King Henry IX - The War of the Noses

 

ACT 2, SCENE 5

In his darkened privy chamber, the KING nods at his desk.

KING

His head falling forward, he jerks suddenly awake.

'Zounds! [Looking around, dazed] Flibbergibbeting false winking dreams! I ought to the bed my scampered queen haunts no more.

He stands, stretches, scratches indelicately, and opens a desk drawer with a hand still festooned with half of a finger-trap. Retrieving a glossy magazine and closing the drawer, he appears ready to leave the room. But an indistinct chanting is heard, and he falls back into his chair.

Frightful clamor! Disturbéd dreams and now this dread howling. Woe, more woe. And I have an early tee time! What is't thou?

THREE VOICES

Synchronized chanting.

Double, double toil and bubble;
Fire burn and cauldron trouble.

Hesitation, then unsynchronized voices continue...

Um, something, something.
An eye of newt?
Stir the pot and stew
The prunes?
Feel the burn. Boil
Frog-leggéd illegitimate king.

KING

I do know these ever-confuséd voices. A band o' Parliament, by George! Roof-raising funky gamesters; impolitic knaves.

A knot of three balloons rises now: blue-nosed Parliamentarians Lady MACBROTH, Charles the SCHEMER, and Bernard FLANDERS.

Lady Nancy McBroth, hagging voice of the House Common, is't thou?

MACBROTH

Even so, infant King.

KING

And Charles the Schemer, from York to the House of Lords affixed?

SCHEMER

That's right, pal.

KING

And surely the distempered Flanders.

FLANDERS

It's Bernard, not Shirley, you empty-headed usurper. Lord Bernard Flanders, your worst nightmare.

MACBROTH and SCHEMER

Ours too, betimes.

Three witches.

KING

Why affright me now? False rumor dogs my days and distracts my feat of reknown. Must my nights be likewise sleepless haunted?

MACBROTH

We do desire your comfortable sleep and anon will task the Yeoman Warders with sweet lullabies in your nightly service.

SCHEMER

Pray, hollow King, what's this reknownéd feat of yours?

KING

Thou mulish ass! Ass-braying mule! The moat know thee well—maps art sold in the gift shoppe. All say it out-faces Hadrian's sodden wall as the blaring sun doth 'bliterate the twinkling stars. Many say the wall Marco Polo didst cobble up in China 'tis but a blown-down fence to mine flowing moat-canal! 'Zounds!

FLANDERS

Still, bourgeois King, a canal's not a wall sirrah! What built is a wetted ditch? What workman's labor ever cast up but a hole? Fie on't!

KING

Ooh, thou 'tankerous Flanders! Thy hair is white-frighted, thine elbows all patchéd, thy mother's rough-booted!

FLANDERS

Most richly argued, prating coxcomb!

MACBROTH

Good Flanders. Hold more to the point. We come to pronounce the bill soon introducéd 'fore Parliament to the King's certain doom.

SCHEMER

That's right my marmalade King. The Miller told his tale.

MACBROTH

See the King doth change a whiter shade of pale.

FLANDERS

Tangerine, at best.

KING

O pother the Miller! Hag-hunting, false-noséd foot soldier. With prophecy secure, I fear no man!

MACBROTH

Our prophecy is more dire. 'Tis known if not deposéd be, your Frankish tanglements do foretell a lamentful future on this storied isle. A bloody, head-severing revolution.

SCHEMER

Snails on a plate. Bubbled wine in a cup.

FLANDERS

That most errant, juggling, comedic knave—Gerald Louis—ever on our festival stages!

KING

None of it sirs! My fond regard for King Louis the Terrible; a few small loans: francs for my investmental use. What harm? Certain games abed spied out by prying frog-eyed tell-tales. Still nought. I'll not hear 'em.

MACBROTH

All well, though it will end not such. Tomorrow a bill of alienation King from Crown. It will pass.

KING

Fie! Faugh! My new-militant son, fresh from bloody victories 'gainst our friends and countrymen the Scots, marches on our capital for more strength. Soon with his wildling lieutenant, feared Sir Splooge, will he clap contrary Parliamentarians in chains. Out spirits! Attempt not to affright me more, I'll not be enfeebled.

The three float off, indistinct chanting is heard.

How all occasions do inform against me,
And mock my dulléd wits! What is a king,
If the chief use and 'joyment of his time
Be but to think and think? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that gave me such coarse appetites,
Leering before and after, gave me not
That capacity and goat-like hunger
To fust in me unused. Now, whether it be
Gold or sensual oblivion won,
I'll surfeit my desires in all times left.

Exeunt

 
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