Updated July 30, 2003
Act II, Scene 2
The set is changed slightly in order to suggest a touch of 17th Century Danish. (Dropping Danish pastries and cheese onto the set is unlikely to suffice.)
As JACK enters, he notices the set change and is at first puzzled. Then he suddenly recognizes the set, is immediately surprised, and begins wondering what it means.
PERCEEVAL enters from the ramp, dressed suspiciously like Hamlet and carrying a skull. He carries the skull like a bowling ball, two fingers through the eyes and the thumb through the mouth, and using the other hand to occasionally steady it in the normal bowling stance. As PERCEEVAL enters, he delivers his monologue without apparently noticing JACK.
PERCEEVAL: (Shakespearean) O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into dew. How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world! (With greater fanfare.) Fie onít! O, fie! Ďtis an unweeded garden, that grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature possess it merely. That it should come to this!
JACK: Come to what?
PERCEEVAL: (ignoring JACKís question, but turning to address his next lines to JACK) But two days dead! -- nay, not so much, not two: So excellent a king; that was, to this Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother, that he might not between the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly.
JACK: The King is dead? But I just spoke to him.
PERCEEVAL: (turning away from JACK) Heaven and Earth! Must I remember!?
JACK: (putting his arm on PERCEEVAL) Listen, old fellow, I think thereís been a mistake. Itís about the King.
PERCEEVAL: The King, my father?
JACK: I donít know about your father, but the King is still alive and has been so for some time now.
PERCEEVAL: ĎTis very strange.
JACK: Iíll give you that.
PERCEEVAL: Perchance I have erred.
JACK: Perchance. (noticing the skull) What ya got there?
PERCEEVAL: (holding the skull, for the first time, with both hands, in a bowling stance, such that the audience sees the front and top of the skull) Itís a skull.
JACK: Yes, I know. Why are you carrying it?
PERCEEVAL: The aardvark gave it to me. (PERCEEVAL momentarily goes through the first motions of bowling the skull, by swinging the skull back with his straight right arm and taking a long step into the direction of the audience.)
JACK: That was kind of him.
PERCEEVAL: (PERCEEVAL stops the bowling before coming forward, stands up straight and looks again at the skull.) He said it was a womanís skull.
JACK: (surprised, but interested) How can you tell?
PERCEEVAL: The aardvark told me.
JACK: How can he tell?
PERCEEVAL: See how the brow slopes back? According to the aardvark, a maleís brow is much more upright. (very wisely) Thatís probably because a man is much more upright than a woman.
JACK: Thatís true. Women do tend to be a bit more laid back.
PERCEEVAL: And then thereís the eyebrows. (PERCEEVAL rubs his finger over the skullís eyebrows.) Notice how sharp. A manís eyebrows are much smoother. A womanís is sharper.
JACK: Women are sharper than men?
PERCEEVAL: I wouldnít put it quite that way.
JACK: But if itís a womanís skull, who is the woman?
PERCEEVAL: I donít know. (then starting to tear up) Maybe itís my mom. I heard she was on the wrong end of a firing squad.
JACK: Oh yes, the insurrectionists. Pesky lot.
Suddenly, JACK and PERCEEVAL are interrupted by an unearthly wail of pain and remorse. An abrupt change in the lighting casts an eerie spell over the stage. Down the ramp walks LIZ, wearing a ghost like veil, covering her face and pregnant body. LIZ walks slowly, moving to the far side of the stage from JACK and PERCEEVAL. As she moves she begins to speak.
LIZ: Oh woe!!! Woe, woe, woe!
PERCEEVAL: (perplexed and turning to JACK) Woe?
JACK: (sarcastic, responding to the change of events) Whoa.
LIZ: (addressing the men directly) I am thy motherís spirit; doomíd for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in fires, till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid to tell the secrets of my prison-house, I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul and freeze thy young blood. (turning away) But this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood.
JACK: Too bad for us.
LIZ: (turning to PERCEEVAL with even greater intensity) List, list, O, list! -- If thou dist ever thy dearest mother lovest...
LIZ: Revenge my foul and most unnatural murder!!
LIZ: Revenge my death, so that I may escape my fiery hell.
PERCEEVAL: (to JACK) Revenge?
LIZ: (directly to PERCEEVAL) Kill the swine that done me in!!
JACK: Weíll get right on it.
LIZ: (turning away and reverting to her former ghostly self) I will go now, knowing that my death will not go unavenged.
JACK: Weíll take care of everything. Trust me.
PERCEEVAL: (sorrowfully) Must you go now?
PERCEEVAL: But why?
LIZ: Ghosts have to go too, you know. Particularly when theyíre pregnant.
LIZ exits up the ramp.
JACK: (thinking about LIZís last statement) I didnít know that.
PERCEEVAL: What does this mean? Who could have killed her?
JACK: Isnít it obvious? The revolutionariesí central committee.
PERCEEVAL: Of course! Their firing squad! (with an evil grin) Our revenge shall be swift and terrible! No one will live to tell the tale!
JACK: No one?
PERCEEVAL: Well, perhaps one or two. For historical purposes.
ANNE enters the room, dressed as an alleged Danish princess. As she enters, she looks around as if planning to redecorate the castle. She carries several swatches in her hand. When PERCEEVAL sees ANNE, he rushes to her side, as if to console her and put her mind to ease.
PERCEEVAL: Ah Anne, fair sister. Fear not, for I go this very moment to avenge thee.
PERCEEVAL: This very night, I have seen the spirit of thy mother. She has charged me rescue her from the fiery pits, and revenge her most foul death.
ANNE: (to JACK) What is he talking about?
JACK: ( shrugging his shoulders) Itís a bit complicated.
PERCEEVAL: I will send the evil mongers that did her in, down to the bowels of the earth. And there they will burn for their crimes! Burn!!! (turning to ANNE, with suddenly great compassion and sympathy) And thou fair sister, may thereafter rest in peace.
ANNE: (carefully watching PERCEEVAL) Youíre crazy as a loon!
PERCEEVAL: Ha, ha, ha! You too were fooled! I have misled the Kingís clumsy spies by clever answers to their confused questions. They thought me mad, and I deceived them thereby.
ANNE: Donít blame them! You could fool anybody.
PERCEEVAL: Enough chit chat. I have a quest to do. (PERCEEVAL turns abruptly and starts for the ramp.) I go now!
ANNE: Please do!
PERCEEVAL: (turning back to ANNE) Farewell, fair sister. (to JACK) Farewell... whoever you are.
PERCEEVAL turns and exits with grandeur, via the ramp.
ANNE: What was that all about?
JACK: Apparently, Perceeval has gone to avenge his motherís death by killing all the members of the revolutionariesí central committee.
ANNE: Well, I wish him luck. Committees are awfully hard to kill.
JACK: So Iíve heard.
ANNE: Wait a minute! You said he was to avenge his motherís death?
ANNE: But his mother is my mother! Heís my half-brother.
JACK: I know. Small world isnít it?
ANNE: My mother is dead?
JACK: Iím afraid so. Killed by a firing squad... if we are to believe the reports.
ANNE: My mother killed! Oh, I think not.
JACK: What do you mean?
ANNE: I would have felt it, had she been killed. There would have been a disturbance in the force, in the very fabric of the universe.
ANNE: Plus which, I happen to know that the revolutionary central committeeís firing squad are notoriously poor shots.
JACK: You may be right. There is a rumor that your mother was merely wounded by the firing squad and that she escaped with the aid of two of her former guards.
ANNE: She escaped?
JACK: Itís only a rumor. At the same time, your half-brother and I have just been visited by someone claiming to be her ghost.
ANNE: Now that sounds like mother! Sheíd stoop to any contrivance to complicate the lives of her children.
JACK: If you like, I can investigate further.
ANNE: Donít go to any trouble. I feel certain she survived, and an investigation would just blow her cover that much sooner. Right now, Iím not sure what I would do with her speedy return. She tends to really cramp my style. Itís very hard to have any fun when sheís around.
JACK: Motherís are like that.
ANNE: She just wonít let go.
JACK: I understand.
ANNE: You do?
JACK: Of course.
ANNE: (sweetly) You seem so kind and understanding.
JACK: I try to help. Whenever I can.
ANNE: And could you help me?
JACK: (easily) Why not?
ANNE: (earnestly) I need your support.
JACK: (becoming suspicious) How?
ANNE: I want to be a princess.
JACK: That could be tough unless your fatherís a king.
ANNE: Or my mother a queen?
JACK: A Queen?
ANNE: Even a... former queen.
ANNE: Surely youíve noticed the strong resemblance between Liz and all the paintings of the royal ancestors hung around here.
JACK: Most of the kingdom bears a family resemblance. Letís face it... Catherineís father, King Fritz, believed in being intimately involved in the lives of his subjects.
ANNE: So Liz could be King Fritzís daughter!
JACK: Among a few hundred others. But unfortunately, she would be an illegitimate daughter.
ANNE: An ugly rumor. One to be put to rest forever by the next... High Regent?
ANNE: Whoever could bring the ďtruthĒ to light. (ANNE moves seductively to JACKís side, placing her hand lightly on his shoulder.)
JACK: (unsure as to how to take Anneís advances) A difficult task.
ANNE: (sexily) But with substantial and varied rewards.
JACK: (slowly sitting down on the KINGís throne) Rewards?
ANNE: (ANNEís hand brushes JACK as she moves to stand by him, her voice deep and lustful.) Substantial and varied.
Abruptly the KING enters, dressed in a Danish Kingís costume. ANNE quickly distances herself from JACK. The KING hardly notices ANNE or the fact that JACK is sitting on the throne.
KING: Ah, Minister! Just the man weíve been looking for! (The KING quickly sits on the QUEENís throne and leans toward JACK.)
JACK: (startled, and feeling caught on the KINGís throne) Sire?
ANNE: My liege! My hours have been but a shell since you left our chambers.
KING: (turning and surprised to see her) Anne?
ANNE: I have tried to spend my time in some constructive way, honoring you, even without your august presence.
KING: How nice.
ANNE: Iíve noticed the castleís battlements havenít been painted in recent years. Perhaps youíd like me to use my meager talents in sprucing them up. Perhaps a few frescos, maybe some wallpaper, a few knick knacks here and there... (as an afterthought...) With your permission, of course.
KING: (smiling between his teeth) Of course. (to JACK) We will, however, wish to consult with our Minister of Renovation. (The KING takes off a necklace and simply hands it to JACK. JACK takes the necklace and whips it on with minimal fanfare.) What sort of plans have you, worthy menial?
KING: Renovation. As in discarding old, worn out, used and no longer valuable... things. (With his eyes, he indicates ANNE.)
JACK: (understanding) Oh, I see. (JACK smiles as he rises and moves away from the throne.) Always clever and brilliant ones, sire. You know you can count on me.
KING: Weíre very pleased to hear that. (to ANNE.) You may leave us now.
ANNE: (hurt) Sire?
KING: Donít you have to get some decorating samples or something?
ANNE: (thinking she has won another small round) But or course, sire. Forgive my impertinence.
JACK: (gesturing to ANNEís departing figure) You did that quite well.
KING: Thank you. Incidentally, if you are ever caught again sitting on either throne, you will have your appendix removed with two decisive incisions.
JACK: Two incisions?
KING: One about the abdomen and one about the neck. (The KING gives JACK his best smile.)
JACK: (suppressing a shudder) Iíll keep that in mind.
KING: Now to our problem. The Lady Anne, that delightful creature that spends her days and nights serving her King, who daily becomes even more beautiful in her constantly expanding wardrobe, who spends her days adding beauty and color to my kingdom at great expense and at the cost of constantly increasing the upkeep, who cleverly manages to exceed even the Kingís credit limit in acquiring all sorts of wondrous and expensive trinkets for our boudoir, and who consistently amazes me in her ability to exert increasing authority over the household servants, the guards, the nobility, my ministers...
JACK: She certainly has become someone to be reckoned with.
KING: Sheís got to go.
KING: Go. Leave. Eliminated. Dismissed. Whatever. Just as long as sheís out of my hair!
JACK: Your majesty is not happy with Anne?
KING: Look, Jack. Weíre both men of the world. Anneís a great lay... dy. But right now, Iíd just as soon bed Lady Macbeth on one of her off nights.
JACK: But sire, you are the King. You could exile her, banish her, demote her, have her executed... Why do you need me?
KING: You obviously have no understanding of the running of a benevolent dictatorship. The truly benevolent monarch... (with great modesty) Such as I... never takes action against any of his beloved subjects. (The KING is almost moved to tears.) It just isnít done! Instead, he uses some menial to do the dirty work.
KING: Of course. Youíre my most trusted menial.
JACK: Iím honored.
KING: You should be. So develop one of your brilliant schemes. And with haste.
JACK: Actually, I have something in mind even now.
KING: (leaning back) Iím impressed. So what is the plan?
JACK: We bring Elizabeth back to the castle.
KING: (surprised) Elizabeth? I thought she had been shot!
JACK: No. On the contrary, she has escaped with the aid of two of her guards.
KING: Thatís wonderful news Iím sure. But why bring Elizabeth back into the household?
JACK: Perhaps you may have noticed the strong family resemblance between Elizabeth and the Queenís family. They could be sisters.
KING: Youíre kidding.
JACK: Well, maybe half-sisters. In any case, if it were shown that she is of royal blood and part of your family, I am sure your benevolency would wish to honor her in some grand way.
KING: (incredulous) Honor her?
JACK: With a magnificent gift.
JACK: Your castle in the north, for example.
KING: Are you kidding!? That place is a frozen wasteland, not fit for man nor beast... (Suddenly the idea dawns on the KING. Then he smiles along with JACK.) On the other hand, it is an ideal location for a woman of her caliber.
JACK: A place to keep her on ice... so to speak.
KING: Yes, yes. Wonderful way to phrase it.
JACK: And of course, with the Lady Anne welcoming her motherís return; your gracious majesty, in your most benevolent way, would undoubtedly want to grant Anne the privilege of accompanying her mother to their new home.
KING: Through great personal loss to myself.
JACK: A truly royal gesture.
KING: God, Iím a nice guy.
JACK: One of the best I know.
KING: You think thereís any way to unload the Queen as well?
JACK: Perhaps as an escort for the other ladies, to deliver them forthwith. However, Iím afraid sire, that the problem of a more permanent relocation of the Queen is considerably more difficult. But once Anne and her mother have gone, the Queen should be much more amenable to anything we wish to do. If only from the example of the upcoming royaltyís departure.
KING: (smiling) Yes. Excellent, excellent. (magnanimously honoring JACK) For this great service to the crown... (The KING takes off his latest necklace and unceremoniously tosses it to JACK, whereupon JACK casually adds it to his other badges of office by slinging it across one shoulder, instead of putting it around his neck.) You will be made Minister of Excommunications.
JACK: A noble title.
KING: But we must hurry. We have only this day, seen another lady which greatly intrigues us.
JACK: Another one?
KING: Interestingly enough, her name is Anne as well.
JACK: (expecting the worse) Whatís her last name?
KING: Who cares? Oh, I think itís Boling... Boleyn... something like that.
JACK: I can see that we will have to move fast.
KING: Go then and find Elizabeth. We are greatly impatient to move forward with our plan.
JACK: Trust me.
JACK bows and exits via the ramp.
The QUEEN enters, dressed as a Danish Queen, and approaches the KING with undeterred step.
QUEEN: (graciously and subservient) My lord...
QUEEN: I have come to you with a grave problem, that only your superior wisdom and intelligence can hope to solve.
KING: The water tableís risen again?
QUEEN: No, my lord. It is the Lady Anne.
KING: Donít tell me you find Anne unworthy as a Lady-in-Waiting.
QUEEN: I donít think sheís waiting.
QUEEN: Unless itís for me to expire.
KING: Quite possibly.
QUEEN: Surely it is not your majestyís wish as well.
KING: Mine? Heaven forbid!
QUEEN: Then surely you can see that she plots against you as well.
QUEEN: Sheís begun redecorating the royal cemetery.
KING: That is a grave problem.
QUEEN: Surely it is obvious that something must be done.
KING: And what would you have me to do?
QUEEN: (sweetly) You could escort your little ďspoil of warĒ to the nearest... cesspool.
KING: And shove her in?
QUEEN: Itís a possibility.
KING: A noble thought, but lacking in subtlety.
QUEEN: You have a better plan?
KING: Naturally. (as the QUEEN begins to smile) Donít worry my wife. Plans for the Lady Anneís future are already underway.
QUEEN: (very pleased) I have underestimated my King.
KING: Constantly. But I think in this case you may be of assistance.
QUEEN: Your slightest wish is my command.
KING: Anneís mother, your half-sister, is returning to claim her rightful place in our household.
QUEEN: (suddenly shocked) Half-sister!?
KING: Yes. And we will welcome her with open arms. It may take some effort, but Anne will be led to accept her as her mother and welcome her as well.
QUEEN: But to what end, my lord?
KING: So that the reunited mother and daughter can then journey together to my northern castle, which in my renowned generosity I will give to them.
QUEEN: Your northern castle!!? That frigid... (Suddenly the light dawns.) But nevertheless lovely castle in the north?
QUEEN: Your generosity and cleverness never fail to amaze me, my lord.
KING: What can I say?
QUEEN: Nothing. I only hope that I can adequately repay you for your kindness.
KING: We are confident that you can indeed repay us. But first things first. We must now prepare for Elizabethís return.
QUEEN: May I join you in your... preparations?
KING: Of course. I will send for you before the afternoon wanes.
QUEEN: Whatever you say, my love.
The KING exits right, while the QUEEN continues to smile. With the KING out of earshot, the QUEEN turns and begins to exit left, smiling broadly, relishing the moment, and saying her line as she goes.
QUEEN: Ah, yes, Jack. The plan is working perfectly!!
Laughing mischievously, the QUEEN exits.
With the QUEEN off stage, JACK and ANNE enter from the ramp.
ANNE: Are you sure this is going to work?
JACK: Trust me.
ANNE: All I have to do is to accept Liz as my mother, and sheíll be welcomed into the royal family as Catherineís sister?
JACK: And you automatically become a princess.
ANNE: It seems too easy.
JACK: Ahhhh. But it must not look too easy. You must pretend to seriously doubt Lizís claim to be your mother. Instead, you are the grieving daughter, who lost her mom to the cruel fate of an unfriendly firing squad. Youíre distraught and faintly angry that anyone would have the gall to try to pass themselves off as your mother.
ANNE: Itís hard for me to believe that anyone would want to be mom. Itís such a thankless task.
JACK: Iím counting on your acting ability to pull this off. You can fake it, canít you?
ANNE: Oh yes. Iíve had plenty of experience at faking it.
JACK: Excellent! Now go and prepare for the royal audience. Iíll go and bring Liz to the castle.
ANNE: I hope this works.
JACK: (to himself) So do I.
JACK exits via the ramp.
Act II, Scene 1 -- Mycenaean
Act II, Scene 3 -- 20th Century European
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]