asking you if you love the girl–or at least, could you?

Slender: I’ll marry her if you want me to.  As for love–well–I’m sure that when we become better acquainted with one another, that will happen–more or less as a matter of course.  It’s like they say.  Familiarity breeds contempt–which is fine with me as I should become contempted with her and vice-versa.  I’ll certainly marry her if you tell me to.  Of that I’m totally dissolved.

Evans: He’s being discretional, but his dissolve is well-meant.

Shallow: Nephew, I realize you have no experience with girls, but you’re in agreement with us, right?

Slender: I always agree with you, uncle.

Shallow (To Evans): I think that’s the best we can do.–Ah, here comes the young lady herself.

    (Anne Page returns.)

Shallow: Ah, if I were a young man again, Mistress Anne–ha, ha! 

Anne: The food is on the table.  Father is waiting for all of you.

Shallow: Say no more.–Come, Sir Hugh.

    (Shallow and Evans go in the house.)

Anne: Aren’t you coming, Master Slender?

Slender: Oh–no, that’s all right.  I’ll just stay here.

Anne: But we’ve a fine dinner.

Slender: That’s all right, I’m not hungry.  But my man Simple will eat.

Simple: Thank you, sir!

    (Simple goes inside.)

Anne: I can’t go in without you, sir.  They’ll be waiting for you.

Slender: Oh, just tell them to eat without me.  I’ll just stay here.

Anne: Is something wrong, sir?

Slender: Em–no–yes.–Anyway, I scraped my knee fencing the other day.  We were playing for a dish of stewed prunes, and ever since then I can’t stand the smell of meat.–I heard your dogs barking.  Are there bears in the town?

Anne: I heard there were.

Slender: It’s a fine sport, bear-baiting–although I’m very much against it.  Cruelty to animals, you know.  If a bear got loose, you’d be afraid, wouldn’t you?

Anne: Yes, indeed.

Slender: They are ugly, I suppose.

    (Page returns.)

Page: Come on, Master Slender, we’re waiting for you.

Anne: He says he doesn’t want to eat.

Page: I’ll have none of that.  You’ll come in and eat.

Slender: Oh, well, in that case, you first, sir.

Page: Never mind.  Just go on in.

Slender: Mistress Anne, you go first.

Anne: No, no.  Go on, sir.

Slender: I don’t want to be impolite by preceding you.

Anne: No, please go ahead, sir.

Page: Enough of this.

    (Page takes Slender by the elbow and marches him into the house, with Anne following.)

Slender: Thank you, sir.  Much obliged.

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Same place.  Evans brings Simple out of the house.  Evans is wiping his lips with a napkin, so the suggestion is that dinner has just finished.

Evans: I have a little errand for you, Simple–but an important one.

Simple: Yes, sir.

Evans: Do you know where Doctor Caius lives?

Simple: Only the general neighbourhood, sir.

Evans: Well, you go there and ask, and someone will direct you to the house.  Now then, Doctor Caius has a housekeeper named Mistress Quickly.  She’s a friend of Anne’s.  You give her this letter.  (He gives Simple the letter.)

Simple: Yes, sir.

Evans: We want to get Master Slender married off to Anne, but he’s going to need a little help.  I’m asking Mistress Quickly to help us.  Understand?

Simple: Yes, sir.

Evans: Treat this as confidential.

Simple: I will, sir.

Evans: Good.  Now off you go.

    (Simple leaves and Evans goes back in the house.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  A room in the Garter Inn.  Falstaff comes in with the Host, and lagging behind them are Bardolph, Nym, Pistol, and Robin.  The opening conversation between Falstaff and the Host is spoken aside (that is, unheard by the others).

Falstaff: These guys are costing me an arm and a leg.

Host: But they’re your friends, and you’re a knight, after all.

Falstaff: Big deal.  Knights can go broke, too.

Host: Oh, I don’t believe it.

Falstaff: No, seriously.  I’m burning through ten pounds a week with all these guys.  They expect me to pay for everything.  Of course, Robin’s my page, so I have to pay him.  But do me a favour and take Bardolph off my hands.  Hire him as a bartender.  Okay?

Host: For you–done.

Falstaff (Normal voice): Bardolph, you’ve just been hired as a bartender. 

Bardolph: Oh!  Excellent!  I love to serve booze!

Pistol (Aside to Nym): Almost as much as drinking it.

Nym (Aside to Pistol): If it wasn’t for booze, he never would’ve been conceived.

Falstaff: You’re on your way up.  You’ve got a career.

Bardolph: A bartender!–Wow!  (To the Host) Thanks!  You won’t regret it!

Falstaff: Okay, now get lost.

    (Bardolph leaves with the Host.)

Falstaff: I’m glad to get rid of him.  His thievery was getting to be an embarrassment.  The guy’s got no discretion.

Nym: A thief must have discretion.  Like us–eh, Pistol?

Pistol: I’m not a thief.  I’m merely an agent for the redistribution of wealth.

Falstaff: Boys, I have bad news.  I’m almost broke.

Pistol: Suddenly I’m hungry.

Nym: Ha!  You’re funny.

Falstaff: Seriously, boys, I have to do something to get money.

Pistol: Like what–work?

Falstaff: Work!  Oh, my God, don’t ever say that word to me.–No, I mean more like, you know–scheme–con.

Nym: Exploit.

Falstaff: Yes.

Nym: Defraud–chisel–rip off–swindle–cheat–

Falstaff: Yes, yes, yes.  Along those lines.

Pistol: So what’s the deal?

Falstaff: Do you know Master Ford?

Pistol: Yes.  He’s got money.

Nym: And you want some of it.

Falstaff: Of course.

Nym: And how do you intend to get it?

Falstaff: I’m going to, shall we say, make love to his wife.

Pistol: Literally?  Like boink her?

Falstaff: No, not literally.  Just, you know, romance her.  String her along.  She’s got access to her husband’s money.

Pistol: And you think she likes you?

Falstaff: Hell, yes.  A man of experience can always tell.  All the signs are there–the little gestures, the looks, the way she speaks to me.  I can practically read her mind.  She’s hot for me.

Nym: So what do you intend to do?

    (Falstaff produces two letters.)

Falstaff: This letter goes to Mistress Ford.–And this one goes to Mistress Page.

Nym: Mistress Page?  Are you going after her, too?

Falstaff: Yes.  She’s just as hot for me.

Pistol: I didn’t realize we had so many hot women in Windsor.

Falstaff: They can’t resist me.  In fact, Mistress Page practically undresses me when she looks at me.  You should see the way her eyes travel all over my body–even my belly.

Pistol: Your belly would keep a surveyor busy all day.

Nym: Ha!  Good one!

Falstaff: Naturally, she has access to her husband’s money, too.  And I intend to work on both the wives.

Pistol: You’re going to be a busy man, aren’t you?

Falstaff: Whatever it takes.  Now you fellows will deliver the letters for me.  (To Nym) You’ll take this letter to Mistress Page–(To Pistol) and you’ll take this one to Mistress Ford.

    (Pistol and Nym take the letters without enthusiasm and then put them on the table.)

Pistol: Are we supposed to be your pimps, then?  Is that it?

Falstaff: Well–in a manner of speaking, I suppose.

Nym: What if I don’t feel like being your pimp?

Falstaff: Why?  Are you too good for that?

Pistol: It won’t do our reputations any good.

Falstaff: What reputations?

Nym: He means, what little reputation we still have.

Falstaff: I don’t know what you’re talking about.  You’re supposed to be my friends.  I practically support you. If I ask you to do something for me, just do it.  I want you to deliver those letters.

Pistol: No.

Falstaff: What do you mean, no?

Nym: He means no–as in no.  And that goes for me, too.

Falstaff: Well, to hell with you guys, then.  I don’t need you.  Robin will deliver the letters.–Won’t you, Robin?  (He gives Robin the letters.)

Robin: Yes, Sir John.

Pistol: Congratulations, Robin.  You’ve just been promoted from page to pimp.

Nym: Go to the brothels and do a deal with them.  They’ll pay you a commission for every customer you bring them.

Falstaff: Don’t listen to them.  This is life experience.  It’s good for you.

Robin: Yes, Sir John.

Falstaff: Let’s go.–I’m through with you guys.  And I’ll be sure to tell the host on my way out not to bother to serve you because you can’t pay.  And I suggest you vacate this room for paying customers.–Come on, Robin.

    (Falstaff and Robin leave.)

Pistol: Fat bastard.

Nym: What a prick.  We should stick it to him.

Pistol: Like how?

Nym: Let’s rat him out to the husbands.  I’ll go tell Page what he’s up to, and you tell Ford.

Pistol: Good idea.  That’ll fix him.

Nym: Let’s go.

    (Pistol and Nym leave.)

Act 1, Scene 4.  In Doctor Caius’s house.  (The closet is either onstage or offstage.)  Mistress Quickly comes in with Simple.

Mist. Quickly: Yes, yes.  Just wait.  (Calling) John Rugby!

    (Rugby comes in.)

Mist. Quickly: Go to the window and watch for Doctor Caius.

Rugby: Okay.

    (Rugby goes out.)

Mist. Quickly: Now, then, you said your name was Peter Simple?

Simple: Yes, ma’am.

Mist. Qucikly: And your Master Slender–is he the one with the big, bushy beard?

Simple: No, he’s only got a little one.

Mist. Quickly: Ah.  A mild-mannered fellow–yes?

Simple: Oh, yes, very mild-mannered.  But brave.  He once punched a gamekeeper–a fellow who kept rabbits.

Mist. Quickly: Ah, well!  I’ll remember him.  Holds his head up very proudly, does he?

Simple: Yes, indeed.

Mist. Quickly: Then he’s just the man for Anne Page.  You tell Parson Evans I’ll do what I can to put in a good word for Master Slender.

Simple: Thank you, ma’am.

    (Rugby rushes in.)

Rugby: Doctor Caius is coming!

Mist. Quickly: Uh-oh!  (To Simple) Quick!  You hide in the closet till he’s gone!

    (Simple hides in the closet.)

Mist. Quickly: Why is he coming home at this hour?

    (Rugby shrugs.  She waves him out, and he leaves.  She pretends to be nonchalant and hums or sings.  Then Doctor Caius comes in.  He speaks with a French accent.)

Caius: Pourquoi you be singing?  Never mind that.  Go get me the little green box from the closet.

Mist. Quickly: Closet?–Oh.  Yes.  Right away.

    (She reaches into the closet and returns with the box.)

Caius: Where is Rugby?  I need him.

Mist Quickly (Calling): Rugby!

    (Rugby comes in.)

Rugby: Yes, sir.

Caius: Go get your rapier.  You must escort me to the court.  I have important business.

Rugby: Yes, sir.  It’s by the door.

Caius: Wait, I forgot something.  In the closet.

    (He goes to the closet, opens the door, and finds Simple.)

Caius (Angrily): Who are you?  What you are doing in my closet?  Are you a thief?

    (He drags Simple out.)

Mist. Quickly: It’s all right, sir.  He’s not a thief.  He’s an honest man.

Caius: No honest man would hide in my closet.

Mist. Quickly: Please, sir, don’t be angry.  He came here on an errand from Parson Evans.

Caius (To Simple): Oh, so Parson Evans sent you.  What for?

Simple: Em, well, you see, I was sent to ask Mistress Quickly to–

Mist. Quickly: Shh!

Caius: Never mind the shush!  Let him speak.  (To Simple) You tell me.

Simple: Em, well, it’s like this, sir.  Parson Evans wanted me to ask your housekeeper to talk to Anne Page to put in a good word for my master, Master Slender, so he might marry her.

Mist. Quickly (Forcing a laugh): Ha, ha, ha!  It’s silly, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t get involved in such a thing.

Caius (To Simple): Parson Evans have some nerve for that!  I’ll have a thing or two to say to him!  You wait.  I write him a letter.–Rugby, get me a pen and paper.

    (Doctor Caius sits down at a table and Rugby returns with pen and paper.  Caius writes, mumbling to himself.  Mistress Quickly takes Simple aside and speaks to him confidentially.)

Mist Quickly: The doctor wants to marry Anne Page himself.  But don’t worry.  She doesn’t love him.  You tell the parson I’ll help your master.

    (Doctir Caius seals the letter and hands it to Simple.)

Caius: You take this to Parson Evans.  I challenge him to a duel.  I will cut him to pieces for meddling in other people’s business.  I’ll teach him.  Now go.

Simple: Yes, sir.

    (Simple leaves.)

Caius: I thought you tell me Anne Page will agree to marry me.

Mist. Quickly: She will, sir.  You needn’t worry about that.

Caius: That damn priest!–Rugby, you come with me.  (To Mistress Quickly) You better be right.

    (Doctor Caius and Rugby leave.)

Mist. Quickly: She won’t marry him.  I know Anne Page better than anyone else does.

Fenton (Within): Hello!

Mist. Quickly: Yes?  Come in!

    (Fenton comes in.)

Mist. Quickly: Ah, Master Fenton, I thought I recognized your voice.  How nice to see you.

Fenton: Have you spoken to Anne Page about me?

Mist. Quickly: Oh, indeed, I have.  I know she loves you.  In fact, the last time I saw her she talked for an hour about the wart behind your ear.

Fenton: The wart?

Mist. Quickly: Yes.  It’s a sure sign she loves you.  If she’s so fascinated by a wart, imagine what she’s thinking about the rest of you.

Fenton: Ah.–Well, I suppose that’s good.  I’m going to visit her today.  Here’s something to show my appreciation.  (He gives her some money.)  Please tell her good things about me.–You know–how I’d be perfect for her, and that sort of thing.

Mist. Quickly: Absolutely, sir.  I’m on your side.–And thank you.

Fenton: Thank you.  I must go now.  Goodbye.

Mist Quickly: Goodbye, Master Fenton.

    (Fenton leaves.)

Mist. Quickly: He’s a nice young man.  But Anne doesn’t love him either.  I always know what’s in her mind.–Oh–must do something.

    (She goes out.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  A street.  Mistress Page comes in with a letter.

Mist. Page: Ha!  A love letter!  At my age!  (She reads) “Don’t ask me to explain why I love you.  I just do.  Think of what we have in common.  We are neither of us young, but we both like a bit of fun and a nice cup of wine.  We were made for each other.  Accept the love of this old soldier.  Let me be your gallant knight, by day or night, or any kind of light, for you I’ll fight, with all my might.–Sir John Falstaff.”–What a doofus!  He hardly knows me and he expects me to fall for this bullshit?  What a clown!

    (Mistress Ford comes in.)

Mist. Ford: There you are, Mistress Page.  I  was just going to your house.

Mist. Page: Ah, Mistress Ford, I was just on my way to see you.–You look upset.  What’s the matter?

Mist. Ford: You won’t believe this.  I got this letter from Sir John Falstaff.  (She hands over the letter, and Mistress Page reads it.) The nerve of that man!  What evil storm beached that fat whale at Windsor?  I’d like to fry him in his own body fat.

Mist. Page: Wait a minute.  Read this.

    (She gives Mistress Ford her own letter.  The two ladies compare the letters.)

Mist Ford: It’s the exact same letter.

Mist. Page: I’ll bet he has a stack of them at home–all the same.  Just fill in the blank space with some woman’s name.

Mist. Ford: What a con artist.  He must be after our money.

Mist. Page: What else?  We should get some revenge on him.

Mist. Ford: Ohh–I don’t know.  I wouldn’t want people to talk.  My husband would get very upset.  He’s so jealous.

Mist. Page: Not my husband.  Of course, I’d never give him any reason to be.–Oh–I think I see them coming.–Let’s just step away for a moment and talk this over.

    (The Wives leave.  Then Ford comes in with Pistol, and Page with Nym.)

Ford: I certainly hope there’s nothing to it.

Pistol: I’m telling you he intends to make a move on your wife.

Ford: But why?  She’s not a young woman.

Pistol: Doesn’t matter to him.  Young or old.

Nym (To Page): That’s right.  That’s just the way he is.  A regular sex fiend.

Pistol: You listen to Corporal Nym.  He knows.–Anyway, gentlemen, I must leave you.

    (Pistol leaves.)

Ford (Aside): I have to find out about this.

Nym (To Page): It’s all true.  Falstaff loves your wife.  He wanted me to deliver the letter to her, but I refused.  I’m much too honourable for that.  And besides, he’s been bad to me.  So I’m glad to rat him out.  You do whatever you have to do.–Goodbye.

    (Nym leaves.)

Page (Aside, looking after Nym): I don’t think I trust that guy.

Ford (Aside, looking after Nym): He seems honest to me.–If I find out it’s true–

    (The Wives return.)

Page: Ah–Meg!

Mist. Page: George, I must talk to you.

    (The Pages move apart and talk privately.)

Mist. Ford (Warily): Frank–you look unhappy.

Ford: No, I’m not unhappy.  Look, just go home, okay?

Mist. Ford: Oh, dear.  You are unhappy.–Mistress Page?

Mist. Page: Yes.  Coming.  (She sees Mistress Quickly coming and speaks aside to Mistress Ford.) Mistress Quickly is coming.  We’ll use her as our messenger to Falstaff.

    (Mistress Ford nods her agreement.  Mistress Quickly comes in.)

Mist. Page: Mistress Quickly, how are you?

Mist. Quickly: Fine, thank you.

Mist. Page: Going to visit Anne?

Mist. Quickly: Yes, as a matter of fact.

Mist. Page: Fine.  Come along with us.  We want to talk to you about something.

    (The three Ladies leave.)

Page: Well, Ford, what are you thinking?

Ford: I’m not sure.  Do you think those fellows were telling the truth?

Page: I don’t think so.  They obviously have a grudge against Falstaff.

Ford: Are they servants of his?

Page: Not servants, just hangers-on.

Ford: Where does he hang out?  At the Garter Inn?

Page: Yes.  Listen, I wouldn’t take any of this too seriously.  If he tried to make advances to my wife, he’d only make a fool of himself.

Ford: I wouldn’t let my wife anywhere near him.  Not that I don’t trust her.–Just–well, a man can’t be too careful about these things.  I’d be more concerned if I were you.

    (The Host of the Garter Inn and Shallow come in, grinning.)

Page: You fellows look happy.  What’s up?

Host: There’s going to be a duel.  Do you want to come and watch?

Page: Who’s duelling?

Shallow: Sir Hugh Evans and Doctor Caius.

Ford: Excuse me.  (To the Host) Can I talk to you for a minute?

Host: Sure.

    (Ford and the Host move apart.)

Shallow: The host of the Garter is officiating, so to speak.  Do you want to come?  We’re planning a little joke.

Page: Oh, really?  Tell me what.

    (Page and Shallow move apart and talk.)

Host: Is there some quarrel between you and Falstaff?

Ford: No, no, no.  Nothing like that.  I just want you to introduce me to him–under a false name.  I intend to disguise myself.  My name will be Brook.  It’s just a friendly joke, that’s all.

Host: By George, we’re full of jokes today, aren’t we?  All right.  No problem.–Master Shallow, are you coming?

Shallow: Yes, yes.

Page: I’ve heard the Frenchman is quite a swordsman.

Shallow: Ach!–Duelling isn’t what it used to be.  These days it’s a lot of fancy rubbish–more like ballet.  Now, when I was a young fellow–

Host: Yeah, yeah–

Shallow: No, seriously.  When I was a young fellow, I could take on just about anybody.  It’s all in the heart.

Host (Laughing): In the heart.  You bet.  Okay, anyway, let’s go.

Page: I’d rather hear them insult each other than fight.  A Frenchman and a Welshman cursing at each other.  That would be funny.–Ford, are you coming?

Ford: No, thanks.

Page: Well, I don’t mind going, as long as it’s a joke.–Let’s go.

    (Page, Shallow, and the Host leave.)

Ford: He trusts his wife too much.  But I’m not taking any chances.  I’m going to find out what’s happening.

    (Ford leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  A room in the Garter Inn.  Falstaff comes in, pursued by Pistol.  A conversation is in progress.

Pistol: Aw, come on, Sir John.  Be a sport.

Falstaff: Forget it.  You’re not getting a penny from me.

Pistol: I’ll pay it back.

Falstaff: You’re a bad risk.  I’ve already had to speak to your creditors three times to give you and Nym more time on your debts–otherwise you’d be in jail.  And they were my friends, too.  I had to lie to them.  I said you were honest men and good soldiers.  And when Mistress Bridget had her fan stolen, I swore on my honour that you didn’t steal it.

Pistol: I shared with you on that, didn’t I?

Falstaff: Never mind.  If you need money, go back to picking pockets in your old ghetto.  I have to live by my wits all the time to scrape by, and you won’t deliver a lousy letter for me because it–offends your honour!

Pistol: Hey, I’m sorry.  I’ll do another favour for you if you want.

    (Robin comes in.)

Robin: Sir John, there’s a lady wishes to speak to you.

Falstaff: A lady?  Oh.  All right.  Show her in.

    (Robin signals and Mistress Quickly comes in.)

Mist. Quickly: Good morning, your worship.

Falstaff: Yes, madam, what can I do for you?

Mist. Quickly: I’ve come with a message, sir.–Em, it’s confidential.

Falstaff: Oh?  All right, then.

    (Falstaff and Mistress Quickly move apart.  Robin and Pistol are not hearing the following conversation.)

Mist. Quickly: I’m Doctor Caius’s housekeeper, but I’m sent by Mistress Ford, sir.

Falstaff: Yes, yes–and?

Mist. Quickly: A fine lady she is, sir.

Falstaff: Yes, yes–and?

Mist. Quickly: You are a rascal, aren’t you, sir?  Well, heaven forgive you.

Falstaff: Never mind that.  What about Mistress Ford?

Mist. Quickly: She’s got her knickers in a knot, you might say.  On account of you, sir.

Falstaff: Does she now?–Em, could you be more specific?

Mist. Quickly: There’s many a man has tried his luck with her–including some high-born ones.  Lords.  Why, she’s gotten I don’t know how many letters and gifts.  But she doesn’t give those gentlemen the time of day.  You, on the other hand, have charmed her out of her socks, you might say.  She’s all excited over your letter.  Can hardly contain herself.  She thanks you so much.  And she says that her husband will be out of the house between ten and eleven tomorrow–morning, of course.

Falstaff: Ah!  Indeed!

Mist. Quickly: Yes.  And you may come and view the, uh, picture that you admired so much.

Falstaff: I understand.

Mist. Quickly: She’s an unhappy wife, sir.  Her husband is so jealous.  And she’s so lonely.

Falstaff: It’s a common problem these days.  I’m well aware.

Mist. Quickly: Ain’t it the truth.

Falstaff: You tell her I’ll be there tomorrow.

Mist. Quickly: Very good, sir.–And I have another message for you–from Mistress Page.

Falstaff: Mistress Page!

Mist. Quickly: She sends her warmest greetings.  A good lady.  Very virtuous.  Never misses church.  She wants you to know her husband is around most of the time, so she doesn’t know when she can meet you, but she hopes she’ll be able to soon.  She’s keen for you, sir.  You must know all the right words, I’m sure.

Falstaff: I have the right body.  That’s what it is.

Mist. Quickly: I have no doubt of it, sir.

Falstaff: Now tell me–Mistress Ford and Mistress Page–have they told each other that they love me?

Mist. Quickly: Certainly not, sir.  They’re both keeping it to themselves.  Mistress Page says you can send your boy as a messenger between the two of you, and her husband won’t be suspicious.  He trusts her.  She’s lucky that way.

Falstaff: That’s good for her–and me, too.  You tell her my page, Robin, will be our messenger.

Mist. Quickly (Aside to him): You can use code words so the boy doesn’t know what it’s all about.  We don’t want to corrupt the young, after all, do we, sir?

Falstaff: No.  Not unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Thank you, madam.–Oh–wait a minute–(He reaches into his pocket for a coin.)  For your kind service.

Mist. Quickly: Thank you, sir.

Falstaff: Robin, you go with this lady.

Robin: Yes, Sir. John.

    (Mistress Quickly and Robin leave.)

Pistol (Aside): I like her!  I’d like to get between her legs!

    (Pistol leaves.)

Falstaff: Ah!  I’ve still got it after all these years!  (Thumps his belly in satisfaction)  Cast iron!  Sir John Falstaff–Windsor’s red-hot lover!

    (Bardolph comes in holding a bottle of wine.)

Bardolph: Sir John, there’s a gentleman named Brook wishes to speak to you.

Falstaff: Brook?  Don’t think I know him.

Bardolph: He’s bought you this bottle of wine as a courtesy.

Bardolph: Then he’s my friend.  Show him in.

    (Falstaff takes the bottle and puts it on the table.  Bardolph goes out and Ford, disguised as Brook, comes in.)

Ford: Sir John Falstaff!

Falstaff: Master Brook!

Ford: Forgive my barging in like this.

Falstaff: Not at all.  You’re most welcome.

Ford: Sir John, you don’t know me, but I know you by reputation–as a soldier, a scholar–and a man.

Falstaff: Ha, ha, ha!  Quite so!

Ford: I have a favour to ask, and since I am a man of means, I will not hesitate to reward you generously for your services.

    (Ford takes out a bag of money and puts it on the table.)

Falstaff: Then I am your servant, sir!

Ford: Sir John, you are the only one who can help me.–And if I confess to certain faults, I’m sure you will sympathize and not judge me too harshly.

Falstaff: I’m on your side, Master Brook–whatever your business is.

Ford: Now, sir, to get down to cases.  There is a certain lady I have a crush on.  She’s married, as it happens.  Her husband’s name is Ford. 

    (Ford pauses to see how Falstaff reacts.  Falstaff is wide-eyed for a moment but contains himself.)

Falstaff: Go on.  I’m listening.

Ford: Now, as to this Ford lady.  I’ve had absolutely no luck with her.  I’ve sent her gifts and letters, but she totally ignores me.

Falstaff: Ah.–And how can I help?

Ford: It’s like this.  She maintains the appearance of being very virtuous, very proper–you know, the good, faithful wife.  Nevertheless–as I have heard–she has another side to her–a more, shall we say, naughty side?  Eh?  Know what I mean?

Falstaff: I certainly do.

Ford: Yes, yes, yes, I’m sure you do–ha, ha!  You’re a man of the world, are you not?

Falstaff: I’ve never denied it.

Ford: Therefore, sir, my proposition to you is this.  I want you to try to romance her.  If anyone can, it’s you.  I’ll make it worth your while.  (Indicates the bag of money)  There’s more where that came from.

Falstaff: Ah.  Well.  Your proposition is certainly agreeable.  But I don’t see how it helps your cause if I make love to the lady you have a crush on.

Ford: I’ll explain it.  It’s all about this pretense she has of being very proper.  That’s the barrier I have to break through.  If you can succeed in, shall we say, compromising her somewhat, then I’d have an argument I could use for my benefit.  How can she reject me if she’s willing to cheat on her husband with you?  She’d have no more pretense, no excuses.  Get it?

Falstaff: Ah.  Yes.  I see.  Very clever.  Master Brook, leave it to me.  It’s as good as done.  As a matter of fact, by an extraordinary coincidence, I have a secret tryst arranged with the lady tomorrow.  Between ten and eleven, to be precise.

Ford: Do you now!

Falstaff: Yes.  Her stupid husband will be out of the house.  If you come and see me tomorrow evening, I expect I shall have a very favourable report to give you.  After that, she’s all yours.

Ford: Wonderful!–Em, by the way, do you happen to know Ford at all?

Falstaff: Not personally.  But I understand he’s a jerk.  But all that matters to me is that he’s got money.  And I intend to squeeze his wife a bit to get some of it.  You don’t mind, do you?

Ford: No, not at all.  I just hope you don’t run into him.  After all, you don’t know what he looks like.

Falstaff: Oh, I’m not afraid of him.  I’d just stare him down and he’d probably faint.  I’m sure he’s got the mind of a peasant and the spine of a jellyfish.  Master Brook, you come back tomorrow evening.  (He picks up the bag of money.)  Right now, I have some business to take care of.  You can sit here and relax as long as you like.

Ford: Thank you.

    (They shake hands and Falstaff leaves.)

Ford: That son of a bitch!–The spine of a jellyfish, eh?–Well, this proves I was right to be jealous.  Good thing I found all this out.  If she thinks she can meet a man behind my back–Wait till I catch them in the act.–And Page will have to admit I was right.  He’ll smarten up.–The mind of a  peasant, eh?–Oh, I’ll get him!

    (Ford leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  A field.  Curtain up reveals Doctor Caius pacing back and forth impatiently as Rugby stands by.

Caius: What time is it, Rugby?

Rugby: It’s past the hour, sir.  Sir Hugh is late.

Caius: Ha!  Better for him if he not show up at all.  Otherwise, I kill him.

Rugby: He probably realizes that, sir.

    (The Host, Shallow, Slender, and Page come in.)

Host: Hello, doctor!

Others: Hello, doctor!

Caius: What?  All four of you come to watch?

Host: Yes, to see you make use of your nefarious French swordsmanship.

Caius: Nefarious?  What is that?

Host: Brilliant.

Caius: Ah, yes–brilliant.  Nefarious.  I am that, too.

Host: That parson should be mighty afraid of you.  After all, you are the Castilian King Urinal.

Caius: Eh?  What is that?  My English is not perfect.

Host: The king of beasts.  The lion of the medical profession.

Caius: Oui.  Merci.  You are kind to say so.  I be the King Urinal for him if he dare to show up.  But he is not come, that coward.

Shallow: It’s for the best, doctor.  After all, he is a healer of souls and you are a healer of the body.  You shouldn’t fight.–Don’t you agree, Master Page?

Page: I do, indeed, Master Shallow.  And I know you yourself used to be formidable with a sword, but now you’re a man of peace.

Shallow: What do you mean, used to be?  I could still hold my own if I had to, believe me.  We all keep a bit of the youthful spirit, no matter how old we get.

Page: Indeed, sir.

Shallow: Now, my good Master Doctor Caius, for the sake of peace I’ve come to take you home.

Caius: But my honour, sir.

Host: Your honour is beyond question.  Your reputation as a mutt is well-known.

Caius: A mutt?  What is that?

Host: Champion.  Brave fellow.

Caius: Ah!  Thank you.

Host: And Parson Evans will be sure to eviscerate you when he sees you.

Caius: Eviscerate?  What is that?

Host: Make up with you.  Apologize.

Caius: Ah.  Good.  He better eviscerate me, or else.

Host: He will.–Excuse me.  (Aside to the others) You fellows go on to Frogmore and wait for us.

Page (Aside to the Host): Is that where Evans is?

Host (Aside to Page): Yes.  I told him the duel would be there.  You go and keep him occupied.  I’ll take the doctor there on a pretext.

Page (Aside to the Host): Right.–Doctor, we’ll see you later.

Caius: Okay.  Goodbye.

    (Page, Shallow, and Slender leave.)

Host: Doctor, there’s no point waiting any longer for Parson Evans.  If you come with me, I can take you to where Anne Page is.

Caius: Where?

Host: Frogmore.  She’s having dinner there.  I’ll bring you right to her, all right?

Caius: Very good!  Thank you!  I will send all my gentlemen patients to your inn.

Host: And I will be your messenger to Anne Page.

Caius: Parfait!  Merci!–Rugby, come on.

    (The Host, Caius, and Rugby leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  A field at Frogmore.  Evans and Simple come in.  Simple is leading, and Evans seems lost.

Evans: Are you sure this is where I’m supposed to duel Doctor Caius?

Simple: Yes, sir.  The host of the Garter has arranged it.

Evans: So where’s Caius?

Simple: I don’t know, sir.  I’ve looked everywhere except the road into town.

Evans: Then go look there.

Simple: Yes, sir.

    (Simple leaves.)

Evans: No bloody French doctor is going to challenge  me and get away with it.  I’ll knock his brains out.–In a Christian way, of course.

    (Simple returns.)

Simple: Some people are coming, sir–Master Slender, Master Shallow, and Master  Page.

Evans: Oh!

    (Evans takes out his Bible and pretends to be reading as Shallow, Slender, and Page come in.)

Shallow: There’s our good parson.–Reading your Bible, eh? 

Evans: Of course.

Page: Now, my good parson.  We’ve come to do you a favour.

Evans: Like what?

Page: There’s a certain fellow back there (Indicating with a nod of his head) who’s in an awful state of mind because he thinks he’s been wronged.

Shallow: It’s totally out of character for him.  He’s a learned man and quite a decent fellow.

Evans: And whom would you be referring to?–As if I couldn’t guess.

Page: Master Doctor Caius, the renowned French physician.

Evans: Renowned French physician!–Ptoo!  (He spits.)  He’s a quack and a knave and a coward!  Bring him here and I’ll deal with him!

Shallow: Uh-oh.  Keep them apart.

    (The Host comes in with Caius and Rugby.  Evans and Caius immediately get in each other’s faces and are separated by the others.)

Page: Now, now, parson, don’t draw your sword.

Shallow: The same for you, doctor.

Host: Take their weapons.  (The others disarm Evans and Caius.)  This way if they hack away at each other, the only harm they’ll do is to the English language.

    (The others laugh, and Evans and Caius begin to realize they’ve been pranked.)

Caius (To Evans): So–you are not duelling me?

Evans: Later.  (Aside to Caius) They’re laughing at us.  You pretend to by angry, and so will I.  We’ll make up with each other later.  (Normal voice) You rogue!  You coward!  Showing up late for your own duel!

Caius: Me?  Late?  I waited for you, and you  didn’t show up!  You’re the coward!

Evans: I waited for you!  Right here!

Host: Okay, okay, stop the argument.  I had you guys wait in different places.  After all, we wouldn’t want to lose either one of you.   Pretty good joke, eh?–Ha, ha!–Now, why don’t you guys sit down over a bottle of wine and agree to be friends, okay?  We’ll keep your swords for the time being.–Okay, fellows, let’s go.

    (The Host leaves with Shallow, Slender, and  Page.)

Caius: So–we are the two fools for their amusement.

Evans: I’m afraid so.

Caius: He told me he was bringing me to Anne Page.  Some joke!

Evans: Now I’m more angry with him than I am with you.

Caius: The same with me.

Evans: So what do you say we stick it to him?

Caius: Stick it to him?  What is that?

Evans: Get even.  Play a joke on him.

Caius: Ah!  Now you talk good English!

    (Evans and Caius leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  A street in Windsor.  Mistress page walks in with Robin.

Mist Page: Robin, if you listen to me, you’ll get ahead in this world.

Robin: Yes, ma’am.

Mist. Page: I’ll be nicer to you than Sir John is.  You’ll see.

Robin: Yes, ma’am.

    (Ford comes in.)

Ford: Mistress Page, where are you off to?

Mist. Page: I’m just on my way to see your wife, as a matter of fact.  I assume she’s home.

Ford: Yes–all alone and no doubt wanting company.–Where’d you find him?

Mist. Page: He belongs to a friend of my husband.–Em–(Pretends not being able to remember)–what’s his name again?

Robin: Sir John Falstaff.

Ford: Oh.–Sir John Falstaff.–Indeed.

Mist. Page: Well, we’ll be on our way, then, Master page.  Goodbye.

Page: Goodbye.

    (Mistress Page and Robin go out.)

Ford: That fool Page!  Doesn’t he realize what’s going on?  He’s practically throwing his wife at Falstaff.  And she’s obviously willing.  What a cheeky fellow.  Thinks he can shoot two birds with one shot.  He’ll make cuckolds of us both unless I stop him.  (The clock strikes ten.)  Ten o’clock.  Falstaff will be there.  I’ll catch him red-handed.

    (Page, Shallow, Slender, the Host, Evans, Caius, and Rugby come in.)

The Party: Good morning, Master Ford.

Ford: Well!  Half of Windsor is here.  I was just heading home.  Care to come along?

Shallow: Some other time.

Slender: We’re supposed to meet Anne for lunch.

Shallow: We’re trying to fix them up (Nodding toward Slender).

Ford: Ah.  I understand.

Slender (To Page): I’m hoping.

Page: I’m all for you, Master Slender.  (To Ford) Although my wife favours the good doctor here.

Caius: I know Anne cares for me.  My housekeeper has assured me.

Host: Don’t forget Master Fenton.  He’s a fine fellow.  He has all the social graces.  He’s rubbed shoulders with royalty, you know.

Page: I know all about that.  He hung around with Prince Hal and his gang of rowdies.  [Author’s note: Nickname of Henry V as a young prince.]  Fenton has social rank, all right, but unfortunately not the money that should go with it.  I’m not giving my daughter away to a fortune-seeker.

Ford: Well, I can see you have a lot to discuss.  But if any of you care to come home with me for lunch, I promise you a big surprise.  You’ll see me catch a monster.

Page: A monster?–Ha, ha!

Shallow: Master Slender and I will pass.  But you go ahead and catch your monster.  I’m sure we’ll hear all about it–ha, ha!

    (Shallow and Slender leave.)

Caius: Rugby, you go home.  I’ll be home soon.

Rugby: Yes, sir.

    (Rugby leaves.)

Host: I’ll be getting back to the pub–to have a drink with my friend Sir John  Falstaff.

Others: Goodbye.

    (The Host leaves.)

Ford (Aside, mockingly): Sir John Falstaff!  (Makes a face)–Well, how about you fellows?  Coming home with me?

Others: Yes.–Sure.–Show us the monster!–Ha!

    (They all leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  The Ford house.  Mistresses Ford and Page come in.

Mist. Ford (Calling): John!–Robert!

    (Servants John and Robert come in with a large laundry basket, which they set on the floor.)

Mist. Ford: Now remember, when I call you, you pick up the basket and carry it out.  It’ll be heavy, but don’t stagger.  It has to look normal.  You take the basket to the river and dump the laundry in the ditch for washing.  Understand?

John and Robert: Yes, ma’am.

Mist. Ford: Good.  Now go and wait.

    (John and Robert go out.  Then Robin comes in.)

Robin: Mistress Ford, Sir John is at the back door.

Mist. Page: You haven’t given us away, have you?

Robin: No, ma’am.  You’re my friend.  I wouldn’t do that.

Mist. Page: Good.  (To Mistress Ford) I’ll go hide.

Mist. Ford: Remember your cue.–Robin, let Sir John in.

    (Mistress Page and Robin go out separately.  Then Falstaff comes in.)

Falstaff: My heavenly jewel!  My buttercup!  My angel on earth!  At last!

Mist. Ford: Oh, Sir John!

Falstaff: Mistress Ford, forgive me for saying so, but if only your husband were out of the way, I’d make you a real lady–the wife of a knight.

Mist. Ford: I’m afraid I’d be a poor excuse for a lady.

Falstaff: Ha!  If you were in France, all the men in the court would lose their minds over you.

Mist. Ford (Laughing): You flatter me, Sir John!

Falstaff: You were meant for the noble life.  I can see it even if nobody else can.

Mist. Ford (Laughing): Oh, Sir John!

Falstaff: If it weren’t so, I wouldn’t be so madly in love with you.

Mist. Ford: I don’t believe it.  I think perhaps Mistress Page is the one you love.

Falstaff: Mistress Page?–Pfoof!–It hurts my eyes just to look at her.

Mist Ford: Well, I’m glad to hear that because I certainly love you.

Robin (Within, calling): Mistress Ford, Mistress Page is at the door!  She says it’s urgent!

Falstaff: Uh-oh!  I don’t want her to find me here.

Mist. Ford: Hide behind the drapery.

    (Falstaff hides behind the drapery.  [Author’s note: The original refers to an arras, which is a wall hanging or tapestry.]  Then Mistress Page comes in with Robin.)

Mist. Page: Your husband’s on his way with half the officers of Windsor!

Mist. Ford: Whatever for?

Mist. Page: He thinks you’ve got a man here.  I know you don’t, but–just in case–you’d better get him out quick.

Mist. Ford: Oh, dear!–I do have a gentleman friend here.  I’m not worried about myself, of course, but I hate to think what my husband might do to him!

Mist. Page: You must get him out now!–The laundry basket!

Mist. Ford: I don’t think he’ll fit.

    (Falstaff jumps out of hiding.)

Falstaff: Oh, hell!  Get me out of here!

    (Falstaff jumps in the laundry basket.  Mistress Page pretends to be surprised.)

Mist. Page: Sir John! (Aside to him) I thought you loved me.

Falstaff (Aside to Mist. Page): I do, I do!  Just get me out of here!

    (The Wives cover him over with the laundry.)

Mist. Page (To Falstaff in the basket): You liar.

Mist. Ford: John!–Robert!

    (Mistress Ford signals Robin to leave, which he does.  John and Robert come in and pick up the laundry basket.)

Mist. Ford: You know where to take it.  Hurry!

    (John and Robert and just starting to carry the basket out when Ford, Page, Caius, and Evans come in.)

Ford (To his party): Now you’ll see what I’m talking about!  And if I’m wrong, you can laugh at me all you want.  (To the Servants) Where are you going?

John and Robert: To the laundress.

Ford: Oh.–Well, go on, then.

    (John and Robert leave, carrying the basket.)

Ford (To his party): I’ll guard the door so he can’t get out that way.  You fellows search the house.

Page: Aren’t you taking this a bit too far?

Ford: You’ll see that I’m not.

    (Ford moves offstage to the door as the others go out to search.  When they are all gone, the Wives laugh.)

Mist. Ford: Did you see the look on Falstaff’s face?

Mist. Page: He probably wet himself in the basket!

Mist. Ford: Then he’ll be glad to see the laundress, won’t he?

    (Both laugh.)

Mist. Page: Your husband’s going to look like a fool.

Mist. Ford: Serves him right for being so jealous.–He must have known Falstaff would be here.

Mist. Page: He bumped into me and Robin on our way over.–Listen, we should have some more fun with Falstaff and your husband.

Mist. Ford: Yes, why not?  We can send Mistress Quickly with another message for Falstaff and set him up for another prank.

Mist. Page: Yes, yes.  Tell him if he comes back tomorrow you’ll make it up to him for what happened today.

Mist. Ford: That’s just what I was thinking.

    (Ford, Page, Caius, and Evans return.)

Page: There’s nobody.  I think you imagined the whole thing.

Ford: Maybe he was afraid to come.

Mist. Page: Master Ford, don’t you trust your wife?

Mist. Ford: My feelings are very hurt.

Ford (Embarrassed): Well–

Mist. Page: Shame on you.

Ford: Well–maybe I was wrong.

Evans: You were, sir.

Caius: Yes.  We looked everywhere.

Page: I told you.

    (A pause for effect.  Ford is embarrassed and deflated.)

Ford: All right.  I’m a fool.  Go ahead, laugh at me.  (To his Wife) I’m sorry.  (To Mistress Page) And I apologize to you, too.

Page: We’ll save our mocking for tomorrow, how’s that?  You fellows can come to my house for breakfast, and afterwards we’ll do a little bird-hunting, all right?

Others: Yes.–Fine.

Evans (Aside to Caius): Don’t forget.  We’re still going to get even with the host of the Garter.

Caius (Aside to Evans): Yes.

    (Page, Caius, and Evans leave.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  In front of Page’s house.  Fenton comes in with Anne Page.

Fenton: Your father won’t give me a chance.  He thinks I’m just after your money.

Anne: Maybe you are.

Fenton: Aw, come on.  Look, maybe I got interested at first because of that.  But once I got to know you, I loved you for what you are.  I don’t care about money.

Anne: Don’t give up on my father.–Come, let’s talk it over.

    (Fenton and Anne move apart to talk.  Then Shallow, Slender, and Mistress Quickly come in.)

Shallow (To Mist. Quickly): Tell Anne my nephew wants to talk to her.

    (Mistress Quickly goes to interrupt Anne and Fenton.)

Slender: What’ll I say?

Shallow: Just talk to her.

Mist. Quickly: Excuse me, Master Fenton.–Anne, Master Slender would have a word with you.

    (Anne approaches Shallow and Slender.)

Shallow (To Slender): Your father would know what to say to a young lady if he were in your place.

Slender: My father–ha, ha!  He was funny.–Mistress Anne, my uncle should tell you about the time my father stole two geese–

Shallow (Interrupting with a subtle kick to Slender): Mistress Anne, my nephew loves you.

Slender: Em–yes–as much as any lady in Gloucestershire.–Perhaps other counties, too, although I don’t know them very well.

Shallow: He’ll support you like a lady.

Slender: Yes.  Wife of a squire.  That’s what you’ll be.

Shallow: He’ll pledge you a hundred and fifty pounds up front.

Anne: I’m sure he can speak for himself, Master Shallow.–Now, then, Master Slender, what is your will?

Slender: My will?  Oh, goodness, I haven’t made out a will yet–ha, ha.

Anne: No, I mean,what do you want with me?

Slender: Oh.–Well–you see, my uncle and your father have more or less agreed–on me, that is–to marry you.  And if it happens, I’ll be very happy.  And if not, well–good luck to whoever.–No hard feelings, eh?–That is–

    (Shallow gives Slender another kick to shut him up.  Just then, Page and his Wife come in.)

Page: Ah, here’s Master Slender.–Well, Anne, what do you say?  You’ll marry him, won’t you?–What’s Fenton doing here?–Fenton, didn’t I tell you to give it up?  My daughter’s not for you.

Fenton: If you’d just give me a chance–

Mist. Page: I’m sorry, Master Fenton, but she’s not for you.

Fenton: But, madam–sir–

Page: Master Shallow–Master Slender–let’s go inside.–Fenton, there’s no point in you hanging around here.  You can take a hint, can’t you?

    (Page, Shallow, and Slender go in the house.)

Mist Quickly (Aside to Fenton): Talk to her mother.

Fenton: Mistress Page, I  love your daughter. I really do.

Anne: Mother, don’t marry me off to Slender.  I really have no interest in him.

Mist. Page: I certainly won’t, if I have my way.  You can do better than him.

Mist Quickly: Like Doctor Caius?

Mist. Page: Yes.

Anne: No, not him either. 

Mist. Page: Master Fenton, for my daughter’s sake, I’ll agree to be neutral.  I will talk things over with her.  But in the meantime you mustn’t hang around here or my husband will be angry.

Fenton: Yes, madam.  Thank you.–Goodbye, Anne.

    (Mistress Page and Anne go in the house.)

Mist Quickly: Don’t you worry, Master Fenton.  You’ll marry her–thanks to me.

Fenton: Thank you.  I appreciate it.–Here.  Give Anne this ring.  (He takes a ring off his finger.)  And this is for your service.  (He gives her some money.)

Mist. Quickly: Thank you, sir.  Now you run along and don’t worry about anything.

    (Fenton leaves.)

Mist. Quickly: Everyone’s paying me to help them marry Anne.  I can’t lose on this deal no matter who she marries.–Ah!  Must go see Sir John Falstaff.  The wives aren’t finished with him.

    (She leaves.) 

Act 3, Scene 5.  A room in the Garter Inn.  Falstaff comes in, frowning, followed by Bardolph.

Falstaff: Bring me a quart of sack.

Bardolph: Sure thing.

    (Bardolph goes out.)

Falstaff: Of all the indignities!–To be dumped into the river!–I almost drowned!–I’ll be damned if I let them pull another trick like that on me!

    (Bardolph returns with a bottle.)

Bardolph: Mistress Quickly is here.  She wants to speak to you.

Falstaff (Muttering): Mistress Quickly.–All right.

    (Bardolph signals on his way out, and Mistress Quickly comes in as Falstaff is pouring himself some wine.)

Mist. Quickly: Good morning, Sir John!

Falstaff: Bah!

Mist. Quickly: Mistress Ford sent me.

Falstaff: Never heard of her.

Mist. Quickly: Oh, sir, she’s so sorry about what happened.  It was entirely a misunderstanding.  Her servants miscontrued her.

Falstaff: So did I!

Mist. Quickly: Oh, sir, she wants to make it up to you.  Her husband will be out birding this morning.  She says you’re to come to see her between eight and nine.

Falstaff: Seriously?

Mist. Quickly: Yes.  She promises to make it up to you.

Falstaff: Well–all right.  Tell her I’ll be there.

Mist. Quickly: Ah, that’s good, sir.  I’ll go at once.  Goodbye.

    (Mistress Quickly leaves.)

Falstaff: Where the hell is that guy Brook?  He told me he’d be here.

    (Ford comes in disguised as Brook.) 

Ford: Good morning, Sir John!  Sorry I couldn’t come last evening.

Falstaff: That’s quite all right, Master Brook.  I’m sure you want to hear what happened yesterday at Ford’s house.

Ford: Yes, indeed.  Tell me everything.

Falstaff: Well, I was there at the appointed hour.

Ford: And how did it go?

Falstaff: Not too well, I’m afraid.  I was just at the point of getting it on with the old girl when her husband showed up with a whole gang of people.  He was convinced she was seeing someone and he and his friends were determined to kill me.

Ford: Oh, my goodness!  How did you escape?

Falstaff: By a combination of luck and wits.  Her friend, Mistress Page, arrived just in time to warn us, and I jumped into a laundery basket and got carried out by the servants.

Ford: Now that was lucky!

Falstaff: Yes, but what a smell!  I swear, I don’t know why dirty laundry should smell so bad.  One expects better from the middle class.  Anyway, that bastard Ford almost opened the basket to check, but he didn’t, and the servants got me out.  They took me to Datchet Lane, where they do the laundry.

Ford: Ah, good for you.

Falstaff: Good?  Well, I’m lucky to be alive, if that’s what you mean.  I almost died three deaths.  First, I almost got caught by Ford.  Second, I had to squeeze so tight into that basket I thought my bones would break.  And third, I almost died from the smell.  And after that, when I got dumped into the river, I almost drowned.  So that makes four deaths I barely escaped.

Ford: What an ordeal!

Falstaff: I hope you appreciate what I went through to try to do you a favour.

Ford: Yes, I certainly appreciate it.  And I’m sorry you suffered so much.–So then, you’re giving up?

Falstaff: Giving up?  Hell, no.  Sir John Falstaff never gives up.  Why, I’d sooner jump into a volcano than give up when I’m–this close (Indicates with fingers).  It so happens that I’ve received a message from Mistress Ford that I can go see her between eight and nine this morning.  Her stupid husband will be out bird-hunting.

Ford: It’s after eight already.

Falstaff: What!–Oh, God, I have to go.  Listen, em–come back, em–whenever–at your leisure–and I’ll give you a full report.  Don’t worry about a thing.  She’s practically yours.  Must go.  See you later.

    (Falstaff rushes out.)

Ford: So!–To think I almost caught that bastard yesterday.  Instead, I got ridiculed by my friends.  Well, he won’t get away from me a second time–unless the devil shrinks him small enough to hide in a salt shaker.–And even then I’ll check the salt shaker.

    (Ford goes out.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 2.  In Ford’s house.  Mistress Ford and Falstaff come in.  The laundry basket is present again.

Falstaff: So it was all a misunderstanding, then?

Mist. Ford: Yes, Sir John.  It’s my fault.  I’m sorry.

Falstaff: Then I’m a happy guy again.  And when I say I love you, I mean, like, totally.  Everything I have is yours–and vice-versa.

Mist. Ford: Of course.

Falstaff: And your husband’s out birding?

Mist. Ford: Yes.  Finally, we can be alone.

Mist. Page (Within): Yoo-hoo!  Mistress Ford!

Mist. Ford: Oh, dear, it’s Page again.  Better hide.

    (Falstaff goes out.  Mistress Page comes in.)

Mist. Page: There you are, dearie.  Is anyone else at home?

Mist. Ford: Just the hired help.

Mist. Page: That’s good.

Mist. Ford (Hushed voice): Speak louder.  (She jerks her thumb to indicate where Falstaff is.)

Mist. Page (Louder): It’s a good thing you don’t have Sir John Falstaff here.

Mist. Ford: Oh?  Why?

Mist. Page: Your husband’s all riled up again.  He swears you sneaked Falstaff out in the laundry basket, and he’s brought his friends back to search the house again.  He seems to think Falstaff is here.

Mist. Ford: Uh-oh.  Where is my husband now?

Mist. Page: Just down the road.  He and his friends will be here any second.  Why?  Is something wrong?

Mist. Ford: Yes.  I’m in trouble now.  Falstaff is here.

Mist. Page: Oh, no!  Your husband will kill him!  You’ve got to get him out!

Mist. Ford: How?  In the laundry basket?

    (Falstaff comes in frantically.)

Falstaff: No way!  I’m not getting in there again!

Mist. Page: Why, Sir John!  What are you doing here?

Falstaff: Em–I just came back to look for a lost button.  What’ll I do?  Can I run out the back?

Mist. Page: No.  They’ll be watching the whole house.  And they’re armed with pistols.

Falstaff: Oh, God!  Where can I hide?

Mist. Ford: There’s no place.  My husband will search every square inch of the house.

Falstaff: Well, think of something, for God’s sake!

Mist. Page: Disguise him–as a lady!

Mist. Ford: Yes!  My housekeeper’s aunt left a dress upstairs.  She’s a fat lady, so it’ll fit him.

Mist. Page: Your housekeeper’s aunt?  Isn’t she the witch of Brainford?

Mist. Ford: Yes, that’s what everyone calls her.  She tells fortunes and does spells–that sort of thing.

Mist. Page: And your husband allows her to come here?

Mist. Ford: Not any more.  She’s barred from the house.  He says he won’t allow any witches in here.

Falstaff: Witch or no witch, if that dress will fit me, it’s my only hope!

Mist. Ford: Go upstairs to the housekeeper’s room.  The dress is in the closet.  And find a scarf or something to cover your head with.

Falstaff: Right!

    (Falstaff rushes out.)

Mist. Ford: Is my husband really coming?

Mist. Page: Yes.

Mist. Ford: How did he find out about the laundry basket?

Mist. Page: I don’t know.

Mist. Ford: Well, we’ll have some fun with him.  I’ll have my boys carry out the basket again, and we’ll see what he does.  You go upstairs and help Sir John with his disguise.

Mist. Page: Okay.

    (Mistress Page goes out.)

Mist. Ford (Calling): John!–Robert!

    (John and Robert come in.)

Mist. Ford: Pick up the laundry basket and take it out.  If your master stops you, just obey him.  I’m going upstairs.

    (Mistress Ford goes out.)

Robert: I hope that fat bastard isn’t in here again.  I almost got a hernia lifting him up yesterday.

John: Come on.

    (They pick up the basket and are just starting to leave when Ford, Page, Shallow, Caius, and Evans come in.  Ford is carrying a stick.)

Ford: Hold it!  Put down that basket!  (The Servants put it down.  To the others) Now you’ll see what tricks they’re up to.–(Calling) Wife, come down!

Page: Really, Master Ford.

Evans: This is crazy.

Shallow: You’re being silly, Master Ford.

Ford: You think so?  Just wait.  The villain is right inside here.

    (Mistress Ford returns.)

Mist. Ford: What’s the matter now?

Ford: Sending out the laundry, eh?

Mist. Ford: Yes.

Ford: And it’s just laundry.  Nobody hiding in the basket, eh?

Mist. Ford: No.

Ford: Ha!  (To the others) Watch this!

    (Ford opens the basket and starts pulling the laundry out.)

Page: Really, sir!

Ford: He’s in here!  I know he is!

    (Ford turns the basket over, spilling everything out.)

Page: There’s nobody.

Shallow: And you suspected your wife of cheating on you?  Shame on you!

Evans: Pray for your sanity, sir.

Ford (Angrily to his Wife): Where is he?

Page: He’s in your imagination, that’s where.

Ford: I know he’s somewhere in the house.  He has to be.  I want you guys to search.

Page: Not again!

Ford (To the Servants): Get this out of here!

    (John and Robert put the laundry back in the basket and carry it out.)

Caius: I should prescribe you something for your nerves.

Page: Yes, I think you should.

Mist. Ford (Calling): Mistress Page, bring the lady down!

Ford: What lady?

Mist. Ford: The old lady of Brainford.  The housekeeper’s aunt.  You know.

Ford: That witch?

Mist. Ford: Yes.

Ford: Didn’t I say she was never to set foot in this house again?  Where is that devil-worshiper?  I’ll give her a spell with this! (Indicating the stick)

Mist. Ford: Now, now, you wouldn’t hit an old lady.

Ford: Oh, wouldn’t I!

    (Falstaff, disguised in women’s clothes, comes in with Mistress Page.)

Mist. Page: Come along, Mother Prat.–She’s just leaving.

Ford: Out of my house, witch!

    (Ford strikes Falstaff with his stick.  Falstaff runs out, yelping in a high-pitched voice.)

Mist. Page: Oh, no, Master Ford!  She’s just an old lady !

Ford: They ought to hang her!–Damned witch!

Evans: I could have sworn she had a beard.

Ford: Eh?

Evans: Under her scarf.  She had a beard just like a man.

Ford: That’s him!  Come on!

    (Ford runs out, followed by the other Men.)

Mist. Page: I don’t think Falstaff will be coming around again.

Mist. Ford: I should think not.  Should we tell the husbands what we did?

Mist. Page: Yes, I think so–just so they understand we’re honest wives.

Mist. Ford: I wonder what they’ll do to him.  Probably some sort of public humiliation.

Mist. Page: He deserves it.–Come, let’s follow them.

    (They leave.) 

Act 4, Scene 3.  In the Garter Inn.  The Host is wiping a table or otherwise being busy when Bardolph comes in.  (Author’s note: Caius and Evans play a trick on the Host involving Germans, but it is never properly explained.  Scholars speculate that a scene was lost from the original play.)

Bardolph: Sir, the Germans want to borrow three of your horses to go meet the Duke at the court tomorrow.

Host: Duke?  What duke?

Bardolph: Some visiting German duke, I think.

Host: I haven’t heard anything about a visiting German duke.

Bardolph: Well, anyway, they need three horses.

Host: They can have them, but they’ll pay for them.  They’ve been here a week and they’ve run up quite a tab.  They’d better start paying.  You tell them.

Bardolph: I will, sir.

    (Bardolph leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In Ford’s house.  Page, Ford, their Wives, and Evans come in.

Evans: That’s the best bit of trickery I ever heard!

Ford: Wife, I promise I’ll never doubt you gain.

Page: I think we should stick it to Falstaff again.  It’s more fun than bird-hunting.

Ford: He deserves it.  That’s for sure.

Mist. Page: He still doesn’t realize we double-crossed him.

Mist. Ford: No.  We can prank him one more time.  In the park at midnight.

Evans: Oh, he won’t fall for another prank now.

Mist. Ford: Yes, he will.  We have a plan.

Mist. Page: You’ve heard of Herne the hunter–the ghost who’s supposed to haunt the park?

Ford: I’ve heard of him. 

Mist. Page: In the wintertime he circles the big oak tree and rattles his chains and bewitches the cattle.

Mist. Ford: And he’s got big horns like a deer.

Mist. Page: Plenty of people still believe in him.

Page: Yes, yes.  They’re afraid to go near the old oak at midnight.  So what?

Mist. Ford: Here’s the plan.  We’ll arrange to meet Falstaff at the oak at midnight, and we’ll tell him to be disguised like Herne’s ghost–to scare away anyone who might catch us, you see.

Page: And then what?

Mist. Page: Anne and the children will be dressed like fairies, and they’ll be hiding.  Then when we meet Falstaff at the tree, the kids will jump out and scare the hell out of him and make him think he’s going to hell for his sins.

Evans:  I like it!  It’s very Christian.  Even better than Halloween.

Mist. Page: Anne will be the Queen of the Fairies since she’s the oldest.  All our other kids will be the fairies.

Page (Aside to the audience): This is perfect.  I’ll arrange for Master Slender to be there, and at the right moment he’ll snatch Anne away and marry her.

Ford: I should disguise myself as Brook one more time and make sure Falstaff will be there.

Evans (To Mist. Page): You’ll need costumes for the kids.  I can help with that.  And I can help you coach them.–Oh, this’ll be fun!

Page: Yes, yes.  Let’s go.

    (Evans, Ford, and Page leave.)

Mist. Page (To Mist. Ford): You send Mistress Quickly to Falstaff again.  She has to give him instructions on where to meet us.

Mist. Ford: I’ll go see her now.

    (Mistress Ford leaves.)

Mist. Page: This is perfect.  I’ll arrange for Doctor Caius to be there, and at the right moment he can grab Anne and take her away and marry her.

    (She leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  In the Garter Inn.  The Host is wiping a table when Simple comes in. 

Host: What’ll you have, bumpkin?

Simple: Em–em–

Host: Speak, dummy!

Simple: Em, I’ve come to speak to Sir John Falstaff.  Master Slender sent me.

Host: His room’s up there.  Go on up and knock.  If he doesn’t answer, he’s probably dead.  Then I can turn his room into a tourist attraction and make some money–the Haunted Room of Sir John Falstaff!

Simple: I’m afraid to knock, sir.  I saw a fat, old woman go up and I’d rather wait till she leaves.

Host (Facetiously): What!  A fat, old woman?  She’ll go through his pockets before I can!  (Calling) Sir John!  Are you alive up there?

Falstaff (Within): What do you want?

Host: A simpleton named Simple is waiting for the fat woman to leave!  Tell her to go!  This is an honourable establishment!–Relatively speaking.

    (Falstaff comes in.)

Falstaff: It’s all right.  She’s gone.

Simple: Wasn’t that the wise woman of Brainford?

Falstaff: The wise woman of–Why, yes, as a matter of fact.  She’s a wise woman.  Not a witch.  Just wise.

Simple: Master Slender saw her running down the street, and he wanted me to ask her if Nym, the fellow who cheated him of his gold chain, had robbed him of it.

Falstaff: Ah.–Yes, I asked her about that.

Simple: And what did she say?

Falstaff: She said the very same man who cheated him was the one who robbed him.

Simple: Oh.  I see.–And there was something else I was supposed to ask.

Falstaff: Like what?

Simple: Em–it’s rather private.

Host: I’ll have no privacy in my establishment.  Speak, you scoundrel!

Simple: Em–it was concerning Mistress Anne Page.

Falstaff: What about her?

Simple: Master Slender wanted to know if it would be his fortune to have her or not.

Falstaff: Yes, that’s his fortune.

Simple: What is?

Falstaff: To have her or not.  The wise woman told me.  You can tell Master Slender.

Simple (Confused): Oh.–Thank you, sir.  I shall report it to him.–Well, goodbye.  Thank you.

    (Simple leaves.)

Host: Goodbye, dummy.–So–was there a wise woman in your room?  If so, there may be a snowman in hell.

Falstaff: There was, indeed.  And I learned more from her than I ever learned before in my life.  (Rubbing the back of his head.)  And I was paid to learn.

    (Bardolph rushes in, covered in mud.)

Bardolph: Those thieves!  They took your horses!

Host: Who did?

Bardolph: The Germans.  They knocked me into the mud and took off with your horses!

Host: I thought you said they were going to meet some duke.

Bardolph: Yes, that’s what they said, but–

Host: Well, then, forget it.  Germans are honest, aren’t they?

    (Evans comes in.)

Evans: My good host.  I came to warn you.

Host: What’s the matter?

Evans: I’ve just learned that there are three Germans who have been stealing horses from all the innkeepers in the county.  So watch out.

    (Evans goes out.  Then Doctor Caius comes in.)

Caius: My friend, host of the Garter!  Good thing I find you.  I hear you get ready to receive a duke from Germany.

Host: Em–what about him?

Caius: Well, I tell you in truth there is no such duke coming.

    (Caius leaves.  The Host is perplexed for a moment, then realizes that he’s been pranked by Evans and Caius.)

Host: Those bastards!–Caius!–Evans!–Sir John, I’ve been duped!

    (The Host runs out, followed by Bardolph.)

Falstaff: Now he knows how it feels.–Ach!  What I’ve been through.–I’m being punished, that’s what it is.  Ever since I cheated at pinochle when I was a boy, I’ve had nothing but bad luck.  If I knew any prayers, I’d say them and repent.

    (Mistress Quickly comes in.)

Falstaff: Not you again.  What do you want now?

Mist. Quickly: The ladies sent me to apologize for the unfortunate mishap.

Falstaff: Oh, please.  Spare me.

Mist. Quickly: Oh, sir, if you only knew what bad trouble Mistress Ford got into–all because she loves you.

Falstaff: Don’t talk to me about trouble.  I got beaten with a stick, and after that a constable mistook me for the witch of Brainford and wanted to lock me up.  And he would have if it wasn’t for my cleverness in passing myself off as an innocent old lady.

Mist. Quickly: It’s the stars, sir.  They have a way of thwarting people in love.  It’s a test of your sincerity.  But if you’ll let me speak to you privately–in your room–I have a letter for you that will put a smile on your face, believe me.

Falstaff: Oh–all right.  Come on up to my room.

    (They go out.)

Act 4, Scene 6.  The Garter Inn.  The Host is sitting and looking gloomy when Fenton comes in.

Fenton: My good host!

Host: Not now, Fenton.  I’ve been ripped off.  I’m so miserable right now.

Fenton: I’m sorry to hear it, but just hear me out.  I have a favour to ask, and if you help me, I’ll pay you enough to cover your losses, plus a hundred pounds to the good.

Host: Oh!  In that case you have my full attention.

Fenton: You know that I’m in love with Anne Page.

Host: Everyone knows.

Fenton: Well, she loves me, too.  And we want to get married.  Now here’s the situation.  Anne has told me that there’s an elaborate joke being prepared for Falstaff.  It’s going to take place at Herne’s oak tonight at midnight.  Anne is going to be disguised as the Fairy Queen, and the other Page children and Ford children are going to be the fairies.  Her father has told her to dress in white so Slender will spot her and take here away to Eton to be married.  But her mother has told her to dress in green so Doctor Caius can pick her out and take her away and marry her.

Host: So what’s she going to do?

Fenton: She told both her parents she’d follow their instructions, but actually she’s going to wait for me.  I’m going to take her away and marry her.  I need you to find a vicar and have him wait for us at the church between midnight and one o’clock.  Can you do that?

Host: Hell, yes!  It’s a deal!

Fenton: Thank you!

    (They shake hands.  Fenton leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Falstaff’s room in the Garter Inn.  A conversation is in  progress between Falstaff and Mistress Quickly.

Falstaff: This is the third appointment I’m making with her.  Nothing better go wrong this time.

Mist. Quickly: The third time’s the charm, as they say,  sir.

Falstaff: I hope you’re right.  This plan sounds crazy, if you ask me.

Mist. Quickly: There’s a method to the madness, as they say, sir.  I’ll get you a chain and a pair of horns to wear.

Falstaff: Fine.  Now go.–And don’t look too happy when you leave the room.  I don’t want people to get the wrong idea.

Mist. Quickly: Very good, sir.  Goodbye.

    (Mistress Quickly leaves.  Shortly thereafter, Ford comes in, again disguised as Brook.)

Ford: Sir John!

Falstaff: Ah,  Master Brook!  Good news, sir.  The whole thing will be settled tonight.  Be in the park at midnight tonight–at Herne’s oak. 

Ford: Didn’t you see her yesterday?

Falstaff: I did, but I got chased out by her lunatic husband.  I was disguised as a woman, so all I could do was run.  If I’d been in my true guise, I would’ve stood up to him, believe me.  But I intend to have the last laugh.  I’ll seduce his wife, just like you asked me to.  After that, I promise you, she’ll be all yours.

Ford: Ah, wonderful!

Falstaff: Come  along, Master Brook, and I’ll tell you more about that miserable little man Ford.  And you will see something amazing tonight in the park!

Ford: I can hardly wait!

    (Falstaff and Ford leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  In the park at night.  Page, Shallow, and Slender come in.  A distant clock strikes ten.

Page: Ten o’clock.  Come on, we’ll hide in the ditch and wait for the fairies to show up.  They’ll have candles.–Slender, be ready to spot my daughter.

Slender: Don’t worry.  We agreed on a password.  When I say “Manchester,” she’ll reply “United.”–United?  Get it?  Like married?

Shallow: Isn’t he clever?

Page: He sure is.  My future son-in-law.–Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  A street near the park.  Mistress Page, Mistress Ford, and Doctor Caius come in.

Mist. Page: Remember, doctor, they’ll all be disguised, but my daughter will be the one in green.  When you see your opportunity, just take her by the hand and lead her away.  You go on ahead of us now.

Caius: Okay.  Very good.

    (Caius leaves.)

Mist. Ford: Where’s your daughter and the fairies and Sir Hugh?

Mist. Page: They’re hiding in a ditch near Herne’s oak.  After we meet up with Falstaff, they’ll jump out.

Mist. Ford: Won’t he be surprised!

Mist. Page: He’ll be so shocked he may actually mend his ways after this.  Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act. 5, Scene 4.  In the park.  Evans, disguised as a Satyr, comes in with the children, disguised as Fairies.

Evans: Come alone, fairies, and remember your parts.  When I give you the word, you jump out and surprise the fat man.

    (He leads the Fairies out.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  Midnight at Herne’s oak.  A distant clock strikes twelve.  Falstaff comes in wearing deer antlers and carrying a chain.

Falstaff: It’s midnight.  My sweet little doe should be here any minute.  I feel like a bloody fool with these stupid horns, but if this is what I have to do to score, I’ll do it.

    (Mistress Ford and Mistress Page come in.)

Mist. Ford: Sir John!

Falstaff: Ah!  Madam!

Mist. Ford: My handsome buck!

Falstaff: My deer–ha, ha!  Get it?

    (He embraces her.)

Mist. Ford: I’ve brought Mistress Page with me.  I hope you don’t mind.

Falstaff: Not at all!  There’s enough of me to go around–ha, ha!  How do I look?  I’m Herne the hunter.  (He rattles his chain.)  Very spooky, eh?–Ha, ha!

Mist. Page: Are those horns for our husbands?–Ha, ha!

Falstaff: Yes, why not?  What good are husbands anyway?

    (A distant noise of horns is heard.)

Mist. Page (Feigning alarm): What’s that?

Mist. Ford: The trumpets of Judgment!  We’ve been discovered!  Heaven forgive us!

Mist. Page: We must run!

Falstaff: Wait!

    (The Wives run out.)

Falstaff: What the hell?–The devil doesn’t want me.  He’s afraid I’d take over.

    (Coming in disguised are Evans, as a Satyr, Anne Page, as Queen of the Fairies, Pistol, as Hobgoblin, and the children as Fairies.  One bigger child is in white, and another is in green.  The Fairies are all carrying candles.  [Author’s note: The Yale Shakespeare edition has Anne as the Queen of the Fairies, but the New  Penguin edition has Mistress Quickly in that role.  I think Anne is more appropriate.])

Falstaff: What the devil!–Who are you?

Evans: I’m the Satyr, and I know a lecher when I see one!

Pistol: And I’m Hobgoblin, and I know a scoundrel when I see one!

Anne: And I am the Queen of the Fairies!  The wicked shall be punished!–Fairies, he’s the one!

    (The Fairies dance around Falstaff, pinching him and burning him with their candles.)

Fairies (Singing):

    Heaven knows who’s wicked,
    And you’re going to hell!
    Devil take you, devil take you!

    Heaven knows who’s wicked,
    And you’re going to hell!
    Devil take you, devil take you!

    (Falstaff screams in fright and falls face down on the ground and covers his head.  As the Fairies continue to dance around him, Doctor Caius comes in stealthily and grabs the hand of a Fairy dressed in green and takes “her” away.  Then Slender comes in another way and grabs the hand of a Fairy dressed in white and takes “her” away.  Finally, Fenton sneaks in and grabs Anne and runs out with her.  Then another sound of hunting horns is heard and the Fairies, Evans, and Pistol run away.  Falstaff gets up.  Then Page, Ford, the Wives, and Evans come in.)

Page: So!  Sir John Falstaff–caught in the act.  Or should I address you as Herne the hunter–ha, ha!

Mist. Page: Think you can fool Windsor wives, do you?

Ford: Who’s wearing the horns now?

Falstaff: Master Ford!–What a coincidence!–Oh!–Out for a late stroll?–Ha, ha!

Ford: Remember Master Brook?

Falstaff: Master Brook?–Em, I think he might be around someplace.

    (Ford points to himself.)

Falstaff: Ohhh–I do believe I’ve been made an ass.

Ford: Yes–a big one.

Falstaff: Then those weren’t real fairies.

Ford: No.

Falstaff: Well, then I’m not going to hell after all, am I?

Evans: Not if you give up your wicked ways.  Otherwise, you’ll really be pinched and burned.

Falstaff: I’ve learned my lesson.  I’ve been well and truly pranked–and chastened.  And I deserve it.

Mist. Page: Did you really think Mistress Ford and I could have a romantic interest in you?

Mist. Ford: Windsor wives can be merry, but we’re still honest.

Mist. Page: And not stupid.

Falstaff: Well, beat my brains out with a big stick.

Ford: No, we won’t do that.  But you are going to repay all the money you got from Master Brook.

Falstaff: Oh, God.

Ford: Over time, if necessary.

Page: Cheer up, Sir John.  The evening’s not a total disaster.  In fact, I’m very happy because Master Slender has married my daughter by now.

Mist. Page (Aside to the audience): He doesn’t know!  Doctor Caius has married her!

    (Slender comes in.)

Slender: Master Page!

Page: My new son!  How did it go?

Slender: I got all the way to Eton with your daughter–only to find that she wasn’t your daughter.  She wasn’t even a girl.  He was a boy.

Page: What!  Then you grabbed the wrong person.

Slender: But she-I mean he–knew the  password.

Mist. Page: Don’t be angry, George.  I knew what you were planning, so I had Anne wear green so Doctor Caius could take her away and marry her.

Page: What!

    (Doctor Caius comes in.)

Caius: Mistress Page, I have been deceived!  Your daughter was not your daughter.  She was a boy.

Mist. Page: What!  I told you to take the one in green.

Caius: I did.  The one in green.–And I married him!  It’s terrible!  I am ruined!

    (Caius goes out.)

Ford: If Doctor Caius didn’t marry her, and Slender didn’t marry her, then what happened to her?

Page: I’m afraid to think.

    (Fenton comes in with Anne Page.)

Page: Fenton!–Anne!

Anne: Em–father–mother–we’re married.

Page and Mist. Page: What!–Married?

Fenton: You wanted to marry her off to someone  she didn’t love.  But I’m the one she loves.

Anne: Don’t be angry.  I had to deceive you both.  What else could I do?

Ford: Master Page, the deal has been done, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  So just accept it.

Evans: Yes, that’s the best way.  You can see how happy they are.

Falstaff: Well!  True love found a proper match after all.

Mist. Page (To Anne and Fenton): May you both be happy and grow very old together.

Page: Amen to that.  (He embraces Fenton.)  And now let’s all go back to our place and celebrate.–You, too, Sir John.

Falstaff: Then I’m forgiven?

Page: Yes.  Why not?

Ford: Sir John, you weren’t completely untruthful.

Falstaff: I wasn’t?

Ford: No.  You did promise me Mistress Ford would be all mine.  (Aside to Falstaff) And when I get her home, I’m going to–(He whispers the rest.)

Falstaff: Ha, ha!  Good for you, Master Ford!

    (They all leave.)


    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

Saturninus — new Emperor of Rome

Bassianus — brother of Saturninus

Titus Andronicus — Roman general

Lucius, Quintus, Martius, and Mutius — sons of Titus

Lavinia — daughter of Titus

Marcus Andronicus — tribune, and brother of Titus

Publius — son of Marcus

Young Lucius — son of Lucius

Sempronius, Caius, and Valentine — kinsmen of Titus (non-speaking roles)

Tamora — Queen of the Goths, and new Empress

Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron — sons of Tamora

Aaron — Moorish lover of Tamora

Aemilius — Roman noble




Gist of the story: Titus Andronicus has returned to Rome after a victorious war against the Goths.  The Goth Queen, Tamora, and her three sons are prisoners.  The eldest, Alarbus, is executed as a just sacrifice for the loss of 21 of Titus’s sons.  The newly-declared Emperor, Saturninus, seeks to marry Lavinia, but she is promised to Bassianus.  Bassianus takes her away with the help of Titus’s sons, one of whom, Mutius, is killed by Titus for his disobedience.  Saturninus changes his mind and marries Tamora instead.  Now suddenly elevated from prisoner to Empress, Tamora plots revenge against the Andronici with the help of the evil Aaron, her Moorish lover.  Demetrius and Chiron rape Lavinia, cut off her hands, and cut out her tongue.  They also kill her new husband, Bassianus, and throw his body into a pit.  Aaron lures Quintus and Martius into the pit and frames them for Bassianus’s murder.  He then tricks Titus into giving up one of his hands to save them from execution, but they are executed anyway.  Lucius is banished for attempting to rescue them.  Titus tells him to go to the Goths and enlist their help.  Lavinia has identified her attackers by scratching their names in the sand.  Tamora gives birth to Aaron’s baby, which is black.  Aaron suspects Titus knows who raped Lavinia.  He kills the two witnesses who know about the black baby and then takes him to the Goths, expecting protection.  Titus plots revenge.  Tamora and her sons disguise themselves as Revenge, Murder, and Rape and attempt to con Titus into stopping Lucius and the Goths from attacking.  Tamora assumes Titus is mad and offers to deliver all his enemies at a banquet in his house.  But Titus knows who they are.  He cons Tamora into leaving her sons behind.  Then he and his kinsmen capture them.  He kills the sons and uses their bodies to make a meat pie, which he serves to Tamora and Saturninus at the banquet.  Titus kills Lavinia to end her suffering.  Then he kills Tamora.  Saturninus kills Titus, and Lucius kills Saturninus.  Aaron, the Moor, who has confessed to all his crimes to spare his baby, is sentenced to a slow death by starvation.  Lucius becomes the new Emperor by popular demand.

(Titus Andronicus is notorious for its gruesomeness, but it has been a generally popular play.  It is quasi-historical in that it is set in Imperial Rome but all the characters are fictitious.  The famous scene in which the Empress is fed a meat pie made from the bodies of her sons was suggested to Shakespeare by a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  Philomela, the sister of Procne, was raped by Procne’s husband, Tereus.  For revenge, Procne killed their own child, Itys, and used his body as food for Tereus.  Titus is a heroic figure, but he has one defect — an exaggerated and very rigid sense of honour.  He represents an old, traditional Roman conservatism that predates the Imperial era (roughly, the first four centures A.D.), which we remember more for its degenerate Emperors, like Nero and Caligula.  There is a movie version of the play, Titus, from 1999, produced and directed by Julie Taymor, and starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange.  Buy it and own it forever.  It’s a masterpiece.  Divine spirits got into everyone’s heads when they made this movie.  It’s beyond excellent.  It’s sublime.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  Near the senate house in Rome.  The stage has an upper tier that spans the entire stage.  Somewhere at the rear is a curtain or door representing the burial vault of the Andronici.  Tribunes and Senators gather on the upper tier and are conversing amongst themselves.  Crowd noises and drums are heard offstage on both sides.  Then Saturninus and his followers come in from one side, and Bassianus and his followers come in from the other.  Rivalry is evident.  Saturninus and Bassianus signal for quiet.

Saturninus (To his party): My good friends, let everyone know that you support me–Saturninus–to be the next Emperor of Rome.  Defend my right as the elder son of the late Emperor to succeed him on the throne.

    (Noisy reaction from his party, boos from the other.)

Bassianus (To his party): My fellow Romans, stand by me–Bassianus–as the one most deserving to succeed my late father as the next Emperor of Rome.  You know my reputation for justice, moderation, and nobility.  For these qualities I would be your Emperor.

    (Noisy reaction from both parties.  Then Marcus Andronicus appears on the upper tier holding the crown.)

Marcus: Noble princes–Saturninus and Bassianus–as tribune of the people, I ask you kindly to set aside your ambitions.  The citizens of Rome, by common consent, have chosen Titus Andronicus, my noble brother, to be their next Emperor.  There is no braver or nobler man in all of Rome than him.  He has fought for ten years to subdue our barbarous enemies, the Goths, and he has lost twenty-one valiant sons in that cause.  Now he returns to us victorious and bearing the spoils of war for the glory of Rome.  The senate shall decide who will be the next Emperor.  Therefore, I call upon you princes to send your followers home and come into the senate and make your pleas and arguments so that all shall be heard fairly, and the senate in its wisdom shall make the best choice for Rome.

Saturninus: Marcus Andronicus, good tribune that you are, you speak reasonably, as always.

Bassianus: We trust you, Marcus.  And out of respect for you and your noble brother and his sons, and his gracious daughter, Lavinia–for whom I have a special affection–I will dismiss my followers.  (To his party) Peace to you all.  Go home now.  I thank you from my heart for your love and support.

    (His party leaves.)

Saturninus (To his party): And you, my friends, may go home, too.  But remember that you are always with me in my heart and in my thoughts, just as I am sure I am always in yours.

    (His party leaves.)

Saturninus: Tribunes and senators, be gracious to me, who has the utmost confidence in you.  Allow me into the senate.

Bassianus: And I as well, who have the same confidence in you.

Marcus: Come.  We will do this the right way, as Romans should.

    (Saturninus and Bassianus go out where they came in and then join the Tribunes and Senators above.  Then all leave together.  Just when they are all gone, a Captain comes in below.  He addresses the audience as the Romans.)

Captain (To the audience): Romans!  Your hero has returned!  The great Titus Andronicus, my beloved General, has conquered the Goths and brings with him as prisoners the Queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her three sons, Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron.–And he brings back the remains of twenty-one of his own valiant sons who died in battle.–Now show your love to your greatest champion–Titus Andronicus!

    (The audience is prompted to cheer and applaud as trumpets and drums herald the arrival of Titus.  He comes in with his four sons Lucius, Quintus, Martius, and Mutius, who carry a large casket, meant to represent the remains of all the dead sons.  Soldiers escort the prisoners Tamora and her three sons, as well as Aaron, the Moor.  The sons of Titus set down the casket before the door or curtain representing the vault of the Andronici.  Then Titus speaks to the audience.)

Titus: Hail, Romans!  I cry tears of joy to see you again, and I thank the gods for protecting you.  Of twenty-five sons I bring back four alive.  The others shall be interred with the honour they deserve in the family vault of the Andronici.

    (At this point, the four sons of Titus open the door or part the curtain to the vault at rear stage.)

Lucius: Father, before we bury our brothers, it is only proper that we sacrifice the eldest son of the Goths.

Titus: Take him.  He’s all yours.

    (Titus’s sons grab Alarbus.  Tamora falls to her knees, and her other sons kneel beside her.)

Tamora: My lord Titus, have mercy on my son!  He has done nothing wrong.  He has only fought for his side the same as your sons fought for your side.  I love him no less than you love your sons.  Be merciful, my lord.  Of all the virtues given to men, mercy is the godliest.  Be then god-like in your nobility and spare my son.

Titus: But madam, it is only proper that a sacrifice be made.  The souls of my dead sons cry out for retribution.  For the sake of our honour, your eldest son, Alarbus, must die.

Lucius (To his brothers): Come on, let’s take him.  He will be cut to pieces and burned to ashes.

    (The four sons take Alarbus out.  He remains silent.  Tamora, crying, rises with her other sons, who embrace her.)

Tamora: Cruelty!  Cruelty!

Chiron: Scythia was never so barbarous as Rome!

Demetrius (Aside to Tamora): You’ll have your revenge someday.  The gods will see to it.

    (Screams are heard offstage.  Then the sons of Titus return.)

Lucius: It’s done.  Now we can bury our brothers.

Titus: Very well.

    (The four sons lay the casket in the vault.)

Titus (Holding back tears): Rest in peace–my good sons.

    (Titus and his sons observe a moment of silence.  Then Lavinia comes in, holding flowers.)

Lavinia: My noble father.  I’ve prayed for your safe return.

Titus: Lavinia!

    (They embrace.)

Titus: The true happiness of my old age.

    (The four brothers embrace Lavinia.  They take the flowers and place them on or before the casket.  Then Marcus Andronicus, Saturninus, Bassianus, and Tribunes and Senators return on the main stage.  Marcus is holding a white cape or robe, representing the emperorship.)

Marcus: Long live Titus Andronicus, my beloved brother!

Titus: The same to you, Marcus!

Marcus: And welcome home, nephews.

The Sons: Thank you, uncle.

Marcus: Titus, the people and the senate of Rome have decided that you should be our next Emperor.

    (He holds out the white robe, but Titus does not take it.)

Titus: Oh!–Shall I accept now and die of old age in a few years?  You’d only have to do it all over again.  Better to choose a younger man now.

Saturninus: Yes!

Marcus (To Titus): But you are the people’s choice.  Of course, you will accept.

Saturninus (Annoyed): He said he didn’t want it.  I’m the elder son.  Everyone knows that.  The crown and robe are mine.–Don’t steal them from me, Titus!

Lucius: Show some courtesy, good prince!

Titus: It’s all right.  We don’t have to quarrel.  I don’t intend to steal anything.

Bassianus: My lord Titus, I am as worthy as my brother.  If you will support me, I’ll be most grateful.

Titus: People of Rome–senators–and the people’s tribunes–will you support the choice I make?      

Tribunes: Yes.–Gladly.

Titus: Good.  Then by rights the next Emperor should be Saturninus, because he is the elder son.  And I have full confidence that his virtues will shine like the sun and spread justice and goodness throughout Rome.

Saturninus: Thank you, Titus!

    (Marcus exchanges nods with the Senators and Tribunes.)

Marcus: Then we agree.–Long live our new Emperor, Saturninus!

    (Trumpets and drums.  Everyone cheers.)

Saturninus: Titus Andronicus, I thank you for your support, and you will always have my gratitude.  And to advance the honour of your family, I have decided to marry your daughter, Lavinia.  She shall be my Empress.  Does this please you?

Titus: It pleases me very much, my lord.  It is a great honour to me.  And to you I give all my prisoners.

Saturninus: Thank you, Titus.  (He gives Tamora a lascivious look.)

Titus (To Tamora): Now, madam, you and your sons belong to the Emperor.  He will treat you honourably, don’t worry.

Saturninus (Aside): Boy, she’s hot.  I really like her.  (To Tamora) Be happy, madam.  You will be even greater here in Rome than you were as Queen of the Goths, I promise you.–Lavinia, you don’t mind, do you?

Lavinia: No, my lord.  You are noble to show such kindness to the lady.

Saturninus: Thank you, Lavinia.–The prisoners now have the freedom of the city–and, of course, the palace.–Now, Romans, let’s celebrate!

    (Saturninus is leaving with the Tribunes and Senators, and the Goths.  Just as he is offstage, Bassianus grabs Lavinia and pulls her back.)

Bassianus: Lord Titus, your daughter is promised to me.

Titus: What do you mean?

Bassianus: She loves me, sir.  She is sworn to me.

Marcus: It’s true, Titus.

Lucius: And I will defend his right.

Titus: What!  This is treason!–My lord Saturninus!

    (Saturninus returns with the Goths behind him.)

Saturninus: What’s the matter?

Bassianus: Lavinia belongs to me!

    (Bassianus runs out with Lavinia, and Marcus following.)

Titus: I’ll get her back, my lord!

    (Titus turns to pursue but is blocked by Mutius.)

Mutius: Brothers, go with them!

    (Lucius, Quintus, and Martius run out, following.)

Titus: Get out of my way, Mutius.  I’m bringing your sister back.

Mutius: No, father, you’re not.

Titus: You turn against your own father!

    (Titus takes out a knife and stabs Mutius.)

Mutius: Lucius!

    (Mutius falls dead.  Saturninus and the Goths leave quickly.  Lucius returns and bends over Mutius’s body.)

Lucius: He’s dead!  You killed your own son!

Titus: I killed a traitor!  Would you dishonour me?  Return Lavinia at once!

Lucius: No!  She belongs to Bassianus!

    (Lucius leaves.  Saturninus and the Goths appear on the upper tier.)

Saturninus: Let her go, Titus.  I don’t need her–and I don’t need any of your family.  You think you’re a king-maker, don’t you?  You think I begged to be made Emperor!

Titus: What?–How can you say that, my lord?

Saturninus: Go with your sons–and your fickle daughter!  Enjoy your new son-in-law.  He’s just like your sons–no good!

Titus: Sir, you are hurting me greatly now.

Saturninus: Tamora. you shall be my wife.  You will be Empress of Rome.  Does that please you?

Tamora: Very much, my lord.  If you want me, I’ll be the willing wife to your every desire.

Saturninus: Come.  We will be married at once.

    (All leave except Titus.)

Titus: When have I ever been treated so badly?

    (Marcus returns with Lucius, Quintus, and Martius.)

Marcus: Brother, what have you done?  You killed your son for no reason.

Titus: I had a good reason.  I will not have a traitor in my family–and that includes all of you.

Lucius: At least let us bury him.

Titus: In the family vault?  No!  Take him out and bury him somewhere else.

Marcus: Brother, this is wrong.  Mutius deserves to lie with his brothers.

Martius: And he will–or we will die with him.

Titus: You would bury him here against my wishes?

Marcus: No, brother.  With your consent.  I’m pleading with you.  Pardon Mutius and let him be buried properly with his own kin.

Titus: You dishonour me, Marcus–you and these disloyal sons of mine.

Quintus: It’s no use.  We can’t reason with him.  We should go.

Martius: No.  Not until Mutius is given the burial he deserves.

    (Marcus and the three sons kneel.)

Marcus: Brother–if you love me as a brother–

Martius: And if you love us as sons–

Titus: Bah!

Lucius: Will you not listen to your own flesh and blood?

Marcus: Don’t be like the Goth barbarians.  You are a Roman.  Allow us to bury Mutius here where he belongs.

    (A pause.  Titus is unhappy.)

Titus (Grudgingly): Do what you will.–But you dishonour me.

    (Titus turns his back on them and moves apart.  Marcus and the three sons place Mutius’s body in the vault.  Then they kneel beside his body.)

Lucius: He died nobly–for what was right.

    (The sons rise after a moment of silence and then leave, in the last direction of Bassianus, whom they are going to meet up with again.  Marcus goes to Titus and tries to soothe him by changing the subject.)

Marcus: So–Tamora’s going to be the Empress.  How is it that the Queen of the Goths has advanced herself so suddenly?

Titus: I don’t know.–But one thing I do know.  She has me to thank for it.  I brought her here.

    (A trumpet flourish.  From one side, Saturninus, Tamora, her two sons, and Aaron come in.  They are looking happy because the marriage has just taken place.  From the other side, Bassianus and Lavinia come in, with Lucius, Quintus, and Martius.  There is obvious tension between Saturninus and Bassianus.  [Author’s note: At this point we’re supposed to assume that Bassianus and Lavinia have gotten married, although there was hardly enough time.  Shakespeare is notoriously loose in his treatment of time, as we have seen many times throughout this series.])

Saturninus (Sarcastically): Good luck in your marriage, Bassianus.  May you enjoy your bride.

Bassianus: And you yours, my lord.–I have nothing else to say, so I shall leave you.

Saturninus: Go.–Traitor.–Rapist.

Bassianus: Rapist?  You call me a rapist for claiming my own?

Saturninus: You think you’ve beaten me, don’t you?  Well, enjoy your little moment of triumph–while it lasts.

Bassianus: You don’t seem to appreciate the fact that lord Titus killed his own son out of loyalty to you, and now you turn against him. 

Titus: I don’t need you to defend me, Bassianus.  The gods and all of Rome are my witnesses that I have honoured Saturninus–(He kneels)–and still do.

Tamora (To Saturninus): My lord, you must pardon them.

Saturninus: And be dishonoured?

Tamora: No, no, my lord.  I would never advise you in a way that would lead you to dishonour.  Lord Titus is your friend.  You must keep him as your friend.  (Aside to Saturninus) My lord, you’ve only just become Emperor.  Titus has many friends.  If you quarrel with him, the people may take his side.  Be discreet now and keep your feelings to yourself.  When the time is right, I’ll find a way to destroy all these Andronici.  (Normal voice) Come, my lord.  Be friends with lord Titus.  He loves you.  He’s loyal to you.

Saturninus (Half-heartedly): Oh, all right.–Stand up, Titus.  My Empress has prevailed.  We are friends.

Titus (Rising): Thank you, my lord.  And I thank the Empress, too.

Tamora: Titus, now that I’m Empress, I seek only what is best for the Emperor.  So as of this moment, all quarrels are forgotten.–And that includes you, too, Prince Bassianus.  I’ve promised the Emperor that you will be more gentle and agreeable from now on.–Now, please, the rest of you should ask pardon of the Emperor.

    (Marcus, Lavinia, Lucius, Quintus, and Martius kneel.)

Lucius: We ask pardon, my lord.  We were thinking only of our sister’s honour and our own.

Marcus: Yes, my lord.

    (Saturninus frowns, being somewhat angry again.)

Saturninus: I wish you’d all go away.

Titus: No, no, my lord.  We must  all be friends.  See how they are kneeling?  For my sake, forgive them all and be friends again.

    (Pause for effect.  This is all about Tamora’s ability to influence Saturninus.)

Saturninus: All right.–Marcus, for your sake as a tribune, and the rest of your family–and for my lovely new bride–I forgive you all.  (He gestures to them to stand up, and they do.)  We’ll have a big feast–in honour of both brides.  You’re all invited.

Titus: And tomorrow, my lord, let’s go hunting.  It’ll be fun.

Saturninus: Yes, why not.–Come along, everyone.

    (All leave except Aaron, the Moor.  This is a scene break, but a quick segue is needed, without the curtain.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  When everyone else has cleared the stage, leaving Aaron alone, he turns and faces the audience.  Some stage effects are called for here, to signal Aaron’s malevolent character.

Aaron: Now Tamora has the power she wants over her enemies.  Empress of Rome!–And my mistress.–She will always be bound to me before any husband.  She will be the neck that turns the Emperor’s head–and  mine will be the tongue that licks the neck.  (He tugs at his poor clothes.)  I’ll be getting a fine new wardrobe.

    (A commotion is heard offstage.  Then Chiron and Demetrius come in fighting with swords, but not seriously.)

Demetrius: Chiron, you’re a jackass!  Know your place!

Chiron: Yeah, big brother Demetrius!  Fuck you!

Demetrius: Oh, yeah?  Take that!

Chiron: Fuck you!  Lavinia’s mine!

Demetrius: Like hell!  She’s mine!

Chiron: I’ll fight you for her!

Demetrius: She’s too good for you!  Go fuck a leper!

Chiron: No–you!

    (Aaron grabs their arms and stops the fight.)

Aaron: Knock it off, you morons!  What the hell’s the matter with you?  Where do you think you are?

Chiron: I’ve had enough of him!  He thinks he can walk all over me because he’s a year older!

Demetrius: Yes, I can!

Aaron: Shut the fuck up, both of you.–Do you know where you are?  This is Rome.  They don’t tolerate this kind of shit here.  Now listen to me.  Your mother has just become Empress.  Do you want to ruin everything for her?

Demetrius: He’s a jerk.  He thinks he can have Lavinia.

Chiron: That’s right.  If I want her, I can have her.

Aaron: Shut up, both of you.  You’re crazy to fight over Lavinia.  Your mother would be pissed off if she knew.

Chiron: I love Lavinia and I want her.

Demetrius: Yeah, to fuck her.

Chiron: So what?  The same as you.

Demetrius: Yeah, so what?

Aaron: And you guys think you can make a cuckold of Bassianus?

Demetrius: Yes, why not?  If I can get away with it.

Aaron: Boys, boys, boys–just calm down for a minute, okay?  You both want to fuck Lavinia, right?

Demetrius and Chiron: Yes.

Aaron: Well, if you fight with each other, neither one of you will get to fuck her.–But–if you were to cooperate–you could both fuck her.

Chiron: That’s okay with me.

Demetrius: Yeah.  Okay.  So what should we do?

Aaron: The nobles are going hunting tomorrow.  Lavinia will be with them.  There’s a lot of space out there–a lot of remote places in the woods.  All you have to do is follow her until you can grab her in some secluded spot.  Then you can do whatever you want.

Chiron: Yeah!  That’s a good idea!

Demetrius: I like it.

Aaron: Fine.  Now just keep your big mouths shut and behave yourselves when you’re in the palace, because there are eyes and ears everywhere.–Now–let’s go confer with your mother.  She wants her revenge against the Andronici.  She’ll advise us.  And you’ll get what you want.

Demetrius and Chiron: All right!

    (They leave.)  

Act 2, Scene 2.  Outdoors in the morning.  (This is a hunting party on horseback, but you’ll have to imagine the horses.)  Background sounds of hunting horns and barking dogs.  Coming in are Titus, Lucius, Quintus, Martius, and Marcus.

Titus: A fine morning for hunting.  I want you boys to stay close to the Emperor.–Ah, here they come.

    (Coming in are Saturninus, Tamora, Bassianus, Lavinia, Demetrius, and Chiron.)

Titus: Good morning, your Majesty–and madam.–Did we wake you up too early?

Saturninus: A bit early for the ladies perhaps.

Bassianus: Lavinia?

Lavinia: No, no.  I’m wide awake.

Saturninus: Fine.–Tamora, now you’ll see how we Romans hunt wild animals.

Marcus: Sometimes panthers!

Tamora: I’ve seen panthers before.

Titus: They won’t get away from us.  Our horses can go anywhere, and our hounds can smell anything.

Demetrius (Aside to Chiron): We don’t need horses or hounds.

Chiron (Aside to Demetrius): We’ll just follow the smell of pussy.

    (They all leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  In the forest.  (This is a problem scene for the Director.  Somewhere on stage there is supposed to be a pit.  If there is a convenient trap door in the stage, that’s it.  Otherwise, you probably have to fake it by suggesting it offstage.)  Aaron comes in with a bag of gold.  He looks very serious.

Aaron: This bag of gold is going to help me incriminate Titus’s sons.

    (He hides the gold at rear stage beneath a tree.  Then Tamora comes in.)

Tamora: There you are, Aaron.  You look awfully serious.  This is such a beautiful day.  And this place is so secluded.  We should make the most of it.

    (She kisses him.)

Aaron: Right now I’m thinking more of revenge than sex.  We’re going to start eliminating the Andronici.  But first, Bassianus has to die.  And your sons will have their way with Lavinia–that obnoxious virgin.

    (He produces a letter.)

Tamora: What’s this?

Aaron: Part of the plan.  This will ruin Quintus and Martius.  You’ll give this to the Emperor at the right time.

    (She takes the letter, then kisses Aaron passionately.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare changes the plan later.  The letter will be left where Titus will find it.  He will give it to Tamora, and she will give it to the Emperor.])

Tamora: Fuck me now.

Aaron: We’re being watched–Bassianus and Lavinia.–Listen.  I’ll go get your sons while you get into an argument with him.  When I bring them, pretend you’re in danger.

    (Aaron leaves.  Then Bassianus and Lavinia come in from the opposite side.)

Bassianus: Well, well–what have we here?  Is the Empress having a bit of horizontal exercise with her Moorish boyfriend?

Lavinia (Laughing): Or did we interrupt?

Tamora: How dare you spy on me!

Lavinia: I wonder if the Emperor realizes what a sluttish Goth he has married.

Bassianus: I shall have to tell him.  (To Tamora) Is it true what they say about black men?  You know–that they’re well-endowed?

    (Lavinia laughs.)

Tamora: You’ll both pay for this insult!

    (Demetrius and Chiron come in.)

Demetrius: Mother, what’s the matter?

Tamora: These two lured me here and threatened to throw me into a pit full of snakes!  They called me a whore!

Bassianus: We did not!

Demetrius: You threatened my mother?

Chiron: You called her a whore?–We’ll have to do something about that.

    (Demetrius and Chiron draw their knives and position themselves on both sides of Bassianus, who is unarmed.)

Lavinia: Tamora!  Stop them!

Tamora: Oh!–Now you’re sorry, aren’t you?

    (Demetrius and Chiron stab Bassianus to death.  Lavinia screams.)

Tamora (To Demetrius): Give me your knife.  I’ll kill her myself.

Demetrius: But we want to have our way with her.

Chiron: You said we could.

Tamora: Do whatever you want.  Just make sure she can’t talk afterward.

Lavinia: No!  Tamora!  You can’t!

Tamora: Don’t expect any pity from me.  No one showed me any when my son was executed.

    (Lavinia throws herself at Tamora’s feet and clutches at her dress.)

Lavinia: I’m a virgin!  Don’t let them!  I’d rather have you kill me!

Tamora: I would, but my sons are entitled to have their satisfaction.–You Andronici.  How I hate all of you.

Demetrius: Go now, mother.  Don’t be seen here.

Tamora: Just remember what I said.  She mustn’t talk.

    (Tamora walks out.  Chiron grabs Lavinia.)

Chiron: Throw Bassianus into that pit and cover it over.

    (Demetrius drags Bassianus’s body and dumps it into the pit.  Then he covers it over with branches.  Then both sons drag Lavinia out screaming.  After the stage is quiet again, Aaron leads in Quintus and Martius.)

Aaron (In a hushed voice): I’m telling you, I saw a panther sleeping in its den.  It’s over here.

Quintus: I’ve never seen a panther around here.

Martius: I think this is a waste of time.

Aaron: No, no.  I told you.  Go on.–Straight ahead.–That way.  (He points.)

    (Martius falls into the pit and screams.)

Quintus: What the hell?

    (When Quintus goes to investigate, Aaron leaves stealthily.)

Quintus: Are you all right, Martius?

Martius: Oh, bloody hell!–Quintus, there’s a body down here!–It’s Bassianus!

Quintus: Bassianus?  Dead?  Are you sure?

Martius: Yes.  He’s dead.  Get me out of here.

Quintus: Oh, my God–where’s Aaron?–Oh, hell.–There’s something bad going on here.

Martius: Help me up, will you!

    (Quintus lies flat and reaches down into the pit.)

Quintus: Can you reach my hand?

Martius: Not–quite.–Can you stretch a bit?

Quintus: I’ll try.

    (Quintus tries to stretch but falls in himself.  Then Aaron returns, leading Saturninus and a couple of Attendants.  Aaron points to the pit.)

Aaron: Down there, my lord.

    (Saturninus looks down.)

Saturninus: Who’s down there?

Martius: Martius and Quintus, sir.–And your brother, sir.

Saturninus: My brother?

Martius: His body, sir.  He’s dead.  He’s got bloody wounds.

Saturninus: You’re crazy.  He went back to the lodge.

Martius: No, sir.  His body is down here.

Saturninus: I don’t believe it!

Quintus: It’s true, sir.  Can you get us up, please?

    (Tamora comes in with Attendants.  Behind them are Titus and Lucius.)

Tamora: We heard shouting.  What’s the matter?

Saturninus: Tamora!  Bassianus is dead!–Murdered!

Tamora: Murdered!–Then–I’m too late.

Saturninus: Too late?  What do you mean?

Tamora: This will explain it.  (She hands Saturninus the fake letter written by Aaron.)  There was a plot–to  kill him.

Saturninus: A plot?  (He reads the letter, referring to it aloud.) Quintus and Martius–a huntsman–bag of gold–under the elder tree.–They paid a huntsman to dig this grave, kill Bassianus, and throw him in it!  And they left a bag of gold for him under the elder tree.

    (Aaron comes in, holding the gold.)

Aaron: I found it–just where they said it would be.  Evidently the huntsman never collected it because he only dug the grave.  Quintus and Martius must have done the murder themselves.

Saturninus (To Titus): Your sons killed my brother!  And for this they will suffer the worst death my executioners can think of!

Titus (Kneeling before Saturninus): My lord, I beg you not to be hasty.  If my sons really did this–

Saturninus: If?  Isn’t this proof enough?  (Indicating the letter.  To the Attendants) Get them out.–Tamora, where did you find this letter?

Tamora: It was lord Titus who found it.

Titus: Yes.  I did.  But I beg you, let me take charge of them, and I promise you they will answer all your questions.

Saturninus: What can they possibly say?  They’re obviously guilty.  They will have to die.

    (The Attendants raise Quintus, Martius, and the body of Bassianus from the pit.  Tamora goes to Titus and pretends to console him.)

Tamora: My lord Titus, don’t worry about your sons.  I’ll speak to the Emperor.

    (Titus is too numb to reply and just nods.  Lucius helps Titus to his feet.)

Titus: Lucius, take me home.

    (Titus and Lucius leave first.  Some Attendants guard Martius and Quintus as prisoners, and others carry Bassianus’s body as all leave.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  Elsewhere in the forest.  The scene is introduced by stage effects that transform the forest into a harsh, surreal environment.  Lavinia is at one side, propped up like a scarecrow, partially undressed, and semi-conscious.  Her hands have been cut off and are now bloody stumps.  There is blood on her clothing.  Marcus is heard within calling her name.  He comes in at the opposite side of the stage.

Marcus: Lavinia!–Lavinia!

    (As he approaches, he is shocked by what he sees.)

Marcus: Lavinia?

    (She opens her eyes and can only shake her head slightly.)

Marcus: Lavinia–who did this?

    (She opens her mouth, and blood pours out.  She tries to speak, but her tongue has been cut out.)

Marcus: My poor girl!–I’ll take you home.

    (He carries her out.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  A street.  Coming in are Judges, Tribunes, and Senators, with Guards escorting Martius and Quintus, who are bound and gagged.  They are on their way to a place of execution.  Titus is following beside them, being ignored.

Titus: Judges!  Tribunes!  Senators!  Don’t execute them!  Have pity on me!  I have served Rome all my life!  Don’t take my sons!  They’re innocent!  I beg you!  I beg you!

    (Titus falls to the ground crying, as the procession passes through.)

Titus: Earth, take my tears, not the blood of my sons.–My sons.

    (Lucius comes in with his sword out and kneels beside his father.)

Lucius: Father, all your tears are in vain.  The judges don’t care.

Titus: Then I will cry to the stones.  They must have more heart in them than the judges.–Lucius, why is your sword out?

Lucius: I tried to rescue Quintus and Martius.  And for that I’ve been banished from Rome.

Titus (Rising): Banished!–Ha, ha!–Good for you, son!  Rome is not fit for honest men any more.  It’s only fit for beasts.  And they will devour us all.  Consider yourself lucky.  (Looking past him) Lucius–it’s your uncle–and–(Amazed) Lavinia?

    (Marcus comes in with Lavinia in his arms.)

Marcus: Brother–prepare your heart.

Titus: What’s happened, Marcus?

Marcus: This was your daughter.

Titus: Her hands!  What happened to her hands?

Marcus: They’ve been cut off.

    (Marcus sets Lavinia on her feet.)

Titus: Lavinia, who did this to you?

    (Lavinia turns her head away.)

Marcus: She cannot speak, brother.  Her tongue has been cut out.

Lucius: Uncle, do you have any idea who did this?

Marcus: I don’t know.  I found her in the woods, bound like a scarecrow.

Titus: This is worse than my own death.–My Lavinia.–How can a heart still beat and not simply die of pain?–How much can a man bear?–My daughter mutilated–her husband murdered–and my sons accused of murdering him.

    (Lavinia reacts with agitation, shaking her head.)

Titus: What are you trying to say, girl?

Marcus: Perhaps she means that Quintus and Martius are innocent.

    (Lavinia nods.)

Titus: And those that killed Bassianus did this to you?

    (She nods again.)

Lucius: Of course, they’re innocent.  They would’ve had no reason to kill him.  They were friends.

Titus: Brother, give me your handkerchief.

    (Marcus gives it to him.)

Titus: It’s wet.

Marcus: With my own tears. brother.

    (Lucius takes out his handkerchief.)

Lucius: Let me wipe your cheeks, Lavinia.

    (She turns away and shakes her head.  Lucius holds her to comfort her.)

Lucius: My poor Lavinia!

    (Aaron comes in.)

Aaron: Titus, my lord the Emperor sends you this message.  If you want to save your sons from execution, cut off your hand and send it to him–either you or Lucius or Marcus.  And for one of your hands, the Emperor will return your sons to you.

Titus: Yes!  Gladly!–Oh, generous Emperor!–Aaron, you’ll help me.  You’ll cut it off.

Lucius: No, father.  I will give my hand.

Marcus: No.  I will give mine.  You two have fought for Rome, but I’ve done nothing with these hands but write letters.  Now let me give one to save your sons.

Aaron: It doesn’t matter whose hand it is.  Just make up your minds quick before it’s too late.

Marcus: My hand.

Lucius: No, uncle.  It’ll be mine.

Titus: Then go get an axe and decide between the two of you.

Lucius: I’ll get one.

    (Lucius and Marcus leave.)

Titus: Come, Aaron, let’s get this over with before they come back.  You’ll help me.

Aaron (Aside): These fools are so easy to dupe.

    (Aaron produces a meat cleaver and holds Titus’s left hand to the ground and chops it off.  Lucius and Marcus return.)

Lucius: Father!

Marcus: No!

Titus: It’s done.–Aaron, take my hand to the Emperor.  Tell him it was a hand that defended Rome from its enemies.  Let him bury it–and bid him return my sons.

Aaron: I shall, my lord.

    (Aaron leaves, remarking aside, “How my black heart rejoices!”)

Titus: I lift my one hand up to heaven.  (He kneels.)  If any power in heaven has pity for wretched tears, to that power I pray.

    (Lavinia kneels beside him.)

Titus: Pray with me, Lavinia.   Heaven must hear our prayers or we shall cover the sun with the mist of our tears.  The sky will be dim, and the stars will not shine.

Marcus: Brother, don’t let your misery make you lose all sense of reason.

Titus: Reason?  Is there reason in these events?  Is there reason in a storm?  Is there reason in lightning and thunder?  Let me lament in my own way and don’t talk of reason.  Better to be mad in such a world filled with evil.

    (A Messenger comes in with the heads of Quintus and Martius, and Titus’s hand.)

Messenger: My good lord, how badly are you repaid.  The Emperor sends the heads of your noble sons–and your hand.  He and the Empress made great sport of the whole business.  I am so sorry.  You don’t deserve this.

    (The Messenger puts the heads and hand on the ground and leaves in tears.)

Marcus (Covering his face): I can’t bear it!–No more!

Lucius: Do we live, Marcus?  Or are we dead?  I feel myself breathing, but I know I do not live.

    (Lavinia cries on Titus’s shoulder, and he hugs her.)

Marcus: We are dead, brother.  There is no reason left.  Lament as you will.

    (Titus gets up laughing.)

Marcus: Why do you laugh?

Titus: Because I have no more tears to shed.  And therefore I have none to blind me.  I must see clearly if I am to find revenge.  These heads are speaking to me, Marcus.

Marcus: I hear them not.

Titus: Yet I hear them nevertheless.  They are saying that I shall have no peace–on earth or in heaven–until I have avenged myself for all these bloody crimes.–Come.  (He beckons.) Gather round me.–Marcus–Lucius–Lavinia.–We are almost all that’s left of the Andronici.

    (They come close together.)

Titus: Now pledge yourselves to me–and to all the generations of the Andronici–that we will punish these devils–all of them.

Marcus: I swear, brother.

Lucius: And I swear, father.

    (Lavinia nods.)

Titus: Lucius, listen to me.  You must leave Rome now.  You are exiled.  You must go to the Goths and raise an army.  Tell them their queen has betrayed them and joined in with murderers.  Tell them they can have their satisfaction from Rome if they will follow you.

Lucius: I will, father.–We’ll see each other again.  Have faith.

    (Lucius leaves.)

Titus: Marcus–Lavinia–come.  We have much to do.

    (Titus and Marcus pick up the heads and the hand, and they all leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  This scene is deleted.  (Author’s note: In this scene, Marcus kills a fly at the dinner table, but in the movie it’s Young Lucius who kills the fly — which I think I like better.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  Outdoors.  Young Lucius comes in running, carrying books as Lavinia chases him.

Young Lucius: Grandpa!  Grandpa!

    (Titus and Marcus come in.)

Young Lucius: Aunt Lavinia is chasing me!

Titus: There, there, Lucius.  She’s just playing with you.

    (Lavinia shakes her head and appears agitated.)

Marcus: What’s the matter, niece?

    (Lavinia gestures toward the books.)

Titus: Something to do with the books?

    (Lavinia nods.)

Titus: Give me those books, Lucius.  (He takes them and looks at at them.)–Which book, Lavinia?–Ovid?  (She nods excitedly.)  Ovid’s Metamorphoses.–Something in here you want me to read?  (She nods excitedly.)–Lucius, you have two good hands.  You can turn the pages faster.  Aunt Lavinia will tell you when to stop.

    (Young Lucius sets the book down and starts turning pages.  Lavinia is impatient.)

Titus: Skip ahead, Lucius.

    (Young Lucius skips ahead and then continues to turn pages, with Lavinia watching very closely.  At a certain page she stops him by putting her stump on the page.  Marcus picks up the book and shows the page to Titus.)

Marcus: It’s the story of Philomela.

Titus: I know it.  She was raped by Tereus.–Is that what happened to you, Lavinia?

    (She nods.)

Titus: Who did it?  Try to tell us.  Give us some sign.

    (Marcus is carrying a staff.  He scratches the ground with it.)

Marcus: It’s sandy over here.  Can you write the name with my staff?

    (Lavinia grabs the staff eagerly, puts the end in her mouth, and uses her stumps to scratch the names in the sand.)

Titus: Demetrius–and Chiron.  (Lavinia nods.)  And they killed Bassianus?  (She nods again.)

Marcus: The bastards!  We’ll kill them!

Titus: Patience, Marcus.  They are protected by their mother, the Empress.  We must do this by guile.–Lucius, would you like to help?

Young Lucius: Yes!  I’ll kill them for hurting Aunt Lavinia!

Marcus: Your father would be proud to hear it.

Titus: No, Lucius.  I have something else in mind.  You’ll come with me to my armoury, and I’ll give you some weapons to deliver to Demetrius and Chiron–with a message attached.

Young Lucius: I’m not afraid to kill them, Grandpa!

Titus: I know you’re not.  But if you love me, you’ll carry out my instructions and do this errand–like a good soldier.

Young Lucius: All right.

Marcus: Why are you sending them weapons?

Titus: It’s a gift.

Marcus: A gift?

Titus: Yes, Marcus.  It’s all right.  You come along and wait at the house while I walk Lucius to the palace.

    (They all leave.  Marcus is shaking his head in bewilderment.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In the palace.  Curtain up finds Chiron and Demetrius playing darts, drinking beer, and insulting each other humourously.  Aaron slouches in a chair, drinking beer.  Then Young Lucius comes in with a bundle of weapons with a message attached.

Chiron: Hey, look!  It’s little Lucius!

Demetrius: Give him a beer!

Chiron: What have you got–a present?

Young Lucius: Yes, sir–and a message.

Aaron: From your mad grandfather?

Young Lucius (Ignoring the insult): My lords, with all humbleness, my grandfather sends these weapons from his armoury as a gift–as well as a message.

    (Demetrius rudely takes the bundle.)

Demetrius: Tell him thanks.  We like to get presents.–(To Chiron) Don’t we?

Chiron: Of course.  We’re the Empress’s sons.  We should get presents.–Here–give me that message.

    (Chiron takes the message and reads it.)

Chiron: It’s in Latin.  It’s a verse from Horace.  It says, “He who is spotless and free of crime needs not the Moorish javelin or bow.”

    (Aaron clears his throat with annoyance.)

Aaron (To Young Lucius): You–beat it.

    (Young Lucius leaves.)

Chiron: We should have given him a beer at least.

    (He and Chiron play around with the weapons.)

Aaron (Aside): The old man is on to them.  (To Chiron and Demetrius) Imagine.  You rape his daughter, and he sends you presents.

Demetrius: He knows who’s got the power.

Chiron: Or else he’s just out of his mind.

Demetrius: We should rape a thousand more virgins.

Aaron: Your mother would probably approve.

Demetrius: She should be having her baby pretty soon–any time now.

Chiron: We ought to go and pray for her.

    (A trumpet is heard.  The sons exchange a look.)

Demetrius: Is that it, do you think?

Chiron: Could be.  I hope she had a boy.

    (The Nurse comes in with the baby, well-wrapped.  She looks worried.)

Nurse: Good day, my lords.  Is Aaron here?

Aaron: I’m here.  What do you want with me?

Nurse: Oh, sir, there is great trouble.

Aaron: What sort of trouble?

Nurse: You’d better see for yourself, sir.

    (She holds out the baby to him.  He takes it and uncovers it.  The baby is black.  Demetrius and Chiron are shocked.)

Demetrius: He’s black as the ace of spades!

Aaron: Like his father.

Nurse: It’s horrible, sir.  It’s a disgrace to us all.  The Empress begs you to kill it.

Aaron (Smiling and fondling the baby): Kill him?  Why, he’s beautiful.  He’s a fine baby.

Demetrius: You villain!  What have you done!

Aaron: What’s done cannot be undone.

Chiron: But you’ve ruined our mother!  That baby has to die!

    (Aaron picks up a sword.)

Aaron: No one touches this baby but me.

Nurse: But Aaron, the Empress wants it killed.

Demetrius (Picking up a sword): I’ll do it.

Aaron: You’d kill your own brother?

Demetrius: Brother?  That?  My brother?

Aaron: Put your sword down if you know what’s good for you.

Demetrius: You would destroy our mother?

Aaron: Your mother is my mistress.  And this baby is my flesh and blood.  I love this baby before anyone else.  (To the Nurse) I’m keeping this baby.

Nurse: The Empress will be very angry.

Chiron: This is a total disaster.  This is the worst thing ever.

Aaron: He’s smiling at me.  He knows I’m his father.–He’s your brother whether you like it or not.–Put down your sword, Demetrius.  I have no qualms about killing you to defend this baby.

    (Demetrius puts down his sword.  Aaron puts down his.)

Demetrius: What are we supposed to do, then?  This affects all of us.

Aaron: Sit down and calm yourselves, both of you.  We will deal with this rationally.  (To the Nurse) How many people know about this?

Nurse: Just myself and the midwife.

    (Aaron stealthily unsheathes his knife.)

Aaron: Ah–well, that’s not too big a problem.

    (He stabs the Nurse, who falls dead.)

Demetrius: Aaron!  What are you doing!

Aaron: Policy–that’s all.  She would’ve gossiped.  She’s a woman.–Now listen.  I have a countryman named Muly.  He lives not far from here.  His wife just had a baby–a white baby.  You go to them and give them a bag of gold in exchange for their baby.  Tell them he’ll be the child of the Empress.  No one in the palace with know about the switch.

Chiron: What about the midwife?

Aaron: Send her to me and I’ll take care of her the same as the nurse.–This one you can dump somewhere where she’ll never be found.  I think the Empress will be quite happy with the way I’ve solved the problem.

Demetrius: Okay.  I guess it works out.

Chiron: Yeah.–Good thinking, Aaron.

    (Demetrius and Chiron carry out the Nurse’s body.)

Aaron (To the baby): Now, my thick-lipped little Moor, I’m taking you to the Goths, your mother’s people.  She’s going to be needing their help.  And you’ll grow up to be a warrior and lead an army–and learn to kill.

    (Aaron leaves with the baby.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  A street in Rome.  Evening.  Coming in are Titus, Marcus, his son Publius, and several Gentlemen, including Caius and Sempronius.  (Young Lucius is deleted from this scene.)  They are all carrying bows.  Titus is carrying a bundle of arrows with notes wrapped around them.

Titus: Come, my friends.  We’ll engage in an exercise of archery, for the goddess of justice is nowhere to be found on earth.  Some of you can go to the beach and cast a net into the ocean to see if you can pull her up.–Publius and Sempronius, you can dig a hole all the way to Pluto’s realm and see if she’s there.  Just tell old Pluto that Titus Andronicus seeks Justice.

Publius (Aside to Marcus): Father, has uncle Titus gone mad?

Marcus (Aside to Publius): It’s possible.  Let’s just humour him.

Titus: Ah, Rome!  Blame me for supporting Saturninus as Emperor.  I should have known better.  Where has he cast out Justice?  Into the earth, into the sea, or into the sky?

Publius: Uncle, Pluto says you may have your revenge from hell, but Justice is busy in heaven with Jove, so you must wait if you want her.

Titus: He shouldn’t make me wait.  I hate delays.  But we will move the gods ourselves–eh, Marcus?  They’re in heaven, and that is where we will direct our appeals.  (He hands out the arrows.)  You all know how to shoot.  We’ll send for Justice to come down to earth and right our wrongs.

Marcus (Aside to the other Gentlemen): Shoot your arrows into the court so the Emperor finds them.

Titus: Now, masters, aim for the gods in heaven.  Each arrow has a letter written in my blood.  They’ll know it’s from me.  I’ve told them all my sorrows, and all my accusations against the Emperor and his  Queen.

    (All take aim upwards.)

Marcus: Shoot!

    (They all shoot their arrows.)

Titus: Good shooting!  Well done!

    (A Clown comes in with two pigeons.)

Titus: Have you a message from Jupiter?

Clown: Jupiter?  I don’t know him, sir.

Titus: What are you doing with those pigeons?

Clown: I’m going to the tribunal to settle a grievance, sir.

Titus: Can you deliver a message to the Emperor with grace?

Clown: I’ve never said grace in my life, sir.

Titus: No matter.  I’ll write it out.–Who has a pencil and paper?

    (Someone produces a pencil and paper.  Titus writes a message.)

Titus: Now I need a knife to wrap it around.

Clown: Take mine, sir.

    (The Clown gives him a small knife.)

Titus: Good.  I’ll wrap the message around it–like so–and you just give it to the Emperor very politely and then bring me back his reply.

Clown: I shall,  sir.

Titus: And take this for your trouble.

    (He gives the Clown some money.)

Clown: Oh!  The gods bless you, sir.  I go at once.

    (The Clown leaves.)

Titus: Now, my friends, come with me.–Come on.

    (They all go out, with Titus leading.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  In the palace.  The Emperor comes in, furious, followed by Tamora, Demetrius, Chiron, and Attendants.  He is holding a bunch of arrows.

Saturninus: This is an outrage!  This is the greatest insult in the history of Rome!  He’s a lunatic!  He’s a traitor!  Shooting these arrows into my court!  Where people will find them!  Accusing me of crimes!  Destroying my reputation!  God knows where he’s been spreading this filth!  Maybe all over  Rome!  (He holds up several of the letters.)  He’s praying to Jove!–To Mercury!–To Apollo!–To Mars!–Libelling me!  Calling out for justice!  His sons murdered Bassianus, yet he has the nerve to call me unjust!  Wait till I get my hands on him!  I’ll have him chopped to pieces!  Him and his whole family!

Tamora: Calm down, calm down.  He’s obviously deranged.  Don’t let yourself be overcome with emotion.

    (The Clown comes in, escorted by an Attendant.)

Tamora: What do you want?

Clown: Madam, I am sent by lord Titus with a message for the Emperor.

Saturninus: I’ll take that!

    (Saturninus snatches the letter rudely.  He unfolds it, finds the knife, and reads the letter.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare doesn’t tell us what the letter says, but it is obviously insulting.])

Saturninus: Take him away!  Hang him!

Clown: But, my lord–!

    (The Attendants drag the Clown out.)

Saturninus: Lies!  Filth!  Treason!  Insults!  I won’t stand for it!  That goddamn son of a bitch!

    (Aemilius comes in as a messenger.)

Aemilius: Your Majesty.

Saturninus: What is it, Aemilius?

Aemilius: There’s trouble, my lord.  The Goths are marching toward Rome.  Lucius is leading them.

Saturninus: Lucius!

    (Saturninus is stunned and speechless.  He moans and seems afraid.)

Saturninus: What’ll I do?  The people  love  Lucius.  Ever since I exiled him, they’ve been saying they want him as Emperor.

Tamora: My lord, calm down.  It doesn’t matter what a few malcontents say.  Rome is strong.  There’s no danger.

Saturninus: It’s not just a few malcontents.  My spies have been reporting this for some time.  The people will revolt when they find out he’s coming.  They’ll go over to his side.

    (Tamora hugs him maternally, and his body language becomes child-like in response.)

Tamora: No, no, no.  You are the Emperor.  You are still in command.  Don’t lose heart.  You must maintain an attitude of control and power.  Everything will be all right.

Saturninus: How will it be all right?  How, Tamora?

Tamora: My lord, you should know by now that you married a very smart queen.  I will help you.  I know how to deal with the situation.  I will charm that old fool Titus.  I’ll wrap him around my finger–the way he wraps foolish notes around arrows.

Saturninus: Do you expect him to stop Lucius for my sake?  He won’t.

Tamora: Oh, but he will.  I will get inside that sick mind of his and bend him to my will.  Believe me, I can do it.

Saturninus: If you really think you can–

Tamora: Trust me, my lord.–Aemilius, you will be our ambassador.  Go find Lucius in the Goth camp.  Tell him we want to talk things over.  We will meet him at his father’s house.

Saturninus: It’ll be an honourable parley, Aemilius.  We’ll guarantee his safety.  We’ll pledge whatever hostages he wants for goodwill.

Aemilius: I understand perfectly, my lord.  Leave it to me.

    (Aemilius leaves.)

Tamora: And now I will go to old Andronicus and see to it that Lucius is stopped.  He’s insane–and I’m clever–so I will get what I want.

Saturninus: Then go, Tamora.  I leave it to you.  Do whatever it takes.

Tamora: Come, my lord.

    (Tamora and Saturninus leave.)

Act 5, Acene 1.  The Goth camp.  Trumpet flourish and drums.  Lucius comes in with some Goth Officers and Soldiers.

Lucius: Goths!  Now my faithful friends.  I’ve received letters from Rome informing me how much the people hate their Emperor and Empress.  They beg us to come and end his tyranny.  Now you will have satisfaction.

1st Goth: Lucius–son of Titus Andronicus–you share our anger.  We will follow you.  We’ll overthrow Tamora, who betrayed us.

All the Goths: Aye!  Aye!  Down with Tamora!

Lucius: I thank you all.

    (Two Goth soldiers come in leading Aaron and his child.)

2nd Goth: Lucius!  Here’s Aaron–and his child–by Tamora.

Some Goths: He’s black!

    (Loud reactions of outrage from all the Goths.)

Lucius: This is the villain that chopped off my father’s hand!  We’ll hang him–and the child!

    (Loud approval by the Goths.)

Aaron: Lucius, don’t harm the child.  If you spare him, I’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Lucius: You will, will you?  Like what?

Aaron: All the things that happened to your family.  I know the truth about everything.  I’ll tell you–if you swear to the gods to spare the child.

Lucius: You speak of the gods?  You don’t believe in any gods.

Aaron: No, but you do.  All you religious fools have a peculiar thing called a conscience.  If you swear, that’ll be good enough for me.

Lucius: All right.  I swear by the gods to spare the child.  Now speak.

Aaron: It was the Empress’s sons, Demetrius and Chiron, who murdered Bassianus and raped and mutilated Lavinia.

Lucius: They’ll die for that.

Aaron: Of course, I encouraged them.

Lucius: Then you’re the worst monster that ever lived.

Aaron: Yes, I admit it.  And I lured your brothers into that pit.  And I wrote the letter that your father found that incriminated them.  And I planted the bag of gold.  And I tricked your father into giving up his hand.  It was so funny I almost broke out laughing.  And when I told the Empress about it, she was so delighted she kissed me twenty times.

A Goth: You fiend!  How can you confess all these things and not feel any shame?

Aaron: A black dog cannot blush.

Lucius: You feel no guilt at all, do you?  You have no soul.  You’re just pure evil.

Aaron: So I am.  I’ve led a wicked life, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  If I’ve commited a thousand crimes, my only regret is that I did not do ten thousand.

Lucius (To the Goths): He will not hang.  Hanging’s too good for him.  (To Aaron) I’ll think of something worse–something slower.

Aaron: When I get to hell, the devil will greet me.  And we’ll figure out how to drag you in, too.

Lucius: Gag him!

    (Aaron laughs as he is gagged by a couple of Goths.  Then Aemilius comes in, escorted by Goths.)

Lucius: I know this man.–Aemilius, what news do you have for me?

Aemilius: My lord Lucius–and princes of the Goths–his Majesty the Emperor sends greetings.  He knows that you have taken up arms against him, and he requests–most politely and earnestly–a parley–at your father’s house.  He will pledge any hostages you require for goodwill.

    (Lucius exchanges looks with the Goth princes.  They appear to approve.)

Lucius: All right.  I’ll meet him.

Aemilius: Thank you, my lord.

Lucius (To the Goths): Let’s go.

    (All leave.  [Author’s note: The hostages are never identified or seen.  A pledge of hostages was normal procedure when warring parties wanted to parley on one side’s turf.])

Act 5, Scene 2.  Evening.  Before Titus’s house.  Tamora, Demetrius, and Chiron come in disguised weirdly as Revenge, Murder, and Rape, respectively.

Tamora: Remember, I am Revenge–you are Murder–and you are Rape.

Demetrius: Are you sure he’s going to buy this?

Tamora: Absolutely.  He’s out of his mind.  He’ll believe anything I say.  I’ll get him to send for Lucius and hold a banquet here.  If I can get Lucius away from the Goths, I’ll figure out some way to win them back to me.  You just play along with whatever I say.

Chiron: This should be fun.

    (They knock at Titus’s door.  He appears at a window above.)

Titus: Who disturbs me at this hour?  I am making my plans–written in my own blood–see?  (He holds up some papers.)

    [For the rest of the scene Tamora alters her voice slightly, and so do her sons until they are captured.]

Tamora: Titus, I have come to help you.  Come down.

Titus: Who are you?

Tamora: I am Revenge–sent from hell to help you.

Titus: Don’t go away!  I’ll be right down!

    (Titus disappears from the window and comes in below.)

Titus: Are you really Revenge?

Tamora: Yes.  And these are my servants, Murder and Rape.

Titus: Gee, you look a lot like the Empress Tamora.

Tamora: Ha, ha, ha!  No, no.  She is much–fatter.

Titus: And your servants look a lot like the Empress’s sons.

Tamora: No, no.  Your mind is playing tricks on you.

Titus: I suppose.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

Tamora: Now be of good cheer, my lord Titus.  We have come to help you destroy your enemies.

Titus: Ah!  That’s awfully good news.  You’re most welcome.  I’ve been praying for help.  What can you do for me?

Tamora: I will take revenge on all who have done you wrong.

Demetrius: Show me a murderer and I’ll kill him.

Chiron: And show me a rapist and I’ll kill him, too.

Titus (To Demetrius): You should search the streets of Rome, and when you find someone who looks like you, he’s a murderer.  Kill him.  (To Chiron) And you look for someone who looks like you.  And when you find him, kill him because he’s a rapist.  (To Tamora) Revenge, you go to the Emperor’s court and look for the Empress and her Moorish friend–and do to them some sort of violent death.

Tamora: We will do all these things, good Andronicus.–But even better, I suggest this.  Invite your son Lucius, who is leading an army of Goths, to attend a banquet here at your house.  I will bring in the Empress and all your other enemies, and you will have them at your mercy.  Would that please you?

Titus: Yes!  Very much!–Hold on.  My brother is here.

    (Marcus comes in.  He looks suspiciously at Tamora and her sons but says nothing.)

Titus: Marcus!

    (Tamora and her sons cover their faces partially to avoid being recognized by Marcus.)

Titus: Go find Lucius.  He’s marching with the Goths.  Tell him to come here and bring the Goth princes with him.  I’m having a banquet for the Emperor and Empress, and I want him to join us.  (He changes his tone as a subtle signal to Marcus to play along.) Do this if you love me, Marcus.

Marcus: I will.

    (Marcus leaves.)

Tamora: Now my servants and I will set about our business for you, lord Titus.

    (She and her sons start to leave.)

Titus: Wait, wait!  Let Murder and Rape stay with me–or else I’ll call back Marcus and let Lucius do whatever he wants with his army of Goths.

    (Tamora and her sons confer apart.)

Tamora (Aside to her sons): Just humour him until I get back.  Can you do that?

Demetrius and Chiron (Aside to Tamora): Sure.–No problem.

    (Titus gives a knowing grin to the audience.)

Tamora: Very well, Andronicus.  I  leave Murder and Rape to attend you while I go to deliver your enemies.  Farewell.

Titus: Farewell, sweet Revenge.  Thank you so much.

    (Tamora leaves.)

Chiron: Tell us, old man, what shall we do for you?

Titus: You’ll see.  (He signals toward the house.) Publius!–Caius!–Valentine!

    (Publius, Caius, and Valentine come out from the house.)

Publius: Yes, uncle.

Titus: Do you recognize these two?

Publius: Yes.  They’re the Empress’s sons, Chiron and Demetrius.

Titus: Ha, ha!  That’s what I thought at first.  No, no.  They are Murder and Rape.–And now they’re mine.  Tie them and gag them.

    (Publius, Caius, and Valentine seize Chiron and Demetrius.)

Chiron: Stop!  We’re the Empress’s sons!

Publius: Yes, we know.

    (Publius, Caius, Valentine, and Titus drag Chiron and Demetrius, screaming, into the house.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  (This is an extra scene break, which Shakespeare should have put in.)  Inside the house.  Curtain up finds Chiron and Demetrius stripped, bound, and gagged.  Their backs are to the audience because their throats are going to be cut.  (In the movie they’re hanging upside down!)  Titus is holding a knife, and Lavinia is holding a basin.

Titus: Here they are, Lavinia.  Now you’ll get your revenge.  (To Chiron and Demetrius) You killed her husband.  And her two brothers were wrongly executed for it.  And you raped her, cut off her hands, and cut out her tongue.  And now you’re going to get what you deserve.  Do you know what I’m going to do to you?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I’m going to cut your throats, and Lavinia will collect your blood.  And I’m going to chop up your flesh and grind your bones and make a nice, big meat pie.  And I’m going to serve it to your mother.–Hold the basin, Lavinia–right there.  That’s it.

    (Titus cuts their throats.  The curtain comes down as they are writhing and moaning.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  The banquet hall in Titus’s house.  A table is set.  Coming in first are Marcus and Lucius, arms linked.

Marcus: Nephew, you’re a step away from being Emperor.  You can  speak from a position of strength, so lead the discussion.  But let’s keep everything polite.

    (Saturninus  comes in and gives Lucius a forced, insincere smile.  Behind him come the Empress, Aemilius, and Tribunes.)

Saturninus: So–the sky has another sun in it.  Is that it?

Lucius: Another?  Don’t call yourself one.

Marcus (Interrupting quickly): Ahem–yes, let’s all sit down, shall we?  We’ll enjoy a nice meal and have a friendly discussion–all very honourable.

Saturninus: Yes.  We shall.

    (Everyone sits down.  Titus comes in dressed like a chef, pushing a wheeled serving cart.  On it is a tray with a big meat pie.  Lavinia, covered in a veil, also comes in but remains standing apart.  [Author’s note: In the original play, Young Lucius is also in this scene, but his presence is inappropriate and I’ve deleted him.  What the heck was Shakespeare thinking?])

Titus: Welcome, my lord Emperor–and formidable Queen.  The food is humble but filling.  I trust you will enjoy it.

Saturninus: Why are you dressed like a chef, my lord Titus?

Titus: Because I am the chef.  I made this meat pie myself.  I wanted to make sure it was perfect for your Majesty and the Queen.

Tamora: How very thoughtful, good Andronicus.

Titus: Thoughtful, indeed, madam.  Much thought has gone into it.  Let me serve you.

    (Titus serves slices of the meat pie to Tamora and Saturninus first.  He pours wine for them and gestures for them to eat.  Tamora and Saturninus taste the food tentatively.)

Saturninus: It’s–somewhat unusual.  What’s in it?

Titus: My secret recipe, my lord.  Quite special.

Tamora (Unsure): It’s all right.–It’s good.

Saturninus: Yes.

Titus: My lord Emperor, answer me a question if you can.

Saturninus: Of course.

Titus: You know the story of Virginius, who killed his daughter because she had been raped?

Saturninus: Yes.

Titus: Do you think he was justified?

Saturninus: Yes, I’d say so.

Titus: And your reason, sir?

Saturninus: Because the girl could not outlive her shame, and her presence would be a constant sorrow to her father.

Titus: A valid reason, sir–and an example to follow.  (He pulls Lavinia gently before him and stands behind her, with his arms around her neck.)  I am just like Virginius.  And to Lavinia, this is an act of mercy.–And to me an end to my sorrow.

    (Titus breaks Lavinia’s neck, and she falls dead.)

Saturninus (Rising, shocked): What have you done!

Titus: Lavinia was raped but could not speak her grief.  She suffered, but now she suffers no more.

Saturninus: Who raped her?

Titus: It was Chiron and Demetrius.

Tamora: Oh!

Titus: They raped her, cut out her tongue, and cut off her hands.  And it was they who killed Prince Bassianus.

Saturninus: Bring them to me at one!  I will hang them!

Titus: They’re already here, my lord.

Saturninus: Where?  I don’t see them.

Titus: They’re within you–and the Queen.

Saturninus: What do you mean?

    (Titus points to the meat pie, smiling gleefully.)

Titus: That meat pie.  That’s them.

    (Tamora gags.  Titus produces a knife.)

Titus: Good, wasn’t it?

    (He stabs her in the neck, killing her.)

Saturninus: Murderer!

    (Saturninus produces a knife and stabs Titus, killing him.  Lucius reacts immediately by stabbing Saturninus.)

Lucius: Die!  Rot in hell!

    (Scene ends without an exit.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  (Author’s note: This is another extra scene break, which Shakespeare should have put in.)  A large public place in Rome.  A crowd of Citizens is at stage level.  On a raised tier stand Marcus and Lucius.  On the stage the body of Titus is laid out in a funereal manner.  Also present are the Kinsmen of Titus, Tribunes, Senators, Young Lucius (dressed in white), and Attendants.

Marcus: Romans, you have been vexed and confused by recent events.  Now it is time to reunite as one whole and restore Rome to its place of strength and leadership.  I could not tell you all the terrible things that have happened without losing myself in tears.  So I will let Lucius speak.  You know him well–my worthy nephew, noble son of Titus Andronicus, and a worthy captain of Rome.

Lucius: Romans, it was Chiron and Demetrius who murdered the Emperor’s brother, Prince Bassianus–for which our brothers Quintus and Martius were wrongly executed.  And it was Chiron and Demetrius who raped and mutilated our sister, Lavinia.  Our father, who served Rome loyally and bravely all his life, was robbed of his left hand by the Empress’s illicit Moorish lover, Aaron.  And I was banished and forced to seek help from our enemies, the Goths.  I, the castaway, have preserved Rome by turning our enemies into our friends.  But I am not here to praise myself, only to tell you what is true.

Marcus: I wish to speak.–Behold this child.  (An Attendant comes in carrying Aaron’s child.)  This is the child of Tamora and the Moor Aaron.  He was the evil architect of all the plots–all the horrors–that beset us.  A man beyond ordinary wickedness.  A devil on earth.  Now that you have heard the truth, judge us, Romans.  We, the last remaining Andronici, live or die by your verdict.  If you decide that we have acted wrongly,  Lucius and I will give up our lives right now.

    (Reaction from the crowd.  Aemilius steps forward.)

Aemilius: Honourable Marcus, we all love you.  I know the feelings of all these people, and I can speak for them.  There is common agreement.–Lucius shall be Emperor.

Citizens: Hail, Lucius!–Lucius!–Emperor!

    (Marcus and Lucius come down to the main stage.)

Marcus (To Attendants): Bring in the Moor.

    (The Attendants go out.)

Citizens: Hail, Lucius!–Lucius!

Lucius: Thank you, Romans.  May the gods guide me to govern wisely.–But now I must pause to pay my last respects to my father, Titus Andronicus.

    (Lucius kisses Titus on the forehead.)

Marcus: My brother.–No amount of tears and kisses could ever be enough.

    (Marcus kisses Titus on the forehead.)

Lucius (To Young Lucius): Come, boy.  Say goodbye to your grandfather.  He loved you well.

    (Young Lucius, tears in his eyes, kisses Titus on the forehead, then steps back into the arms of his father.  Then the Attendants return with Aaron.)

Citizens: Kill him!  Kill him!

Lucius: I promised you a slow death, and you shall have it.  You shall be buried in earth up to your neck and left to die of starvation and thirst.

Aaron (Defiantly): Yet will I have the last word!  If ever in my life I did a good deed–I do repent it now!

    (Angry reaction from the crowd.)

Lucius (To the Attendants): Take him away.  Bury him.

    (The Attendants take Aaron out.)

Lucius: The Emperor Saturninus shall be buried beside his father.  My father and Lavinia shall be buried in the vault of the Andronici.  As for Tamora–the beast–she shall have no burial.  Her body shall be left in a wilderness to be food for other beasts.  She had no pity, and they will show her none.

    (Marcus, Lucius, and Attendants carry out Titus’s body.  As the crowd follows them out, Young Lucius goes to the Attendant holding Aaron’s baby and says something.  Everyone else has cleared the stage.  Young Lucius, carrying the baby, walks out slowly with the Attendant.)


    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

    The Trojans

Priam — King of Troy

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

Margarelon — bastard son of Priam

Cassandra — daughter of Priam; a prophetess

Aeneas and Antenor — commanders

Calchas — priest; defector to the Greeks

Cressida — Calchas’s daughter

Pandarus — Cressida’s uncle

Alexander — Cressida’s servant

Andromache — Hector’s wife

    The Greeks

Agamemnon — supreme commander

Menelaus — his brother; Helen’s husband

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

Patroclus — Achilles’ companion

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

Thersites — a nasty servant and critic of the war


Prologue Speaker

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

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

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

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

    (He walks out noisily.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troilus: Baking a cake?

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

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

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

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

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

Troilus: No.

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

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

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

Troilus: Aw, Pandarus–

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

    (Pandarus leaves.)

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

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

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

    (More sounds of battle.  Aeneas comes in.)

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

Troilus: I’m just not there, Aeneas.

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

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

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

Troilus: Who did it to him?

Aeneas: Menelaus, wouldn’t you know.

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

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

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

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

Aeneas: Eh?

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

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

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

    (They go out.)

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

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

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

Cressida: Did anything interesting happen today?

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

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

Alexander: Yes.

Cressida: What was he angry about?

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

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

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

Cressida: Oh.

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

Cressida: So why is Hector angry with him?

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

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

Alexander: Ha, ha!

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

Alexander: God save us from that!

    (Pandarus comes in.)

Pandarus: Hello, Cressida.–Hello, Alexander.

Cressida: Hello, uncle.

Alexander: Hello, sir.

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

Cressida: We were just talking about him.

Alexander: It was because of Ajax.

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

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

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

Cressida: Then who is he?

Pandarus: Who?

Cressida: Troilus.

Pandarus: Troilus is Troilus–and Hector is Hector.

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

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

Cressida: In what way?

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

Cressida: Uncle, don’t make me laugh.

Pandarus: Oh, what do you know about men?

Cressida: Only as much as a virgin should know.

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

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

Pandarus: Yes, I think so. 

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

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

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

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

Cressida: Whose chin?

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

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

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

Cressida: Crying, indeed–over a white hair.

Pandarus: And even Cassandra was laughing, too.

Cressida: Cassandra, the mad prophetess.

Pandarus: And Hector was laughing–ha, ha!

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

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

Alexander: No.

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

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

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

Cressida: Good for them.

    (Pause.  Pandarus takes a deep breath.)

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

Cressida: Yes, yes.

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

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

    (A distant trumpet is heard.)

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

Cressida: Yes.  Let’s.

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

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

    (Antenor passes across the stage.)

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

    (Hector passes across the stage.)

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

Cressida: Not that particular face, no.

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

Cressida: Are those hack marks from swords?

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

    (Paris crosses the stage.)

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

    (Helenus passes across the stage.)

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

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

Cressida: Can he fight?

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

Cressida: Who’s that wimpy guy coming?

    (Troilus passes across the stage.)

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

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

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

    (Some common Soldiers pass across the stage.)

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

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

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

Cressida: Oh, really!

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

Cressida: Meat loaf.

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

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

Pandarus: What!

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

Pandarus: Who, me?–Nah!

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

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

    (Troilus’s Servant comes in.)

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

Pandarus: Where?

Servant: At your house, sir–right now.

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

    (Pandarus leaves.)

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

Alexander: Then why keep it a secret?

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

Alexander: Yes, madam.

Cressida: Let’s go.

    (They leave.)     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (A trumpet is heard.)

Agamemnon: I think we have a visitor.

Menelaus: From Troy.

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

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

Agamemnon: I’m Agamemnon.  Who are you?

Aeneas: I am Aeneas, a commander of Troy.

Agamemnon: What’s the message?

Aeneas: There is a prince of Troy named Hector–

Agamemnon: We know who Hector is.

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

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

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

Nestor: So will I!

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

Ulysses: Nestor, let a younger man do this.

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

Aeneas: You are gracious, sir.  I accept.

    (All leave except Ulysses and Nestor.)

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

Nestor: What?

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

Nestor: Yes.  He’ll certainly think so.

Ulysses: Do you think he’d accept?

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

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

Nestor: Why not?

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

Nestor: Then what should we do?

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

Nestor: And who’s going to win?

Ulysses: Ajax.

Nestor: Ajax!  That blockhead?

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

Nestor: Ah!

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

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

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

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

Ulysses: I think I do.

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

    (They leave.)

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

Ajax: Shut up, Thersites!

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

Ajax: Shut up, Thersites!

    (Ajax slaps him.)

Thersites: A plague on you, Ajax!

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

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

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

Thersites: Go strangle a chicken for dinner.

    (Ajax shakes him.)

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

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

    (Ajax shakes him again.)

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

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

    (Ajax slaps him and shakes him.)

Ajax: You dung beetle! 

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

Ajax: You no-good slave!

    (Ajax smacks him.)

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

Ajax: You’re a whore’s privy!

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

    (Ajax smacks him again.)

Ajax: You dog!

    (Achilles and Patroclus come in.)

Achilles: Whoa!–What’s going on here?

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

Achilles: I can see him well enough.

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

Achilles: I know that, you fool.

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

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

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

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

Achilles: Now, now.  Just cool it.

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

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

Ajax: I’ll shut him up!

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

Thersites: Yes, why?  This fool is smarter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Achilles: Is that so?

Thersites: Yes. 

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

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

Patroclus (Angrily): Bitch?

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

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

    (Thersites leaves.)

Patroclus: What an asshole.

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

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

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

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

Achilles: Who else?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hector: Helen’s not worth keeping.

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

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

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

Hector: Yeah, I know.

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

Hector: Before you were born, Troilus.

Troilus: So what?

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

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

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

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

Cassandra (Within): Troy is doomed!

Priam: What the hell?

Troilus: Our sister the prophetess.

    (Cassandra comes in, looking wild and disheveled.)

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

Hector: Not now, Cassandra!

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

    (Cassandra leaves.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troilus: There you go.


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

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

Paris: Which touches us all.

Troilus: Exactly.

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

Hector: Brothers, I’m on your side.

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

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

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

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

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

    (He leads them all out.)

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

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

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

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

    (Patroclus emerges from the tent.)

Patroclus: Were you praying?

Thersites: Hell, yes.

Patroclus: Well, amen to that.

    (Achilles emerges from the tent.)

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

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

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

Achilles: And what are you?

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

Achilles: Why?

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

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

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

Agamemnon: Where’s Achilles?

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

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

Patroclus: I’ll tell him, my lord.

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

Ulysses: He’s not sick.  He’s faking.

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

    (Ajax takes Agamemnon aside.)

Nestor: What’s Ajax sore about?

Ulysses: Achilles stole his servant away.

Nestor: Who?  Thersites?  That bum?

Ulysses: Yes.

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

    (Patroclus returns.)

Nestor: Well?

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

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

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

Patroclus: I shall, my lord.

    (Patroclus goes into the tent.)

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

Ulysses: Right.

    (Ulysses goes into the tent.)

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

Agamemnon: He certainly gives that impression.

Ajax: And do you think he is?

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

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

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

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

Ulysses: He says he’s not fighting tomorrow.

Agamemnon: Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon: No, no.  Ulysses is right.

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

Nestor (Aside): Look who’s talking.

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

Ulysses (Aside): Not any more than you.

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

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

Ulysses: Good, old Ajax!

Ajax: Not so old.

Nestor: Not like me–ha, ha!

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

Nestor: Not by half.

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

Diomedes: You said it!

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

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

    (They leave.)

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

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

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

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

Servant: At once, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

Pandarus: Oh, no, no, no–ha, ha!

Helen: Oh, but you must sing for me!

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

Paris: Don’t believe him.

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

Paris: Of course.

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

Pandarus: Ha, ha–My lord, a word.

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

Pandarus: It’s about your brother Troilus.

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

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

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

Pandarus: I can’t say.

Paris: I’ll bet it’s Cressida.

Pandarus: No, no.

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

Pandarus: Ha, ha–it’s not important.

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

Helen: Now you must sing for me, Pandarus.

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

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

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

Paris: Don’t ask why–ha, ha!

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

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

Helen: Yes, they can play it.

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

Pandarus (Sings):

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

    (Paris and Helen clap.)

Paris: Bravo!  Bravo!–I told you.

Helen: That was wonderful!  Thank you, Pandarus!

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

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

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

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

Paris: Yes, yes.  Don’t worry.

Pandarus: Thank you.–Goodbye, sweet queen.

Helen: Give my regards to Cressida.

Pandarus: I will.

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

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

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

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

    (They leave.)

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

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

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

Troilus: Oh!–Oh!–What should I do?

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

Troilus: What if she won’t come?

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

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

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

Troilus: Cressida–

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

    (Pandarus goes out.)

Troilus: Cressida!

Cressida: Troilus!    

    (They kiss.)

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

Cressida: Oh, Troilus!

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

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

Troilus: Oh, Cressida.  That’s silly.

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

    (She returns to his embrace.)

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

Cressida: And I’m simple, too.

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

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

    (Pandarus returns, having overheard them.)

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

Troilus and Cressida: Yes!–Agreed!

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

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

Pandarus: Okay!  This deal is sealed!

    (He leaves.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon: Eh?

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

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

    (Agamemnon and Nestor go out.)

Achilles: Good morning, Menelaus.

Menelaus: Eh?–Oh, uh, good morning.

    (Menelaus goes out.)        

Ajax:  Hello, Patroclus.

Patroclus: Hello.

Achilles: Hi, Ajax.

Ajax: What?

Achilles: I said hi.

Ajax: Oh–okay.

    (Ajax goes out.)

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

Patroclus: Sort of looks that way.

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

    (Ulysses is pretending to read a letter.)

Ulysses: Eh?–Oh–Achilles.

Achilles: What are you reading?

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

Achilles: I think that makes sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Achilles: Yes.

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

Achilles: I deny it.

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

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

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

Achilles: Nobody has said that.

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

    (Pause.  Achilles is reflecting.)

Achilles: So Ajax is fighting Hector.

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

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

Patroclus: On a good day he could beat anyone.

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

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

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

    (Thersites comes in.)

Achilles: Never mind.  Here he is.

Thersites: It’s a wonder!

Achilles: What is?

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

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

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

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

Thersites: What do you intend to write?

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

    (Achilles and Patroclus go inside the tent.)

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

    (Thersites goes into the tent.)

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

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

Antenor: Glad to be back!

    (They shake hands.)

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

Diomedes: Me, too.  Good morning, Aeneas.

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

    (Aeneas and Diomedes shake hands.)

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

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

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

Diomedes: I shall kiss you with my sword first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aeneas: Where?  At Calchas’s house?

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

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

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

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

Antenor: Sure am.

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

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

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

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

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

Diomedes: Whatever.

Paris: Let’s go.

    (They all leave.)

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

Cressida: Troilus, come back to bed.

Troilus: No.  I’m up.  It’s morning.

    (She hugs him from behind.)

Cressida: Are you getting tired of me?

Troilus: Don’t be silly.

Cressida: The night passes too quickly.

Troilus: Go back to bed.  It’s cold.

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

Troilus: Your uncle’s up.

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

    (Pandarus comes in.)

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

Cressida: Oh, stop!

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

    (Loud knocking is heard at the door.)

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

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

Pandarus: Aeneas!

Aeneas: Sorry to bother you, Pandarus.

Pandarus: What are you doing here so early?

Aeneas: Is Troilus here?

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

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

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

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

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Aeneas, wassup?

Aeneas: I have some news–which concerns you.

Troilus: Oh?  What?

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

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

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

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

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

Troilus: But nobody told me about this!

Aeneas: You’re being told now.

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

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

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

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

    (A pause.  Troilus composes himself.)

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

Aeneas: That’s fine.

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

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

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

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

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

Cressida: Uncle, what’s going on?

Pandarus: I hate to tell you this.

Cressida: Tell me what?–Tell me!

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

Cressida: Why?

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

Cressida: But I don’t want to go!

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

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

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

Cressida: No!  No!  No!

    (She runs out crying.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

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

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

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

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

Cressida: I don’t want to go!

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

Pandarus: My poor lambs!

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

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

Cressida: Must I go now–right this minute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (She pulls away slightly.)

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

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

Cressida: And you take this glove.

    (She gives him a glove.)

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

Cressida: Why do you doubt me?

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

Cressida: And you think I’ll be tempted.

Troilus: Well–who knows what can happen?

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

    (Cressida hugs Troilus.)

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

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

Paris (Within): Brother!  Come on!

Troilus: Bring them in here, Paris!

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

Aeneas (To Diomedes): This is Cressida.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troilus: You have a big mouth.

Paris: Take it easy.

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

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

Paris: That’s Hector’s trumpet!

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

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

Deiphobus: Hector will win, don’t worry.

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

    (They all leave.) 

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

Agamemnon: You look eager, Ajax.

Ajax: You bet, General.

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

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

Ulysses: He’s not answering.

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon: So this is Cressida?

Diomedes: This is Cressida, General.

Agamemnon: You are very welcome here, miss.

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

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

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

Ulysses: Why don’t you all kiss her!

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

    (Nestor kisses her.)

Achilles: I’m Achilles.  Welcome.

    (Achilles kisses her.)

Menelaus: I used to have a wife to kiss.

Patroclus: Used to–until Paris–

Menelaus: Don’t remind me.

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

    (Patroclus kisses her.)

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

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

    (He kisses her again.)

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

Cressida: Ah.–Yes.

Ulysses: Do I get to kiss you?

Cressida (Teasing him): Only if you beg.

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

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

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

Cressida: All right.

    (Diomedes leaves with Cressida.)

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

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

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

Agamemnon: Hail, Trojans!

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

Agamemnon: What does Hector prefer?

Aeneas: He doesn’t care.

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

Aeneas: Aren’t you Achilles?

Achilles: Who else?

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

Achilles: I’m not doubting it.

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

Achilles (Aside to Aeneas): I get it.

    (Diomedes returns.)

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

Diomedes: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ajax: I’m willing to go on.

Diomedes: Hector?

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

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

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

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

    (Hector turns to leave.)

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

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

Hector: All right.

    (Agamemnon steps forward.)

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

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

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

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

Menelaus: Let me welcome you, too, Hector.

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

Aeneas: This is Menelaus.

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

Menelaus: Don’t remind me of her.

Hector: Oh.–Sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ulysses: I gave you a prophecy then.  Remember?

Hector: I remember.

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

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

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

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


Hector: You’re Achilles.

Achilles: Yes.

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

Hector: Why do you look at me that way?

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

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

Achilles: I’ll do it anyway.

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

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

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

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

    (Agamemnon clears his throat loudly.)

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

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

    (All leave except Troilus and Ulysses.)

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

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

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

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

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

Ulysses: Yes.

    (They leave.)

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

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

Patroclus: Here comes Thersites.

    (Thersites comes in.)

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

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

    (He hands Achilles a letter.)

Achilles: Where’s this from?

Thersites: From Troy.

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

Thersites: What are you smirking at–boyfriend?

Patroclus: Boyfriend?  What do you mean by that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thersites: You’re a garden pest.

Patroclus: Monkey!

Thersites: Germ!

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

Patroclus: You won’t?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon: Ah!  I knew I’d find it.

    (Achilles comes out.)

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

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

Hector: Good night, General.  And thank you.

Menelaus: Good night, Hector.

Hector: Good night, Menelaus.

    (Thersites is making faces, mocking them.)

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

Agamemnon: Good night, Achilles.

    (Agamemnon and Menelaus leave.)

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

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

Others: Good night.

    (Diomedes leaves.)

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

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): Okay.

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

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

    (He leaves.)

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

Diomedes (Calling softly): Cressida!

    (Calchas sticks his head out.)

Calchas: Diomedes.

Diomedes: Where’s Cressida?

Calchas: She’s here.  Hold on.

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

Cressida: Hello.

Diomedes: There you are, my little birdie.

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

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

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

Cressida: You shouldn’t tempt me.

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

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

Cressida: No.  Don’t leave.–Listen.

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

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

Troilus (Aside to Ulysses): No.

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

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

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

Cressida: Don’t be angry.

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

Cressida: No, I’m not.

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

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

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

Cressida.  Yes.  I will.

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

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

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

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

    (She gives him the sleeve.)

Diomedes: By who?

Cressida: A man.

Diomedes: So you have a lover already.

    (Cressida takes the sleeve back impulsively.)

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

    (Diomedes snatches the sleeve back.)

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

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

Diomedes: Who’s he?

Cressida: I won’t say.

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

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

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

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

Cressida: All right.  I’ll meet you.

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

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

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

    (Cressida goes back into the tent.)

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

Troilus: I can’t believe it.

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

Troilus: Tell me this is just a bad dream.

Ulysses: No, it isn’t.

Troilus: I actually saw and heard all this.

Ulysses: Yes, and so did I.

Troilus: This isn’t the Cressida I know.

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

Troilus: Yes.

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


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

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

    (Pause for effect.)

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

Ulysses: Do you still love her?


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

Ulysses: Shh!  Not so loud.

    (Aeneas comes in.)

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

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

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

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

Troilus: Thank you.

    (Troilus, Aeneas, and Ulysses leave.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Cassandra comes in.)

Cassandra: Hector!

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

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

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

Cassandra: No, brother!  Not today!

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

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

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

    (Troilus comes in, armed.)

Hector: Where do you think you’re going?

Andromache: Cassandra, get your father!

    (Cassandra runs out.)

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

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

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

Hector: What do you mean?

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

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

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

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

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

    (Cassandra returns with Priam.)

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

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

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

    (Priam appears to be sympathizing.)

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

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

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

    (Andromache leaves.)

Cassandra (Looking off into space): I foresee–

Troilus: Stop it, Cassandra!

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

Troilus: That’s enough, sister!

    (Cassandra gives Hector a long, sad look.)

Cassandra (Softly): Goodbye, brother.

    (She leaves.  Priam looks frightened.)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Diomedes turns and confronts Troilus.)

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

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

    (They fight.)

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

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

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

    (Hector comes in, his sword out.)

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

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

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

    (Hector goes out.)

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

    (Thersites goes out.)

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

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

Servant: Yes, my lord.

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

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon: I know.

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

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

Agamemnon: Troilus!

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

    (Ajax comes in.)

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

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

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

    (Achilles comes in, armed.)

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

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

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

    (Achilles goes out, and everyone else follows.)

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

Ajax: Troilus!  Where are you?  Show yourself!

    (Diomedes comes in.)

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

Ajax: Oh, no!  He’s all mine!

Diomedes: I want him first.

Ajax: No!

    (Troilus comes in.)

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

Ajax: He’s mine!

Diomedes: No, I’ll get him!

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

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

    (Achilles comes in.)

Achilles: Hector!

Hector: I didn’t expect to see you.

Achilles: You killed Patroclus!

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

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

    (Achilles runs out.)

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

    (Troilus comes in.)

Hector: Troilus!

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

Hector: Which way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margarelon: You–Greek!

Thersites: Who are you?

Margarelon: Margarelon–the bastard son of Priam.

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

Margarelon: Why not?

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

    (Thersites runs out.)

Margarelon: Hey, you!  Come back here!

    (Margarelon follows him out.)

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

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

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

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

    (The Soldiers surround Hector.)

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

Achilles: Strike!

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

Achilles: Death to Hector!  And death to Troy!

    (The Soldiers cheer.)  

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

    (A trumpet retreat is heard.)

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon: What’s all the commotion?

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

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

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

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

    (They leave.)

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

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

Deiphobus: Without food?

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

    (Troilus comes in.)

Troilus: Hector is dead.

Others: No!–How?

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

Aeneas: My lord, don’t say that.

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

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

Pandarus: My lord Troilus!

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

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

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

    (He leaves.  Curtain.)


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