King Henry IX - The War of the Noses

 

ACT 1, SCENE 3

The KING sleeps in a chair behind his desk. It is dark, but a child's night light illuminates the room. Partially-deflated BEAUREGARD stands in the room. Presently, a balloon on a string floats above the desk. It is yellow and features a crudely-drawn face and blue nose. It is WILLIAM the Randy.

WILLIAM

He speaks in a disembodied voice as the balloon bobs, its string pulled by an unseen hand.

Yo, King! Awake!

KING

He wakes with a start.

Fell spirit! Who, what, is't?

WILLIAM

Who? You know me well, sure. Betimes we did companionly sport. You expected a chain-bedraggèd Christmas spirit, miser?

BalloonKING

Randy Will! But your wife. Is't near?

WILLIAM

[Laughs] Marry, no.

KING

Well-met then. I do miss our wenching.

WILLIAM

Me too. Were I a country fisher still!

KING

Me too. Those days art past. I am cruelly harried o'er my basest wants.

WILLIAM

Me too. I shrink in this age of...

KING

Me too.

A second balloon rises. It is HILARITY: white, angry-faced, blue-nosed..

WILLIAM

Gadzooks! Hilarity. Dearest.

HILARITY

Cut the crap, Billy Boy. I catch you out again—thou unfaithful roguish barnacle. Time was you were at more tender bawds than this.

KING

[He speaks to the toy] Beauregard, thou clotpoll! Flaccid fool, trait'rous craven, arrest this vile Harpy! Pretender to my throne!

WILLIAM

Soft, child-king. Hilarity—dearest Hilarity—can do you no harm.

HILARITY

No? Shall our most recreant King feel the cut o' my policy as hast thou, eunuch?

WILLIAM

O, tender, me love. Don't be cruel! To your 'spicious mind am I truly nought but a hound dog, though I am shaken all up, ever with a burnin' love for you.

HILARITY

Please. More stewed prunes for your burning love, methinks.

KING

Wherefore play at this masque of domestic bliss for me? Harry Wineglass might produce it bawdy on the stage, still it be not for my chamber. Avaunt ye both!

HILARITY

Hold fast, pulpy King, I come not here to chuckle my wayward one-time swain. 'Stead I bringst thee fearful tidings of a more portentful audience to come. When the Moor calls, give heed! Frightful news he shall bring. Mark him, foul citrus-pated fool. Mark him well!

Remember too, the Miller's tale will yet be told.

Now my balls-and-chain I pinch by the ear and drag off.

Exit WILLIAM and HILARITY.

KING

This has been nought but a distemper brought
Of one o'er ripe capon, indigested,
Gut-wrenching, netherward bounded morsel.
A dream: no more. No portent; fie on it!
I mark it not, this nightmareish fancy.
Sleep like a babe for me, for light-headed
Wear I this bejeweléd, once august crown.

He sleeps, smiling. Lights dim further.

 
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