Prequel (A Short Play)

31 Plays in 31 Days #27

(A PRINCE and a young woman named ROSE.)

ROSE
Upon my soul, the world has shaken loose
And slipped the mount of decency;
Alack my eyes, that ne’er more must be blessed
And clear with dainty innocence, for I,
This day, have seen a prince empty his bowels.

PRINCE
I see well thou art upset. Tut, tut, tut.
In Jion, unlike Calis, we feign not
That royals have bodies that do not shit.

ROSE
Such language! My father has ‘prisoned guards
Who dared to utter “Christ” or “hell” or “God,
damn it!” within the circle of my hearing-
Which made it quite hard to study the Bible-
And thereon I have stood my impression of
The mean and manner of dukes and noblemen.
What charm, that in two moments, you have shattered
My entire upbringing. Thou art sure,
Thou art a prince?

PRINCE
The Duke introduced us.

ROSE
Ay, yes, but maybe he mistook you for
Some lookalike monarch, when in dear truth,
Thou art some muck-eating dangerous fool.

PRINCE
If dangerous am I, then thou must flee.

ROSE
No, Prince, I merely jest. For your transgression,
You must be ribbed a bit, you must admit.

PRINCE
Must I? Well, then, on with it, take my rib.
Right here, there you go.

ROSE
Prince, I’ll not tickle thee!

PRINCE
What? Tickling? I expected full surgery.

ROSE
You foul thing.

PRINCE
Surely in Calis they teach
Clever daughters of the Duke the fine art
Of ancient medicine. Pray, have your way.
I must be punished.

ROSE
Apologies suffice,
When decorums are dashed, at least as far
As I’m concerned.

PRINCE
A few mere words for thy
Most precious eyeball chastity? Unfair,
That price. I should cut off a limb.

ROSE
Dear Lord,
You are not what I’d been made to expect.
I’ve not laughed one “ha” since this thing began.

PRINCE
A dreary council, indeed. It does vacuum
All laughter from the spirit. And does something
Just as torturous to an attendee’s gut.

ROSE
I beg you, no more talk of defecations!

PRINCE
Had your full of defecations for now?

ROSE
Don’t start.

PRINCE
I apologize, at last, Lady.
I realize that with this revelation
That foreign dignitaries do themselves
Undignify in chamber-pots in open rooms
From time to time, thy brain must surely leap
On to the reasonable conclusion that,
So, too, a lady must bespoil herself
On some occasions!

ROSE
I am not hearing a thing.

PRINCE
With this sudden knowledge, sure your intestines,
Having held tight on to your purity
For these sixteen year-

ROSE
I’m twenty-two, Prince.

PRINCE
…Art thou? Really?

ROSE
Aye, older than you thought?

PRINCE
The way in which your father Duke did dote,
I thought- forgot- fell on some confusion,
It seems, ah, thought that you were a young girl.

ROSE
And yet you talked to me this way? How now,
I’d heard that you were crude, you Jionet,
But you seemed to be taking base pleasure
In speaking gross words into a girl’s ear?

PRINCE
My remorse is nameless.

ROSE
Oh ho! Are you
So quickly ashamed, to find me much older?
I enjoyed your banter better just now
When you did think for my ears to hear.
What changed?

PRINCE
In Jion, a youth who is wild,
A girl who spits, a boy who farts in public,
Is, in truth, celebrated. We do hate
When children grow up gauzy-eyed and weak,
Kept protected from the murk of the world.
By habit, then, I took delight in freeing
Thy seeming-sheltered person from the bonds
Of thy propriety. It seemed a duty
Well-done, twice so as thou art hapless resident
Of prissy Calis.

ROSE
You deluded thing.
Yet why, then, have you stopped your amusements
Of fleshy character now that you know
That I am grown?

PRINCE
I do not know. Perhaps,
It just seems sad.

ROSE
Oh Prince!

PRINCE
In Jion’s realm,
A saying goes, “no polish doth become
The fingernails of lady fair so well
As a crescent moon of dirt underneath.”

ROSE
I’ve ne’er heard Jion’s low reputation
So poetically phrased.

PRINCE
Laugh not at us.

ROSE
Be proud! ‘Tis impressive, in plainest truth,
To go so boldly against the world’s grain.
You’ve seen the other princes at this council.

PRINCE
I spend all day holding my tongue by them.

ROSE
Ah. Hm. And do they mind your tongue so close?

PRINCE
My Lady!

ROSE
Hmm?

PRINCE
Egads, a pun?

ROSE
How was’t?

PRINCE
In fair, not bad for one I presume is
Rather unpracticed in the art. In Jion,
Would have been worth more laughs if thou had said,
“Dost thy tongue dry out before they do?”
But coming from thee I give it full marks.

ROSE
Oh no, I want no forgiveness.

PRINCE
Then, failure.
Surprise was thy main virtue.

ROSE
Then, next time,
I shall dig deeper.

PRINCE
How “next time,” my lady?

ROSE
I pray not that this should be the only
And final time that we two do meet up!
What, should I, in future, when asked if I
Did ever meet Prince Arrance Jionet
Say, “yes, once, and his digestion, too?”

PRINCE
I think ‘twere best you act like we had not.

ROSE
Are you afraid my father will chastise you?

PRINCE
Do not call a Jionet afraid, fair creature.
It’s only politic not to reveal
To one’s host that his daughter you have corrupted.
We are all here to settle commerce treaties,
And dukes have habits of letting their feelings
Bar them from fair dealing despite best advice.

ROSE
Do you, in honesty, believe all that?

PRINCE
Think you not that I work for my country?

ROSE
No, Lord, that is not what I refer to.

PRINCE
What then?

ROSE
I mean, that the treaties on local trade
Are truly the central point of these meetings.

PRINCE
Certainly emptying bowels before girls
Of high breeding was not it.

ROSE
Of course not,
That was just a bonus, for me at least.
But jests aside, I do well think that Father-
I mean, the Duke- had mere pretense to commerce
And international interest in mind.
I am nearly sure he drew this council hither
To find me a matrimonial match.

(Pause.)

PRINCE
You say so?

ROSE
He hath his sights set on wealth,
I’m sure. I’ve met each prince and duke in turn.
It seems that Dunwayn hath drawn pleasure most,
And Baron Grey may well win out the day
At least within my father’s estimation,
To wit, the greatest advantage to him
In alliance with Dunwayn combined with
The smallest dowry and largest bride price.

PRINCE
And you it seems have accepted this condition?

ROSE
The condition of being married well?

PRINCE
In Jion, even the royal daughters
Are not married off for gold or power;
Only real reasons with true, earthy
Existence- as lust, love or children- suffice.

ROSE
Aye, for as they say, Jion is not quite
Evolved enough for social marrying.
The joke they tell is, “Jionet get married
When they have rutted for seven months and
Realize the sow has been got with calf.”

PRINCE
Do you say that?

ROSE
I speak ill of no one.
But I hear it. It does seem quite unfair.

PRINCE
Society hates our hearty people.
So why did I get invited here? Sure,
Your father did not mean to court to me
The concept of a marriage to thee.

ROSE
No.
But he felt, I think, that he had to use
The commercial council as an excuse
For groom-shopping, and, since it was happening,
He might as well actually get some treaties
And conferential out of the way.
You and Jion are still our neighbor-land.

PRINCE
Though continents apart in many ways.

ROSE
Yes, and would that you were more continent.

PRINCE
My Lady! Insults, crudeness, foul smells, and
A certainty that your father would rage
If he knew one word of this encounter-
But yet you stay. Why so?

ROSE
My books and maids
Are decent companions for my rudest thoughts,
But I ne’er thought a kindly man could be.
Calisian birth has taught me certain thoughts
Are kept secret from high-born ladies’ ears.
This encounter, as you say, is a treat,
And furthermore, a fine education.

PRINCE
Am I thy teacher, then, The Lady Rose?

ROSE
One more session with you, and I may well
Graduate soon to speaking the word, “__.”

PRINCE
Which word is that?

ROSE
You know. You said it afore.

PRINCE
Prissy?

ROSE
No, the crude word.

PRINCE
Medicine?

ROSE
No!
Related to our original topic.

PRINCE
Lust?

ROSE
My Lord!

PRINCE
…Love?

(Pause.)

ROSE
Tell me, are you angry at my father
For his deceptive invitation here?

PRINCE
No, I am angry at him for three things.

ROSE
And what are those?

PRINCE
One, that he is Calisian.

ROSE
As am I.

PRINCE
Thy name and station are, but,
No, if thou hadst traveled far, thou wouldst know
That thy spirit was born some better place.

ROSE
I love my home.

PRINCE
As any good man does.
Two, that he stunted thy burgeoning and
Innate happy wit by forcing thee to
Only share it with books and chamber-pots.

ROSE
Chamber-maids.

PRINCE
Them too. If e’en the crowned monarch
Of some country cannot o’erride the customs
And fussy standards of his own nation
In the raising of his very own child,
Then what monarch is he? It offends me.

ROSE
I’m sure thy daughters were raised in thy image.

PRINCE
Pardon?

ROSE
Thou’rt not too old a widower
To be stubborn with finality ‘bout
Those whose ways differ from thine, Prince.

PRINCE
Thy ways
Differ from Calis. It pains me that thou
Wast stunted.

ROSE
If you want to be my friend,
Know the borderline between casting keen
And insightful eye upon my Calis
And her ways, and insulting her- and cross it not.
I brook no hate.

PRINCE
…And I thought I was teacher.
That brings me clean to number three.

ROSE
What’s that?

PRINCE
I’m angry at your father Duke for convening
A courtship market under guise of treaty-making
And not giving me a chance to engage.

ROSE
Is that so.

PRINCE
Aye.

ROSE
You feel left out?

PRINCE
Aye, Rose.

ROSE
But don’t. It’s been drab and boring. To heavy
With chaperones and circumscribed conversing.
You’d hate it so.

PRINCE
I think not.

ROSE
All those lords,
They’d look down on you for daring to woo me.
My father did you a favor excluding you.

PRINCE
He did me the greatest disservice that
I have yet known.

ROSE
Greater than that which did
Your wife take untimely away from you?

PRINCE
That was no disservice, but path of nature.
The rise and fall of death and life can not
Disservice any more than wind or rain.
It is the way it is. Birth, life, love, death.

ROSE
If he’d not left you out, would we have met
As we did just now, o’er the chamber-pot?
Or would you have played the game as given,
And played the part of a reasonable prince
Who does not shit in random servants’ rooms?

PRINCE
Whose room, anyway?

ROSE
My lady-in-waiting!

PRINCE
That explains it. I see you have said “shit.”

ROSE
Oh, I did! It slipped out.

PRINCE
Did it?

ROSE
In passion,
I suppose.

PRINCE
A tonic will help with that.

ROSE
Ha! There, you see, if we’d met and exchanged
Plainest pleasantries under watchful eyes
We’d not know each other so well as now
That we’ve met in the privy.

PRINCE
You are right.
I would have disliked you, acting like them.

ROSE
I play it well. And you do not.

PRINCE
Well.

ROSE
Well?

PRINCE
Intend you, Rose, to marry Baron Grey?

ROSE
I think the Duke leans in that direction.

PRINCE
That’s not what I asked.

ROSE
I’m no fairy-tale pixie,
No runaway or rebel duchess, to
Disobediently spite the royal wishes.
I can navigate the locked-in ice waters
Of polite society and live out
Quite happily my dirtier expression
As just a token of inner life. Books.
Maids. Perhaps, letters to you, my new friend.

PRINCE
You’ll be happy with ideas alone?

ROSE
I can have no more.

PRINCE
Surely you dream of more.

ROSE
Yes, dreams are for that which we can not have.

PRINCE
You’ve ne’er e’en considered the possibility.

ROSE
Of what?

PRINCE
Of seeing your dreams sail under stars
Out of your head and into the real world
Of flesh and blood and pain and lust and life.

ROSE
Of course I’ve considered it, what else
Is there but fantasy? I do not dream
Of dictionary definitions, Prince.

PRINCE
You have the means. Why not cross the threshold?

ROSE
Oh no, I daren’t.

PRINCE
Be tempted to one small step.
Break the glass that whispers, “Impossible.”

ROSE
I know not how you mean…

PRINCE
You know too well.

ROSE
Fair Prince, you bedevil me… I’m happy here,
In purgatory. ‘Tis green and familiar.
I’ve not the constitution for excursions
To heaven or to hell.

PRINCE
The garden works.

ROSE
The garden?

PRINCE
The Duke’s rose garden. My rooms-

ROSE
Are set beside them, I know.

PRINCE
I’ll say no more.
The rest, if more there is, must come from you.

ROSE
Must it? Can’t you joke me into saying something?
I like to laugh.

PRINCE
I am a serious man,
I’m afraid.

ROSE
Afraid, again.

PRINCE
Afraid, yes,
That you’ll defeat yourself. Are you afraid?

ROSE
I am. I am, for this palace is set
Upon a slipp’ry hill, and one step outside
Could send me plummeting to filthy depths…

(A distant bell rings.)

ROSE
Go, that signals for the merchants’ parade.

PRINCE
I’ll not be late.

(He goes to leave.)

ROSE
Look out your chamber window at the hour
Of midnight.

PRINCE
The guard changes at eleven.
Be not so classic.

ROSE
You may see nothing there.

PRINCE
I hope that’s not the case. I’ll look each hour.

(He goes to leave once more.)

ROSE
And Prince? If I am there, do not affright
If my mind, you find, is wilder than you.
Step careful, child-man. These years in books
Have grown a wilderness within my thoughts.

PRINCE
I’ll happily be lost there.

ROSE
No, you wouldn’t.
‘Tis scary.

PRINCE
Then scare me. ‘Till then, good day.

ROSE
Good day to you.

(He exits.)

(Enter ROSE’S LADY-IN-WAITING.)

ROSE
You heard it all?

LADY-IN-WAITING
My poor sweet chamber-pot.
He quite destroyed it, foul thing.

ROSE
Clara!
Listen. You must help me.

LADY-IN-WAITING
Dangerous steps,
My lady of Calis.

ROSE
I fear that he
Hath taken shine to me for none cause but
That forbidden and enticing am I,
A Calisian duchess royal, the daughter
Of his sometime enemy, and not afraid
Of him. I must know if his heart’s in it,
Or just his pride and his national prick.

LADY-IN-WAITING
His prick and national pride, was that?

ROSE
No.
As I said it. Please, Clara, go about,
Engage his servants, gather rumors up,
Anything you can manage that might guide
And advise me in the truth of his soul.

LADY-IN-WAITING
You know, my lady, that his elder daughter
Just this morn arrived to see the bright city
And bring him news from home? His son
Was meant to come, but business in Jion
Did keep him there.

ROSE
Of course! What joy! His daughter.
She’s older than me?

LADY-IN-WAITING
Yes, as is His Grace…

ROSE
E’en better. An honest Jionet woman!
And royal! She’ll understand.

LADY-IN-WAITING
Or hate you.

ROSE
And if she does, I’ll know. If her advice
Is strong and favorable to her father,
I’ll know. I’ll put my heart into her hands.

LADY-IN-WAITING
Is that wise, to put your fate on her?

ROSE
I may be staking the fate of nations
Upon my heart; I may as well thus stake
My heart upon a stranger’s wisdom.
Is my dress flown up? I feel upside-down.
What fun this world can be, after all.
Thank you, Clara. Go on.

LADY-IN-WAITING
Where are you off to?

ROSE
My privy, of course! Now where are my Fables?
I lose that book everywhere.

(ROSE exits. The LADY-IN-WAITING sighs, and exits the other way.)

(End of play.)

writing time: 2:30 or so

No, it’s not a prequel to some well-known story. It’s a prequel to a full-length play I’ve been working on. The Prince’s daughter is the main chracter of that play. The Prince and Rose do not get a happy ending.

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One comment

  1. […] because nowadays we accept a certain vision of the world as being based on physical laws 27) Prequel – a young noblewoman from a cultured country encounters the ruler of a less cultured one Came […]

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