Translated from the Romanian by Petru Iamandi
First performed at Teatrul Dramatic, Galati, Romania, on
Copyright (C) Victor Cilinca 1996
POLONIUS ..................... Chamberlain at the Court of Elsinore
FREEMAN ..................... a man at a loose end, revolutionary by profession
DAISY ..................... chief housekeeper, Polonius' right hand
YORICK II ..................... official fool
BLACK MAN ..................... actor and smuggler
"QUEEN" ..................... actor, former hairdresser
"KING" ..................... actor, former actor
GUARD ..................... member of the Elsinore militia, at Polonius' beck and call
The main piece of scenery is a huge wooden staircase climbing up to
a wooden platform on which the three actors ("King", "Queen," and
Black Man) will play, with their backs tothe audience, facing a spot
which cannot be seen for the semi-darkness of the background (or for
the blinding limelights in the background). The platform, supported by
thick square pillars, can provide the room for the duellists in the
final scene. Halfway through the second act, the pillars in the
background can make a guillotine or its shadow and, in the final
scene, a flag slide along them. From the platform the staircase climbs
on to the foot bridge. A straight curtain, fastened with a bar, can
fall in the middle of this segment of the staircase, giving the
illusion of a stage. From somewhere under the platform, at a certain
height, hang three cardboard crowns, different in model and size. At
the end of the play a huge door will descend from above right in front
of Polonius. Its handle is so high that Polonius will have to draw to
his full length to reach it. In front of the staircase, through the
first trap door, there is another staircase (only the end of its
banisters can be seen) climbing down to the basement. A cellar trap
door can be used instead of this staircase. At the beginning of the
second act sheets and shirts hang from several lines. Behind the
staircase there is a bare wall. Hanging from the wall there is a
trough for washing; in front of it there are several straw bales.
Generally, in the refined style of the beginning of the 20th
POLONIUS - when he climbs down, in a black swallow-tailed coat, a
lackey's yellow and black-striped vest, white shirt, black bow tie, a
20th century medal with a red ribbon. Informally, he wears a white,
embroidered vest, white shirt and bow tie or black four-in-hand tie,
fastened with a brooch. At his first appearance, he wears a long cloak
with a Dracula collar.
FREEMAN - when he first enters he wears a visored conic Red Army
cap, without the star, round Bakunin spectacles, a coat which covers
his half naked body and is fastened with only one button, the others
missing. His pants are rather short, with linen suspenders. Sandals or
Charlie Chaplin shoes. At the Court, during the second act, he wears
the black uniform of the guards (baggy pants and jacket fastened by a
belt), with an edging but without any marks, and no cap. A silk
shirt, with a wide frill. At the end of the play he wears Polonius'
swallow-tailed coat and under it the guard uniform, with a diagonal
belt and the chamberlain's medal. In the last scene, he wears his
DAISY - a soubrette's costume, with a white apron and flounces on
the shoulders. High-heeled, buttoned boots. A linen ribbon, black
velvet dress, with soft, satin stripes. When in the servants' company,
she wears her black low-necked dress, a 1930 hat, long white gloves, a
pearl necklace and a riding whip. In the second act she decently gives
up the pearls and the gloves for a long black knit shawl.
YORICK II - fez with three tassels, straight jacket, flyer's
"KING" - a cardboard crown, prisoner-striped leotard, cloak. When
at Court, worker's overalls. In the final scene, the guard uniform.
"QUEEN" - striped leotard, crinoline frame, cardboard crown.
Obviously artificial breasts and buttocks, brick-red and fastened with
suspenders and belts over the T-shirt. If possible, the actor should
be bald and will greet the "audience" by taking off his wig.
BLACK MAN - bowler hat, black leotard, two watches on each wrist,
white leggings. Wide grotesque dark rings.
GUARD - round cap, epaulettes, rather short tunic, belt with gun
holster, diagonal belt. Baggy pants with wide edging; the uniform is
brick-red or faded khaki.
"King," "Queen," Black Man face a background curtain. They start to
act before an invisible audience which is felt only by confused
BLACK MAN: We bow to Your Highnesses! (The three of them bow to the
ground) We're going to show you a wonderful and terrible drama! We're
telling you this from the very beginning so that you can get ready to
cry properly. Our story is sad and includes three illustrious lives,
dreadfully befallen by the same bleak misfortune ... He (pointing to
"King") is the King. A good king, for sure, like all leaders, as long
as they are at the helm, sword in hand and a sharp ear. Before dying
any sovereign is good enough for his subjects who dedicate odes to
them. She (pointing to "Queen") is the Queen - in our story! (Lewdly)
A very good queen! Queens matter less as long as kings are legitimate.
And I am Black Man! They needed an icon of the Evil one. I, Black Man,
am on very friendly terms with Their Highnesses. He is ... like a
brother to me ... and she is ... well ... close ... The two crowned
people are - everybody knows
"QUEEN": One soul!
"KING": One life!
BLACK MAN: One bed ...
"KING": The King is brave and the country is quiet. Have you
noticed the latest kind of oak gallows? ... The King and the Queen are
sitting in the green garden ...
BLACK MAN: They don't care a damn!
"QUEEN": She is hardworking, young and faithful ...
BLACK MAN: And the two of them have only one prince who's proud of
everything. And they are happy, sitting in the green garden ...
"KING": The subjects are content. Indeed, taxes have increased, but
the first family in the kingdom has also increased in number and need.
And they're all sitting in the green garden ...
BLACK MAN: Is that so! Does that mean that I, the Queen's closest
friend, and the King's, the King who is, is he, like other to me,
should let the grass grow under my feet, watch them idle on the green
lawn, while their poor subjects are toiling? No, the demon of passion
is ruling me: the Queen is still young. The country is rich, the
riches waiting only to be picked up. The country is wonderful - it has
so many (looking at the Queen) shapes. The country would be more
content to have me ... Who would stop me?
"KING": I. Only I: I'm still alive. And my spouse loves me. And my
country glorifies me. The ballads that have been dedicated to me are
witness to that, the people's jeers (coughs) ... cheers whenever they
see me in the balcony. "To own the country you must occupy the woman",
or maybe the other way round, a Norwegian general once said. I am both
the country and the woman! I sometimes think while sitting
in the green garden: what might they be doing? The country ...
"QUEEN" (frivolously): How big it is!
"KING": ... Indeed, so far the Norwegians have taken about ten thousand square miles from us ... But I haven't had the time to take care of that. I will think ...
"QUEEN": He is very clever. He's passed a number of laws such as the Law of
Nourishment, the Law of Censorship and the Law, the Law of ... Gravitation!
BLACK MAN: Man would rather die from the hammer of the idle than the whip of pest! They are sitting comfortably in the green garden while I, Black Man, am not! They wear crowns and ties while I a hat and a ... what do the English call it? ... pullover!
"KING": I hosted this man in my house, I treated him decently, I made him the way we are, I cheered him up ...
"QUEEN": I cheered him too, in his shyness, in his unrevealed manhood. He gained my whole ... (makes a circle in the air) confidence!
"KING": Until one day when ...
BLACK MAN: The King was sleeping in the green garden. I had with me, as if by chance, the hemlock can ... Which I poured (miming), the whole of it, into his ear. And, indeed, the King looked as sensitive to what was going into his ear as to the delations of his spies ...
"QUEEN": An hour later he was cold. Colder than usual. I can tell you now that he was a tyrant. We buried him. Well!
BLACK MAN: With pomp. Then we had the wedding meal. For me, the best counsellor of the loathsome monarch, and for her, the morning Queen. We had tiny partridges,
sucking pigs in sharp sauce, caviar, champagne from the French ...
"KING"(dying, on the ground, moaning): One thousand ducats a cup!!!
"QUEEN": Very-very good cocktails and music ... Oh, I suffered so much!
BLACK MAN: Now everything is changed in Denmark. The country is happy, the
Norwegians have taken another twenty thousand square miles but who cares? We've got toasting and dancing
to do ...
"QUEEN": He's clever.
BLACK MAN: That's right. I hate the former's diplomacy: even our life has completely changed ...
"QUEEN": We're sitting in the green garden ...
"KING" (rising, shaking off the dust): This was our sad story. You know the end now. Everybody, I mean every good body sooner or later dies, then the Norwegians come and "liberate" us.
BLACK MAN: This has, indeed, been everything - the official version. When the living evidence is lost, destroyed, stolen or fearfully locked, historians will finally take up reconstituting the approximate fictionized story. A little later, an Englishman will write a play about the customs of the ruling class in today's Denmark ... (The actors bow, the curtain falls and, after a pause in which the three of them look at one another tensely, they hear a clap. The curtain rises a little then falls again. Silence, broken in upon by the confused murmur of those who are leaving. Discontented voices.)
The same, Daisy, coming from upstairs. She bends her head to pass under the curtain.
DAISY: OK, they're all gone, you can wipe your make-up. Prince Hamlet is waiting in the dressing room to congratulate you. He seems a little nervous, though!
BLACK MAN: I hope he enjoyed our improvision. We took the script and scented it with rumours from the crowd. We did exactly as the Prince ordered us to but the audience, dear madam, looked underservedly hostile to some poor actors!
"KING": I've heard he's violent. I do hope we came up to the bit ...
"QUEEN" (aside): He seems a delicate person ...
DAISY: The King got angry ... when they told him ... the
Queen fainted. But the words about Hamlet's father made the
Prince go crazy too. I think you're in trouble! You don't know him! I wish you could hear him yell whole passages from Shakespeare along the corridors of the palace, looking so prudish you feel like sanctifying him, when, all of a sudden, - bang! he slaps your buttocks or pricks you with his sword, to have fun as it were! I complained to my superiors but how much does a servant's life matter when it comes to the young prince's entertainment? The young guards adore him, though. He speaks well, the rake: about martyrs, saints, golden future, the rain that's going to come and flood it all, their time, the time of the youth of pure race ... bla-bla-bla!
"KING": Could he be mad?
DAISY: We all tend to reach the highest degree of paranoia and, once at the top, we
can't avoid being completely crazy: generals who slaughter their armies for a historical victory which has brought along only hunger and lice, princes who rummage the history to find a nice berth in the neighbouring country, lawmen who believe the world starts and ends with them ... But you can't call your rulers "crazy", you call them "eccentric," and the people loves its eccentrics, the more royal they are. And, generally speaking, the people loves Hamlet because he is handsome.
BLACK MAN: The people is sentimental - it bears everything as long as the photos in the newspaper, the leader's smile is sweet enough ...
DAISY: Look out!
The same, Polonius, coming from upstairs.
POLONIUS: Champagne for the actors!
"KING": Oh - oh!
DAISY: Forget it.
POLONIUS: You've broken our agreement! Prince Hamlet reported to the King he had checked the script of this charity performance. I myself, whom Their Highnesses trust unswervingly, checked the cheking and everything seemed correct! His Majesty is rather furious at the impudence of your
BLACK MAN: If you'll allow me ...
POLONIUS: But ... He is satisfied Prince Hamlet is, in his turn, as hysterical as a bitch whose lover has just been gelded, ha-ha (waits for the others to laugh - the others laugh). Well, for the time being you've got the chance to be foreign citizens, but in this country everything is possible - maybe you've already heard that ...
BLACK MAN: If you'll allow us, we started from a legend, we don't know how nostalgic it was, and we endeavoured to observe the whole truth ...
POLONIUS: It's not in plays that you can find the truth!
BLACK MAN: It seemed to us that justice ...
POLONIUS: It so happens that, if you're not of noble extraction, you can sometimes be right, but only from certain points of view and, anyway, you can wipe your ass with the justice from Denmark! For the moment, you're invited to tonight's wedding feasts. Is that justice? I for one would have had you hanged, preventively, for the next shows. Unfortunately, rulers don't always listen to my decent advice... Anyway, because it's high season and when it's
high season you can't find rooms at any inn, tonight you're going to stay in the new wing of the prison. It's ... closer. We're ... going to read the script again and compare it to the shorthand record of the performance. Here, take the key to your cell. Come on, don't be afraid: the moment we are born we start living in a conditioned freedom!
"QUEEN": Thank you, monsieur!
BLACK MAN: We've just done our duty, Sir ...
"KING" (bows, holding his crown with one hand): Much obliged,
POLONIUS: Right. Do not debauch, do not enter into conversation with the Danes. Do not eat much - the chief doctor of the Court asks us to feed on maple tea. Do not mix with the other people in the prison! - not all of them are, at least for the time being, ... guests. Sleep well, have fun as the Prince is waiting for you and then, if you are hungry ... you'd better not be hungry! No, no, you don't need to thank me! (The three actors exit backwards, bowing all the time) Good night, sweet king!
POLONIUS: Have you got His Royal Highness' collar ready?
DAISY: Yes. She will looked more beautiful than ever. The starched white collar is wonderfully hiding her delicate double chin.
POLONIUS: Let everything be ready! I hope that Master Stocking and Master Sock have already warmed up the divine tights for the night? ...
DAISY: It goes without saying, Your Highness.
POLONIUS: OK. Come, let me pinch your cheek, dear! (pinches her). Right. What do you know about my daughter? What are Ophelia's whereabouts?
DAISY: Your child, shaken by so much reading, is resting in her maiden bower. I suppose she's practicing music, just before going to bed.
POLONIUS: You suppose? What have I ordered you to do?
DAISY: Yes, Sir - she hasn't left the house any more, hasn't received any letters or notes!
POLONIUS: Er ... the Prince ... has he written anything more to her?
DAISY: Little and hastily, but I have confiscated everything!
POLONIUS (aside): Little and hastily? Why, in the old days I used to write a lot! I've still got a copy of each. But we, the generation of sacrifice, the heroes that built the chain of fortresses we give up, one by one, to the Norwegians, were full of respect in our letters. We used to write in verse and sign, "He who loves you, doesn't need to sign" ... (to DAISY) Does he bring the letters himself?
DAISY: No, sometimes a servant does it, sometimes a guard, sometimes an actor or a double Norwegian spy ... The latest has just been brought by a man.
POLONIUS: A man? What do you mean "a man"? Whose man is he?
DAISY: Ask me. I don't think he belongs to anyone.
POLONIUS: Then he's an unborn: everyone belongs to someone, especially in politics and administration! (Aside) How churlish! To entrust secret letters to anyone! What if the newspapers find that out again?
DAISY (aside): The story has been notorious for quite a while, anyway, to use a little bit of journalese. (Loud) He's a poor foreigner, coming from who knows what country which is poorer and with more thieves than ours.
POLONIUS: I'll have him arrested for one reason or another. It's a disgrace what's happening in our high society! In fact, Hamlet's is only the third royal generation; my family, though, has given a lot of famous cousellors - even Noah must have had an ancestor of Master Polonius' over his beasts! There have been so many kings of humble origin who were raised, just like dirt to the surface, to the top of the table due to some mob rebellion! The wave of boors pushed them to the throne hall and once there they clawed to the throne and didn't let themselves be taken back by the ebb tide ... But we the neck that guides the royal head in the right direction!
Sometimes a king forgets or doesn't know that he is just a king, subject to his subjects in high positions, like me. We, our clan, had a most honourable cup-bearer at Louis' Court (counts on his fingers) a great chef at Charlemagne's kitchens, a most reliable guard at Constantine the Great's throne, and an impoverished, though brave, sword-bearer in Caesar's army ...And some Polonius must have sat at Jesus' table too - the Last Supper hasn't been called like that for nothing. People of humble origin show their true colours even after three generations: Prince
Hamlet doesn't face me openly but tries to seduce my daughter, encroaching on her virtue...
DAISY (aside): That's a way of saying it ...
POLONIUS (shaking off his glorious memories): Have you confiscated the letter?
DAISY (taking it out from her bosom, like a cat, feasting her eyes on him): Here it is. Poor child, I fully understand her - she hasn't even had a good look at him! Only once or twice, passing by. She keeps his icon at her bosom, in his mourning clothes which fit him so well, with a
loathing skull in his hand having on its back the words, "To be or not to be?" What a question!
POLONIUS: Well, at her age, girls get diddled quickly and cured slowly!
DAISY: But she's seen him only once or twice!
POLONIUS: Too much! Or too little - I wish she'd seen him daily, she might have got over it if she had known the real Hamlet. Thus neither she nor I will be able to say "No" some day ...
The same, Guard, Freeman
GUARD (enters dragging Freeman): Forgive me, Your Highness, I have caught a villain.
POLONIUS: Who's that?
GUARD: Your Highness, this foreigner has broken the Chinese vase and he's only got a few pennies on him, he
can't possible pay for such a precious thing! Shall I have the rascal hanged in no time?
FREEMAN: I'm not a rascal! A nobleman sent me with a little letter to this big house. He gave me only a few pennies but
it was honest work and not very tiresome - therefore not degrading - so I accepted. If I can pay back for the damage with this little money which, to me - a proletarian - means as much as a carriage does to Rockefeller, I can do it right away!
POLONIUS (amused - he has a new toy now!): It's not enough, keep searching!
FREEMAN: Keep searching whom?
POLONIUS: Keep searching for something that might appeal to me so that I can forget the terrible grief you've caused me by distroying such a valuable ... And don't forget to add "Sir" whenever you open that bad smelling mouth of yours!
FREEMAN: I'm a free man and, even if it upsets you, my manners are not that good ...
FREEMAN: ... Sir. I entered the palace against my will, I don't even know who it belongs to. And that damned cuspidor just caught my coat!
POLONIUS: "That damned" thing was a very rare china vase, wonderfully painted. Surely your skin, thoroughly cleaned, isn't worth that. I mean your skin in its most useful state, that is tanned!
DAISY (looking him up and down expertly, like a woman): Shall we take him?
POLONIUS (has got the message, enjoys himself): I don't know ... Looks rather skinny ... I'd better send him to the judge, with a short note describing how to use Justice. We say that ... he tried to steal. Or raped someone. He must have, the judge, in his collection a set of declarations signed by our cooks! Yes, we'll give the judge great pleasure, he was
anyhow complaining that for three days the public opinion hasn't had a new example of justice, hasn't shown the determined way in which our judges maintain peace in Denmark.
Breaking him on the wheel or skinning him alive in public would be a nice example,
wouldn't it, Daisy? Oh, how much the crowd would enjoy it! And they wouldn't footle about any longer; they would stop getting drunk, talking politics ...
DAISY (slowly realizing): But what if he is the Prince's man? Do you think Hamlet would have sent just anyone to your daughter?
POLONIUS (softly): So that's the one who delivered letters to Ophelia? (Loud) Do you know in whose house you are now?
FREEMAN: I haven't got the slightest idea and I don't really see the use of it as I am leaving the house anyway: my mission has been accomplished!
POLONIUS (kindly; his scornful, pedantic tone turns humane): Hey, take it easy! Your "mission" must have been bloody secret, otherwise your master would have taught you how to take ypur leave properly.
FREEMAN: I'm sorry but I have no master, Sir, and the young nobleman who asked me to deliver the little letter didn't insist on keeping any secret so I don't insist on it either. On the contrary, I got the impression that all present - and there were quite a number, young men dressed like guards - knew
pretty well what it was all about. As a matter of fact, the envelope was open ...
POLONIUS (puzzled, taken aback): Reckless young men! White-headed boys who don't know the price of life! Their parents died for Denmark and they, a bunch of
revellers, with no faith in God! You know, I am proud to admit it, my father forced me to start it from scratch, to know the roughness of life. And there I am today, with the burden of this palace on my shoulders, under the sceptre of the best of all sovereigns
... Tell me, do you have a name?
FREEMAN: Freeman. And I am a free man, one of those for whom exploitation and oppression are even more loathsome than death!
POLONIUS: Shut up! Forget the fine words and join the ranks! God knows why I don't send you to the executioner right away
... look, the guard is so sorry ... And it wouldn't be a great loss. You don't even regret having broken a unique object of art. Those like you can't tell the functional from the aesthetic! You hate us because we've got precious things, you hate our sophisticated habits and on no account can you
understand that an object of art doesn't always belong to only one social class. Ridiculous - you even take revenge on the things that belong to us!
FREEMAN: Some day, we, the ones who support civilization with the strength of our arms, will find the time to enjoy the beautiful too. Then all the people will be equal, beautiful, kind and clever. And we will protect the world's peace arm in hand!
POLONIUS: My boy, if people were equal, there would be no room for the clever ones for the fools, the stupid are the most numerous. You see, cleverness is like water in a glass: it doesn't grow over the rim. While those who would like to drink it are more and more numerous ... ha-ha.
DAISY (pulling his coat): He could stay here! We could laugh at his tomfoolery ... Come, Your Highness, we'll lick him into shape, don't worry about that! You can easily see he's never had a master, poor thing!
POLONIUS (reluctanly): And what would you like me to do, bring him up? Feed him all his life just because he had the magnanimity to break an invaluable china thing? One that my dear departed wife loved so much?
DAISY: Your Highness, no offence meant, sooner or later the china thing would have got broken anyhow while this young man looks sturdy enough and in twenty years of honest work he will be able to get forgiveness and leave here, if after such a long time he'll be stupid enough to leave such a pleasant place, "under the kings' arms" - as Yorick says!
FREEMAN: You're talking about me as if I were a trunk!
DAISY: At least a trunk is useful! Come, man, stop swaggering or go and hang yourself!
FREEMAN: Shut up, woman, let me think!
DAISY: Don't ever say that again if you don't want to lose your life!
POLONIUS: See? You're wasting your breath. OK, make him a servant and give him something to do, right away! Let me not see him idling! And give something to the guard, he fully deserves
it! And don't forget the stockings!
DAISY: As you wish!
POLONIUS: Try not to break any other pots, behave yourselves! (Climbing the stairs. From the platform, softly) Man, you really don't know who sent you?! (Exits)
Freeman, Guard, Daisy
GUARD: You've heard him, m'am; give me something to eat, then off I go, maybe I'll catch another one!
DAISY: Right away, young man. (To FREEMAN) Would you like some?
FREEMAN: Well, I've never stood rich people in my whole life and here I am now serving one! I must be dreaming ...
GUARD: I for one never cast my bread upon the waters and waste my breath on halfwits, still I would advise you not to give any trouble to the people you're pestering! Hear me good! Next time you won't catch Master Polonius in such high spirits!
FREEMAN: Whose side are you on, anyway? Your job is to protect him, you are a servant too, but you belong with the crowd, like me and this woman!
GUARD: Cut the song, will you? I'm a little hard of hearing now that this lady here is going to give me a proper dinner, others might not like your music, though, and they might cut your tongue, head included! And if it occurs to you to run away ... I don't feel like searching for you with the dogs ...
FREEMAN: Don't worry, I'm not leaving, at least not today! But
I am Freeman, the free man, the poor man who doesn't mix with the flunkeys!
GUARD: Then good-bye and go to hell! Come, m'am, let's go!
DAISY: Wait for me, young man. You'll soon see this is the land of milk and honey. I'll fetch you something good to eat. (Leaving) Tie him!
GUARD (glad, waves upstairs and a chain is lowered; he ties Freeman's hand to the chain and the wire which crosses the stage; whispers) So you're free, aren't you? Here's freedom!
(Walks FREEMAN pulling him by the chain) See? (Exits)
FREEMAN: But I am Freeman, the free man, I am Freeman ...
Freeman ... Freeman ...
Freeman (walking to and fro, furiously, as far as the chain allows him to), Yorick II
YORICK: Is it war? Have the Norwegians invaded the palace?
FREEMAN: I wish they were! Who are you?
YORICK: Yorick II. A one hundred per cent mad dynasty!
FREEMAN: Does that mean you've got blue blood too?
YORICK: I haven't cut myself to see it, but I wouldn't be too surprised to have it as blue as the blood of the amateur fools running this world ... And who, pray, are you, I haven't seen you around?
FREEMAN: I come from the whole world. Of you I seem to have heard, though ...
YORICK: Here everyone's heard of Yorick. You know, here fools aren't necessarily wise but they are few and quality people while clumsy cooks, one-eyed jobbers and incapable kings are to be found everywhere!
FREEMAN (interested): And is it big deal to be the official fool?
YORICK: You bet it is! An official fool is allowed to speak his mind and then everybody says he's crazy! To change, the world has to see itself as it is first.
FREEMAN: And do your words change anything at all?
YORICK: No! Of course not! Look, when you tell the truth ... for example, "The king is growing decrepit," everyone thinks it's a metaphor. But if I say, "The weather is bad," they
start whispering - they imagine I'm hinting at the disastrous social conditions or the
bankrupt economy. In the latter case, the Censor's Office deletes the sentence. Dear me, I shouldn't have said "Censor's Office" - these words are censored!
FREEMAN: I knew that fools did their mad tricks before the king by flashes of inspiration. How could those be
YORICK: Maybe! The Censor's Office reads my tricks BEFORE I utter them. Simple, isn't it? And then good-bye spontaneity, farewell brilliance! But let me tell you a secret, I see you're a poor young man, I can trust you. (Whispering into his ear) The more courageous hints are edged in by THEM to make the gullible happy that, look, the stupid Censor's Office has overlooked something! This is like a valve in a balloon where the air "gets inflated" - rather an official fool than a gullible scientist or an obstinate writer, though the latter, many of them, have their own official "folly" and work for the Censor's Office. In fact, censorship is an art: delete the too direct things to leave the subtle hint ... When that is possible, of course!
FREEMAN: Sad, very sad! I thought that, pardon the expression, "fools" are the freest of all people!
YORICK: Sometimes, yes. In normal times. My dad was really mad, lots of people knew him! That Englishman ... what's his name ... wrote about him in a play. I am a Yorick too - Yorick
FREEMAN: Let me introduce myself, Freeman. A free man.
YORICK: Let's drop the subject, it's painful. (Looks at him compassionately, FREEMAN can't shake his hand, the chain won't let him) I used to try and live freely when I was young too but I almost went aloft starving.
FREEMAN: I spent my childhood in the country, I don't know this kind of life ... civilized ... but I think that ... it can't be that bad in a palace - at least it's clean. Look, this is a good
solid building. Rather too many rags, I mean curtains. I think they're used to provide
YORICK: Wrong! They're not curtains, they're draperies! And they're not used to
provide shadow, they're used to make a good impression! But what have you done wrong? Why have they tied you?
FREEMAN: I've broken a bloody china thing and I'm about to pay for it with my head - I'm held here as security.
YORICK: China? Did it have butterflies on it?
FREEMAN: That's right! But who had the time to look at them, I
was angry the young lady wouldn't receive me.
YORICK: What young lady, Ophelia?
FREEMAN: Yes. And this other lady, the well-built one ...
YORICK: Daisy. Don't trust her, she's the housekeeper and Polonius' ear, who is the Queen's ear and Hamlet's door mat ... Well, I think you're lucky. You know why they didn't have you hanged on the spot? Because that was the old flower pot which the old witch, the late Mrs. Polonius, liked so much. Polonius had been waiting for a long time to break it to pieces but, you see, it wasn't proper for him to do it and in matters like this you can trust no-one. When he is what he is, he behave above reproach both at home and at court. You'll probably tell me that's feudal hypocrisy but this is also done even by the Americans ...
FREEMAN: So this Polonius ...
YORICK: "This" Polonius is too important for people like us. Always call him "Sir" or, more formally, "Your Highness"! That's what hierarchy claims.
FREEMAN: I don't get it. Only the king is really "important"!
YORICK: Just look at the servants' table: nobody sits down, God forbid, on somebody else's seat - everybody on his own seat! That's real hierarchy, that is discipline which, in fact, isn't that bad.
FREEMAN: Discipline is for the army, here we are free!
YORICK: Words from the books again! "Freedom" is a concept for liars or the stupid. You can't hold it in your hand as you can't stop the sun from spinning. Do you know the difference between the Danes and the Americans? The Danes are free to speak their
minds about whatever occurs to them ...
FREEMAN: Come on, are you kidding me? I've caught you: Didn't you say we were NOT ALLOWED to talk about ...?
YORICK: True: The Dane is free to talk about anything. The American, though, is free AFTERWARDS too!
FREEMAN: That's a joke, isn't it? ... I still believe in the freedom of man. Only that I owe obedience to the King, to my country, and ... that's all! Then some respect to my relatives too.
YORICK: The King, the Sky, the Country and that's about all! For you, dear boy, the country will be, from now on, this kitchen, the corridors, the cupboards and the
the hen house! And the King, the Sky, the relatives and all that ... for them talk to Polonius - he is our little God, (warming up) the Queen's right hand. The one he uses to pick his nose and scratch his bottom!
FREEMAN: You're funny, man!
YORICK: ... I'd like you ... you know, this part about the hand - you did enjoy it, didn't you? - don't say it to anyone.
FREEMAN: What do you mean, "don't say it to anyone"? It's only a joke!
YORICK: Yes, don't say it to anyone, ever, you, fool! ... I'm sorry, I've been on edge lately.
FREEMAN: OK, I don't mind, I'm a good guy. But tell me, what the hell does HIERARCHY mean? I want to know everything about it. You must know these things pretty well, you're quite close to the core. I've never seen a king in flesh and blood, only in pictures, but I think he looks like an ordinary man ...
YORICK: What's worse is that he thinks that too!
FREEMAN: And isn't that so? Is he a superman? This science, this art of leadership must be something very
difficult after all!
YORIRICK: You bet: They sit in the green garden all day. In the evening, after spending a day full of ... sitting problems, everything gets depressing and they start quarrelling. That's the only sport they practice: they criticize the caviar, the Norwegians, the champagne
which is not cold enough, the output figures which are not high enough. Or do spiritism, the Prince even says he saw the late king walk. The old man didn't use to walk, though, when he was alive - he slept all the time! He was so old that he fell asleep where you
would least expect him to. The doctors needed a whole week to brace up and touch his body. They waited for a week, then when the thing started to smell, they concluded it wasn't sleep, it was death ...
FREEMAN: What about the kingdom affairs? Who saw to them during the week?
YORICK: Most natural processes aim at something, no matter if they are controlled by kings or not. No-one would have noticed his disappearance, I assure you, if the
newspapermen hadn't written about it. The current rulers look more alive
- as I said, they quarrel! The Prince wants the power without standing in the line and hopes that, being a crown-wearer, won't have to go to the University and will have all the money on his hands. The Queen wants her power back, the whole of which she had while next to her old decrepit husband. They say when the old King was alive Polonius entered the Queen's room with just a report sheet in his hand - at about sunset - and managed to get out, rather tired, when the cocks crowed ... Of course, King Claudius wants to retain his power, which was greater when, waiting for the old man to die, made sheep's eyes at the Queen and behaved like a gentleman, not the way he is doing these days when he falls asleep during shows - a special barrel organ was invented to cover with its soft sounds the royal snoring. I for one think that the Prince has plotted the apparition of
the so-called ghost - it must be one of the actors - and set rumours afloat about his father having made, in this ethereal state, several embarrassing confessions. With the only difference that ghosts can't sign their statements ... And, on top of it all, the Prince has also plotted a show abusive to
everyone. Luckily, the King was sleeping as usual and, finally waking up, on the strength of habit he started to applaud. Otherwise the actors would have been hanged and Hamlet, who wouldn't have got into hot water, would have had to devise something else. It's been a well-known fact ever since Trojan times: when the Family quarrel, the Norwegians make their appearance! Fortinbras, he Norwegian Prince, has his spies everywhere - one of them told me he also worked part time for our King. Our Prince would rather the Norwegians occupied the country than see his uncle rule it. There could be some kind of juvenile jealousy in it, some kind of Oedipus' complex, do you get it?, towards his still young mother. You know, Fortinbras entered Poland yesterday and the naive think he'll be satisfied only with that.
FREEMAN: You seem to know so many things ... But what about that thing ... hierarchy?
YORICK: I'll explain it to you: who's the most important man in the state?
FREEMAN: The King!
YORICK: Officially, the King is. Then come the Queen and the Prince. But their
importance is relative as the King always comes first and as long as he lives ... Then come, according to their importance ... Who comes?
FREEMAN: The Pope, the Church.
YORICK: Yes, but first of all, don't forget it, comes the King. Then - you can write down - the dukes, the counts,the barons, the mayors, the notaries, the poets of the palace, that is those who kiss the Prince's ass and used to do the same thing with his old man's, and so on down to the peasant. Not to mention the secret services - that's something parallel which depends on the King to the same extent as the King depends on it. Whether they have done their duty to the State, we learn, or don't learn, ninety years later, from the history textbooks. Therefore, when the King gives an order, theoretically everybody obeys it. The King could order, and take counsel with, the peasant directly. Or the baron. Or the count. He hardly ever does it, though. There are about one million peasants, while there's only a handful of counts: you can't talk to each churl, can you? When the King gives an order to the peasant, his words pass
from the duke's mouth into the count's mouth, then into the baron's mouth, then into the landlord's mouth, then into the bailiff's mouth and the bailiff dresses up a statement of the case. Then the village drummer
announces the populace about this and that. The peasant doesn't understand too much anyway. How can he understand that, if you are stupid, ten million corrupted clerks live at his expense?
FREEMAN: Then the peasant obeys the King.
YORICK: The peasant obeys the King and God, especially on Sundays. But to him the big chief is not the King, who sits
somewhere up in a palace and about whom he sometimes hears a legend or two, overstated by the guys from the secret services. To the peasant, the big chief is the bailiff, who fleeces him whenever he feels like it, the clerk who claims the land tax or the landlord's son, whom he has to keep his eye on when the rake wants to sleep with his wife.
FREEMAN (angry): That's feudalism!
YORICK: It is feudalism! To everyone in Denmark - and not only in Denmark - the big chief is the one above him. To
us, the brain workers, to those in the Kitchen, Stable and Wardrobe Department, Polonius is the King of Denmark! Claudius is the king of our king but that doesn't affect us. To us, the mob, any measure coming from above, be it good or bad, has one explanation, only one logical explanation: WE NEEDED IT - THE CHIEF KNOWS BETTER! WE DO NOT KNOW THE REAL REASONS FOR HIS ORDER ... That's how things are.
FREEMAN: It's good to remember; I don't know how long I'll have to stick around. I do hope to leave soon ...
YORICK: Now that our master has had you fastened here you have no chance to escape. You're like a nail driven into a coffin.
FREEMAN: You've got a rich imagination!
YORICK: My friend, you're clever enough, you've got the makings of a fool!
FREEMAN: No matter how many fools Denmark needs, I'm not a fowl.
YORICK: From Master Polonius you can escape only lying on a catafalque ... If you want to convince him you're a reliable person you have to choose between being Hamlet's man - in which case he's after your skin but he spares you just to
fish secrets out of you - and not being Hamlet's man - in which case he immediately starts liking you, you can even make a career at the palace ...
FREEMAN: We'll see about that. I don't make any covenant with the devil!
The same. Enters Daisy, followed by Guard who is stroking his belly.
GUARD: Thanks again for the meal!
DAISY: You're welcome. Not even the King can have such a meal.
GUARD: So long as Fortinbras' Norwegians don't lay their hands on this granary, of which my son has learned at school that it's the first in Europe, will find time to treat ourselves to such
FREEMAN: I learned at school that France was the first granary in Europe!
YORICK: What school, where?
FREEMAN: In France, of course! Mister, do militias make politics here too (pointing to GUARD with his chin)?
YORICK: Of course, all the other games have been outlawed. What's left are politics and the Russian roulette, with laws instead of bullets.
DAISY (to Yorick, looking at the chain): Have you made him think more properly?
YORICK: I've come to the conclusion that Freeman is a most honourable fool in the making. A little bit too honourable I should think ...
DAISY: And are you going to leave your fortune to him?
YORICK: He's got his own, in his skull. He can give you some if you like ... Or something from below.
DAISY (amused): Old swine!
FREEMAN: Madam, have you put anything in my food?
DAISY (like a cat): Take it, sugar, it's chicken! Here's salad, and pheasant, and Romanian red wine, which
does good to women ...
GUARD: When men drink it! (Softly) Bitch! (Loud) You haven't given pheasant to me!
FREEMAN: Thank you, m'am. This is capitalist food, Ma never gave me something like this! (Drinks wine. Merry) Does it good to women? Ha-ha ... Many thanks, m'am!
DAISY (pushing his forehead with his. Softly): Boy, don't give me any trouble and you'll be fine. When you came here, everybody said you were a tramp, a ragamuffin, a beggar. I for one sensed you were stout underneath ... I mean your soul, of course! You've got a good soul (Unchains him).
YORICK (edges himself into the conversation without having heard it): Man, here the more slow-witted you are, the more easily you can be twisted round someone's little finger. One thing is for certain: a fool and a clever man hang in the same way, if they have had the same food, that is. You, dear Freeman, judge people by your standards so, if you want to accomplish your comparison, step nicely on the same scales as the Guards' poor clients who get too lazy to step down by themselves. (Mimes a noose that smothers him). Therefore take it easy and call the bear `uncle' till you are safe across the bridge!
FREEMAN (enjoying DAISY's charms which are still there): And when the bear is so beautiful even the monk winks at it ... Fool, I don't get a whit of what you're saying though I'm sure there's a lot of truth in it ... I think I'll spend some more time in this cage of mine, with nice rags at the windows, and fringes ...
FREEMAN: With big china cuspidors and young ladies for the taking ...
DAISY: Not for you, honey! You must talk nicely to me - I am your boss, I've bought your life, haven't I? (Bends to show him her breasts for a second) Well, tell me: do you still want to run away? ... I can't remember who said once that ... Denmark is a prison, lying behind an iron curtain ... Say it, honey, do you still want to try your luck in another country?
FREEMAN (with a chicken leg in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, staring at DAISY's breasts. Licks his lips): Well, everywhere you turn, you find the same thing: feudalism!
The same. "King", "Queen" (in man's clothes), Black Man, coming from under the stage, up the second staircase.
"KING": Pardon the intrusion but we would like to ask a question: when is another play going to be performed in Denmark?
DAISY (boss-like): Maybe when the Norwegians occupy us, God forbid. With the current team performances take place only during the campaigns - in the summer and in the winter ...
"KING": What ... team?
DAISY: The staff that's running us. Their Majesties prefer homage shows, which take place every two years - and in a
perfectly organized way!
"QUEEN": In that case I will starve to death! I'd better go back to my old job ...
GUARD (confused, after so much red wine): And what is your job, young lady?
"QUEEN": I am a de luxe hairdresser and a barber for the poor sections and the mass-media ...
GUARD (disgusted): Ah! Newspapermen, students ...
DAISY: You are free to do what you like or join the mass movements ... Everything is possible in Denmark! In the country you (to "KING") can play the Inspector and all doors will open before you.
BLACK MAN: Do people drink coffee here? Can you buy it?
DAISY: They do but only ersatz.
BLACK MAN: What about those dirty herbs which make you dream nicely when you smoke them, do people use them?
DAISY: They do but they've got to have money for that!
BLACK MAN (worried): Aren't they forbidden by any chance?
DAISY: Well, yes, they are ... We, here, at the palace,
don't use them!
BLACK MAN (glad, rubbing his hands): Perfect, perfect! These wonderful drugs must be altogether forbidden!
DAISY: It's only the declasse that use herbs like that ...
BLACK MAN (hypocritically): Is that so!
DAISY: Bastards ...
BLACK MAN (glad): Bastards!
DAISY: White-headed boys!
BLACK MAN (respectfully): Oh, poor things ...
FREEMAN (softly): Were you a dealer?
BLACK MAN (softly): Sort of ...
BLACK MAN: Sort of ... Just try to live only on Art! In Denmark the only art that counts is that of making money! The same goes for all the countries I have passed through and played in. Do you know how much an actor earns?
FREEMAN (knows): Shit!
BLACK MAN: Shit!
"KING": What the hell am I going to do? I've grown accustomed to be king on the stage. I have no private life in my spare time ... I can't live without being directed, without being prompted to, without being dressed ... And that only to live, just for a second, a king's life. In the empty cardboard cups I seem to see the finest wine. I once got drunk by only taking to my lips a few glasses with painted wine ...
The same. Polonius, coming from upstairs.
POLONIUS: I want a word with you.
ALL: With ... us?
POLONIUS (to the actors): Do not dare to leave this country! You are to play again, in the second act. From now on by the order and with the money of the Elsinore regime (moderately contemptuous) you shall show the populace (turns to the audience and coughs meaningfully, then climbs the staircase slowly, talking without turning - his voice is amplified by the loudspeakers) plays by our authors that must make everybody understand how well it is to live in Denmark! (A
soft jazz-like version of the Internationale.)
"KING": I ... I ... I ... won't be able to do it! (BLACK MAN covers his mouth with his hand and makes him bow; "QUEEN" bows too.)
FREEMAN: Ha-ha ... You don't like it behind the iron ... curtain, do you? You'll play, you won't play, you'll play, you won't play ... (plucking invisible petals).
BLACK MAN: OK, OK! (POLONIUS, who stopped for a moment, without turning, keeps climbing up). OK, Your Highness! We'll play anything and we'll like it at that! (To his colleagues) Listen to the words of an old dealer who knows the meaning of risk: it's more dangerous, a thousand times more dangerous not to do what they say ... (To the audience) We shall play, then, gentlemen, but in the second act!
Freeman, Daisy, Yorick, Guard. Some time later. Freeman sports a beard. Guard is partially dressed in civvies. Each of them is dressed differently. They are all lying, surrounded by the left-overs of a substantial lunch.
YORICK: Behind a screen you can hide a fool, a soldier or a broom in the same way as Nothing, if the screen is thick enough, is hidden from view. Behind words there's a thought, an intention, fear or just words-words-words ...
FREEMAN: Are these your new thoughts or have they been to- ? (The fool waves to him to watch his mouth.)
GUARD: You've been talking my head off. I can't judge fast and clearly when I eat well (gives a long belch).
YORICK: That's why they kicked you out of the Guards: the food was poor and you started to think ... That's embarrassing for
GUARD: Is it?
YORICK: Yeah. Logic deals with nourishment, metabolism and excretion. If you don't relieve yourself quickly, the gases press the brain and the laws come out like premature babies. To be poor is to eat poorly, hence a pragmatic thinking. One is ashamed to be poor these days when virtue is shown only by a full purse! In the long run, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the conclusion that, judging by the wishes of our poor body, we can't afford to be poor, therefore we are obliged to be rich ...
GUARD: Hey, I think you're right! At least in my case ...
FREEMAN: I won't give my rags for ten royal cloaks!
DAISY: Well said, honey! (FREEMAN pinches her cheek as a reward. She pretends to slap him.)
YORICK: I see Master Polonius has bought you silk "rags," new shoes, well, he's ragged and oppressed you a lot! Ever since you've been guarding Ophelia, Prince Hamlet has been filling your purse with ducats ... (FREEMAN waves to him not to say
FREEMAN: What are you talking about, are you drunk or something?
YORICK: Let's make a compromise together and say that, in some respects, it is good to be poor in the summer and rich in the winter.
FREEMAN: We mustn't make compromises, we must protect our dignity!
YORICK: In the summer, in the summer, my dear, rags keep you cooler than a sable overcoat.
FREEMAN: Whatever happens, my friend, I will be on the side of the oppressed for the rest of my life!
YORICK: Do you know the first thing the gipsy did when he became emperor? He had his father hanged!
FREEMAN: You shouldn't kid about that!
YORICK: Piss off!
DAISY: When you're poor you can afford to be "generous," you can lend your wooden spoon to your neighbour - you can even lend him other things too, they're useless as it is. Just acquire custom, as you are doing now, and you will see ... now that you've got a horse you won't lend it to someone else to break its back.
FREEMAN: I haven't got a horse!
YORICK: You have! Since yesterday!
FREEMAN: It's a nag. Master Polonius gave it to me to take care of it and use it if it doesn't die.
YORICK (softly): It won't die, it's a real steed ...
DAISY: In France, from what I hear, there have been a lot of rebellions, the crowds filled the palace, and the green garden, with people of their own. And the new rulers greased the guillotine right away and started to cut off a hundred heads a day: both men's and women's; both noblemen's and ordinary people's. You are young and needy, you enjoy revolts - work, get married, give birth to two or three kids, take care of your sick parents, keep your younger brothers at school and have your younger sisters learn tailoring, visit a brothel once in a while and if you still feel like starting a revolution, you can do to me whatever you like!
YORICK: Hear, hear! I'd love that ...
The same, without Daisy and Guard who exit with the lunch trays.
FREEMAN: Friend, I woudn't trust anyone if I were you - the only person I'm
responsible for is me! For a revolution - in case, God forbid, such a thing does happen - you unfortunately need more "actors".
YORICK: And I say: you must trust the people you say you're fighting for!
FREEMAN: I don't mean I mustn't trust them, I say I have no trust in them. And now let's look at it from another angle: who would you choose to be part of the conspiracy?
YORICK: I think there is something on your mind and I'm very much afraid soon there won't be anything left there.
FREEMAN: It's not you, brother, that are going to turn me in, is it?
YORICK: You know something? I believe in you. Don't laugh.
I know it's no big deal for a fool to believe in you but, believe me, I long to be faithful to an idea and get rid of the toy of cynicism!
FREEMAN: What we're doing now is dangerous: we're thinking. In Denmark somebody else is doing the thinking for you!
YORICK: You know, I've just thought of a list of ... friends ... How about Guard? He's dissatisfied with losing his job, he's lost his confidence ...
FREEMAN: He was a servant for too much time!
YORICK: ... Master Stocking, then. He's always close to Their Majesties helping them to put their shoes on. He is perverse, maniac, and self-conscious but ...
FREEMAN: Put him under "brain workers"! Somebody else?
YORICK: Madam Daisy ...
FREEMAN: No way, a woman?
YORICK: Why, can't women be revolutionary?
FREEMAN: Theoretically, yes. But they are more useful to give birth to children. Boys!
YORICK: All right. The cook? He's honest.
FREEMAN: He's too fat. A fat man is always easy-going, he's afraid of running. And much too honest. Those who are too honest can be fearful ... Weapons, where could we get weapons if, God forbid, we were to look for them?
YORICK: We'd better disarm the guards, God forbid!
FREEMAN: We'd better ask for them from the Norwegians,
YORICK: But the Norwegians are our enemies!
FREEMAN: The Norwegians are the enemies of the regime, I've got nothing in common with any Norwegian! We'll get rid of the Norwegians someday - they're an easily
recognizable enemy - they speak a different language. Claudius's noblemen swear so well in our language, though, that we tend to take them for "our kin"! You can tell a nobleman by his hands - they're too delicate to be true!
YORICK: Your hands are delicate too!
FREEMAN: I couldn't find any work! But I read a lot of forbidden books and for that reason I was in and out of jail all the time.
YORICK: I can't accept the fact that the Norwegians could ...
FREEMAN: No matter the occupation, Norwegian or Danish, you'll stay poor all the same. In a way, they are going to do us a double favour: get us rid of the tyrants and reawaken our national feeling.
YORICK: Since when have you been Danish to have this "national feeling"?
The same, the three actors
"KING": I hope Her Majesty was satisfied!
"QUEEN": You bet: I had been warming the sock until the last moment. When Her Majesty groaned a little and opened his eyes the First Chambermaid rushed to the Second Chambermaid and the latter urged me to get the sock ready.
BLACK MAN: Isn't is humiliating? (Has them snuff cocaine.)
"KING": It is humiliating but bearable. Shows don't bring you too much money, on the contrary, I would say they're some kind of voluntary work. While here ... If Most
Master Sock hadn't fallen ill and they hadn't asked me to fill his place ... (To the others) Good morning, gentlemen!
YORICK, FREEMAN (annoyed): Morning, nitwits!
"QUEEN": I kept it warm wearing it on my arm, the stocking! It is outrageous for a technological century, like ours, not to have a proper stocking-heater in Elsinore. To have to rub the stocking between your fingers until it gets warm!
FREEMAN: And without any woman's leg in it!
"KING": Pardon? (Goes on.) To an outsider it's no big deal but this certainly leads to professional diseases! I warm the sock on my leg - I learned that from Master Sock, in ten classes, exactly by the book - then, after warming it from the inside, on the very clean disinfected leg, I run around a pillar to increase the warmth of the leg so that the sock gets red. Well, almost! Then the leg - the cleverest of you know it - loses some of its own heat - that is it transfers it to the sock. It's scientific!
"QUEEN": But what about the other part of the leg? Where does
it transfer its heat? Now, inescapably, comes the rheumatism! Master Sock has got it even in ... in ... (whispers into YORICK's ear, YORICK whispers into BLACK MAN's ear, BLACK MAN whispers back into YORICK's ear - the game is quickly played by everyone).
"QUEEN": In all fairness, there are jobs which are much more dangerous (FREEMAN strains his muscles). It's not everybody that managed to get comfortable jobs, such as the cook, who is a ...
"KING": Yes, he is a ...
FREEMAN (to YORICK): Didn't I tell you?!
"QUEEN": Look at the First Doorkeeper, for instance, he runs such a big risk! (FREEMAN unstrains his muscles) He opens the doors. His colleague, the Second Doorkeeper closes them. Sometimes the latter must wait for the whole day to close them, some other times (whispers) the doors stay permanently open! And the two of them doing their duty to the utmost! and the two of them always exposed to the draught: first the First Doorkeeper, then his colleague, who closes what the First Doorkeeper himself opens before the noblemen ...
YORICK: Strange: one undoes what the other has done!
"KING": And that isn't all of it! When His Highness, Prince Hamlet, storms in, slamming all doors, there's such a draught along the staircases ...
"QUEEN": Once he caught my nose between the door and the wall!
Well, at the time I didn't even know the most elementary rules which doorkeepers, with their lifelong experience ... Did you know that before being hired doorkeepers are checked and doublechecked as "doors have ears", don't they?
"KING": We fight the hardships of life on stage too. You know, whispers also cause draughts. Little ones but no matter how little they are they can make you lose an artist's work and throw you into jail. From where they let you out when they think it fit, apologizing for being wrong or taking pride in doing you justice. Sometimes I'm even tempted to say that it's better to be a cook or a doorkeeper than an actor or a politician.
FREEMAN: I wonder how the hell so many parasites got together here?!
BLACK MAN: Sorry? What did you say?
YORICK: Just a whisper carried by the draught. A sort of mirage ... (Black Man exits discreetly - just vanishes).
The same, without Black Man
FREEMAN: Hey! Comrades for better or for worse! Life is useless when you're scared, isn't it? Now you feel like doing something ... something (building something magnificent with his hands) ... now you feel like shitting on your life, always in an agony not to push the door too hard, break a china flower-pot, belch during a meeting, give the impression your smile is not wide enough, tell your jokes too loudly while sitting in the gents behind a door which is locked twice, lose your life for not warming the stocking two degrees more ... Hey, why are you keeping silent? Haven't you ever dreamed of another life, more humane, without any exploitation, in which you, the people, should be in power?
"KING": In France the people has got the power now! And one of them, a lawyer, Mr. Robespierre, took the lead, setting up the rule of the people and happiness. Do you know how many heads Robespierre had cut off? Naturally, one day it was his head's turn too ... A revolution, gentlemen - I was a witness and thus I know - lasts only one second! A sublime second, but a second all the same! Then the old, ancient "democracy" is replaced by a new "democracy". A week or two everybody howls about the past. Those who had their heads cut off go to the afterworld bearing the whole guilt on their shoulders while we start everything from scratch. Slowly, the guilt for what is happening is no longer only the "heritage of the past". Slowly, everybody starts learning the meaning of silence - at first
because it's to your advantage then because you're scared. Those at the top grow big bellies, surround themselves with guards, discreet doorkeepers and actors who perform what they are told to. It has always been the same: what the executioner's axe or the guard's cudgel can't do is done by money and corruption. As corruption is the only thing that goes by itself in a state. In a democratic state you learn from the press that you live in such a state. Under tyranny, you know there is such a state but you can't even imagine its borderlines ...
FREEMAN (softly to YORICK): Didn't I tell you? Scratch him off from the list!
The same, Laertes
LAERTES (comes from upstairs, his face overshadowed by a big
and a cloak hanging from his shoulders): Well, well, well!
father's men are having a good time! I am delighted ...
They all get relaxed. FREEMAN sits down on a small barrel.
LAERTES: We've got newcomers too! Hey, you, handsome, I
remember seeing you around. Are you Ophelia's tutor?
YORICK (softly): It's Laertes, Polonius' son!
FREEMAN: I don't have this ... honour.
LAERTES: Are you a chemist by any chance? Deacon - something?
FREEMAN (about to burst out laughing): Nothing of the kind!
LAERTES: Lily laughed the same way in winter and rocked her
at her bosom in summer, crying her eyes out.
FREEMAN: Not me, I'm not one of them!
LAERTES: Could you be the new equerry? You don't seem to
of a stallion ... or of a mare ...
FREEMAN: You're wrong again! In spite of your education, you
not a good judge of people, are you?
LAERTES: That's right, that's right ... Then maybe you are
clerk. Yes, you are a clerk for sure, with those delicate
of yours! Thief's hands!
FREEMAN (worried): Thief's hands?
LAERTES: I'm just kidding, isn't kidding allowed any
Thief's hands, artist's hands, schoolteacher's hands ...
"QUEEN": I wonder who dared say Laertes was a bad man,
fighting everyone and that only for fun! LAERTES: You
look learned, sir!
FREEMAN: You flatter me, sir!
YORICK: He's learned in hunger, in cold ... In women!
LAERTES: Or maybe you're the judge's new assistant. You
honest and sensible to me. Am I wrong? No, I'm not. You must
someone "big", a VIP ...
FREEMAN: You overwhelm me!
LAERTES: Brilliant, well-mannered, refined, diplomatic ...
FREEMAN: Oh, Your Highness ...
LAERTES: Or maybe you're of better blood: some
FREEMAN (overwhelmed): Your Highness ...
LAERTES: Or a rich merchant, highly educated, handsome and
encyclopaedic mind ...
FREEMAN: Oh, no, Your Highness ... I carry with great pride
little I have and ... The fact that you have singled me
from this group, from all this group, flatters me, although
would like to ...
LAERTES: Oh, no, you deserve it! FREEMAN: You know,
I keep myself clear of vulgar flattery, but
your words ... so ... so ... so ...
FREEMAN: Why, you needn't ... What? ... What did you say?
LAERTES (facing FREEMAN, sprawling, arms akimbo, horsewhip
one hand, swinging like a metronome): I said "wanker." And
add: sonofabitch, pithecanthrope, asshole, worm ...
Freeman is shaking with fury. Laertes raises the horsewhip -
moment of tension in which Freeman raises his hand to
himself or snatch the horsewhip but, after the first
starts rolling over on the ground, hysterically, trying to
LAERTES: How dare you raise your hand against your master?
take it! (Stops. FREEMAN lies still. They both pant.) Did
tell you "At ease"? I didn't hear it! Stand up! Stand up,
said! You lack exercise, you're fat, all of you! Yes,
king, yes, little queen! Yes, fool! Attention!
Attention everybody! Forward march! (All start running
Stop! Come back! Stop! (Throws the horsewhip away)
fetch it! You seem to need further explanations ... Down!
didn't hear you hit the ground! I want to hear the buckle
YORICK: He doesn't have one, Your Highness!
LAERTES: He does, I saw it! Still I don't mind if you say
you're a fool and an official fool at that. But what about
Did you see it?
THE OTHERS: Yes, we did, we saw it!
"KING": I saw it several times!
"QUEEN": I can even describe it ...
LAERTES: You don't have to. Did you hear that, Freeman boy?
saw it! They say they saw it. Come, stand up ... Good ...
down! Attention! Down! Attention! I still can't hear a
Jump ahead! Down! Attention! Say: I'm a piece of shit! You
will you? Down! Attention!
FREEMAN (staggering): I am a piece of shit! I am a dog
whatever you want. LAERTES: A frog. You are a frog.
Let me hear you croak!
FREEMAN: Croak! Croak-croak-croak-croak!
LAERTES: Perfect, but you still have to jump. Jump!
jumps.) That's it, boy. Now shout: "Long live the King!"
FREEMAN: Long live the King!
Freeman drags himself along the stairs. Two figures can be
out in the semi-darkness of the platform.
The same. Polonius, Daisy coming from upstairs. Polonius is
wearing his cloak, looks more human and a little confused.
POLONIUS: What's this masquerade about? What happened?
LAERTES (bowing his head): Forgive me, Your Highness!
POLONIUS: That's not Laertes, Laertes is in France. Who the
LAERTES (taking off his mask): Forgive me, Your Highness! I
was just joking, nothing bad about our joke ... (With the
growing one can see BLACK MAN instead of LAERTES.)
Freeman and the actors are furious but they dare not show it
front of Polonius.
POLONIUS (after a moment of tension bursts out laughing): I
see you do know how to enjoy yourselves! Ha-ha, I can
wait to see Laertes' face when I tell him about it!
DAISY) Make sure his clothes are well cleaned, I don't
my son to catch this poor actor's lice. Come on, boys, off
go! You've had enough fun. As for you, Mr. Freeman, you can
satisfied with getting off so cheap. If it had been my son,
might have pricked you with his sword, he's very good at it.
hope you've understood this lesson properly and from now on
will behave yourself like everybody else here.
FREEMAN: I promise I'll never forget it.
POLONIUS: Don't. Now, break up!
Freeman and the actors climb down the staircase under the
Somewhere below they start a fight but the row fades away.
Polonius sits down tired on the lower steps of the
Leans on Daisy who has sat down on the upper step.
caresses his head maternally. They keep quiet for a
Polonius sighs. They hear footsteps (from the
DAISY: The Prince?
POLONIUS: The Prince!
They keep quiet. From somewhere behind they hear a slow
of "Lili Marleen".
POLONIUS: He's partying with the young guards. Can you hear
DAISY: It's a love song. Don't you like it?
POLONIUS: Love? At my age?
DAISY: You're young, you're strong. I wouldn't care
anyone else, even if he were covered in gold.
POLONIUS: Am I supposed to believe you? You've ...
Freeman, haven't you? Can he get through ...
DAISY (changing the subject): What did the Prince want?
POLONIUS: Ophelia, just to defy me. He's after my head, in
He'll frame me up somehow ...
DAISY: We'd better flee to France!
POLONIUS: No, it's either he or I!
Daisy sighs, caresses him one more time, then exits,
up the stairs. Suddenly the light changes. There is a
growing in the limelight coming from the foot bridge. It is
Polonius, Hamlet, God
He turns, on the watch. He hears heavy footsteps. A
breath, amplified by the loudspeakers. Polonius tries not
move, defying the danger, but he can't stand it and rushes
the huge door. He must stand on tiptoe to reach the handle.
door won't open. He pushes, knocks - in vain.
POLONIUS: Hey, guards! Open up! Friends! (Panting.) Please,
up! (Falls on his knees.) Oh, God, have mercy ...
wonderful world, the best of all worlds ... good-bye,
good-bye, wealth ... (An idea crosses his mind.) Oh, God,
something: I'm not different from the others, I'm not
what the hell - God forgive me! - the regime has made me
this! I want to live, even if I were poor ... Why don't You
take Hamlet instead? Take the madman off my back, he'll kill
(Crying) Please, make it open ... (Commanding) Come, God,
take Your time! It's not human! Look, I'm begging you: You
honest, surrounded only by the honest, what does a stray
matter? (The shadow is drawing near.) Don't leave me here,
Hamlet, don't! Please, look, Polonius, who's never
anyone, not even the King, is begging You! I'll be grateful
You, don't worry, You're not doing it for nothing. (It's
dark now.) I'll give a thousand ducats to the church!
thousand! A million!! (The light has gone now, the breath
almost muffling the lines.) We'll go Dutch! (Complete
then the creak of a big door.) I'm saved!
VOICE: "How now? A rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!" (A howl.)
Footsteps up and down, to and fro. The stage gets lit
On the platform - "King,", "Queen," Black Man. In
"King" and Black Man fight a duel, cheered by "Queen,"
who offers them wine goblets. "King" drinks a little then
ring off a finger and drops it in the goblet. Black Man
him, "King" slaps his back protectingly.
VOICE 1: He's poisoned him - he's dropped something in
VOICE 2: Come on, can't you see they're friends?
VOICE 1: Get lost, he's killing him, I'm sure! I've seen
film before! (Whistles. BLACK MAN falls down.)
VOICE 2: A film's a film! Hamlet's alive, I tell you! Have
seen Polonius today?
VOICE 1: He must be lying somewhere sleeping a rotten sleep.
VOICE 2: Must he?
Kissing each other, "King" and "Queen" bow to the
audience. Someone claps his hands. The curtain falls hiding
The actors, Freeman, Yorick, Daisy, Polonius. The
gather the props and climb down. Freeman comes from
passes through the actors. Down he meets Yorick who comes
under the stage.
FREEMAN (whispering into YORICK's ear): Do you really think
good for us?
YORICK: The change of rulers, the joy of fools! Polonius,
knew him well; we don't know anything about the one who's
to replace him, though. Of course, someone more
younger, worse ... (Worried) Are you sure no-one has seen you?
FREEMAN: There were only Hamlet and the Queen there. I
"How now? A rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!" That was Hamlet.
"O, I am slain!" That was Master Polonius. He sounded as if
couldn't believe it. I felt I got frozen all over, I
even feel my tongue.
YORICK: I repeat: has anyone seen you?
FREEMAN: Maybe the Queen but it was dark. Shall I flee
YORICK: Too late, they'd overtake you. Pray to God!
BLACK MAN: Our play was quite a success. The Prince, at
enjoyed it a lot. Master Polonius didn't come to criticize
like he had before. He might have enjoyed it too, that is if
was in the hall.
YORICK: If he was in the hall, I'm sure he enjoyed it!
FREEMAN: Of course he enjoyed it if he was in the hall!
"KING": The Prince is a connoisseur. Before the opening night
had a long talk and he bemoaned the fate of the Danish
which makes concessions to the audiences. You know what he
enjoys? You won't believe it ... He says: "I heard thee speak
a speech once, but it was never acted, or if it was, not
once, for the play, I remember, pleased not the million;
caviary to the general, but it was (as I received it,
others, whose judgments in such matters cried in the top
mine) an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set
with as much modesty as cunning. I remember one said there
no sallets in the lines to make the matter savory; nor no
matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affectation,
called it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by
much more handsome than fine. One speech in't I chiefly
'Twas Aeneas' tale to Dido, and thereabout of it especially
he speaks of Priam's slaughter". (FREEMAN, who was staring
him but thinking elsewhere, starts at the word
What, you don't know the story? When Pyrrhus, "horridly
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons", when
revengefully, set about cutting off old Priam's limbs,
hacking them into pieces ...
FREEMAN: Enough! I've seen that! (Feels like throwing up.)
The same, Daisy, coming through the huge door, Guard,
DAISY (tear-stained): Master Polonius is not feeling well
all ... (Pressing herself against FREEMAN for a second.) I
must find a new master: what's to become of me if no-one masters
YORICK (only to her): Let's laugh, madam! Changes
DAISY: Master Freeman, there's someone waiting for you. Go!
FREEMAN: Is it ... ?
DAISY: Don't worry, it's our Queen.
Yorick desperately waves to Freeman not to climb
staircase. Freeman stops in front of the open door, kneels.
the shadow one can see only a hand extended to be kissed.
DAISY: That's it, kiss the hand which is going to be
master. (Hysterically) Long live the new Chamberlain,
Freeman! (Softly) God forgive Polonius!
The same, Polonius. The door opens. Freeman withdraws on
knees and remains with his head bowed to the door. The actors
go out through the door and come back dragging the
Polonius on stage.
BLACK MAN: I'd give a horse to know who's done him in!
"KING") Hey, partner, it seems to me you served a doctor in
youth. What disease is this poor dying man suffering from?
"KING": He couldn't understand theatre at all! (Although
by the others, he is afraid to bend over POLONIUS.) I am
of the dead!
BLACK MAN: But he's not dead!
DAISY (begging approval from the new Chamberlain):
doctor, do something!
"KING": Of course, he's not very dead, he's just had a
heart attack, fatal, it seems ... Medicine is helpless here!
DAISY (Cries with restraint. Accepts complicity.) Yes, it
a heart attack ...
FREEMAN (Rubbing salt on the wound): Are you ... sure?
DAISY: ... It's Her Highness' opinion too!
FREEMAN: Then it's a sure thing. Bury him nicely! And well!
With pomp! Put in his coffin the shivers from that beautiful
vase, you'll find them in my former locker. Let him enjoy
in the afterworld too.
YORICK (Who has just felt the dying man and made himself
with blood): And this is what, wine? It's blood, sir,
FREEMAN (Coldly): It comes from the heart! The heart is an
bathed in blood. Didn't you know it or would you like me to
it? (Softly) Don't ask anything, friend. Kings are judged
by History! Princes likewise ...
POLONIUS (Groans first, then starts rising):
"He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone.
DAISY (to the audience): He's raving!
"KING" (confused): It was Ophelia that was supposed to say
wasn't it? Wasn't it? POLONIUS: "White his shroud as
the mountain snow-"
GUARD (crossing himself): God forgive me!
POLONIUS (to YORICK): "There's fennel for you, and
(To FREEMAN) There's rue for you, and here's some for me. We
call it herb of grace o' Sundays. O, you must wear your rue
a difference" ...
FREEMAN: Why don't you take him away?
POLONIUS (to DAISY):
"Then up he rose and donned his clothes
And dupped the chamber door,
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more."
Polonius collapses. Someone sighs with relief. Daisy
"KING" (obsessed): It was Ophelia that was supposed to say
wasn't it? Wasn't it?
POLONIUS (more and more faintly):
"They bore him barefaced on the bier
Hey non nony, nony, hey nony
And in his grave rained many a tear-
Fare you well, my dove!"
(Waves to FREEMAN to draw near. Whispers into his ear.)
a daisy (Takes DAISY's hand and gives it to him.) I would
you some violets, but they withered all when my father
They say 'a made a good end."
POLONIUS (rises in a kind of trance. Seems to float,
HAMLET's GHOST, weightlessly): Polonius. Don't you know he
POLONIUS: Careful where you put him, he might turn into
POLONIUS: Polonius! He died, don't you know that? Corpses
into legends fast ... When the smell is gone, you're left
the honest bones. We don't need a new legend in Denmark!
people has been fed on legends,instead of bread, as it is.
Tell everyone he's left for France.
POLONIUS: What do you mean "Who"? Polonius.
DAISY (to FREEMAN): You must take him away! Let him die a
death. Who knows what else he may say ...
FREEMAN (softly): That's right ... It's always more dangerous
suspect something than to say it bluntly. Whisper can't
POLONIUS: Make sure poor Polonius' shadow does not fall over
poor killer. Denmark needs clean symbols for its future.
DAISY: He's raving.
POLONIUS: I would have existed but I no longer exist. Let
remain at least what no longer exists or existed. Oh, God,
this world of yours at least as it is now! With our good
killers, with our reliable crooks, with our
thieves, who still leave the widow a penny at the bottom of
pocket - pretending not to see it - with our humble
who'll never wear a crown ...
GUARD: To me it seems he's speaking clearly!
POLONIUS: "Sweet ladies, good night. good night." (Collapses
"KING": Now I think he's dead as a door-nail - he's no
GUARD (feeling the body): He's stopped bleeding ...
Laertes will want to avenge his father.
FREEMAN (Who has heard him, turns to GUARD and says loudly):
there's something to avenge, it's Prince Hamlet that will
care of that! Keep that in mind!
GUARD (Counting on his fingers): One, two, three, four,
BLACK MAN: Pity he couldn't talk to us. He was a good man in
own way. He might have done us in on the spot, when we played
GUARD: ... forty-two, forty-three, forty-four ...
FREEMAN: God forgive him!
GUARD: ... fifty-three, fifty-four! Too many wounds for only
sword I would say!
POLONIUS (with a start): Where am I? (Rises, lively, with
the apparent health given by the closeness of death.) Why am I
YORICK: Sir, tell us who killed you! (FREEMAN shakes POLONIUS
POLONIUS: Killed? But I'm alive! I will live a hundred
I'll celebrate the hundredth rose fastened in my life's
DAISY: Who killed you? (FREEMAN lays his other hand on
POLONIUS: Do you know how many good things I lived through?
didn't live in vain. His Majesty invited me to plays
by foreign actors, during the intervals I ate shrimps and
champagne ... I wore the most expensive clothes at night lest
should be envied; during the day I wore black, sober as
priest ... I kept all the keys in this palace ... I
eight regimes in ten years and absolutely everyone found me
for my role ... Who knows, maybe one day they will annoint
king over ...
BLACK MAN: Who killed you, man?
POLONIUS: The women loved me, it's a pity I didn't have time,
I didn't have time ...
BLACK MAN: Who?!
POLONIUS: ... Hamlet! ... (Dies. They cover him with a
GUARD chalks the outline. FREEMAN pushes him.)
"KING": What could he have meant by "Hamlet"?
Polonius' body is carried to the sounds of a funeral march
is gradually covered by the stirring "Lili Marleen".
DAISY: I told him it's just a love song.
They all exit.
The stage remains empty for ten seconds. Then along the
supporting the platform glides the guillotine.
"King", forestage, and Black Man, backstage, tell
simultaneously. Their lines are alternate so that everybody
understand them properly.
"KING": The kingdom of Denmark has been hit by misfortune.
Majesties aren't feeling well, the Chamberlain died of a
BLACK MAN: The kingdom of Denmark has been hit by
the great powers have already decided its fate, we can't
anything about it. Their Majesties' health has been weakened
this week's fortunately unsuccessful life attempt ...
"KING": The Chamberlain couldn't be saved but the Court's
doctor assured us Their Majesties' lives are far from being
any danger. The chief doctor is specialized in moderate
frequent reliefs, which makes him world famous.
BLACK MAN: Nobody understands anything any more: despite
doctors, Their Majesties are still alive! Though the
say they were poisoned by accident: the poison would have
meant for Hamlet ... "KING": Prince Hamlet's health
has been weakened by the death of
the one who was supposed to be, as government newspapers
BLACK MAN: Ophelia is said to have committed suicide of her
will. Marilyn Monroe will be said to have done the same
"KING": The armies of Fortinbras, the Norwegian prince,
BLACK MAN: The armies of Fortinbras have invaded Denmark.
royal family is confined to the palace. The
newspapers say they're just in bad health. Fortinbras
the brotherly assistance offered by the Norwegian army
Prince Hamlet's express request ...
"KING": The Norwegian soldiers, the country's liberators,
welcomed with flowers by the people. Well, by some of
people. On the same occasion we learned the Norwegian
follows Prince Hamlet's request, who mentioned a plot
would finally have led to selling the country to the Turks.
BLACK MAN: Hamlet made a sight of himself at Ophelia's
grave. The tabloids have revealed an old love affair between
and the Prince. They have even printed the letter of a
spy whom Prince Hamlet is supposed to have used in order to
the Norwegian occupation. The tabloids have been outlawed ...
"KING": Today, thanks to Comrade Fortinbras' party, Norwegian
a must in all schools. Prince Hamlet is leaving for
he's going to study there. God protect him, we're left on
BLACK MAN: Hamlet has been removed from power and banished
England. "By accident" the royal family got poisoned
cyanide. Nothing could be done about it ...
"KING": Because of a terrible cold the royal family passed
Despite the powerful treatment - enemas - done by the
Dr. Klein, Their Majesties are to be buried today ...
BLACK MAN: The doctors trying hard to reanimate the
disappeared overnight. Hamlet has been sent to England,
secret letters from Fortinbras. The King of England was
to do a little favour to the Norwegian and stage an accident
(Lies down and covers himself with the cloak.)
"KING": The reputed actor, whose voice gave life, throughout
time, to kings, presidents, generals, princes, has passed
... Good night, sweet king, general, president, prince
(Lights go out.)
All the cast. The actors are dressed in guard's
Freeman has shaven his beard. With the guillotine in
background, Freeman stands on the platform, at a rough
draped in red. The others are down, at the foot of
FREEMAN: It's good you have all come here. For those who are
with us are against us! Long live Fortinbras and the
THE OTHERS (except for YORICK whose head is bent): Long
Fortinbras and the Norwegian people!
FREEMAN: All those plotting to change this regime, the
happiest and the most humane of all regimes, must disappear!
DAISY: Excuse me, people say the late king's ghost is
travelling all over the country asking for a cabinet
FREEMAN: People say what they are told! Did anyone tell
ghosts exist? If tomorrow Master Fortinbras asks me to
in ghosts, then I will believe in ghosts. Until further
though, I don't believe in any ghosts! What people say
matter at all, they are manipulated by all sorts of
GUARD: Excuse me: you once said true History belonged to
FREEMAN: We here are many enough!
The actors in uniform drag Yorick out.
FREEMAN: See, things are getting clear. Little by little we
rid of traitors ... (Yells.) ... even if a single Dane is
in Denmark ...
GUARD: There's something rotten ... FREEMAN: Daisy?
DAISY: Yes, master!
FREEMAN: Be so kind as to do the Prince's packing. His
are sending him to a university in Norway.
GUARD (aside): God, to live such times, when not even fools
safe in Denmark!
The actors drag Guard out, through the trap door.
FREEMAN: Now that, I hope, we're just between friends,
start ... (Mimes a speech. The others applaud him in
without making any noise.)