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

Main Characters

Don Pedro — Prince of Aragon

Don John — his bastard brother

Claudio — young lord of Florence, allied to Don Pedro

Benedick — young lord of Padua, allied to Don Pedro

Leonato — Governor of Messina

Antonio — Leonato’s older brother

Hero — Leonato’s daughter

Beatrice — Leonato’s niece

Balthasar — servant of Don Pedro

Borachio and Conrade — followers of Don John

Friar Francis

Dogberry — Chief Constable of Messina

Verges — Dogberry’s deputy (Shakespeare uses the term “headborough”)

Sexton (equivalent to a town clerk)

Margaret and Ursula — ladies-in-waiting to Hero


Gist of the story: We have three sub-plots here.  First, Don John wants revenge against his brother, Don Pedro, after being defeated in a civil war.  Second, Claudio is in love with Hero but needs a little help proposing.  And third, Benedick and Beatrice are constantly sparring in an ongoing battle of put-downs, but those closest to them are determined to marry them off to each other.  Don John orchestrates a cruel trick to sabotage Claudio’s marriage to Hero, but his treachery is exposed.  (This is better than any soap opera or sitcom on TV.  Dogberry and his watchmen are hilarious, and I’m sure Shakespeare won’t mind that I’ve made Antonio hard of hearing.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  In front of Leonato’s house in Messina.  Leonato, the Governor of Messina, comes in, along with his daughter, Hero, his niece, Beatrice, and a Messenger.

Leonato (Holding a letter): So, according to this letter, Don Pedro of Aragon is coming to Messina tonight.

Messenger: He was nine miles away when I left him, but he should be here in a couple of minutes.

Leonato: How many nobles were killed in the war between Don Pedro and his bastard brother, Don John?

Messenger: Not too many.  Nobody important.

Leonato: Don Pedro writes that he gave a medal to a young lord named Claudio.

Messenger: Count Claudio was awesome on the battlefield.  He was the best fighter by far.  But in real life, he’s actually quite mild-mannered.

Beatrice: Did Signior Mountanto get back all right?

Messenger: Signior Mountanto?  Why, I’ve never heard of him.

Leonato: Who is that, Beatrice?

Hero: It’s a private joke, father.  She’s referring to Signior Benedick.

Messenger: Oh, Benedick.  Sure.  He’s fine.

Beatrice: How many men did he kill in the battle?  I promised him I would eat anyone he killed.

Messenger: What!

Leonato (To the Messenger): My niece, Beatrice, has a rather strange  sense of humour.  (To Beatrice) You know, if you keep insulting Benedick the way you do, one of these days he’ll get even with you.

Messenger (To Beatrice): Signior Benedick served very well in the battle.  I can assure you he is a man full of virtues.

Beatrice: I always knew he was full of something.

Leonato (To the Messenger): Don’t take my niece too seriously.  She has this ongoing battle with Benedick.  She tries to push his button, and he tries to push hers.

Beatrice: And I push better than he does.

Messenger: You don’t like the guy, do you?

Beatrice: Not much.–So tell me, who’s he hanging with these days?  He wears out friends faster than I wear out stockings.

Messenger: Well, if you want to know, he’s quite good friends with Claudio.

Beatrice: Then I feel sorry for Claudio.

    (Don Pedro arrives, along with Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and Don John.)

Messenger: Told you he’d be here in a couple of minutes!

Don Pedro: Signior Leonato!

Leonato: Don Pedro!

Don Pedro: It’s very kind of you to receive us on such short notice.

Leonato: Not at all.  It’s a pleasure.  In fact, I expect you to make it an extended visit.

Don Pedro (Turning to Hero): And this must be your daughter, Hero.  She looks like you.

Leonato: Well, her mother swore she was mine.  She couldn’t be Benedick’s because he was too young at the time.

Benedick: True.  Otherwise I’d be under suspicion.

Don Pedro: Ha!  Listen to the ladies’ man!

Beatrice (Aside): I’m not listening.

    (Leonato takes Don Pedro aside for a private conversation.)

Benedick: She looks like her father, all right–except for the white hair.

Beatrice: Are you trying to be funny?

Benedick: Oh, it’s Lady Shrew!–Taking a vacation from hell, are you?

Beatrice: Yes.  Your picture hangs on every wall down there.

Benedick: My picture hangs in the cabinets of many ladies.  I imagine they’re pining away for me right now.

Beatrice: But you would never pine for them.

Benedick: Goodness, no!  I’d sooner catch the plague than fall in love.

Beatrice: I feel exactly the same way.  I’ll never get married.

Benedick: Let’s hope not, or some poor sod would be miserable for the rest of his life.

Beatrice: Not nearly as miserable as your wife would be.

Benedick: Is there a circuit breaker for your mouth?

    (Leonato and Don Pedro rejoin the others.)

Don Pedro: Good news, everyone!  My dear friend Leonato has invited all of us to stay for a month.

Leonato: After all, it’s a happy occasion.  Don Pedro has made peace again with his brother, Don John.  (To Don John) So we are friends, too.

Don John: Thank you, sir.  I don’t talk as much as my brother, but I thank you.

Leonato: Let’s go inside.

    (Everyone goes inside except for Benedick and Claudio.  Claudio has held him back with a discreet tug on the sleeve.)

Claudio: Benedick, did you get a good look at his daughter?

Benedick (Shrugs): Well, I noticed her.  That’s all.

Claudio: What a lovely girl!

Benedick: Hero?  You think so?  Hmm.  I’d say she is extremely average–which makes her inherently contradictory.  And I don’t like that too much in a woman.  If a woman is going to be average, she should be moderately average–like Beatrice, for example.  She’s the sort of average type I like–if you disregard her bad personality.

Claudio: I wish you’d be serious for a change.  Come on, what do you really think of Hero?

Benedick: Why?  Are you thinking of buying her?  You should find out what accessories she comes with, and what sort of warranty.

Claudio (Sighs): Hero!–I think she’s–wonderful!

    (Benedick touches Claudio’s forehead.)

Benedick: Are you coming down with something?  A tropical disease, perhaps?

Claudio: The moment I saw her–I knew.

Benedick: Another bachelor bites the dust!  What a pity!

    (Don Pedro returns.)

Don Pedro: What are you guys doing hanging around out here?  Why don’t you come inside?

Benedick: Claudio has been confiding something personal to me.  But I refuse to tell you what it is unless you want to know.

Don Pedro: All right.  Tell me.

Benedick: He’s in love–with Leonato’s extremely average daughter, Hero.

Claudio: I didn’t want you to tell anyone.

Don Pedro: She’s a good match for you, Claudio!

Claudio: You really think so?

Don Pedro: Absolutely!  And I’m delighted to hear it.

Benedick: He has a fever.  He’s delirious.

Don Pedro: You’re such a cynic, Benedick.

Benedick: I’m not disparaging Hero or any other specific woman.  I’m just saying as a general principle that I would never let a woman make a fool of me, and the only way to be sure of that is to stay single.  I value my freedom.  And it’s a lot cheaper to be single.

Don Pedro: One of these days you’ll fall for someone, and I want to see it happen.

Benedick: Never.  And if I show the slightest symptom of lovesickness, I want you to kick my ass to snap me out of it.

Don Pedro: I should take you to Venice.  That place is chock-a-block with gorgeous women.  You’d never get out of there a bachelor. 

Benedick: So you say!

Don Pedro: Well, we’ll see.  Anyway, go tell Leonato I’ll be right in for dinner.  I want to have a word with Claudio.

Benedick: Will do.

    (Benedick leaves.)

Don Pedro: So!–Claudio. 

Claudio: My lord, you could really do me a huge favour.

Don Pedro: Of course.  Anything.

Claudio: Well, my lord–I’m a bit shy with women.  I really love Hero, but I don’t know how to approach her.  Maybe you could–help. 

Don Pedro: Oh, I can fix it easily.  Listen, they’re going to have a costume party tonight.  This is what I’ll do.  I’ll disguise myself and pretend to be you, and I’ll tell Hero how much I love her.  And if she accepts me, I’ll go and report it to her father, and he’ll agree to let you marry her.

Claudio: Wait a minute.–You’re going to pretend to be me under a disguise?

Don Pedro: Yes.

Claudio: And she’s not going to know the difference.

Don Pedro: No.

Claudio: And she won’t notice that your voice is different?

Don Pedro: I’ll disguise my voice.

Claudio: And you’ll declare your love to her–that is, my love–and if she accepts you, you’ll tell her father, and he’ll approve of me marrying her.

Don Pedro: Exactly.

Claudio: Well, I sure hope this is a comedy, because that’s just about the most crackpot idea I ever heard.

    (Don Pedro acts surprised by this comment, as if the other player has departed from the script.  After an awkward moment of silence, the curtain comes down, leaving the audience with the impression that some sort of blooper has taken place.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  In Leonato’s house.  Leonato comes in with his older brother, Antonio.  Antonio is somewhat hard of hearing.

Leonato: Antonio, who picked that music–your son?

Antonio: Picture what?

Leonato: No, not picture.  I said–did your son pick that music?

Antonio: Oh, yes!  He loves music!

Leonato: That’s fine.  You don’t have to shout.

Antonio: Have a what?

    (Leonato steps very close to Antonio and puts on an exaggerated smile.)

Leonato: You–don’t–have–to shout.

Antonio: No!  I won’t!  But listen–I have some secret news to tell you.

Leonato: All right, then.  Tell me.

Antonio: I overheard Don Pedro and Claudio talking outside.

Leonato: Did you, now?  It’s not nice to eavesdrop on people.

Antonio: Oh, I didn’t do it deliberately.  It was by accident.  And I heard Don Pedro say–

Leonato: Yes?

Antonio: That he’s in love with your daughter.

Leonato: Don Pedro said that?

Antonio: Yes!  He told Claudio he would propose to Hero during the party tonight, and if she accepted him, he would ask for your permission immediately.

Leonato: Are you quite sure you heard him correctly?

Antonio: Of course!

Leonato: Well–I’ll believe it when it happens.  Anyway, we should tell her so she won’t be taken by surprise.

Antonio: She’s taken some pies?

Leonato: No, she hasn’t taken any–Never mind.  Let’s go.

    (They leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 3.  In Leonato’s house.  Don John comes in with his friend Conrade.

Conrade: What the hell’s eating you, Sir John?  You look really down.

Don John: What have I got to be happy about?  My brother is sitting on top of the world, and I’m at the lowest point in my entire life.  Should I be happy just because he’s happy?  We fought a war and he beat me.  Am I supposed to forget it? 

Conrade: Look.  You know, you and your brother have finally made peace, and you should put on a good face.  It’s for your own good.

Don John: Yeah, because now I’m dependent on him.  He’s got the power, the money, and the status.  And I’ve got shit.  And I’ll always be the bastard brother, remember.  I’ll never be equal to him.

Conrade: It’s too bad you feel that way.

    (Borachio comes in.)

Don John: Hey, Borachio, wassup?

Borachio: I just heard something interesting.  Your brother’s golden boy, Claudio, intends to marry Leonato’s daughter, Hero.

Don John: Well!  I guess he wants to move up in the world, doesn’t he?  How did you find this out?

Borachio: Purely by coincidence.  I was hiding behind a wall when your brother was having a serious talk with Claudio.  The deal is that your brother is going to propose to Hero in Claudio’s behalf, and when she agrees, he’ll hand her over to Claudio.

Don John: That fucking Claudio!  He was a nobody in Florence.  Then he helped my brother beat me in the war, and now he’s like a fucking superstar.  If I could just fuck up their plans somehow–Would you guys help me?

Conrade: Absolutely!

Borachio: I’m up for any mischief.

Don John: Come on.  Let’s go inside.

Act 2, Scene 1.  In Leonato’s house.  Leonato and Antonio come in, along with Hero and Beatrice; also Margaret and Ursula, two ladies attending on Hero.

Leonato: Wasn’t Sir John here for dinner?

Antonio: I didn’t see him.

Beatrice: That guy gives me the creeps.

Hero: Me, too.

Beatrice: He doesn’t say a word, and Benedick never shuts up.  I’d prefer a man who was exactly halfway between them.

Leonato: Well, we could transplant half of Benedick’s tongue into Sir John’s mouth and give him a smiley face with plastic surgery.  How’s that?

Beatrice: Perfect.  And if he had money, I might even marry him.

Leonato: You’ll never marry anyone until you put a padlock on that sharp tongue of yours.

Antonio: A paddock on her shop talkers?

Beatrice: Any man who can’t take my tongue can go to hell.

Antonio: Oh, my goodness!  (To Hero) I hope you don’t have such an attitude.  Your father would like very much to see you marry a fine gentleman, and so would I.

Beatrice: Oh, she’ll do what she’s told, I’m sure.

Leonato (To Beatrice): I’d like to see you get married as well.

Beatrice: Ugh! No, thanks, uncle.

Leonato (To Hero): Remember what we discussed.  If Don Pedro proposes to you, you know what to say.

Beatrice (To Hero): Don’t commit yourself.  You know the old saying–marry in haste, repent in leisure.

Leonato (Nodding): Mm–Well, let’s get the party going.

    (They put on their masks.  Then Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Balthasar come in, wearing masks; Borachio and Don John come in without masks.  Music begins, and the couples pair off and stand together or dance.

Don Pedro (To Hero): My lady, how about taking a walk with me?

Hero: A walk? All right.  But don’t expect me to go too far with you.

Don Pedro: Why not?

Hero: Not with a face like that, Signior–Whoever-you-are.

Don Pedro: Oh, but if you could see me as I really am.

Hero: No, no.  Leave your mask on, please.

Don Pedro: My lady–you’re getting me hot–that is–

    (Don Pedro draws Hero aside.)

Benedick (To Margaret): So, uh, you want to meet me later?  We could go outside and, uh, you know, look at the stars.

Margaret: Oh, you don’t want me, Signior.  I’m neurotic.  I can only love a man with very big feet.

Balthasar (Butting in): I have big feet.  And I have other parts that are big, too.

Margaret: I only care about feet.

Balthasar: You’re pretty weird–but maybe it could work.

    (Benedick has gone over to talk to Beatrice.  Now Ursula approaches Antonio.)

Ursula: I know who you are.  You’re Signior Antonio.

Antonio: Who?  Me?  Nahh!

Ursula: You walk like him, and you talk like him.

Antonio: I merely imitate him because he’s such a fashionable gentleman.

Ursula: Do you think so?  I would say he is noteworthy for his peccadillos.

Antonio (Puzzled): Oh–well, he works out.

    (Benedick and Beatrice are dancing.)

Beatrice: So, who are you really?

Benedick: Oh, I just work for the caterers.

Beatrice: You remind me of Benedick.

Benedick: Who’s he?

Beatrice: Oh, he’s the most obnoxious character, and a complete scoundrel.  Only loose women like him, and for all the wrong reasons.  He’s not fit for respectable society.

Benedick: Well, if I ever bump into him, I’ll tell him you said so.

Beatrice: Oh, please do!  It’ll spoil his day–You’re leading me in the wrong direction.

Benedick: Oh, sorry.  It’s a bad habit I have with women.

    (They all go out dancing, except for Don John, Borachio, and Claudio.)

Don John (To Claudio): I know you.  You’re Signior Benedick.

Claudio: Ha! Ha!–Yes, I am!

Don John: My brother, Don Pedro, thinks very highly of you.  That’s why you must talk him out of the foolish idea he has in mind.

Claudio: What foolish idea is that?

Don John: Well, you see, he wants to marry Leonato’s daughter, Hero.  He’s going to ask Leonato’s permission to marry her.

Claudio: What!  How do you know that?

Don John: I heard him say he loves her.

Borachio: Yes.  It’s true.  He intends to marry her tonight.

Claudio: But–surely you’re mistaken.

Don John: Oh, no.

Borachio: I’m hungry.  Let’s get some food.

    (Don John and Borachio leave, but Claudio stays behind.)

Claudio: Fuck me.  Don Pedro’s going to steal Hero from me?  And I trusted the guy.  It just goes to show that you can’t trust anyone if there’s a woman involved.

    (Benedick comes in.)

Benedick: Count Claudio.

Claudio: Yes.

Benedick: Well, sport, this is what you get for falling in love.  Your good patron, Prince Pedro, steals your woman from you–although technically she was never yours.

Claudio: I hope he’s happy with her.

Benedick: This is one of the hazards of romance.  I could have told you.

Claudio: You don’t have to rub it in.

Benedick: Well, maybe you’ve learned a lesson.  All experience is instructive.

Claudio: Nuts!

    (Claudio leaves.)

Benedick: Poor sap.

    (Don Pedro, Hero, and Leonato come in.)

Don Pedro: Where’s Claudio?

Benedick: Oh, he’s off sulking somewhere.  I told him–quite correctly, I’m sure–that you had made a move on Hero yourself.  At any rate, that’s what I heard.

Don Pedro: Well, you heard wrong.  And anyone who would spread such a rumour deserves to get his ass kicked.

Benedick: Then I take you at your word, your Grace.

Don Pedro: Listen, Lady Beatrice is very pissed off with you.  It seems that the fellow she was dancing with told her you said some very unkind things about her.

Benedick: I said unkind things about her?  Well!  It seems that the villain is accusing the victim!  That bitch never stops puking insults all over me!  She ought to be given a heavy dose of Thorazine and put in a strait jacket.

    (Claudio and Beatrice come in.)

Don Pedro: Ah, here she is now.

Benedick: Your Grace, do me a favour.  Please!   Send me on a long errand somewhere so I can get away from this–this Gorgon Medusa.  Send me to the South Pole!  Send me to the earth’s core!  I’ll go!

Don Pedro: No, no.  I want you right here.

Benedick: In that case, you’ll have to excuse me, your Grace.  I gotta take a tranq.

    (Benedick leaves.)

Don Pedro (To Beatrice): There.  You see?  You’ve lost him–a fine gentleman, too.

Beatrice: He can stay lost.  I don’t want him.

Don Pedro: You don’t even give the guy a chance.

Beatrice: If he wants a chance, let him go to a casino.–Anyway, I brought Claudio.  You wanted to speak to him.

Don Pedro: Claudio, you look depressed.

Claudio: No, my lord.

Don Pedro: Are you not feeling well?

Beatrice: He’s too polite to tell you outright–but he’s jealous.

Don Pedro: Oh, is that it?–Claudio, you have no reason to be jealous.  I did exactly what I promised.  Hero will marry you, and her father approves.

Leonato (Shaking Claudio’s hand enthusiastically): Yes, my boy! I’m all for it!  It’s wonderful!

    (Claudio is stunned and speechless.)

Beatrice (To Claudio): Well, say something.

Claudio: I–I–I can’t find the words–Hero–I–

    (Hero takes his hands in hers, and they look into each other’s eyes lovingly.)

Beatrice: Well, that’s a happy match made!  Everyone’s getting married–except for me.  I might as well hide in my room since no one wants me.

Don Pedro: I’ll fix that.  I’ll hook you up with a man if it’s the last thing I do.

Beatrice: He’ll have to be able to take a joke.

Leonato: Ahem!–Remember what I told you before.

Beatrice: Ah, yes, uncle.  My tongue is too sharp.  I shall run along at once and sandpaper it down.–By your leave, your Grace.

    (She curtsies to Don Pedro and leaves.)

Don Pedro: She’s funny.  I like her.  But I don’t think she wants to get married.

Leonato: I’m not so sure of that.  She just has a bad habit of making fun of men, and they get discouraged and give up on her.

Don Pedro: You know, I think she and Benedick would be a perfect match.

Leonato (Clutching his heart): Oh, my God!

Don Pedro: Claudio, when do you intend to get married?

Claudio: Tomorrow, if possible.

Leonato: There’s no rush, my boy.  Let’s make it a week from now.

Claudio (Sighs): A whole week?

Don Pedro: Oh, it’ll pass like that (Snaps his fingers).  In the meantime, I have a project.  I want to get Benedick and Beatrice together.  They’re perfect for each other.  They just don’t realize it.  And I’d like the three of you to help me.

Leonato: You’re a brave man.  All right.  I’m game.

Claudio: Okay, me, too.

Hero: She’s my cousin.  Why not?

Don Pedro: Benedick is a good guy.  He’s got noble blood, he’s courageous, he’s honest, and he’s always cheerful.–Hero, you work on your cousin.  I’ll give you some advice on that.  (To Leonato and Claudio) And we’ll work on Benedick.  We’ll get those two to fall in love with each other.  We’ll do it cleverly.  And when Cupid sees what we’ve done, he’ll retire and give us his bow and arrows.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In Leonato’s house.  Don John and Borachio come in.

Don John: That creep Claudio is going to marry Hero a week from now.

Borachio: I know a way to stop it.

Don John: Dude, if you could do that, it would be fucking beautiful–and there’d be a big reward in it for you.

Borachio: I’ve got a plan.  You know Hero’s waiting maid, Margaret?

Don John: Yeah.

Borachio: She’s my girlfriend, you know.

Don John: Yeah, you told me.  Go on.

Borachio: Okay, here’s the deal.  The night before the wedding, I’ll arrange to meet Margaret in Hero’s bedroom.

Don John: Where will Hero be?

Borachio: Margaret will get Hero to sleep in another room.  She can tell her she saw a mouse or something.  Now, you’ve got to get your brother and Claudio to be outside where they can see Hero’s balcony.  Tell them you can prove Hero’s a slut–that she has a secret boyfriend.  I’ll have Margaret wear one of Hero’s nightgowns, and we’ll be on the balcony making out.  I’ll call her Hero.  And your brother and Claudio will catch all this, and they won’t know it’s a trick.

Don John: You’re a genius!   This’ll kill Claudio.  And my brother will be totally humiliated, too.  Man, if you can pull this off, it’s worth a thousand ducats to me. 

Borachio: Okay.  You’ve got to concentrate on making heavy accusations against Hero so everyone will blame her and forget about me.  She’s a total whore, get it?

Don John: Right.  This is brilliant.  Now we just have to find out the exact day of the wedding so you can start making plans with Margaret.  Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  In Leonato’s garden.  Benedick comes in by himself.

Benedick: Ah, poor Claudio!  He was a tough son of a bitch on the battlefield, and now he’s going to end up as Hero’s pet poodle.  Boy, I hope that never happens to me.  It would take nothing less than a perfect woman to get a ring on my finger.  Of course, by ‘perfect’ I mean as perfect as myself.–Oh!  I think I see Don Pedro and Claudio coming this way.  I’ll hide in the bushes and eavesdrop.  (To the audience) Kids, don’t copy my example.

    (He hides.  Then Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato come in quite casually.  Don Pedro notices Benedick out of the corner of his eye and huddles momentarily with the other two.)

Don Pedro (In a hushed voice): Don’t look behind me, but Benedick is in the bushes.

    (The others nod.  They pretend not to be aware of Benedick.  Then Balthasar comes in with a guitar.)

Balthasar: Hi, guys!

Don Pedro: Hey, Balthasar, why don’t you play that song we like so much.

Balthasar: What, again?  Aren’t you sick of my terrible singing by now?

Don Pedro: Not at all!  We like to hear you sing.

Claudio and Leonato: Yes! Yes!

Balthasar: I got thrown out of the musicians’ union, you know.  But if you insist–

    (He plucks his guitar and then sings.)

    Oh, ladies, keep your panties on

    And hold on to your virtue,

    For every man’s a horny dog,

    And every one will hurt you.

      They’ll swear they love you every time,

      But you should not believe them,

      And if they knock upon your door,

      Be wise and don’t receive them.

    Oh, every man’s a lover pure

    And noble till he comes,

    And then goes his merry way

    And brags it to his chums.

      So, ladies, keep your panties on

      And do not be a fool,

      For men will come and men will go–

      Believe me, that’s the rule.

    (The others cheer and clap.)

Others: Bravo! Bravo!

Benedick (Aside to the audience): I’ve heard dogs howl better than that.

Don Pedro: You should practice your other songs, and we’ll go serenade Lady Hero outside her window.

Balthasar: I hope she doesn’t drop a pitcher on my head.  Okay, see you later.

    (Balthasar leaves.)

Don Pedro: Leonato, I’m still in shock over what you told me earlier.  I can’t believe your niece, Beatrice, is in love with Benedick.

Leonato: Indeed, she is.

Claudio: I never would’ve believed it either, the way she snipes at the guy all the time.

Leonato: It’s what psychologists call a reaction formation.

Benedick (Aside): What?

Don Pedro: What’s that?

Leonato: She’s doing the exact opposite of what she really feels deep down.  I didn’t realize it before, but it’s all clear now.

Don Pedro: Are you quite sure?

Leonato: Of course!  She woke up this morning and suddenly realized she loved the guy.  She confided everything to me.  She said she realized that deep down she always loved him.

Claudio: Yes, and I heard her say it, too.

Benedick (Aside): What!

Don Pedro: Why doesn’t she just tell Benedick she loves him?

Leonato: How can she?  She’s been so nasty to him for so long, she wouldn’t know how to tell him.  She tried to write him a letter, but she lost her courage and tore it up.

Claudio: She was crying over him.  I never saw a woman cry so much for love.

Leonato: Yes, indeed.  And now I’m quite worried about her, to be perfectly honest with you.  She’s in such emotional pain, I’m afraid she might–do herself some harm.

Don Pedro: Oh, my goodness!  We can’t let that happen!  Someone should tell Benedick.

Claudio: What good would it do?  He’d treat the whole thing as a joke.  He’d make fun of her, and then she’d feel worse than ever.

Don Pedro: Oh, dear.  If she kills herself because of him, it’ll be his fault.  I wonder if he could live with her death on his conscience.

Leonato: I’m her uncle and her guardian, and it hurts me deeply to see her suffer this way.

Don Pedro: Beatrice is such a fine lady.  She really is.

Claudio: Yes.  Any man with any sense in his head would see it at once.  I sure wish Benedick would.

Don Pedro: Tell him, Leonato.  Tell him your niece loves him.

Leonato: Do you think I should?

Claudio: Hero thinks her cousin will die if Benedick won’t have her.  But Beatrice will never come right out and tell him.  The only way she can keep her sanity is to keep being nasty to him.

Leonato: Psychologists call it suppression.

Don Pedro: Ah, I see.  She’s trying to protect herself.

Claudio: Yes.  Exactly.

Don Pedro: If she took a chance, Benedick might take advantage and humiliate her.

Claudio: Yes.  Yes.

Don Pedro: He can be pretty sharp with his tongue, too, you know.

Claudio: Oh, I know, I know.–Still, women do go for him.  He’s certainly a handsome fellow.

Don Pedro: Yes, and he’s quite cheerful to be around.  Quite humourous and clever.

Claudio: And he’s a man of wisdom, too.  Knows a lot about life.

Don Pedro: A very smart man.  Absolutely.

Claudio: And very brave.  Very loyal.

Don Pedro: And he’s a God-fearing Christian, regardless of his occasional rude jokes.–So, should we go have a talk with Benedick?

Claudio: No, no.  It would be better if Beatrice had time to get over him.

Leonato: Oh, I don’t know if that’s possible.

Don Pedro: Well, then–let’s just leave her alone for the time being.  We can find out from Hero how she’s getting along.–Tsk!–Ah, well!–I wish I could open Benedick’s eyes so he could see Beatrice as she really is.  And he’s a fine fellow.  I care about him.  I only want the best for him.

Claudio: Don’t we all.

Leonato: Yes, yes–Shall we go back to the house?  Dinner should be ready.

    (Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato begin to leave.)

Don Pedro (Aside to Leonato): You should tell Beatrice to come out and call Benedick to dinner.

    (Leonato nods, and the three of them leave.  Then Benedick emerges from concealment.)

Benedick: This can’t be a trick.  I could tell from their manner that they were telling the truth.  Beatrice really loves me!–It’s a good think I found this out.  I certainly don’t want to hurt her.–She’s really quite a lovely lady.  Quite noble.  I always sort of liked her.  Perhaps more than I ever would’ve admitted to myself.  I never thought seriously about getting married, but now–well, it’s not such a bad idea.  I could see myself married to Beatrice.–Yes.  For sure.  She’s quite wonderful, isn’t she?–And sometimes I’ve seen a look in her eye that tells me she rather likes me.

    (Beatrice comes in.)

Beatrice: I was sent to fetch you for dinner, Signior.

Benedick: Oh, thank you!  Thank you!

Beatrice: It’s all right.  I had to call in the dogs anyway.

    (She leaves.)

Benedick: Is there a declaration of love hidden in her words?  I do believe so.–I must find a picture of her so I can carry it with me–close to my heart!

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  In Leonato’s garden.  Hero comes in with Margaret and Ursula.

Hero: Okay, girls, you agreed to help me work on Beatrice.  We’re going to fix her up with Benedick.

Margaret and Ursula: Right.  Yes.

Hero: Margaret, you go back to the house and tell Beatrice that Ursula and I are talking about her.  Tell her to hide in the honeysuckles so she can spy on us.

Margaret: Got it.

    (Margaret leaves.)

Hero: Okay, now, Ursey, we’ll be strolling up and down the path, and we’ll be talking about Benedick–what a good guy he is and how much he’s in love with Beatrice.

Ursula: Right.

Hero (Looking back discreetly): I see her.  She’s taking her position .  Let’s just move a little closer.  (They walk toward Beatrice’s concealment.)  No, really, Ursey, she won’t give the guy a chance.  She’s always heaping scorn on him.

Ursula: But are you sure Benedick loves her?

Hero: Oh, he’s absolutely crazy about her.  Don Pedro told me, and Claudio confirmed it.

Ursula: Do they want you to tell her?

Hero: They wanted me to, but I suggested they tell Benedick to stifle himself and not tell Beatrice how much he loves her.

Ursula: Oh, now why did you do that?  Don’t you think he deserves someone as wonderful as Beatrice?

Hero: Of course, he does.  But she has such an attitude, you know.  I don’t think she can love a man at all.

Ursula: I guess you’re right.  If she knew Benedick loved her, she’d probably ridicule him.

Hero: Yes.  I think she would.  And it’s too bad.  He’s such a fine man.  He’s wise, he’s noble, and he’s so handsome.  But all she sees in him are faults.

Ursula: She’s so wrong.

Hero: I’d like to talk some sense into her, but she wouldn’t listen.  To her, everything’s a big joke.–Poor Benedick!  If he keeps his love a secret, he’ll just pine away until he’s dead.  And if he tells her, she’ll laugh at him, and he’ll die of humiliation.

Ursula: Really, I think you should tell her.  At least find out how she feels about him.

Hero: No.  I can’t.  It’s impossible.  I think it’s better to tell Benedick to try to get over her.  Maybe I could make up some lie about her so he’d fall out of love with her.

Ursula: Oh, no!   You shouldn’t tell lies about your own cousin.

Hero: Well, I don’t know what else to do.

Ursula: Really, I think she’s wiser than you think.  No one has ever called her a fool, or stupid.

Hero: You’re right about that.  She’s extremely intelligent.

Ursula: Then surely she would have the good sense to see what a fine fellow Benedick is.

Hero: He certainly is fine.  My Claudio is the best man in Italy, but Benedick is a close second.

Ursula: Well, forgive me for disagreeing, but personally, I think Benedick is the finest man in Italy.  He’s so handsome–and noble!

Hero: Everyone admires him, without a doubt.

Ursula: So, when are you getting married?

Hero: Tomorrow.  But I still haven’t decided what gown to wear.  Why don’t you come with me and help me choose.

Ursula: All right.  Let’s do that.

    (Hero and Ursula leave.  Then Beatrice emerges from concealment.)

Beatrice: Girl, did you hear that?  Oh, my God!  Have I been stupid all this time?  Must be.–Oh–oh–oh–You never know you’ve been in the dark until somebody lights a candle.  Well, this girl is going to turn over a new leaf.–Benedick, I won’t let you pine away.  We can get married!  We can be happy!

    (She leaves.) 

Act 3, Scene 2.  In Leonato’s house.  Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Leonato come in.

Don Pedro: I can only stay until the wedding.  Then I have to return to Aragon.

Claudio: I’d be glad to escort you back, your Grace.

Don Pedro: Oh, no, no, no.  You don’t want to leave your wife so soon.  Benedick will come back with me.  He’s good company on a trip–always full of jokes, always laughing.

Benedick: I don’t feel that way any more.

Leonato: No, you don’t seem so, do you, Benedick?  You’ve become quite serious all of a sudden.

Claudio: Maybe he’s in love.

Don Pedro: Benedick?  In love?  Ha!  No way!  (To Benedick) Perhaps it’s a money problem?

Benedick: No, it’s not that.

Don Pedro: What, then?

Benedick: It’s–uh–it’s a toothache.

Don Pedro: Is that all?  Well, we’ll just go see the surgeon and have it removed.

Claudio: No.  He doesn’t have a toothache.  He’s in love.

Don Pedro: How do you know?

Claudio: Oh, I’ve noticed a few things.  Like the way he fusses with his clothes.  And he brushes his hat and shines his shoes.  And he shaved his beard–see?

Leonato: Yes.  I noticed.–It makes you look younger, Benedick.

Claudio: And he wears cologne now.  (He sniffs.)  I recognize it–“Gypsy Vampire Bat.”  He must be in love.

Don Pedro: Claudio, I believe you’re right.

Claudio: And I know who loves him.

Don Pedro: Do you, now?

Claudio: Yes, and I’m sure she’s suffering as much as he is.

Benedick: Go on.  Make fun of my toothache.  (To Leonato) My lord, I wonder if I might have a word with you privately?

Leonato: Of course, my boy!

    (Benedick and Leonato leave.)

Don Pedro: This is it.  He’s going to spill it all out to Leonato.

Claudio: For sure.  And Hero and Margaret have done their little number on Beatrice, so she’s primed.

    (Don John comes in.)

Don John: Brother–Claudio–I’m glad I found the two of you together, because I have something very important to tell you that concerns you both.

Don Pedro: Yeah?  What is it?

Don John: Is Claudio getting married tomorrow?

Claudio: Yes.

Don John: Tsk!–You may change your mind when you hear what I’ve learned.

Claudio: Why?  What’s the problem? 

Don John: I’m afraid this is going to hurt you, Claudio–and you, too, brother, seeing as how you encouraged Claudio to marry Hero.

Don Pedro: Come on, out with it, whatever it is.

Don John: I have proof that Hero is–how shall I put it?–a whore.

Claudio: What?  That’s bullshit!

Don Pedro: I don’t believe it.

Don John: I don’t blame you for being skeptical.  And I wouldn’t expect you to believe it just on my say-so.  But I’m prepared to show you proof.

Claudio: Well, you’ll have to prove it to me.  If it’s true, then I certainly won’t marry her.  I’ll–I’ll denounce her right in the church in front of everyone.

Don Pedro: And I’ll back you up.  (To Don John) But you have to prove it to us.

Don John: Oh, you’ll have your proof, all right.  You’ll see and hear it with your own eyes and ears–tonight at midnight.  And you’ll be glad I warned you in time.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  On a street, Chief Constable Dogberry, his deputy, Verges, and four Officers of the Watch come in.

Dogberry: As Chief Constable, it is my duty to keep law and order in Messina.  And when I’m not around, you men will obey Deputy Verges.  (He pats Verges on the shoulder for the benefit of the audience.)

First Watch: What if neither of you is around?

Dogberry: Just keep law and order in Messina.

Second Watch: When you say keep them in Messina, do you mean prevent them from leaving?

Dogberry: No.  I mean maintain them at all times.

Third Watch: Do they need maintenance, then?

Dogberry: In a manner of speaking, yes.

Fourth Watch: In which order shall we maintain them–law first and order second, or order first and law second?

Verges: They naturally go together, you donkey!

First Watch: Go where?

Verges: Where?  They don’t go anywhere.

Second Watch: Then you don’t need us to keep them in Messina.  We can take a nap and not worry about them.

Dogberry (To Verges): Where did you find these men?

Verges: I got them right out of the police academy.  They can read and write.

First Watch: In either order.

Second Watch: But not necessarily simultaneously.

Dogberry: That’s all right.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Third Watch: Of what denomination?

Verges: Shut up!  Don’t you men know your duties?

Others: No.

Dogberry: You are men of the watch.  That means you have the authority to make any man stop in the name of the Prince.

First Watch: Stop what?

Dogberry: Why, stop moving, of course.  That is–to stand still.

Second Watch: What if he’s lying down?

Third Watch: Then you wouldn’t have to tell him to stop in the first place, as he wasn’t going anywhere.

Fourth Watch: Suppose he’s lying down and wishes to stand up?

Dogberry: Yes, he can stand up.

Fourth Watch: But not lie down?

Dogberry: Why in the world would he want to lie down?

Fourth Watch: He might be tired.  I often lie down when I’m tired.

First Watch: Constable, what shall we do with a drunk?

Verges: A drunk is to be apprehended at all times, you donkey!

Second Watch: What, even when he’s not drunk?

Third Watch: No one can be drunk at all times.

Fourth Watch: Even a drunk has to sleep.

First Watch: But he would still be drunk.

Third Watch: But he would sober up eventually.

Second Watch: You’d have to awaken him at regular intervals to determine his actual condition.

Third Watch: Ah–of course.

First Watch: Constable, what shall we do if we catch someone telling fortunes?

Dogberry: Arrest him for fraud.

Second Watch: But what if the fortune comes true?  You wouldn’t arrest someone for telling the truth.

    (A pause as everyone ponders this.)

Dogberry: Ahem–To be on the safe side, you’d have to wait to see if the fortune did come true or not.

Third Watch: I was just about to say that.

Fourth Watch: So was I.

First Watch: Constable, what if we catch a peeping tom?

Dogberry: Arrest him, of course.

Second Watch: What if he’s legally blind?

Third Watch: They would throw it out of court, I should think.

Dogberry: Uh–yes–quite so.  If he appears to be blind, let him go–with a warning.

First Watch: Constable, what if someone is shouting obscenities?

Dogberry: Tell him to be quiet.

Second Watch: What if the obscenities are in a foreign language?  We wouldn’t know they were obscenities.

Verges: You donkey!  Didn’t they teach you anything at the academy?

Second Watch: What, are we supposed to know every language in the world?

Dogberry: Just use your own judgment.  If he sounds like he’s cursing, tell him to stop.

Second Watch: In what language?

Verges: In whatever language you can speak, you donkey!

Third Watch: Couldn’t we just slap him?

Dogberry: No, no.  You can only hit people in self defense–or–um–

Verges: Or if they insult the name of the Prince!

Dogberry: Yes, yes!  That’s in the law–somewhere–I think.

First Watch: What should we do about thieves?

Dogberry: You must catch them in the act, otherwise there’s very little you can do.

Second Watch: It’s usually the victim’s fault.  After all, you can’t have a theft without a victim.  They taught us that at the academy.

Third Watch: “The Politics of Oppression.”  That was the course.  Every thief is merely compensating for his own victimization by previous thieves.  Therefore, if you interrupt the cycle of theft and victimization, the man you arrest becomes the victim of the system.

Verges: What rubbish!  They taught you that?

Others: Yes.

Dogberry: Um–if you’re not sure, you must give the fellow the benefit of the doubt.  That’s the–uh–the Christian way.

Others (Nodding): Ah.  Yes.

Dogberry: Remember that as watchmen, you’re not supposed to do anything to annoy or offend anyone.

Verges: That’s right.  Just maintain law and order, but don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Dogberry: We don’t want Messina to get a bad reputation.

Verges: I think we can trust these men to look after things, Chief Constable.

Dogberry: Yes.  Very good.–Just one more thing, men.  Keep a close eye on Signior Leonato’s house tonight.  They’re having a late party before the wedding tomorrow.

Others: Yes, Chief Constable.

    (Dogberry and Verges leave.  The Watchmen sit down lazily in a place of suggested concealment.  Then Borachio and Conrade come in, drunk.  They are unaware of the Watchmen.  The Watchmen notice them and signal each other to be quiet and pay attention.)

Borachio (Gesturing to Conrade, who is lagging behind): Hey, Conrade!  Move your ass!

Conrade: Fuck me.  I’m drunk.

Borachio: I think it’s starting to rain.  Let’s get under this awning.

Conrade: Yeah, yeah.

Borachio: Listen.  I gotta tell ya what happened. I got paid a thousand ducats for doing a favour for Sir John.

Conrade: A thousand ducats!  What did you do, murder somebody?

Borachio: Heh, heh–no, no.  Not quite.  But it was a wicked piece of work, you can be sure of that.

Conrade: Well, I’d assume that much, knowing you.  What did you do?

Borachio: Don’t you remember Sir John wanted to screw up Claudio’s wedding plans?

Conrade: Oh, yeah.  Right.  What about it?

Borachio: I thought of a mean trick to play on Claudio and Don Pedro.

Conrade: What kind of trick?

Borachio: You know Lady Hero’s waiting maid Margaret?  She’s my girlfriend.

Conrade: Yeah, I know.

Borachio: We were on Lady Hero’s balcony, you see.  And Margaret was wearing Hero’s clothes, and we were necking, and I was calling her Hero.  And Don Pedro and Claudio were down below watching.  Sir John brought them there to prove Hero was a whore.–Are you following this?

Conrade: Yeah, yeah.  And the trick worked?

Borachio: Totally. 

Conrade: And Sir John paid you a thousand ducats for that?

Borachio: Hell, yes!  And now Claudio intends to make a big scene in church and call Hero a whore in front of everybody.  And Don Pedro is just as pissed off as Claudio, because the marriage was his idea in the first place.

Conrade: Ha!  That’s the best trick I ever heard! 

    (The Watchmen signal each other and come out into the open.)

First Watch: Stand in the name of the Prince!

Second Watch: You two are under arrest!

    (The Watchmen grab Conrade and Borachio by the collar.)

Conrade: What the fuck?

Borachio: Hey, watch it!  I’m a gentleman.  What’s the charge anyway?

    (The Watchmen look at each other with uncertainty.)

First Watch: Um–being, uh–evil!

Second Watch: Being villains!

Third Watch: Public–despicability!

Fourth Watch: Conspiring to–be an asshole!

First Watch: It doesn’t matter.  Chief Constable Dogberry will do the paper work.  He can read and write simultaneously.

Second Watch: In either order–and in all coins of a denomination.

Others: Yes.

Conrade: All right.  All right.  We’re not resisting.

Borachio: They’re happy now, aren’t they?  Dogberry’s canine corps have made a big arrest.–Arf!  Arf!

Watchmen: Come on!

    (They leave.)  

Act 3, Scene 4.  This scene is deleted.

Act 3, Scene 5.  In Leonato’s house the next morning.  Leonato comes in with Dogberry and Verges.

Leonato: So, what can I do for you, Dogberry?  You’ll have to make it short because I have a busy day today.

Dogberry: Yes.  Quite.  Well, there is a matter that I believe somewhat concerns you, sir.

Verges: Yes.  Somewhat.  Perhaps a little, perhaps more.

Dogberry: Perhaps in between those extremes–to be hypnothetical–in a Greek sort of way.

Leonato: Yes, yes.  What is it?

Dogberry: Well, sir, it seems that last night my men brought in a couple of bad fellows.  It was quite late.–I believe it just started raining, didn’t it, Verges?

Verges: It was raining lightly, I would say–or perhaps a bit more.  The watchmen came in rather wet.

Leonato: They’re good men, sir.  They don’t mind getting wet in the name of the Prince.

Verges: Good men.  Yes, indeed.  Wet or dry.  Ever faithful.

Leonato: Really, gentlemen, I’m in a hurry.

Dogberry: Yes, my lord.  Well, these two fellows of which I was preambling, and which were arrested–

Verges: Who were arrested.

Dogberry: What?

Verges: Who were arrested, not which were arrested.

Dogberry: Ah, yes, precisely.–The fellows whom were arrested were rather suspicious as pertaining to their circumstances.  That is, we were suspicious of them because they were suspicious to begin with–

Verges: Quite.

Dogberry: And we would like to have your lordship present when we interpolate them.

Verges: Interrogate.

Dogberry: Yes–that, too.

Leonato: Look, fellas, I’m way too busy.  I have a wedding to go to.  My daughter, Hero.

Dogberry: Congratulations, sir!

Verges: We wish her the best.

Leonato: Thank you.–Now, look, why don’t you interrogate your prisoners yourselves and send me a report if you think it’s advisable.

Dogberry: Yes, yes, we’ll do that, sir.

Verges: Yes, that’s very wise of you, sir.

    (A Messenger arrives.)

Messenger: My lord, everyone’s waiting for you to go to the church.

Leonato: Yes, yes, I’ll be right along.–You fellas can help yourselves to a cup of wine before you go.  I have to leave.

Dogberry: Thank you, sir.  Very good, sir.

    (Leonato leaves with the Messenger.)

Dogberry: Yes.  Well.  Um–we’ll need someone to write down the testimonials of the prisoners.

Verges: I would recommend the Sexton, Mr. Clyde Urchin.  He’s good at that sort of thing.  His calligraphy is exquisite.

Dogberry: Eh?–Well, as long as his handwriting is plainly illegible, that’s fine with me.  You bring him to the jail.

Verges: Yes.  At once.

    (Verges leaves.  Dogberry pours himself a quick cup of wine, gulps it, and follows Verges.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  In the church.  Don Pedro, Don John, Leonato, Father Francis, Claudio, Benedick, Hero, and Beatrice come in (optionally with Attendants).

Leonato: Okay, Father Francis, we don’t want the long ceremony.  Let’s do this quick.

Friar Francis: Right.–Ahem.  Count Claudio, are you here to marry this lady?

Claudio: No.

Laonato: Heh, heh–You’re the one who’s marrying them, Father.  That’s what he means.

Friar: Oh.  I thought my grammar was correct.–All right, then.  I assume Claudio’s good to go.–Hero, are you here–to be married–by me–to Count Claudio?

Hero: Yes.

Friar: Fine.  If anyone here knows any reason why these two should not be married, let him speak now.

Leonato: There is no reason, Father.  I can speak for everyone.

Claudio: Except me.

Benedick: Claudio, this is no time for jokes.

Claudio: I’m not joking.  (To Leonato) Sir, you may take your daughter back.  She’s not what I thought she was.

Leonato: What?  What do you mean, Claudio?

Claudio: I was led to believe she was a virgin.  I had no idea she was really–a whore.

Leonato: What are you saying?  Have you already had sex with her?

Claudio: No, not me.  She’s had another boyfriend all along.

Hero: I have not!  Have you lost your mind?

Claudio: No.  Neither have I lost my eyes and ears.

Leonato: What are you accusing her of?

Claudio: Last night between midnight and one o’clock, I saw her on her balcony with her–lover–and they were necking.

Hero: I wasn’t with anyone last night!

Don Pedro: I saw you, too.  And so did my brother.  (To Leonato) Leonato, I’m truly sorry.  But the three of us saw and heard it all plainly.  And the man has even admitted to my brother that he has met secretly with your daughter many times. 

Don John: Please don’t say any more.  (To Hero) I’m sorry for you, Hero.

Leonato: I can’t bear this!  Someone kill me now!

    (Hero faints into Beatrice’s arms.)

Beatrice: Hero!–Hero!  (Trying to revive her)  She’s dead!

Don John (To Don Pedro): We should go.

    (Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio leave.)

Benedick: Is she all right?

Beatrice: Oh, God!–Hero!  Wake up!–Uncle!

Leonato (Crying): I’m disgraced!  May God take her soul now!

Friar: No!  No!  (He tries to revive Hero.)  Hero–Hero–It’s all right.  Please wake up.

Leonato: All right?  How can it be all right?  She’s ruined herself, and she’s ruined me.  I loved her so much.  I did everything for her.  I was so proud of her.  And now–(He sobs.)

Benedick: Try to get hold of yourself, sir–please.  I don’t know whether to believe this or not.

Beatrice: She’s innocent!  I know my cousin!

Benedick: Were you with her last night?

Beatrice: No.  Usually I sleep in the same room with her, but–I didn’t last night.

Leonato: Then it’s true.  Would Don Pedro lie?  Would Don John lie?  Would Claudio?  Would he denounce her in front of everyone if it weren’t true?

Friar: Wait, wait, wait.–Let’s not jump to conclusions.  Everyone should calm down.  Unless I really don’t know people as well as I thought I did, I say she’s innocent.

Leonato: She didn’t deny the accusation.

    (Hero regains consciousness.)

Friar: Hero, tell me the truth.  Who is the man you were with last night?

Hero: Ask Claudio and Don Pedro.  I have no idea what they saw.  (To Leonato)  Father, if you can prove I was with some man last night, you can do whatever you want with me.  You can kill me.

Friar: I’m convinced this is all a mistake.

Benedick: I trust Don Pedro and Claudio, but I don’t trust Don John.  He could have misled the other two in some way.  If there’s anything rotten going on here, he’s the most likely culprit.

Leonato: I don’t know what to think.  If they told the truth, then my daughter will pay the price.  And if they lied, then they’ll pay the price.

Friar: Listen, I have a plan.  The two Princes and Claudio don’t know what Hero’s condition really is.  We’ll hide her, and you report that she’s dead.

Leonato: What good will that do?

Friar: If they hear that she’s dead and they were wrong about her, somebody may feel quilty enough that the truth will come out.  And in the other case–if you understand what I mean–you can pack your daughter off to a convent far away and she’ll never be seen again.  People will have pity for her if they think she’s dead, and it won’t be so bad for you.

Leonato: I don’t know–I’m so confused–All right, Father, we’ll do whatever you think is best.

Friar (To Hero): Try to be patient.  Everything may still work out all right.  Come with me.

    (All leave except Beatrice and Benedick.)

Benedick: I know you feel terrible about this.  I feel terrible, too.

Benedick: Why should you?  You’re not involved.

Benedick: Hey, Claudio’s my best friend.  But I agree with Friar Francis.  It’s got to be a mistake.  I don’t think your cousin did anything.  I don’t believe she’s a–what Claudio said.

Beatrice: I wish someone would give her back her honour.  It matters to me more than anything else in the world.

Benedick: Is there something I could do?

Beatrice: There is something someone could do–but you’re not the one to do it.

Benedick: I would do it–because I love you.

Beatrice: It’s strange to hear you say that.  And it’s just as strange that I might say I love you, too.  But right now I’m thinking only of my cousin.

Benedick: Beatrice, I know you love me.

Beatrice: Yes–I suppose I do.

Benedick: I’d do anything for you.  You said there was something someone could do.

Beatrice: Yes.

Benedick: Tell me what it is, and I’ll do it.

Beatrice: To prove that you love me?

Benedick: Yes.

Beatrice: All right, then.–I want you to kill Claudio.

Benedick: Kill Claudio?  You want me to kill my best friend?

Beatrice: He slandered my cousin, and for that he has to die!

Benedick: I–I can’t do that.

Beatrice: Goodbye, then.

    (She turns to leave, but he holds her.)

Benedick: Wait!

Beatrice: You don’t love me.  Let me go.

Benedick: I don’t love you unless I kill Claudio?  Is that what you’re saying?  Be reasonable.

Beatrice: Oh, if I were a man!  If I were a man, I’d know what to do!  Find me a real man–if there are any left in the world!

Benedick: Beatrice, I swear that I love you.

Beatrice: Any man can swear he loves me.  Words are cheap.  I want to see actions.

Benedick: Are you absolutely, completely sure that Claudio slandered your cousin?

Beatrice: Of course!  I’m as sure of her as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow.

Benedick: All right.–I’ll challenge him to a duel.  I’ll make him pay for the wrong he’s done.–Then you’ll be satisfied.–Goodbye.

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In the jail.  Dogberry and Verges come in with the Sexton, who has his writing implements.  Borachio and Conrade are escorted in by the Watchmen.

Dogberry: Well–I believe the entire assemblage is now assembled..

Verges (Offering a chair in front of a writing table): Sexton, you may sit here.

Sexton: Thank you.–Now, then, who are the malefactors?

Dogberry: That would be Verges and myself, sir.

Sexton: No.  I mean, who are the offenders?

Dogberry: Oh, sorry.–These two.  (To Borachio) Come here, you.  State your name for the Sexton.

Borachio: Borachio.

Dogberry: His name is Borachio.

Sexton: Yes.  I heard.  I’m writing everything down, don’t worry.

Dogberry (To Conrade): And you.  What’s your name?

Conrade: Conrade.

Dogberry: And his name is Conrade.

Sexton: Yes.  I’ve got it.

Dogberry: You, Conrade–and you, Borachio–the facts prove that you are both maloffenders, and it will be produced presently in evidentiary fashion that no other conclusion could be misled to.  What do you say to that?

Conrade: I haven’t done anything illegal.

Borachio: Me neither.

Dogberry: Well, that’s perjury if I ever heard it, and I think that settles the matter.

Sexton: Constable Dogberry, you must secure the testimony of the men of the watch.

Dogberry: Oh, I can secure it, all right.  I guarantee you they’re telling the truth.

Sexton: But you must ask them questions for the record.

Dogberry: Oh–of course.  Good thinking.  (To the Watchmen) Now, then–um–what is your testimony, that I may secure it at once?

First Watch: This man, Borachio, said that Don John was a no-good son of a bitch.

Dogberry: What?  He called the Prince’s brother a no-good son of a bitch?  (To Borachio) That’ll get you an additional six months extra, for sure.

Borachio: You’re an idiot.

Dogberry (To the Sexton): You write that down.

Sexton: Yes.–“You’re an idiot.”

Dogberry (To the Watchmen): What else?

Second Watch: He said Don John paid him a thousand ducats to compromise Lady Hero’s honour.

Dogberry: Well, that sounds like theft to me. 

Sexton: Yes, go on.

Third Watch: He staged a scene on Lady Hero’s balcony with his girlfriend, Margaret, with the intention of deceiving Don Pedro and Count Claudio.

Fourth Watch: And they were in fact deceived, and the marriage was called off.  And Lady Hero’s reputation is now in, um–disrepute.

Dogberry (To Borachio): You’ll be condemned to everlasting condemnation for that!

Sexton: Anything else?

Watchmen: No.  That’s it.

Sexton: Right.  Well, that explains everything.  Don John left town this morning–no one knows where.  And Lady Hero has been reported dead by her father.  Apparently, she died of shame over the false accusation made against her by Count Claudio, whom she was to have married.  Constable Dogberry, I suggest you tie up these men and take them to Governor Leonato’s house.  I’ll go on ahead of you and give him a complete report on this interrogation.

Dogberry: Very good, sir.  You are a consumptive professional!

    (The Sexton leaves.)

Dogberry (To the Watchmen): Tie them up!   Use rope if you have to.  (To Borachio and Conrade) You are both rotten maloffenders and felonious felons!

Conrade: Up yours.

Dogberry: And if you don’t watch out, your disrespect of authoritarianism will get you a kick in the ass!  And when you are punished for your malocutions and predilections, you’ll know the meaning of suffrage!

Verges: You tell ’em!

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  In front of Leonato’s house.  Leonato and Antonio come in.

Antonio: Brother, you must collect yourself or you’ll have a stroke or heart attack.

Leonato: Everyone tells me not to take it so hard, but they don’t know how I angry and miserable I feel.  It’s eating me up from the inside.

Antonio: Don’t do that to youself.  Take it out on those who deserve it.

Leonato: Yes.–I should.–I don’t believe those lies about Hero.  Claudio and Don Pedro are going to pay for it.

    (Don Pedro and Claudio come in.)

Don Pedro and Claudio: Good morning.

Leonato: You bastards!  I hate you!

Don Pedro: Don’t be angry with us, Leonato.

Claudio: We haven’t done anything to be ashamed of, Governor.

Leonato: You’re both liars!–Go ahead, Claudio, reach for your sword.  I’m not afraid of you.

Claudio: I wasn’t doing any such thing.

Leonato: I may be old, but I’ll still fight you!  You killed my daughter with your lies!

Claudio: Lies?  You’re saying we lied?

Leonato: You’re damned right!

Don Pedro: Now, wait a minute, Leonato.  We’re sorry about your daughter, but we didn’t lie.

Leonato: I’ll duel either one of you right now for the sake of my daughter’s honour!

Claudio: Get serious, Governor.  I’m not going to duel an old man.

Leonato: You’re a child.  You won’t face a real man in a duel.

Antonio: Let him duel me first!–Come on, Claudio!  I’m even older than he is!  I’ll fight you!  (He struggles with his sword, which is stuck.)

Leonato: Antonio, keep out of this.

Antonio: No!  I won’t!  I loved my niece!  (He continues to struggle with his sword.)

Don Pedro: Come, come now, gentlemen.  There’s not going to be any dueling.  Claudio and I are also men of honour, but we’re not going to indulge you in any stupid theatrics.

Leonato: You’re both bastards!  I’ll fight you now!

Don Pedro: You should go inside and lie down before you have a stroke.

Antonio: Don’t tell us to smoke!  We don’t smoke!

Claudio: Signior Leonato, you don’t look well.   I suggest you go inside with your brother.

Don Pedro: Yes.  You really should.

    (Leonato acts slightly faint.)

Leonato: Come on, brother.–Let’s go inside.  (They leave, but Leonato shouts over his shoulder tearfully) This matter isn’t finished!–I’ll tell everyone!–People will listen–My poor sweet girl!  (He leans on Antonio as they go out.)

Claudio: What a mess.

Don Pedro: You can say that again.

    (Benedick comes in slowly, looking very serious.)

Don Pedro: Benedick!  We were just coming to look for you.

Claudio: Hello, Benedick.

Benedick (Coldly): Good morning.

Don Pedro: You almost witnessed a fight.  Leonato and his brother wanted to duel us.

Benedick: That would hardly have been a fair fight.–I’ve been looking for you guys, too–or rather, Claudio in particular.

Claudio: Then we’re well met, as they say.  Don Pedro and I have both been very sad about what’s happened.  We were hoping  to get a dose of your customary good cheer.

Benedick (Coldly, hand on scabbard): Yeah, I can give you a dose of good cheer, all right.

Claudio (Alarmed): Benedick–what’s the matter?

Benedick: You lied about Hero.  And now I’m challenging you.  I’ll fight you wherever you want, however you want.  Do you accept my challenge–or are you a coward?

Claudio (Angrily): A coward?

Don Pedro (Restraining him): No!  Not now.

Claudio: If you want to fight me, I’ll fight you, Benedick.  And you’ll lose.

Don Pedro: Really, Benedick!  I thought you were smarter than this.

Benedick: Your brother, Don John, has left town.  That proves you all lied.  (To Claudio) I’ll be meeting you later.

    (Benedick leaves.)

Don Pedro: I don’t believe this.  What’s gotten into him?

Claudio: I’ll bet anything Beatrice put him up to it.

Don Pedro: Wait a minute.  He said my brother left town?–What the hell?

    (Dogberry, Verges, and the Watchmen come in with Conrade and Borachio, tied up.)

Dogberry (To the Prisoners): Come on, you villains!  Now you’ll pay for your dirty deeds!

Don Pedro: Hey!  What gives?  These are my brother’s men, Conrade and Borachio.  What’s going on?

Dogberry: My lord, these two no-goods are guilty of slander.  Not only that, but they’ve told lies that are untrue.

Don Pedro: Hold on.  (To Borachio and Conrade) Gentlemen, what’s all this about?

Borachio (Remorsefully): My lord, I won’t lie to you.  I–well–you see–Don John paid me–he paid me to–to–

Don Pedro: Out with it, man.  My brother paid you to do what?

Borachio: Remember when you and Claudio saw Hero making love to a strange man on her balcony?

Don Pedro: Yes.

Borachio: It was a trick.  It wasn’t her.  It was Margaret–and me.  She was wearing Hero’s clothes.  Don John paid me a thousand ducats.  He wanted to hurt Claudio and you.–And now Hero’s dead.–I’ll take whatever punishment I deserve.

    (Don Pedro and Claudio exchange a long look of shocked realization.)

Don Pedro: That bastard brother of mine!  No wonder he ran away.

Claudio (Very sadly): Hero–we could’ve been married now.

Dogberry (To Don Pedro): The Sexton has informed the Governor of all the details.  Please don’t forget to mention the fine work of myself and Verges and the men of the watch in the comprehension and foreclosure of these maloffenders.

    (Leonato, Antonio, and the Sexton come in.  Leonato and Antonio are both quite composed.)

Leonato: Who’s the guilty one?  I want to look him in the eye.

Borachio: It’s myself, sir.  Conrade didn’t take part in it.

Leonato: My daughter is dead because of you.  (To Claudio and Don Pedro) I hoope you’re proud of yourselves.  The blame falls on you as well.

Claudio: Sir, I can’t find the words to tell you how sorry I am.–We didn’t realize–Whatever I have to do to atone for this–this terrible mistake–I’ll do.

Don Pedro: That goes for me, too, Governor.

Leonato: Good.  Now we’re getting to a proper resolution of the matter.  This is what I want you to do.  I want you to let it be known throughout Messina that my daughter was always innocent and pure, and that you were mistaken.  Then I want you to come to my house tomorrow morning.–Claudio, it is my wish that you should marry my brother Antonio’s daughter.  You don’t know her, but she looks a lot like Hero.  And I want you to treat her with the same love and kindness that you would have treated Hero with.  If you agree to do this, I will be satisfied.

Claudio: My lord!–I–That’s incredibly gracious of you!  I will agree!

Leonato: Fine.  Now the only loose end to deal with is Margaret.  She was involved in this, too.

Borachio: My lord, Margaret is innocent.  She didn’t know anything about the trick.

Dogberry: My lord, all the men of the watch were very efficient and deleterious in the indulgence of their duties, and myself and Verges were simple-minded in extricating this misconstruction to your noble attention.

Leonato: Yes.  Well done.  (He gives Dogberry a gold coin.)  This is a small token of gratitude.

Dogberry: God bless you, sir!  You’re an inspiration to every menial public servant in Italy!

Leonato: Leave your prisoners with me.

Dogberry: Gladly, sir!  I leave them in the hands of injudiciousness itself, bless you, sir!–Come on, Verges.

    (Dogberry and Verges leave.)

Leonato (To the Watchmen): Bring them along with me.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  This scene is deleted.

Act 5, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 5, Scene 4.  In Leonato’s house.  Leonato, Benedick, Beatrice, Margaret, Ursula, Antonio, Frair Francis, and Hero come in.

Friar: I told you she was innocent!  I knew she was!

Leonato: You were right, Father.  And Don Pedro and Claudio were tricked.  And so was Margaret.

Antonio: The truth always comes out.  I’m certainly glad for that.

Benedick: Not half as glad as I am.  I would’ve had to duel my best friend.

Leonato: Now there’s just one thing left to be done.  It’s time to play a little trick of my own.  I want you ladies to go into the other room and put on masks.  (To Antonio) And you, brother, will be giving away a daughter to Count Claudio.

Antonio: But I don’t have a daughter.

Leonato: I’m lending you Hero–in disguise.

Antonio: Ha!  I get it!

Leonato: Can you make it convincing?

Antonio: Absolutely!

Benedick: Excuse me–Father Francis, as long as you’re here–

Friar: Yes?

Benedick: Well–I should ask Leonato first.

Leonato: Yes, my boy, what is it?

Benedick: Well, sir–it’s about your niece, Beatrice.

Leonato: Mm?  Yes?

Benedick: Um–I want to marry her.

Leonato: Will she have you?

Benedick: I believe she will.

Leonato: Splendid!  I approve!

Friar: A double wedding!  I don’t get to do that very often.

    (Don Pedro and Claudio arrive.)

Don Pedro and Claudio: Good morning.

Leonato: Good morning.–Claudio, are you ready to marry Antonio’s daughter?

Claudio: I said I would, and I will.

Leonato: Antonio, have her come in.

    (Antonio leaves, chuckling.)

Don Pedro: Benedick, you seem nervous today.

Claudio: You’d think he was the one getting married.

Benedick: Oh!  Ha, ha!  Me get married?  What an idea!

    (Antonio returns with Hero, Beatrice, Margaret, and Ursula, wearing masks.)

Claudio: Which is the lady I’m supposed to marry?

    (Antonio brings Hero forward.) 

Antonio: Here she is.  Her name is, um–

Leonato: Lucinda.

Antonio: Belinda.  Yes.

Leonato: Lucinda.

Antonio: Yes, Linda.  That’s her middle name.

Claudio: O-kay–whatever.  (To Hero) Now, my good lady, take off your mask so I can see you.

Leonato: Not so fast.  Take her by the hand and swear to marry her–no matter what she looks like.

Claudio: All right.  Give me your hand then, lady.  I swear to marry you–that is, if you’ll have me.

Hero (Taking off her mask): Yes.  I’ll have you.

Claudio: Hero!

Don Pedro: But you were–dead!

Leonato: And she would’ve stayed dead if we hadn’t learned the truth.

Friar: I’ll explain it to you later, after the ceremony.

Benedick: Uh, Father Francis–which one is Beatrice?

Beatrice (Removing her mask): Here I am.  Did you want to say something to me?

Benedick: Um, yes–I think so.–Now, look here, Beatrice, you do love me, don’t you?

Beatrice: Mm–yes–within reason.

Benedick: Your uncle and Don Pedro and Claudio said you were sick in love with me.

Beatrice: Did they?  Oh, well!  Hero and Margaret and Ursula assured me you were pining away for me.  Were you pining away?

Benedick: Well–I don’t recall if I was pining away, exactly.  But never mind.  Do you love me, or don’t you?

Beatrice: As a friend, yes.

Leonato: Come on, now.  Don’t give the guy a hard time.  You love him.  Admit it.

Claudio: I know he loves her.  He even wrote her a love poem.  (He produces a paper.)  I found it in one of his books.

Benedick: Don’t read that!  It’s a terrible poem!

Hero: Ha!  Beatrice wrote you a love letter! (She produces a paper.) I stole it from her pocket!

Beatrice: Oh, my God!  (She tries to snatch it away from Hero, but Hero keeps it out of reach.)  I’m so embarrassed!

Benedick: Ah!  Well!  You’ve signed your own confession, haven’t you?

Beatrice: So did you.

Benedick: It’s all right.  I don’t mind marrying you–out of pity for your aching heart.

Beatrice: Then I suppose I should accept–before you pine away to extinction.

Benedick: You and your smart mouth.  You really have this coming to you.  (He kisses her.)

Claudio: Another bachelor bites the dust!  What a pity!

Benedick: In case my brains have gone for a walk, let’s get to the chapel before they return to me.

    (A Messenger arrives.)

Messenger (To Don Pedro): My lord, your brother, Don John, has been arrested.  He’s being returned to Messina.

Don Pedro (Smacking his hands): Aha!

Benedick: Even more to celebrate!–Hey, let’s have some music!–Musicians!

    (Some musicians appear out of nowhere, led by Balthasar with his guitar.  They play something corny or silly [Director’s choice] and everyone dances as the curtain falls.)


    Copyright@ 2010 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com  





“Shakespeare For White Trash” is a series of condensed rewrites designed to make Shakespeare understandable and enjoyable to the least sophisticated audiences.  The plots and characters are unchanged, but everything else has been radically restyled.  These plays are intended to be performed, as well as read.

Posting dates appear below. 

Sept. 28, 2010 — Hamlet 


Sept. 29, 2010 — Macbeth 


Sept. 30, 2010 — Othello 


Oct. 1, 2010 — Romeo and Juliet


Oct. 2, 2010 — King Lear


Oct. 3, 2010 — The Tempest


Oct. 4, 2010 — Julius Caesar


Oct. 5, 2010 — The Merchant of Venice


Oct. 6, 2010 — Richard III


Dec. 27, 2010 — Much Ado About Nothing  


Dec. 28, 2010 — The Taming of the Shrew 


Dec. 29, 2010 — A Midsummer Night’s Dream  


March 1, 2011 — Twelfth Night


March 2, 2011 — As You Like It 


April 12, 2011 — Antony and Cleopatra  


May 5, 2011 — The Comedy of Errors


June 1, 2011 — King John


July 7, 2011 — Richard II


August 11, 2011 — Henry IV, Part One


Sept. 14, 2011 — Henry IV, Part Two


Oct. 25, 2011 — Henry V 


Nov. 30, 2011 — Henry VI, Part One 


Jan. 12, 2012 — Henry VI, Part Two


Feb. 11, 2012 — Henry VI, Part Three


March 20, 2012 — Henry VIII


April 29, 2012 — The Winter’s Tale


May 30, 2012 — Timon of Athens


July 9, 2012 — Measure For Measure 


August 24, 2012 — Coriolanus


October 12, 2012 — Love’s Labour’s Lost 


November 14, 2012 — The Two Gentlemen of Verona


December 21, 2012 — Troilus and Cressida 


January 28, 2013 — Titus Andronicus 


March 8, 2013 — The Merry Wives of Windsor


April 14, 2013 — Pericles


June 4, 2013 — Cymbeline


July 10, 2013 — The Two Noble Kinsmen


August 21, 2013 — All’s Well That Ends Well


    Coming soon —  Hey, we’re finished!!!                  

    Contact Crad Kilodney at crad166@yahoo.com


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

Main Characters

King Edward IV — King of England

Queen Elizabeth — Queen of England

Prince Edward, and Richard, Duke of York — young sons of Edward and Elizabeth

George, Duke of Clarence (referred to as Clarence) — brother of King Edward

Son and Daughter of Clarence

Richard, Duke of Gloucester — brother of King Edward; later Richard III

Duchess of York — mother of King Edward, Clarence, and Gloucester

Earl Rivers — (a.k.a. Anthony Woodville); brother of Queen Elizabeth

Marquess of Dorset — (a.k.a. Thomas Grey); son of Elizabeth from her previous marriage to Sir John Grey

Lord Grey — (a.k.a. Richard Grey); son of Elizabeth from her previous marriage to Sir John Grey

Lady Anne Neville — widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, and daughter-in-law of the late King Henry VI

Queen Margaret — widow of the late King Henry VI

Earl of Richmond — (a.k.a. Henry Tudor); later King Henry VII

Duke of Buckingham

Lord Hastings

Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby 

Sir Richard Ratcliffe

Duke of Norfolk

Sir Robert Brakenbury — Lieutenant of the Tower of London

William Catesby

Lord Lovell

Sir James Blunt

Sir Walter Herbert

Sir William Brandon

James Tyrell

Sir Thomas Vaughan

Lord Mayor of London

Earl of Surrey

Bishop of Ely

Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of York

Earl of Oxford

Keeper in the Tower

Two Murderers

Christopher Urswick          

Gist of the story: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is determined to be King of England and is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.  By the time he murders his way to the throne, he has made so many enemies that a rebellion is inevitable.  This will be the final War of the Roses between the Yorks (Richard, et al.)  and the Lancasters (Earl of Richmond, et al.).  Richmond kills Richard at Bosworth and then rules England as King Henry VII.  (Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard as a deformed, evil murderer is based on the writings of Thomas More.  But there is a large pro-Richard faction that insists that More’s history was just Tudor propaganda and that Richard never murdered anyone.  The historical record is not absolutely reliable either way, and the evidence against Richard would be considered circumstantial by modern standards.  Nevertheless, the weight of that evidence is heaviest where the Princes in the Tower are concerned.  Richard was officially their Protector, he had complete power over them, and he had everything to gain by their deaths.  To argue that some other person had them killed — quite conveniently for Richard! — is to stretch my credulity beyond its limits.  There is a Richard III Society (www.richardiii.net) dedicated to rehabilitating Richard’s bad reputation, but I take them as a contrary indicator.  If you need a society to rehabilitate your bad reputation 500 years after the fact, you probably deserve that reputation.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  A street in London.  Richard, Duke of Gloucester, comes in.  He will speak directly to the audience.  The player should take his time with this monologue.

Richard: Good evening.  I hope you are all as happy as we are.  If you’re on the side of the Yorks, then you’re happy.  We’re the Yorks.  (He produces a white rose from his pocket.)  We’re known by the white rose.  Our enemies are the Lancasters.  (He produces a red rose from his other pocket.)  They’re known by the red rose.  We’ve been fighting for years over the throne of England.  (He knocks the roses against each other in mock battle.)  But now we’re in power, and they’re–not!  Actually, both roses come from the same family tree–the Plantagenets.  But that’s history.  You can read about it.  Me, I prefer to make history, not read about it.  So, right now the Yorks are happy–singing, dancing, partying, having sex.  Well, maybe not me.  I’m not what you’d call happy in a physical way.  God gave me a bad body.  I don’t even like to look at myself in the mirror.  Women don’t want me.  Even dogs run away from me.  Most people are good, and they’re happy to be good.  I’m bad, and I’m happy to be bad.  If God had intended otherwise, he would’ve given me a good body.  And if I’m going to be a villain, I’m going to be the best villain I can possibly be–in a manner of speaking.  I have all the qualifications–highly intelligent, ruthless, fearless, ambitious, manipulative, dishonest, and with no conscience whatsoever.  I love power.  It’s all I think about.  My good brother Edward is King.  That’s Edward the Fourth, if you want to look him up.  He defeated Henry the Sixth, of the Lancasters–with my help, of course.  I’m the best fighter in the family.  Henry died recently in the Tower of London–with my help.  Eddie’s been a good King.  But he’s not in good health.  He won’t live much longer.  Next in line to the throne are his two young boys–Edward and Richard.  My nephews.  And I have another older brother, George.  But everyone refers to him as Clarence because he’s the Duke of Clarence.  He’s a twit.  And I am Richard, Duke of Gloucester.  You may address me as “sir,” “my lord,” or “your Grace.”  And if I have my way you’ll be addressing me as “your Majesty.”  But in order for that to happen, everyone who stands between me and the throne has to be eliminated.  At the moment, Clarence is my main concern.  I’m playing Edward and Clarence against each other.  There’s a prophecy that someone in the family who has the initial “G” will be a murderer.  Of course, that must be George.  (Points accusingly at the audience) No!  Don’t even think of Gloucester!–Oh! Would you like to meet my brother George, Duke of Clarence?  Here he comes now with–oh, dear!–an armed guard and Brakenbury, the Lieutenant of the Tower.  Whatever can it mean?  (Clarence comes in, escorted by an armed guard and Brakenbury.)  Hello, brother!  What in the world is going on?

Clarence: The King has ordered me to be locked up in the Tower.

Richard: Really!  Why on earth would he do that?

Clarence: Because my name is George.

Richard: What’s wrong with George?  George is a fine name.  And anyway, you didn’t name yourself.  It’s the name you were given.  Maybe the King just wants to give you a new name and he’s arranging a baptismal ceremony in the Tower.

Clarence: I don’t think so.  He keeps referring to some prophecy that someone with the initial “G” will steal the throne or something.  Some wizard told him.  So he’s afraid, and he’s locking me up.  It’s crazy.  I’d never do such a thing to my own brother. 

Richard: You know what I think?  His wife put him up to it.  Elizabeth.  She’s a bitch.  All her people are untrustworthy.  She and her brother, Rivers, told Edward to lock up Lord Hastings.

Clarence: Really?

Richard: I’m sure of it.  He just got out of the Tower today, poor fellow.  I tell you, Clarence, we’re not safe any more.

Clarence: The only people who are safe around here are the Queen’s relatives and the messengers the King sends to his mistress, Jane Shore.  Hastings had to crawl on his hands and knees to be set free.  And he’s the Lord Chamberlain!

Richard: I know.  It’s pathetic.  The Queen has too much influence.  And Jane Shore has a big mouth, too.  Listen, take my advice and don’t cross the Queen.  Just pretend to be sweet to her.  That way you won’t cross the King either.

Brakenbury: Excuse me for butting in, my lord, but the King specifically ordered me to conduct his lordship to the Tower with no stopping for any chit-chat along the way.  Nobody’s to speak to him.

Richard: Hey, we’re not talking any treason here, are we, Brakenbury?  All we’re saying is that the King is wonderful, we adore the Queen and all her relatives, and as for Mistress Shore, the King’s girlfriend, she sings like a budgie, and she is reputed to have the best pair of legs in London.  Isn’t that right?  Don’t you agree?

Brakenbury: I assure your lordship I don’t know anything about Mistress Shore’s legs.

Richard: Well, I hope not, for your sake.  Nobody gets to see her legs except her husband–unless you intend to say otherwise.

Brakenbury: Don’t be angry with me, your Grace.  I’m just doing my job.  And I didn’t hear this conversation.

Clarence: Yeah, we know.  We’re not trying to bust your balls, Brakenbury.

Richard: We are the Queen’s most obedient slaves–I mean, subjects.  Clarence, you go on with the lieutenant, and I’ll go speak to the King and see if I can get you out of the Tower.  It really hurts me to see you treated this way.

Clarence: I really appreciate your concern for me.  You’re a good brother.

Richard: Leave it to me, then.  I’ll talk to Edward, and I’ll tell him whatever it takes to get you out.

Brakenbury: If you’ll excuse us, your Grace.  (To Clarence) Come along now, sir.  I’m sure everything will be all right.

Clarence (To Richard): See you later.  And thanks!

    (Clarence, Brakenbury, and the guard leave.)

Richard: That’s a one-way trip for you, Clarence.  Dumbass.–Hey, here comes Hastings.

    (Lord Hastings comes in.)

Hastings: Hello, my lord!

Richard: Glad to see you free again, Hastings.  How was it in there?

Hastings: Terrible.  Whoever got me sent there is going to get some payback from me.

Richard: For sure.  And from Clarence, too.  You’ve got the same enemies.  So wassup?

Hastings: I’ll tell you.  The King is sick.  The doctors don’t think he’ll live much longer.

Richard: That’s awful.  I had no idea.  Well, he doesn’t take care of himself.  He never did.  Is he in bed?

Hastings: Yes.

Richard: We’ll go check up on him.  You go on ahead.  I’ll be there shortly.

Hastings: All right.  (He leaves.)

Richard (To the audience): I want to see Edward dead, but not before I’ve finished with Clarence.  I’ve got to get him out of the way first.  After that I intend to marry the Earl of Warwick’s daughter, Anne Neville.  Her father used to be my tutor when I was a boy.  He later defected to the Lancasters, and Anne married Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry the Sixth.  I killed them both–her husband and her father-in-law.  Now I’m going to make it up to her, ha, ha.–Okay, I’m joking.  I have a strategic reason for marrying her, that’s all.–Oh, so you don’t believe I can do it, do you?  You think, no fucking way am I going to get a woman to marry me after I killed her husband, right?–Dudes, watch me.

    (He leaves.)  

Act 1, Scene 2.  On a street, but a castle is also suggested.  Lady Anne escorts the coffin of Henry VI, along with Halberds (guards armed with poleaxes) and Bearers.  The coffin is open. 

Anne: Set him down for a moment.  (The Bearers set down the coffin.  Anne kneels beside it.)  My noble King, can you hear me?  It is I, your faithful daughter-in-law, Anne.  I know you’re in heaven now, with my husband–your son–Edward, Prince of Wales–both of you taken from me by a Yorkist murderer.  I curse him with all my heart.  May he be crushed like the spider he is.  And if he should marry, may his wife be miserable every day of her life.–Ah, my lord, noble King Henry. let your faithful Anne walk you to Chertsey and your final rest.  (She stands, and the Bearers lift the coffin.  Then Richard comes in.)

Richard: You, there!  Stop!  Put that coffin down.

Anne: You!  What are you doing here!

A Halberd: My lord, let the coffin pass.

Richard: You do as you’re told!  You tilt that halberd one inch toward me and I’ll shove it up your ass.

    (The Bearers set down the coffin.)

Anne: Get lost, you devil!  You killed him, but you won’t steal his soul!

Richard: Oh, my dear lady!  What an awful thing to say to me.

Anne: You devil from hell!  Come to admire your handiwork?  You did this!  (Points to the body) Look!  The blood flows again from the wounds!  He knows his murderer!–Oh, God, give me revenge!  Strike this murderer down now!  Murderer of my husband, too!

Richard: Oh, my dear lady!  This is so unfair!

Anne: Any beast has more pity in its heart than you!

Richard: Well, I have no pity, so I can’t be a beast, can I?

Anne: You even admit it!

Richard: You’re beautiful when you’re angry.  But please, my lady, at least give me a chance to defend myself.

Anne: Defend yourself?  What could you possibly say, you monster?

Richard: I didn’t kill your husband.  My brother Edward did.

Anne: Liar!  Queen Margaret, my mother-in-law, saw you do it!  You even threatened her with death!

Richard: She provoked me.  She accused me of things I didn’t do.  Anyway, your husband died on the field of battle.  War is war.

Anne: Tell me you didn’t kill King Henry!

Richard: Okay.  I did kill him.

Anne: May you be damned for it!

Richard: He’s better off in heaven than he was on earth.

Anne: And you’d be better off in hell!  That’s where you belong!

Richard: Frankly, I think I belong in your bed.

Anne: In your dreams!

Richard: Some dreams come true.  But don’t you think the person who caused the deaths of Henry and your husband is as much to blame as the one who actually did it?

Anne: They’re one and the same–you.

Richard: No.  You were the cause.  I mean, your beauty.  I couldn’t think of anyone but you.  I had to have you.  I’m mad about you!

Anne: If I thought my beauty caused their deaths, I’d rip my face to shreds and be ugly forever.

Richard: Oh, no!  You mustn’t think of such a thing!  I live for you!

Anne: And I live for revenge.

Richard: Don’t seek revenge on the one who loves you.

Anne: You killed my husband.

Richard: Only so you could have a better husband.

Anne: There was no one better on the face of the earth.

Richard: I love you more than he ever could.

    (She spits at him.)

Anne: I wish that were poison!

Richard: No poison ever came from sweeter lips.

Anne: You filthy toad!  Get out of my sight!

Richard: If I were out of your sight, then you’d be out of mine, too.  And I just couldn’t bear that.  (He pretends to cry.)  I’ve never cried over a woman before.  I can’t bear it that you hate me.

Anne: I loathe you!

Richard: Don’t treat me with contempt when I love you so much.–Here, take my sword.  (He gives her his sword.)  Put it right there on my breast.  And if you really have it in you to kill a man who adores you so much, then stick it in me and end my misery.  (She begins to strike but holds back.)  Why do you hesitate?  I killed King Henry, and I killed your husband–but only for your beauty.  So, now, kill me if you have a mind to.

    (She begins to strike again but stops.)

Anne: You deserve to be dead–but I can’t do it.

Richard: Then tell me to kill myself, and I will.  Just say the words and you can be the instrument of my death.

Anne: You’re out of your mind.  I don’t understand you.  Put your damned sword away.  I don’t want to kill anyone.

Richard: Then have you forgiven me?

Anne: No.

    (Richard produces a ring.)

Richard: Take this ring.  I want you to have it.

Anne: I’m not yours.

    (Richard puts the ring on her finger.)

Richard: Look.  It fits perfectly.  Now grant me one favour.

Anne: What?

Richard: Let me take the King to be buried so I can shed my own private tears over his grave.  You’re a Christian, aren’t you?  You believe in repentance, don’t you?  Then let me have that moment of repentance.  You can go to my house and wait for me.  I have more I must say to you.  Perhaps you don’t want to, but say yes anyway.  I can’t explain here on the street.

Anne: If you really mean what you say–about repentance.

Richard: Yes!  Believe me!  I do!

Anne: All right, then.  (To a Halberd) Please escort me.

    (She leaves with a Halberd.)

Richard: All right, you can take the coffin now.

Second Halberd: To Chertsey, my lord?

Richard: No.  To Whitefriars.  And wait for me there.

    (The others carry off the coffin.)

Richard (To the audience): I knew I could con her.  I’ll keep her as long as it serves my purpose, then I’ll dump her.–Gee, maybe I’m a lot more attractive to women than I ever imagined.  I ought to hire a stylist and have a complete makeover.  Who knows what I could do then?

    (He leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  In the palace.  Queen Elizabeth, Lord Rivers, the Marquess of Dorset, and Lord Grey come in.

Rivers (To Queen Eliz.): Try not to worry.  He’ll get better.  I’m sure he will.

Grey: Yes, mother.  Being depressed only makes it worse.  You should let him see you looking cheerful and confident.

Queen Eliz.: What would happen to me if he died?

Grey: Life goes on.  You’d manage.

Queen Eliz.: I can’t bear to think of it.

Grey: Think about your two boys, the Princes–young Edward and Richard.  They’re fine boys.

Queen Eliz.: If the King dies, Gloucester becomes their Protector.  He doesn’t care about any of us.  He hates us.

Rivers: Is it official that Gloucester will be their Protector?

Queen Eliz.: He’s already been chosen.  If the King dies, it’ll be official.

    (The Duke of Buckingham and Stanley, Earl of Derby, come in.)

Grey: Buckingham and Derby!  Hello, my lords!

Buckingham: A very good day to you, my lords and your Majesty.

Stanley: God give you happiness, your Majesty.

Queen Eliz: Derby, you are so kind.  But your wife wouldn’t throw me a life preserver if I were drowning.

Stanley: Please don’t believe that.  Perhaps she gives that impression, but I’m sure she doesn’t mean it.

Queen Eliz.: Did you see the King today?

Stanley: Buck and I just came from him.

Queen Eliz.: What do you think?  Will he recover?

Buckingham: Yes, of course, madam.  He was in good spirits.

Queen Eliz.: What did you talk about?

Buckingham: He wants to smooth things over between Gloucester and your relatives, and between them and Hastings.  He asked to speak to all of them.

Queen Eliz.: Oh, if only!

    (Richard and Hastings come in.  Richard clears his throat loudly to get attention.)

Queen Eliz.: My lord Gloucester.

Richard: I’m fed up with people bad-mouthing me behind my back to the King.  Just because I don’t bow and scrape and put on a false show of flattery–like certain other people–that makes me a bad guy, I suppose.  Can’t a humble, honest man like me–who never had an evil thought toward anyone–live in peace without being slandered?

Grey: Who are these “certain other people” you’re referring to, if I may ask?

Richard: Excuse me for a moment.–Everyone freeze!  (He makes a gesture or snaps his fingers, and everyone else on stage freezes absolutely still.  Richard comes to the front of the stage when he begins to speak to the audience and then moves around to identify people as if he were a tour guide in a wax museum.)  Now, here’s a nice family snapshot, don’t you think?  Let me tell you who these people are.  This is Queen Elizabeth, my brother Edward’s wife.  She’s the first commoner ever to become Queen of England.  She didn’t come from a noble family.  Her people are the Woodvilles.  This guy’s a Woodville–her brother Anthony.  But now he’s known as the Earl Rivers.  You see, if you marry into royalty, you can give out titles and promotions to your relatives.  I look down on such people.  Now, Lizzie was married before–to Sir John Grey.  So she was Lady Grey.  And these are her sons from her previous marriage.  This is Thomas Grey, who now goes by the title of the Marquess of Dorset.  Everyone calls him Dorset.  And this is the other Grey, Lord Richard Grey.  We could make him a marquess, I suppose.  Find some rocky, little island covered with birdshit and make him marquess of that.  It’s okay with me.  Over here is Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby.  He married someone from the Lancasters.  He’s willing to get along with anyone, but he always makes sure he’s on the winning side.  For him, loyalty is a matter of pragmatism.  And this is Lord Buckingham.  He’s everybody’s cousin or in-law and my number one ally.  He’d do anything for me.  I’m sure he’d even kill for me if I asked him to–and before we’re through I may put him to the test.  Now Lizzie and Eddie have children of their own–most importanly, two boys who are next in line to the throne.  The older one is Prince Edward, and the younger one is Richard, Duke of York.  They’re just kids.  Edward’s not here in London.  He’s at Ludlow Castle in Wales, which is probably the safest place for him right now.–Okay, you got it straight now?  Fine.–Unfreeze!  (The other players come back to life.  Richard resumes his conversation with Grey.)  Who am I referring to?  You and all your people.  What did I ever do to deserve your slanders?  No wonder the King is sick.  You people make him sick by upsetting him with lies about me.

Queen Eliz.: You’re wrong about that.  The King noticed your hostility toward my family first, and then he asked them to explain it.

Richard: You Woodvilles.  From a little bush you’ve grown into a mighty tree, haven’t you?

Queen Eliz.: We’ve never asked you for anything.

Richard: My brother Clarence is in prison because of you.

Queen Eliz.: I’ve never said one single word against Clarence.  In fact, I’ve spoken in his favour.  You’re very wrong to make any accusation against me.

Richard: What about poor Hastings?  Tell me you had nothing to do with his imprisonment.

Rivers: She could tell you if she wanted, but it’s beneath her dignity to answer such an insulting question.

Richard: Ah, the Earl Rivers leaps to the defense of his sister!–thanks to whom you have your high position in the world.  And who knows what greater heights you might yet achieve if her next husband is a fine young bachelor king.

Queen Eliz.: I’ve taken enough of your insults!  You can be sure the King will hear about this.  (Old Queen Margaret comes in discreetly and selects a concealment, from which she may speak aside to the audience.)  I almost wish I weren’t Queen of England so I wouldn’t have to put up with your harassment.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): You shouldn’t be Queen of England.  That title is rightfully mine.

Richard: Go ahead and tell the King.  I don’t give a shit.  I’ve paid my dues for him on the battlefield.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): You killed my son Edward at Tewkesbury.

Richard: Who did all the dirty work for Edward?  I did.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): And what dirty work indeed–like murdering my husband in the Tower.  You devil.

Richard: Remember where you and your people came from.  You Woodvilles were nobodies.  You and your first husband, Sir John Grey, were on the side of the Lancasters, and so was your brother Anthony.  And Sir John died at Saint Alban’s fighting for Queen Margaret.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): A hero.

Richard: I’m a York, I always have been, and I always will be.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): You’re a villain, from the day you were born until the day you die.

Richard: And poor Clarence, who was married to a Lancaster, broke off with them to be on Edward’s side.  And what’s his reward?  He’s in prison.–Ach!  The only thing wrong with me is that I’m too innocent and honest for this world.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): Then go to hell, why don’t you?

Rivers: Richard, in those days, which we should all put behind us, we supported the lawful King at the time, who happened to be Henry.  If you’d been King, we would have supported you.

Richard: Me?  King?  Ha!  What a silly idea!  The last thing in the world I’d want is to be King.

Queen Eliz.: Well, for once I agree with you.  Being Queen has brought me no happiness whatever.

Queen Marg. (Aside to the audience): Me neither, and I’m the real Queen.  (Margaret steps out of concealment and speaks openly.) You thieves!  You stole the Crown from Henry and me!  You know you did!  (To Richard) You miserable villain!  (Richard turns his back on her and steps toward the audience.) Don’t turn your back on me!

Richard (To the audience): It’s the queen from hell–Margaret.  Widow of the late King Henry.  She’s the official attack dog of the Lancasters.  (Returning to Margaret) How nice to see you again, madam.  Weren’t you banished on pain of death?

Queen Marg.: I was.  But exile is worse than death.  All of you people have stolen what is rightfully mine.  And you, Richard–you took my husband and my son.

Richard: You killed my father, Richard, Duke of York!  But not before showing him a bloody rag soaked with the blood of my brother Edmund!  My father cursed you, and God fulfilled that curse!

Others: Yes!  Yes!

Queen Marg.: If God delivers so much death and evil to fulfill a curse, then let him hear mine!  (To Queen Elizabeth) May your King die.  May your sons Edward and Richard die violently before they reach manhood.  May you live to see another woman sit on your throne.  And may you die neither a wife, a mother, nor a queen.  (To Rivers, Dorset, and Hastings) And you–Rivers, Dorset, and Hastings–you stood by when my son was killed.  May you all die by unnatural causes!

Richard: That’s enough, you witch!

Queen Marg.: And you, Richard Gloucester–I would not leave you out.  May heaven wait until you’ve reached the limits of your power and then crush you.  May you mistake your friends for enemies and your enemies for friends.  And may your conscience torment you and your sleep be filled with nightmares.

Richard: The same to you–double!

Queen Eliz. (To Queen Marg.): Now you are cursed!

Queen Marg.: Fool!  You don’t see this monster for what  he is.  Are you blind? Are you stupid?  Someday you’ll remember my words and you’ll wish you’d listened!

Hastings: She’s a Lancaster.  She’s full of hatred for all the Yorks.

Queen Eliz.: Of course.

Dorset: She’s crazy.

Queen Marg.: Shut up, you!

Dorset: I can speak if I want to.  I’m the Marquess of Dorset.

Queen Marg.: You shit stain!  The ink on your title isn’t even dry yet!

Buckingham: Please stop this!  This kind of talk is shameful!

Queen Marg.: The shame is all on them–not you, Buckingham.  I have no quarrel with you.  I wish only good things for you.  (She grabs Buckingham closely by the lapels and speaks in a hushed tone.) Don’t trust Richard.  Beware of him.

Richard: What was that?

Buckingham: Nothing.  I wasn’t listening.

Queen Marg. (To Buckingham): Remember what I said.  (To the others) Think I’m a witch?  You’ll remember me as a prophet.  Richard will destroy you all.

    (She leaves.)

Buckingham: Now I’m upset.

Rivers: She’s lost her mind.  She ought to be locked away in a lunatic asylum.

Richard (Adopting a conciliatory tone): She’s been hurt too much.  Of course, she’s not in her right mind.  Who would be after what she’s been through?  I feel bad for her.  I really do.  I’m sorry I caused her any pain.

Queen Eliz.: Well, my conscience is clear.  I never did anything to her.

Richard: But all of you benefited from whatever harm I may have done to the Lancasters–which was all for a good cause–getting Edward on the throne.  He’s forgotten all that.  And he’s forgotten Clarence’s loyalty, the poor guy.  May God pardon those who are responsible for Clarence being locked up.

Rivers: That’s very Christian of you.

Richard: Yes.  I am a good Christian, aren’t I?  (Aside to the audience) Of course, I’m the one who got Clarence in trouble, so I don’t mind praying for a pardon.

    (Catesby comes in.)

Catesby: Madam, the King is asking for you, and the Duke of Gloucester and the other lords.

Queen Eliz.: Yes, Catesby.–Lords, come with me, please.

    (Everyone leaves except Richard.)

Richard (To the audience): You see how easy it is to con these people?–Oh!  Here are the two murderers I hired to kill my brother Clarence.–Hey, how’s it going, guys?  Are you all set?

First Murderer: We’re good to go, sir.  We just need a warrant so we can get into his cell.

Richard: Got it right here.  (He hands over a document.)  When you’re done, go to my house at Crosby Place.  Now do this fast.  Don’t say anything to him, and don’t listen to him.  He’ll try to talk you out of it, but don’t listen.  Just get it over with.

First Murderer: Yes, sir.  Don’t worry.

Richard: And remember what you’re doing this for.  (He jingles coins in his pocket, or shakes his purse.)

Murderers: Yes! Yes! Ha! Ha!

    (The Murderers and Richard leave separately.)

Act 1, Scene 4.  In the Tower of London.  Clarence and the Keeper come into Clarence’s cell.

Keeper: You’re awfully gloomy today, sir.  What’s the reason?

Clarence: I had such a nightmare.

Keeper: About what?

Clarence: I was on a ship with my brother Richard.  It was in the Channel.  And the ship was tossing, and we lost our balance, and he accidentally knocked me overboard.  And I fell all the way to the bottom, and I thought, “I’m drowning.”  And on the bottom there were all these wrecked ships, and all these dead bodies, and anchors, and treasure chests with the treasure spilled out.  And the jewels on the seabed were like eyes looking at me.

Keeper: And you had time to take all this in while you were drowning?

Clarence: Yes.  I was holding my last breath, and I was saving it until I was ready to die.  And finally I let it go–and then I knew I was dead.  And then I found myself in this big, dark place like a cave.  And my father-in-law was there–the Earl of Warwick.  And he said, “What punishment shall we give to Clarence?”  And then he disappeared, and this ghost appeared, all covered with blood.  And the ghost said, “It’s Clarence!  He killed me at Tewkesbury!  Get him!”  And all these demons appeared and surrounded me, and they were howling.–And then I woke up.  And I thought, “That was hell.  I have seen hell.”

Keeper: My goodness!  I hope I never have a dream like that!

Clarence: Keeper, I have done some things in my life.–Perhaps I did wrong.  I don’t know.  But I did them for Edward’s sake.–Keeper, don’t leave me yet.  I’m so tired.  I need to sleep.  Just stay with me until I fall asleep.

Keeper: Yes, yes.  You have a nice, little nap, and you’ll feel much better.

    (Clarence lies down and falls asleep.  Then Brakenbury comes in.)

Keeper: Shh!  Don’t wake him, Lieutenant.  He’s in a bad way.  He needs some sleep.

Brakenbury: Look at him.  A duke asleep.  But is he still a duke in his dreams?  I wonder.

Keeper: I wonder, too.

    (The two Murderers come in.)

Brakenbury: Who are you?  What are you doing here?

First Murderer: We’re here to see Clarence.  We have a letter.  (He hands Brakenbury the letter.  Brakenbury reads it.)

Brakenbury: So you’re taking charge of Clarence, are you?  Well, I don’t know what this is all about, and I’m not sure I want to know.  Clarence is sleeping.  There are the keys.  I’ll go report to the King.

First Murderer: Yes, sir, you do that.  Very good.

    (Brakenbury and the Keeper leave.)

Second Murderer: Well?  Should be stab him while he’s asleep?

First Murderer: No.  That would be cowardly.  We’d be damned for it.

Second Murderer: Oh, I wish you hadn’t said that.  Now I’m afraid.

First Murderer: Afraid to kill him?

Second Murderer: No, not to kill him–but to be damned for it.

First Murderer: Come on, now.  You’re in this with me.  You agreed to do it.

Second Murderer: I don’t know.  I don’t think I want to.

First Murderer: Should I go back to the Duke of Gloucester and tell him we won’t do it?

Second Murderer: No, no.  Just give me a moment to collect myself.

First Murderer: We are getting paid for this, remember.  Just think of that money.

Second Murderer: Ah, yes, the money.–But my conscience.–No, I just won’t think about that.

First Murderer: I wish you hadn’t said that.

Second Murderer: Said what?

First Murderer: Conscience.  Now you’re making me have second thoughts.

Second Murderer: This is stupid.  Let’s just get it over with.

First Murderer: Should I bash his head in?

Second Murderer: Whatever you like.–Uh, oh.  He’s waking up.

    (Clarence wakes up.)

Clarence: Who are you?   What do you want?

First Murderer: We were sent.

Clarence: Sent for what?–Why are you looking at me like that?  Were you sent to–murder me?  (The Murderers nod.)   What have I done to offend you?

First Murderer: Not us.  The King.

Clarence: Let me talk to him!  He’s my brother!

Second Murderer: It’s too late for that.

Clarence: But what have I done?  What’s my crime?  I haven’t had any trial!  This is illegal!  You can’t do this!

First Murderer: We’re following orders.

Second Murderer: From the King.

Clarence: But why?  Tell me why!

Second Murderer: For breaking your oath to fight for King Henry.

First Murderer: And for killing his son.

Clarence: No!  That’s impossible!  I fought for my brother Edward!  He wouldn’t punish me for that!  Whatever happened on the battlefield was for his sake!  And I don’t know who I killed!  The fighting was confused!–No.  There’s another reason, isn’t there?  It’s my initial “G.”  That’s it, isn’t it?–Listen to me, if Edward hired you to kill me, my brother Richard will pay you double to spare me!

Second Murderer: No, he won’t.  Your brother the Duke of Gloucester hates you.

Clarence: No!  He loves me!  You talk to him!  You’ll see!

First Murderer: You are a fool, sir.  It was Gloucester who sent us.

Clarence (Shaking his head): I don’t believe it.–I don’t believe it.

First Murderer: I’m sorry for you, sir–but you must die.

Clarence: Would you really do that?  Would you damn your own souls with the sin or murder?  Do you think God will not punish you for this?

Second Murderer (To the First): What should we do?

First Murderer: We should do what we were sent for.

Clarence (To Second Murderer): You don’t want to do this!  I can see it in your eyes!  You’re not that cold-hearted!  (The First Murderer moves behind Clarence and takes out his knife.)  You must let me live!  I have a wife and children!

Second Murderer: I don’t want–look out!

    (The First Murderer stabs Clarence, who falls dead.)

First Murderer: There.  It’s done.

Second Murderer: Oh, God.  I wish we hadn’t come here.

First Murderer: You were no help at all, and I’ll tell the Duke so.

Second Murderer: Go ahead and tell him.  Tell him I wish I’d never had anything to do with this.  In fact, you can have my share of the money.

    (Second Murderer leaves.)

First Murderer: Go on, you coward!  You’re damn right I’ll keep your share of the money!–And once I get that money, I’m getting out of London.  As far away as possible.

    (He regards Clarence’s body briefly and then leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  In the palace.  A flourish of trumpets.  The ailing King Edward and his Queen come in, followed closely by Dorset, Grey, Rivers, Hastings, Catesby, Buckingham (Scales optionally), and Stanley.  (Stanley should come in here because his later part of the scene is deleted.)

King Edward: My friends, I don’t know how much longer I have to live.  But before I die I want to put an end to any old grievances among you.  So now I would ask you all to embrace each other and promise each other peace and love forever.

    (Everyone embraces in a prolonged and confused way for comical effect, saying “Sorry,” “My friend,” “Love you,” “Peace,” etc.  The director has wide latitude here.  When the peacemaking is over, Richard walks in.  Ratcliffe is deleted from this scene.)

Richard: Hey, everyone!  Boy, you all look happy!

King Edward: Happy indeed, brother!  We’ve all agreed to bury the hatchet and forget any old grievances.

Richard: Excellent idea!  I would not be left out!  No, sir!  I want everyone here to think of me as a friend.  And, believe me, I have nothing but love in my heart for all of you–Buckingham…Rivers…Dorset…Hastings…(Scales…)…Stanley…Catesby…and, uh, whatsyourname,uh–Grey.  Right.  Whatever oaths have been sworn, count me in retroactively.  I thank God for my humility and sense of brotherhood.

Queen Eliz.: Oh, if only all grievances could be settled so peacefully, it would be a better world.  The only one missing is Clarence.  (To the King) My dear, since you’ve forgiven him, you should bring him back from the Tower.

King Edward: I thought he would be here by now.

Richard: Madam–brother–don’t you know?  Clarence is dead.

Others: What!

King Edward: How can that be?  I sent an order revoking his death sentence.

Richard: Oh, dear!  I’m afraid your second order didn’t get there in time.  He’s already been executed.

King Edward: My poor brother!–My own brother who fought for me at Tewkesbury!–I never meant–Why didn’t any of you speak up?  Why didn’t you intervene?  You knew I was sick.  You knew I wasn’t in my right mind.–Bloody hell!–Hastings–some of you–help me to my room.

    (Hastings and the others, except Richard and Buckingham, escort the King and Queen out, saying “We’re sorry” over and over.  Richard holds back Buckingham by the sleeve to speak to him privately.)

Richard: Did you notice how guilty the Queen’s relatives looked when I said Clarence was dead?

Buckingham: Uh–yes.

Richard: They put the King up to it in the first place.  God will punish them for that.  Anyway, let’s go comfort the King.  What do you say?

Buckingham: Whatever you say.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In the palace.  The old Duchess of York comes in with Clarence’s son and daughter.  The girl is probably about 15 or 16; the boy is younger.

Boy: Grandma, where’s daddy?  Is he dead?

Duchess: No, no, he’s not dead.

Girl: But, grandma, you were crying.  You said, “My poor son.”

Duchess: No, dear.  I was crying because the King is sick.  Why would I cry over someone who’s already dead?

Girl: Then he is dead!  You’re admitting it!  Uncle Edward ordered daddy to be killed, didn’t he?

Boy: I want to kill him!

Duchess: No, no, my dears!  You’re wrong.  The King loves you very much.  He didn’t do it.

Boy: Yes, he did.  Uncle Richard told us.  He said Auntie Elizabeth told Uncle Edward to put daddy in prison.  And Uncle Richard said he would be like a daddy to us.

Duchess: Richard!–I’m so ashamed.  How could he turn into such a liar?–And worse.

Boy: Was Uncle Richard lying?

Duchess: Yes.

Boy: No.  He wouldn’t lie.

    (Queen Elizabeth comes in, disheveled, with Rivers and Dorset.)

Queen Eliz. (Crying): What’s the use!  I’ve nothing to live for!

Duchess: What’s the matter?

Queen Eliz.: Edward is dead!  I can’t go on!

Duchess: What do you know of grief, Elizabeth?  You’ve lost your husband, but you have your children to comfort you.  I lost my husband long ago, and now two sons are taken from me at once.  And who’s left to me?  A son that I’m ashamed of.

Queen Eliz.: No widow ever suffered the pain that I feel!

Dorset: Mother, compose yourself.  You should be grateful that you had him as long as you did.  He died a natural death–with dignity.

Rivers: That’s right, sister.  You have to be sensible now.  You have to think like a queen.  You should send for Prince Edward.  Have him come to London right away and be crowned.

    (Richard, Buckingham, Stanley, and Hastings come in.  Ratcliffe is deleted from this scene.)

Richard: There, there, now, sister.  Be calm.  It’s a loss for everyone.  We all have to be strong now.–Oh!  Mother!  I didn’t see you.  Give me your blessing in this difficult time.

Duchess (In a cool tone): May God bless you and make you good and wise.

Richard (Aside to the audience sarcastically): Never mind wishing me a long life, right?

Buckingham: Now look, everyone.  Let’s try and get over this.  Let’s think about crowning a new King.  A couple of us should go to Ludlow and bring back Prince Edward.

Rivers: Why only a couple of us?

Buckingham: The fewer the better, to be on the safe side.  Keep a low profile.  We don’t want Yorks and Lancasters at each other’s throats again before we’ve even brought the Prince back to London.

Richard: He’s right.  We’ve got a fragile peace right now.  And Edward made us all promise to be peacemakers, and I intend to do just that.

Rivers: So do I.  We shouldn’t have a big ceremony for the coronation.  It might be provocative.  Buckingham’s right.  A couple of people can go and bring Prince Edward back quietly.

Hastings: Yes, but who?

Richard: Elizabeth, why don’t you and my mother and the other lords go and talk it over?–Buckingham, stay with me for a minute.

    (Everyone else leaves.)

Buckingham: You and I should go, Richard.  That way we can keep the kid away from his mother and her people.

Richard: You read my mind, Buck.  That’s exactly what we should do.  But before we leave, I have to see Ratcliffe and give him some instructions.  I want to make sure certain people are out of the way.  Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 2, Scene 4.  In the palace.  The Archbishop of York, the Queen, the Duchess of York, and young Richard, Duke of York, come in.  Young Richard is 9 years old.

York: Mother, when is Edward coming home?

Queen Eliz.: Very soon.  I’ll bet you can’t wait to see him again.

York: I wonder how tall he is by now.

Queen Eliz.: The Archbishop says you’re almost as tall as he is.

York (To the Archbishop): Am I really?

Archbishop: Yes!

    (A Messenger rushes in.)

Messenger (To the Queen): Madam, I have some bad news.

Queen Eliz.: What is it?

Messenger: Lord Rivers and Lord Grey have been arrested.  And Sir Thomas Vaughan, too.  They’ve been taken to Pomfret Castle.

Duchess: Oh whose orders?

Messenger: Gloucester and Buckingham.

Archbishop: But why?  What have they done?

Messenger: I don’t know the reason, your Grace.  I’m sorry.

Queen Eliz.: Well!  Now I’m beginning to see where all this  is leading–the systematic destruction of my family–and an attack on the throne!

Duchess: Haven’t I seen enough bloodshed and misery in all my years?  Must I live longer and see more?

Queen Eliz. (To York): Richard, you’ll come with me.  I’ll take you somewhere where you’ll be safe.

Archbishop (To the Queen): Madam, take the royal seal with you.  It’s best you should have it.  Come.  I’ll conduct you to a sanctuary.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  A London street.  A trumpet flourish.  The young Prince Edward (12 years old) comes in with Gloucester, Buckingham, the Lord Cardinal (Archbishop of Canterbury), Catesby, and others.  (The suggestion is that Gloucester and Buckingham actually went to Wales to bring back Prince Edward, as they previously said they would.)

Richard: Well, here we are, my young Prince!  I dare say you scarcely remember London.

Prince Edward: What a bleedin’ dump!  Is this what I left Ludlow for?  And where is everyone?  Where’s my mother?  Where’s my grandmother?  And what really happened to Uncle Clarence?

Richard: Now, now, heh, heh.  You’ve had a long trip.  You’re obviously tired.

Prince Edward: So you’re not going to tell me, is that it?

Richard: Ah, nephew, you’re still an innocent boy.  You’re only twelve.   You’re too young to know who you can trust and who you can’t.  Your Uncle Clarence was not the good fellow he appeared to be.

Prince Edward: Good thing you told me.  I’ll have to pay close attention to you, Uncle Richard.

Richard (Momentarily caught off guard): Indeed.–Oh, here comes the Lord Mayor to greet you.

    (The Lord Mayor and some citizens come in.)

Lord Mayor: God bless your Grace–soon to be King!  Welcome!

Prince Edward: Thank you.  But where’s my mother and my brother, Richard?  And where’s Lord Hastings?

Buckingham: Ah, here comes Hastings now.

    (Lord Hastings comes in, out of breath.)

Hastings: Your Grace!

Prince Edward: Hello, Lord Hastings.  Where’s my mother?

Hastings: Your Grace, your mother and your brother have taken sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.  Your brother wanted to be here to meet you, but your mother wouldn’t let him.

Buckingham: What?  That’s not very nice, I must say.–Lord Cardinal, you should go and speak to the Queen and persuade her to let you bring the boy back with you.–Hastings, why don’t you go with him?  If the Queen refuses, bring him back by force if you have to.

Prince Edward: What’s going on?  Is there something wrong?

Buckingham: No, no, your Grace.  It’s a small matter.

Cardinal: My lord Buckingham, I can speak to the Queen, but if she refuses to let the boy come back with me, I don’t see how I can take him by force.  It’s a sanctuary, after all.  It’s a protected place.  I’d be committing a crime.

Buckingham: No, you wouldn’t.  The boy doesn’t need sanctuary, and he’s too young to claim sanctuary.

Cardinal: Well, if you insist.–Lord Hastings, will you come with me?

Hastings: Yes.  Let’s go.

    (The Lord Cardinal and Hastings leave.)

Prince Edward: Uncle Richard, where am I going to stay until the coronation?

Richard: Well, now, I have an excellent idea.  How about the Tower of London?

Prince Edward: The Tower?  But that’s a prison.

Richard: Oh, no, no, no, ha, ha!  Only a small part of it is used for a prison.  The rest of it is quite, um, historic.  You’ll have a nice, big room.  And you can look at the boats on the river.  You like boats, don’t you?

Prince Edward: No.  I hate boats.

Richard: Well, we’ll find something to keep you amused, don’t worry.

Prince Edward: When Uncle Clarence was in the Tower, was he given a room with a view so he could look at the boats?

Richard: Don’t go there, okay?  (Aside to the audience) This kid’s too smart for his own good.  (To the Prince) You and your brother will have a nice time in the Tower.–Oh, here he is!

    (Young Richard, Duke of York, comes in with Hastings and the Lord Cardinal.)

Prince Edward: Richard!

York: Edward!  (They embrace.)  You’re going to be King!  Won’t that be exciting!

Prince Edward: I didn’t want it to happen this soon.

Richard: So!  Guess what!  You boys are going to stay together in the Tower!  Won’t that be swell!  Cousin Buckingham and I will go get your mother, and she’ll meet you there.

York: I’m afraid of the Tower!

Richard: Why?

York: I might see Uncle Clarence’s ghost!  Grandma told me he was murdered there.

Prince Edward: Oh, so that’s what happened!

Richard: No, no.  Your grandmother’s confused.  He wasn’t murdered.  He was executed.

Prince Edward: Why?

Richard: I’ll explain it to you at a more proper time.

York: I don’t want to see his ghost!

Prince Edward: I’m not afraid.  There’s no such thing as ghosts anyway.  We’ll go to the Tower, Richard.  It’ll be all right.

    (A trumpet sounds.  Everyone leaves except Richard, Buckingham, and Catesby.)

Buckingham: Catesby, you’re with us on this.  Do you think we can get Hastings on our side to put Richard on the throne?

Catesby: I doubt it.  Hastings was very close to King Edward.  I don’t think he would go along with any plot against the Prince.

Buckingham: What about Stanley?

Catesby: He doesn’t have a mind of his own.  He’ll do whatever Hastings does.

Buckingham: Okay, do this.  Go talk to Hastings and sound him out, but pretend it’s all theoretical.  There’s no plot or anything.  If he reacts positively, try to recruit him.  Otherwise, drop it.  Invite him to the coronation anyway.  We’ll have two meetings tomorrow–one for those who are in with us, and one for those who aren’t.  You’ll be at both of them.

Richard: You can tell Hastings his old enemies will die tomorrow at Pomfret.  That might help.

Catesby: I’ll do that.

Richard: Give us a report tonight.  We’ll be at Crosby Place.

Catesby: Fine.  (Catesby leaves.)

Buckingham: What if Hastings won’t go along?

Richard: Then he’ll have to be wasted.–When I’m King, how’d you like to be Earl of Hereford?

Buckingham: I would sure like that a lot!

Richard: Consider it done.  Let’s have an early dinner so we can work on our plans.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Outside the front door of Hastings’ house.  A Messenger knocks.

Hastings (From inside): Who is it?

Messenger: A messenger from Lord Stanley, sir.

    (Hastings opens the door.)

Hastings: At this hour of the night?  What’s so important?

Messenger: Lord Stanley wishes you to know that he had a dream that a boar cut off his head.  A white boar.

Hastings: A white boar?–Oh!  That’s Gloucester’s coat of arms.  What else?

Messenger: He says there are going to be two meetings held tomorrow, and one of them could have bad consequences for both of you.  He suggests strongly that you flee with him to the north to save yourself.

Hastings: Huh!  What an imagination!  Tell your boss there’s nothing to worry about.  We’ll be at one meeting, and Catesby will be at the other, so we’ll know whatever’s going on.  And as for his bad dream, it’s just nerves, that’s all.  If we run away now, how will that look?  It’ll look suspicious.  Gloucester won’t like it.  Look, tell Lord Stanley to come on over and we’ll go to the Tower and meet Gloucester, and everything will be fine.

Messenger: I’ll tell him, sir.  Good night.

    (The Messenger leaves.  Then Catesby arrives.)

Catesby: Good morning, Hastings.

Hastings: Catesby!  What’re you doing up at this hour?

Catesby: I was just passing by.  I was hoping you’d be up.

Hastings: Why’s that?

Catesby: Oh, well–so much has been happening lately.  There’s a lot on everyone’s mind.  So many changes.  So much uncertainty.  Some people are wondering if perhaps Richard should be King.

Hastings: Gloucester?  You mean Gloucester should be King instead of Prince Edward?

Catesby: Um, yes. 

Hastings: No bloody way!  Is that what Gloucester intends to do–steal the Crown?

Catesby: No, no.  I wouldn’t put it that way.  Let’s just say that–theoretically–there was a desire on the part of some people to make Richard King.  And he wanted you to support him–especially since your old enemies are going to be executed tomorrow at Pomfret.

Hastings: Well, I’m glad to be rid of my enemies, but as for Richard becoming King, it’s out of the question.  I’d sooner die than support him in such a scheme.

Catesby: Well, you keep that happy thought, then.  Prince Edward will be crowned King.  You’ll be at the coronation, of course.

Hastings: Of course.–You know, you had me worried there for a moment.

Catesby: Oh, no, no, no!  You have nothing to worry about.

Hastings: Those who got me in trouble with King Edward are going to get what’s coming to them.  And certain others are going to get a rude surprise, too.  Mark my words.

Catesby: Indeed.

Hastings: They think they stand in good stead with Gloucester and Buckingham the way we do, but they’ll find out otherwise.

Catesby: Richard and Buckingham look up to you–(Aside to the audience) Hanging from a scaffold.

Hastings: I’ve always assumed that.

    (Stanley arrives.)

Stanley: Good morning, Hastings–Catesby.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of separate meetings.

Hastings: Trust me, Stanley.  Our position is secure.

Stanley: Yeah.  The guys in Pomfret thought so, too.  I sure hope you’re right.

Hastings: Sure, I’m right.  You and your dreams!  We’ll go to the Tower, and you’ll see.–By the way, the guys in Pomfret are going to be executed.

Stanley: They don’t deserve it.–All right, let’s go.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  In Pomfret Castle.  Sir Richard Ratcliffe and Halberds bring in the prisoners–Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan.

Rivers: Richard Ratcliffe–fucking rat!  Ratso Ratcliffe!  A low-down rat–that’s what you are!

Grey: Fucking bastards–you and Gloucester and Buckingham!  God should strike you dead if you lay a finger on Prince Edward!

Vaughan: You’ll pay for this, Ratcliffe!  I hope the devil turns you into a rat, and you have to live in a sewer filled with shit, and then somebody comes along with a stick and smashes your fucking head, and all your miserable rat guts spill out!

Ratcliffe: Go ahead and shoot your mouth off, Vaughan.  All three of you.  What the hell do I care?  You guys have about five minutes left to live.

Grey: Margaret’s curse is coming true.

Rivers: It’ll catch up with Richard sooner or later.–Oh, my poor sister!  God protect her and those two boys!

Ratcliffe: The time has come.  Say your goodbyes.

    (The three prisoners embrace.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  Buckingham, Stanley, Hastings, the Bishop of Ely, Ratcliffe, and Lord Lovell come in (optionally with others) and sit at a table.

Hastings: So.  We have to decide what day to hold the coronation.

Bishop of Ely: Tomorrow would be good.

Buckingham: What does Richard prefer?

Bishop of Ely: You should know.  You’re tight with him.

Buckingham: He doesn’t necessarily tell me everything, my Lord Bishop.–Hastings, has he said anything to you?  You’re his close friend.

Hastings (Reacting with a smile): No, he hasn’t said a word to me.  But I think he’ll agree with any day you suggest.  In fact, I’ll agree in his behalf, since he hasn’t shown up yet.

    (Richard comes in.)

Bishop of Ely: Oh, here he is.–Good morning, my lord!

Richard (Cheerfully): My Lord Bishop of Ely, good morning!–Oh, and Lord Lovell’s here, too!

Lovell: Good morning, my lord.

Richard: I’m sorry I’m late, everyone.  I slept in.  I hope I haven’t delayed any important business.

Buckingham: We were going to pick a day for the coronation.  Hastings was going to be your proxy.

Richard: Quite all right.–My Lord Bishop, the last time I was at your house, I noticed you had some wonderful strawberries in your garden.  Do you suppose you could send someone to bring me some?

Bishop of Ely: I’d be glad to.  I’ll go attend to it right now.  Excuse me.

    (The Bishop goes out.)

Richard: Buckingham, can I have a word with you?  (Richard draws Buckingham aside and speaks privately.)  Catesby says that Hastings is against it.  Says he’d sooner die.

Buckingham: Let’s step outside.

    (Richard and Buckingham leave the room.)

Stanley: I think tomorrow is too soon for the coronation.  I don’t have the right clothes.  Could we put it off a day or two?

    (The Bishop of Ely returns.)

Bishop of Ely: Where’s Gloucester?  I sent for the strawberries.

Hastings: Richard’s in a good mood today, don’t you think?  You can always tell with him, just by reading his face.

Stanley: You think so?  And what did you read just now?

Hastings: He’s happy with all of us.

Stanley: I sure hope so.

    (Richard and Buckingham return, but now Richard is clearly angry.)

Richard: What should we do with a person who conspires to kill me with witchcraft and has already used it to do me bodily harm?  (He looks directly at Hastings.)

Hastings: My lord, speaking as one who loves you, I would say that any such person deserves to die.

Others: Yes! Yes!

Richard (Baring his misshapen arm): Then look at this!  This is the result of witchcraft!  And who did it?  Elizabeth!  And my brother Edward’s mistress, that slut Jane Shore!

Hastings: My lord, how do you know that?

Richard: How do I know that?  You’re defending that whore?  You traitor!–Kill this son of a bitch!–Lovell!  Ratcliffe!  Do it now!

Lovell and Ratcliffe: Yes, my lord!  At once!

Richard: Everyone else, come with me.

    (Everyone leaves except Hastings, Ratcliffe, and Lovell.)

Hastings: Fuck me.  I should’ve fled when I had the chance.–Margaret, you cursed us, and now it falls on me.

Ratcliffe: Shit happens.

Lovell (Pulling Hastings): Move it.  We’re going to make this quick.

Hastings: Richard, you bastard!–My poor England.–Those poor boys.–You can kill me now, but you’ll be dead later.  And you’ll rot in hell.

Ratcliffe: I hear that all the time.  Get moving.

    (They all leave.)

Act 3, Scene 5.  Outside the Tower walls.  Richard and Buckingham come in wearing old, worn-out armor.

Richard: Buck, how good are you at bullshitting?

Buckingham: I can do it if I have to.

Richard: Killing our enemies is necessary to our plan, but putting on a good act is just as important.

Buckingham: I read you.  Where’s Catesby?

Richard: He’s fetching the Lord Mayor.–Here they come now.

    (The Lord Mayor and Catesby come in.)

Buckingham: Lord Mayor–

Richard: Watch that drawbridge!

Buckingham: I hear a drum!

Lord Mayor: What the–

Richard: There are enemies all around us!

Lord Mayor: Enemies?  Oh, my goodness!

Buckingham (Pointing): Who’s that?

Richard: It’s okay.  It’s Lovell and Ratcliffe.

    (Lovell and Ratcliffe come in with Hastings’ head.)

Lord Mayor: Hastings?–Oh, my God!

Richard: I thought he was my loyal friend.  I never suspected what he was really up to.  And I never would have found out if he hadn’t been having an affair with Jane Shore.

Lord Mayor: Oh, my!

Buckingham: What a sly son of a bitch.  If we hadn’t caught him, he would’ve murdered Gloucester and me in the council room today.

Lord Mayor: No!

Richard: Do you think we’re lying?  Do you think we would’ve killed him if the whole country and our lives weren’t at stake? 

Lord Mayor: Oh, well, in that case–Yes, of course, you had to act quickly.

Buckingham: We wanted you to witness the execution, but Lovell and Ratcliffe were a little too hasty.  But they had the purest of intentions, you can believe me.  Hastings confessed everything in detail–how he was going to murder us.  The people must be made to understand that.

Lord Mayor: What?–Oh–Yes! Yes!  They will.  Don’t worry.  I’ll explain everything to them.

Richard: We would appreciate that, my Lord Mayor.  It’s very important to prevent false rumours from spreading.

Lord Mayor: You’re absolutely right!  We’ll have no disorder in London as long as I’m Mayor.

Buckingham: You’re a good man, sir.  We knew we could count on you.

Lord Mayor: Yes! Yes! Always!–I must go now.

    (The Lord Mayor leaves.)

Richard: Well done, Buck.  He’s on his way back to the meeting hall.  What you have to do now is go there and start spreading the rumour that Edward’s children are illegitimate.

Buckingham: Ah!  Clever!

Richard: You should say that Edward was an out-of-control sex fiend, and he was fucking any woman he could get–even servants.  And also say that Edward himself was illegitimate.  Say that when my mother was pregnant with Edward, my father was fighting in France, and if you count the months, it’s impossible that my father was Edward’s father.  And furthermore, he didn’t resemble my father.–But you’d better be vague about all this, because my mother’s still alive.  Just make vague suggestions.  And at the very end, pitch me to the crowd as the next King.

Buckingham: I understand perfectly.  Leave it to me.

Richard: If things go well, bring the crowd to Baynard’s Castle.  I’ll be there with a couple of priests or bishops, like I’m busy praying.  They’ll fall for it.

Buckingham: Okay.  I’ll see if I can rouse a crowd for you by, say, three or four o’clock.

Richard: Excellent.

    (Buckingham leaves.)

Richard: Lovell, you go to Doctor Shaw.–Ratcliffe, you go to Friar Penker.–Tell them to meet me at Baynard’s Castle in one hour. 

Ratcliffe: What about the head?

Richard: I’ll take it.  Just wrap it.

    (Lovell and Ratcliffe wrap Hastings’ head in a cloth for Richard, then leave.)

Richard (To the audience): Now I’ll issue orders to keep Clarence’s brats out of sight and keep anyone from seeing the boys in the Tower.

   (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 6.  This scene is deleted.

Act 3, Scene 7.  At Baynard’s Castle.  Richard and Buckingham come in from opposite sides.

Richard: How did it go?

Buckingham: I was met with stony silence.

Richard: Did you tell them Edward’s kids were illegitimate?

Buckingham: Yes.  I told them everything you wanted me to say.  And at the end I gave you the biggest boost I could–your noble character, your skill as a soldier, your wisdom, your kindness, your modesty–all that.  And I finished by saying, “Who wants Richard as the next King?”

Richard: And what happened?

Buckingham: Nothing.  So I pulled the Mayor aside and I said, “What gives?”  And he said the people weren’t used to being addressed by anyone except city officials.  So I grabbed this city attorney and told him to speak to the people, and he just basically repeated what I said, although he just mumbled.  And then a few of my friends in the back cheered for you.  So I pretended they were speaking for the majority and I thanked them for their support, and then I left right away.

Richard: Well, I could’ve hoped for better.  But it might still be okay.  We’ll see.   Is the Mayor coming?

Buckingham: Yeah.  I told him to bring the citizens.–Listen, this is what you should do.  You be with a couple of priests, with a prayer book in your hands–like you said before, looking real religious. And I’ll plead with you to accept the Crown, and you act all humble like you don’t want it.

Richard: Oh, yeah!

Buckingham: I’ll try to get the Mayor to ask you, too, and then it’ll look like you’re the people’s choice.  And then, just when I’m ready to give up on you, you agree reluctantly to be King.

Richard (To the audience): This is too fucking cool!  We should’ve been actors!

    (A sound of knocking at the door is heard.)

Buckingham: That’ll be the Mayor.  You go upstairs and wait.  Send Catesby in.  He’s to say you’re busy praying.

Richard: Right.

    (Richard leaves.  Buckingham goes to the door and admits the Lord Mayor and some citizens.  The citizens look dull, as if they have been dragged along and are not really enthusiastic.)

Buckingham: Welcome, my Lord Mayor.  And welcome, citizens.

Lord Mayor: Is Gloucester here?

Buckingham: Yes, but I don’t know if he wants to be disturbed.  (Catesby comes in.) Ah, Catesby.  Is his Grace coming down?

Catesby: He’s busy praying, my lord.  He’s with two reverend fathers right now.

Lord Mayor: Oh!  He’s praying!  (The Lord Mayor looks at the citizens, and they say “Oh” and “Ah” and nod and look at each other knowingly.  However, the citizens will be half-hearted in their reactions throughout this scene.)

Buckingham: Um, Catesby, please tell his Grace that the Lord Mayor and some citizens are here, and we need to talk to him about a matter of great importance.

Catesby: Yes, I’ll tell him.

    (Catesby leaves.)

Buckingham: He’s such a devout man, the Duke of Gloucester–not at all like his brother Edward.  England would be so fortunate to have Gloucester as its next King–but I doubt he’d accept it.

Lord Mayor: Oh, but he must!

    (Faint murmurs of agreement from the citizens.  Catesby returns.)

Catesby: My lord, the Duke is afraid these people are here to do him harm.

Buckingham: Oh, no, no.  Tell him I give my word that these people are here as friends.  Please go and bring him.  (Catesby leaves.)  Richard is so sensitive.  It goes with being so spiritual.

Lord Mayor: I’m sure it does.  (Faint reaction of agreement from the citizens.)

    (Richard comes in with two bishops, behind Catesby.  Richard is holding a prayer book.)

Buckingham (To the Lord Mayor): What did I tell you?–My lord Gloucester, we apologize for interrupting your prayers, but all of us have an urgent appeal to make.

Richard: My first thoughts are always with God, but I didn’t mean to be impolite.  What is it you would like from me?

Buckingham: My lord, England needs you.  We all need you–as King.  This country has suffered from the shame of your late brother, Edward.  We are in a state of confusion.  We are in limbo.  We are without a King.  You are our last hope.  You are of true royal stock–a York!  By every right of law, and by all the common sense that good men are expected to have, we ask you–humbly and with the greatest love and admiration for you–that you lead us out of the wilderness and accept the Crown of England.

    (Murmurs of agreement from the citizens.)

Richard: Oh, dear!–What shall I do?–You are so kind, all of you.  But I hardly feel right to say yes.  I am unworthy.   And my soul was meant for a more modest life.  And besides, you don’t really need me.  There are others ahead of me in the line of succession.  Our dear young Prince Edward–

Buckingham: Who is not entitled to the throne!  Your brother Edward was supposed to marry a noble lady–your mother will vouch for that–but Elizabeth seduced him to advance herself and her family, and that’s how young Edward was born.  There’s more to the story, but discretion prevents me from telling it.  It would hurt certain people.  But the point is, your ancestry is not in doubt.  It’s pure.  That’s why we need you.  (He looks at the Lord Mayor, who takes the cue.)

Lord Mayor: Yes, my lord!  We are all begging you.  (The Lord Mayor looks at the citizens, who react with faint approval.)

Richard: Oh, but the responsibility!  How can I?  I am so unprepared.  And young Prince Edward is such a nice boy.

Buckingham: We know you love that boy and his brother as if they were of pure royal blood.  And we know you always think of your relatives before you think of yourself.–But we simply will not accept young Edward as King!  (He look at the Lord Mayor and the citizens, and they shake their heads automatically.)

Richard: I’m sorry.  Really.  (He clasps his prayer book to his breast, closes his eyes, and looks sad.)

Buckingham: Well, then–I suppose we’ll just have to find someone else.  What a tragedy for us all.–Thank you for seeing us, my lord.  We must be going.  (He winks at Catesby.)

Catesby (To Richard): Please, my lord!  For the sake of England!

Lord Mayor: Yes!  For the sake of England!

    (Murmurs of agreement from the citizens.)

Richard: Well–since you insist–But if there is any criticism later, remember that I didn’t want the Crown.  You forced me to take it.

Lord Mayor: Yes! Yes!  Don’t worry, my lord!  God bless you! 

    (The citizens clap weakly.)

Buckingham: Long live King Richard!

All: Long live King Richard!

Buckingham: Shall we crown you tomorrow, your Grace?

Richard: Yes, tomorrow will be fine.  I’ll see you then.  (To the Bishops) Come.  Let’s pray for guidance from the Lord.

    (They all leave, but Richard winks at the audience on the way out.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  Outside the Tower, Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, and Dorset come in on one side; Anne (now married to Richard) comes in on the other side with Clarence’s daughter, Margaret.

Duchess: Oh, look!  It’s Anne and my granddaughter!–It’s so good to see you!

Anne: Hello!

Queen Eliz.: Hello, sister.  Now that you’re married to Richard, I can call you that.  Are you going in the Tower?

Anne: Yes.  Margaret wants to see her cousins.

Queen Eliz.: We all want to see them.  We’ll go in together.  (Brakenbury comes in.)  Here’s the warden.–Lieutenant Brakenbury, how are my boys?  We’ve come to see them.

Brakenbury: The boys are just fine, madam.  But I’m under strict orders from the King not to let anyone visit them.

Queen Eliz.: The King?  And who would that be?

Brakenbury: Sorry, ha, ha–a slip of the tongue.  I mean the Lord Protector.  The Duke of Gloucester.

Anne (To Queen Eliz.): I knew nothing about this.

Queen Eliz. (To Brakenbury): Richard isn’t going to let me see my own children?

Duchess: I’m their grandmother, and I intend to see them!

Anne: And I’m their aunt now, and I want to see them, too.  And so does Margaret.

Brakenbury: I’m totally sorry.  Really.  But I’m under orders.  Please excuse me.

    (Brakenbury leaves.  Then Lord Stanley comes in.)

Stanley (To the Duchess): Well, madam, it appears that in just one hour you’ll be the mother-in-law of two queens.  (To Anne) Madam, you’re expected at Westminster Abbey right away.  Your husband is being crowned King, and you, of course, will be Queen.

Queen Eliz: I think I’m going to faint!

Anne: I didn’t realize–I never wanted this!

Dorset (To Queen Eliz.): Don’t be upset, mother. 

Queen Eliz.: Dorset, don’t stay in London.  Get out now before you get murdered.  Go to France.  Go to the Earl of Richmond.

Stanley (To Dorset): Yes.  You should do that.  Richmond’s my stepson.  I’ll write to him, and he’ll meet you on the way.  You should go now.

Duchess: I curse the day I gave birth to Richard.

Stanley (To Anne): Madam, I’m supposed to bring you straight back to the Abbey.

Anne: I’d rather die.

Queen Eliz.: Don’t say that.  You have to go.

Anne: Richard is evil.  I cursed him, but he still talked me into marrying him.  I must have been crazy.  He doesn’t love me.  He’s probably just waiting for the right time to have me murdered, too.

Duchess: No, no.  You go with Stanley.  I’ll pray for the angels to watch over you.  (To Queen Eliz.)  You must take sanctuary in the Abbey.  As for me, I’ve lived too long and suffered too much.  I don’t fear death.

Queen Eliz. (Looking up at the Tower): My little boys!  (She bursts into tears.  They all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In the palace.  A horn flourish.  Richard comes in, dressed as King, with Buckingham, Catesby, Ratcliffe, Lovell, a Page (and optionally an Attendant).

King Richard: Make room.–Buckingham, help me up.  (Buckingham helps him onto the throne.)  Well, here I am at last, Buck–thanks in no small part to your help.

Buckingham: Always your faithful servant, my lord.

King Richard: Yes.  You have been–so far.  But now I’m going to put you to the test.

Buckingham: In what way, my lord?

King Richard: Prince Edward.  He’s alive, Buck.  It’s a problem.  Can you guess what I’m thinking?

Buckingham: No, my lord.

King Richard: Both those boys have to be eliminated–the sooner the better.  I won’t feel secure until they’re out of the way–permanently.  What do you say to that?

Buckingham: Well–I suppose–now that you’re King–you can do whatever you want.

King Richard: You’re being evasive.  Would you consent to having them killed?

Buckingham (Pauses): Well–

King Richard: Would you do it if I asked you to?

Buckingham (Pauses): I’d want to think it over.–Would you excuse me?

King Richard: Sure.  Go on.

    (Buckingham leaves.)

Catesby (Aside to someone else): The King’s pissed.

King Richard: Buckingham’s losing his nerve.–Yo!  Page!  (He beckons to the Page, who approaches.)

Page: Yes, my lord?

King Richard: You like to hang with the white trash on your days off.  Do you know anyone I could hire as a killer?

Page: I believe I do, my lord.  Someone who needs money.

King Richard: Oh, he’ll get money.  Who is he?

Page: His name is James Tyrrel.

King Richard: Oh, yeah.  I met him once.  Okay, go and get him.  (The Page leaves.)  Buckingham has been my right-hand guy for a long time, but that’s over with.  He’s not the same as he used to be.  (Stanley comes in.)  Stanley, wassup?

Stanley: Dorset has fled.  He’s gone to France–to the Earl of Richmond.

King Richard: I’m not surprised.–Catesby, come here.

Catesby: Yes, my lord?

King Richard: Listen, I want you to spread the rumour that my wife, Anne, is very sick.  I’m going to give orders to keep her out of sight.

Catesby: Yes, my lord.

King Richard: And I want you to scout around and find some B-list noble who’s broke.  I’ll want him to marry Clarence’s daughter.  That’ll keep her occupied and out of my way.  Her brother I’m not worried about.–Are you listening?

Catesby: Yes, my lord!

King Richard: Spread the word that Anne is so sick she’s likely to die.  Go now.

Catesby: Yes, my lord.

    (Catesby leaves.)

King Richard: Anne will be out of the way before long.  Then I have to marry Elizabeth’s daughter to make my position more secure.  It’s not a foolproof plan, but it’ll have to do.  I’ve already wasted plenty of people, so there’s no point hesitating about Anne or the boys in the Tower.  In for a dime, in for a dollar.  Know what I mean?

Others: Yes.

    (James Tyrrel comes in.)

Tyrrel (Bows): James Tyrrel, sir–your loyal subject.

King Richard: Well, I’ll give you a chance to prove it, Tyrrel.  I have two enemies I want you to eliminate–the two boys in the Tower.  Edward and Richard.  Are you up to it?

Tyrrel: If I can get to them, I can kill them–no problem, my lord.

King Richard: Good man.  I’ll give you this token.  (Hands him a token.)  Just show it, and you’ll get in.  You  do me this favour, and you’ll be in for big rewards.

Tyrrel: Consider it done, my lord.

    (Tyrrel leaves.  Then Buckingham returns.)

Buckingham: My lord, I’ve given some thought to that matter concerning the two boys.

King Richard: Forget it.  I don’t need you.  Dorset has fled.  He’s gone to the Earl of Richmond.

Buckingham: Yes.  I’ve heard.

King Richard: Stanley, Richmond is your stepson–your wife’s son.  Get whatever information you can out of her.

Stanley: Yes, my lord.

Buckingham: Uh, my lord, sorry to bring this up, but you did promise me I’d be Earl of Hereford.

King Richard (Ignoring Buckingham): Stanley, watch what your wife does.  We all know her sympathies are with the Lancasters.  I don’t want her communicating with Richmond.  If she does, I’ll hold you responsible.

Stanley: Yes, my lord.

Buckingham: My lord, what about the earldom of Hereford?

King Richard (Still ignoring him): I remember that Henry the Sixth once prophesied that Richmond would be King someday.  It could happen.

Buckingham: Uh, my lord?  Remember you promised me?  You know–Earl of  Hereford?

King Richard (Still ignoring him): You know, there’s a castle in Exeter called Rougemont, and one time I was being shown around by the Mayor, and he said, “This is Rougemont.”  And I thought he said “Richmond,” and I jumped, because some Irishman once prophesied that I would die soon after I saw Richmond–ha, ha!

Buckingham: My lord?  What about the earldom of Hereford?

King Richard (Pretending to look around): Is there a parrot in the room?–Oh!  It’s you, Buckingham!  I thought you were a parrot!

Buckingham: No, my lord.  I wanted to remind you about the earldom of Hereford.  You did promise me.

King Richard: Oh, don’t bother me about that now.  I’m not in the mood.–I need some fresh air.  Let’s go outside.

    (Richard gets up, and everyone follows him out, except for Buckingham.)

Buckingham (To the audience): Fucking hell.  After all I’ve done for that guy.–Hastings used to be his friend, and look what happened to Hastings.  I could be next.  He has no pity for anyone.  He’ll kill anyone he thinks is against him.–Fuck this.  I’m getting out of here.  I have an estate in Wales.  That’s where I’m going.

    (Buckingham leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  In the palace.  Richard comes in.

Richard (To the audience): The boys in the Tower are dead.  Their bodies are buried where no one will ever find them.  Clarence’s son is out of sight, with lots of toys to play with–defective things he can hurt himself with.  I’ve found a poor noble for Clarence’s daughter to marry.  He’s really horny for young girls, too.  Hopefully, she’ll be on her back so much she’ll forget I even exist.  My wife, Anne, is dead–from natural causes, of course.  And now I’ve heard that the Earl of Richmond, also known as Henry Tudor, wants to marry my niece Elizabeth.  That’s the daughter of Queen Elizabeth I referred to earlier.  And that would be very bad for me.  Do you see why?–Okay, I’ll explain it to you.  Richmond is from the Lancasters.  He’s the one who would be King right now if the Lancasters were in power.  My niece Elizabeth is, of course, a York.  If Richmond marries her, he effectively reunites the Yorks and Lancasters, and then everyone in England will look to him as the man who ought to be King.  And then I’ll find myself with very few friends.  Therefore, what I have to do is marry the girl before he does.

    (Ratcliffe comes in.)

Ratcliffe: My lord, I have some bad news.  The Bishop of Ely has fled.  He’s gone to the Earl of Richmond.  And Buckingham has fled to Wales.  He’s assembling an army, apparently.

Richard: I’m not so worried about Buckingham.  I’m more concerned about Ely going over to Richmond.  But this is no time for noodling.  We have to act.  Start rounding up soldiers.

Ratcliffe: Yes, my lord!

    (Ratcliffe leaves.)

Richard (To the audience): I hope you’re not wearing your best clothes, because the shit’s really gonna hit the fan.

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  In the palace.  Queen Margaret comes in.

Queen Marg. (To the audience): So.  The glorious summer for the Yorks is over.  And I expect there’s more grief in store for them.  They certainly deserve it.–Oh!  I must hide.

    (She steps aside into some place of concealment, which may be suggested, as she is plainly visible to the audience.  Then Queen Elizabeth and her mother-in-law, the Duchess of York, come in.  They are both in distress.)

Queen Eliz.: My poor boys.  Dead.  (She looks up.)  Come to mother, my little angels.  Let me know you’re here.

Queen Marg. (Aside): Tell her she got what she deserves.  I warned all of them.

Duchess: I can weep no more.  My well of tears has gone dry.–Ah, my poor son Edward.

Queen Marg. (Aside): I lost a son Edward, too.  One dead Edward pays for another.

Queen Eliz.: God, how can you let such things happen?

Queen Marg. (Aside): Why not?  He let my husband and son die.

Duchess: If you live too long, you see terrible things.  I should’ve died long ago.

Queen Eliz.: I would welcome death, too.  Who could know such misery as we do?

    (Queen Margaret steps out of concealment.)

Queen Marg.: Who could know such misery?  My misery is equal to yours–and goes back further.

Duchess: Well!–Queen Margaret.

Queen Marg.: Shall we compare losses?  I had an Edward–my son–until Richard killed him.  And I had a husband–Henry–until Richard killed him.  You had Prince Edward–until Richard killed him.  And his little brother Richard, the Duke of York–until Richard killed him.

Duchess: It was your army that killed my husband, Richard, Duke of York, and my son Rutland.

Queen Marg.: Who killed your son Clarence?  Your own son Richard.  He had teeth in his mouth before he had eyes.  He was born to be a murderer.  He’s your divine punishment!

Duchess: Don’t gloat over our losses!  I’ve never gloated over yours!

Queen Marg.: Ah, but it’s just deserts, madam.  And Richard, too, will get the death he so deserves.  I want to live to see it so I can say, “The dog is dead!”

Queen Eliz.: You were right about Richard.  I should have listened.

Queen Marg.: Yes.  And look at yourself now–a queen in name only, a woman with nothing left.  What a tragic figure!  When I return to France, the tragedies of the Yorks will be my sole consolation.

Queen Eliz.: I would curse Richard if I knew how.

Queen Marg.: If you would curse your enemies from the depths of your soul, this is what you must do, madam.  You must lie in your bed night after night without sleep.  You must be too sick at heart even to eat.  You must relive your worst moments over and over.  You must absorb your pain into every cell of your body.  You must feel nothing but pain and hatred.–And you must remember your children as the sweetest in the world.  And you must think of their killer as the worst man in the world.–Do this long enough, madam, and cursing will come as naturally as breathing.

    (Queen Elizabeth bursts into tears.  Queen Margaret leaves.  The Duchess tries to console Elizabeth.)

Duchess: Don’t listen to her, Elizabeth.  Don’t live for hatred and revenge.

Queen Eliz. (Composing herself): If I could show all my anger, I’d feel better.  Wouldn’t you?

Duchess: Yes, I would.  And the one who deserves our anger is Richard.

    (A trumpet flourish.  Richard comes in with his party of military attendants.  He is dressed like them.)

Richard: Well.  Are you here to wish me luck before I go into battle?

Duchess: What I wish is that I had strangled you the day you were born!

Queen Eliz.: Why don’t you carve a notch in your crown for every murder you’ve committed!  My sons!  My brother!

Duchess: Who’ll be next–Clarence’s little boy?

Queen Eliz.: And poor Hastings and Vaughan–where are they?

Duchess: Dead! Murdered!

Richard: Shut up!

Duchess: Don’t tell me to shut up!  You were always bad–from the very beginning.  I’ve had nothing but grief with you.  Either you will die in this battle, as you deserve, or I will kill myself so I never have to see your face again!

    (The Duchess leaves.)

Queen Eliz.: And I wish the same!

Richard (More conciliatory): Madam, please!  I wanted to speak to you about something important.

Queen Eliz.: I have no sons left for you to murder.  And as for my daughters, I will put them in a convent so that you have no reason to murder them.

Richard: Madam, please give a chance to speak.  I want to speak to you about your daughter Elizabeth, whom I consider worthy to be a queen.

Queen Eliz.: Keep away from her!  I won’t see her die, too!

Richard: She’d be perfectly safe as my queen.

Queen Eliz.: Yes–as safe as her brothers, whom you swore to protect!

Richard: Surely you don’t think I killed them.

Queen Eliz.: You only had to give the order.

Richard: Madam, please!  Just listen!  If I win this war, you and your relatives are going to benefit greatly.  Whatever–unhappiness–I may have caused you, I will make up for ten times over.  Your daughters will enjoy the highest honours and positions.  All I ask is that you forget about any wrongs you believe I’ve done you.

Queen Eliz.: That’s asking a lot.

Richard: Forget about your own feelings for a moment.  Think about Elizabeth’s future.  Don’t you want her to be Queen of England?

Queen Eliz.: That depends on who’s King.

Richard: That would be me, of course.

Queen Eliz.: Do you think my daughter would marry the man who murdered her brothers?  Not to mention her uncle Clarence, her uncle Rivers, and her aunt Anne.

Richard: If I’ve made mistakes–and perhaps I have–I’m sorry.  I can’t undo what’s been done.  I can only make up for it–and I will.  I love Elizabeth.  I want to marry her.  She’ll be Queen.  I’ll give you grandchildren.  You’ll be happy again.  Your son Dorset could return to England.  I’ll forgive him.  I’ll give him a high position.  I want to make everything up to you.  You must give me a chance.

Queen Eliz.: And what am I supposed to say to my daughter?

Richard: You must explain things to her rationally.  Tell her the well-being of England depends on her marrying me.  Tell her how much I love her.

Queen Eliz.: Empty words!

Richard: If I am not sincere, then I pray to God that I should die in battle.  This marriage means everything to me–and to England.  You must speak for me to your daughter.  You must persuade her.  (A pause while Elizabeth is reflecting.)  This is the best thing you can do–for the living–as well as for the dead.

Queen Eliz.: I will speak to her.  I’ll let you know what she thinks.

Richard: Give her a kiss from me.  (Queen Elizabeth leaves.  To the audience) I knew I could con her!

    (Ratcliffe comes in, with Catesby behind.)

Ratcliffe: My lord, there’s a fleet of ships off the western coast.  Word is that Richmond is in command.  They intend to land with Buckingham’s help.–And our allies in that area have defected to the other side.

Richard: Catesby, ride as fast as you can to the Duke of Norfolk.–Ratcliffe, you go to Salisbury.  When you get there–(To Catesby) Don’t just stand there, man!

Catesby: What do you want me to say to Norfolk?

Richard: Tell him to round up as many soldiers as he can and meet me at Salisbury.

Catesby: Yes, my lord!

    (Catesby leaves.)

Ratcliffe: And what am I to do at Salisbury?

Richard: No.  Wait.–I’ve changed my mind.  (Stanley comes in.)  Stanley, what news?

Stanley: Richmond is at sea with a fleet, my lord.

Richard: What do you think his intentions are?

Stanley: Well–I think he means to take the Crown away from you–no doubt with the encouragement of Dorset, Buckingham, and the Bishop of Ely.

    (Richard paces a bit and then fixes a harsh look on Stanley.)

Richard: And what are your intentions, Stanley–to defect to the other side?

Stanley: No, my lord!

Richard: Then where the hell is your army?  Are they joining up with the rebels in the west?

Stanley: No!  Absolutely not!  They’re in the north.

Richard: They’re not much good to me there–are they?

Stanley: You haven’t given me any orders.  I’ll march them wherever you like.

    (A pause.  Richard paces a bit and looks at Stanley narrowly.)

Richard: I think you want to join Richmond.  I don’t think I entirely trust you.

Stanley: My lord, I’ve never given you any reason to mistrust me.  I would never be disloyal to you.

Richard: Then go gather your men.–But I shall keep your son George here with me.  That way I can be sure of your  loyalty–if you get my meaning.

Stanley: Yes, my lord.–I’ll go now.

    (Stanley leaves.  Then a Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: My lord, Sir Edward Courtney and his brother, the Bishop of Exeter, have assembled an army against us.  They’re in Devonshire at this moment.

    (A second Messenger arrives.)

Second Messenger: My lord, the Guilfords in Kent have armed themselves against us.  They’re increasing their numbers by the hour.

    (A third Messenger arrives.)

Third Messenger: My lord, the Duke of Buckingham’s army–(Richard slaps him on the head.)

Richard: God damn it!  Doesn’t anyone have any good news for me?

Third Messenger: Yes, my lord.–I was going to say that Buckingham’s army was hit by a flash flood.  They’re scattered all over the place, and Buckingham is unaccounted for.

Richard: Sorry, lad.  Here’s something to make up for that slap.  (He gives the Messenger a gold coin.) Has anyone offered a reward for the capture of Buckingham?

Third Messenger: Yes, my lord.

    (A fourth Messenger comes in.)

Fourth Messenger: My lord, Lovell and Dorset have collected an army in Yorkshire.  But I have good news as well.  Richmond’s fleet has been scattered by a storm.  He sent scouts to the coast of Dorsetshire to see if they were on Buckingham’s side.  They said they were, but Richmond wasn’t sure of them, so he’s gone back to France.

Richard: I wonder about that.–Anyway, we still have enemies to fight here at home.  Let’s march and get them.

    (Catesby returns, out of breath.)

Catesby: Your Majesty–Buckingham’s been captured!

Richard (With clenched fist): Yes!

Catesby: The bad news is that Richmond has landed his army at Milford.

Richard: All right.  There’s no time to lose.  We’re marching to Salisbury immediately.–Catesby, you see to it that Buckingham is brought to Salisbury.  I want him executed the minute he arrives.

Catesby: Yes, my lord!

    (A trumpet flourish, and they all leave.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  In Lord Stanley’s house.  Stanley comes in with Sir Christopher Urswick, a chaplain.

Stanley: Sir Christopher, I want you to explain to Richmond that I’m on his side, but I can’t do anything for him because Richard is holding my son hostage.

Christopher: I understand.

Stanley: And you can tell him that the Queen has agreed to let him marry her daughter Elizabeth.

Christopher: That’s mighty good news, sir.  If the Yorks and Lancasters can be reunited, it’ll be the best thing that’s happened to England in a long time.

Stanley: Where’s Richmond now?

Christopher: In Wales.

Stanley: Who’s joined with him?

Christopher: A lot of nobles–Herbert, Talbot, Oxford, Blunt, and plenty of others.  He’ll have a good-sized army.

Stanley: Well, you give him this letter so he knows what my feelings are.  (He gives Christopher a letter.)

Christopher: I will, sir.  Good luck.

    (Christopher leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  This scene is deleted (Buckingham’s execution).

Act 5, Scene 2.  A camp near Tamworth.  The Earl of Richmond comes in with Oxford, Herbert, and Blunt, plus drums and colours.

Richmond: My friends, we’ve marched a long way with no resistance at all.  And now I’ve received a letter from my stepfather, Lord Stanley, and it’s very encouraging.  That miserable swine Richard is not far away.  He’s near Leicester–just one day’s march from here.  We have a brilliant opportunity to destroy him with one concentrated attack.

Oxford: I’m ready.

Herbert: A lot of his friends will defect to us at the last minute.  You’ll see.

Blunt: Yes.  His only freinds are those who have stuck with him out of fear.  If they get a chance to run, they’ll leave him.

Richmond: Oxford–Herbert–Blunt–God is with us.  I can already taste victory.  Let’s go.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  Bosworth Field.  Richard comes in, dressed for battle, along with Norfolk, Ratcliffe, the Earl of Surrey, and a few Soldiers.  Surrey looks depressed.

Richard: Bosworth Field.  We’ll make camp here.–Surrey, you look depressed.

Surrey: No, no, I’m fine.

Richard (To Soldiers): Put my tent up here.  (The Soldiers go to work.)  Norfolk, what would you estimate the enemy’s strength to be?

Norfolk: Six or seven thousand–maximum.

Richard: Then we have them outnumbered three to one.  And Richmond doesn’t know squat about warfare compared to me.  If everyone stays focused and follows orders, we’ll win.–Come on, let’s have a look at the terrain.

    (Richard and the nobles leave.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  In Richmond’s camp.  Richmond comes in with Sir William Brandon, Oxford, Dorset, Herbert, and Blunt.

Richmond: What a brilliant sunset!  I take it as a good sign, gentlemen.–Brandon, you’ll carry the flag tomorrow.

Brandon: Thank you, my lord!

Richmond: We’re outnumbered, so it’s all about organization.  Every commander will have responsibility for his own forces.  After all, you know your own men better than anyone else does.–Oxford (Richmond indicates each noble so the audience knows who is who)–you and Brandon–and Herbert–will stick close to me.  The Earl of Pembroke will have his regiment apart.–Blunt, you tell Pembroke I want to see him in my tent at once.

Blunt: Right.

Richmond: Do you know where Lord Stanley is camped?

Blunt: He’s set up at least a half mile south of Richard.

Richmond: Do you think you can carry a letter to him safely?

Blunt: I’ll do it.

Richmond: Stanley may be able to help us indirectly, even though he’s stuck on Richard’s side.  (Gives Blunt a letter)  Be careful.  Good luck.  (Blunt leaves.)  Okay, let’s go to my tent, and we’ll go over the battle plan in detail.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  In Richard’s tent.  Richard, Ratcliffe, Norfolk, and Catesby come in.

Richard: What time is it?

Catesby: Nine o’clock, my lord.  Supper time.

Richard: I’m not hungry.  Is all my gear ready?

Catesby: Yes, my lord.

Richard: Norfolk, make sure you have trustworthy men on guard tonight.  I want you moving with your troops before sunrise.  Go now.

Norfolk: Yes, my lord.

    (Norfolk leaves.)

Richard: Catesby, send a messenger to Stanley and tell him likewise.  I want him moving before sunrise, and he’d better do it if he ever wants to see his son again.

Catesby: Yes, my lord.

    (Catesby leaves.)

Richard: Ratcliffe, I want my white horse tomorrow.  And double-check my lances.

Ratcliffe: I’ll see to it, my lord.

Richard: Did you see Lord Northumberland?

Ratcliffe: Yes.  He and Surrey are giving their troops a pep talk.

Richard: I hope it does some good.–All right, then.  Pour me some wine before you go, would you?  I’m not feeling as eager as I should be.  (Ratcliffe pours him some wine.)  Make sure my guards are where they should be.  Come back a couple of hours before sunrise and help me suit up.

Ratcliffe: Yes, my lord.

    (Ratcliffe leaves.  Richard drinks some wine and lies down on his cot to sleep.)

Act 5, Scene 6.  This scene is deleted (Stanley meets secretly with Richmond).  Scene 5 will segue into Scene 7, the ghost scene.

Act 5, Scene 7.  Richard is sleeping in his tent.  The stage is lit in a dim blue light.  All the sound effects and ghost voices in this scene will be pre-recorded.  First we hear hushed voices (suitably amplified) saying “Richard…Richard…Richard…”  Then from both sides, the figures of Richard’s victims appear, moving very slowly, arms outstretched.  They are all wearing black cloaks and hoods.  They converge toward the sleeping Richard.  Then the voices speak in normal voices: “Murderer…murderer…murderer…”  Buckingham’s voice must be heard clearly, since his execution scene was deleted, so the audience is sure he was executed.  Richard awakens and is terrified by the ghosts converging on him.  He is frozen.

Ghost voices: Murderer…murderer…You will die tomorrow…You will die tomorrow.

Richard: No!–You’re dead!–You’re not real!

Anne’s voice: The evil soul shall be destroyed.

Richard: This is a dream!  Go away!  You’re not real!

Anne’s voice: The evil soul shall be destroyed.

Richard: No!–No!

    (The ghosts converge and block Richard from view.  Richard screams.  Then the stage goes dark.  A quick segue to the continuation of the scene finds Richard lying in bed awkwardly, with the stage in normal light.  Richard awakens with a violent start.  Upset, he pours some wine to steady his nerves.)

Richard (Sitting on the edge of his cot, hands covering his face): Guilty…guilty.

    (Ratcliffe comes in.)

Ratcliffe: My lord!

Richard (Startled): What!–Oh–Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe: Time to get up, sir.  All the commanders are getting suited up right now.

Richard: Ratcliffe–I had such a terrible dream.  For the first time in my life–I feel afraid.

Ratcliffe: Oh, no, my lord.  A dream is only a dream, no matter how bad it is.

Richard: I’d sooner face ten thousand enemy soldiers than the shadows that came to me in my sleep.  (After a pause, he gets up decisively.)  Ratcliffe, come with me.  I want to eavesdrop on the commanders in their tents and find out if any of them are planning to desert me.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 8.  Richmond is in his tent, suiting up.  Several lords come in.

Lords: Good morning, sir!

Richmond: Good morning!–I slept so long I can hardly believe it.  What must you think of me!  A lazy slug for a general!

A Lord: No, sir.  It’s good that you’re well-rested.

Richmond: What a wonderful dream I had!

A Lord: What was it, sir?

Richmond: The ghosts of all of Richard’s victims came to me and said, “Victory is yours.  You shall avenge us.”

A Lord: Well!  Who could ask for a better sign than that!

Richmond: What time is it?

A Lord: Four o’clock.  All the men are pumped up and ready to fight.

Richmond: Good.  I’ll go out and say a few words to them.

    (Richmond and the lords leave.  After a few seconds we hear the sound of cheering offstage.)

Act 5, Scene 9.  In Richard’s camp.  Richard is with Ratcliffe and many Soldiers.

Richard: The sky is full of dark clouds.  It’s a bad sign.  I don’t like it.

Ratcliffe: The same sky looks down on both sides, my lord.

Richard: Yes, yes.  You’re quite right.

    (Norfolk rushes in.)

Norfolk: The enemy is in sight, my lord!

Richard: Right!  Signal Stanley to move his forces.  We’ll have our foot soldiers in a line across the width of the plain.  Norfolk, you’ll lead them.  Surrey will lead the cavalry, and they’ll be on the flanks.  And the archers will be in the middle.  What do you think?

Norfolk: Sounds good to me, my lord.

Richard: I’ll give the Earl of Richmond a lesson on how to fight.  This is all about killing.  (He addresses the Soldiers.  Larger numbers are suggested.)  Men! You know what you have to do! Throw away your fears and smother your conscience! This is war! You go forth to kill our enemies! They are the scum of England–traitors, criminals, low-lifes, half-wit peasants, losers, and vermin! They are shit! And they are led by a weakling who’s afraid to get his shoes wet! Are you going to let these bastards–these beggars–steal our lands and rape our wives and daughters?

Soldiers: No! No!

Richard: Then kill them! Rip them to pieces! Let the field run red with their blood!

    (The Soldiers cheer and yell.  Then a Messenger arrives out of breath.)

Richard: What news?  What does Stanley say?

Messenger: My lord–Stanley will not come.

Richard: That fucking traitor!–Chop his son’s head off!

Norfolk: It’ll have to wait, my lord.  The enemy is past the marsh.

Richard: Let’s go, men! Nothing can stop us! Our patron Saint George will make us dragons on the battlefield! Get them! After them!

    (They all rush out.)

Act 5, Scene 10.  Bosworth Field.  A gauze screen (or similar) covers the front of the stage.  Sounds of battle are heard — loud and violent — including horses.  The silhouettes of the fighting men are cast on the screen from back-lighting.  This will go on for perhaps a minute.  Then the players must leave and the screen be removed quickly, preferably without a curtain-down.  Catesby now comes in from one side, and Norfolk meets him coming in from the other side.

Catesby: Norfolk! Hurry, man! The King’s lost his horse! He’s fighting on foot! We have to help him!

    (A trumpet alarm.  Richard comes in, out of breath.)

Richard: I need a horse! Get me a goddamn horse!

Catesby: I’ll find one for you, my lord! Stay out of the fighting until I get back!

    (Catesby leaves quickly.)

Richard: No! I’m going to kill Richmond! There must be a half dozen Richmonds out there! I killed five of them, but he’s still out there! Just get me a goddamn horse!

    (Norfolk hesitates because he is unsure whether to follow the order or stay behind to protect Richard.)

Norfolk: Yes!–Protect yourself, my lord! Wait for us!

    (Norfolk leaves quickly.)

Act 5, Scene 11.  Bosworth Field.  The theatre goes completely dark before the curtain rises.  This scene will have a background of pre-recorded electronic sound effects.  First we hear a loud, deep, drum-like pounding — slow and regular.  Then, as the curtain rises, a high-pitched screech like several dissonant violins is added.  This will stay steady.  Now a powerful red strobe light illuminates the theatre.  A metallic clanging of swords is now added.  This will be regular.  (Stage smoke is optional.)  The curtain up reveals Richard and Richmond facing each other.  They will sword-fight in very slow motion and will not speak.  This action will go on for perhaps two minutes.  The metallic clanging will stop, and this is Richmond’s cue to strike the fatal blow.  Still in slow motion, Richmond strikes and Richard falls.  Richmond stands over Richard’s body and remains absolutely still.  The sounds effects gradually ebb away, and the lighting gradually reverts to normal.  Then there is a victorious sound of trumpets, and Stanley and the other lords come in, armed. They look at Richard’s body and then together embrace Richmond, who now relaxes.

Lords: Well done, my lord! Well done! The monster is dead! We’ve won!

Richmond: You’ve all done well.  All of you.  I’m proud of you.

Stanley: You’re the new King now, my lord! And thank God for it!

Richmond: Stanley! Your son George! Is he alive?

Stanley: He’s safe.

Richmond: That’s good, Stanley.  I’m very glad.–Have any nobles been killed?

Stanley: Some on both sides.

Richmond: They’ll all be buried properly.  Proclaim a pardon for all the soldiers on Richard’s side who are willing to return to us.

Stanley: Yes, my lord.–Are you going to marry young Elizabeth?

Richmond: Yes.  And then the Yorks and the Lancasters will be reunited forever, and there will be no more bloodshed, hatred, and misery.  The red rose and the white rose, Lord Stanley–they are not so different, are they?

Stanley: No, my lord.

Richmond: They both need the sun, the rain, and the good earth of England–and they are both beautiful.


    Copyright@ 2010 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

Antonio — the merchant of Venice

Bassanio — his friend

Gratiano — another friend

Salarino and Solanio — friends of Antonio and Bassanio

Shylock — rich Jewish moneylender

Jessica — his daughter

Lorenzo — friend of Antonio and Bassanio, and Jessica’s sweetheart

Tubal — another rich Jew

Duke of Venice

Prince of Morocco

Prince of Arragon

Portia — wealthy heiress

Nerissa — her waiting-maid

Launcelot Gobbo — servant of Shylock (also described as a clown in the original)

Old Gobbo — his father

Leonardo — Bassanio’s servant

Balthazar and Stephano — servants of Portia

Salerio — a messenger

Magnificoes — high-ranking nobles and officers of the court


Gist of the story: Antonio, a merchant, borrows a large sum of money from the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who hates him.  Shylock won’t charge interest on the loan.  Instead, Antonio must guarantee the loan with a pound of his own flesh.  Antonio signs the contract because he is borrowing the money to help his friend Bassanio, who seeks to marry the wealthy heiress Portia.  Antonio is confident that his ships will return in plenty of time to provide him with the money to pay back the loan.  However, the ships fail to return on time, and he can’t repay the loan.  Now Shylock demands his pound of flesh, and he drags Antonio into court to enforce the contract.  Portia disguises herself as a lawyer and comes to Venice to save Antonio’s life.  (Taken at face value, this play is so anti-Semitic, no modern playwright could get away with it.  Nevertheless, it remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.  And now you know where the phrase “a pound of flesh” comes from.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  A street in Venice.  Antonio, Salarino, and Solanio come in.

Antonio: I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I feel depressed all the time.  Maybe I’ve got a bipolar disorder or something.

Salarino: Aw, you’re just worried about your ships and your cargoes. 

Solanio: Having ships is a risky business.  I wouldn’t want to be in shipping.  There are so many bad things that can happen.  There’s hurricanes, waterspouts, tidal waves, whirlpools–

Salarino: And sometimes there’s no wind at all, and the ships can’t move, and everyone’s burning up from the heat and their brains are getting fried by ultraviolet rays–

Solanio: The worst kind!  And then there are hidden dangers like coral reefs and sandbars and undercurrents that will drag a ship into the rocks and smash it to pieces–

Salarino: And the poor sailors will get eaten by sharks or stung by stingrays.  That’s in the shallow waters, of course.

Solanio: Yes, indeed.  And in the deep water you have sperm whales that will attack a ship for no reason.  And there are also giant squids, and they’ve got these huge, long tentacles that reach up and take hold of a ship and pull it under, and the suckers will rip men to pieces–

Salarino: And don’t forget the sea serpents!  The devil’s monsters!  Why, they’ve been known to terrorize a coast for a hundred years, and no ship can put to sea at all — like that one in Norway, was it?

Solanio: Sweden, I believe.

Salarino: You’re thinking of another one.

Solanio: And pirates!  What can you do about pirates?  They’re ready to pounce on any ship–

Salarino: Like yours.

Solanio: And sometimes a crew will mutiny and steal everything–

Salarino: Or else go crazy and go on a rampage and kill all the officers.

Solanio: Which is sometimes caused by ergotism.  That’s a poisonous mold in the food–

Salarino: And diseases!  Sailors can get scurvy or beri-beri.  And God knows what sort of contagious disease can find its way onto a ship–

Solanio: Plague, man!  Bubonic plague!  It’s spread by rats!  Why, you could have a cargo hold full of plague rats and not realize it until your sailors are spouting blood from their sores and falling dead–

Salarino: Or the plague could be in the port!  You get there and find there’s a quarantine, and you can’t dock.  And if you go somewhere else, they’ll know where you’re coming from, and they won’t let you in there either, and there you are, sailing forever, hopelessly, and all your goods going to rot.

Solanio: There goes your whole investment.

Salarino: Yes, kiss it goodbye.

Solanio: And there are certain places where sailors are lured to their deaths by sirens that sing to them and drive them mad–

Salarino: And there are giant rocks that wait for a ship to go between them, and then they come together suddenly and crush it–

Solanio: Yes, yes.  It’s common knowledge.  And, of course, there are everyday problems with the unions — the Seafarers’ Union and the Longshoremen’s Union.  They’re all crooked–

Salarino: And the goods are always getting stolen or damaged.  Why, it’s a miracle if you can get anything from one place to another in one piece.

Solanio: And then you have to deal with the insurance companies, and they’re all bastards, and they’ll find something in the find print, and you won’t get a penny.

Salarino: It’s a terrible business to be in — shipping goods.  You could get wiped out financially at any moment.  And then you’re on the street begging for a crust of bread.

Solanio: It happens to lots of people.

Salarino: Ain’t it the truth.

    (A pause here.)

Antonio: Gee, thanks a lot.  That really makes me feel better.

Solanio: What are friends for?

Antonio: Actually, I wasn’t worried about business.  Business has been pretty good.

Salarino: Then what are you depressed about — a woman?

Antonio: No.  Nothing specific.

Salarino: Antonio, it’s all in your mind.  If you keep telling yourself you’re unhappy, then you’ll stay unhappy.

Solanio: Right.  So do the opposite.  Just tell yourself you’re happy.  Just say, “I’m happy, happy, happy!”  (Body gestures for emphasis)

Salarino: Yes!  That’s what we do!  “We’re happy, happy, happy!”  (Body gestures for emphasis)  Even if you’re only faking it, so what?

Antonio (Claps them on the shoulders in turn, which tells the audience who is who): Salarino…Solanio…You’re both my good friends. 

Salarino and Solanio: Thank you.

Antonio: And you’re both fucking nuts.

Salarino and Solanio: Thank you.

    (Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano come in.)

Bassanio: Hi, guys!

Solanio: Hey, look who’s here!  Bassanio!  Gratiano!  Lorenzo!

Salarino: Now that the wise men are here, we nuts will be on our way.  Besides, we have some business of our own to take care of.  (To Solanio) Don’t we?

Solanio: If they haven’t stood us up. 

Bassanio (To Salarino and Solanio): Hey, we hardly ever see you guys any more.  We gotta get together and have some fun.

Salarino: For sure.  We’ll go see some strippers.

Gratiano and Lorenzo: Yeah!  Yeah!

    (Salarino and Solanio leave.)

Lorenzo: Bassanio was looking for you, and we just tagged along.

Gratiano: What’s the matter, Antonio?  You look down.

Antonio: That’s my life, Gratiano.  Some people get to be happy, and others don’t.

Gratiano: Aw, bullshit.  It’s all in your mind.

Antonio: That’s what Salarino said.

Gratiano: It’s true.  Listen.  I’m your friend, right?  I’ll tell you this for your own good.  People who are too serious end up badly.  And the worst ones are the ones who are always silent.  They’re like statues — very rigid.  Never say a word.  And people think they must be, like, deep philosophers or something, because they’re so silent and serious.  But the truth is — they’re just fucked-up neurotics.

Lorenzo: Like all those wankers in the financial district. 

Gratiano: Right.  Anyway, Lorenzo and I have to go. — Bassanio, we’re seeing you at dinner, right?

Bassanio: Right.  Later.

    (Gratiano and Lorenzo leave.)

Antonio: So what do you think?  Is he right?

Bassanio: Gratiano likes to hear himself talk.  If he ever says anything sensible, it’s by accident.

Antonio: Okay, so you wanted to tell me about some girl.  You were going on a trip to see her or something?  What’s the story?

Bassanio: Okay, well — so, like, here it is.  Uh, you know, I’ve been a big spender, and I’ve run up a lot of debts.  I owe you more than anyone else.  And I intend to pay off all my debts, believe me.  And if this trip works out, I’ll be able to do that.  It’s just that I’m going to need, uh–

Antonio: Yeah, yeah, you need some money.  Okay, fine.  I’d never say no to you.  So what about this girl?

Bassanio: Her name is Portia.  She lives in Belmont.  She’s very hot and very rich.  I’m going to try to marry her.  And I think I can because I think she likes me.  But there are a lot of other guys who are also after her.  And these are guys with money and status.  You know — nobles.  There’s no way I can compete with them unless I have some money for presents and maybe some new clothes.  I’ve got to make a good impression.  If I can just get my foot in the door, I think I can win her over. 

Antonio: That sounds pretty good.  It’s a risk, but it’s worth it.  Unfortunately, I’m strapped for cash at the moment.  All my money’s tied up in my fleet.  I have to wait for my ships to come in, literally.  But my credit is good.  If you need to buy some stuff, buy it in my name and charge it to me.  In the meantime, see if you can get a loan, with me as the guarantor.  I’ll see if I can line up some kind of business loan or personal loan.  I should be able to do that.  People know me.

Bassanio: Boy, that would be great!

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  In Belmont.  Portia and Nerissa come in.

Portia: Oh, Nerissa, I’m so tired of this big, complicated world. 

Nerissa: Well, I guess that’s what happens when you’re extremely rich and beautiful.  It’s just as bad as being poor and ugly.  Probably the only happy people are the average ones right in the middle.

Portia: I think you’re right.  But what can I do about it?  My father left me all this money, but in his will he took away my freedom to choose a husband.  He left it up to his weird game with the three chests.

Nerissa (Speaking directly to the audience): Here’s the situation.  Portia’s father was a very devout man, but somewhat — flaky.  He had these three chests made — one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead.  Anyone who wants to marry Portia has to pick one of the three chests.  One of them is the lucky one, and the other two are losers.  Whoever picks the right chest gets to marry Portia, and she has no say in the matter.  And everyone who picks one of the wrong chests is not allowed to propose to any other women for the rest of his life.  The old man figured that whoever was smart enough or virtuous enough to pick the right chest had to be the right man for her.  Is that dumb or what?  I don’t know.  Maybe the old man was a lot shrewder than anyone gave him credit for.  Anyway, hang on, and we’ll see how this turns out.  (To Portia) So, tell me, madam, do you like any of the men who are interested in you?

Portia: Oh, there are so many I can hardly keep track.  Run through the list for me.

Nerissa: There’s the prince from Naples.

Portia: Oh, yes, the horse-lover.  He lives for his horses.  He thinks it’s a big deal that he can shoe a horse just like a blacksmith. — Nay!

Nerissa: How about Count Palatine?

Portia (Frowning): Count Sourpuss!  No sense of humour. 

Nerissa: Then there’s the French lord, Monsieur le Bon.

Portia: What a show-off!  (Mockingly) “Ooh, I’m such a good dancer.  Watch me!…Ooh, I’m so good with a sword.  Watch me!” 

Nerissa: How about the English baron, Falconbridge?

Portia: Oh, he’s not too bad.  But we can’t speak each other’s languages, so what’s the point?  And he dresses weird.  Everything is totally mismatched.  Better he should find some English fashion designer. 

Nerissa: What about the Scottish lord?

Portia: A wimp.  The Englishman and the Frenchman both insulted him, and he just stood there and took it.  Frankly, I suspect he’s gay. 

Nerissa: And there was that German fellow, the nephew of the Duke of Saxony.

Portia: The guy’s an alcoholic.  He’s absolutely dreadful.

Nerissa: Remember that if any one of them picks the right chest, you’re stuck with him.

Portia: Oh, God help me.

Nerissa: It’s okay, madam.  The good news is that all of them have decided not to play the game.  They’re going home.

Portia: Tell them to have a nice trip and forget to write.

Nerissa: Do you remember that nice young man from Venice?  He came to visit with the Marquess of Montferrat when your father was still alive. 

Portia: Mmm….Yes.  Bassanio.  I remember him.  I liked him. 

Nerissa: He was a hunk, wasn’t he?  Now, that’s the sort of man I’d like to see you end up with.

Portia: Yes.  I don’t think I’d mind that at all.

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: Madam, the four gentlemen wish to say goodbye.  And there’s a messenger from the Prince of Morocco who says the Prince will be arriving tonight.

Portia: Morocco?  Oh, hell.  A darkie. — Come on, Nerissa.  (To Servant) All right, lead the way. — It’s like a revolving door around here. — Hello.  Goodbye.  Hello.  Goodbye.

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  Bassanio and Shylock come in. 

Bassanio: Shylock, lend me three thousand ducats for three months.

Shylock: Mmm.  For three months?  Mmm.

Bassanio: Antonio will guarantee it.

Shylock: Oh!  Antonio will guarantee it.

Bassanio: For sure.  Come on.  You can do this.  You’re loaded.

Antonio: Yes.  Well…Antonio has several merchant ships.  He’s doing commerce in many places.  Of course, it’s a risky business.  Plenty of bad things can happen to ships.  But, generally, I’d say he’s creditworthy.  All right.  I’ll lend you three thousand ducats for three months if he guarantees it.  I’ll have to discuss it with him, of course.  He’d be the one signing for it. 

Bassanio: Sure.  Come for dinner, and you can talk to him.

Shylock: Oh.  Dinner.  No, I don’t think so.  You people eat pork.  I can’t even stand the smell of it.  After all — I’m a Jew.

    (Antonio comes in.)

Bassanio: Here he is now.  This is Antonio.

Shylock (Aside to the audience): Oh, this guy!  I know this bastard!  He’s a fucking anti-Semite.  And he fucks up my moneylending business by lending money at no interest.  Boy, I hate Christians, but him especially.  Over in the business district he’s always slandering me — calling me a loan shark.  And now he’s coming to me for a loan?  Fine.  This is my chance to get even with this — this Gentile, this goy, this pork-eater.

Bassanio: Hey, are you listening?

Shylock: Yes, yes.  I’m just thinking about how much cash I have.  I may not have three thousand right this very minute, but I can certainly get it from my friend Tubal.  He’s another Jewish businessman. — Three months, did you say?  (To Antonio) Oh, hello, Signor Antonio.  We were just talking about you and your excellent shipping business.

Antonio: Hello, Shylock.  You know I never pay interest or charge interest to others, but for Bassanio’s sake, I’m willing to make an exception.

Shylock: And you’d like me to lend him — that is, lend you — three thousand ducats for three months.  Is that it?

Antonio: Right.

Shylock: Yes.  Fine.  Hmm.  You know, this is ironic, because you’ve slandered me many times for the way I do business, and now you want my help.

Antonio: Hey, look, I didn’t expect to be treated like a friend.  You can treat me like an enemy if you want.  We don’t have to pretend to like each other.  All I care about is the loan.

Shylock: I’m willing to overlook all the times you offended me.  After all, I’m a Jew.  My people are used to being persecuted.

Antonio: Here we go.

Shylock: Relax.  Did I say I wouldn’t lend you the money?  I’ll lend you the money.  And I’m willing to be friendly.  In fact, I’ll lend you the money and not charge you any interest at all.

Antonio: Wow!  You’d do that for me?

Shylock: Of course.  We’ll go to a notary and do some paperwork, and you’ll get your loan.  And just for fun — purely as a joke — we’ll put a special clause into the contract.

Antonio: What sort of clause?

Shylock: If you don’t repay the loan on time, I get to cut a pound of flesh out of your body.  Right here — around the heart.

    (A pause.)

Antonio: You’re joking, right?

Shylock: Well, it’s like a joke, yes.  But it’ll still be in the contract.  And then three months from now, when you’ve repaid the loan, we can laugh about it like friends.  I mean, you’re not really worried about being able to repay, are you?

Antonio: No, no, of course, not.  When my ships come in, I’ll have plenty of dough.

Shylock: Of course. 

Antonio: All right.  It’s a deal. — You know, for a Jew, you’re a pretty good sport.

Bassanio: Uh, wait a sec, bro.  I don’t know about this.  I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you.

Antonio: Aw, don’t worry.  My ships will be back in two months.  That’s a month before the loan is due.

Shylock: Bassanio, do you think I really want a pound of Antonio’s flesh?  What good would it be to me?  It would have no commercial value.  A pound of beef would be worth more.

Antonio: Yeah.  Good point.  Okay, I’ll sign the contract. 

Shylock: Good.  You go to the notary and tell him the terms of the contract and let him write it up.  I’ll go get you your three thousand ducats.

Antonio: Okay, good buddy!  (Shylock leaves.) Gee, he’s not the bad guy I thought he was.  He could even be a Christian.

Bassanio: I have a bad feeling about this.

Antonio: Don’t worry.  Everything will be fine.  Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  A flourish of trumpets.  The Prince of Morocco comes in, accompanied by his attendants, similarly dresed.  He’s dark-skinned.  Then Portia, Nerissa, and their attendants come in.

Morocco: Don’t be prejudiced against be because I’m dark.  In Morocco I’m considered quite handsome.  I could have any Moroccan woman I wanted.

Portia: I’m sure you could.  Of course, beauty is entirely subjective — and it’s not necessarily the most important factor in choosing a husband or wife.  And in my case, it doesn’t matter at all, since I don’t get to choose my husband anyway.  You have to pass my father’s test and pick the right chest.  If it weren’t for that, I believe I could say truthfully that you would have as good a chance to marry me as any of the suitors I’ve met so far.

Morocco: I appreciate that.  Okay, I’m willing to try my luck with the chests.  Of course, if there were some other way I could win you without having to depend on luck.  (Portia shakes her head.)  I’d take on anyone with a sword and win.  I’d even take on a bear or a lion. 

Portia: Doesn’t matter.

    (Morocco falls to his knees and grabs her wrists.)

Morocco: We don’t have white babes like you in Morocco!  I hate Moroccan women!  They’re ugly!  But you’re a goddess!  I’d kill my mother for you!  I deserve a better chance than one out of three!  Give me a hint!

Portia: No, I can’t do that, Prince.  I have to follow my father’s rules.  It has to be done fairly.  Of course, no one’s forcing you to do this.  You can change your mind and go home.  After all, as I explained to you earlier, if you pick a wrong chest, you can’t propose to any other woman for the rest of your life.

Morocco (Aside to the audience): Which is, of course, totally unenforceable.  I mean, what are they going to do — hire a private detective to follow me around for the rest of my life to make sure I don’t propose to anyone?  I know a countess in Sweden (Makes a vulgar gesture signifying big breasts).

Morocco (To Portia): Fine.  I agree to those terms.

Portia: And if you make a wrong choice, you can’t tell anyone which chest you picked.

Morocco: I wouldn’t anyway.

Portia: Good.  But we’ll have dinner first, and afterwards you can try your luck. 

Morocco: And then I’ll be either be the happiest or the unhappiest man in the world.

    (Another trumpet flourish, and they leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Launcelot Gobbo, servant of Shylock, comes in.

Launcelot: What am I going to do?  That bastard Shylock is so mean to me.  I ought to quit and find someone else to work for.  But a good servant isn’t supposed to quit.  I’d feel guilty about that.  But the devil is telling me to run away.  Imagine that.  I work for a devil, and the devil is telling me to leave him.  Is that logical?  If the Jew devil is so awful that even the real devil can’t stand him, he must be, like, the worst fucking devil in the world.  I think that settles it.  I’m going to leave him.

    (Old Gobbo, Launcelot’s father, comes in with a basket.  He’s almost totally blind.)

Gobbo: Excuse me, young man.  I’m looking for the house of Shylock, the Jew.

Launcelot (Aside to the audience): It’s my own father!  He doesn’t know who I am because he’s almost totally blind.  I think I’ll have some fun with him.

Gobbo: Hey, I want to know which way to the Jew’s house.

Launcelot: Right.  No problem.  Here’s how you go.  Go down the block and turn left at the corner, then go straight for one block, then right for two blocks, then left for one block, then look for the tree, go right, and then left to the hitching post in front of the shop with the big window, then turn right, and it’s the third house — no, the fourth house — from the corner diagonally opposite.

Gobbo: What the hell?  Say, listen, do you know if a young man named Launcelot still lives with him?

Launcelot: You mean Master Launcelot?

Gobbo: No, he’s not a master.   He’s a servant.  He’s the son of a poor man — but an honest one, I can assure you.

Launcelot: Well, I don’t know anything about his father, but he’s Master Launcelot.

Gobbo: No, not Master Launcelot — just regular Launcelot.

Launcelot: Well, if he’s regular, he must have a good diet, which means that he must be a gentleman.  So, ipso facto, he must be Master Launcelot.  At any rate, he’s the only Launcelot I know.

Gobbo: Whatever.

Launcelot: Poor fellow.  He’s dead.  Didn’t you know?

Gobbo: What!

Launcelot: Yes, yes.  A tragic accident.  Shot himself with his own arrow.  A hell of a sportsman, he was.

Gobbo: Oh, my God!  This is terrible!  Who’s going to support me in my old age?

Launcelot: Oh!  Is that what I’m supposed to do?

Gobbo: What do you mean?

Launcelot: Don’t you recognize me, father?  Your own son, Launcelot!

    (Gobbo feels Launcelot’s head and face.)

Gobbo:  Oh!  Oh!  You’re alive!  Alive!

Launcelot: I won’t be alive much longer the way the Jew keeps starving me.  Feel my ribs.

    (Gobbo feels Launcelot’s ribs.)

Gobbo: Oh, dear!  I was wondering how you were getting on with him.  I was going to bring him a present.

Launcelot: A present?  For that bastard?  Forget it.  I’ve decided to leave him.  Save your present for Master Bassanio.  He’s the man I want to work for.  He’s very kind to his servants. — Oh, look.  Here he comes now.

    (Bassanio comes in with his servant Leonardo and an attendant.)

Bassanio (To Attendant): Okay, you go ahead, but make sure dinner’s ready by five o’clock.  Deliver these letters, get the uniforms made, and ask Gratiano to come and see me.

    (The attendant leaves.)

Launcelot: Father, ask him for me — about the job.

Gobbo (To Bassanio): Hello, sir!  Bless you, sir!

Bassanio: Hello.  What can I do for you?

Gobbo: This is my boy Launcelot.  He’s a poor boy — but a good boy, I assure you — and he would like — that is, he’s a servant by profession, you know, and–

Launcelot: I work for the Jew Shylock.  Or, rather, I did.  I’m not working for him any more because he’s been mean to me.

Gobbo: I have a present for you, sir.  And if you’d be kind enough to do an old man a big favour and, um–

Launcelot: And give me a job.  My name is Launcelot. 

Bassanio: Ah, yes.  I know who you are.  I know your boss.  He’s actually spoken well of you.  Okay.  You can work for me — that is, if you’d rather work for a poor gentleman than a rich Jew.

Launcelot: It would be a step up.

Bassanio: Fine.  You and your father can go say goodbye to Shylock and then come to my house.  (To Leonardo)  Leonardo, make sure he gets best uniform available.

Launcelot (To Gobbo): You see how lucky I am?  It’s all in my palm.  There’s my life line.  And there’s my fate line.  And there’s the, uh — the other line.  And see how all these little lines branch off?  This is where I cheat death.  And these are all my wives and mistresses.  And right here is where I get caught in bed with a duchess and escape by jumping out a second-storey window and land on a thick hedge and get away unscratched.

Gobbo: Good for you, boy!

Launcelot: Now let’s go to Shylock and tell him I’m quitting.

    (Launcelot and Gobbo leave.)

Bassanio: Leonardo, take care of this (Hands him a paper).  These items have to be picked up.  Then hurry back, because I’m having dinner with somebody important.

Leonardo: I’ll take care of it.

    (Leonardo starts to leave and meets Gratiano coming in.)

Gratiano: Where’s your boss?

Leonardo: Right here, sir.

    (Leonardo leaves.)

Gratiano: Bassanio!

Bassanio: Gratiano!

Gratiano: I have a favour to ask.

Bassanio: Whatever it is, the answer is yes.

Gratiano: I want to go to Belmont with you.  I want to see this rich lady you intend to marry.

Bassanio: Well….Okay, you can come with me, but on one condition.  You have to behave yourself.  (Gratiano gives an expression of mild protest.)  Sometimes you get a little too wild and loud and vulgar.  I don’t mind.  I’m your friend, so I’m used to it.  But the people in Belmont don’t know you, and if you start acting up and offend them, that’s not going to do me any good.  I have to make as good an impression as possible.

Gratiano: Bro, I will be the soul of discretion.  I’ll be on my best behavior.  I’ll go read the thickest fucking etiquette book I can find.  I’ll be a goddamn choir boy.

Bassanio: Yeah.  That’s exactly what I meant.

Gratiano: When we go to Belmont — not here.

Bassanio: No, you can be your normal self here.  In fact, you can come to dinner.  I’m having company, and it should be fun for you, too.  But right now I have some business to take care of. 

Gratiano: Okay.  Great.  I’m going to meet up with Lorenzo and the boys, and we’ll pass by your place around dinner.

Bassanio: Okay.  See you later.

    (They leave in different directions.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  Jessica and Launcelot come in.

Jessica: I’m so sorry you’re leaving my father, Launcelot.  I’m going to miss you.  Look, here’s a ducat.  I want you to give this letter to Lorenzo.  He’ll be at Bassanio’s for dinner this evening.  It’s very personal, so give it to him discreetly.  You’d better go now.  I don’t want my father to see me talking to you.

Launcelot: I’m going to miss you, too, Jessica.  You’re the nicest Jewish girl I ever met.  Goodbye.

Jessica: Goodbye.  (Launcelot leaves.  Then Jessica speaks directly to the audience.) I want to get away from my father so bad.  If Lorenzo keeps his promise, I’m going to marry him and become a Christian.

    (She leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  Gratiano, Lorenzo, Salarino, and Solanio come in.

Lorenzo: Okay, this is what we’ll do.  We’ll sneak away at dinner time and go to my house and put on our disguises and then go back.

Solanio: I want to be some kind of monster.

Salarino: I want to be a Martian.

Lorenzo: It’s four o’clock.  We have two hours to get ready. 

    (Launcelot comes in with Jessica’s letter.)

Launcelot: I have a letter for you, sir.

    (He gives Lorenzo the letter.  Lorenzo reads it and smiles.)

Gratiano: It’s a love letter, that’s what it is.

Launcelot (To Lorenzo): Can I go, sir?

Lorenzo: Where are you going?

Launcelot: I’m to invite my old boss, Shylock, to come to dinner with my new boss, Bassanio.

Lorenzo (Giving Launcelot a coin): Here.  Take this.  (Speaks to him in a low voice) Tell Jessica everything is go.  And don’t let her father know anything.  (Launcelot leaves.) — You guys can go and get ready for the masquerade party.  I have someone who’ll be my torchbearer.

Salarino: Okay, we’ll see you later.

    (Salarino and Solanio leave.)

Gratiano: That letter’s from Jessica, right?

Lorenzo: Right.  I’m going to sneak her out of her father’s house.  She’s going to be disguised as a page, and she’ll be my torchbearer.  She’s taking her own gold and jewels.  Come on.  You can read the letter on the way.

    (He hands Gratiano the letter as they leave.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  Shylock and Launcelot come in.

Shylock: You’ll find out that working for Bassanio won’t be like working for me.  You won’t be able to stuff yourself with food, and loaf and sleep like you did here. — Jessica!  Where are you?

    (Jessica comes in.)

Jessica: Yes, father?

Shylock: I have an invitation for dinner.  Here are my keys.  You watch the house.  (To Launcelot) I don’t really feel like going, but it’s a free meal, after all.

Launcelot: Oh, yes.  You should go, sir.  I’ve been following omens, and I predict there’ll be a masquerade party at the house.  You see, last Easter I got a nosebleed at six in the morning, and that was four years after the nosebleed I got on Ash Wednesday — although that one was in the evening. 

Shylock: A masquerade party?  Like some kind of pagan Mardi Gras?  Bloody hell! — Jessica, you stay indoors and don’t even look out the window.  I don’t want you to be corrupted by drunken rowdies on the street and loose women flashing their tits.  — Launcelot, go tell them I’m coming.

Launcelot: Yes.  I’ll go right along and let them know.  (Aside to Jessica) Your guy will be coming, so watch from the window.

    (Launcelot leaves.)

Shylock: What did he say?

Jessica: He said close the window in case it rains.

Shylock: Yes.  That’s good advice.  He’s a nice boy.  But rather lazy.  Let him live off the Christian for a change.  You stay inside till I get back.  I may come home early.

    (He leaves.)

Jessica (To the audience): With any luck, I won’t be here when he gets back.

    (She leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 6.  Gratiano and Salarino come in, dressed for a masquerade.  (Stage director’s choice.  Anything goes.)  They are outside of Shylock’s house in the evening.

Gratiano: This is where we’re supposed to meet Lorenzo.

Salarino: He’s late.

Gratiano: How do I look?

Salarino: I’d say you look perfect — for this audience, at least. — Oh, here he comes.

    (Lorenzo comes in, also wearing a costume.)

Lorenzo: Sorry I’m late.  Business.  You understand.

Gratiano: Yeah, yeah.

Lorenzo: You know who lives here?  The Jew.

Salarino: Shylock?  No shit!

Lorenzo: My future father-in-law.  Only, he doesn’t know it yet.  (A noise overhead.  Jessica appears at a window, disguised in a page’s uniform.)  Who’s there?

Jessica: I hear a familiar voice down there.  I wonder if it could be–

Lorenzo: It’s me — Lorenzo.

Jessica: Oh, darn!  I was expecting my boyfriend.

Lorenzo: Oh, him!  I just saw him get into a carriage with some gypsy.  They were all over each other.  Might as well forget about him.  I’ll be your boyfriend instead.

Jessica: Good.  You’re so much handsomer.  Here, catch this box.  (She pushes out a box about the size of a suitcase.  The three men catch it together.)  I never dressed up like a boy before.  I feel silly.

Lorenzo: You’ll be fine.  You’ll be my torchbearer to the masquerade party at Bassanio’s.  Come on.  We’ll be late.

Jessica: Just let me lock up and grab some more money.  (She leaves the window and then comes out of the house.)

Gratiano: Hey, sister, you rock!

Lorenzo: Isn’t she awesome?  She’s the love of my life.  Come on.  Let’s go.

Gratiano: You guys go on.  I have to adjust my costume.  I’ll catch up with you.

Lorenzo: Okay.

    (Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salarino leave.  Then Antonio comes in.)

Antonio: Gratiano?  Is that you?

Gratiano (To the audience): You see?  Even in this outfit and at night, he knows me.

Antonio: Where is everyone?  It’s almost nine o’clock.

Gratiano: You just missed them — Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salarino.

Antonio: Listen, the masquerade party is cancelled.  Bassanio is boarding the ship for Belmont immediately because the winds are perfect.  He doesn’t want to leave without you.

Gratiano: Right-o!  I’m going to Belmont! 

    (He leaves quickly, and Antonio follows.)

Act 2, Scene 7.  In Belmont.  A trumpet flourish.  Portia and Nerissa come in with the Prince of Morocco and his attendants.

Portia: Nerissa, show the Prince the three chests.

    (Nerissa draws the curtan open, revealing the three chests — gold, silver, and lead.)

Portia: Here they are, Prince.  You get to choose one.  And remember — if you pick a wrong one, you can’t propose to any other woman for the rest of your life.  And you have to leave immediately.  No protests allowed.

Morocco: Yes, yes.  Well, well.  Heh, heh, heh.  Let’s have a closer look. — I see they have inscriptions.  The gold one says, ‘He who chooses me will get what many men want.’ — Well, I should hope so. — The silver one says, ‘He who chooses me will get what he deserves.’ — Heh, heh.  A clever man, your father. — Let’s see what the lead one says. — ‘He who chooses me must give and risk all he has.’ — Uh, oh! — And how will I know if I’ve chosen the right one?

Portia: There will be a picture of me inside.

Morocco: Mmm.  (He walks back and forth, pausing occasionally.)  Let’s see now. — ‘He who chooses me must give and risk all he has.’ — Risk all I have for lead?  If I’m going to risk all I have, it’s going to be for the biggest reward possible.  Lead’s no reward at all, so that one’s stupid.  I can rule that out.  Now, the silver box. — ‘He who chooses me will get what he deserves.’ — Well, I certainly deserve a lot, on account of my position and talents.  I certainly deserve you.  So that’s a maybe. — And the gold box says, ‘He who chooses me will get what many men want.’ — Well, a lot of men want you.  I’m sure your father anticipated that.  And any father would set his own daughter above other people’s daughters.  And gold is more valuable than silver.  Even a fool would choose gold before silver.  It’s perfectly obvious and logical.  It has to be gold.  And that’s my final answer.

    (Portia hands him the key, and he opens the gold chest.)

Morocco: What the fuck?  (He reaches in and pulls out a skull with a note in the eye socket.  He unfolds the note and reads it.)

    ‘Many a fool has sold his soul

    To get his hands on piles of gold.

    So now we know what’s on your mind.

    Go shove a pickle in your behind.’

FUCK…ME! — Goodbye, Portia.  I’m outa here.

    (Morocco leaves with his attendants.)

Portia: Whew!  That’s a relief!  I don’t have to marry a darkie. — Okay, Nerissa, lock it up.

    (Nerissa replaces the items in the chest and locks it as Portia walks out.)

Act 2, Scene 8.  Salarino and Solanio enter and face the audience, standing very straight.  They speak directly to the audience in a rather loud voice.  (Optionally for the director, they may be in their masquerade costumes.)

Salarino: Bassanio and Gratiano have sailed away to Belmont.

Solanio: The Jew freaked out when he came home to find his daughter missing, along with a large quantity of money and jewels.  He got even more freaked out when he found out she had eloped with Lorenzo.  He was shouting up and down the streets, “My daughter stole my money!  My daughter ran off with a Christian!”

Salarino: He complained to the Duke of Venice.  The Duke sent out a search party.  Antonio informed the Duke that Lorenzo and Jessica didn’t get on the boat to Belmont.  Instead, they were on a gondola somewhere.

Solanio: This is Venice, you know.  We have authentic gondolas — the best.  Not like those phony jackoff gondolas you find in theme parks.

    (Salarino and Solanio relax and face each other and speak normally.)

Solanio: The Jew is so pissed, he’s going to take it out on somebody, you know.  And Antonio is Lorenzo’s friend.  So I’d say Antonio had better pay back that loan on time.

Salarino: That’s for sure.  And you know what?  I heard that a merchant ship fromVenice got wrecked in the English Channel.  The first thing I thought of was that it might be one of Antonio’s ships.

Solanio: You’d better tell him.  But try to tell him gently so he doesn’t panic. 

Salarino: Antonio is the nicest dude in the world.  He cares more about Bassanio than about himself.  He told Bassanio, “Don’t worry about me and the loan.  Take all the time you need in Belmont to win that girl.”

Solanio: Yeah, he’s a good guy.  You’re right. — Remember how depressed he was the other day?  He deserves some cheering up.  Don’t you think?

Salarino: Yeah.  I agree.  Let’s go find him.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 9.  In Belmont.  Nerissa is standing beside the three chests.  A trumpet flourish.  Then Portia comes in, leading the Prince of Arragon and his attendants.

Nerissa (Aside to the audience): It’s the Prince of Arragon.

Portia: Here are the three chests, Prince.  If you pick the right one, you get to marry me.  If you pick the wrong one, you’re on your way home.  I’ve explained the conditions.

Arragon: Yes.  I understand. — Well,let’s see.  Gold, silver, or lead.  (Reads the inscription on the lead chest) ‘He who chooses me must give and risk all he has.’ — No, thanks.  You’re worth a risk, but not a total risk.  So I’ll rule out the lead box.  The gold box says, ‘He who chooses me will get what many men want.’  Well, that’s so obvious, isn’t it?  Everyone wants gold.  It’s flashy.  And this inscription is a lure to the stupid men of the world.  So, counter-intuitively, the gold box has to be wrong because it looks so obviously right. But the silver box says, ‘He who chooses me will get what he deserves.’ — And I think people should get exactly what they deserve  — no more and no less.  That way the superior people rise to the top and have the power they deserve, while the idiots and mediocrities are put in their proper places — which is to say, out of my way.  That’s the kind of society we ought to live in.  People who score below a certain I.Q. get sent to a slave labour camp.  Why pretend that everyone’s equal?  Some people are better than others.  That’s just the way it is. — So I’m picking the silver box.

Portia: Okay.  Here’s the key.

    (Arragon unlocks the chest.)

Arragon: What the fuck?  (He takes from the chest a bobble-head or figurine of some idiotic figure, such as Alfred E. Newman.  There is a little scroll stuck onto it, which Arragon unfolds and reads.)

    ‘The wise man finds what he deserves,

    And likewise does the fool

    That thinks himself superior

    Because he went to school.

    Who seeks the truth must learn the world

    And not some dusty tome,

    So gather up your sorry ass

    And fuck off and go home.’

    (Arragon stands there stunned and speechless.)

Portia (Grinning): I’m sorry.

    (Arragon drops the figure and the scroll and storms out, followed by his attendants.)

Portia: Like moths to the flame, Nerissa.  They always get burned.

Nerissa: Ain’t it the truth, madam.

Portia: Close it up.

    (Nerissa replaces the items and closes the chest,  As she is drawing the curtain closed, a Messenger arrives.)

Messenger: A message for Madam Portia, if you please.

Portia: I’m Portia.

Messenger: Madam, a young man from Venice wishes to inform you that his master will be arriving to see you shortly.  This lord sends his greetings, and he has also sent you some very beautiful presents.  I’m sure he’s the finest candidate who has come here so far.

Portia: Are you pimping for your cousin or something? — Never mind. — Come on, Nerissa.  Let’s check this guy out.

Nerissa (Giddily, to the audience): I hope it’s Bassanio!

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  Salarino and Solanio come in.

Salarino: You know that ship that got wrecked in the English Channel?  The rumor is that it was one of Antonio’s.  And it was loaded with valuable cargo.

Solanio: Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.

Salarino: Let’s hope he doesn’t lose anything else.

Solanio: Here comes the devil.

    (Shylock comes in.)

Shylock: You guys!  You knew my daughter intended to run away, didn’t you?

Salarino: Maybe.  So what?

Solanio: You shouldn’t be so surprised.  Sooner or later most kids leave their parents.

Shylock: She’ll be damned for it.

Salarino: Damned by you, not by God.

Shylock: She’s my own flesh and blood, and she’s turned against me.

Salarino: Hard to see any similarity, really.  I can’t imagine a daughter more different than her father.  Anyway, did you hear about Antonio losing a ship?

Shylock: That big-shot merchant.  He’s not so big now, is he?  I never should’ve loaned him that money.  But one way or another, I intend to collect what’s due me.  He’d better think about that.

Salarino: What — you’re gonna take a pound of his flesh?  What the hell good is that?

Shylock: It’s good for revenge, that’s what.  That guy’s cost me a lot of money over the years — undercutting my business, bad-mouthing me, encouraging my enemies.  And why?  Because I’m a Jew!  If a Jew offends a Christian, what happens?  The Christian gets revenge, and everyone says “Amen!”  But if a Christian offends a Jew, the Jew is supposed to stand there and take it, right?  Like, a Jew isn’t a real person with blood in his veins.  He doesn’t feel pain or have any faeelings.  Oh, no.  Well, let me tell you, all you Christians are going to get an object lesson in revenge from this Jew.

    (A Servant of  Antonio comes in.)

Servant: Solanio and Salarino, hello!  My master Antonio is home right now and would like to speak to you.

Salarino: Right.  We’re on our way.

    (Solanio and Salarino start to leave and meet Tubal coming in.)

Solanio: It’s the other Jew — Tubal.  The devil’s brother.

    (Solanio, Salarino, and the Servant leave.)

Shylock: Tubal!  My friend!  Have you been able to find out where my daughter is?

Tubal: I’ve been all over town and in Genoa, too, trying to glean some intelligence for you, but no luck.

Shylock: Bloody fucking hell.  I’d like to see my daughter dead in her coffin with all those jewels she stole from me.  One diamond alone is worth two thousand ducats.  I have the worst luck, really.  It’s one loss after another.

Tubal: Oh, you’re not the only one with bad luck.  Over in Genoa I heard one of Antonio’s ships got wrecked coming from Tripoli.

Shylock: Oh, fantastic!  That’s what the bastard deserves!

Tubal: And I heard that your daughter blew eighty ducats in Genoa in one night.

Shylock: Oh, that little bitch!  She’ll blow everything before I can ever get it back.

Tubal: And you’ll also be interested to know that I came back to Venice with some of Antonio’s creditors.  And they were of the opinion that Antonio will be forced to declare bankruptcy.

Shylock: Good!  Fuck him!

Tubal: Oh, and one last bit of news.  Your daughter traded a ring for a monkey.

Shylock: What!

Tubal: One of Antonio’s creditors sold her the monkey in exchange for a turquoise ring.

Shylock: This is what happens when Jewish girls run off with Christian boys!

Tubal: Yes, without a doubt.  Anyway, Antonio’s going to be out of business.

Shylock: Tubal, do me a favour.  See if you can find an officer to arrest Antonio.  Arrange it two weeks ahead of time so I can pounce on him the moment the loan is due.  If he’s in default by so much as one minute, I’m going to cut his goddamned heart out — even if some hero shows up and offers to pay his debt for him.  You’ll do this for me, okay?  And meet me at the synagogue later.

Tubal: Sure thing.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Portia, Nerissa, Bassanio, and Gratiano come in, with attendants, plus a Singer with a guitar.  Portia’s manner toward Bassanio makes it obvious she loves him.

Portia: You don’t have to make your choice right now, Bassanio.  You can stay a while and think about it.  I wouldn’t want to lose your company too soon.  After all, if you make a wrong choice, you have to leave immediately.

Bassanio: I don’t suppose you could give me a hint.

Portia: I can’t.  Of course, if you could read my mind, there’s no rule against that.

Bassanio: Unfortunately, I can’t read people’s minds.

Portia (Sighing): If you could, you’d know how I feel right now.

Bassanio: I guess the only thing to do is try my luck and hope for the best.

Portia: Take your time.  We’ll give you some music for inspiration.  Maybe that’ll help.

    (She signals the Singer to play.  He comes forward and faces the audience.  He plays some old pop song such as a song by the Monkees, or a Beach Boys surfing song.  The director has a free choice here.  The Singer plays at the wrong tempo, sings and plays off-key, gets the lyrics wrong, and generally butchers the song.  He is totally deadpan, like everyone else onstage.  A pause will allow the audience to finished their reaction.)

Bassanio (Deadpan): Thanks.  That may have helped. — Well, let’s see.  The gold box would seem to be the most obvious, so somebody must have picked it by now.  But since you’re still single, that can’t be the right box.  Of course, somebody else must have figured that out already and picked the next most obvious box, the silver one.  But that can’t be right either, because here you are still waiting for a husband.  So where does that leave us?  It’s got to be the lead box.  Nobody would expect that.  Lead isn’t valuable or beautiful.  And the inscription seems to be designed to discourage people — ‘He who chooses me must give and risk all he has.’  My friend Antonio risked his life to bankroll my trip here to Belmont.  So should I be a coward now?  No.  I’ll risk it all.  You’re worth it.  I’ll go for the lead box.

    (Portia faces the audience for a moment, looking ecstatic.)

Portia: Here’s the key.

    (Bassanio unlocks the lead chest and reaches in and retrieves a portrait of Portia.  He holds it up to the audience and then kisses it.  He then reaches in and retrieves a scroll, which he unfolds and reads.)

Bassanio (Reading):

    ‘Heaven smiles on the virtuous soul

    Who passes up the lure of gold

    And silver’s promise of riches galore

    And chooses instead earth’s humblest ore.

    Good fortune has blessed you and given you bliss,

    So go to your new wife and give her a kiss.’

    (Bassanio and Portia kiss.  Everyone else cheers and claps.)

Portia: My lord Bassanio, I am now yours, and everything I own is yours, too.  Take this ring and don’t ever lose it.  As long as you have it, our love will last.

    (She gives him a ring.)

Bassanio: I’ll wear it till the day I die.

Gratiano: Bassanio, when you get married, I’d like to be married at the same time.

Bassanio: That’s fine with me.  But you’ll need to find a wife.

Gratiano: I’ve already found one.  (He goes to Nerissa and puts his arm around her.)  From the moment I first saw her, I knew I wanted to marry her.

Portia: Is this true, Nerissa?

Nerissa: Yes, madam.  I want to marry Gratiano.

Portia: Then it’ll be a double marriage!

    (More cheering and clapping.  Then Lorenzo and Jessica come in, along with Salerio, a messenger from Venice.)

Bassanio (To Portia): Portia, this is my friend Lorenzo and his fiancee, Jessica.  And this is my friend Salerio.

Portia: Welcome, all of you.

Others: Thank you.

Bassanio (To Lorenzo): I didn’t expect to see you here.

Lorenzo: We weren’t planning to come, but we ran into Salerio, and he insisted we come with him.

Salerio (To Bassanio): I’ve got a letter for you from Antonio (Hands him the letter).

Bassanio: How is Antonio?

Salerio: Not so good.  Just read the letter.

    (Bassanio reads the letter silently, with an expression of increasing alarm.)

Portia: Is it really bad?

Bassanio: It couldn’t be worse.  You see, Antonio borrowed a lot of money so I could come here, and now he’s in deep shit.  All his ships were apparently lost at sea, and now he can’t pay back the loan — to Jessica’s father, Shylock.  And there’s a clause in the loan contract that if he doesn’t repay the loan when it’s due — Shylock gets to cut a pound of flesh out of his body.

Portia: What!

Bassanio: I was against it, but Antonio signed the contract because he wanted to help me.  He never imagined he wouldn’t be able to repay the loan.

Salerio: And now Shylock wants his pound of flesh.  He’s rather have that than the money.  I’ve never known a crueler man.  He’s been in the Duke’s face and all the high-ranking nobles’ faces demanding that Antonio be prosecuted.  They all told him to forget about the goddamn pound of flesh, but he’s insisting that the contract be enforced.  He calls it “justice.”

Jessica: I heard my father say that he’d rather have Antonio’s flesh than twenty times the money.  Unless Antonio can find a good lawyer, I hate to think–

Portia: How much money are we talking about?

Bassanio: Three thousand ducats.

Portia: Is that all?  Oh, my goodness.  I’ll pay the debt for him.  Tell Shylock you’ll pay him six thousand to tear up the contract and forget the whole thing.  Only a lunatic would say no to that.

Bassanio: Will you come to Venice?

Portia: Not now.  We’ll get married right away, and then you go back to Venice.  I’ll give you all the gold you could possibly need.  When everything is settled, come back with Antonio.  We’ll have our — honeymoon — then.

Bassanio (Sighs): Thanks, my love!

Act 3, Scene 1.  A jail in Venice.  Shylock, Antonio, Solanio and the Jailer come in.  The Jailer doesn’t speak in this scene.  He merely grunts.  The action is taking place in an open area, not in a cell.

Shylock: Jailer, you keep your eye on this one (Indicating Antonio).

Antonio: Shylock–

Shylock: You signed for the loan, and you guaranteed it with a pound of your flesh, remember?  You once called me a dog, too — Remember that?  Aha!  Well, we have laws to enforce contracts, and I’ve got the law on my side, and I’m going to see to it that that contract is enforced.

Antonio: But, Shylock, please–

Shylock (Mockingly): Oh, Shylock, please! — You’re not getting any sympathy from me.  You’ve meddled with my business and cost me a lot of money.  And now you owe me a pound of flesh, and I intend to have it.

    (Shylock leaves.)

Solanio: What an asshole.

Antonio: He wants me dead.  That’s it.  Plain and simple.  He doesn’t give a shit about the money any more.  You know, I’ve given money to plenty of people who owed money to him, just to keep them out of his clutches, and that made me look like a hero and him like a zero.  And he hates me for that.

Solanio: Surely the Duke isn’t going to allow this contract to stand.  I mean, a pound of flesh?  Come on.  This is Venice, not Fantasy Island.

Antonio: Well, that’s just the point.  This is Venice.  This is an international trading centre.  The whole world likes to do business here because we have honest laws.  A contract in Venice is rock solid.  You think the Duke is going to wreck the whole economic system just to save me?  He’d like to save me, but he can’t just nullify the contract arbitrarily. — Aw, shit.  I’ve already lost more than a pound of flesh just worrying about it.  (Looks at his body all over)  Where can I spare a pound? — Fucking hell. — Jailer, might as well lock me up. — I hope Bassanio comes back in time to see me pay off his debt.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  Portia and Nerissa come in with Balthazar, a servant of Portia.

Portia: Balthazar, I’ve made some arrangements with Lorenzo and Jessica.  They’re going to stay here in the house and manage the household temporarily.  Launcelot will be here to help out as well.  Nerissa and I are going to the monastery until our husbands return from Venice.  We’ll be praying constantly for them so they can save their friend Antonio.

Balthazar: Yes, madam.

    (Portia hands him a letter.)

Portia: Now, this is very important, Balthazar.  You must take this letter to my cousin Bellario in Padua.  Ask for Docter Bellario, the lawyer.  He will give you some documents and a package of clothing.  You must bring them to me immediately at the ferry dock — you know, the ferry that goes to Venice.  I’ll be waiting for you there.  Every minute counts, so go!

Balthazar: Yes, madam!

    (He leaves.)

Nerissa: Are we really going to the monastery?

Portia: No.  We’re going on a secret mission.  We’re going to Venice — disguised as men.

Nerissa: What for?

Portia: I’ll explain it to you on the way.

Nerissa: Nobody’s ever mistaken me for a man — or you either.

Portia: Well, we’re going to fake it.  And it’s got to be convincing, because a man’s life depends on it.  Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 5.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 1.  A courtroom in Venice.  The Duke, the Magnificoes (high-ranking nobles), Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Salerio, and attendants come in.

Duke (Bangs his gavel): This court is now in session.  Is Antonio here?

Antonio: I’m here, sir.

Duke: You’re in a bit of a mess, I should say.  The man who is bringing a complaint against you is a cruel, heartless, low-down piece of–

First Magnifico: Ahem!  (Tugs the Duke’s sleeve discreetly)

Duke: Uh, yes — Well, let’s just say the guy rhymes with spit.  (The Magnificoes all nod in agreement.)  Now, Antonio, I’ve tried to reason with the man, but he insists on asserting his legal rights, and this court has to uphold the law.

Antonio: I understand.  I’ll take whatever’s coming to me.

Duke: All right. — Somebody call in that Jew bas–

First Magnifico: Ahem!  (Tugs the Duke’s sleeve again.)

Duke: Uh, yes — I mean, please call in the, uh, the Jew — no, the, uh, businesssman of the Jewish faith.

Salerio (Calling loudly out the door): The Jew!

    (Shylock comes in and stands before the Duke.)

Duke: Shylock, a lot of us think that this is all just a show on your part, and you don’t really mean it.  You’re not really going to insist on taking a pound of flesh from this man.  He’s suffered terrible financial losses with his ships.  Surely you’re willing to cut him some slack under the circumstances, aren’t you?  Everyone here is hoping you will.

Shylock: The only thing I’m willing to cut is a pound of his flesh.  I have a written contract.  If you don’t uphold it, then no contract in Venice will be considered secure, and a lot of traders from other countries won’t come here.

Duke: But what possible good can a pound of human flesh be to you?  Why on earth would you want it?

Shylock: I don’t have to explain why I want it.  I don’t need to have a reason — other than the fact that I hate Antonio.

Gratiano: What an asshole.

Duke (Banging the gavel): Watch your language.

Shylock (To Gratiano): That’s what you are, but what am I?

Antonio (To Gratiano): Don’t waste your breath.  It’s like talking to a rock.

Bassanio (To Shylock): Look, Shylock, I’ve got six thousand ducats for you right now.  That’s twice what Antonio owes you.

Shylock: It doesn’t matter.  He’s in default.  I no longer want the money.  I want the pound of flesh.

Duke: You know, if you are merciless to others now, then someday you’ll get no mercy from others when it’s your ass in the meat-grinder.

First Magnifico: Ahem!

Duke: Yeah, yeah.  Everybody knows what I mean.

Shylock: That will never happen to me.  I haven’t done anything wrong, and I don’t intend to.  You want me to forget about something I’m legally entitled to.  Suppose I told you to free your slaves — and some of you have slaves, that’s the truth — or pay them a minimum wage, or give them paid vacations?  What would you say to me?  You’d say, “Mind your own business, and don’t tell us how to manage ours.” — So, are you going to enforce the law, or not?

Duke: I’ve sent for Doctor Bellario to give a legal opinion to help the court.  If he doesn’t show up, I can adjourn the court and put the matter off indefinitely.

    (Salerio goes out for a second and comes back in.)

Salerio: My lord, there’s a messenger here from Padua with a letter from Bellario.

Duke: Good.  Bring him in.

    (Salerio goes out.)

Bassanio (To Antonio): Don’t worry, bro.   I’ll give the bastard a pound of my flesh before he takes it from you.  I won’t let you die for my sake.

Antonio: No.  You have to live.  You just got married..

    (Salerio returns with Nerissa, disguised as a lawyer’s clerk.)

Duke: You’re here from Doctor Bellario?

Nerissa: Yes, my lord.  He sends his greetings.  And this letter is for you.

    (She hands him the letter.  Meanwhile, Shylock is sharpening his knife on the sole of his shoe.)

Gratiano (Aside to Bassanio): The asshole is sharpening his knife.  He can’t wait.

Duke (Looking at the letter): Bellario has sent a young legal expert to speak to the court.  Is he here?

Nerissa: He’s right outside.

Duke: Okay, bring him in.  (Nerissa leaves.  To the Magnificoes) Bellario was too sick to come in person.  This fellow is named Balthazar.  He’s from Rome. 

    (Nerissa returns with Portia, disguised as the lawyer Balthazar.)

Portia: Greetings to the court.

Duke: You’re most welcome, sir.  Doctor Bellario speaks very highly of you.  He says we should be guided by your opinion.  Are you familiar with this case?

Portia: Yes.  Can you introduce me to the two parties?

Duke: Antonio and Shylock, step forward.

    (Antonio and Shylock step forward.)

Portia: You’re Shylock?

Shylock: Yes.

Portia: And you, Antonio.  You signed the contract?

Antonio: Yes.

Portia: Then the Jew has to show you mercy.

Shylock: Why?

Portia: Mercy is a spiritual quality given to us by God.  It should flow from us as natually as rain falls for the sky.  It is as much a blessing to the giver as the receiver.  And just as we pray to God for mercy for ourselves, we must show it to others.  This is how we save our souls — not by laws.  You should drop this suit against the merchant, otherwise the court will have to carry out the terms of the contract against him.

Shylock: That’s exactly what I want — to have the contract enforced.  I want justice.

Portia: And he’s unable to pay back the loan?

Bassanio: Counselor, my friend Antonio had some bad luck and doesn’t have the money, but I offered to pay his debt for him — double the amount.  Even more than that, if necessary.  If the Jew won’t take it, then he’s just being malicious.  (To the Duke) Your Grace, can’t you bend the law just this once?  You can’t let this miserable Jew get away with this.

Duke: Counselor?

Portia: From a strictly legal point of view, there’s no way the contract can be overturned.  If that were to happen, there would be a whole rat’s nest of legal complications.  People would be lining up in court to have their contracts overturned so they could avoid their obligations.

Shylock: Exactly right!  Listen to this lawayer, my lord.  He understands the law.

Portia: Can I have a look at the contract?

Shylock (Hands Portia a document): Here it is.

Portia (Perusing): Hmm. — Well, it’s clear that the Jew is within his rights.  (To Shylock) But you’ve been offered a lot more money to forget about it.  Couldn’t you just accept it?  The parties to a contract can agree to cancel it.  That would make everyone here very happy.

Shylock: Everyone except me.  No.  I’m sticking to the contract.  You’ve already said it’s a binding contract.  You’re a legal expert, and you were sent here to advise the court.  So, do you advise the court to uphold the contract or not?

Portia: Yes.  According to the law, it must be upheld.

Antonio: Let’s get this over with.

Portia: I’m sorry, sir.  You’d better take your shirt off and get ready for the knife.

Shylock (Jumping for joy): Yes! — And I get to cut out a pound of flesh closest to his heart.  That’s what it says.

Portia: Do you have a scale to weigh the flesh?

Shylock: Oh, yes.  Right here.

Portia: Of course, you should have a surgeon on hand to stitch him up so he doesn’t bleed to death.

Shylock: That would cost me money.  I don’t want to.

Bassanio: I’ll pay for it, for chrissake!

Portia (To Shylock): You’re not even willing to do that much for him?

Shylock: No.  We’re sticking to the wording of the contract.  There’s nothing in it that requires me to do that.

Portia (To Antonio): Do you have anything to say?

Antonio: No.  (To Bassanio) Goodbye.  (They embrace.)  Don’t be sad about this.  I’ve had a luckier life than most people.  At least I don’t have to face getting old and being feeble and sick and all that.  Give your wife my best regards and tell her that I died still your best friend.

Bassanio: I’d give everything up to save you if I could.  My own life.  Even my wife’s life.

Portia: She wouldn’t want to hear that.

Gratiano: I’d let my wife go to heaven right now if she could find some angels to make this rotten Jew change his mind.

Nerissa: Sacrifice your own wife, would you?  Oh, well!

Shylock: We’re wasting time.  Let’s get on with it.

Portia: You can have your pound of flesh.  The law is on your side.

Shylock: Thank you.  You’re a fine lawyer, and a righteous one, too.  You could even be a Jew.

Portia: Thank you.  There is one little technicality, however.  The contract specifies a pound of flesh, but it doesn’t say anything about blood.  If you draw a single drop of blood, the state can confiscate all your property under the law.

Gratiano: Brilliant!  I never used to like lawyers, but now I do. — Take that, Jew!

Shylock (To Portia): Is that true?

Portia: Of course.  You wanted justice, didn’t you?  Well, you’re going to get justice.

Gratiano (To the audience): I’m loving this!  Aren’t you?

Shylock (Nervously): I’ve changed my mind.  I’ll take the money. — Bassanio, you can pay me, um, three times the amount of the loan, and I’ll forget about the pound of flesh.

Bassanio: No problem.  I’ve got the money right here.

Portia: No, no.  Wait a minute.  The Jew wants justice.  He’s got to take the pound of flesh, not the money. — Go ahead, Shylock.  Take the pound of flesh — not one gram more and not one gram less — and not one drop of blood.  Otherwise, you’ll be condemned to death and all your property will be confiscated.

Shylock: No!  No!  That’s impossible!  Just let me have the money, and I’ll go home!

Portia: But you’ve already refused it publicly, right in this court.  It’s on the record.  So you don’t get the money.

Shylock: Then to hell with it!  Let him keep the money.  I’m leaving.

    (He starts to leave, but the attendants block him.)

Portia: Oh, no, you’re not.  There’s another legal issue here.  The law says that if any foreign resident — and that’s you.  You’re a foreign resident. — If any foreign resident attempts to kill a Venetian citizen, directly or indirectly, he forfeits all his property — half to the intended victim, and the other half to the state.  In addition, the offender may be sentenced to death.  The Duke has the power to decide that.  The facts in evidence clearly establish that you tried indirectly to kill Antonio.

Gratiano: Hang the bastard!  I’ll pay for the rope!

    (Shylock falls to his knees, facing the Duke.)

Shylock: No!  No!  Don’t kill me!  I didn’t mean it!  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!  Please!  Have mercy!  Have mercy!  (Throws himself at Antonio’s feet) Antonio!  I’m sorry!  Tell them not to kill me!  Please!  I beg you!  Have mercy, Antonio!  Please!  I’ll do anything for you!  I’ll do anything!  (Sobbing)

Duke: I’ll spare your life, Shylock — just to prove that I’m as good a Christian as I am a judge.  Antonio gets half of everything you own, and the state of Venice gets the other half. — However, I may reduce this penalty.  (To Portia)  Counselor, what’s your opinion?

Portia: The state’s half can be reduced, but not Antonio’s.  He gets half, no matter what.

Shylock: Don’t take everything away from me.  I’ll have no way to make a living.  I’ll end up on the street.  I’ll starve to death.

Portia: Of course, if Antonio were to show you some mercy–

Gratiano: Hang the bastard!

Antonio: If the court agrees to forget about the state’s half, that’s fine with me.  As for my half, I’ll put it into a trust for Lorenzo and Jessica.  And there are two other conditions I’m asking for.  First, Shylock must become a Christian.  And second, he has to make out a will here and now leaving all his property to Lorenzo and Jessica.

Duke: Yes.  I’ll go along with that. — That’s the deal, Shylock, if you want me to spare your life.

Shylock (Wearily): Yes, yes.  Whatever you say.  I’ll agree to it. — Please, my lord.  I feel rather sick.  I’d like to go home.  You can send me the documents, and I’ll sign them.

Duke: Okay.  Go home.  (Bangs the gavel)  Court is adjourned.

Gratiano (To Shylock): If I were the judge, I would’ve hanged you.

    (Shylock leaves.)

Duke (To Portia): Well done, sir!  Will you come to dinner at my home tonight?

Portia: Truly, your Grace, I cannot.  I have to get back to Padua as soon as possible.

Duke: Oh, too bad. — Antonio, be sure to give this gentleman a reward.  He saved your life.

    (The Duke, Magnificoes, and attendants leave.)

Bassanio (To Portia): Dude, you’re a hero!  You take the six thousand ducats.

Antonio: It’s the least we can do for you.

Portia: Oh, no, no.  I don’t need the money.  My satisfaction is payment enough.  I hope you’ll recognize me the next time we meet.  Good luck.

Bassanio: Wait!  I have to give you something.  A memento of some sort.  What can I give you?

Portia: Well, if you insist — How about that ring?

Bassanio: This ring?  Oh, um…I…that is…oh, I’d be ashamed to give you this little nothing of a ring.

Portia: Oh, I think it’s quite lovely.  I’d love to have it.

Bassnio: I’ll buy you a better one — a much bigger one.  How’s that?  This one is…well, you see…my wife gave it to me.  And I promised her I’d never part with it.

Portia: Oh, I’m sure your wife would forgive you, considering the circumstances. — But never mind.  It’s all right.  Goodbye.

    (Portia and Nerissa leave.)

Antonio: Hey, bro, let him have the ring.  He deserves it.  Do it for me as a friend, okay?

Bassanio (To Gratiano): Here, Gratiano.  (Gives the ring to Gratiano)  Run after him and give him the ring.  And then take him to Antonio’s house.

Gratiano: Right!

    (Gratiano leaves, running.)

Bassanio: What a day!  Come on.  First thing in the morning we’ll go back to Belmont.  I can’t wait for you to meet Portia.

    (Bassanio and Antonio leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Portia and Nerissa come in, still in disguise.

Portia: Find out where Shylock lives and take him these documents to sign.  We’ll leave tonight and get back to Belmont before our husbands.  Lorenzo will be thrilled with the news.

    (Gratiano comes in.)

Gratiano (Out of breath): Whew!  I’m glad I found you.  Bassanio decided to give you the ring after all.   (He gives her the ring.)  And he’s inviting you to dinner.`

Portia: We can’t stay for dinner, but tell him thank you for the ring.  And could you take my clerk to Shylock’s house?

Gratiano: Sure.  I’d be glad to. 

Nerissa (Aside to Portia): I’ll see if I can get my husband’s ring, too.  I made him swear to keep it forever.

Portia (Aside to Nerissa): I’ll bet you can.  And later on the joke will be on them.  Go on now.  You know where to meet me. 

    (Portia leaves.)

Nerissa: Now, sir, you can escort me to Shylock’s house.

    (Nerissa and Gratiano leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  In Belmont.  Lorenzo and Jessica come in.  It’s nighttime, and they gaze up at the sky.

Lorenzo: There’s a full moon tonight.

Jessica: It’s a moon made for lovers.

Lorenzo: Romeo and Juliet. 

Jessica: Tristan and Isolde.

Lorenzo: Heloise and Abelard.

Jessica: Guinevere and Sir Lancelot.

Lorenzo: Samson and Delilah.

Jessica: Solomon and Sheba.

Lorenzo: Antony and Cleopatra.

Jessica: Hero and Leander.

Lorenzo: Ulysses and Penelope.

Jessica: Paris and Helen of Troy.

Lorenzo: Dolce and Gabbana.

Jessica: Scylla and Charybdis.

Lorenzo: Benson and Hedges.

Jessica: Gumby and Pokey.

Lorenzo: Simon and Schuster.

    (Stephano, a messenger, comes in.)

Stephano: Good evening.  I am Stephano, a messenger of Portia.

Lorenzo: Yes?

Stephano: My mistress will be here at Belmont before dawn.  She’s at the monastery.  Has Master Bassanio returned yet?

Lorenzo: No, not yet.  We’ve had no word from him.

    (Launcelot comes in.)

Launcelot: Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  Where’s Master Lorenzo?

Lorenzo: Right here.  You don’t need to shout.

Launcelot: Where?  Where?

Lorenzo: Right in front of you.

Launcelot: Well, when you see him, tell him Master Bassanio will be here in the morning — with good news!

    (Launcelot leaves.)

Lorenzo: Well, that’s a relief! — Stephano, go tell the staff Portia is coming home.  And send the musicians out to play for us.

Stephano: Right away!

    (Stephano leaves.)

Lorenzo: Well, Jessica, what could be nicer?  The moon, the stars, the planets.  You’ve heard of the music of the spheres, haven’t you?

Jessica: Yes.  It’s the sound of universal harmony.

    (The musicians come in.)

Lorenzo: That’s what I’m in the mood for.  (To the musicians) Play something — celestial.

    (The musicians will play something utterly awful, like a bad polka, a German beerhall tune, or some old show tune.  Director’s choice.  It must sound hilariously bad, and it must be done deadpan.)

Jessica (Looking entranced): It’s so beautiful, it would transport the living straight to heaven!

Lorenzo (The same): Or make the dead come out of their graves!

    (When the music finishes, Portia and Nerissa come in.)

Lorenzo: You’re back!

Portia: Have our husbands returned yet?

Lorenzo: Not yet.  But a messenger told us they were on their way.

Portia: Listen, you mustn’t tell them we were ever gone, okay?  You, too, Jessica.  Pretend we were here the whole time.

    (A trumpet sounds.)

Lorenzo: That’ll be them.  Don’t worry, we won’t say a word.

    (Bassanio, Antonio, and Gratiano come in.  Bassanio and Portia embrace.  Gratiano and Nerissa embrace and move aside and talk.)

Bassanio: My dear, this is my friend Antonio — recently saved from the jaws of death.

Portia: I’m so glad!  Welcome to our house.

Antonio: Thank you.

Gratiano (To Nerissa): No, I swear it!  I gave it to the law clerk.  I didn’t think you’d be so upset about it.

Portia: What’s going on?

Gratiano: It’s the ring she gave me.  Just a little gold ring.  I wasn’t supposed to give it away, but I gave it to the law clerk.  It was a gesture of gratitude.  The lawyer saved Antonio’s life.

Nerissa: You promised you’d wear it till the day you died!  If I ever get my hands on that law clerk, I’ll strangle him.

Gratiano: Aw, sweetie, he was just a boy.  A nice boy.  No taller than you.  He asked me for it as a payment.  I couldn’t say no.

Portia: Oh, you shouldn’t have done that, Gratiano.  You know how sentimental women are about certain things.  I gave Bassanio a ring, too, and he certainly would never give it away.

Bassanio (Aside to the audience): Uh, oh.

Gratiano: Oh, but he did.  He gave his ring to that lawyer from Padua.  The lawyer wouldn’t take any money, and we couldn’t just send him away without any reward.

Portia (To Bassanio): You gave away my ring?

Bassanio: Uh, no…not as such….I mean, uh, in a manner of speaking…you might say…um, yes.  I did.

Portia: Well, I’m not getting into bed with you until I see that ring.

Nerissa (To Gratiano): That goes for me, too.

Bassanio: But sweetheart, if you’d been there, you’d understand.

Portia: I think you really gave that ring to a woman.  Didn’t you?

Bassanio: No!  No!  No!  It was the lawyer who saved Antonio’s life.  I wanted to give him the money, but he liked the ring so much–

Gratiano: Right!  That’s just the way it happened.

Portia: Oh, well!  If that lawyer deserved my ring, I’d say he deserves me, too.  I might as well sleep with him.

Nerissa: Yes.  And I might as well sleep with his clerk.

Gratiano: Now, honey, don’t be like that.

Antonio: Oh, please, you guys.  Don’t fight about it.  You’re making me feel guilty.  If I hadn’t signed that stupid contract, there never would’ve been any trouble.

Portia: It’s not your fault.  Don’t feel guilty.

Bassanio: Just forgive me this one time, okay?  I promise I’ll never break my word again.

Antonio: And I’ll guarantee that with my life.

Portia (Gives Antonio the ring): Good.  Then give him this.  And tell him not to give it away like the other one.

    (Antonio gives Bassanio the ring.)

Bassanio: Wait a minute!  This is the same ring!  How did you get it?

Portia: Oh, well!  I must confess.  I got it from the lawyer — but I had to sleep with him to get it.

    (Nerissa gives her ring to Gratiano.)

Nerissa: Yes.  And I had to sleep with the clerk to get this back.

Gratiano: What the–  Am I losing my mind?

Bassanio: I think we’re both losing our minds.

Portia (Laughs): This letter will explain it.  (She gives Bassanio a letter.)  It’s from Bellario, my cousin in Padua.

    (Bassanio reads the letter.)

Bassanio: You were the lawyer!  And Nerissa was the clerk!

Nerissa: I think we performed very well as men, don’t you think?

Gratiano: I’ll give you my answer to that later.

    (Portia gives a letter to Antonio.)

Portia: And this is some news for you, Antonio.  And don’t ask me how I got it.

    (Antonio reads the letter.)

Antonio: Three of my ships are back!  With all their cargo!  I’m back in business!

Portia: And there’s a surprise for you, too, Lorenzo.

    (Nerissa gives Lorenzo a document.)

Nerissa: This is from Jessica’s father.  He’s written a new will.  You and Jessica will get everything.

Lorenzo (Gasping): Oh!…Oh!…I can’t speak!

Portia: Now we’re all happy.  (Calls toward the house) Musicians!  (The musicians come in.)  Something sweet for all these nice people (Indicating the audience).

    (The musicians play something dreadful, such as a classical work played very badly.  Director’s choice.  The curtain goes down with the music in progress.)


    Copyright@ 2010 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

Julius Caesar — dictator of Rome

Mark Antony — triumvir after Caesar’s death

Octavius Caesar — triumvir after Caesar’s death; Caesar’s nephew

Lepidus — triumvir after Caesar’s death

Marcus Brutus (referred to as Brutus), Cassius, Casca, Decius Brutus (referred to as Decius), Cinna, Metellus Cimber, Trebonius, Caius Ligarius — the conspirators

Portia — wife of Brutus

Calpurnia — wife of Caesar

Flavius and Marullus — tribunes

Cicero, Publius, Popilius — senators

Cinna — a poet

Another poet


Lucius — servant of Brutus

Lucilius, Titinius, Messala, Cato, Volumnius, Strato — supporters of Brutus and Cassius in the army

Varro, Claudius, Clitus — soldiers of Brutus and Cassius

Pindarus — servant of Cassius

Dardanius — servant of Brutus in the army

Labeo and Flavius — officers under Brutus



(Artemidorus has been deleted.)

Gist of the story: These events take place in 44 B.C. (assassination of Caesar) and 42 B.C. (battle of Philippi).  After a power struggle with Pompey, Julius Caesar has emerged as the undisputed leader of Rome and its dictator.  He is extremely popular with the masses (“plebeians”).  But a clique of conservative nobles find it intolerable that one man should command so much power in what is supposed to be a republic.  They decide to assassinate Caesar.  To make their actions credible and acceptable to the masses, they recruit the highly-respected Marcus Brutus to lead them.  When Caesar goes to the Senate, he is surrounded by the conspirators and killed, but his closest friend, Antony, is spared.  At Caesar’s funeral, Brutus speaks to the crowd to justify the assassination.  Then Antony gives a speech that turns the crowd against the conspirators.  The result is a civil war, with Brutus and Cassius leading the armies of the conspirators, and Antony and Octavius leading the armies of the “loyalists,” culminating in the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.  (Octavius was only 20 years old at the time of the battle.)  The loyalists win.  (Historically, dictators have always been popular with the masses, and this is where their political power comes from.  This fact often escapes modern people, and it is a crucial element in the story of Julius Caesar.)

Overture: Some suitable “sandal epic” music.  A gorgeous girl in a white toga walks across the stage holding a big sign: “ROME.  44 B.C.”

Act 1, Scene 1.  A street in Rome.  Flavius and Marullus encounter some commoners, including a Carpenter and a Cobbler.  It is the feast of Lupercal, on February 15th.

Flavius: Hey, you guys, what are you doing all dressed up on a work day?  Why aren’t you in your work clothes?  You there — what’s your job?

Carpenter: I’m a carpenter.

Marullus: You’re not dressed for carpentry.–And you.  What’s your job?

Cobbler: I mend bad soles.

Flavius: What’s that?  What are you, a wise guy?

Cobbler: No, I’m just a cobbler.  If you needed cobbling, I’d give you a fine cobbling, for sure.

Flavius: Oh, you would, would you?  Why aren’t you in your shop?

Cobbler: We’re taking the day off to celebrate Caesar’s victory.

Marullus: Victory?  Victory?  What’s the matter with you peoople?  You want to celebrate Caesar’s defeat of Pompey?  There was a time when you’d stand on your roofs to get a glimpse of Pompey.  Now you want to celebrate his death?  You ungrateful bastards! 

Flavius: Get out of here, all of you!  You should go to the banks of the Tiber and shed your tears into it for Pompey!  (The commoners leave.)  I hope I made them feel guilty.  Listen, Marullus, you go down that street, and I’ll go down this one.  Anyone wearing holiday decorations, make them take them off.

Marullus: Flavius, you’re forgetting that this is the feast of Lupercal.

Flavius: I don’t care.  I don’t want people walking around all decked out for a celebration of Caesar.  If somebody doesn’t cut him down a notch, we’ll all end up as his slaves.

    (They leave in different directions.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  A trumpet flourish.  Caesar comes in with Antony, who is dressed for a foot race; followed closely by Calpurnia, Portia, Decius, Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, Casca, and a Soothsayer; finally, Marullus and Flavius.

Caesar: Hey, it’s Lupercal — the fertility festival!  Are we having fun yet?

Others: Yeah!  Right on!  You bet!  I’ll say!

Caesar: Antony, since you’re running in the race, be sure to give my wife a pinch.

Antony: Will do.

Caesar (To Calpurnia): It’s supposed to cure sterility.

Calpurnia (Slightly offended): I knew that.  Thanks a lot.

Soothsayer: Caesar!  Beware the Ides of March!

Caesar: Who’s this guy?

Brutus: He’s a soothsayer.

Caesar: Come here, you soothsayer.  What did you say?

Soothsayer: I said, beware the Ides of March.

Brutus: That’s the fifteenth of March.

Caesar: Another crackpot.  Rome is full of them.  Let’s go.

    (A flourish.  All leave except Brutus and Cassius.)

Cassius: Brutus, are you going to watch the race?

Brutus: No.  I don’t feel like it.  But don’t let me stop you.

Cassius: What’s eating you, bro?  You’ve been in a bad mood lately.  You’re not sore at me for some reason, are you?

Brutus: No, no.  I’ve just been kind of, well, I guess, unhappy.  It’s just some stuff I don’t want to talk about.

Cassius: You’re not the only one who’s unhappy.  You know, a lot of the nobles are unhappy with Caesar.  And they’re also dropping hints that you should wake up and see what’s happening.  I mean you specifically, Brutus.

Brutus: Cassius, are you trying to pull me into something dangerous here?

Cassius: It would be dangerous if I were a phony ass-licker and a big-mouth.  But I’m not that sort of guy, and you know it.

    (A flourish, then shouting is heard.)

Brutus: The mob must be shouting for Caesar.  I’m afraid they’re going to make him king. 

Cassius: You’re afraid, are you?  Then I take it you wouldn’t approve.

Brutus: Hey, I love the guy, but I don’t want him to be king.  This is a republic — supposedly.  What were you getting at a minute ago? 

Cassius: Just this.  Caesar isn’t any better than you or me.  Did you know that I once saved him from drowning?  He dared me to jump into the Tiber with him when it was in flood.  So we did.  He got tired, and he would’ve gone under if I hadn’t dragged him out.  And now he’s like a god, and what am I?  I’m like a servant.  And one time in Spain he was sick as hell with a fever, and he was shaking and moaning and complaining like a child.  The guy’s weak.  I’m fucking amazed at how high he’s gone up in the world.

    (Another flourish and more shouting.)

Brutus: Boy, they’re really cheering him, aren’t they?  He must be getting some kind of honours.

Cassius: Oh, well!  He’s a giant among men, don’t you know!  He’s the fucking Colossus of Rhodes, and we’re just a bunch of little mice going ‘peep-peep-peep’ around his feet, hoping we don’t get crushed.  Now let me get to the point.  We are masters of our own fate, Brutus.  If we end up as failures, it’s our own fault.

Brutus: You’re obviously not a liberal.

Cassius: Neither are you.  Why should the name “Caesar” be placed higher than the name “Brutus”?  The rabble have put him up there.  I’m telling you, Rome has lost its mind.  Nobody cares about the noble class any more.  It’s like there’s only room in this town for one man — Caesar.  Well, your ancestor was Junius Brutus.  He was a hero.  He was one of the founders of the republic.  They put up a statue for him in the Capitol with the statues of the old kings.  He overthrew the last king.  Get my drift?

Brutus: Yeah, Cassius, I get it.  I won’t deny the thought has crossed my mind.  But I don’t want to talk about it any more right now.  Let me just mull it over.  I will say one thing, though.  I’d rather be a peasant in some village in another country than be a citizen of Rome the way things are going.

Cassius: I’m glad to hear you say that, bro.  It shows we’re on the same wavelength. 

    (Caesar and his party return, passing through slowly.)

Brutus (Aside to Cassius): The big guy looks angry for some reason.  And Cicero looks like a mongoose ready to bit off the head of a cobra.

Cassius (Aside to Brutus): Give Casca a tug on the sleeve before they go, and we’ll get the intelligence from him.

Caesar (Aside to Antony): Sometimes I think I’d be better off surrounded by fat guys — bald fat guys who go to bed early.  Cassius looks a little too lean and hungry for my comfort.  And he thinks too much.  People like that are dangerous.

Antony (Aside to Caesar): Aw, he’s okay.  He’s not dangerous.  He’s a noble.

Caesar (Aside to Antony): I wish he were fatter.  If I chose to be afraid of anyone, it would be him.  He reads a lot of books.  And he reads people as if they were books.  He’s too serious.  He doesn’t go to plays, like you do, and these normal people (Indicating audience).  He doesn’t listen to music.  He doesn’t crack jokes.  I’ll tell you what it is.  It’s envy.  He can’t stand people who are superior to him.  Come on my right side.  My left ear is deaf.  Tell me what you really think of him.

    (Caesar and his party leave, except for Casca, who is tugged discreetly on the sleeve by Brutus.)

Brutus: Casca.  Wassup?  Did something happen with Caesar?

Casca: Antony tried to put a crown on Caesar’s head, and Caesar brushed it away — three times.

Brutus: Oh, really?  Exactly how did it happen? 

Casca: I didn’t see it clearly.  It was more of a joke, really.  Antony had this little crown — you know, a coronet — and he was putting it on Caesar’s head, and Caesar kept pushing it away.  But I think he really wanted to wear it.  And the crowd was making a lot of noise, hooting and clapping whenever Caesar refused the crown.  And those people stank to high heaven with their body odor and their dirty clothes and their foul breath.  And at one point it was like a huge stinky wave covering all of us, and it was so bad Caesar got dizzy and fell down.

Cassius: He fell down?

Casca: Yeah, right in the market-place.  He was foaming at the mouth.

Brutus: He has epilepsy — falling sickness.  What happened when he came out of it?

Casca: Let me back up a bit.  Before he fell down, he realized that the crowd was cheering because he was refusing the crown, and he ripped open his collar and said, “Why don’t you just cut my throat!”  Well, I’ll tell you, if I’d been right next to him and had a knife handy, I would’ve done it.  And then afterwards, when he was over his fit, he said that if he’d done or said anything wrong, it was on account of his sickness.  And they cheered him anyway.  He could’ve stabbed their mothers, for all it mattered, and they still would’ve cheered.

Brutus: So that’s why he looked so grim just now.

Casca: Yeah.

Cassius: Did Cicero say anything?

Casca: He said something in Greek so only a few of the others could understand.  I don’t know what he said, but the ones who got it were nodding at each other.  Oh, yeah, something else.  Marullus and Flavius are in the doghouse because they pulled the scarves off of some busts of Caesar.  There was some other weird shit that happened, but I can’t remember it now.

Cassius: Come to my place for dinner tomorrow, okay?

Casca: A free meal?  Sure thing.  See you guys later.

    (Casca leaves.)

Brutus: A bit of a blockhead, isn’t he?

Cassius: He likes to play dumb.  Don’t let him fool you.

Brutus: Let me go now, Cassius.  We can talk more tomorrow if you want to.

Cassius: Okay, bro.  You just be thinking about what I said.  And think about Rome.

Brutus: Yes.  (Brutus leaves.)

Cassius: You’re a noble guy, Brutus.  But I think I can bend you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do.  Caesar hates me, but he loves Brutus.  Brutus is in a better position to act.  I’m going to write a bunch of fake letters from solid citizens praising Brutus and dissing Caesar, and I’ll put them where he’ll find them.  After that, Caesar had better watch out.

    (He leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  Thunder and lightning.  Casca, with sword drawn, comes in and meets Cicero.

Cicero: Yo, Casca!  You’re out of breath.  Wassup?

Casca: Cicero!  Doesn’t this storm scare the shit out of you?  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I swear there was fire coming out of the sky.  Either the gods are at war with each other, or they’re going to destroy us. 

Cicero: Aw, go on.  What else did you see?

Casca: I saw a slave with a burning hand — like a torch.  His hand was on fire, but he felt nothing. 

Cicero: Huh.  What else?

Casca: I saw a lion on the steps of the Capitol.  That’s why I have my sword out.  It looked at me and just walked away. 

Cicero: Probably just a big cat.

Casca: And I met a crowd of women who swore they saw men on fire walking up and down the streets.  And I saw an owl in broad daylight in the market-place.

Cicero: There’s probably a normal explanation for all these things.

Casca: But when a lot of strange things happen at the same time, it’s an omen, and don’t pretend it isn’t. 

Cicero: Well, I suppose we’re going through strange times, but very often people project ideas from their own minds on what they see.  By the way, is Caesar coming to the Capitol tomorrow?

Casca: Yes.  He asked Antony to send word to you that he’d be there.

Cicero: Okay, then.  I’m going home.  This isn’t a good night to be out in.

Casca: That’s for sure.  Good night.

    (Cicero leaves.  Then Cassius comes in.)

Cassius: Casca?

Casca: Yo, Cassius.

Cassius: Pleasant night, isn’t it?

Casca: Are you kidding?  This storm is freaking me out.

Cassius: I’ve been enjoying it — even the lightning.

Casca: Don’t tempt the gods like that.  There are bad omens  all around us.  Any sane man would be terrified.

Cassius: Come on, bro.  What kind of Roman are you?  You should see these signs for what they are — a warning to tyrants, not to honest men.  And you know who I mean.

Casca: You mean Caesar, don’t you?

Cassius: Maybe.  You know, Casca, Romans used to be made of sterner stuff, but now we’ve gotten weak and submissive.

Casca: I hear that the senators intend to make Caesar king in all the provinces.

Cassius: I’d sooner die than be a slave to Caesar.  To him we’re all sheep ready to be eaten.  He thinks he can hold Rome in the palm of his hand and do anything he wants with it because we’re all too weak and stupid to resist.  And if that’s what we really are, then Rome has degenerated into one big pile of shit.–Excuse me.  Maybe I shouldn’t be shooting my mouth off.

Casca: It’s all right, bro.  I’m on your side.  Me and a lot of other people, too.  Maybe we should get organized.  What do you think?

Cassius: I think we definitely should.  In fact, I’ve already spoken to some of the nobles about getting  together on something — something honourable, but possibly dangerous.  We have a secret meeting place at Pompey’s Porch in the theatre.  You know the place.

Casca: Yes.

Cassius: This storm is a sign to us to go ahead with our plan.

    (Cinna comes in hurriedly.)

Cassius: Cinna!  You looking for me?

Cinna: Yes.  Who’s this?

Cassius: It’s Casca.  He’s with us.  Are the others waiting for me?

Cinna: Everyone’s there except Metellus Cimber.  He went to your house to look for you.  If you could just get Brutus–

Cassius: Yeah, yeah, don’t worry.  I’ve been working on that.  Listen, you go back to the theatre and tell the others to meet us outside Brutus’ gate.  Casca and I will go find Metellus.

Cinna: Got it.  (Cinna leaves.)

Cassius: Come on, Casca.  We’ll go see Brutus.  He’s this close to joining us.  Just a little more persuasion and he’ll be with us.

Casca: Everyone respects Brutus.  If the people see him on our side, they’ll approve of whatever we do. 

Cassius: Exactly.  That’s why we need him.  Come on.  It’s already after midnight.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  Brutus is in his garden at night.

Brutus: Without the stars I can’t tell what time it is.–Lucius!  Hey, Lucius!–That kid sleeps like a rock.  I sure wish I could.–Lucius!

    (Lucius comes in.)

Lucius: You called, sir?

Brutus: Light a candle for me in my study, okay?  And come back and let me know you’ve done it.

Lucius: Right, sir.  (He leaves.)

Brutus: Caesar has to go.  I don’t see any other way.  I don’t hate him, but the fate of Rome is at stake.  If they make him king, he’ll change for the worse.  He’ll become a tyrant.  Too much power corrupts a man — even a good man.  He’s got to be stopped now before it’s too late.     

    (Lucius returns.)

Lucius: Your candle is lit for you, sir.  And I found this paper on the window sill.  (He gives Brutus a letter.)

Brutus: Thanks.  You can go to bed now.  Say, isn’t tomorrow the Ides of March?

Lucius: I don’t know.

Brutus: Check the calendar and let me know.  And don’t waste time ogling Miss March. 

Lucius: Yes.  Right away.  (Lucius leaves.)

Brutus: I don’t have a light to read this.  Maybe I can read it by the lightning.  (Opens the letter and reads.)  ‘Brutus, You da man.  You gots to save Rome.  Don’ sit on yo ass.  Kill de tyrant befo’ we all be slaves. — Yo fren’, Rufus.’  Don’t think I know him.  Hmm.  That’s the third letter I’ve found in the past day.  They all want me to save Rome. 

    (Lucius returns.)

Lucius: Sir, it’s the fifteenth today.

    (A knock is heard.)

Brutus: See who’s at the gate.  (Lucius leaves.)  I haven’t been able to sleep since that conversation with Cassius.  It’s like there’s a war going on inside of me.–Do it.  Don’t do it.  Do it.  Don’t do it.

    (Lucius returns.)

Lucius: It’s Cassius.  And five other guys. 

Brutus: Who?

Lucius: I can’t tell.  They’re wearing hoods like a bunch of fucking anarchist protesters. 

Brutus: It’s okay.  Let them in.  (Lucius leaves.)  As if I couldn’t guess what this is all about.  I’ll bet every one of them is a respectable citizen in broad daylight.

    (The conspirators come in — Cassius, Casca, Decius, Cinna, Metellus Cimber, and Trebonius.)

Cassius: Sorry to barge in on you so late, bro.

Brutus: It’s okay.  I’ve been up all night anyway.  Who are your friends?

Cassius: They’re your friends, too, now.  They’re all behind you.  Trebonius…Decius…Casca…Cinna…and Metellus Cimber.

Brutus: Welcome.

Others: Hi.

Brutus: So, what urgent business has you up at this late hour?

Cassius: I’ll tell you.  (He takes Brutus aside and they whisper.  After a short interval they return to the others.)  We should swear an oath.

Brutus: No.  No oath.  Oaths are just words.  We’re bound by a common purpose and by honesty to each other.  If anyone doesn’t believe absolutely that we have to get rid of Caesar, then don’t give me your hand.  Go home and forget you were ever here.

    (They join hands for a moment.)

Cassius: What about Cicero?  I think he’d be with us.

Metellus: He’d give us more credibility.  He’s older.

Brutus: No.  Forget Cicero.  He’s not the type to follow somebody else’s plan.

Cassius: Okay, then.  He’s not in.

Decius: Are we going to waste anyone else besides Caesar?

Cassius: That’s a point to consider.  Antony is the closest one to Caesar.  And he’s smart enough to be dangerous to us later on.  I say we waste him, too.

Brutus: No.  I think that would look like overkill.  It wouldn’t sit well with the people.  We don’t have to worry about Antony if Caesar’s dead.

Cassius: I don’t know about that.  He and Caesar are very close.

Brutus: I don’t think he would risk his life if Caesar were already dead, though.  I just don’t think it’s in him.

Trebonius: I agree.  Whatever we do, he’ll just accept it.

    (A clock strikes.)

Cassius: It’s three o’clock.

Trebonius: We should break it up now.

Cassius: But we don’t know whether Caesar will actually show up today.  He’s gotten superstitious lately.  He never used to be like that.  If he gets some kind of sign, he may stay home.

Decius: Don’t worry about that.  I can talk him out of it.  I’ll bring him to the Capitol.

Cassius: We’ll all bring him.  That’s better.

Brutus: By eight o’clock — no later.  Okay?

Cassius: That’s fine.

Metellus: I’m surprised nobody thought of Caius Ligarius.  He hates Caesar’s guts.  He supported Pompey.

Brutus: Go get him.  We’re on close terms.  I’ll have a word with him and he’ll be with us.

Cassius: It’s very late.  We’ll go now, Brutus.

Brutus: I want everyone to look happy and well-rested so nobody gets suspicious.  Just smile like nothing’s wrong, got it?

Others: Right.

    (Everyone leaves except Brutus.)

Brutus: Lucius!–He must be sleeping.  Never mind.

    (Portia comes in.)

Portia: Brutus?

Brutus: Portia!  What are you up so early for?  It’s not good for your health to be out in this cold.

Portia: It’s not good for you either.  You haven’t been yourself lately, my dear.  I’ve never seen you so restless.  You don’t sleep.  You don’t eat.  You walk back and forth muttering to yourself.  You look so serious.  And you won’t tell me anything.  I’m your wife, Brutus.  I want to know what’s going on.

Brutus: I’m just a little bit sick, that’s all.

Portia: No, that’s not it.  You’ve got something on your mind — something bad.  I think I have a right to know what it is.  There were a half dozen guys here tonight all covered up like thieves or something.  What did they want with you?  You can trust me.  You know that.

Brutus: Yes, I know.  (Knocking is heard.)  Somebody’s here.  My love, why don’t you go inside, all right?  I’ll tell you what you need to know later.

    (Portia leaves.  Then Lucius comes in with Caius Ligarius wearing a shawl like a sick man.)

Lucius: My lord, this man is sick and wants to speak to you.

Brutus: Yes.  All right.  You can go.  (Lucius leaves.)  Caius Ligarius.  Metellus spoke to me about you.  How are you?  It’s a hell of a night to come out if you’re sick.

Ligarius (Takes off shawl): I’m perfectly well — if you have something honourable for me to do.

Brutus: Are you sure you want to hear it?

Ligarius: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.

Brutus: Let’s take a walk and I’ll tell you the details.

    (They leave.  Sound of thunder.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Thunder and lightning.  Julius Caesar comes in, in his nightgown.

Caesar: What a night!  Calpurnia was talking in her sleep.  Three times she cried out, “Help!  They’re murdering Caesar!”

    (A Servant comes in.)

Servant: My lord?

Caesar: Go tell the priests to sacrifice an animal and tell me whether the omens are good or bad.

Servant: Yes, my lord.

    (The Servant leaves.  Then Calpurnia comes in.)

Calpurnia: You’re not going out today, are you?

Caesar: Why shouldn’t I?  If I have enemies, I’m not going to hide from them.  Let them look me in the face and see how brave they are.

Calpurnia: I never used to believe in omens, but now I’m not so sure.  The guards claim they saw a lioness give birth in the street.  The dead have risen from their graves.  And fiery armies have been seen fighting in the clouds, and their blood fell from the sky.  And ghosts have been heard howling.

Caesar: If the gods intend for something to happen, then it’ll happen.  There’s no avoiding it.  But I’m going out.  These signs are for the world in general, not just for me.

Calpurnia: The gods don’t give signs for ordinary people, only important people.

Caesar: Only cowards fear death.  They fear it all the time.  I refuse to fear it.  (The Servant returns.)  Well, what do the priests say?

Servant: They say you should stay home.  They cut open a sheep and couldn’t find any heart.

Caesar: Well, that’s clear enough.  It’s the gods’ way of shaming cowards.  If I stayed home, I’d be like a sheep with no heart.  Danger is my little brother.  I’m his elder, so I’m more dangerous than he is.  I’m going out.

Calpurnia: You’re too confident for your own good.  I’m very afraid for you.  Stay home just for my sake, won’t you?  Send Antony to the Senate instead.  He can tell them you’re not well.  Please.  I beg you.

Caesar: All right, my dear.  For your sake I’ll stay home.  (Decius comes in.)  Here’s Decius.  He can tell them.

Decius: Good morning, Caesar.  I’ve come to escort you to the Senate.

Caesar: Please give the senators my regards and say that I can’t come today.  Actually, I can — but I won’t.

Calpurnia: Tell them he’s sick.

Caesar: No, don’t lie for me.  Just tell them I’m not coming, period.

Decius: Well, shouldn’t you give me a reason?  I don’t want to look like an idiot.

Caesar: The reason is that I’m just not coming.  That’s all I have to say to the senators.  But for your sake, confidentially, I’ll tell you.  My wife had a nightmare about me being murdered.  She saw a statue of me spouting blood from many holes, and everyone was happy and came to wash their hands in it.

Decius: Oh, she’s misinterpreting the dream.  It’s actually a good dream.  You see, it means that Rome will draw strength from your blood, and everyone will want to be touched by it for that reason.

Caesar: Ah!  Now, that I like!  That does make a lot of sense.

Decius: Of course.  Especially since today the Senate has decided to crown you king.  If you don’t come, they might change their minds.  And they’d be making jokes that perhaps they should adjourn until your wife has better dreams.  They might also say that you were afraid.

Caesar: There, you see, Calpurnia?  There’s nothing to be afraid of.  You and your dreams!  Right.  Where’s my robe?  I’m going.

    (Brutus, Caius Ligarius, Metellus Cimber, Casca, Trebonius, Cinna, and Publius come in.)

Publius: Good morning, Caesar.

Caesar: Well!  Publius!  The gang’s all here, eh?  What time is it?

Brutus: Eight o’clock.

    (Antony comes in.)

Caesar: Even Antony is up early after partying all night.  Good morning, Antony.

Antony: Good morning, Caesar.

Caesar: I’m sorry to keep everyone waiting.–Trebonius, there’s something I want to talk to you about later, so stick close to me.

Trebonius: I sure will.

Caesar: Let’s have a little wine first, and then we’ll all go to the Senate together like good friends, all right?

Brutus (Aside): But not all good friends.

    (All leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 2, Scene 4.  Outside Brutus’ house.  Portia and Lucius come in.

Portia: I want you to go to the Capitol at once and see if your master is all right.  He looked sick when he left the house.  And I want to know what Caesar is doing and who’s with him.–Wait.  (The Soothsayer comes in, passing.)  You.  Come here.  Where are you coming from?

Soothsayer: My own house, madam.

Portia: What time is it?

Soothsayer: About nine o’clock.

Portia: By any chance, do you know if Caesar has gone to the Capitol yet?

Soothsayer: Not yet.  I’m just going to my usual place to look for him.

Portia: Oh.  Do you have something to talk to him about?

Soothsayer: Yes, assuming he’s willing to speak to me.  I want to warn him to be careful.

Portia (Very nervously): Oh?  Do you have some reason to believe he’s in danger?

Soothsayer: Just a fear of that possibility.  I can’t get close enough to him here because the street is too narrow and he’s always got a crowd around him.  I’ll try to approach him at the Capitol where there’s more room.

Portia: Oh, God, I have to lie down.–Oh, Brutus, just do what you have to do and get it over with!

Lucius: Madam?

Portia: No, it’s all right.  Your master has a request to make, and he’s concerned that Caesar will say no.–I feel faint.–Lucius, go now and tell your master I sent you.  Tell him I’m fine.  Bring me back his reply.

    (They leave in different directions.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  A flourish.  Caesar enters the Capitol.  A seat is at one side, toward the back.  Antony is right beside him, followed by Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Decius, Metellus Cimber, Trebonius, Cinna, Caius Ligarius, and Publius; behind them are some commoners frantically waving scrolled papers and calling out “Caesar, hear my plea!” “Caesar, grant my suit!” “Caesar, read my petition!” “Your help, kind Caesar!”

Caesar: Yes, yes, citizens!  Calm down!  Caesar will read all your suits and petitions.  Be patient.  Nobles must be heard first, then commoners.  (He takes Antony by the arm in a familiar way.)  Ah, Antony, I tell you, being a dictator has its disadvantages.

Antony: Does it, my lord?

Caesar: Of course!  When you have this much power, people think you can solve all their problems.  ‘Oh, Caesar, grant my suit.’   ‘Oh, Caesar, I need your help.’  ‘Oh, Caesar, please read my petition.’  Everyone wants something. 

Antony: But you do your best, no matter what.

Caesar: Better than anyone else could.  You can be sure of that.

    (The Soothsayer comes in from the other direction.)

Soothsayer: Hail, Caesar!  Remember me?

Caesar (Laughing): Oh, yes!  The soothsayer!  Well, Soothsayer, it’s the Ides of March, and nothing bad has happened.

Soothsayer: It’s only morning, my lord.  And I’m still afraid for you.

Caesar: Yes, yes, well, never mind.  Caesar is surrounded by friends.  You run along now.

    (Soothsayer leaves.)

Decius: Caesar, some nobles wish to be heard first.

Caesar: Yes, yes.  Let me sit down.

    (Caesar goes to his seat, with the conspirators gathered around, but not too closely.  Popilius comes in and pulls Cassius aside.)

Popilius (To Cassius): Good luck with your enterprise.

Cassius: What do you mean?

Popilius: You know.

    (Popilius then goes to Caesar.  Brutus steps away and confers with Cassius, apart.)

Brutus: What did Popilius say to you?

Cassius: He said good luck.  I think maybe the cat is out of the bag.

    (Popilius is speaking to Caesar, inaudibly to the audience.)

Brutus: Take it easy.  He’s not talking about us.  Look at him.  He’s smiling, and Caesar’s smiling.

    (Trebonius takes Antony by the arm and leads him out as if to talk to him.)

Cassius: Trebonius is taking Antony away. 

    (Brutus motions to Decius and Casca to join him and Cassius.)

Brutus: Okay, listen.  Metellus Cimber will present a petition.  Decius, you get close and back him up.  Casca, you strike first.

Caesar (Finishing with Popilius and patting him on the arm): Yes, Popilius.  Very good.–Now, then, who needs to speak to Caesar?

Metellus (Kneeling): Oh, mighty Caesar, great, powerful Caesar, omnipotent and wise Caesar, conqueror of the world, I kneel before you in abject humility — I who am unworthy to kiss your feet–

Caesar: Oh, please!  Is this about your brother again?  Fucking hell.  I banished your brother, Publius Cimber, for good reason, and you’re not going to get him back with this vulgar display of flattery.

Brutus (Kneeling): Please, Caesar, won’t you reconsider?  Let his brother come back.  Publius Caesar is a good fellow.  He knows he made a mistake, and he’s sorry.  He’s a really good chef.  If you let him come back, he’ll name a salad after you.

    (Caesar makes a snort of contempt.)

Cassius (Kneeling): Yes, Caesar, please pardon Publius Cimber.  He had an issue with alcohol and acted out of character.  He was led astray by bad people.  He’s sorry as hell about the food poisoning.

Metellus (Kneeling): It’ll never happen again, Caesar.  He wants to come home so bad.  He’s so unhappy out there in the provinces.

Caesar: You guys might as well try to move the North Star as much as move me.  My mind’s made up. 

Cinna (Kneeling): Oh, but please–

Caesar: No!

Decius (Kneeling): But great Caesar–

Caesar (Standing up): What the hell is with you guys today?  I’ve never seen you like this!  I don’t understand it!

Casca: I’ll explain it to you!  (He draws his knife and strikes Caesar, and all the other conspirators do likewise.  Brutus is the last to strike.  Publius is not a conspirator and does not strike.)

Caesar: You, too, Brutus?  (Caesar dies.)  

Cinna: The tyrant is dead!  We’re free!  Tell everyone!  Spread the word!  Rome is free!

    (Those other than the conspirators are terrified and frozen.)

Cassius: Go to the street corners!  Shout it out!  Caesar is dead!  Liberty for Rome!

    (Additional passersby come in, see the body of Caesar, and run out screaming.)

Brutus (To Onlookers): Citizens, don’t be afraid!  Stay calm!  We have put the tyrant’s ambitions to an end!–Where’s Publius?

Cinna: He’s still here.

    (Publius is still frozen in terror and confusion.)

Metellus: Watch out for him!

Brutus: No, no, it’s all right.–Publius, nobody’s going to hurt you.  We’re not going to hurt anyone else.  Tell the people.

Cassius: Publius, go now in case we get a mob rushing in on us.

Brutus: Right.  We’re the only ones who have to answer for this.

    (Publius runs out without saying a word.  Then the commoners who were still there do likewise.  Then Trebonius returns.)

Cassius: Where’s Antony?

Trebonius: He ran to his house.  He was scared.  There’s a bunch of people out there screaming like it’s the end of the world.

Brutus: It’s not the end of the world.  Every man must die.  It was Caesar’s time.  The gods willed it.  Now, brothers, let’s wash our hands in the tyrant’s blood and smear our swords, too.  Then we’ll go out among the people and proclaim peace, freedom, and liberty.

Cassius: This is history.  They’ll act this scene out for a thousand generations to come, in every country and in every language.  We’ll be remembered as heroes

    (They smear their hands and swords with blood.  Then Antony’s Servant comes in.)

Brutus: It’s Antony’s servant.

Servant: My master sent me to tell you that he loves and honours both Brutus and Caesar.  He asks your promise that he may come here safely to learn the reason for Caesar’s death.  And he says that he will love Brutus in life more than Caesar in death and will follow Brutus faithfully.

Brutus: Your master is a wise and brave Roman, as I always believed.  Tell him he can come here, and I will speak to him, and no one will do him any harm.

Servant: I’ll bring him at once.  (Servant leaves.)

Brutus (To Cassius): You see?  I told you we wouldn’t have to worry about Antony.  He’ll be on our side.

Cassius: I’m not so sure.

    (Antony comes in.)

Brutus: Welcome, Mark Antony.

    (Antony disregards the greeting and kneels beside Caesar’s body.)

Antony: My Caesar.  After all your victories and glories, must I see you like this?  Is this the sum of your whole life?  Then goodbye, my Caesar.  (Stands up.)  Gentlemen, I don’t know what your intentions are, but if you intend to kill me, do it now.  There is no better way I would want to die than by your hands and beside the body of my beloved Caesar.

Brutus: No, no, Antony!  I know you must think we’re a bunch of heartless murderers, but it isn’t like that, believe me.  We did this for the good of Rome.  We have nothing against you.  We would rather have you as a friend.

Cassius: You’d be a force for good, Antony.  You’d have a lot of influence on the future of Rome.

Brutus: Just give us a chance to explain this to the people.  Then I’ll tell you why we killed Caesar even though I loved him.

Antony: I’m sure you acted with good reason.  Let me shake all of your bloody hands.  (He shakes hands with them.)  Brutus…Cassius…Decius…Metellus…Cinna…Casca…Caius Ligarius…Trebonius.–What can I say?  You must think I’m either a coward or a flatterer.–I loved you, Caesar.  And it must hurt you more than death to see your best friend, Antony, make peace with your enemies beside your dead body.  It would be better if I could shed as many tears as the drops of blood you have shed.  Forgive me, Caesar.  The world was your domain, and you were its heart.

Cassius: Antony, we don’t blame you for showing your love for Caesar like this.  But we have to know.  Are you with us or not?

Antony: I’m with you, provided that you can give me a good reason why Caesar had to be killed.

Brutus: Our reasons will satisfy you.

Antony: That’s all I ask.  And one other thing.  I would like to be allowed to speak at his funeral.

Brutus: Agreed.

Cassius: Brutus, a word with you.  (He takes Brutus aside.)  That’s not a good idea.  You don’t know what he’ll say or how the people will react.

Brutus (Aside to Cassius): It’s all right.  I’m going to speak first and explain things to the people.  And I’ll explain that Antony speaks with our permission.  Caesar will have a proper burial.  Everyone will be satisfied.  It’s the honourable way to do it.

Cassius (Aside to Brutus): I still don’t like it.

Brutus: Antony, you may have the privilege of taking charge of Caesar’s body.  Now, when you speak at the funeral, don’t blame us for anything.  Just speak your praises for Caesar and say that you’re speaking with our permission.  You’ll speak right after me, from the same pulpit.

Antony: That’s fine with me.

Brutus: All right, then.  You can prepare the body properly and then follow us.

    (All leave except Antony.)

Antony: Caesar, forgive me for being so meek with these murderers.  You’re the noblest man that ever lived.  Your murderers will be punished.  I give you my word that death and destruction will fall upon them like nothing ever before seen on earth.  Your spirit will have its revenge.  I will open the gates of hell and unleash all the demons of war until the earth stinks from rotting flesh.  (A Servant of Octavius comes in.)  You serve Octavius, don’t you?

Servant: Yes, sir.

Antony: Caesar wrote to him to come to Rome.

Servant: He received the letter.  He’s coming.  And he asked me to say–Oh!  Caesar!

Antony: I know.  Don’t cry now.  You’ll only make me cry as well.  When is Octavius coming?

Servant: He’s about twenty miles from Rome.

Antony: Send him word and tell him what’s happened.  Tell him it’s not safe for him to return yet.–No.  Wait.  Help me carry Caesar’s body into the market-place.  I need to find out how the people feel about his death.  Then I’ll know what sort of message to send to Octavius.

    (They carry off Caesar’s body.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  The place where the funeral is to be held.  A pulpit is represented by a low platform.  The speakers will be facing the theatre audience.  The crowd of Plebeians (common people) will be arranged like an extension of the theatre audience in front of the stage, on the sides, or on the wings.  Brutus and Cassius come in with a crowd of Plebeians following.  The body of Caesar has not yet been brought in.

Plebeians: We want answers!  We want to know why!

Brutus: Peace, citizens!  Cassius and I will speak to you.–Cassius, you take half the crowd with you and speak on the other street.–Those who wish to hear Cassius, go with him.  Those who wish to hear me, stay here.  We will explain to you the reason for Caesar’s death.

    (Cassius goes out, followed by a few Plebeians.  Brutus stands on the pulpit.)

A Plebeian: Quiet!  The noble Brutus is going to speak!

Brutus: Romans, friends, please be silent while I explain our actions.  If there is anyone here who loved Caesar as a friend, I say to you that I loved Caesar no less than you did.  And if you ask, why, then, did I strike against Caesar if I truly loved him, my answer is that I love Rome more than I loved Caesar.  Which would you prefer — to have Caesar live and yourselves die as his slaves, or to have Caesar die, that you might all live as free men?  I loved Caesar as my friend.  I celebrated his victories.  I honoured his courage.  But because of his ambition, I had to kill him.  Who here is so stupid that he would prefer to be a slave?  Speak up, for I’ve offended that person.  Who here is so backward that he would not want to be a free citizen of Rome?  Speak up, for I’ve offended that person, too.  Who here is so vile that he does not love his country?  Speak up, for I’ve offended him as well.  Anyone?

Many Plebeians: No one!  No one!

Brutus: Then no one has been offended.  The reasons for Caesar’s death are now a matter of record in the Capitol.  His glories are acknowledged fully, to the extent that he deserved them.  And the crimes for which he died have not been exaggerated.

    (At this point Antony and others come in, bearing Caesar’s body.  Brutus is momentarily taken aback because Caesar’s body has not been “prepared” at all but is still in the same bloody state as when he relinquished it to Antony.)

Brutus: Here comes his body, borne by Mark Antony, who had no part in his death, but who will nevertheless benefit from it, as you all shall.  I leave you with this thought: that I killed my best friend for the good of Rome, and I have the same knife ready for myself when my country decides that it requires my death. 

All the Plebeians: Live, Brutus!  Live!  Live!

    (Brutus stelps down from the pulpit.)

First Plebeian: A parade for Brutus!

Second Plebeian: A statue for Brutus!

Third Plebeian: His birthday a holiday!

Many Plebeians: BRU-TUS!…BRU-TUS!…BRU-TUS!…

Brutus: Please!  Quiet down!  My friends, let me go now.  Please stay here with Antony and pay your respects to Caesar.  I have given Antony permission to speak, and I’m sure you will want to stay to hear his remarks.

    (Brutus leaves.)

First Plebeian: We’ll stay and listen to Mark Antony.

Second Plebeian: He’d better not diss Brutus.

Third Plebeian: Caesar was a tyrant, wasn’t he?

Fourth Plebeian: Of course.  We’re better off without him..

    (Antony steps up on the pulpit.)

Several Plebeians: Quiet!  Quiet!  Let him speak!

Antony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, now hear me.  I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.  The evil that men do lives after them, while the good they do is often buried with them.  Let it be that way with Caesar.  Brutus has said that Caesar was ambitious, and if that’s true, then it was a fault, and he paid for it.  I am here by the permission of Brutus and the others, for Brutus is honourable, and so are the others.  Caesar was my friend.  He was loyal and fair.  But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honourable man.  Caesar brought many prisoners back to Rome and ransomed them for a lot of money, which went into the general treasury of Rome.  Was this ambitious?  Caesar wept for the poor.  Was that ambitious?  Brutus says Caesar was ambitious.  And Brutus is an honourable man.  But remember during the feast of Lupercal you all saw me try to put a crown on Caesar’s head, and three times he refused it.  Was that ambition?  Yet Brutus called Caesar ambitious, and Brutus is an honourable man.  I’m not here to argue against Brutus but only to say what I know.  You all loved Caesar once, and for good reason.  Why then do you not weep for him?  Have you become stupid animals with none of the sense or wisdom given to men?–Forgive me, for my heart is in the coffin with Caesar.  I must pause.

First Plebeian: I think he’s right.

Second Plebeian: Then they’ve done wrong to Caesar, haven’t they?

Third Plebeian: He wouldn’t take the crown.  That proves he wasn’t ambitious.

Fourth Plebeian: Someone’s going to pay for this.

First Plebeian: Antony is as noble as anyone else in Rome.  He tells the truth.

Second Plebeian: Shh!  He’s speaking.

Antony: Yesterday Caesar was the greatest power in the world, but who comes today to show him the honour that he deserves?  Citizens, if I were to stir you up against Brutus and Cassius, that would be wrong.  For as you know, they are honourable men.  I’d sooner wrong the dead and myself and all of you than speak badly of such honourable men.  But here is Caesar’s will, which I found in his room.  (Holds up paper.)  You can see it bears his seal.  If I were to read it to you, you would kiss every wound on his body and beg for one single hair from his head to remember him by.

Several Plebeians: Read the will!  Read the will!

Antony: Not so fast, citizens.  I must not read it, or you would know how much Caesar loved you.  It would only inflame your emotions, and who knows what you would do then?

Several Plebeians: We want to hear it!  Read it!

Antony: Wait.  Wait.  I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it at all.  I’m afraid if I read it to you, I’d be wronging the honourable men who stabbed Caesar with their knives twenty-three times and washed their hands in his blood.  I certainly wouldn’t want to do that.

First Plebeian: They were traitors!

Several Plebeians: Read the will!

Antony: All right, then.  You have persuaded me.  But first, gather around the body of Caesar and let me show you the man who made this will.  May I step down?

Several Plebeians: Yes!

    (Antony steps down from the pulpit.)

A Plebeian: Make room for Antony!

Antony: Let me show you what those honourable men did.  See this robe?  I remember the first time he ever wore it.  It was the evening after he defeated the fiercest warriors in Gaul, at the risk of his own life.  This hole was made by Cassius’ knife.  And this one was made by Casca’s.  And here is where Decius struck.  And here Cinna.  And here is where Brutus, whom Caesar loved, stabbed with his knife.  See how much blood poured out, as if to follow the blade out to see if it was truly Brutus’.  This was the cruelest cut of all, for when Caesar saw who stabbed him, his heart burst from the ingratitude of it.  (Sobs among the Plebeians.)  And when Caesar fell and his blood flowed like a river, we all fell with him, citizens, while bloody treason gloated in triumph.  (Loud sobbing and cries of grief among the Plebeians.)  Ah, now I see you weeping, citizens.  You weep to see his robe so rudely cut and bloodied.  Now behold the man himself!  (Antony removes the robe, revealing Caesar’s naked bloody body.  Gasps of horror from the Plebeians.)

First Plebeian: Horrible!  Horrible!

Second Plebeian: Poor Caesar!

Third Plebeian: I can’t bear to look!

Fourth Plebeian: Those murderers!  Those villains!

Fifth Plebeian: We want revenge!

All the Plebeians: Revenge!  We want revenge!  Kill the traitors!

Antony: Wait, my friends!  Wait!

Several Plebeians: We’re with you, Antony!  We’ll give our lives!

A Plebeian: Quiet!  Let him speak!

Antony: Please, my friends.  I don’t want to set you off on a rampage.  The men who did this are honourable.  I don’t know what private grievances they had against Caesar that made them do this, but I’m sure they will give you their reasons.  I’m no public speaker like Brutus.  I have not the words nor the wit nor the wisdom that he has.  I’m just a citizen of Rome who speaks plainly — a man who loved Caesar — and they gave me permission to speak about him.  I have no power to move men to action.  I only tell you things you already know and show you Caesar’s wounds and let them speak the words I cannot find.  But if the situation were reversed and I were Brutus and he were Antony, that Antony would boil your passions like a hot cauldron and spill you out into the streets of Rome in a seething tide of mutiny!

Many Plebeians: Mutiny!  Mutiny!  Burn down the house of Brutus!  Kill the traitors!

Antony: Citizens!  Whatever you intend to do, should you not hear first why Caesar deserved your love?  You don’t know until you’ve heard his will.

Many Plebeians: Read the will!  Read the will!

    (Antony raises his hand for silence.)

Antony: To every man Caesar gives seventy-five drachmas.

A Plebeian: Kind Caesar!

Antony: In addition, he has left you all his walks, his private arbors, and newly-planted gardens on this side of the Tiber for you and your descendants to enjoy forever.  This was your Caesar.  Will there ever be another?

Many Plebeians: No!  Never!

First Plebeian: We’ll burn down the traitors’ houses!

Second Plebeian: A holy burial for Caesar!  Take his body to the holy place!

Third Plebeian: Honour to Caesar!  Death to the traitors!

    (With a general uproar the Plebeians carry Caesar’s body away, leaving Antony by himself.)

Antony: Like I said, I’m no public speaker.

    (Antony’s Servant comes in.)

Servant: Master, Octavius has arrived in Rome.

Antony: Where is he?

Servant: He and Lepidus are at Caesar’s house.

Antony: This is perfect timing.  The gods must be on our side.

Servant: Oh, and something else.  Brutus and Cassius have fled the city.

Antony: I’m not surprised.  Come on.  Let’s go see Octavius. 

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  The poet Cinna (not related to the conspirator Cinna) comes in, stalked by several Plebeians.

Cinna: I dreamed that I had dinner with Caesar, and now he’s dead.  We poets have the most special dreams.

    (Plebeians approach.)

First Plebeian: Who are you and where are you going?

Second Plebeian: Where do you live?

Third Plebeian: Are you straight or gay?

Cinna: Who, me?  I, uh, uh, I–

First Plebeian: Don’t try to be evasive.  Who are you?

Cinna: My name is Cinna.

First Plebeian: Cinna?  He’s one of the conspirators!

Cinna: No!  No!  I’m not that Cinna.  I’m Cinna the poet.

Second Plebeian: Oh, a poet, are you?  (He spits on the ground.)  That’s what we think of poets!

Third Plebeian: Recite us a poem, then, Cinna the poet.

Cinna: All right.  All right.  I’ll give you fine gentlemen one of my poems.  It’s called “Holes.”  (Recites.)

    In my hands are holes, you drilled them,

    Many times you let me down,

    Absent are my brains, you killed them,

    But I’m glad you’re back in town.

    (The Plebeians exchange looks of disgust.)

First Plebeian: What a piece of shit!  Hang him!

Cinna: No!  No!  I”m not the conspirator!  I’m the poet!

Second Plebeian: Conspirator or poet — either way, you deserve to die!

Other Plebeians: Kill him!  Kill him!

    (The Plebeians punch Cinna and drag him away screaming.  Cries of “No!  Wait!  I have a better one!  Stop!  No!”)

Act 4, Scene 1.  Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus come in.

Antony: All the people to be killed are on the list.

Octavius (To Lepidus): That includes your brother, Lepidus.

Lepidus: All right — provided Publius is on the list, too.  He’s your nephew, Mark Antony.

Antony: I never liked him anyway.  Lepidus, go to Caesar’s house and bring the will here.  We have to cut part of the legacies to cover our expenses.  Meet us here or at the Capitol.  (Lepidus leaves.)  He’s good for running errands, but that’s about it.  If we win, do you think he deserves to get a third of the empire?

Octavius: You picked him, and you took his suggestions of who to put on the death list.

Antony: Octavius, it’s a matter of expedience.  He’s of use to us now, but when he’s served his purpose, I intend to cut him loose.

Octavius: I don’t know.  He’s pretty tough.

Antony: So’s my horse.  But he only does what I trained him to do.  Lepidus has to be led.  He doesn’t have a mind of his own or any original ideas.  You just put him in a place where he’s functional.–Now, down to business.  Brutus and Cassius are raising armies, so we have to join forces and work together. We have to discuss the immediate dangers and how to deal with them.

Octavius: Yes.  We can’t be sure who’s really with us or against us.  Some of our so-called allies may be secretly lined up the other side.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Sound of drums.  Brutus, Lucilius, and Soldiers come in.  Titinius and Pindarus meet them.

Brutus: Stand, ho!

Lucilius: They’re already standing, sir, and there are no hos.

Brutus: Yes, I know that, Lucilius.  Is Cassius near us?

Lucilius: Yes.  This is his man Pindarus.

Brutus: Pindarus, I’ve gotten some disturbing reports about Cassius or about certain officers under him.  I need to talk to him about it.

Pindarus: I’m sure he’ll be happy to straighten everything out for you, General.

Brutus: Fine.  (Aside to Lucilius) How did Cassius receive you?

Lucilius (Aside to Brutus): He was polite but rather cool — you know, not as friendly as before.

Brutus (Aside to Lucilius): I’ve noticed that about him.  When people force themselves to put on a front, you have to wonder about what’s underneath.  He might be losing his nerve.

    (A low march is heard.)

Lucilius (Aside to Brutus): They’re making camp in Sardis for the night.  The main body of cavalry is coming with Cassius.

Brutus: Oh!  Here he is now.

    (Cassius and three Soldiers come in.  Brutus and Lucilius meet them halfway.)

Cassius: Stand, ho!

Lucilius: We are standing, and we’re not hos.

Brutus: He knows that.  He means “Stand, ho!”

Lucilius: But I’m not a ho.

Brutus: Lucilius, he doesn’t mean that kind of ho.  It’s army talk.  It’s “Stand, ho!”

Cassius: Right.  Stand, ho!

Lucilius: Oh, okay.  I always wondered about that.

Brutus: Pass it on.  Stand, ho!

First Soldier: Stand, ho!

Second Soldier: Stand, ho!

Third Soldier: Stand, ho!

Brutus: So much for formalities.  Now, Cassius, what gives?

Cassius: You’re asking me?  I should be asking you.  We’re supposed to be friends.

Brutus: Yeah, so, like, what are you saying — that I’ve done something wrong?

Cassius: Hell, yes!

Brutus (In a lower voice): Hey, not so loud, bro.  Whatever it is, let’s talk it over quietly.  We don’t want the troops to hear us arguing.  Let’s go in my tent.

Cassius: Pindarus, tell the commanders to move the troops away a bit.

Brutus: Lucilius, you do the same.  Tell our guys to go look for four-leaf clovers or something.  And you and Titinius stand guard so Cassius and I can have some privacy.

    (Everyone leaves except Brutus and Cassius.  They move into the tent, which may be suggested.)

Cassius: Okay, here’s my gripe.  You accused one of my guys, Pella, of taking bribes from the Sardians.  I wrote you a letter and I took his side because I know him, and you basically blew me off.

Brutus: You shouldn’t have stuck up for him.

Cassius: Hey, bro, we’re at war.  You can’t be making a big deal about minor offenses.

Brutus: I’m also hearing rumors that you have an itchy palm yourself.

Cassius: Get outa here!  If anyone else but you accused me of that, I’d punch his lights out!

Brutus: And if anyone else but you was condoning bribery, I’d have locked him up by now.  Your name is all that’s protecting you.

Cassius: Oh, is that a fact?

Brutus: Listen, we killed Caesar for the sake of justice.  Are we going to lower ourselves now by being crooked?  You can speak for yourself, but I’m not going to be a crook.

Cassius: Don’t bait me.  I don’t have to take that.  I’m an elder soldier and I’m better able to set conditions.

Brutus: Like hell, you are.

Cassius: I sure as hell am. 

Brutus: Are not.

Cassius: Don’t push my button, bro, or you’ll regret it.

Brutus: Take a hike, Cassius.

Cassius (Looking up): Hey, gods, do I have to put up with this bullshit?

Brutus: Hey, spare me your vulgar display of temper.  Save it for your slaves.  I have no patience for it.  If I’m ever in the mood for a joke, you can come and do your madman act for me.

Cassius: So this is what’s it’s come down to, is it?  We’re supposed to be friends and allies, we’re fighting a fucking war, and we can’t even get along any more?

Brutus: You say you’re a better soldier?  Start acting like one.

Cassius: Your brain is somewhat scrambled.  I didn’t say I was a better soldier, I said I was an elder soldier.

Brutus: Same difference.

Cassius: When Caesar was alive he didn’t dare piss me off like you do.

Brutus: Ha!  You wouldn’t have dared to tempt him.

Cassius: You’re pushing this friendship to the breaking point.  Don’t make me do something I’ll regret.

Brutus: You’ve already done things you should regret.  I asked you for gold to raise an army, and you said no.  I don’t have any other source of funds, and I’m not going to bleed the peasants to raise money.  If the situation were reversed, would I have said no to you?

Cassius: I never denied you money.

Brutus: Yes, you did.

Cassius: No, I didn’t.  Your messenger got my answer wrong.  You know, you have nothing good to say about me.  You must hate my guts.

Brutus: I only criticize your faults.

Cassius: Antony and Octavius, come and get me!  Kill me now and end my misery!–Here, Brutus, take my knife.  Here’s my heart — right here!  If I denied you gold, cut my heart out now!

Brutus: Oh, put that away.  Chill out.

Cassius: What’s the matter?  Don’t you like my madman act?

Brutus: I didn’t mean that literally.  Hell, if you can be bad-tempered, so can I.  We’re both under pressure.  The whole thing is a misunderstanding. 

Cassius: Well, that’s the first good thing you’ve said all day.  If you mean it, shake hands.

    (They shake hands.)

Brutus: We’re still friends.

Cassius: We can’t fight with each other.  Not now.  I know I can blow a head valve once in a while, but you just gotta bear with it.

Brutus: From now on I’ll just remind you what a bad temper your mother had.

    (A Poet comes in, struggling with Lucilius and Titinius; Lucius following.)

Poet: I want to speak to the generals!  I want to speak to the generals!

Lucilius: You’re not allowed in here.  You can’t speak to the generals.

Poet: Only death shall stop me!–I mean that poetically, of course.

Titinius: Sorry.  He just ran past us.

Cassius: What’s your problem, whoever you are?

Poet: I’m a poet.  I heard you quarreling.  Shame on you, Generals.  You should love and be friends.  I want to recite a poem for you.  It’s called “Bluebirds.”  (Recites)

    Friends should be like bluebirds

    Singing in a tree

    Sharing all the fruits and nuts

    Happy as can be

      Singing oh-so-sweetly

      Till the sun goes down

      Be my friendly bluebird

      And then I’ll never frown.

Brutus: Wait a minute.–Lucilius and Titinius, tell the commanders to make camp for the night.  And get Messala and bring him here.

Lucilius and Titinius: Right!

Brutus: And as for this poet, he’s a spy.  Turn him over to the archery commander and tell him to use him for target practice.

Lucilius and Titinius: Right!

    (Lucilius and Titinius drag the Poet out screaming.  Heard within: “I’m in the Writers’ Union!  We’re very powerful!”)

Brutus: Lucius, bring wine.  And candles.

    (Lucius leaves.)

Cassius: I’ve never seen you as harsh as you are today.  Is it all my fault?

Brutus: No.  Portia’s dead.

Cassius: Oh, shit.  I’m sorry.  What happened?

Brutus: She killed herself.  Everything that’s happened was just too much for her.  (Lucius returns with wine and candles and then leaves.)  Let’s have some wine and forget our quarrel.

Cassius: I drink to you, Brutus.

    (They drink.  Titinius and Messala come in.)

Brutus: Messala!  Have a seat, both of you.  We have to discuss strategy.  I’ve received information that Octavius and Antony have assembled a very big army and they’re headed toward Philippi.

Messala: That tallies with my information.  I’ve also heard that Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus have executed a hundred senators.

Brutus: I was told it was seventy — including Cicero.

Cassius: They executed Cicero?

Messala: Yes, it’s true.

Brutus: That doesn’t affect us either way.  Let’s get down to business.  Should we attack directly at Philippi?

Cassius: I’m against it.

Brutus: Why?

Cassius: Let the enemy come to us.  Let him do the marching while we rest.

Brutus: The problem with that is that the people between here and Philippi are more sympathetic to the other side, and the enemy will probably add bodies on the way.  I’d rather eliminate that factor and hit the enemy at Philippi.

Cassius: Well, I don’t know.

Brutus: Here it is in a nutshell.  We’re at our maximum strength now.  We’re not going to add any more bodies.  But the enemy can still increase his bodies.  If we wait, we give away whatever advantage we have.  It’s like the tides.  You sail on the high tide.  That’s where we’re at now, so we have to move.

Cassius: Okay.  We’ll march our armies in parallel and converge on Philippi.

Brutus: It’s late.  We need to get some sleep.  Good night, lads.  Cassius, on your way out, tell my boy Lucius to bring me my nightgown.

Others: Good night.

    (The others leave.  Shortly thereafter, Lucius comes in with the nightgown.)

Brutus: Thanks, Lucius.  Where’s your lute?  I could use some soft music to get me to sleep.

Lucius (Drowsily): It’s here in the tent.

Brutus: Boy, you need some sleep.  Call Claudius and Varro.  I’ll have them bed down in here.

Lucius: Varro!  Claudius!

    (Varro and Claudius come in.)

Varro: You called, sir?

Brutus: Yes, Varro.  I need you and Claudius to sleep in here in case I have to send an urgent message to Cassius.  (Varro and Claudius lie down.)  Lucius, here’s the book I was looking for.  It was in the pocket of the nightgown.

Lucius: Oh, good.  I was sure you didn’t give it to me.

    (Brutus lights a candle.)

Brutus: I know you’re tired, but do you suppose you can play a little to help me fall asleep?

Lucius: I’d be glad to.

    (Lucius picks up the lute and plays, but he soon puts himself to sleep, as well as Varro and Claudius.)

Brutus: Oh, well, you might as well sleep.  I’ll just take this lute so you don’t break it by accident.–All right.  Now, where was I in this book?  (Turns pages and finds his place and begins to read.  Then the Ghost of Caesar enters.  The candle flickers.  This may be suggested.)  What’s wrong with this candle?–What?  Who are you?  What are you?  Speak, damn it!

Ghost: I’m your evil spirit, Brutus.

Brutus: Why are you here?

Ghost: To tell you that we will meet again at Philippi.

    (Ghost leaves.)

Brutus: No, wait!–Lucius!  Varro!  Claudius!  Wake up!

Lucius: My lord?

Brutus: Did you see that?

Lucius: See what, my lord?

Brutus: Varro!  Claudius!  Did you see that?

Varro and Claudius: We saw nothing, General.

    (Brutus gets up and paces.  He is agitated.)

Brutus: Go and tell Cassius to rouse his forces and march at once.  We’ll follow.

Varro and Claudius: Yes, General.

    (Varro and Claudius leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  Octavius, Antony, and some Soldiers come in.

Octavius: The enemy has played into our hands.  You thought they would stick to the high ground and wait for us, but instead, they want to hit us first here at Philippi. 

Antony: It’s all psychological.  There’s no military advantage for them.

    (A messenger comes in.)

Messenger: The enemy is approaching with all their battle flags out.

Antony: Octavius, I suggest you move your forces slowly out on the left side of the level field.

Octavius: No, I’ll take the right side, you take the left.

Antony: You’re going to argue at a time like this?

Octavius: I’m not arguing.  We’re just going to do it my way, that’s all.

    (Sounds of drums and marching.  Brutus, Cassius, and some Soldiers come in, including Lucilius, Titinius, and Messala.  This puts the commanders of the rival factions on opposite sides of the stage, although a greater distance is suggested.)

Brutus (To Cassius): I think they want to talk.

Antony (To Octavius): I think they want to talk.

    (The four generals move closer.)

Brutus: Words before actions.  Is that it?

Octavius: Don’t get the idea that we prefer words to fighting, like you do.

Brutus: Good words are preferable to bad blows.

Antony: You ought to know.  You gave a fine speech after murdering Caesar.

Cassius: Ah, but you gave a better one, didn’t you — leading the crowd from a state of peace and dignity to one of mindless violence.

Antony: Don’t talk about dignity or about violence either, you bastards!  You were all fake smiles, and fake kneeling, and fake loyalty to Caesar — until the knives came out and you cut him to pieces!

Cassius: You see, Brutus?  I told you we shouldn’t have let Antony live.

Octavius: Fighting with words is one thing, but real fighting is another.  (He draws his sword, but in a symbolic way, not as an immediate threat.)  This sword is for all the conspirators, and I will not put it away until they’re all dead.

Brutus: Or until you are.

Cassius: Look at these guys — the schoolboy and the party boy.

Octavius: Let’s go, Antony.–You traitors, if you want to fight us today, come to the field.  Otherwise, come whenever you have the balls.

    (Octavius, Antony, and their party leave.)

Brutus: Lucilius, a word with you.  (He takes Lucilius aside, where they confer privately.)

Cassius: Messala, it appears that we’re going to have to risk everything on one battle.  That’s our only chance.  Do you believe in signs?

Messala: No.

Cassius: I didn’t use to believe in them either, but maybe now I do.  On the way from Sardis, two eagles swooped down and perched on our flag.  And they ate food from the hands of the soldiers, and they were completely tame.  But this morning they flew away, and instead there were ravens circling overhead and looking down at us as if they were waiting for us to die.

Messala: It’s nothing.  Don’t think about it.

Cassius: Maybe it means something, and maybe it doesn’t.  Either way, I’m ready to face any danger.

    (Brutus returns from his conversation with Lucilius.)

Cassius: If the gods love us, we’ll both die of old age, Brutus.  If not, this may be the last time we ever speak to each other.

Brutus (Holding Cassius’ hand): Then I give you my most heartfelt farewell, Cassius — forever.  If we meet again, we’ll both smile.  If not, let me smile on you now.

Cassius: The same from me, Brutus.

Act 5, Scene 2.  In Brutus’ camp.  Alarm by trumpet or drum.  Brutus and Messala come in.

Brutus: Messala, get on your horse and take these dispatches to the legions on the other side.  If they attack now, they can catch Octavius’ forces unprepared.  Hurry, man!

Messala: Yes, General!

    (Messala leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  On the field.  Alarm by trumpet or drums.  Cassius and Titinius come in.

Cassius: Titinius!  Our guys are running away, the bloody cowards!  My own ensign was running, and I killed the son of a bitch and took the flag from him!

Titinius: Brutus’ order to attack was premature.  He had an advantage on Octavius, but he lost it when his men began looting.  Now we’re surrounded by Antony’s forces.

    (Pindarus comes in.)

Pindarus: General, you’d better move back for your own safety.  Antony is already in your tents.

Cassius: No way.  I’m staying right here on this hill.  There’s a fire down there.  Are those my tents?

Titinius: I’m afraid so.

Cassius: Titinius, listen.  You’ve got to get on your horse and get a look at those troops over there and find out if they’re friend or foe.  And get back as fast as possible.

Titinius: Right!  (He leaves.)

Cassius: Pindarus, I need you to go up on that hill and look for Titinius and see what’s happening.  I can’t see well enough.

Pindarus: Right!  (He leaves.)

Cassius: My whole life comes down to one day — win or lose.  We gambled everything on this battle.–Pindarus!  What’s it look like?

Pindarus (Above): It’s bad!  They’re surrounding Titinius!  It looks like–they’ve captured him!  They’re shouting!

Cassius: Come down!–God damn it!  My best friend — captured!  I wish I’d never lived to see this.  (Pindarus returns.)  Listen, Pindarus.  I spared your life in Parthia when you were my prisoner, and you promised to do anything I asked.  Now I’m holding you to that promise.  Here.  Take my sword.  Put it right here — into my heart.  After that, you’re a free man.

Pindarus: No, General.  Please don’t.

Cassius: I’m not going back to Rome as a prisoner and be paraded through the streets in chains.  I’d rather die now — with honour.  You owe me this favour.  Take the sword.  When I close my eyes, just do it.  (Pindarus stabs him.)  Caesar…You have your revenge.  (Cassius dies.)

Pindarus: Cassius, I would rather have been your servant forever than go back to Rome without you.  I’m leaving Rome forever.

    (He leaves.  Then Titinius, crowned with a laurel, and Messala come in.  They don’t see Cassius at first.)

Messala: It’s the fortunes of war, Titinius.  Antony’s forces beat those of Cassius, but Brutus’ forces beat those of Octavius.

Titinius: At least there’s some good news to report to Cassius.  I want to give him this laurel.

Messala: Where is he?

Titinius: He was with his servant Pindarus — somewhere around here.  He was pretty discouraged when I left him.

Messala: Look!  Isn’t that him?

Titinius: Oh, no!  He’s dead!  We’re finished.  He must have thought I’d been captured by the enemy.

Messala: What a mistake!

Titinius: Pindarus.  Where is he?

Messala: Go find him.  I’ll have to tell Brutus that Cassius is dead.

    (Messala leaves.)

Titinius: Cassius.  How could you have made such a mistake?  Didn’t you send me to look at those troops?  Didn’t you see them greet me?  Didn’t you hear their shouts of joy?  This laurel was for you.  Brutus gave it to me.  (He places the laurel on the head of Cassius.)  Now, Brutus, you will see how I loved my friend Cassius.  (He takes Cassius’ sword and stabs himself and dies.  Then there is an alarm.  Brutus, Messala, Cato, Strato, Volumnius, Lucilius, Labeo, and Flavius come in.)

Brutus: Where is he?

Messala: Over there.  And poor Titinius is mourning over him.

Cato: No.  He’s dead, too.

Brutus: Caesar, even from your grave you have your revenge.  We’ll never see Romans like these ever again.–Cassius, I have not enough tears in my eyes as you deserve.–We’ll send his body back to Thasos.  I don’t want to hold a funeral here.  Lucilius, Cato, let’s get back to the troops.  Labeo, Flavius, get everything organized for another attack.  It’s three o’clock now.  I want to attack again while there’s still daylight.

    (They all leave, carrying off the bodies.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  Alarm.  Soldiers from both armies come in, fighting.  Then Brutus, Messala, Cato, Lucilius, and Flavius come in.  (In this scene, the number of Soldiers, their positions, and actions will be entirely a matter of stagecraft.)

Brutus: Come on, men!   Give ’em hell!

    (Brutus goes out fighting, followed by Messala and Flavius.)

Cato: Follow me!  I’m Cato!  I’m Cato!  I’ll kill those tyrants!

    (More Soldiers come in and fight.)

Lucilius: Over here!  Come and get me!  I’m Brutus!  I’m the one you want!  I’m Brutus!  (Cato is killed.)  Cato!  Cato!

    (Lucilius is captured.  There is no more visible fighting at this point.)

First Soldier: Surrender or die!

Lucilius: Go ahead and kill me!  I’m Brutus!

Second Soldier: No! Don’t kill him!  He’s a prisoner for Antony!

    (Antony comes in.)

First Soldier: General!  We’re got Brutus!

Antony: Where?

Second Soldier: This man.

Lucilius (Laughing): I told them I was Brutus.  He’s safe now.  You’ll never take him alive. 

Antony: This isn’t Brutus — but he’s one brave son of a bitch.  Take charge of this prisoner and see that no harm comes to him.  Brave men like this I’d rather have as my friends than as my enemies.  Find out whether Brutus is alive or dead.  And send word to Octavius that we’ve won.

    (Antony leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  Brutus, Dardanius, Clitus, Strato, and Volumnius come in.

Brutus: Let’s sit down, lads.  We got our asses kicked.  There’s not many of us left.

Clitus: Statilius gave a signal with his torch, but he never came back.  I guess he’s either a prisoner, or he’s dead.

Brutus: Dead, most likely.  Clitus.  (He gestures to Clitus to come over and then whispers to him.)

Clitus: Oh, no!  I couldn’t.  Absolutely not.

Brutus: Okay, forget it.–Dardanius, come here.  (Dardanius comes over, and Brutus whispers to him.)

Dardanius: Who, me?  No, no!  Please don’t ask me.

    (Clitus and Dardanius move apart from Brutus and confer.)

Clitus (Aside to Dardanius): Did he ask you to kill him?

Dardanius (Aside to Clitus): Yes.

Clitus (Aside to Dardanius): He’s a broken man.  Look at him.  He can’t take any more.  He’s reached the end.

Brutus: Volumnius, come here.  I want to tell you something.

Volumnius: Yes, General?

Brutus: Caesar’s ghost appeared to me twice.  My time has come.

Volumnius: No, don’t say that.

Brutus: It’s true.  I have to face it.  We’ve been beaten.  I’d rather kill myself than give my enemies the satisfaction of killing me.  We’re old friends, Volumnius — you and I.  We went to school together.  Now I want you to do one thing for me.  Just hold my sword.  You don’t have to stab me.  Just hold it firmly, and I’ll–

Volumnius: No.  Don’t ask me to do that.  I couldn’t.

    (Alarms are heard.)

Clitus: They’re closing in on us!  We’ve got to run!

Brutus: You go.  I’ll just say goodbye, Clitus.  And you, too, Volumnius, and Dardanius.  Strato, you haven’t said a word.  Gentlemen, my greatest happiness has been the loyalty of all my friends.  I’ll have more glory in defeat than Octavius and Antony will have in victory.  Go now and save yourselves.  I’m tired.

    (More alarms.  Cries of “Run!…Run!”)

Clitus: General!

Brutus: Don’t worry about me.  I’ll follow you.  (Clitus, Dardanius, and Volumnius leave.)  Strato, stay with me, please.  You’re a good man.  You’ll do a favour for me, won’t you?  You hold my sword.  Let me fall on it.  You don’t have to look.

Strato: Give me your hand, General.  Goodbye.

    (They shake hands.)

Brutus: Goodbye, Strato.–And now, Caesar, you needn’t torment me any more.

    (Brutus runs on his sword and dies.  Alarm.  Antony, Octavius, Messala, Lucilius, and Soldiers come in.)

Octavius: Who’s that?

Messala: It’s Strato.–Strato, where’s–oh!

Strato: He’s free now.  He took his own life so that no one else would have honour by his death.

Lucilius: In death just as in life, he was the same Brutus — a man of honour.

Octavius: All of you who served Brutus are no longer my enemies.  I would gladly accept you into my service.–You.  Strato.  Will you join me?

Strato: I will if Messala recommends me.

Octavius: Messala?

Messala: How did Brutus die, Strato?

Strato: He asked me to hold the sword, and he fell upon it.

Messala: Take him, Octavius.  He’s worthy.

Antony: Brutus was the noblest of them all.  Everyone else who killed Caesar did so out of envy.  Brutus was the only one who acted sincerely.  He honestly believed it was for the good of Rome.  He was good in heart and sound of mind, and he was not given to extremes.  This was a man.

Octavius: He’ll be given a proper burial.  You can put his body in my tent tonight.  Lay him out properly — like a soldier deserves.  (Silent pause.)  Call the troops to rest.  I’m sure they’ll want to celebrate.  Let’s go.

    (All leave.)


    Copyright @ 2010 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

Alonso — King of Naples

Sebastian — Alonso’s brother

Ferdinand — Alonso’s son

Prospero — former Duke of Milan, and a magician

Antonio — Prospero’s brother, and the usurping Duke of Milan

Miranda — Prospero’s daughter

Gonzalo — an honest old councilor of Naples

Adrian, Francisco — lords

Trinculo — a jester

Stephano — a drunken butler

Ariel — an airy spirit, and servant to Prospero

Iris, Ceres, Juno — spirits

Caliban — a deformed savage, and servant to Prospero

Master of a ship


Gist of the story: Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan and a self-taught magician, has been living on an island with his daughter, Miranda, ever since they were driven out of Milan twelve years before.  Prospero was usurped by his ambitious brother, Antonio, who conspired with Alonso, the King of Naples.  Now a ship bearing Antonio, Alonso, and Alonso’s brother, Sebastian, is sailing near the island.  Using his magic and his spirit servant, Ariel, Prospero creates a tempest that forces his enemies to the island.  Then he torments them to punish them for their crimes but spares their lives so that they might repent and make amends.  Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, and Alonso’s son, Ferdinand, fall in love.  Prospero’s final act of magic is to make fair weather so that everyone can return safely to Naples.  (It is widely believed that The Tempest was the inspiration for the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, but Anne Francis, who starred in the movie, denied any connection in an interview on TVOntario.  Nevertheless, you will see some similarities between the play and the movie.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  On a ship at sea.  Thunder and lightning.  The Master of the ship and the Boatswain come in.

Master: Boatswain!  You better kick some butt with the crew, or we’ll go down in this storm!  Move it!

    (Master leaves.  Mariners come in.)

Boatswain: Take in the topsail!  Let out the mainsail!  Lower the jib!  Raise the foresail!  Secure the maintopmast staysail!

    (Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand, Gonzalo and others come in.)

Alonso: Are we going to sink?  Where’s the master?

Boatswain: Get down below!   You’re in the way!

Gonzalo: Hey, we’re men of authority!  We’re VIP’s!

Boatswain: Well, that’s great.  Why don’t you use your authority to stop this storm?  Otherwise, get back to your cabins and leave the driving to us.  (He leaves.)

Gonzalo (To Antonio): You know, that guy doesn’t look like he was meant to drown.  Hang maybe, but not drown.

Antonio: Gee, that’s a comforting thought.  I feel better already.

Gonzalo: Right.  If he’s meant to be hanged, it’s got to be on land.  So that means we’ll be okay.

Antonio: That’s extremely logical.

    (Everyone leaves.  Then the Boatswain returns.)

Boatswain: Down with the topmast!  Lower!  Heave to with the mainsail!  (Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo return.)  Are you back again?  I told you to get lost!

Sebastian: I’m the brother of the King of Naples!

Boatswain: Good for you!  Why don’t you pick up a rope and do some work!

Antonio: I hope you hang!

Gonzalo: I told you this guy isn’t going to drown.

Boatswain: Away from the shore!  Keep her in open water!

    (A Mariner returns, all wet.)

Mariner: It’s no use!  We’re gonna be wrecked!

    (Mariner leaves.)

Boatswain: Fuck me.  I should’ve applied for that office job.

Gonzalo: We should pray.

Antonio: These people are drunken idiots.  We’re all going to die.

Gonzalo: No, we’re not.

    (Voices are heard within: “We’re breaking up!”  God help us!”  “It’s the end!”  “Goodbye, bro!”  Boatswain leaves.)

Antonio: I want to be with the King.

Sebastian: Me, too.

    (Antonio and Sebastian leave.)

Gonzalo: Give me some dry land.  Anything.  Even if it’s Devil’s Island, or Jurassic Island, or the Island of Doom, or the Island of Screaming Skulls, or someplace with Muslims.  At this point, I’m not going to be fussy.

    (He leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  On the island.  In front of Prospero’s cell (something like a cabin).  Prospero and Miranda come in.

Miranda: Is this storm another piece of your magic, father?  I wish you’d make it stop.  There were people out there in that ship.  I hate to think of them drowning.  Just the thought of it makes me want to cry!

Prospero: Take it easy.  No one’s going to die.  Whatever I do is for your own good.  There’s a lot you don’t know.  You don’t know who you really are or who I really am.

Miranda: I never asked.

Prospero: Well, the time has come to tell you more.  (Takes off his robe.)  Sit down on my magic robe.  Stop worrying about that ship.  I’ve seen to it that none of those people would be harmed.  Now, pay attention.  Can you remember anything before we came here to this cell?  Probably not, because you weren’t even three yet.

Miranda: Yes, I can.  I vaguely remember there were four or five women looking after me.

Prospero: More than that, actually.  What else?  Can you remember how you came here?

Miranda: No.

Prospero: Twelve years ago I was the Duke of Milan.

Miranda: The Duke of Milan!  Then how did we end up here?

Prospero: We were driven out by wicked men, but heaven protected us so we could land here.

Miranda: I want to know everything that happened.

Prospero: My brother, Antonio — that’s your uncle — took advantage of me.  I let him run the state in my behalf.  I was more interested in my books.  I was studying many things — philosophy, history, the classics, and also what might be called occult subjects.  That is, mystical things.  Magic.  Ancient knowledge.  I should’ve been paying more attention to affairs of state, but I trusted Antonio to take care of all that.  Which he did.  All too well.  He got very connected with all the important people.  He built his own little empire.  And eventually he decided that he was really the Duke of Milan, not I.  And he decided to get rid of me.  So he made a deal with my enemy, the King of Naples.  He offered to pay him annual tribute and make Milan subservient to Naples if the King would drive me out and make Antonio Duke of Milan.

Miranda: That’s horrible!  I’m ashamed to have such an uncle!

Prospero: I know.  Let me finish.  The King of Naples gathered an army, and in the middle of the night, Antonio opened the gates of Milan and let them in.  His agents took us by force.  You were just a baby crying in my arms.

Miranda: Oh!  And why didn’t they kill us?

Prospero: Oh, they couldn’t get away with that.  I was still well-loved by the people.  Instead, they put us onto a ship and sailed us out about ten miles and then put us into a miserable boat and cast us adrift.  They figured they’d never see us again.  The only reason we survived, apart from divine help, was that a decent councilor of Naples took pity on us and gave us some food and water and clothing.  And he even gave me the most valuable books from my library.  His name was Gonzalo.  A good man.

Miranda: I wish I could thank him.

Prospero: Ever since we came here I’ve done my best to educate you.  I dare say you’re a better educated young lady than any of those back in Milan or Naples.

Miranda: I’m glad to hear that.  But you haven’t explained why you raised this storm.

Prospero: I raised it because I learned from my magic that my old enemies were on that ship you saw.  I had to force them to land here.  This is the only good chance I’ll ever get to change our situation for the better.  I have to make the most of it.  Now I think you’ve asked enough questions.  I think you’re getting sleepy.  Yes.  Your eyes are closing.  That’s it.  You’re going to have a nice nap.  That’s right.  Sleep…sleep.  (Miranda falls asleep.)  Yo!  Ariel!  My airy spirit!  Come on down!

    (Ariel comes in.)

Ariel: I’m here, boss.  Yours to command.  If there’s magic to it, Ariel can do it!

Prospero: Did you make that tempest exactly the way I asked you?

Ariel: I sure did, boss.  I did my St. Elmo’s fire, which is one of my specialties.  Oh, man, you should’ve seen it!  All those balls of lightning popping up and moving around.  The gentlemen passengers were so terrified they jumped over the side.  The King’s son, Ferdinand, was the first one to jump.  He thought I was the devil.

Prospero: Oh, great job!  But you did this when they were close to shore, right?

Ariel: Oh, yeah.  No problem.  Everyone made it to shore okay, but I made sure they were all spread out.  Ferdinand ended up by himself.

Prospero: And what about the ship and the crew?

Ariel: The ship is sitting in the harbor, and the crew are all below deck, fast asleep, thanks to the charm I put on them.  The escort ships got turned around, and they’re all headed back toward Naples.  As far as they know, the King’s ship was wrecked in the storm and everyone’s dead.

Prospero: Escellent.  But I still have more work for you to do.

Ariel: Work, work, work!  All I do is work!  Remember what you promised me.

Prospero: What’s that?

Ariel: My freedom!  After all I’ve done for you, and never any complaints, and never any mistakes.  You promised to reduce my term of service by one year.

Prospero: Have you forgotten where you were when I found you?

Ariel: No.

Prospero: I think you have.  So let me refresh your memory.  The evil witch Sycorax was banished from Algiers, and she was brought here pregnant and abandoned by the sailors.  You were her servant, but you refused to carry out her evil commands.  So she imprisoned you in a pine tree, and you were stuck in it for twelve years.  She died in the meantime, and you couldn’t get out.  There was no one else on this island except for the deformed child she gave birth to, whose name rhymes with Taliban.

Ariel: That would be Caliban.

Prospero: Correct.  Who is now my servant.  And you, you poor bastard, were stuck in that tree, moaning and aching and crying, until I arrived.  And I freed you with my superior white man’s magic.

Ariel: Yes.  I’m grateful for that.

Prospero: And if you keep bitching, I’ll stick you back in a tree, and you can howl away for another twelve years.

Ariel: I’m sorry, boss.  I’ll do whatever you say.

Prospero: That’s more like it.  Two more days of service, and you’re free.

Ariel: Wow!  You mean it?  Oh, great!  Oh, fabulous!  Two days!  Okay, anything you want!  I’ll do it!

Prospero: Okay.  I want you to assume the form of a sea nymph.

Ariel: Sea nymph.  Easy.  I do a great sea nymph.  What color?

Prospero: Doesn’t matter.  I want you to be invisible to everyone except me.  Understand?

Ariel: Right, boss!

Prospero: Now you go and do that and come back.  (Ariel leaves.)  Wake up, Miranda!  Wake up!

Miranda: Wow.  I just nodded off.

Prospero: Come on.  We’ll go call on that miserable slave of mine, Caliban.  He’s never learned how to talk to me in a polite way.

Miranda: He’s so ugly.  I think he must be a Tamil.

Prospero: You’ve never seen a Tamil, although I think he could pass for one.  But never mind.  Ugly or not, we need him.  He does all the dirty work that’s beneath us.–Hey, Caliban!  Hey, slave!

Caliban (Within): I already chopped enough wood.

Prospero: I have other work for you.  Hurry up.  (Ariel returns in the form of a sea nymph.)  Oh!  Brilliant!  Come here.  I have to whisper.  (He whispers in Ariel’s ear.)

Ariel: Right, boss!  I’ll do it!  (He leaves.)

Prospero: Caliban, you ugly visible minority!  Where the hell are you?

    (Caliban comes in.)

Caliban: May you be stricken with a loathesome tropical disease, you oppressor of the disadvantaged.

Prospero: Hey, I’m a magician.  I’ll give you diarrhea and cover your ass with bee stings so you can’t sit down.

Caliban: Aw, fuck off.  This island was mine before you got here.  You pretended to be my friend, and I showed you how to survive on this island.  And after that, you locked me into the earth with your magic.  It’s exactly the same as what all you white bastards have done to aboriginal people all over the world.

Prospero: Yeah, right.  Tell me some more bullshit.  Who took care of you and let you stay in my own cell — until I caught you trying to fuck my little girl?

Caliban: I only wanted to repopulate the island.

Prospero: You pathetic subhuman.  I tried to raise you up out of savagery, which is exactly what white men have always done with inferior people.  You couldn’t even speak until I taught you how.  I did my best to teach you, and you did learn a bit.  But your basic nature was so primitive, I had no choice but to confine you with my magic.

Caliban: You’re an ethnocentric bigot.

Prospero: Get me some more firewood.  And after that I have other work for you.  And be quick about it or I’ll make every nerve ending in your body hurt until you beg for mercy.

Caliban: Okay, okay.  (Aside) Fucking white European colonialist bastard.

Prospero: Go!

    (Caliban leaves.  Then Ferdinand comes in; also, the invisible Ariel, playing and singing.)

Ariel (Singing):

    We’re going to Blood Beach,

    That’s where the highway ends,

    We’re going to Blood Beach,

    That’s where we make new friends,

    The girls I like the most are always out of reach,

    But not at Blood Beach.

Ferdinand: Where’s that singing coming from?  I heard it on the beach while I was thinking about my poor dead father.  I’ve been following it all this way.  Oh, it’s stopped.  No, there it is.

Ariel (Singing):

    If you sail the seven seas,

    You can catch a strange disease,

    You can eat some cottage cheese,

    And watch the many fishies.

    You can pull your panties down,

    Drink some run and dance around,

    Watch out or you’ll run aground,

    Now you’re dead and never found.

Ferdinand: It makes me think of my poor father, who drowned.  This isn’t natural.  It must be some sort of witchcraft.

Prospero(Aside): Clever Ariel.  He knows what to do.  (To Miranda) Look, Miranda.  What do you see?

Miranda: Is it a spirit?  It’s so handsome it must be a spirit!

Prospero: No, silly.  This guy is from the ship that was caught in the storm.  He’s a good guy, but he’s full of grief because he lost all his companions and he’s looking for them.

Miranda: I’ve never seen anyone so handsome!

Ferdinand: Oh!  This must be a goddess!–Do you live here?  Tell me what I should do.  But are you a goddess or a lady?

Miranda: I’m a lady.

Ferdinand: Oh!  She speaks my language!  And where I come from, I speak it the best.

Prospero: Oh, really?  And what would the King of Naples say to that?

Ferdinand: Oh, my poor father.  I believe he does hear me.  I saw his ship go down.  Now I’m the King, I guess.

Miranda: You poor man!

Ferdinand: And Antonio, the Duke of Milan.  He went down with the ship, too.  And many lords.

Prospero (Aside): Ha!  I’d set him straight about who is the Duke of Milan, but this isn’t the time.  It looks like love at first sight between these two.  (To Ferdinand) I think you’ve got your facts wrong, sonny.

Miranda: Don’t offend him.  I think I love him.

Prospero: Not so fast.  (Aside) I’ve got to make him work for it.–You’re not the King of Naples.  I think you’re a spy, and you came here to steal this island from me.

Ferdinand: No!  No!  I didn’t!

Miranda: He’s so handsome.  He must be good and kind and sweet as well.

Prospero (To Miranda): Don’t speak to him.  He’s a traitor.  (To Ferdinand) I’m going to lock you up and put you on an organic low-fat diet.

Ferdinand: No!  I will resist!  (He starts to draw his sword but is frozen by a charm.)

Miranda: Don’t hurt him, father.  He’s so noble.

Prospero (Waves his magic wand): Drop your sword.  (Ferdinand drops his sword.)

Miranda: Oh, please, father.

Prospero: Quiet, girl!  This is the first man you’ve ever seen besides me and Caliban, and you think he’s so great.  He’s nothing.

Miranda: Oh!  He’s scrumptious!

Ferdinand: If I could just look at this woman once a day, I could bear any hardship.

Prospero: You’re coming with me.  (To Ariel) Good work, Ariel!  Stand by for further orders.

Ariel: You’re the boss.

Miranda: Oh, don’t be afraid, sir.  My father’s not as cruel as he sounds.

Prospero (To Ferdinand): Come on, you spy.  (To Miranda) Don’t try to protect him.

    (All leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  Another part of the island.  Alsonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Adrian, and Francisco come in.

Gonzalo: We made it, your Majesty!  We’re alive!  It’s a miracle!  We should have been drowned and lying dead on the bottom of the sea.  But instead we’re alive!  Alive!

Alonso: Yeah, yeah.

Adrian: Even though this island looks like a desert, it can’t all be like this.  Just smell the air.  Mmm.

Sebastian: Smells like a carcass.

Antonio: Or a swamp.

Gonzalo: I should think we have everything we need to live here.

Antonio: Except for a few minor things like food, water, and shelter.

Sebastian: Ha!

Gonzalo: Doesn’t the grass look green?

Antonio: It’s brown.

Sebastian: I see a small spot of green.

Gonzalo: But the most extraordinary thing — and this is almost beyond belief–

Sebastian: Most extraordinary things are almost beyond belief.

Gonzalo: –Is that our clothes are in perfect condition — even after being drenched in sea water.  In fact, they look just as good as when we put them on in Tunis at the wedding of the King’s daughter, Claribel, to the King of Tunis.

Sebastian: Yeah, it was a great wedding.  And the trip back has been just as much fun.

Alonso: I wish I’d never taken her there to be married!  Now my son is lost — probably drowned — and I’ll probably never see my daughter again either.

Francisco: Ferdinand could still be alive, sir.  He was swimming quite well toward the shore.  I think he made it.

Alonso: No, no.  He’s gone.

Sebastian: Blame yourself, sir.  You wouldn’t marry off your daughter in Europe among white people.  Oh, no!  You had to match her up with some Afro jigaboo.

Alonso: Don’t rub it in.

Sebastian: We begged you not to do it.  And she wasn’t that keen on it either.

Alonso: So much the worse.

Gonzalo: Stop making the King feel so bad, Sebastian.  You should try to be more encouraging.

Sebastian: Fine.

Gonzalo (To Alonso): Sir, when you feel bad, we all feel bad.

Sebastian (Aside to Antonio): Do we feel bad, Antonio?

Antonio (Aside to Sebastian): You bet.

Gonzalo: If I owned this island and I were king, I’ll tell you what I’d do.  For the sake of the common good, I’d do everything opposite to what’s considered normal.  There would be no imports or exports, no taxation, no police, no judges, no universities, no banks, no servants, no private property, no exploitation of natural resources, no pollution, no social classes, and no bosses.  Nobody would have to work.  We would all relax.  And the woman would all be innocent and pure.

Sebastian (To Antonio): But he would be king.

Gonzalo: And there would be no crime or war, because there would be no reason to steal or struggle.  Nature would give us everything we needed.

Antonio (To Sebastian): No sex?

Sebastian (To Antonio): Not if the women are all innocent and pure. 

Antonio (To Sebastian): It’s gonna be a dull island.

Gonzalo: I’d be king of a perfect kingdom — even better than the Golden Age of Greece.

Sebastian: Hail to the King!

Antonio: Long live King Gonzalo!

Gonzalo: And what else?–(To Alonso) Are you listening, sir?

Alonso: I wish you’d shut up.

Gonzalo: I was just trying to get a laugh out of these guys.

Antonio: Ha, ha.  You did.

    (Ariel comes in, invisible, playing solemn music.)

Gonzalo: I can see I’m wasting my wit on you guys.  I think I’ll get some sleep.

Antonio: You do that.

    (Everyone sleeps except Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio.)

Sebastian (To Alonso): Why don’t you get some sleep, too?  We’ll keep watch.

Alsonso: Thanks.  I will.

    (Alonso sleeps.  Ariel leaves.)

Antonio: Must be something in the air.

Sebastian: Then why are we still up?  I’m not sleepy at all.

Antonio: It’s like they were put to sleep by some sort of charm.  I wonder–no, never mind.  A funny thought just crossed my mind, seeing the King asleep.  I thought I saw a crown on your head.

Sebastian: What?  Are you dreaming?

Antonio: No, but I think you’re half asleep.  You’re not seeing your opportunity.

Sebastian: What are you getting at?

Antonio: You know what I’m getting at.

Sebastian: Say what you mean, why don’t you.

Antonio: Listen.  Regardless of what that dumb-ass Francisco says, there’s no way the King’s son is alive.

Sebastian: Okay, so he drowned.  I’m sure he did.

Antonio: So?  Don’t you see what this means for you?  Who’s next in line after the King if Ferdinand is dead?

Sebastian: Claribel.

Antonio: Right.  Except that she’s very far away from here.  And it’ll be a long time before she gets any news from Naples.  Meanwhile, here we are in a position to act.  Don’t you get it?  You’re his brother.  With him out of the way, you’ll rule Naples. 

Sebastian: Well….Now that I think of it, you did steal Milan from your brother, Prospero.

Antonio: Yes.  Now I rule Milan.

Sebastian: Don’t you have a guilty conscience about that?

Antonio: Conscience?  Fuck.  I feel a guilty conscience less than I’d feel a blister.  Here’s your brother sleeping.  I could do him with my knife, and you could do Gonzalo.  When the others wake up, they’re not going to do anything about it.  Why should they?  We’re on a fucking desert island.  We’ll tell them it was for the best, and they’ll go along with it.  Of course, Gonzalo wouldn’t, so he has to go, too.

Sebastian: Okay.  I’m willing.  If you kill Alonso, Milan won’t have to pay any more tribute to Naples.  I’ll be King of Naples, and we’ll be allies.

Antonio: Right.  Okay, draw your knife.  You do Gonzalo.  (They draw their knives.)  On the count of three. 

    (Invisible Ariel comes in with music.)

Sebastian: Wait a sec.

Ariel (Aside): The boss doesn’t want Gonzalo to die or it’ll upset his plans.  (Sings in Gonzalo’s ear.)

    Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead,

    Nasty people want you dead,

    Wake up now or else you’ll feel

    Three cold inches of stainless steel.

Antonio: Hurry!

Gonzalo (Wakes up): God save the King!

    (The others wake up.)

Alonso: What?  Hey!  What’s with the knives?  Why are you looking at me like that?

Gonzalo: What’s going on?

Sebastian: We heard what sounded like wild animals.  Didn’t it wake you up?

Alonso: I didn’t hear anything.

Antonio: Oh, it was loud!  It must have been lions!

Alonso: Did you hear anything, Gonzalo?

Gonzalo: I heard a strange humming in my ear.  And then I woke up and saw these guys with their knives out.  I don’t think we should stay here.

Alonso: Yeah, let’s get out of here.  I want to look for Ferdinand.

Gonzalo: I hope he doesn’t get attacked by any lions.

Alonso: Let’s go.  You lead the way.

Ariel (Aside): Prospero will be glad to hear I’ve done what he ordered.  Okay, King, go search for your son.  You might get lucky.

    (All leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Another part of the island.  Caliban is carrying a load of wood.  Thunder is heard.

Caliban: I hope that son of a bitch catches some disease that makes his dick turn green and fall off.  He’s got his spirits after me all the time, bothering me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Him and his fucking spirits.  (Trinculo comes in.)  This must be one of them.  Probably here to torment me because I’m too slow bringing in this wood.  Maybe if I lie flat on the ground he won’t notice me.  (Caliban lies down.)

Trinculo: Another goddamn storm, and there’s no place to take shelter.  I’m probably gonna get soaked….Hey, what’s this?  Is it a man or a fish?  Is it dead or alive?  Phew!  Smells like a dead fish.  Man, if I were to put this thing on display in England, I could make money on it.  Those sick limeys love anything disgusting.  I could call it the Monster Fish of Devil’s Island.  Hey, it’s got arms and legs!  Wait a minute!  This isn’t a fish.  It’s a person.  It’s a native of the island.  He must have got struck by lightning.  (Sound of thunder.)  Oh, hell, I’d better crawl under this guy’s coat until the storm is over.

    (He creeps under Caliban’s coat.  Then Stephano comes in, holding a bottle and singing.)

Stephano (Singing):

    Oh, there’s nothing like an English whore

    To make a horny sailor roar,

    She’ll fuck him good and ask for more,

    And after all that’s what she’s for.

    (Drinks from bottle.)

Ah, that’s good.  (Sings)

    I like ’em big, I like ’em small,

    I like ’em short, I like ’em tall,

    With lots of hair or none at all,

    And always ready when I call.

    (Drinks from bottle.)

Caliban: Go away, spirit.

Stephano: Hey, what’s this?  Some kind of monster with four legs!

Caliban: Go away, spirit.  Leave me alone.

Stephano: This monster is sick.  He must have a fever.  But how did he learn to speak our language?  I should try to cure him and take him back to Naples.  A monster like this could be worth a lot of money.

Caliban: Leave me alone.  I’ll bring the wood home faster.

Stephano: He’s having delusions.  He needs a drink.

Caliban: You’re getting ready to hurt me.  I know.  Prospero is going to make you do it.

Stephano: Hey, monster.  Open your mouth.  This’ll do you good.  (Gives Caliban a drink of wine.)

Trinculo: I know that voice.  It’s–no, it can’t be.  He would’ve drowned.  Then these are both devils!  Help!  Help!

Stephano: What a monster this is!  Four legs and two voices!  I’d better give the other mouth some wine, too.

Trinculo: Stephano!

Stephano: Holy shit!  This monster knows my name!  I’d better run!

Trinculo: Stephano!  If that’s you, touch me!  It’s your friend Trinculo!

Stephano: Trinculo!  (He pulls Trinculo by the legs out from under Caliban’s coat.)  Trinculo!  What the hell are you doing glued to this monster’s ass?

Trinculo: I thought he was struck by lightning and I wanted to take shelter from the storm.  But you’re not drowned!  Thank God!  Stephano!  We’re both alive!  (He jumps up and takes Stephano by the coat and whirls him around.)  Alive!  Alive!

Stephano: Oh, please.  My stomach.

Caliban (Aside): These aren’t spirits.  That one must be a god.  I’ll worship him.  I’ll be his servant.

Stephano: How did you escape?  How did you get here?  I got ashore by hanging on to a barrel of wine.  I found this bottle, too.

Trinculo: I swam.  I’m a great swimmer.

Stephano: Good for you.  Have another drink.

Caliban: I swear to be your true servant.  That liquor is like nothing I ever tasted in my life.

Trinculo (Drinks): Wow!  Got any more of this stuff?

Stephano: Hell, yes.  The whole barrel.  I’ve got it in a cave.–Hey, you monster.  Feeling any better?

Caliban (Getting up): You’re a god, aren’t you — dropped from heaven.

Stephano: You’re damned right, I am!  I used to be the Man in the Moon.

Caliban: I recognize you.  Now you’re my god.  I’ll worship you.

Stephano: Okay, I’ll hold you to that.  Have another drink.  (Gives Caliban a drink.)

Trinculo: This is not much of a monster, now that I get a good look at him.  And you’re the Man in the Moon, are you?  Ha!

Caliban: Please be my god, okay?  I’ll show you where all the good stuff is on the island.  I’ll kiss your foot.

Stephano: Okay, do it.

    (Caliban kisses Stephano’s foot.)

Trinculo: This monster is so pathetic I’d beat him if he wasn’t so drunk.

Caliban: I’ll show you where the best water is, and the best fruit, and fish, and I’ll get wood for you.  To hell with that bastard Prospero!  I’m not serving him any more.  From now on you’re my god.

Trinculo: A drunkard is his god.  Brilliant.

Caliban: I know where the best crabs are, and the best nuts, and birds of all kinds.  I’ll catch animals for you.  I’ll even club baby seals, and you can make soup out of their flippers.

Stephano: Enough already.  Lead the way and show us everything.–Trinculo, we’ll claim this island as our own, since the King and everyone else drowned.  I’m king of this island now.

Caliban: Oh, happy day!  Happy day!  Caliban has a new master!  Freedom!  Freedom!  Freedom!

Stephano: Yes, yes.  Good monster.  Let’s go.

    (All leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  In front of Prospero’s cell.  Ferdinand comes in carrying a log.

Ferdinand: Jesus Christ.  I have to pile up a thousand logs — her father’s orders.  Well, I don’t mind.  I just keep thinking…of her.  That gorgeous creature..

    (Miranda comes in, followed by Prospero, who stays hidden.)

Miranda: I hate to see you work so hard.  Why don’t you take a rest.  My father’s with his books for the next three hours.

Ferdinand: Oh, hell, I won’t be finished before sundown.

Miranda: I’ll carry some of the logs while you rest.

Ferdinand: Oh, no, I couldn’t let you do that.  You’re too good for that kind of labour.

Miranda: But you look so tired.  I’d be happy to help you.

Ferdinand: What’s your name?

Miranda: Miranda–Oops!  I wasn’t supposed to tell you.

Ferdinand: Miranda!  Ahh, Miranda!  I’ve known plenty of women, and all of them were beautiful in one way or another.  But none was as perfect as you.

Miranda: Well, I’ve never met any other women.  And you’re the first man I’ve met, other than my father.  I have no idea what people look like in the rest of the world.  But you’re all I could hope for.

Ferdinand: Listen to me, Miranda.  I’m a prince.  I may even be a king if my father’s dead, which I hope he isn’t.  I’d never do this dirty work except that I loved you the moment I laid eyes on you.  For your sake, I’d do any boring, horrible work your father made me do.

Miranda: Do you really love me?

Ferdinand: I swear that I love you.

Miranda: Oh!  You’re making me cry.

Ferdinand: Why are you crying?

Miranda: I’m sure I’m not worthy of you.  But never mind.  I’ll be your wife if you’ll have me.  Otherwise, I’ll just be your servant and live out the rest of my life as a virgin.

Ferdinand: I’m so touched, I hardly know what to say.

Miranda: Then you’ll marry me?

Ferdinand: Yes!

Miranda: Then I give you my heart.  But I have to go now.  I’ll be back soon.

Ferdinand: I’ll wait for you forever if I have to.

    (They leave in different directions.)

Prospero: They’re so happy right now.  And I’m almost as happy.  But I’ve got to get back to my books.  I’ve got things to do before dinner.

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Another part of the island.  Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo come in.

Stephano: We’re not drinking water until the wine runs out.  Come on, servant monster, drink to me.

Trinculo: There’s only five people on this island, and we’re three of them.  If the other two are like us, this place is going downhill for sure.

Stephano: Some on, monster, drink up.–Boy, he’s really wasted.–Come on, monster.  You can be my lieutenant or my flag-bearer.

Trinculo: You’re both wasted.

Stephano: Say something, you gargoyle.

Caliban: I’ll lick your shoes but not his.  He’s not a hero like you.

Trinculo: What do you mean?  I could punch a sergeant-at-arms if I felt like it.  And I could drink either one of you under the table, you ugly fish.

Caliban: Are you going to let him insult me like that, my lord?

Trinculo: Lord?  What an idiot!

Caliban: There!  He insulted me again!

Stephano: Knock it off, Trinculo.  Otherwise I’ll hang you.

Caliban: Thank you, my lord.  Now, I was telling you something before.  Can I explain it to you again?

Stephano: Yes, yes.

    (Ariel comes in, invisible.)

Caliban: As I was telling you before, I’m the slave of a cruel tyrant and sorcerer who stole this island from me.

Ariel: You’re a liar.

Caliban (To Trinculo): I’m no liar!  You’re a liar, you monkey!

Stephano: Trinculo, don’t offend him any more or I’ll smack you.

Trinculo: I didn’t say anything.

Stephano: Just shut up.–Now, you were saying.

Caliban: Yes.  He stole this island from me by sorcery.  If you wanted to get revenge on him — and I know you would, even if this jerk wouldn’t —

Stephano: That’s for sure.

Caliban: –You’d be ruler of the island, and I’d serve you.

Stephano: And how would we go about this?  Can you take me to him?

Caliban: For sure.  I’ll take you to him when he’s sleeping, and you can pound a nail into his head.

Ariel: No, you can’t, you liar.

Caliban (To Trinculo): You asshole!–Master, punch him out.

Stephano: Trinculo, I told you to knock it off!  If you shoot your mouth off again, I’ll knock your teeth out!

Trinculo: I didn’t say a word!  Jeez.  Let me step away.

Stephano: Didn’t you call him a liar?

Ariel: You’re a liar.

Stephano: I’m a liar?  Take that!  (He punches Trinculo.)  Call me a liar again, and I’ll punch you even harder.

Trinculo: I didn’t call you a liar!  You’re crazy!  You’ve had too much to drink.  And this guy can go fuck himself.

Caliban: No, you can!

Stephano (To Caliban): I want to hear more about your plan.  (To Trinculo) And you just step away….Further.

Caliban: As I was saying, this tyrant likes to take a nap in the afternoon.  First you have to steal his books.  He’s nothing without them.  They have all his sorcery secrets.  Then you can bash his brains in.  You can burn the books and keep all his furniture and other stuff.  And you can marry his daughter.  She’s a beauty.

Stephano: Sounds good to me.  I’ll kill him and marry his daughter.  We’ll be King and Queen of the island.  And you and Trinculo can be lords.–What to you think of that, Trinculo?

Trinculo: I’m all for it.

Stephano: I’m sorry I hit you.  Just don’t push my button.

Caliban: He’ll be sleeping in a half hour.  So you’ll do it?

Stephano: I sure will.

Ariel (Aside): I’ll have to inform Prospero.

Caliban: Oh!  I’m so happy I could just sing!

    (Ariel plays music on a pipe.)

Stephano: Whoa!  Where’s that music coming from?

Trinculo: It’s coming out of thin air!

Stephano: Show yourself!  Who are you?

Caliban: Oh, don’t be afraid.  This island is full of strange noises.  Sometimes I hear a thousand instruments playing.  It’s the fairies that do it.

Stephano: Oh, yeah?  Hey, free music.  I’ll bet even a lot of kings don’t get free music.

Trinculo: It’s going away.  Let’s follow it and see where it goes.

Stephano: Yeah, let’s follow it.  Come on, monster.  You lead the way.  We’ll take care of your problem later.

    (Caliban hesitates, looking annoyed.)

Trinculo (To Caliban): Well?  Come on.  You lead.  I’ll follow Stephano.

    (Caliban leads them out.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  Another part of the island.  Alonso, Sebastian, Gonzalo, Adrian, and Francisco come in.

Gonzalo: I’m exhausted after walking through this maze.  I have to rest.

Alonso: Me, too.  I need a break.  We’re wasting our time searching for Ferdinand.  It’s hopeless.

Antonio (Aside to Sebastian): Remember what we agreed to do.

Sebastian (Aside to Antonio): Next chance we get.

Antonio (Aside to Sebastian): We’ll do it tonight.  They’ll be too tired to be on their guard.

Sebastian (Aside to Antonio): Right.

    (Strange music is heard.  Prospero, invisible, is above.  Strange-looking spirits come in, bearing the makings of a banquet.  They dance and gesture to the party, inviting them to eat.  Then they leave.)

Alonso: Whoa!  Who delivers food out here?  Did you see that?

Gonzalo: Yes!  And there’s music coming out of nowhere!

Alonso: That sure as hell wasn’t Domino’s Pizza.  What were they — angels?

Sebastian: Beats me.  But after this I’ll believe anything.

Antonio: They’ll never believe this back in Milan — assuming we ever get back.

Gonzalo: They wouldn’t believe it in Naples either.  But we saw it.  These beings — whatever they were — didn’t look human.  But they acted more graciously than most people I’ve ever known.

Prospero (Aside): That’s because so many of your acquaintances are more like devils than people.

Alonso: They communicated so gracefully, without even speaking.

Francisco: And then they just vanished.

Sebastian: And the best thing of all is, they didn’t leave a bill.  So!  We’ve got free food.  And I sure as hell am hungry.

Alonso: I’m not going to eat it.  I don’t know where it came from.

Gonzalo: Oh, it doesn’t matter.  Look, we’ve all heard strange stories from travelers returning from far-away places.  So this will be our strange story to tell when we get back.

Alonso: You think so?  All right.  Whatever.  I might as well eat, then, even if it’s the last meal I ever have.  At this point I don’t care any more.

    (Thunder and lightning.  Ariel comes in, in the form of a harpy.  He claps his wings on the table, and the food disappears.)

Antonio: Hey, I had a pork chop in front of me!

Sebastian: Where’s my meat ball?

Alonso: Where’s my bagel?

Ariel: You are three wicked men, Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian.  Fate made the tempest that wrecked you upon this island, so that you would go mad and kill yourselves.  (Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian draw their swords.)  Ha!  Your swords are useless.  We are agents of Fate.  You can’t hurt us.  Even now your swords are so heavy you can’t even lift them.  I have come to remind you that you drove Prospero out of Milan, and all the elements of nature are against you.  Alonso, they have claimed your son, and you yourself shall meet a terrible end unless you repent of your wicked crime and make up for it.

    (Ariel vanishes in thunder.  Then, as soft music is heard, the strange shapes return, dancing around with mocking gestures, and carry away the banquet table.)

Prospero: That was the best fucking harpy I ever saw outside of the Feminist Studies Deapartment at the university.  Between Ariel and all the little spirits and my superb magic, I’ve got these sons of bitches so confused and out of their minds, they’re totally in my power.  Now I think I’ll go check on Ferdinand, who they all think drowned, and my daughter. 

    (Prospero goes out, above.)

Gonzalo: My lord, what’s the matter?

Alonso: A voice spoke to me.  It spoke the name of Prospero.  It knew what I did.  I’ve been punished.  My son is dead.  Wherever he is, I’m going to join him.  Ferdinand!

    (Alonso runs out.)

Sebastian: I’ll fight them!  I don’t care if they’re spirits!

Antonio: I’ll fight them, too!

    (Sebastian and Antonio run out.)

Gonzalo: We’ve got to go after them before they get into big trouble!

Adrian and Francisco: Right!  Okay!

    (All three run out.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  In front of Prospero’s cell.  Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda come in.

Prospero: I had to punish you the way I did to test you to see if you really loved my daughter.  Now that you’ve proven yourself, I’m happy to let you marry her.  The only condition is that she can’t lose her virginity before the wedding, otherwise the whole marriage will be cursed.

Ferdinand: No problem.

Prospero: Good.  You two sit and talk.  I’ve got to call my servant.–Ariel!  Ariel!

    (Ariel comes in.)

Ariel: I’m here, boss.

Prospero: Hey, that was a really great act you and your little gang put on with that disappearing food.  Fucking hilarious! 

Ariel: Thanks, boss.

Prospero: Now go round up your little spirit buddies and bring them here.  We’ve got a young couple who just got engaged, and I want to put on a little show for them.

Ariel: Right away, boss.

    (Ariel leaves.  Then Prospero catches Ferdinand and Miranda kissing.)

Prospero: Don’t get too carried away.  Remember what I said.

Ferdinand: It’s okay.  I won’t get a hard-on thinking about how pure she is.

Prospero: Whatever.–Okay, Ariel, bring your spirits.–Quiet, everyone.  You out there, no talking.  Just watch.  This is fucking poetic.

    (Soft music.  A spirit comes in as the goddess Iris.)

Iris: O Ceres, goddess of grain and harvests, leave that great organic supermarket in the sky and come down and play with me, Iris, your goddess of the rainbow.

    (Ceres comes in.)

Ceres: Hail, rainbow goddess, who waters my flowers and grains with multicoloured rains.  O messenger of our supreme goddess, Juno, why are we called to be here?

Iris: To celebrate a marriage and give gifts to the young couple.

Ceres: And who is with Juno now?  Is it Venus and her son, Cupid?–because I’m not talking to them any more, ever since they helped Pluto abduct my daughter, Proserpine.

Iris: No, no.  I saw them going to Paphos.  They thought they could work some mischief here, but Cupid changed his mind and broke his arrows.

    (Juno descends to the ground.)

Ceres: It’s Juno, Queen of the Gods!

Juno: How’s it going, sister?  Let’s bless the married couple-to-be.

    (Juno and Ceres sing.)

    May you have a bed of roses,

    And nothing smelly in your noses,

    Find an upscale neighbourhood,

    And have a lot of luxury goods,

    Food and wine and recreation,

    Little crime and low taxation,

    No rats or bugs or alligators,

    No anarchists or demonstrators,

    Pleasant weather, warm and sunny,

    Mutual funds that make you money,

    Brilliant children who excel,

    And go to Harvard or to Yale,

    Good health and luck and happiness,

    All your projects great success,

    Good sex till you’re eighty-two —

    All these things we wish for you.

Ferdinand: This is wonderful!  And are these spirits?

Prospero: Yes.  This island is full of spirits, and I make them do whatever I want with my magic.

Ferdinand: Then this must be paradise.  I want to live here forever.

    (Juno and Ceres whisper, then give an instruction to Iris.)

Prospero: Wait.  There’s more.  You out there, quiet!

Iris: Juno commands all the water spirits to appear.  (Water spirits appear.)  And now reapers from the fields.  Come and dance, all together.

    (Reapers appear.  They dance with the water spirits.  After an interval of dancing, Prospero starts suddenly and says “Stop!”  There is a confused noise signifying the breaking of the spell, and all the spirit characters leave reluctantly.)

Prospero (Aside): I completely forgot!  That beast Caliban and his two friends intend to kill me.  (To the spirits) Well done!  Thanks!  Party’s over.  Sorry.

Ferdinand (To Miranda): What’s with your father?

Miranda: I don’t know.  I never saw him like this before.

Prospero: Don’t be upset, kids.  We had a nice show, and it’s over.  These were just spirits, so of course they vanished into thin air.  And so will we someday, and the whole world, for that matter.  That’s life.  Here and gone — poof!  Anyway, don’t worry about me.  It’s just old age.  I’ll take a little walk and then I’ll feel better.  You two can go inside and relax–uh, you know what I mean.

Ferdinand and Miranda: Okay.  (They leave, into the cell.)

Prospero: Hey, Ariel!

    (Ariel comes in.)

Ariel: Yes, boss.

Prospero: We have to get ready for Caliban.

Ariel: Right.  I should have reminded you sooner, but once the show started, I didn’t want to spoil your mood.

Prospero: It’s okay.  So where did you leave those morons?

Ariel: As I told you before, they were totally shit-faced drunk.  So when I made my music they ran after me, and I led them through all the worst terrain — bogs, thorn bushes, rocks, all that stuff — and right into that big pool of mud beyond your cell.  You should’ve seen them, all covered in that stinking awful muck.  It was so funny!

Prospero: Perfect.  I want you to stay invisible.  Now go into my cell and bring out the fancy clothes, and we’ll use them as bait for those suckers.

Ariel: Right, boss!  (He leaves.)

Prospero: That fucking retarded Caliban.  What a hopeless case.  I don’t know why I ever tried to make a civilized person out of him.  He’s as stupid as he is ugly.  I’m going to fix all of them.  (Ariel returns with a lot of fancy clothes.)  Hang them on the clothesline.  We’ll both be invisible.  This’ll be fun!

    (Ariel hangs the clothes.  Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo come in, wet and muddy.)

Caliban: We gotta tiptoe so we don’t wake him up.  We’re right outside his cell.

Stephano: I thought you said the fairies were friendly.  Look at us.  We’re soaking wet.

Trinculo: And I smell like horse piss.

Caliban: I’m sorry.  Just be patient, and I’ll help you kill that old bastard like I promised.  Only keep your voices down.

Trinculo: Fuck, man, we lost our wine in the pool.

Stephano: Yeah, man.  We’re not only wet and smell like piss, we gotta go without wine.  That’s pretty dishonourable for men of our social standing.

Caliban: Shh!  See here?  It’s the entrance to his cell.  Just go in and be real quiet, and then just do him, and the island is yours.

Stephano: Yeah, I’ll be King Stephano!

Trinculo: Hey, look at these clothes hanging out here!  Hey, these are cool duds!  King Stephano, you gotta look good if you’re gonna be King.

Caliban: Forget about that stuff.  It’s junk.

Trinculo: What do you mean — junk?  Don’t tell us what’s junk.  We’ve been in more Indian bargain stores than you have.  (Shows off a gown.)  Oh, King Stephano, look at me!

Stephano: Gimme that!

Trinculo: By all means.  Please yourself, your Majesty.

Caliban: Will you guys knock it off!  Forget that shit!  We came here to kill the guy!  If he wakes up and catches us, he’ll turn us into toads!

Stephano: Aw, shut up.–Now here’s a great-looking jacket.  Do I rule in this jacket or not, Trinculo?

Trinculo: That jacket is you!

Stephano: And these pants go with it perfectly.  I’ll be a regular fashion plate.  Ooh, look, I’m on the runway!  Hey, I’ll create my own label — Stephano of Fairyland.

Trinculo: I get a percentage.–Come on, monster, take some of these clothes.

Caliban: No way!  We’re wasting time!  Forget all this shit!

Stephano: You’re my servant, so you carry this stuff for me.

Trinculo: And this stuff, too.

    (Sounds of hunters are heard — shots and the barking of hounds.  Spirits in the shapes of hounds come in, as Prospero and Ariel urge them on.)

Prospero: Go get ’em, Blackie!

Ariel: Get ’em, Tiger!

    (Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo run out in terror, as the spirit hounds chase them.)

Prospero: Goodbye, rubberheads!  So long, boobs!

Ariel: Go blow up some inner tubes!

Prospero: I’ve got all my enemies right where I want them now.  Pretty soon I’ll be finished with them, and you, my clever spirit of the air, will get your freedom.  Come on.  Follow me.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  In front of Prospero’s cell.  Prospero comes in, in his magic robes, with Ariel.

Prospero: We’re almost through with this business.  How are the King and his friends doing?

Ariel: They’re tied up in the woods nearby, exactly as you ordered.  The King, Sebastian, and Antonio are in the worst shape.  They’re practically out of their minds.  The others are trying to comfort them.  Gonzalo feels especially bad for them.  Your magic is so powerful, I think even you’d feel sorry for them.

Prospero: Well, I do.  It’s true that they did wicked things against me, and they deserve to feel some pain for that.  But the point is to force them to admit to their crimes and show remorse.  Go release them, and I’ll stop my magic and give them a chance to recover.

Ariel: Right, boss!  (He leaves.)

Prospero: For all these years on this island I’ve worked my magic on all the beasts and spirits, and all the elements of the earth, the sea, and the sky.  I’ve conjured up amazing phenomena — awe-inspiring, and sometimes destructive.  But all that will soon be over with.  There’ll be no more magic.  I’ll break my magic wand and throw away my books.  Instead, I’ll rely on heaven’s help to set my enemies straight in their hearts and bring my business to a good outcome.

    (Solemn music is heard.  Ariel comes in, followed by Alonso, who is attended by Gonzalo; then Sebastian and Antonio, who are attended by Adrian and Francisco.  They stand within a magic circle made by Prospero and are in a charmed state.)

Prospero:  Well, well.  Here are my enemies with their scrambled brains.  You’re full of pity for them, aren’t you, Gonzalo?  That’s because you have a good heart.  When we get home, I won’t forget your kindness from many years ago.  Well, it appears the spell is wearing off, and these fellows will soon be back to normal.–You, Alonso, King of Naples.  You and your brother, Sebastian, were very cruel to me and my daughter.  And you, Antonio, my own brother, got carried away with your ambition.  And what’s more, you and Sebastian would have killed your own King.  I forgive you, despite your disloyalty.  Ah!  It’s all sinking is, isn’t it?  Now you three are finally understanding your sins.–Ariel, go get my hat and sword and my ducal clothing.  I’m going to wear what I wore when I was Duke of Milan.

    (Ariel goes out and returns quickly with the items and helps Prospero put them on.)

Ariel: Looking good, boss!  And you’re going to set me free, right?

Prospero: Very soon.  And I’ll miss you.  But right now, go to the King’s ship — stay invisible, mind you — and you’ll find the crew still asleep.  Wake up the master and the boatswain and bring them here.  And make it fast.

Ariel: I’m zooming!  (He leaves.)

Gonzalo: This island must be controlled by supernatural forces!  God get us out of here!

Prospero: Look at me, Alonso.  Recognize me?  Prospero — the Duke of Milan.  In the flesh.  If you don’t believe your eyes, let me embrace you.  (Embraces Alonso.)  Welcome, all of you, to my humble island.

Alonso: Is it really you, or an apparition?  I don’t know what to think.  But you seem real.  You feel real.  And my mind feels normal again.  I can’t explain any of this.  But I give up the dukedom of Milan.  I return it to you.  Forgive me for the wrongs I’ve done.

Gonzalo: Am I dreaming all this?

Prospero: I don’t blame you for wondering.  There are a lot of strange things on this island.  Anyway, we’re all on good terms now.  (Aside to Sebastian and Antonio) And I won’t tell the King that you guys intended to kill him.  You, Sebastian, are a scumbag, and I’m glad you’re not my brother.  But I forgive you anyway.  And you’ll see to it, of course, that I get my dukedom back.

Alonso: If you’re Prospero, how did you end up here?  How did you know we were shipwrecked?  Listen, I lost my son, Ferdinand.

Prospero: I’m sorry to hear it.  I lost my daughter.

Alonso: That’s terrible.  I wish they were both alive.  I wish they were the King and Queen of Naples.  I’d gladly take my dead son’s place at the bottom of the sea to make it so.  When did you lose your daughter?

Prospero: In the last storm.  I can tell that your friends still don’t know what to think.–It’s true, you guys.  I’m Prospero.  I was expelled from Milan.  By good luck I ended up here with my daughter.  But never mind.  It’s a long story.  (To Alonso) This is my cell, sir.  And there’s a little surprise in it for you.  Let me show you.  Since you’re returning my dukedom to me, the least I can do is return something to you.

    (Prospero opens a curtain, revealing Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess.)

Ferdinand: Rook takes pawn.  Check.

Miranda: Ooh!  What comes after check?

Ferdinand: If you don’t defend yourself, I’ll mate you.

Miranda: Mate me?  Ooh, how thrilling!

Alonso: Oh!  Oh!  Is it really my son?  Alive?

Ferdinand: Father!

Miranda: Ooh, look at all these handsome men!  Imagine what the outside world must be like to have such handsome men!

Prospero: You’ll find out.

Alonso: Who is this girl?  Is she a goddess?

Ferdinand: Only to me.  I’m going to marry her.  She’s the daughter of the Duke of Milan.

Alonso: Oh.  Then I must ask her forgiveness as well.

Prospero: Forget it.  We’re through all that.

Gonzalo: Bless this couple!  The gods arranged all this.

Alonso: Amen.

Gonzalo: Think of it.  The Duke of Milan was expelled, and now his daughter will someday be the Queen of Naples.  In one voyage Claribel found a husband in Tunis, and her brother found a wife here, where he was shipwrecked.  And Prospero has regained his dukedom.  And we’ve all found ourselves alive when we should have been dead.

Alonso (To Ferdinand and Miranda): Give me your hands.  We all wish you happiness forever.

    (Ariel, who is still invisible to everyone except Prospero, comes in, with the Master and Boatswain following in rapt amazement.)

Gonzalo: Look who’s here!  I told you this boatswain would never drown.  You should’ve heard him cursing when we were in the storm.  Now he’s dumbstruck.–What’s the matter, Boatswain, can’t you speak on dry land?  What can you tell us?

Boatswain: I’m glad to see you all alive.  The ship is okay, believe it or not.  We thought it was wrecked, but like magic, it’s in perfect shape.

Ariel (Aside to Prospero): How’d I do, boss?

Prospero (Aside to Ariel): Brilliant.

Alonso: Boy, things just get stranger and stranger around here.  How did you two find your way here?

Boatswain: I’m not sure, sir.  I’m still rather groggy.  We were fast asleep below deck, and I can’t even explain that.  And then there were all these weird sounds like howling and screaming and clanking chains, and we woke up, and we couldn’t believe the ship wasn’t smashed to pieces.  And then something led us here like in a dream.  It’s totally crazy.

Alonso: This is some kind of supernatural stuff.  We’d need a wise man or a prophet to explain it.

Prospero: Don’t worry about it.  I’ll explain everything to you later.  It’s all good.  Trust me. (Aside to Ariel) Now’s the time to set Caliban and his companions free.  Break the spell.  (Ariel leaves.)  Now, let’s see.  There are still a couple of your people left to be accounted for.  And, speak of the devil, here they are.

    (Ariel returns, driving in Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo in their stolen clothes.)

Stephano: We have to stick together or we’re done for.  Be brave, monster!

Trinculo: Whoa!  Am I seeing right?  I sure hope so!

Caliban: It’s my master.  Uh, oh.  I hope I’m not in deep shit.

Sebastian: What the fuck?  Look at these strange creatures, Antonio.  Think they’re worth anything?

Antonio: I think so.  We could certainly sell that big, ugly fish.

Prospero: Take a good look at these guys, my lords.  They’re wearing their badges of honour — as thieves.  This awful brute belongs to me.  The other two I believe you know.  All three of them stole my clothes, and they were plotting to kill me.

Caliban: Fuck me.  I’m dead.

Alonso: This is Stephano, my drunken butler.  And Trinculo, my jester.  He’s just as drunk.–How’d you guys end up like this?

Trinculo: We’ve been like this since we last saw you.  And to tell the truth, I don’t mind if I stay this way.

Sebastian: How do you feel, Stephano?

Stephano: Don’t touch me!  My whole body has a hangover — not just my head.

Prospero: And you would’ve been king of the island, would you?

Stephano: I would’ve been a mean one.

Alonso: Your ugly guy is like nothing I ever saw before.

Prospero: Believe me, he’s as fucked up mentally as he looks physically.–Hey, Caliban.  Go to my cell and take your buddies with you and clean every square inch of the place if you want me to forgive you.

Caliban: I will, master.  I’ll be good from now on.  I must have been crazy to worship this drunk like a god.

    (Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo leave.)

Prospero: Your Majesty, you and your party will stay in my cell tonight.  I’ll tell you the whole story about my life on this island.  And in the morning, we’ll go to your ship and return to Naples, and the kids will get married.  After that, I’ll go back to Milan and live out the rest of my life.

Alonso: I certainly want to hear your story.

Prospero: I’ll tell you everything.  And I can promise you we’ll have perfect weather and favourable winds for the trip back.  (Aside to Ariel) That’s your job.  See to it.  And that’ll be the last thing you ever have to do for me.  After that, you’re free.  (To the others) And now, everyone, gather round.

    (All leave.)

    EPILOGUE (Spoken by Prospero)

    For those who crashed upon our shores

    The only magic left is yours.

    My spells, I’ve thrown them all away,

    And I shall charm no more.

        Our safe return depends on you.

        Treat us as you would have us do

        If places were reversed — please think

        Of Ferdinand and Miranda, too.

    Forgive as you would be forgiven,

    That all of us might go to heaven,

    For we’re all players on a stage —

    By fateful winds we’re driven.

        We send you out into the night.

        We hope we’ve given you delight.

        Now show us with your kind applause

        That we have got it right.


    Copyright@ 2010 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

Lear — King of Britain

Goneril, Regan, Cordelia — his daughters

Duke of Albany — Goneril’s husband

Duke of Cornwall — Regan’s husband

Earl of Gloucester

Edgar and Edmund — sons of Gloucester (Edmund is illegitimate)

Earl of Kent

Oswald — Goneril’s steward

Fool — Lear’s jester

Duke of Burgundy

King of France

Curan — a courtier

Old Man

Gist of the story: King Lear is old and wants to step down and relinquish his kingdom to his daughters.  Goneril and Regan put on a big show of affection, which wins them big shares.  But modest, pure-hearted Cordelia refuses to indulge in flattery.  The King misinterprets her attitude as a lack of love for him, so he cuts her out and rejects her.  She marries the King of France.  Now at the mercy of his other two daughters, Lear is treated like a useless old man and a pain in the ass.  He loses his mind over their bad treatment of him and runs away, accompanied by his Fool and his new servant, who is actually the banished Earl of Kent returned in disguise.  Meanwhile, the Earl of Gloucester is deceived by his illegitimate son, Edmund, into believing that good son Edgar intends to kill him.  Edgar flees and disguises himself as a mad beggar.  Gloucester is betrayed by Edmund as a spy for France and for helping Lear, and his eyes are gouged out by the Duke of Cornwall, Regan’s husband.  Cornwall is killed by an enraged servant.  The blind Gloucester, kicked out of his own house, is rescued by the still-disguised Edgar and led to safety.  Lear is led to the French forces now landed in Dover by the loyal, protective Kent, still disguised as a servant.  There is a battle between the French forces, accompanied by Cordelia, who intends to help Lear recover his kingdom, and the British forces, led by Edmund and Albany.  Edmund leads Regan’s forces in lieu of the deceased Cornwall; Albany is overall commander, although his sympathies are with Lear, and he’s only in it because the French have invaded.  Goneril wants to have Albany killed so she can marry Edmund, but Regan also wants Edmund.  So Goneril decides to poison Regan.  Albany learns of Goneril’s treachery and exposes both her and Edmund.  Edgar arrives and slays his evil brother.  Goneril, now exposed, and seeing Edmund fatally wounded, commits suicide.  Cordelia is hanged on orders from Edmund conveyed before his death.   Her death is too much for Lear — the two having been reconciled — and he dies of grief.  Albany is left to rule Britain.  (In the words of Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley, “King Lear is the tragedy in which evil is shown in the greatest abundance; and the evil characters are peculiarly repellent from their hard savagery, and because so little good is mingled with their evil.  The effect is therefore more startling than elsewhere; it is even appalling.”)

Act 1, Scene 1.  King Lear’s palace.  Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund come in.

Kent: I always thought the King liked Albany better than Cornwall.

Gloucester: I thought so, too.  But looking at the map and the way he wants to divide up the kingdom, the shares look pretty equal.

Kent: So this is your son, eh?

Gloucester: Yup.  My boy Edmund.  Actually, he’s, uh, what you might call, uh, sort of, well, illegitimate, ha, ha.  Technically.

Kent: Not a problem.  I’m not prejudiced.  He looks like a fine lad.

Gloucester: He is.  His brother Edgar is a year older.  He is legitimate, ha, ha.  But I treat them as equals.  My sons and heirs.–Edmund, this is my good friend, the Earl of Kent.

Edmund: It’s an honour to meet you, sir.

Kent: I expect to be hearing more about you in the future, Edmund.

Edmund: Oh, you will, sir.

Gloucester: Ah, here comes the King.

    (A trumpet flourish.  The King comes in, along with the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall, daughters Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, and Attendants.)

Lear: Gloucester, go and entertain the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy, okay?

Gloucester: Sure thing, my lord.–Come on, Edmund.  (Gloucester and Edmund leave.)

Lear: Now, let’s get down to business.  Here’s the map.  As you can see, I’ve divided the kingdom into three parts.  I’m tired, and I want to take it easy in my old age and let the young bloods take over.  Cornwall and Albany, you’re my sons-in-law, and I don’t want you to fight about shares later, so we’ll settle it all now.  The King of France and the Duke of Burgundy both want to marry Cordelia, so they have an interest in the matter as well.  Now, I’m going to give out the shares of the kingdom according to who loves me the most.  How’s that?  Goneril, you’re the oldest.  What do you have to say?

    (Goneril smothers the King with hugs and kisses while speaking.)

Goneril: Oh, daddy dearest!  I love you more than anyone else in the world!  You’re the Number One super-best daddy that ever lived!  I’m so lucky to be your little girl!  I love you tons and tons and tons!  Darling daddy!  I love you the most!  I love you and only you!

Cordelia (Aside): What a vulgar display.

Lear: Ha, ha, ha, well, well, well!  That’s wonderful, sweetheart!  What a good daughter you are!  So, let’s see now.  You’re going to get this part here, from this line to this — all the pretty flowers and trees and meadows and rivers, and no grotty immigrants.  That’s for you and your husband, Albany, and your future children and grandchildren forever.  And now, Regan, my middle daughter, wife of our good fellow Cornwall, what do you have to say?

    (Regan jumps all over the King and smothers him with hugs and kisses as she speaks.)

Regan: Oh, daddy, I love you just as much as Goneril and even more!  I adore you!  I worship the ground you walk on!  I love you with all the love in my heart!  I can’t even find words to tell you how much I love you!  I’m the one who loves you the most, absolutely, without doubt!  I want to kiss every hair on your adorable head!  You’re the only one I love!

Cordelia (Aside): Fuck me.  I never went to acting school.

Lear: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!  Oh, my wonderful Regan!  What a daughter!  To you and your family forever I give this part of the kingdom, from here to here, which is every bit as good as Goneril’s, with lots of trees and flowers and the most expensive birds, and excellent land for future development.  And now, last but not least, my youngest daughter, Cordelia, who has not one but two noble suitors who want to marry her, ha, ha.  So, what do you say, girl?

Cordelia: Nothing.

Lear: What’s that?

Cordelia: I’m not good at expressing my feelings.  I’m your daughter, and I love you the way a daughter should love her father — no more and no less.

Lear: Is that all you can say?  Maybe you should try again.  We’re talking about a big inheritance here.

Cordelia: Is there something I’m supposed to prove?  I’m not going to flatter you.  I’ve been a good, obedient daughter.  How can my sisters say they love only you when they have husbands?  If I were married, half my love would have to go to my husband.

Lear: So that’s the way you feel?

Cordelia: I’m just being honest.

Lear: And you wouldn’t flatter me just a little bit to make me happy?

Cordelia: No.

Lear: Then you don’t love me.  That’s obvious.  In that case you can keep your honesty as your sole inheritance.  You’re out.  You’re not my daughter any more.  I’m through with you.

Kent: Uh, my lord–

Lear: Stay out of this, Kent.–Cornwall and Albany, you and my daughters will split the portion that Cordelia would have gotten.  The two of you will rule jointly, with all the powers and privileges and property, et cetera.   I’ll just keep a hundred knights for myself, as befits a retired king,  And I’ll take turns living with each of you.  As for Cordelia, we’ll see who wants to marry her now.

Kent: My King, to whom I’ve always been loyal, I really must say–

Lear: Forget it, will you!

Kent: My lord, it’s my duty to speak frankly if I think you’re making a mistake.  You’re wrong to think Cordelia doesn’t love you.  She just doesn’t want to be phony like the other two.

Lear: Kent, I swear, you’d better be quiet!

Kent: The only thing I’ve ever cared about is your best interests.

Lear: Just get out of my sight!

Lear: You’ve lost your common sense!  You should take back your kingdom!  Don’t give it away to these two!  You’ll regret it!

Lear: Kent, you’re a traitor!  I’ll give you six days to get out of the country.  After that, if you’re found here, I’ll have you executed!

Kent: Very well.  I’ll go.  (To Cordelia)  May God protect you for your honesty.– Gentlemen, goodbye.

    (Kent leaves.  Then a trumpet flourish announces Gloucester leading in the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy, with Attendants.)

Gloucester: We played some snooker to pass the time, my lord.

Lear: Wonderful.  So, Burgundy, you want to marry my daughter.  What sort of dowry do you want?

Burgundy: Whatever you’ve given her is fine with me.

Lear: She’s just been disinherited.  We’re unhappy with her.  She’s getting zero.  Nada.  Rien.

Burgundy: What?

Lear: If you want her, you can have her as is — no extras.

Burgundy: Oh….Well….That sort of changes things, doesn’t it?

Lear: Right.  You don’t want her.  (To the King of France) And as for your Majesty, I wouldn’t expect you to want her either with no dowry.

France: Well, this is weird.  I always thought she was the one you loved most.  Now you’re disowning her.  What did she do, murder someone?  Convert to Islam?  Use the wrong fork? 

Cordelia: Tell him the truth, dad.  You’re disinheriting me because I’m not a phony flatterer like my sisters.  They slobbered all over you to get as much as they could.

Lear: That’s not the point.  The point is that they knew it would make me happy, so they flattered me.  But you wouldn’t.  You deliberately didn’t do something to please me, which means you don’t love me the way they do.

France: Now I get it.  You wanted to be indulged in your old age.  That’s it, right?

Lear: Yes.  Why not?

France: Well, Burgundy, do you still love her with no dowry?

Burgundy: My lord Lear, if you would just let Cordelia have what you originally intended–

Lear: Nope.  My mind’s made up. 

Burgundy: I see….I’m sorry, Cordelia.  You’re very sweet, but, you see, I assumed–

Cordelia: It’s quite all right.  I understand.

France: I’ll take you just as you are, Cordelia.  You’re honest.  And brave.  Your character is dowry enough for me.  I’ll marry you.

Lear: She’s all yours, France.  Good riddance to her.–Come on, guys, let’s have a drink. 

    (Lear, Burgundy, Cornwall, Albany, and Gloucester leave, with Attendants.)

France: Well, say goodbye to your sisters, Cordelia.

Cordelia: Daddy’s darlings.  Take good care of our father.  I leave him in your benevolent, loving hands.

Regan: Don’t tell us what to do.

Goneril: You take care of your husband.  He must have a soft spot for hard luck cases.

Cordelia: May the wicked receive their just desserts.  Good luck.

France: Let’s go, my dear.

    (France and Cordelia leave.)

Goneril: Well, I’d say we both came out of this better than either of us expected.  I think dad will stay with us first.

Regan: Okay.  And we’ll take him next month.

Goneril: He’s getting old, you know.  And I think he’s losing his marbles.  Cordelia was his favorite.

Regan: I don’t think he realizes how he’s changed.

Goneril: We’re going to have our hands full.  Old people can be such a pain in the ass.

Regan: And unpredictable.  Look at the way he banished Kent — one of his best friends.

Regan: And did you see how rude he was just walking out on the King of France?  If this is any indication of how unstable he is, I don’t think it’s wise to let him keep any sort of power.

Regan: I’m with you on that.

Goneril: We’re going to have to do something to rein him in.  And I mean sooner rather than later.

    (They leave.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  The Earl of Gloucester’s castle.  Edmund comes in, holding a letter.

Edmund: I’m fed up with social discrimination against so-called illegitimate children.  I’m every bit as good as my legitimate brother, Edgar — better, in fact.  And now I’m going to steal his inheritance.  Power to the bastards!

    (Gloucester comes in.)

Gloucester: I can’t believe it.  Kent has been banished.  The King of France went home offended.  And Lear has given up practically all his power to Goneril and Regan.  And all this in one day.  What next?  Edmund, have you got some news there?

Edmund (Pretending to hide the letter): No, no.  Nothing at all.

Gloucester: What’s that letter?

Edmund: Oh, nothing.  Never mind.

Gloucester: Why are you trying to hide it?  What is it?

Edmund: It’s, uh…it’s from Edgar.  But I haven’t finished reading it.  I don’t think you’d want to see it.

Gloucester: Give it here.

Edmund: Okay, but don’t blame me for it.

Gloucester (Reads letter): ‘We could be enjoying ourselves if the old man were out of the way.  Why should we wait till he dies of old age?  Let’s get rid of him and split the money.  Meet with me, and we’ll make our plans.  Edgar.’  What the hell?  Edgar wrote this?  How did you get it?

Edmund: I found it on my window sill.

Gloucester: Is this his handwriting?

Edmund: I’m afraid it is.

Gloucester: Yes….It looks like it….Did he ever say anything like this to you before?

Edmund: No.  But I’ve heard him say several times that young men of our age should be able to take control of their parents’ money and let the parents be dependent instead of the children.

Gloucester: That no-good kid!  I’ll kick his ass!  Wants to get ride of me, eh?  Go and find him.  Do you know where he is?

Edmund: I don’t know.  But, really, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  Maybe there’s some explanation for this letter.  Could be he just wrote it to test me.

Gloucester: You think so?

Edmund: It’s possible.

Gloucester: Yes.  Of course.  After all, he couldn’t be that evil, to want to kill his own father.

Edmund: No, I don’t think so.  But let me talk to him and find out the truth.  Let me do it in my own way.  Trust me, okay?

Gloucester: Yes, yes.  Good.  I leave it to you.  Get the truth out of him.  I need to know one way or the other. 

Edmund: So do I.  I’ll take care of it.  Don’t worry.

Gloucester: God, it must be something in the stars.  Nothing makes sense any more.  The world’s going to hell.  There’s crime, war, the breakdown of the family.  And a good guy like Kent getting banished for no reason.  Hell, I need a drink.

    (Gloucester leaves.)

Edmund: Typical dumbness!  It’s all in the stars.  We don’t make our own problems.  We’re just victims of the stars and planets.  Oh!  Oh!  What’s going to happen?  Better look at the stars!  Uh, oh, it’s a comet!  That’s bad!  Which comet is it?  Why, it’s Comet…(Edgar comes in.)…Edgar!

Edgar: Hey, bro.  Boy, you’ve got a strange look in your eyes.  What’s going on?

Edmund: Oh, it’s those eclipses we had recently.  Bad omens, you know.

Edgar: Come on.  Don’t take that stuff seriously.

Edmund: Oh, you don’t know.  Strange events in the sky are signs of strange events to come on earth.

Edgar: I didn’t know you believed in astrology.

Edmund: When did you see dad last?

Edgar: Last night.  Why?

Edmund: Was everything all right?  He wasn’t angry with you for some reason, was he?

Edgar: Of course, not.

Edmund: Well, you must have done something to piss him off, because he is mad as hell, and I mean right off the scale.  Whatever it’s about, just steer clear of him until he calms down.

Edgar: I can’t believe it!  I didn’t do anything!  Somebody must have told him some kind of lie about me.

Edmund: Yeah, that’s what I think.  Just keep away from him for the time being.  Tell you what.  Go to my room and wait there.  At the right time I’ll take you to where you can listen in on dad and me talking.  Then you’ll know what it’s about.  Here’s my key.  You stay in my room.  But if you have to go out for any reason, make sure you’ve got your sword.

Edgar: What for?

Edmund: Just trust me, okay, bro?  There’s something bad in the wind.  You may have to protect yourself.  Now go.

Edgar: You’ll come back soon?

Edmund: Yes, yes.  Trust me.  Whatever I do is for your safety.  Remember that.  (Edgar leaves.)  Perfect.  Now I’ve got them both confused.  I’ve got them in the palm of my hand.  I’m going to get everything I want.

    (Edmund leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  The Duke of Albany’s castle.  Goneril and her Steward, Oswald, come in.

Goneril: Oswald, did my father slap you for making fun of his Fool?

Oswald: I’m afraid so, madam.

Goneril: He’s really getting on my nerves.  It’s one damn thing after another.  His knights are disorderly.  They don’t wipe their feet when they come into the house.  And he nags me about every little thing.  He wants this.  He wants that.  He’s like a child.  Listen, when he gets back from hunting, I don’t want to speak to him.  Tell him I’m sick.  And from now on, if he wants something, make him wait.  And tell the staff to do likewise.  If he yells at you, I’ll answer for it, don’t worry.  (The sound of hunting horns is heard.)  And tell the servants not to be too friendly with the knights.  Let them fend for themselves.  I’m not here to cater to them.  If my father doesn’t like it here, he can go to my sister’s place.  In fact, I’m going to write to her to tell her to treat him the same way.  Now, go get dinner ready.

Oswald: Yes, madam.

    (Oswald leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 4.  A hall in Albany’s castle.  Kent comes in, disguised, and dressed like a commoner.

Kent: I don’t think the King will recognize me in these clothes and with my beard different, and if I change my voice.  I’ve got to try to save him from his own foolishness, even if it means risking my life.

    (A sound of horns.  Lear comes in with some Knights and Attendants.)

Lear: I’m hungry.  Get me some dinner.  (Attendant leaves.  To Kent)  Who are you?

Kent: You can call me Caius.  I’m looking for a job as a servant.  I’m honest and trustworthy, I go to church, and I don’t smoke. 

Lear: Do you know who I am?

Kent: No, sir, but I can tell you’re the sort of master I’d love to work for.

Lear: What can you do?

Kent: I can ride, I can deliver messages, I’m discreet, I’m good with tools, I can do general labor, I can keep accounts, I’m a smart shopper, I’m diligent about details, and I don’t take sick days.

Lear: How old are you?

Kent: I’m forty-eight, sir, and I’ve never made a claim for workers’ compensation.

Lear: Straight or gay?

Kent: Straight, sir.

Lear: Okay, good enough.  I’ll give you a try.–Hey, where’s my dinner?  And where’s my Fool?  (To Attendant)  Go get my Fool.  (Attendant leaves.  Oswald comes in.)  You.  Oswald.  Where’s my daughter?

Oswald: Yes–  (Oswald leaves.)

Lear: Yes what?  Call him back.  (A Knight leaves.)  Where the hell is everyone?  Where’s my Fool?  Where’s my daughter?

    (Same Knight returns.)

Knight: My lord, the steward says your daughter is too ill to see you.

Lear: Why didn’t he come back and tell me himself?

Knight: He didn’t want to.  He was really rude about it.

Lear: Is that so?

Knight: My lord, it seems to me that everyone is ignoring you, including your daughter and the Duke.

Lear: Yeah, so I’ve noticed.  I’m going to have to speak to her about that.  But where’s my Fool?  I haven’t seen him for two days.

Knight: He hasn’t been himself ever since Madam Cordelia went away, sir.  He’s been really down.

Lear: Yeah, I think I’ve noticed that, too.  (To Attendant)  Go tell my daughter I want to speak to her.  And go get my Fool, too.  (Attendant leaves.  Then Oswald returns.)  Oh, there you are.  Say, listen, who the hell do you think I am, Steward?

Oswald: My boss’s father.

Lear: Your boss’s father?  You disrespectful piece of snot!

Oswald: Don’t call me that.

Lear: Punk!  (He slaps Oswald.)

Oswald: You can’t hit me!  You’re not the boss of me!

Kent: You white trash!  (Kent trips Oswald to the floor.)

Lear: Hey, well done!  I like you!

Kent (To Oswald): You should know your place.  Go learn some manners.  (He pushes Oswald out.)

Lear: I’m glad I hired you.  Here’s a bonus.  (He gives Kent a gold coin.  As this happens, the Fool comes in, wearing the traditional jester’s cap.)

Fool (To Kent): Take my cap, too.

Kent: What for?

Fool: You’ll need it if you’re going to be on this gentleman’s side.  You see, he turned two of his daughters against him and did the third one a favor without realizing it — exactly the opposite of what he intended.  (To Lear)  Uncle, you should ask your daughters for a fool’s cap so you can be their fool.

Lear: Wise guy.  I should get my whip and use it on you, you barking dog.

Fool: Don’t whip the dog because he barks.  A dog doesn’t know how to lie.

Lear (To Kent): I don’t know why I put up with this guy.

Fool: A dozen peasants may fit into a hut, but a full house cannot contain more than three of anything.

Kent: That’s nothing.

Fool: Can you make no use of nothing?

Lear: Nothing can be made out of nothing.

Fool: Quite so!  Why does a person grow taller but a candle grow shorter?

Lear: Huh?

Fool: How can one ass lead another if both are behinds?

Kent: You certainly are a fool.

Fool: But not as big a fool as the one who gave away all his lands.

Lear: What are you insinuating?

Kent: I believe I see a meaning there, my lord.

Fool: Both the man who walks straight and the man who walks crookedly must sooner or later come to a hazard, but the crooked man will wear out his shoes first.

Lear: What the–

Fool: Walk not with the lamb nor with the lemming, for either way you will come to grief.  (Lear and Kent exchange puzzled looks.)  If an inn becomes too crowded, it may cease to be popular.

Lear: Wait a minute.  That doesn’t make any sense.

Fool: Does it make any sense to turn your daughters into your parents?  If you give them the rod of authority and pull down your own pants, you are asking for a whipping.

Lear: Oh, shut up!

Fool: Match your socks to your codpiece and your tie to your vest. 

Lear: Shut up!

Fool: Never buy stocks in a downtrend.

Lear: Shut up!  (Goneril comes in.)  Daughter, why do you frown at me so much lately?

Fool: Just think, my lord.  Not so long ago it didn’t matter if she frowned.  Now you must worry about it.

Goneril: Shut up, Fool!  (To Lear)  Not only is your Fool insolent, but all of your attendants and knights are becoming a major pain in the ass.  And you encourage them.  I hate to have to say this to you, but it’s got to stop.

Lear: Hey, what am I?

Fool: A shadow of your former self.

Lear (To Goneril): This can’t be my daughter I’m talking to.  Perhaps we need to be properly introduced, madam.

Goneril: Oh, stop it!  You have such an attitude.  I would expect you to be wiser than that.  The whole household is in chaos because all of your people are so badly behaved.  I can’t have this.  And why do you need a hundred knights?  I want you to get rid of half of them within two weeks.

Lear: Are you kidding?  What a bitch you’ve turned into all of a sudden!  To hell with you!  I’m going to move in with Regan!–Saddle the horses!  Get everyone packed!  (Albany comes in.)  Albany, do you want me to go?  Are you as ungrateful and cold-hearted as your wife?

Albany: Oh, please, sir.  Why are you going?

Lear (To Goneril): All my people are honourable and know how to behave!–Oh, God!  Why did I disinherit Cordelia?  How could I be so stupid, stupid, stupid!

Albany: My lord, believe me, I don’t know what this quarrel is about.

Lear: I guess you don’t.–Goneril, I hope you never have children.  Or if you do, I hope they treat you the way you’ve treated me.  With ingratitude!–Where’s my horse?  (He leaves.)

Albany: What’s this all about?  Why is he angry?

Goneril: It’s none of your business.  If he wants to go, let him go.

    (Lear returns.)

Lear: You want to take away fifty of my knights in two weeks?  You evil, ungrateful bitch!   I curse you!  I disown you!  Thank God I have another daughter to go to!  She’ll treat me right, and she’ll claw your eyes out for being so bad to me!

    (Lear leaves with Kent and Attendants.)

Goneril: Hear that?  Pathetic, isn’t it?

Albany: Really, my dear, this isn’t right.  You own father–

Goneril: Never mind.  (To Fool)  What are you hanging around for?

Fool: Uncle, wait for me!  (He runs off.)

Goneril: It’s not safe for us to let the old man keep a hundred knights when it’s obvious he’s becoming senile.

Albany: Well, I think you may be exaggerating.

Goneril: I’m not taking any chances.  And I’m telling Regan, too.  She mustn’t let him keep a hundred knights.–Oswald!

    (Oswald comes in.)

Oswald: Yes, madam.

Goneril: Have you written that letter I told you to write to my sister?

Oswald: Yes, madam.

Goneril: Take an escort and deliver it to her.  And emphasize the fact that I don’t want my father to keep a hundred knights.  (Oswald leaves.)  I would have hoped you’d understand the situation better.  You’re much too soft for a man of your position.

Albany: Perhaps you know better than I do.

Goneril: Yes, dear.  I generally do.

    (She walks off.)

Act 1, Scene 5.  In the courtyard outside Albany’s castle, Lear, Kent, and the Fool come in.

Lear: Caius, take this letter to my daughter, the Duchess of Cornwall.  If she asks you any questions about it, you can tell her what you know, but don’t volunteer anything else.  Go quick, man.

Kent: I’ll be Mercury, sir!  (He leaves.)

Fool: I’m sure your other daughter will treat you according to her true nature, Uncle.

Lear: I’m counting on it.  I’d lose my mind if she didn’t.

Fool: You should always put your name and address on your mind, Uncle.

Lear: Why is that?

Fool: So that if you lose it, it may be returned to you.

    (A Gentleman comes in.)

Gentleman: Your horses are ready, my lord.

Lear: Good.  Let’s go.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  The Earl of Gloucester’s castle.  Edmund and Curan come in from opposite directions.  Curan has gay mannerisms.

Edmund: Hey, Curan.  Wassup? 

Curan: Oh, Edmund!  The Dude of Cornwall — oh, I mean the Duke of Cornwall, ha ha–

Edmund: Ha, ha!

Curan: –And his wife, Madam Regan, are coming over — right now, in fact.

Edmund: Oh, yeah?  What’s the reason?

Curan: Well!  Rumor has it — and, of course, it’s just a rumor — that there’s some friction between the Dudes of Cornwall and Albany.  And it’s not my preferred kind of friction!

Edmund: No shit!

Curan: Of course, you didn’t hear this from me.  Well, I have to go help prepare the canapes.  Ta-ta!  (He prances off.)

Edmund: So, Cornwall’s coming over.  How can I use this to my advantage?  (Paces back and forth a few times, then smiles to himself.)  Hey, Edgar!  Come down!  (Edgar comes in, looking worried.  He is armed.)  Listen.  The old man is looking for you.  Get out now.

Edgar: What’s the matter?  What’s happening?

Edmund: Cornwall and Regan are on their way over.  Apparently it’s urgent.  Did you say anything against Cornwall?

Edgar: Who, me?  No!

Edmund: Because Cornwall and Albany are feuding, and Cornwall thinks you’ve taken sides with Albany.  Think!  You must have said something.

Edgar: No, I never said anything.  I don’t even know anything about it.

Edmund: Dad’s coming.  Listen.  Do what I say.  Take your sword out.  We have to pretend that we just fought.–Oh!  Stop!  No!  Don’t!  Help!–Now run.  Get going.  Don’t look back.  (Edgar flees.)  Oh!  Help!  Father!  (Edmund deliberately cuts himself.)  That should look convincing.–Help!  Somebody!  Please! 

    (Gloucester and Servants arrive.)

Gloucester: Edmund!  What happened?

Edmund: He was hiding in the shadows.  He started ranting like a lunatic.

Gloucester: Who?

Edmund: Edgar!

Gloucester: Good God!  (To Servants)  After him!  (Servants run off.) 

Edmund: He ordered me to kill you.  I told him I would never do such a thing.  Then he got angry and stabbed me.  I tried to hold him, but he got away. 

Gloucester: He won’t get far.  When we catch him, we’ll have him hanged.  The Duke of Cornwall is coming.  He’s my patron.  He’ll back me up.

Edmund: I threatened to expose him, father.

Gloucester: Who?

Edmund: Edgar.  Because of the letter.  He said he would pin the whole thing on me — that it was my idea to kill you.  He said it would be his word against mine, and no one would believe a bastard like me.

Gloucester: Listen, he’s not my son any more.  He’s a damn criminal.  You’re my one and only son.  (A trumpet call is heard.)  That’s Cornwall’s trumpet.  I don’t know what he wants to see me about.  But anyway, he’ll give me the authority to deal with Edgar.  And you, Edmund…you’ll be the next Earl of Gloucester someday.  You’ll get everything.

    (Cornwall, Regan, and Attendants come in.)

Cornwall: Gloucester!  There was a commotion outside just now!  We just heard the strangest thing!  Did somebody try to kill Edmund?

Regan: Whoever did it, he’ll pay for it!  How are you, my lord?

Gloucester: Madam, I don’t know how to tell you.  It was my own son, Edgar.  He was plotting to kill me.

Regan: Edgar!  He’s godson to my father!  Wasn’t he hanging around with my father’s knights — those trouble-makers? 

Edmund: Yes, he was.

Regan: Well, no wonder!  They must have put him up to it — to kill you and get his hands on your money.  My sister just sent me a letter warning me about them and saying not to let them into my house.

Cornwall: You were loyal to your father, Edmund.  I thank God for that.

Edmund: It was my duty as a son.

Gloucester: See here?  He was wounded trying to catch Edgar.  I’ve got people out looking for him now.

Cornwall: You have complete discretion to do whatever you want.–And you, Edmund, have proven yourself to be a real man of honour and courage.  You’re the sort of fellow I can trust.  I’ll be needing you.

Edmund: I’m your servant, sir.

Cornwall: You don’t know why we’re here, do you, Gloucester?

Gloucester: No.

Regan: We’ve got a situation, my lord, and we need your advice.  I’ve gotten letters from both my father and my sister complaining about each other, and I wanted to speak to you before I answered them.  The messengers are following us, and they’ll be waiting for my replies.

Gloucester: Yes, yes.  Let’s sit down and have a drink and talk it over.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Outside of Gloucester’s castle.  Kent and Oswald come in from opposite directions.  It is just before dawn.

Oswald: Good morning.  Do you live here?

Kent: Yes.

Oswald: Where can I tie my horse?

Kent: Anywhere in the mud.

Oswald: That’s not very nice.  I just asked a simple question.

Kent: The white trash section is around back.

Oswald: Hey, why are you disrespecting me?  I don’t even know you.

Kent: Well, I know you.  You’re a miserable, low-life slave and a son of a whore.

Oswald: What the fuck?

Kent: You don’t remember me, do you, asshole?  I knocked you down two days ago in front of the King.  (Draws his sword.)  Come on, faggot!  Draw your sword!

Oswald: Help!  Help!  Help!

Kent: Fuckin’ coward!  (Kicks Oswald several times.)

Oswald: Help!  Help!

    (Edmund comes in with sword drawn, followed by Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, and Servants.)

Edmund: What are you doing to this man?

Kent: Hey, I’ll fight you, too!  I don’t care!

Cornwall: You use that sword, and it’ll be the last thing you ever do.

Gloucester: Who are these guys?

Regan: My messenger and my father’s messenger.

Cornwall: Do you guys have a problem, or what?

Kent: He’s a goddamn fucking low-life slave.

Cornwall: Why?  What’s he done to you?

Kent: Maybe I don’t like his face.  I’m telling you straight.  He’s a bum.

Cornwall: I don’t think you’re telling me anything straight.  (To Oswald)  What did you do to offend him?

Oswald: Nothing, sir!  The other day he knocked me down in front of the King just to be a big hero, and now he tells me to tie my horse in the mud, then he starts insulting me, and then he kicks me, and then he draws his sword!

Cornwall (To Kent): You’re going into the stocks!

Kent: I’m the King’s messenger.

Cornwall: I don’t give a fuck what you are.  You’re going into the stocks, and you’re going to sit there till noon.–Bring the stocks.  (Servants leave.)

Regan: Not just till noon.  Make it until tomorrow night.

    (The stocks are brought in.)

Gloucester: Please, my lord.  I wish you wouldn’t.  I don’t think it’s appropriate to treat the King’s messenger so harshly.  It’s really up to the King.

Cornwall: Let me worry about that.

Regan: My sister won’t like it if he isn’t punished.  After all, he assaulted her steward.  (Kent is put in the stocks.)  Let’s go, dear.  (Regan, Cornwall, and the Servants leave.)

Gloucester: I’m really sorry about this.  But the Duke outranks me.  And you really pissed him off.

Kent: Never mind.  Forget it.

Gloucester: Personally, I think he was wrong.  But he’s got a bad temper.  You don’t want to get on his bad side.  Oh, hell.  The King’s not going to like this.  Anyway, bear with it.  (He leaves.)

Kent: Oh, fucking hell.  If only Cordelia were here.  She’d set things straight again.  She sent me a letter.  She knows what I’m doing.  She’ll come back someday.  (He falls asleep.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  Edgar is in the woods.

Edgar: People are after me like I’m some kind of criminal.  There’s only one way I’m going to stay alive, and that’s by disguising myself.  I’ll be a mad beggar.  I’ll be Poor Tom.  Yeah, that’s it.  A mentally disturbed homeless person.  Plenty of people will feed me and give me stuff.  Thank God for liberals.

    (He leaves.)

Act 2, Scene 4.  Kent is in the stocks in front of Gloucester’s castle.  Lear, his Fool, and a Gentleman come in.

Lear: Regan left her house and never sent back my messenger.  That’s strange.

Gentleman: And nobody could say why she and the Duke were coming here to Gloucester’s.

Kent: Master, it’s me!

Lear: What the fuck!  Are you joking around?

Fool: No, Uncle.  That’s my job.

Kent: Your daughter and her husband had me locked up like this.

Lear: What the hell for?

Kent: I’ll tell you the whole story.  I had just delivered your letter to your daughter when this other messenger arrived from Madam Goneril.  And as soon as Madam Regan read that letter, she and her husband got their attendants together to come here.  She gave me a real dirty look, and she told me to follow her and wait for a reply to you.  When I got here, I bumped into Madam Goneril’s messenger, and when I realized he was the same guy who talked back to you the other day, I picked a fight with him — which I guess was not very smart on my part.  Well, the Duke and Duchess got pissed off, and here I am.

Lear: I’m going to go speak to that daughter of mine.  (He leaves.)

Kent: How come the King is here with so few people?

Fool: Well, he’s not as rich and powerful as he used to be, now, is he?

Kent: No.

Fool: But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Kent: Yes.

Fool: Ah, well, only a fool would remain loyal to a master whose fortunes have declined so much.  (Kent and the Fool share a long, knowing look.  Then Lear returns with Gloucester.)

Lear: She refuses to speak to me!  Oh, but they’re tired after traveling all night, you see!  What a crock!

Gloucester: The Duke is a stubborn guy.

Lear: What’s he being so stubborn for?  I only wanted to speak to him and my daughter.

Gloucester: Yes.  I told him.

Lear: Of all the fucking nerve.  You go back and tell the Duke of Cornwall–No, on second thought, forget it.  Maybe they are tired.  Maybe he’s got a headache.  I shouldn’t confront him when I’m angry like this.  (Looking at Kent)  Damn it!  Get my guy out of those stocks! This is such an insult to me!  I’m not going to listen to their fake excuses.  I demand to speak to the two of them right now.  You go tell them to come right here, right now, or I’ll break their door down.

Gloucester: Oh, God.  I hope this doesn’t turn into an ugly scene.  (He leaves.)

Lear: I can feel my blood pressure going up.  If I don’t watch it, I’ll end up having a stroke.

    (Gloucester returns with Cornwall, Regan, and Servants.  The Servants release Kent from the stocks.)

Lear: Well!  Good morning!

Cornwall: Good morning.

Regan: Glad to see you, dad.

Lear: I’ve been anxious to speak to you, Regan.  First things first.  It’s your sister.  She’s turned into a total bitch.  She’s treating me like dirt.

Regan: Take it easy, dad.  I think you’re misjudging her.

Lear: You do?

Regan: I think whatever she’s done — like curbing the bad behavior of your knights, for instance — she’s probably justified.

Lear: She’s a bitch!  That’s all she is!

Regan: Dad, calm down.  You know, you’re getting old, and I think maybe you’re not seeing things clearly.  I do see things clearly.  You should go back and tell her you’re sorry. 

Lear: Go back and tell her I’m sorry?  Don’t you understand how degrading that would be?  I can’t go back!  Regan, please!  I’m begging you!  Take me in!

Regan: Dad, I don’t want to hear any more of this.  Go back to Goneril.

Lear: Never!  I’ll never go back to that evil bitch!

Regan: Jesus!  Is that what you’re going to say about me the next time you’re in a bad mood?

Lear: Of course, not.  You’re good, not evil like your sister.  You wouldn’t be bad to me like she has.

    (A trumpet call is heard.)

Regan: That’s her.  She told me she was coming.  (Oswald comes in.)  Is your mistress here?

Lear: This is your sister’s pet iguana.–Take off, loser!

Cornwall: Oh!  My lord!  What a thing to say!

Lear: Second thing.  Who put my man in the stocks, Regan?  Tell me it wasn’t you.  (Goneril arrives.  To Goneril)  Aren’t you ashamed to show your face here?–Regan, don’t tell me you’re on her side.

Goneril: Why shouldn’t she be?  I haven’t done anything wrong.  It’s all in your mind.

Lear: Who put my man in the stocks?

Cornwall: I did.  He deserved it.

Lear: You did?

Regan: Dad, look, you’re not in power any more, okay?  If you go back to Goneril’s for a month and get rid of half your knights, then you can come and stay with me.  I don’t have enough food in the house to feed a crowd right now.

Lear: Go back to her and lose half my knights?  Bullshit!  I’d sooner be homeless!  Or maybe I should go to the King of France and beg him for an old-age pension!  I’d sooner be this asshole’s servant (Indicating Oswald) than move back in with her.

Goneril: If that’s your preference–

Lear: Don’t piss me off any more than you already have.  You may be my daughter, but I’m through with you forever.  I’ll stay with Regan — me and all one hundred of my knights.

Regan: Dad, you’re not listening.  I can’t take you in yet.  You’re being very unreasonable.  Some people get like this when they get old.  You should just do whatever Goneril wants.

Lear: You mean that?

Regan: Yes.  Why do you need a hundred knights?  Aren’t fifty enough?  You don’t even need that many, for that matter.

Goneril: My servants and Regan’s are perfectly capable of looking after you.

Regan: Yes.  That’s the most sensible arrangement.  Just bring, say, twenty-five knights.  That’s all I can feed.

Lear: I gave the two of you my whole kingdom!

Regan: Yes, which was perfectly reasonable.

Lear: Twenty-five knights.  You’re worse than she is.  (To Goneril)  I’ll stay with you and keep fifty knights.  You said I could.

Goneril: Frankly, I don’t see why you need any at all.

Regan: Nor do I.

Lear: Oh, sure!  Take away everything I’ve got left that I don’t actually need.  Hell, I don’t need a bed, do I?  I can sleep in the stable with the horses.  Leave me just one pair of socks and one shirt.  That’ll be fine.  Turn your own father into a wretched beggar, why don’t you.  I swear to God, I will get my revenge on both of you!  (A storm breaks.  Lightning and thunder and wind.)  Yes, break my heart into a million pieces!  Come, Fool, and watch me go mad!

    (Lear, Gloucester, Kent, and the Fool leave.)

Cornwall: Let’s go before we get drenched.

Regan: I don’t know what the old man expects from us.

Goneril: Let him stew in his own juices.  I have no sympathy for him.

Regan: I mean, I’d be willing to take him in just by himself, but not with a whole crew.

Goneril: Same here.

    (Gloucester returns.)

Gloucester: The King is mad as hell.  He wants his horse, but he won’t say where he’s going.

Cornwall: Oh, let him go.

Goneril: Yes.  Don’t try to stop him.

Gloucester: But to go out in a storm like this?  There’s no shelter for miles.

Regan: Let him go with his people and get into whatever trouble he’s looking for.  Maybe he’ll learn a lesson.  Just lock your doors and let the loonies run berserk outside.

Cornwall: Yes.  That’s good advice.  And we should get inside.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  On a heath.  Storm in progress.  Kent and a Gentleman come in from opposite directions.

Kent: Hey, where’s the King?

Gentleman: He’s running around in the storm, tearing his hair out and screaming like a lunatic.

Kent: All by himself?

Gentleman: He’s got his Fool with him.

Kent: Listen, bro, I have to trust you, and you have to trust me.  There’s a secret conflict between Albany and Cornwall.  There are spies for the French among their servants.  The French army has already landed secretly, and they’re getting ready to launch an invasion.  Now listen carefully.  If you go to Dover and report what’s happened with the King, the right people will thank you for the information.  I come from a noble family — never mind how I look — so you can believe what I’m telling you. 

Gentleman: I need to know more about this.

Kent: There’s no time.  Here.  Take this ring.  Find Cordelia and show it to her.  She’ll know who it’s from.  Now you get going.  I’m going to look for the King.

Gentleman: All right.

    (They leave in different directions.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Elsewhere on the heath.  Storm in progress.  Lear and the Fool come in.

Lear: Blow, winds, blow!  Rain, thunder, and lightning…wreck everything!  Let’s have the biggest storm of all time!  I don’t care any more!

Fool: Are you sure you wouldn’t rather suck up to your daughters just a little so we can get out of the rain?

Lear: The elements despise me the same way that my daughters despise me.  There’s no justice for me, in heaven or on earth.

Fool: No man can stand up to the elements for long, Uncle.

Lear: And why is that?

Fool: Because an element never forgets.

Lear: Bah!

Fool: A wise man might suggest that your present circumstances are the result of your own actions.  But, of couse, I’m just a fool, so I’d never think of that.

Lear: I’m not listening.

    (Kent comes in.)

Kent: My lord, are you all right?  I don’t think the devil himself would come out of hell to be in a storm like this.

Lear: This storm was meant to make sinners tremble from the guilt of their sins.  Those who have sinned against me will be exposed for what they are.

Kent: You’re a mess, my lord.  There’s a miserable hovel nearby where we can take shelter.  You need to calm down and collect yourself.

Lear: Yes, yes.  All right.–Come on, Fool, let’s get out of the rain.

Fool: A hovel?  Did he say a hovel?  Oh, goody!  I’ve always wanted to stay in a hovel!

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  Gloucester’s castle.  Gloucester and Edmund come in.

Gloucester: I don’t like this at all, Edmund.  Just because I wanted to help the King.  I’ve always been close to the King.  And now Cornwall and Regan have taken over the house — my own house!  And they’ve threatened to punish me if I try to help the King any more.

Edmund: Yeah, it totally sucks.

Gloucester: I must tell you something in confidence, boy.  There’s trouble brewing between Cornwall and Albany.  And what’s more, I’ve gotten word that the French have landed.  You’re to say nothing about this, of course.

Edmund: Of course.

Gloucester: The King’s been treated very badly, but he’s going to get the relief he deserves.  And we have to stand with him.  Now I want you to keep Cornwall company and let him think everything is fine.  If he asks about me, I’ve gone to bed, get it?  I’m going to go out and look for the King and see what I can do for him.  You be careful.

Edmund: Right.  (Gloucester leaves.)  Perfect.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better.  I’ll tell the Duke everything, and that’ll be the end of my father.  The Duke will reward me, and I’ll inherit everything.

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  On the heath.  Lear, Kent, and the Fool stand before a shack.

Kent: Well, here it is.  Let’s go in.

Lear: You go in.  I don’t even feel the storm any more.  All I can think of is getting even with those two rotten daughters of mine.  (To the Fool)  You go on in, boy.  No need for you to stand out here.  (The Fool goes into the shack.)  Now I know what it feels like to be homeless.  How they must suffer on a night like this.  If I ever regain my power, I’ll build plenty of bridges for them to sleep under.

(Fool returns.)

Fool: Uncle, there’s a weirdo in the hovel!

Kent: Who’s in there?

Fool: He calls himself Poor Tom.

Kent (Toward the shack): You come out of there now!

    (Edgar emerges, dressed in rags.)

Edgar: Watch out!  The evil ones are after me.  They want to kill me.  I’m hunted like an animal.  I’m cold.  I’ve lost my mind.  Ah-bluh-bluh-bluh-bluh….

Lear: I know just how you feel.  Your daughters did this to you, did they?

Kent: No, sir.  He doesn’t have any daughters.

Edgar: Keep the Commandments.  Hunour thy parents.  Don’t serve red wine with fish.  Ooh…brrr!

Lear: Who are you, man?  Or what were you?

Edgar: A sinner and a degenerate, guilty of every vice. 

Lear: Oh, then you’d be better off dead.

    (Gloucester comes in, bearing a torch.)

Edgar: The bogey man!

Kent: Who’s there?

Gloucester: It’s me.  Gloucester.  (To Lear)  What are you doing here, my lord?  Come back to my house.  Your daughters have turned into tyrants.  They’ve taken over the house and have ordered me to keep you out.  But I can’t leave you here like this.

Lear: I don’t want to leave this Poor Tom fellow.  I feel sorry for him.

Kent (To Gloucester): The King’s lost his mind.

Gloucester: I’m not surprised.  His own daughters want him dead.  Kent tried to warn him, but the King banished him.  And I’m about to lose my mind, too.  My own son Edgar wanted to kill me.  (To Lear)  Now please, my lord, let’s go.

Lear: Only if Poor Tom comes, too.

Gloucester: Yes, yes, he can come, too.  But everyone must keep quiet.  If I get caught helping you, God knows what’ll happen to me.

    (All leave.)

Act 3, Scene 5.  In Gloucester’s castle.  Cornwall and Edmund come in.

Edmund: I feel terrible about ratting out my own father, but here’s the letter he showed me.  (Gives letter to Cornwall.)  It proves he was spying for the French.

Cornwall: Find out where he is, and I’ll place him under arrest.  And you, of course, will be the new Earl of Gloucester.  You’re on my side from now on. 

Edmund: Thank you, my lord.

    (Edmund leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 6.  A farmhouse beside Gloucester’s castle.  Kent and Gloucester come in.

Gloucester: You sit tight.  I’ll try to get a few things so the King will be comfortable. 

    (Gloucester leaves.  Then Lear, Edgar, and the Fool come in.)

Lear (To Edgar): I’ve decided I like you, you Poor Tom.  You can be one of my knights.  But you’ve got to find some better clothes.

Kent: Try and rest, my lord.

Lear:  Yes, yes.  I think I’ll have a nice nap before supper.

    (Gloucester returns with a small bundle.)

Gloucester (To Kent): How is he?

Kent: The same.  (Makes “crazy” gesture with finger twirling around the ear.)  He needs to rest. 

Gloucester: No.  You’ve got to get him out of here now.  I overheard them talking.  They intend to kill him.  There’s a cart outside.  You’ve got to put him in it and drive to Dover.  You’ll be safe there.

Kent (To the Fool): You’d better give me a hand with the King.

Gloucester: Hurry.

    (All leave.)

Act 3, Scene 7.  In Gloucester’s castle.  Cornwall, Regan, Goneril, Edmund, and Servants come in.

Cornwall (To Goneril): Take this letter to your husband at once.  The French have landed.  (To Servants)  Find that traitor Gloucester.  (Servants leave.)

Regan: Hang him.

Goneril: No.  Pluck his eyes out.

Cornwall: Leave him to me.–Edmund, I don’t want you to be here when I deal with your father.  You go with Goneril.  (Oswald comes in.  To Oswald)  Where’s the King?

Oswald: Gloucester helped him get away — to Dover.  And thirty-six of his knights are on their way to Dover, too. 

Cornwall: Get horses for your mistress.

    (Oswald leaves.)

Goneril: Goodbye, both of you.

Cornwall and Regan: Goodbye.

    (Goneril and Edmund leave.)

Cornwall: When I get my hands on that Gloucester–Where are those servants? 

Regan: Are you going to hang him?

Cornwall: Mm…I don’t think so.  I’d have to give him a formal trial.  I don’t want that.  But short of hanging him, I can still punish him severely, and, boy, will I ever!

    (Gloucester is brought in by Servants.)

Gloucester: My lord!  My lady!  Are we not friends?  You’re guests in my house.  You wouldn’t hurt me, would you?

Cornwall (To Servants): Tie him good and tight.

    (Servants tie him.)

Regan: Gloucester, you’re a traitor!

Gloucester: No, no!  I’m not!

Cornwall: What letters did you get from the King of France?

Regan: And don’t try to lie.  We know the truth.

Cornwall: You arranged for the French to land, didn’t you?

Regan: You sent my father to them, to tell dirty lies about us, didn’t you?

Gloucester: If I got any letter from the King of France, it was nothing bad.   I can’t even remember the details.

Cornwall: Liar!  We’ve seen the letter!  Why did you send the King to Dover?

Gloucester: To get him away from the whole lot of you!  I couldn’t bear to see you treat him so badly!  And you were even going to kill him!  I’ll see you punished by God for your wickedness!

Cornwall: Oh, no, you won’t.  You won’t see anything ever again.

    (Cornwall kicks Gloucester, who ends up on his back.  Cornwall then gouges out Gloucester’s eyes with the heel of his boot.  Gloucester screams.)

(A Servant): No!  Stop!

Cornwall: How dare you!  (Draws his sword.  The Servant draws his in reply.)

Servant: Fiend!  Monster!

    (They fight.  The Servant strikes Cornwall with a fatal blow.   Then Regan picks up a sword and stabs the Servant in the back.)

Gloucester: Edmund!  Edmund!  Where is my son?

Regan: You asshole!  Edmund was the one who ratted you out!

Gloucester: Oh, no!  Then he lied to me about Edgar!  It was Edmund who wanted me dead!

Regan (To Servants): Drag this dog out of the house and let him smell his way to Dover! (A Servant helps the staggering Gloucester out.  To Cornwall) Are you hurt bad?

Cornwall: Oh shit.  Help me out of here.  I think I’m gonna die.

    (Regan helps Cornwall out.)

Second Servant (To Third Servant): What bastards!  Get some first aid for the Earl.  I’ll see if I can help him.

    (They leave in opposite directions.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  On the heath.  Edgar comes in.

Edgar: After all the shit I’ve been through, things have to start getting better.  Wait.  Who’s that?  It’s my father and some old guy.  Oh, it’s one of the tenants.

    (Gloucester and the Old Man come in.  The Old Man is leading him by the arm.)

Old Man: My lord, I’ve been your tenant and your father’s tenant for eighty years.

Gloucester: Go away, I tell you.  Just leave me.  I know you mean well, but it’s pointless.  Oh, my son Edgar!  I was so wrong.  I feel so bad about it.  If only I could touch him now.

Edgar (Aside): Oh, my God.  He’s blind.

Old Man: There’s someone here, sir.  It’s that mad beggar Poor Tom.  He’s practically naked.

Gloucester: Go fetch him some clothes, then.  I’ll let him lead me, and you can catch up with us later.

Old Man: I shouldn’t leave you with a madman, sir.

Edgar: He’s mad, and I’m blind.  So what?  Go find him some clothes.

    (Old Man leaves.)

Edgar: I’m so cold, sir.  And the devils are after me, sir.

Gloucester: Here.  Take this purse.  I won’t be needing money any more.

Edgar: Bless you, sir.

Gloucester: Do you know the way to Dover?

Edgar: Yes, sir.

Gloucester: There’s a high cliff overlooking the water.  I’m sure you know it.  Lead me there so I can end my life.

Edgar: Give me your arm, sir.  I’ll take you.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  Before the Duke of Albany’s castle.  Goneril and Edmund come in.

Goneril: Here’s our place.  I wonder where my husband is.  (Oswald comes in.)  Where’s the Duke?

Oswald: Inside, madam.  I must tell you, he’s acting very strangely.  When I told him the French had landed, he smiled.  Then when I told him you were coming, he frowned.  And when I told him about Gloucester’s disloyalty and the good work Edmund did for you, he called me an idiot.

Goneril (To Edmund): You’d better not come in.  My husband’s not really with us.  He’s got no guts.  I should dump him and marry you instead.  You go back to Cornwall and tell him to get his troops ready.  Oswald will be our messenger.  (She gives Edmund a deep kiss.)  And there’s more where that came from.  Take this and think of me.  (She gives him a pair of panties.)

Edmund: It’ll be just you and me, baby — forever!  (He leaves.)

Goneril (Aside): I can’t wait to fuck that handsome stud.  I’m wasting my time with Albany.

Oswald: Here comes the Duke, madam.

    (Albany comes in.)

Goneril: You know, I think you’ve lost interest in me.

Albany: I don’t know who you are any more.  You turn against your own father.  You and your sister.  What are you — monsters?  And what about Cornwall?  Is he one, too?  I’m disgusted with the lot of you.

Goneril: You spineless twerp!  You’ve got your head up your ass!  Don’t you know the French are on our soil?  Don’t you realize that we’re threatened?

Albany: Look in the mirror and you’ll see the devil in a dress.  If you weren’t my wife, I’d strangle you.

Goneril: Oooh…what a man!

    (A Messenger arrives.)

Messenger: My lord, the Duke of Cornwall is dead.

Albany: What happened?

Messenger: He was killed by one of Gloucester’s servants.

Albany: What!

Messenger: He gouged out Gloucester’s eyes.

Albany: Who did?

Messenger: Cornwall did, sir.  To punish him.  The servant couldn’t bear it, and he struck Cornwall with a sword.  The Duchess killed the servant herself, but the Duke died later.

Albany: Cornwall got what he deserved.  And poor Gloucester lost both his eyes?

Messenger: Yes, he did.–Madam, this letter is from your sister.  She wants a reply right away.

Goneril (Aside): If Regan’s a widow now and Edmund is with her, that could be bad for me.  On the other hand, if something were to happen to her, I’d get her share of the kingdom.–Yes.  Thank you.  I’ll write to my sister now.  (She leaves.)

Albany: Where was Edmund when the Duke put out his father’s eyes?

Messenger: He wasn’t there, sir.  He came here with your wife.

Albany: I never saw him.

Messenger: I passed him as he was going back.

Albany: Does he know what Cornwall did to his father?

Messenger: Sir, it was Edmund who betrayed his father to Cornwall.  He left so that wouldn’t have to see what happened.

Albany: Poor Gloucester.  Good, loyal Gloucester.  Now, I want you to tell me everything you know.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  The French camp near Dover.  Kent and a Gentleman come in.  (Same Gentleman as in Act 3, Scene 1.)

Kent: Why has the King of France gone back to France so suddenly?

Gentleman: Something urgent, but I don’t know what.  But Cordelia is still here.

Kent: How did she take the news about her father?

Gentleman: She took it hard, although she tried not to show it.  She’s very worried about him.

Kent: He’s safe in Dover now, but he’s too overwhelmed with guilt to face her.  What’s the latest news about Albany’s and Cornwall’s forces?

Gentleman: Rumor has it they’re on the march.

Kent: I’ll take you to Lear, and I want you to stick with him.  I have some business to attend to. 

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  A tent in the French camp.  Cordelia, a Doctor, an Officer, and Soldiers come in.

Cordelia (To Officer): My father’s been seen, and he’s out of his mind.  Round up as many men as you can and find him.  (Officer leaves with some Soldiers.  To Doctor) Is there any way to restore his sanity?

Doctor: Yes, madam.  Herbal medicine.  We have some natural cures that I think will help.  You know, some doctors are slaves to the big drug companies, and they only want to push those expensive drugs.  But I’m not like that.

Cordelia: Yes, yes.  Please try your best.  Do anything you can.

    (Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: Madam, the British forces are heading this way.

Cordelia: Yes, we know.  Our forces are ready.  We have to fight the British for my father’s sake, and that’s the only reason.  France never intended to conquer Britain.

    (All leave.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  Gloucester’s castle.  Regan and Oswald come in.

Regan: Are Albany’s forces on the march?

Oswald: Yes, madam.

Regan: Is Albany commanding personally?

Oswald: Yes, but he’s not really into it.  Your sister would be a better general.

Regan: And Edmund never spoke to Albany?

Oswald: No, madam.  But I have a letter from your sister that I’m supposed to deliver to him.

Regan: Do you know what it’s about?

Oswald: No.

Regan: Edmund went to find his father and kill him.  We should have killed him when we had the chance.  As long as he’s alive, he’s a threat.  He’ll turn people against us.  And Edmund wants to spy on the French as well. 

Oswald: I should chase after him and deliver the letter.

Regan: No, you’d be safer here with us.  Our troops march tomorrow.

Oswald: But I have to deliver the letter.  Your sister’s orders.

Regan: I don’t understand why she would write a letter when she could just as easily give you the message by word.  Unless there’s something secret in the letter.  Give it to me.

Oswald: Please, I’m not supposed to–

Regan: I know my sister doesn’t love her husband.  And I know that she has her eye on Edmund.  And you know all her secrets, after all.

Oswald: Who, me?

Regan: Of course.  I know you do.  Now listen.  I’m a widow.  Edmund and I have, shall we say, talked about things.  I’m a better match for him than my sister is.  When you find him, tell him straight out that I said so.  And when you report back to my sister — which I’m sure you’ll do — you tell her she should be sensible about it and forget about Edmund.  Now, if you insist on delivering that letter, you keep a lookout for Gloucester while you’re out there.  If you find him, kill him.  There’ll be a big reward in it for you.

Oswald: Yes, madam!  Thank you, madam!

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 6.  In the fields near Dover, Edgar, still in the guise of Poor Tom but wearing somewhat better clothes, is leading Gloucester.

Gloucester: Are we getting near that cliff?

Edgar: Yes, we’re climbing up to it.  Can’t you tell?

Gloucester: No.  It feels like we’re on flat ground.  And I don’t hear the sea.

Edgar: Your senses are deceiving you, that’s all.

Gloucester: You sound different than before.  I mean your voice.  You’re speaking better — more like a gentleman.

Edgar: Oh, no, I’m just the same.  Here we are at the edge of the cliff.  Boy, it sure is high up!

Gloucester: Put me right on the edge where you’re standing now.

Edgar: Okay.  There you are.  You’re one step from going over.

Gloucester: You can let go of me now.  Here’s another purse for you.  There’s a valuable jewel in it.  Now just say goodbye and let me hear you walking away.

Edgar: Goodbye, sir.  I’m going.  (Aside) This little trick is for his own good.

Gloucester: Goodbye, cruel world.  I can’t bear this suffering any longer.  God bless my good son Edgar.  (He steps forward and falls to the ground, then lies there motionless.)

Edgar (No longer speaking like Poor Tom): Are you all right, sir?

Gloucester: Let me die.

Edgar: It’s a miracle, sir!  You’re alive!  By the grace of God!

Gloucester: But didn’t I fall?

Edgar: Yes!  All the way from the top of the cliff!  It’s amazing!  I can’t believe it!

Gloucester: Christ.  I can’t even commit suicide.

Edgar: Who was up there on the cliff with you?

Gloucester: Just a poor beggar.

Edgar: Oh.  I thought it was some criminal who wanted to kill you.  You mean you wanted to die?

Gloucester: Yes.

Edgar: Then God saved you.  Don’t you see?  You were meant to live.

Gloucester: Yes….Yes….You must be right.  How else–Now I want to live.  Now I want to live.

Edgar: Good for you, sir!  (Lear comes in, fantastically dressed with flowers and tree branches.)  Oh.  We have company, sir.  Looks like a crazy man.

Lear: They can’t arrest me for minting coins.  I’m the King.  Yes.  Give the mouse some cheese now.  And get me some extra-large underwear, and make sure it’s not made in goddamn Pakistan.  They don’t know their sizes over there.  Everything they make is too small.  I can take on a giant.  I will take on a giant!  I’ll show him what for!

Edgar: What a wacko.

Gloucester: I recognize that voice.

Lear: They flattered me.  They lied.  They were phony.  They threw me out in the storm.  Then I knew what they really were.  I found out too late.

Gloucester: It’s Lear!  My King!

Lear: Yes.  I was the King.  But what am I now?  Even Gloucester’s bastard son was not as bad as my daughters.  They pretend to be so good, but under the surface they’re nothing but snakes.

Gloucester: Sir, don’t you know me?

Lear (Long pause): Yes.  My old friend Gloucester.  Your eyes are gone, but you see well enough what evil there is in this world.

Gloucester: Oh, my poor King!

    (A Gentleman comes in with Attendants.  This is the same Gentleman as Act 4, Scene 3.)

Gentleman: There he is!  Thank God!–Sir, your dearest daughter–

Lear: What?  Am I a prisoner?

Gentleman: No, no, sir!

Lear: I will die bravely, like a king.

Gentleman: Yes, yes, we know you’re the King, sir.  And we’re loyal to you, sir!

Lear: Oh!  Well!  Then there’s still hope, isn’t there!  Come on, then!  See if you can catch the old jack rabbit!  (He runs off, and the Attendants chase after him.)

Gentleman: Pitiful, isn’t it?  Thank God he has one daughter left who still loves him.

Edgar: Sir, have you heard anything about an impending battle?

Gentleman: Everyone knows by now.

Edgar: How close is the other army?

Gentleman: Very close.  It’s just a matter of hours at the most.  The Queen is staying here, but the French army has already set off.  Marshal La Fer is commanding.  I have to go.  (He leaves.)

Gloucester: You haven’t told me who you are.

Edgar: Just a poor man who has been through terrible times.  Give me your hand, and I’ll take you somewhere where you’ll be safe.

Gloucester: God bless you, whoever you are.

    (Oswald comes in, drawing his sword.)

Oswald: There you are, you traitor!  I’ll get a big reward for killing you!

    (Edgar draws his sword and jumps in front of Gloucester.)

Edgar: Back off!

Oswald: You peasant!  Are you on his side?  Then I’ll kill you, too!

    (They fight.  Edgar stabs Oswald, who falls.)

Oswald: Oh!…I’m going to die!…Listen to me….Do me this favor….I have a letter….It’s for Edmund…Earl of Gloucester….He’s with the British…oh…oh…(He dies.)

Edgar: I know this bastard.

Gloucester: Is he dead?

Edgar: Yes.  Let’s see what that letter is all about.  (Reads letter) ‘Don’t forget what we promised each other.  If you truly want to marry me, you’ve got to kill my husband.  If he comes back from the battle alive, I’ll be stuck with him forever.  Don’t disappoint me.–Goneril.’  That fucking bitch!  She wants to bump off her husband!  Wait till I show him this letter! 

Gloucester: Oh, my God!  Edmund will murder Albany!  I can’t take it!  I wish I were as mad as the King.  Then maybe I wouldn’t feel my grief.

    (Sound of distant drums.)

Edgar: Come on.  Give me your hand.  I’ll take you to a friend.  You’ll be all right.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 7.  A tent in the French camp.  Cordelia, Kent, the Doctor, and a Gentleman come in.

Cordelia: Kent, I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done.  Now please stop wearing those clothes.  I want to see you as the Earl of Kent again, not my father’s servant.

Kent: Not yet.  At the right time.  Trust me.

Cordelia: Okay.  (To the Doctor) How is the King?

Doctor: He’s had a long sleep.  I think it’s okay to wake him up now. 

Cordelia: Whatever you think is best.

    (Lear is brought in on a chair by Servants.  He’s asleep.)

Doctor: With the rest he’s had and the medicines, his mind should be better.  At least I hope so. 

Cordelia: It tears my heart to think about what he’s been through.  It would break any man.

Doctor: He’s waking up.  Speak to him, madam.

Cordelia: Father, how do you feel?

Lear: Leave me in my grave.  Let me go to hell.

Cordelia: Don’t you know who I am?

Lear: A spirit?

Doctor: He’s still groggy.  We should leave him alone a while longer.

Lear: Where am I?  Is this daylight?  Am I alive or dead?

Cordelia: Give me your hand and bless me.

Lear: Don’t make fun of an old man.  I don’t think I’m entirely in my right mind.  I don’t know where I am.  Why am I wearing these clothes?  Where was I last night?  I can’t remember.  But you look familiar.  You look like my daughter Cordelia.

Cordelia: Yes!  It’s me!

Lear: Don’t cry for me.  Please.  You should hate me for what I did.

Cordelia: I don’t hate you.

Lear: Am I in France?

Cordelia: No.  Britain.  Your own kingdom.

Lear: Don’t lie to me.

Doctor: Madam, it would be best not to upset him.  He needs some quiet time.

Cordelia: I’ll walk you to your bed, father.

Lear: I’ve been very stupid.  Forgive me, Cordelia.  Forgive me.

    (All leave except Kent and the Gentleman.)

Gentleman: Is it true that the Duke of Cornwall was killed?

Kent: Yes.

Gentleman: Who’s commanding his forces?

Kent: Supposedly, Edmund.

Gentleman: I think it’s going to be a bloody fight.

Kent: I believe you’re right.  Good luck to you.

Gentleman: And you, too.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  The British camp near Dover.  Edmund, Regan, Gentleman, and Soldiers come in, with drums and colours.

Edmund (To Gentleman): I need to know if Albany is still with us.  Go find out.  (Gentleman leaves.)

Regan: I think something must have happened to my sister’s steward, Oswald.  He had a letter for you.

Edmund: Which I never got.

Regan: Listen.  You know how I feel about you.  Tell me the truth.  Do you love my sister?

Edmund: Purely in a Platonic way.

Regan: So you’ve never fucked her?

Edmund: Of course, not.  How could you even think that?

Regan: I think you have.

Edmund: Have not.

Regan: I would never stand for it.  Promise me you’ll stay away from her.

Edmund: Of course.  Oh!  Here they come.

    (Albany, Goneril, and Soldiers come in, with drums and colours.)

Goneril (Aside): I’d rather lose the battle than lose Edmund to my sister.

Albany: Hello, Regan.  Edmund.  Well, it seems that the King is reunited with Cordelia, and everyone who is really pissed off with us — that is, pissed off with you — is ready to fight us.  But just so there’s no misunderstanding, I have nothing to do with family issues.  Your grievances are not mine.  The only reason I’m here is that the French have landed on British soil.  They have forced our hand.

Edmund: Right!  It’s all about duty to the nation.

Regan: Yes.

Goneril: Of course.

Albany: As for the tactics, we should leave it to the experienced commanders to decide what to do.

Edmund: I’ll meet you in your tent.

Regan: Coming, sister?

Goneril: No.

Regan: I think you should.

Goneril (Long pause): All right.  If you insist.

    (Everyone leaves, except Albany, who is intercepted by Edgar coming in, still disguised.)

Edgar: Please, your Grace.  I must have a word with you.

Albany (To Others): Go on.  I’ll catch up with you.  (To Edgar) What is it?

Edgar: Sir, before you join the battle, you should read this letter.  If you win, I’ll be nearby, and I’ll back up what’s in the letter.  Just have a herald call out, and I’ll appear.  If you lose the battle, it won’t matter.

Albany: Stay while I read it.

Edgar: I can’t.  Just remember that when you need me, I’ll be there.  You can trust me.

    (Edgar leaves.  Then Edmund comes in.)

Edmund: The enemy’s in sight.  We’ve got to get moving right now.

Albany: Yes, yes, all right.  (He leaves.)

Edmund: I’ve told both Regan and Goneril that I love them.  But they’re so jealous of each other, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy either one if the other were still alive.  In any case, I need Albany dead and out of the way.  Let Goneril figure out how.  For the sake of appearances, this is his battle and his command.  But once we capture Lear and Cordelia, I’ll see to it that they die.  After that, well, under the right circumstances, I can see myself as the next King.

    (He leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  A field between the two camps.  A trumpet call.  Lear, Cordelia, and Soldiers enter and exit across the stage.  Then Edgar and Gloucester come in.

Edgar: You sit under this tree and pray for us to win.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Gloucester: Good luck.

    (Edgar leaves.  Sounds of battle.  Then a trumpet sounds the retreat.  Edgar returns.)

Edgar: Come on!  I’ve got to get you out of here!  The French army has lost, and Lear and Cordelia have been taken prisoner!

Gloucester: Let me die here, then.

Edgar: Like hell!  Come on!

    (He leads Gloucester off hurriedly.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  The British camp near Dover.  Edmund comes in with victorious drums and colours.  Lear and Cordelia are brought in as prisoners.  Also present: a Captain and Soldiers.

Edmund: Take these two away.  They’ll be judged later.

Cordelia (To Lear): I don’t care what happens to me.  It’s you I’m worried about.

Lear: I’m not afraid of being a prisoner.  We can be in prison together.  If you can forgive me, I’ll sit in prison for the rest of my life and not mind at all.  We’ll live to see the bastards rot.

    (Lear and Cordelia are led away by Soldiers.)

Edmund: Captain, take this note and follow them to the prison.  There are instructions here for you.  Just do what you have to do, and don’t be squeamish about it, understand?

Captain: I understand.

Edmund: Good.  There’ll be a reward in this for you.  Now get going.

    (Captain leaves.  A trumpet flourish.  Albany, Goneril, and Regan come in, with another Captain and Soldiers.)

Albany: Congratulations, Edmund.  You were brilliant in the field.  Now I need to take the prisoners off your hands so I can deal with them properly.

Edmund: Uh, yes.  Right.  I took the liberty of having Lear and Cordelia put under guard where there’s no risk of them stirring up a rebellion against us.  You can take charge of them tomorrow, or whenever you want to put them on trial.  Besides, we ought to wait a bit before we do anything, so that we can deal with things calmly.  You understand.  So soon after the battle, with all our emotions running high.

Albany: I thought I was in charge here.

Regan: Yes, but Edmund commanded my forces, and he represented me.  So I’d say that makes him your equal.

Goneril: He’s equal because of what he did on the battlefield, not because he represented you.

Regan: It’s by my authority that he’s equal.

Goneril: Well, that would be the case if you were married to him.

Regan: Which I might be.

Goneril: Ha!  You’re dreaming, girl!

Regan: Sister, if I didn’t have a stomach ache, I’d really tell you where to go.–Edmund, everything I have is yours.  I’m yours.

Goneril: Do you honestly think you’re going to marry him?

Albany: I don’t see that you can stop her.

Edmund: Neither can you, for that matter.

Albany: Oh, yes, I can, you illegitimate bastard.

Regan (To Edmund): Fight him if you want to marry me!

Albany: Don’t get your hopes up, Duchess.–Edmund, you’re under arrest for treason.  And you, Goneril, are under arrest as an accessory.–So you see, Duchess, your offer of marriage is null and void, since Edmund has already agreed to marry my wife.

Goneril: What a joke!

Albany: So, Edmund?  Do you want to fight me — you goddamn traitor?

Regan: You’re making me sick!

Goneril (Aside): No, that’s the poison I gave you.

Edmund: Nobody calls me a traitor and gets away with it!

Albany: Your soldiers have all been dismissed.  You’re on your own.–Herald!  Herald!

Regan: I’m feeling really sick.

Albany: Take her to my tent.  (Regan is led off by a Soldier.  Then a Herald comes in.)  Come here, Herald.  Read this out to the general camp.

Captain: Sound the trumpet!  The Herald will speak!

    (A trumpet sounds.)

Herald (Reads): ‘If any man wants to accuse Edmund, the supposed Earl of Gloucester, of being a traitor, scoundrel, villain, knave, et cetera, let him appear right here by the third sound of the trumpet.’

Edmund: Go ahead.  Sound your damned trumpet.  I want to see how this joke ends.

    (First trumpet.)

Herald: Again!

    (Second trumpet.)

Herald: Again!

    (Third trumpet.  This is answered by another trumpet, which trumpeter then comes in, immediately followed by Edgar, who is armed.  He is still dressed in poor clothes.)

Albany: Ask him why he’s here.

Herald: Why are you here?

Edgar: I’ve come to fight it out with that fucking traitor Edmund — or whichever slave speaks for him!

Edmund: I speak for myself!  What do you have to say to me?

Edgar: Draw your sword!  You are a traitor to heaven, a traitor to your father, a traitor to your brother, a traitor to your King, and a traitor to the honourable Duke!  And you are a low-down, vile piece of shit and a rotten, miserable, plague-carrying rat!

Edmund: I don’t even know who you are, you asshole!  Under the law, I don’t have to fight a commoner like you, but for your lies and insults, I will!

    (Edmund and Edgar duel.  Edmund receives a mortal blow and falls.)

Albany: Stop!  No more!

Goneril: This is a trick, Edmund!  You didn’t have to fight him!

Albany: Shut up, bitch!  I have the letter you wrote to Edmund.  Here it is.  Recognize it?

Goneril: So what?  You can’t prove any crime against me with that!   (She runs out.)

Albany (To Soldiers): Don’t let her leave the camp.  (Soldiers leave.)

Edmund (To Edgar): I’m going to die….It’s all true…I confess…But who are you?

Edgar: You don’t recognize me like this, do you?  I’m your brother, Edgar.  My father lost his eyes because of you.

Edmund: Then I deserve this.

Albany: Edgar!  I should have known.  Believe me, I never had anything against you or your father.

Edgar: I know.

Albany: But where have you been?  How did you know about your father?

Edgar: I was with him when he was blind.  He didn’t know who I was.  I should have told him then.  I’m sorry I didn’t.  But I had to stay in disguise.  I finally told him just a little while ago.  His heart was too weak for the shock.  But he was happy, and he blessed me before he died.  And there’s something else you should know.  Someone else recognized me when I spoke to my father.  He remembered seeing me as Poor Tom, a mad beggar living in a miserable shack.  And when he realized who I was, he couldn’t contain himself.  He told my father and me the most awful story of what he went through for Lear’s sake — how bad it was for both of them.  

Albany: Who was it?

Edgar: It was Kent — the man Lear banished, who came back in disguise at the risk of his life to watch over his King.

    (A Gentleman rushes in, holding a bloody knife.)

Gentleman: Help!  Help!  She’s dead!  She killed herself!

Albany: Who?

Gentleman: Your wife, sir!  She confessed to poisoning her sister!  They’re both dead!

Edmund: And I’m next.

Albany: Bring in the bodies.

    (Gentleman leaves.)

Edgar: Here comes Kent.

    (Kent comes in.)

Albany: So you’re Kent.  I wish we were meeting under better circumstances.

Kent: I came to say good night to the King.  Isn’t he here?

Albany: The King!  We forgot all about him!  Edmund!  Where’s the King?  Where’s Cordelia?–Look, Kent.  See what’s happened.

    (The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in.)

Kent: Oh, God.  Why?

Edmund: Goneril loved me.  She poisoned her sister for my sake.  Then she took her own life.  She knew I wasn’t going to live.

Albany: Cover them.  Please.  (The bodies are covered.)

Edmund: Before I die….Listen….Quick….To the castle….I gave orders…to have Lear and Cordelia hanged….Hurry….

Albany: Hurry!

Edgar: To who?  We need a sign of authority!

Edmund: Take my sword….Show it to the Captain….He has orders from Goneril and me…to hang Cordelia in the prison…and make it look like suicide.

Edgar (To Messenger): Hurry!  Go!

    (Messenger leaves with the sword.)

Albany: Let’s hope it’s not too late!  Take Edmund away.

    (Edmund is borne off.  Then Lear comes in, carrying the dead Cordelia in his arms, with a Gentleman and others following.)

Lear: She’s dead!  Dead!  Give me all your voices so I can crack the vault of heaven!  She is dead!

Kent: It’s the end of the world.

Albany: Let the world take us all with it.

Lear: If she could only live, it would make up for all the sorrows of my life.

Kent: My poor King.

Lear: Leave me alone.  I might have saved her.  Too late.  My Cordelia.  But I killed the villain that hanged her.

Gentleman: It’s true.  He did.

Lear: I used to be quite good with a sword.  But now I’m old.  And I don’t see too well….Aren’t you Kent?

Kent: Yes, my lord.  It’s me.  And do you know where your servant, Caius, is?

Lear: Oh, he’s dead, I suppose.  He was a good man.

Kent: He’s not dead.  It’s me.

Lear: Oh, well, then, welcome — whoever you are.

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: Edmund has died, my lord.

Albany: That’s a small matter now.  As for the rest of us, we must do what we can for the King.  As long as he’s alive, he will rule Britain.  Everyone will be restored to his proper position and title.  Those who deserve rewards will be rewarded.  And those who were our enemies will get what they deserve.

Lear: My sweet girl….Why should lowly animals have life and not you?….Ohh…I feel faint….It’s so hot in here….See?  Her lips….She’s trying to speak….She wants to tell me–(He dies.)

Edgar: My lord!  My lord!  (He tries to revive Lear.)  My lord!  My lord!

Kent: Let him go.  Let him be with his good daughter.

Albany: Take them away.  (The Gentleman and others carry out the bodies.  To Kent and Edgar)  Who’s going to rule Britain now?  It’s an awful burden for me alone.  The three of us could share it.  Kent?  You were as true to him as any man could be.  He would approve.

Kent: I can’t.  I’ll be going away soon.  There is a master who needs me.

Albany: Edgar?  You were his godson.

Edgar: No.  I have no desire to rule.  I’ve been through too much.  My heart and mind wouldn’t be fit for it.  But you, my lord.  You will be a fine king.  All of Britain will love you and bless you.  And so will the spirit of our King Lear.


    Copyright@ 2010 by Crad Kilodney, Toronto, Canada.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com