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Title: The Six of Calais Author: George Bernard Shaw * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0300531h.html Edition: 1 Language: English Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit (HTML) Date first posted: March 2003 Date most recently updated: March 2003 This eBook was produced by: Don Lainson email@example.com Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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THE SIX OF CALAIS
Period--A.D. 4th August 1347
Scene--Before the Walls of Calais on the Last Day of the Siege. Camp of King Edward III
The most amusing thing about the first performance of this little play was the exposure it elicited of the quaint illiteracy of our modern London journalists. Their only notion of a king was a pleasant and highly respectable gentleman in a bowler hat and Victorian beard, shaking hands affably with a blushing football team. To them a queen was a dignified lady, also Victorian as to her coiffure, graciously receiving bouquets from excessively washed children in beautiful new clothes. Such were their mental pictures of Great Edward's grandson and his queen Philippa. They were hurt, shocked, scandalized at the spectacle of a medieval soldier monarch publicly raging and cursing, crying and laughing, asserting his authority with thrasonic ferocity and the next moment blubbering like a child in his wife's lap or snarling like a savage dog at a dauntless and defiant tradesman: in short behaving himself like an unrestrained human being in a very trying situation instead of like a modern constitutional monarch on parade keeping up an elaborate fiction of living in a political vacuum and moving only when his ministers pull his strings. Edward Plantagenet the Third had to pull everybody else's strings and pull them pretty hard, his father having been miserably killed for taking his job too lightly. But the journalist critics knew nothing of this. A King Edward who did not behave like the son of King Edward the Seventh seemed unnatural and indecent to them, and they rent their garments accordingly.
They were perhaps puzzled by the fact that the play has no moral whatever. Every year or so I hurl at them a long play full of insidious propaganda, with a moral in every line. They never discover what I am driving at: it is always too plainly and domestically stated to be grasped by their subtle and far flung minds; but they feel that I am driving at something: probably something they had better not agree with if they value their livelihoods. A play of mine in which I am not driving at anything more than a playwright's direct business is as inconceivable by them as a medieval king.
Now a playwright's direct business is simply to provide the theatre with a play. When I write one with the additional attraction of providing the twentieth century with an up-to-date religion or the like, that luxury is thrown in gratuitously; and the play, simply as a play, is not necessarily either the better or the worse for it. What, then, is a play simply as a play?
Well, it is a lot of things. Life as we see it is so haphazard that it is only by picking out its key situations and arranging them in their significant order (which is never how they actually occur) that it can be made intelligible. The highbrowed dramatic poet wants to make it intelligible and sublime. The farce writer wants to make it funny. The melodrama merchant wants to make it as exciting as some people find the police news. The pornographer wants to make it salacious. All interpreters of life in action, noble or ignoble, find their instrument in the theatre; and all the academic definitions of a play are variations of this basic function.
Yet there is one function hardly ever alluded to now, though it was made much too much of from Shakespear's time to the middle of the nineteenth century. As I write my plays it is continually in my mind and very much to my taste. This function is to provide an exhibition of the art of acting. A good play with bad parts is not an impossibility; but it is a monstrosity. A bad play with good parts will hold the stage and be kept alive by the actors for centuries after the obsolescence of its mentality would have condemned it to death without them. A great deal of the British Drama, from Shakespear to Bulwer Lytton, is as dead as mutton, and quite unbearable except when heroically acted; yet Othello and Richelieu can still draw hard money into the pay boxes; and The School For Scandal revives again and again with unabated vigor. Rosalind can always pull As You Like It through in spite of the sententious futility of the melancholy Jaques; and Millamant, impossible as she is, still produces the usual compliments to the wit and style of Congreve, who thought that syphilis and cuckoldry and concupiscent old women are things to be laughed at.
The Six of Calais is an acting piece and nothing else. As it happened, it was so well acted that in the eighteenth century all the talk would have been about Siddons as Philippa. But the company got no thanks except from the audience: the critics were prostrated with shock, damn their eyes!
I have had to improve considerably on the story as told by that absurd old snob Froissart, who believed that "to rob and pill was a good life" if the robber was at least a baron. He made a very poor job of it in my opinion.
ON THE HIGH SEAS, 28th May 1935
A.D. 4th August 1347. Before the walls of Calais on the last day of the siege. The pavilion of Edward III, King of England, is on your left as you face the walls. The pavilion of his consort Philippa of Hainault is on your right. Between them, near the King's pavilion, is a two-seated chair of state for public audiences. Crowds of tents cover the background; but there is a clear way in the middle through the camp to the great gate of the city with its drawbridge still up and its flag still flying.
The Black Prince, aged 17, arrives impetuously past the Queen's tent, a groom running after him.
THE PRINCE. Here is the King's pavilion without a single attendant to announce me. What can the matter be?
A child's scream is heard from the royal pavilion; and John of Gaunt, aged 7, dashes out and is making for his mother's tent when the Prince seizes him.
THE PRINCE. How now, Johnny? Whats the matter?
JOHN [struggling] Let me go. Father is in a frightful wax.
THE PRINCE. I shall be in a wax myself presently. [Releasing him] Off with you to mother. [The child takes refuge in the Queen's pavilion].
THE KING'S VOICE. Grrr! Yah! Why was I not told? Gogswoons, why was I not told? [Edward III, aged 35, dashes from his pavilion foaming]. Out! [The groom flies for his life]. How long have you been here? They never tell me anything. I might be a dog instead of a king.
THE PRINCE [about to kneel] Majesty--
THE KING. No no: enough of that. Your news. Anything from Scotland? Anything from Wales?
THE PRINCE. I--
THE KING [not waiting for the answer] The state of things here is past words. The wrath of God and all his saints is upon this expedition.
THE PRINCE. I hope not, sir. I--
THE KING [raging on] May God wither and blast this accursed town! You would have thought that these dogs would have come out of their kennels and grovelled for mercy at my summons. Am I not their lawful king, ha?
THE PRINCE. Undoubtedly, sir. They--
THE KING. They have held me up for twelve months! A whole year!! My business ruined! My plans upset! My money exhausted! Death, disease, mutiny, a dog's life here in the field winter and summer. The bitch's bastard who is in command of their walls came to demand terms from me! to demand terms!!! looked me straight in the eyes with his head up as if I--I, his king! were dirt beneath his feet. By God, I will have that head: I will kick it to my dogs to eat. I will chop his insolent herald into four quarters--
THE PRINCE [shocked] Oh no, sir: not a herald: you cannot do that.
THE KING. They have driven me to such extremity that I am capable of cutting all the heralds in Christendom into their quarterings. [He sits down in his chair of state and suddenly becomes ridiculously sentimental]. I have not told you the worst. Your mother, the Queen, my Philippa, is here: here! Edward, in her delicate state of health. Even that did not move them. They want her to die: they are trying to murder her and our innocent unborn child. Think of that, boy: Oh, think of that [he almost weeps].
THE PRINCE. Softly, father: that is not their fault: it is yours.
THE KING. Would you make a jest of this? If it is not their fault it shall be their misfortune; for I will have every man, woman, and child torn to pieces with red hot pincers for it.
THE PRINCE. Truly, dear Sir, you have great cause to be annoyed; but in sober earnest how does the matter stand? They must be suffering the last extremity of famine. Their walls may hold out; but their stomachs cannot. Cannot you offer them some sort of terms to end the business? Money is running short. Time is running short. You only make them more desperate by threatening them. Remember: it is good policy to build a bridge of silver for a flying foe.
THE KING. Do I not know it? Have I not been kind, magnanimous? Have I not done all that Christian chivalry could require of me? And they abuse my kindness: it only encourages them: they despise me for it.
THE PRINCE. What terms have you offered them?
THE KING. I have not threatened the life of a single knight. I have said that no man of gentle condition and noble blood shall be denied quarter and ransom. It was their knightly duty to make a show of arms against me. But [rising wrathfully] these base rascals of burgesses: these huckstering hounds of merchants who have made this port of Calais a nest of pirates: these usurers and tradesmen: these rebel curs who have dared to take up arms against their betters: am I to pardon their presumption? I should be false to our order, to Christendom, if I did not make a signal example.
THE PRINCE. By all means, sir. But what have you demanded?
THE KING. Six of the most purseproud of their burgesses, as they call themselves--by God, they begin to give themselves the airs of barons--six of them are to come in their shirts with halters round their necks for me to hang in the sight of all their people. [Raising his voice again and storming] They shall die the dog's death they deserve. They shall--
A court lady comes in.
THE COURT LADY. Sir: the Queen. Sssh!
THE KING [subsiding to a whisper] The Queen! Boy: not a word here. Her condition: she must not be upset: she takes these things so amiss: be discreet, for heaven's sake.
Queen Philippa, aged 33, comes from her pavilion, attended.
THE QUEEN. Dear child: welcome.
THE PRINCE. How do you, lady mother? [He kisses her hand].
THE KING [solicitously] Madam: are you well wrapped up? Is it wise to come into the cold air here? Had they better not bring a brazier and some cushions, and a hot drink--a posset--
THE QUEEN [curtseying] Sir: beloved: dont fuss. I am very well; and the air does me good. [To the Prince] You must cheer up your father, my precious. He will fret about my health when it is his own that needs care. I have borne him eleven children; and St Anne be my witness they have cost less looking after than this one big soldier, the greatest baby of them all. [To the King] Have you put on your flannel belly band, dearest?
THE KING. Yes, yes, yes, my love: do not bother about me. Think of yourself and our child--
THE QUEEN. Oh, leave me to take care of myself and the child. I am no maternal malingreuse I promise you. And now, sir sonny, tell me all your news. I--
She is interrupted by a shrill trumpet call.
THE KING. What is that? What now?
John of Gaunt, who has been up to the town gates to see the fun, runs in excitedly.
JOHN OF GAUNT [bending his knee very perfunctorily] Sire: they have surrendered: the drawbridge is down. The six old men have come out in their shirts with ropes round their necks.
THE KING [clouting him] Sssh! Hold your tongue, you young devil.
THE QUEEN. Old men in their shirts in this weather!! They will catch cold.
THE KING. It is nothing, madam my love: only the ceremony of surrender. You must go in: it is not fitting that these half naked men should be in your presence. I will deal with them.
THE QUEEN. Do not keep them too long in the cold, dearest sir.
THE KING [uxoriously waving her a kiss] My love!
The Queen goes into her pavilion; and a group of noblemen attendant on the King, including Sir Walter Manny and the Lords Derby, Northampton, and Arundel, issue from their tents and assemble behind the chair of state, where they are joined by the Black Prince, who stands at the King's right hand and takes charge of John of Gaunt.
THE KING. Now for these swine, these bloodsuckers. They shall learn--[shouting] Fetch me these fellows in here. Drag them in. I'll teach them to hold me up here for twelve months. I'll--
The six burgesses, hustled by men-at-arms, enter in their shirts and halters, each carrying a bunch of massive iron keys. Their leader, Eustache de St Pierre, kneels at the King's feet. Four of his fellow victims, Piers de Wissant, Jacques de Wissant, Jean d'Aire, and Gilles d'Oudebolle, kneel in pairs behind him, and, following his example, lay their keys on the ground. They are deeply cast down, bearing themselves like condemned men, yet maintaining a melancholy dignity. Not so the sixth, Piers de Rosty (nicknamed Hardmouth), the only one without a grey or white beard. He has an extraordinary dogged chin with a few bristles on it. He deliberately separates himself from the rest by passing behind the royal chair to the King's right and planting himself stiffly erect in an attitude of intense recalcitrance. The King, scowling fiercely at St Pierre and the rest, does not notice this until Peter flings down his keys with a violence which suggests that he would very willingly have brained Edward with them.
THE KING. On your knees, hound.
PETER. I am a good dog, but not of your kennel, Neddy.
THE KING. Neddy!!!!
PETER. Order your own curs: I am a free burgess and take commands from nobody.
Before the amazed monarch can retort, Eustache appeals to Peter.
EUSTACHE. Master Peter: if you have no regard for yourself, remember that our people, our wives and children, are at the mercy of this great king.
PETER. You mistake him for his grandfather. Great! [He spits].
EUSTACHE. Is this your promise to be patient?
PETER. Why waste civilities on him, Master Mayor? He can do no worse than hang us; and as to the town, I would have burnt it to the last brick, and every man, woman and child along with it, sooner than surrender. I came here to make up the tale of six to be hanged. Well, he can hang me; but he shall not outface me. I am as good a dog as he, any day in the week.
THE PRINCE. Fie, fellow! is this a way for one of thy degree to speak to an anointed king? Bear thyself as befits one of thy degree in the royal presence, or by Holy Paul--
PETER. You know how we have borne ourselves in his royal presence these twelve months. We have made some of you skip. Famine and not you, has beaten us. Give me a square meal and a good sword and stake all on a fair single combat with this big bully, or his black whelp here if he is afraid of me; and we shall see which is the better dog of the two.
THE KING. Drag him to his knees. Hamstring him if he resists.
Three men-at-arms dash at Peter and drag him to his knees. They take his halter and tie his ankles and wrists with it. Then they fling him on his side, where he lies helpless.
THE KING. And so, Master Burgess--
THE KING [furious] Gag him. Gogswoons, gag him.
They tear a piece of linen from the back of his shirt, and bind his mouth with it. He barks to the last moment. John of Gaunt laughs ecstatically at this performance, and sets off some of the soldiers.
THE KING. If a man laughs I will have him flayed alive.
THE KING. And now, fellows, what have ye to say to excuse your hardy and stubborn resistance for all these months to me, your king?
EUSTACHE. Sir, we are not fellows. We are free burgesses of this great city.
THE KING. Free burgesses! Are you still singing that song? Well, I will bend the necks of your burgesses when the hangman has broken yours. Am I not your overlord? Am I not your anointed king?
EUSTACHE. That is your claim, sir; and you have made it good by force of arms. We must submit to you and to God.
THE KING. Leave God out of this! What hast thou or thy like to do with God?
EUSTACHE. Nothing, sir: we would not so far presume. But with due respect to your greatness I would humbly submit to your Majesty that God may have something to do with us, seeing that he created us all alike and redeemed us by the blood of his beloved son.
THE KING [to the Prince] Can you make head or tail of this, boy? Is he accusing me of impiety? If he is, by God--
EUSTACHE. Sir, is it for me to accuse you of anything? Here we kneel in the dust before you, naked and with the ropes on our necks with which you will presently send us into the presence of our maker and yours. [His teeth chatter].
THE KING. Ay: you may well tremble. You have cause.
EUSTACHE. Yes: I tremble; and my teeth chatter: the few I have left. But you gentlemen that see our miserable plight, I call on your generosity as noblemen, on your chivalry as good knights, to bear witness for us that it is the cold of the morning and our naked condition that shakes us. We kneel to implore your King's mercy for our wretched and starving townsfolk, not for ourselves.
THE KING. Whose fault is it that they are starving? They have themselves to thank. Why did they not open their gates to me? Why did they take arms against their anointed king? Why should I have mercy on them or on you?
EUSTACHE. Sir: one is merciful not for reasons, but for the love of God, at whose hand we must all sue for mercy at the end of our days.
THE KING. You shall not save yourself by preaching. What right have you to preach? It is for churchmen and learned divines to speak of these mysteries, not for tradesmen and usurers. I'll teach you to rebel against your betters, whom God has appointed to keep you in obedience and loyalty. You are traitors; and as traitors you shall die. Thank my mercy that you are spared the torments that traitors and rebels suffer in England. [Rising] Away with them to the hangman; and let our trumpeters summon the townspeople to the walls to take warning from their dangling corpses.
The three men-at-arms begin to lift Peter. The others lay hands on his five colleagues.
THE KING. No: let that hound lie. Hanging is too good for him.
The Queen hurries in with her ladies in great concern. The men-at-arms release the burgesses irresolutely. It is evident that the Queen's arrival washes out all the King's orders.
THE QUEEN. Sir, what is this they tell me?
THE KING [hurrying across to intercept her] Madam: this is no place for you. I pray you, retire. The business is one in which it becomes you not to meddle.
THE QUEEN [evading him and passing on to inspect the burgesses] But these gentlemen. They are almost naked. It is neither seemly nor sufficient. They are old: they are half frozen: they should be in their beds.
THE KING. They soon will be. Leave us, madam. This is business of State. They are suffering no more than they deserve. I beg and pray you--I command you--
THE QUEEN. Dear sir, your wishes are my law and your commands my duty. But these gentlemen are very cold.
THE KING. They will be colder presently; so you need not trouble about that. Will it please you, madam, to withdraw at once?
THE QUEEN. Instantly, my dear Lord. [To Eustache] Sir: when his Majesty has ended his business with you, will you and your friends partake of some cups of hot wine in my pavilion? You shall be furnished with gowns.
THE KING [choking with wrath] Hot w--!
EUSTACHE. Alas, madam, when the King has ended his business with us we shall need nothing but our coffins. I also beg you to withdraw and hasten our despatch to that court where we shall not be held guilty for defending our hearths and homes to the last extremity. The King will not be baulked of his revenge; and we are shriven and ready.
THE QUEEN. Oh, you mistake, sir: the King is incapable of revenge: my husband is the flower of chivalry.
EUSTACHE. You little know your husband, madam. We know better what to expect from Edward Plantagenet.
THE KING [coming to him threateningly past his consort] Ha! do you, Master Merchant? You know better than the Queen! You and your like know what to expect from your lords and rulers! Well, this time you shall not be disappointed. You have guessed aright. You shall hang, every man of you, in your shirts, to make mirth for my horseboys and their trulls.
THE QUEEN. Oh no--
THE KING [thundering] Madam: I forbid you to speak. I bade you go: you would not; and now you shall see what I would have spared you had you been obedient. By God, I will be master in my own house and king in my own camp. Take these fellows out and hang them in their white beards.
The King takes his place on his chair of state with his arms folded implacably. The Queen follows him slowly and desolately. She takes her place beside him. The dead silence is very trying.
THE QUEEN [drooping in tears and covering her face with her hands] Oh!
THE KING [flinching] No no no no NO. Take her away.
THE QUEEN. Sir: I have been always a great trouble to you. I have asked you for a thousand favors and graces and presents. I am impatient and ungrateful, ever asking, asking, asking. Have you ever refused me even once?
THE KING. Well, is that a reason why I should give and grant, grant and give, for ever? Am I never to have my own way?
THE QUEEN. Oh, dearest sir, when next I ask you for a great thing, refuse me: teach me a lesson. But this is such a little thing. [Heartbroken] I cannot bear your refusing me a little thing.
THE KING. A little thing! You call this a little thing!
THE QUEEN. A very very little thing, sir. You are the King: you have at your disposal thousands of lives: all our lives from the noblest to the meanest. All the lives in that city are in your hand to do as you will with in this your hour of victory: it is as if you were God himself. You said once that you would lead ten kings captive to my feet. Much as I have begged from you I have never asked for my ten kings. I ask only for six old merchants, men beneath your royal notice, as my share of the spoils of your conquest. Their ransom will hardly buy me a new girdle; and oh, dear sir, you know that my old one is becoming too strait for me. Will you keep me begging so?
THE KING. I see very well that I shall not be allowed my own way. [He begins to cry].
THE QUEEN [throwing her arms round him] Oh, dear sir, you know I would die to spare you a moment's distress. There, there, dearest! [She pets him].
THE KING [blubbering] I am never allowed to do anything I want. I might as well be a dog as a king. You treat me like a baby.
THE QUEEN. Ah no: you are the greatest of kings to me, the noblest of men, my dearest lord and my dearest dearest love. [Throwing herself on her knees] Listen: do as you will: I will not say another word: I ask nothing.
THE KING. No: you ask nothing because you know you will get everything. [He rises, shouting] Take those men out of my sight.
THE PRINCE. What shall we do with them, sir?
THE KING [flinging himself back into his seat] Ask the Queen. Banquet them: feast them: give them my crown, my kingdom. Give them the clothes off my back, the bread out of my mouth, only take them away. Will you go, curses on you.
The five burgesses kneel gratefully to the Queen.
EUSTACHE [kissing her hand] Madam: our ransom shall buy you a threefold girdle of gold and a cradle of silver.
THE KING. Aye, well, see that it does: see that it does.
The burgesses retire, bowing to the Queen, who, still on her knees, waves her hand graciously to them.
THE QUEEN. Will you not help me up, dear sir?
THE KING. Oh yes, yes [raising her]: you should be more careful: who knows what harm you may have done yourself flopping on your knees like that?
THE QUEEN. I have done myself no harm, dear sir; but you have done me a world of good. I have never been better nor happier in my life. Look at me. Do I not look radiant?
THE KING. And how do I look? Like a fool.
JOHN OF GAUNT. Sir: the men-at-arms want to know what they are to do with this fellow?
THE KING. Aye, I forgot him. Fetch him here.
The three men-at-arms carry Peter to the King, and fling him down. The King is now grinning. His paroxysm of tears has completely discharged his ill temper. It dawns on him that through Peter he may get even with Philippa for his recent domestic defeat.
THE QUEEN. Oh, the poor man has not even a proper shirt to wear. It is all torn: it is hardly decent.
THE KING. Look well at this man, madam. He defied me. He spat at me. There is no insult that he did not heap on me. He looked me in the face and spoke to me as if I were a scullion. I swear to you by the Holy Rood, he called me Neddy! Donkeys are called Neddy. What have you to say now? Is he, too, to be spared and petted and fed and have a gown from you?
THE QUEEN [going to Peter] But he is blue with cold. I fear he is dying. Untie him. Lift him up. Take that bandage off his mouth. Fie fie! I believe it is the tail of his shirt.
THE KING. It is cleaner than his tongue.
The men-at-arms release Peter from his bonds and his gag. He is too stiff to rise. They pull him to his feet.
PETER [as they lift him groaning and swearing] Ah-ooh-oh-ow!
THE KING. Well? Have you learnt your lesson? Are you ready to sue for the Queen's mercy?
PETER. Yah! Henpecked! Kiss mammy!
THE KING [chuckles]!!
THE QUEEN [severely] Are you mad, Master Burgess? Do you not know that your life is in the King's hand? Do you expect me to recommend you to his mercy if you forget yourself in this unseemly fashion?
PETER. Let me tell you, madam, that I came here in no ragged shirt. I have a dozen shirts of as fine web as ever went on your back. Is it likely that I, a master mercer, would wear aught but the best of the best to go to my grave in?
THE QUEEN. Mend you manners first, sir; and then mend your linen; or you shall have no countenance from me.
PETER. I have naught to do with you, madam, though I well see who wears the breeches in this royal household. I am not skilled in dealing with fine handsome ladies. Leave me to settle my business with your henpecked husband.
THE QUEEN. You shall suffer for this insolence. [To the King] Will you, my lord, stand by and hear me spoken to in this tone by a haberdasher?
THE KING [grinning] Nay: I am in a merciful mood this morning. The poor man is to be pitied, shivering there in his shirt with his tail torn off.
PETER. Shivering! You lie in your teeth, though you were fifty kings. No man alive shall pity Peter Hardmouth, a dog of lousy Champagne.
THE KING [going to him] Ha! A dog of Champagne! Oh, you must pardon this man, madam; for my grandmother hailed from that lousy province; so I also am a dog of Champagne. We know one another's bark. [Turning on him with bristling teeth] Eh?
PETER [growling in his face like a dog] Grrrr!!!
THE KING [returning the growl chin to chin] Grrrr!!!!!!
They repeat this performance, to the great scandal of the Queen, until it develops into a startling imitation of a dog fight.
THE QUEEN [tearing the two dogs asunder] Oh, for shame, sir! And you fellow: I will have you muzzled and led through the streets on a chain and lodged in a kennel.
THE KING. Be merciful, lady. I have asked you for many favors, and had them granted me too, as the world, please God, will soon have proof. Will you deny me this?
THE QUEEN. Will you mock my condition before this insolent man and before the world? I will not endure it.
THE KING. Faith, no, dearest: no mockery. But you have no skill in dealing with the dogs of lousy Champagne. We must pity this poor trembling fellow.
THE QUEEN [angrily] He is not trembling.
PETER. No, by all the saints in heaven and devils in hell. Well said, lass.
He nudges her, to her extreme indignation.
THE KING. Hear that, dearest: he calls thee lass. Be kind to him. He is only a poor old cur who has lost half his teeth. His condition would move a heart of stone.
PETER. I may be an old cur; but if I had sworn to hang the six of us as he swore, no shrew should scold me out of it, nor any softbosomed beauty wheedle me out of it. Yah, cry baby! Give her your sword and sit in the corner with her distaff. The grey mare is the better horse here. Do your worst, dame: I like your spunk better than his snivel.
THE QUEEN [raging] Send him away, sir. He is too ugly; and his words are disgusting. Such objects should be kept out of my sight: would you have me bear you a monster? Take him away.
THE KING. Away with him. Hurt him not; but let him not come into the Queen's presence. Quick there. Off with him.
The men-at-arms lay hands on Peter who struggles violently.
PETER. Hands off me, spaniels. Arrr! Grrr! [As they drag him out overpowered] Gee-up, Neddy. [He finishes with a spirited imitation of a donkey's bray].
THE KING. That is how they build men in Champagne. By the Holy Rood I care not if a bit of him gets into our baby.
THE QUEEN. Oh, for shame! for shame! Have men no decency?
The King snatches her into his arms, laughing boisterously. The laugh spreads to all the soldiers and courtiers. The whole camp seems in a hilarious uproar.
THE QUEEN. No no: for shame! for shame!
The King stops her mouth with a kiss. Peter brays melodiously in the distance.
(From the Programme of the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London, 17 July 1934)
My first collaborator, Jean Froissart, has been dead these five hundred years. He told the story, but got it all wrong; for though he was the most voluminous of chroniclers, and the father of all tufthunters, he understood women so little that the only lady he ever loved pulled his hair and would have nothing to do with him. Auguste Rodin contributed the character of Peter Hardmouth; but his manner of creation was that of a sculptor and not that of a playwright. Nothing remained for me to do but to correct Froissart's follies and translate Rodin into words.
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