Courtyard. Enter King Benjamin, limping.
Benjamin: This summer of heat and discontent
Churns in my innards like a seething presentiment.
Threats and fears becloud my mind in eternal winter.
Six years my kingdom endures, in two strips of time,
But to what purpose, if my only trademark
Is fear for continuation and plots in the dark?
Kings before me piped of peace, took steps,
But I, who was born bitter, flawed, suspicious, hesitant,
Am determined to prove time a truant:
To do null other than wish to be king,
And thus survive in my role at least ’til next spring.
Ay, there’s the rub: desiring but to wear the crown
I have let all else go into meltdown.
Hollow is the crown, I wonder why;
But at least on my head doth it lie!
But stand, ho! Who’s there? Enemy − or ... enemy?
Enter Eshelkrantz and Elkinstern.
Elkinstern: Blessings be upon your head, my lord and liege!
Eshelkrantz: I on my knees fall and bow to prestige!
Benjamin: Ah! Here be my friends, a handsome pair!
But quickly, do tell me, and do not dissemble:
Why the skullcaps on your heads tremble.
Eshelkrantz: My lord, as two unstrung arrows we shot forth
Heads to hunt, schemes to pursue, as daily is our wont.
Benjamin: Your honeyed words alone give me no pleasure.
Quick, tell me, did you come up with treasure?
Elkinstern: Chasten me not, m’lord!
Though seven defector skulls were your visionary hoard
From day one on your burnished throne,
It so fell out that even as I gave chase
Three again got away, to my disgrace.
Benjamin: And Mofazius?
Elkinstern: Nothing in his political life became him like the leaving of it.
Eshelkrantz: Adieu, my lord. Remember: The king is a tower of strength,
Many exploits lie ahead, and we are on your wavelength.
Bedroom. Enter Lady Make-bet, wife to Benjamin, holding a damp cloth.
Lady M: Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One, two!
Out, or I will throw a shoe!
Benjamin: Leave it be, my queen, the chest of drawers.
Lady M: King you were and are still, but how many years more?
My heart is fearful for your nature:
It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness
To do what needs to be done as though in blindness.
This must thou do if you wish this to get:
Do the act of which you are most afraid,
Not that which you will wish at once to be unmade.
Your face, my king, is as a book where men
May read strange matters.
To beguile the time, look like the time;
Bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue:
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under’t.
Night. The king, solitary.
Benjamin: It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by:
Benjy loves Benjy; that is, I am I.
Is there a trickster here? No. Yes. I am.
Then fly. What, from myself? How clever:
Lest I deceive again − this time, myself.
But I love myself. Shall I avenge all the good I have done for myself?
Or rather abhor all my hateful deeds, both petty and provocative?
Look how is it that I became
A Lady-in-Waiting to my own throne.
Thunder and lightning. Enter three sorcerers: Eshelkrantz, Elkinstern, Tzahikos.
Eshelkrantz: When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
Elkinstern: When a malodorous plot is hatched?
When a foul crisis we dispatch?
Tzahikos: On a heath, after every victory or slaughter,
We shall calculate what be our profit.
All three: Moral turpitude is kosher, kosher is moral turpitude,
In the filthy fog we hover, and bid farewell to rectitude.
Battlefield. Alarums, excursions. The king, army and citizens attempt to flee.
Benjamin: Remorse! Remorse! My kingdom is off course!
Soldier: Flee, my king! Lest you too be among the 500 corpses!
Benjamin: Move aside, slave. What’s done cannot be undone.
* Scholars are having a hard time trying to decide whether these excerpts are authentic and were penned by the Bard himself. Some detect forgery, perhaps by anarchists. Or the New Israel Fund.
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