THE WINTER’S TALE Act 3, Scene 2.5

The following is an assignment from school; the prompt was simply to write a 3-page play. For those who have read or seen THE WINTER’S TALE by Shakespeare, I chose to write the scene that happens after Hermione faints and is carried off-stage after hearing her little boy, Mamilius, is dead. I’m contemplating writing a play about the 16 years she is ‘dead’, but for now, I just have this! I hope you enjoy it! Please share your thoughts! (Also, I recommend reading the play if you haven’t.)
*DISCLAIMER* The style is meant to evoke Shakespeare, not copy. 🙂

 

[Lights fade up on HERMIONE who lays on a bed, unconscious. She is in light and the room around her in shadows. As the lights brighten gradually, she begins to regain consciousness. We hear distant, echoing voices that become increasingly clear.]

LEONTES: You had a bastard by Polixenes and I but dream’d it.
HERALD: The Prince your son …
LEONTES: I am glad you did not nurse him …
HERALD: With mere conceit and fear of the Queen’s speed …
LEONTES: You have too much blood in him.
HERALD: Is gone.
LEONTES: How gone?
HERALD: Is dead.

[The sound of people shrieking in horror at this news. It echoes away. The light has grown to full and we can now fully hear PAULINA and ANGELINA tending to the room in which HERMIONE lays.]

PAULINA [to off-stage]: A cold compress, Emilia.
ANGELINA [kneeling at HERMIONE’s bed, overcome]: Oh, my most bereaved lady.
PAULINA: On your feet, Angelina. Our good lady, once with right ear pricked to the goodness of heaven, the other to confess the vices of man (indeed, one man), finds herself fallen from height so great out of fortune. Being stricken poor of what she once did possess so fully, she has lost every sense which did name her our sensible lady; therefore must we look to them and see them returned. Your eyes must be clear of water to see for two. Were she able, she would do the same for you.
ANGELINA: I do know it. I do love her for it.

[HERMIONE begins to stir.]

PAULINA: She wakes. Dam your passions, girl. You know floodwaters do naught but erode and demolish the earth. Should we be overrun, no matter; but if she be, why, it’s high treason, child.
HERMIONE [mumbling]: My …
ANGELINA: What does she say?

[HERMIONE opens her eyes. SHE stares at the ceiling. SHE then sees PAULINA.]

HERMIONE: Paulina.
PAULINA: My worthy Queen.
HERMIONE: Where is Mamilius?
PAULINA: Oh, my lady …
HERMIONE: I wish to see his face, printed of my love.
PAULINA: Do you thirst, good lady?
HERMIONE [beginning to sit upright]: Only for a son, which, if my mind not fail as just my body has, I have.
PAULINA: In memory. And in memory alone.
HERMIONE: What do you say?
PAULINA: His countenance will be written upon the halls of memory in scores of all that ever beheld his boyish delight.
HERMIONE: Halls of memory. Paulina, you speak in riddles. We spar in words so oft a time, yet now I fear an un-right mind … tell me now in simple terms: where is my boy?
PAULINA: He is dead.
HERMIONE: As I have been e’er now, you mean? Then mist his face with dewy drops to dredge him from the sea of sleep.
PAULINA: No, Hermione. He is gone.
HERMIONE: Your face does mark it true. No jest is there. Nor promise of recantation. Surely, you are the lackey to drowsy Morpheus then, for your words have in them echoes of what he put forth in my dreams. I did dream those words were spoken and, given the mercurial, shifting stuff that such visions are made of, I tossed them aside like a poet’s distracted first verses. Must I pluck them up? Must I view them again? [Rising from the bed:] Shall I train my eyes upon those words that do defy nature?
PAULINA: You must be easy, my Queen.
HERMIONE: Shall I, in seeing, in awakening my belief, my faith in what has been set down perjure myself to the gods? Who did decree a mother shall a child’s thread begin, but never know how that thread will end?
PAULINA: Oh, hear me–
HERMIONE: I shall not, Paulina, by the love I bear you, I shall not review your words. I shall not. Alas, I will not. [Collapsing:] Oh gods, I cannot.

[PAULINA embraces HERMIONE.]

PAULINA: Your tears shall be as cleansing rain, to purge treachery from the air.
ANGELINA: As rain in spring to give new life.
HERMIONE: There was one new life that had scarce begun. Then those withered hags, who share but one eye between them, did not see the folly of their fatal cut. Had I lifelines as they make sport of, I would scrape flesh from bone in search of just one: the jewel these lumps do prize. That vessel of possibility, whose rosy fingers safeguard lines unclipped, that child as dear to death’s hags as his gaze was to me, that Perdita would I rip from them, though my cut come but a moment after, for there be no hope, promise, love undiscovered if he be not in the world.
ANGELINA: Dear Queen.
HERMIONE: I do not desire another day.
PAULINA: You must not speak so.
HERMIONE: Do the gods dis’prove? Merrily, then, I say: I do not desire another day.
ANGELINA: Good lady, your people do love you as the sun itself.
HERMIONE: What is a sun without its light?
PAULINA: Galileo would say its light is its own.
HERMIONE: Yes, a man would say so.
ANGELINA: Lady, as we left the court, your husband collapsed, as you e’er now, with torrential passions.
HERMIONE: To his moods, I am of stone—body clenched against grief, so dense that breath has no room in me.
PAULINA: Your son and daughter take our country’s hope with them.
ANGELINA: Yes, my Queen. Never will man, if he beard or shoulders broad or rumbling voice as even suggests this tyrant king, be worthy in my sight. For he has took, all at once, a nation’s honor, a nation’s life.
HERMIONE: Yes. If the gods are just, so shall his crime be answered.
PAULINA: What is in your mind?
HERMIONE: Where’s my dagger, left here before?
ANGELINA: I know not.
PAULINA: Nor I, but to what purpose?
HERMIONE: Alas, confiscated no doubt.
PAULINA: What use can you have of it tonight?
HERMIONE: A very even use. Hinder not my path, Paulina.
PAULINA: Where will you go?
HERMIONE: I do not wish to move you by force, for I know you are bound to take it unansweringly.
PAULINA: If your mind has in it such gory visions as I do see in your eye, I beg you, forebear, dear lady. There have passed enough mortal breaths tonight.
HERMIONE: Breaths that must have their liberator answered.
PAULINA: No–
HERMIONE: Shall the score remain so uneven, Paulina? Shall the sky stay skewed, shifting stars in their orbits, leaning the world leftward, never to be right? Shall this unnatural purgatory not have its purgation?
PAULINA: And thus damn yourself in the eyes of the gods?
HERMIONE: They disowned me, sure, the moment Aphrodite conspired her blind son to bind me to a tyrant. I care not of their eyes.
PAULINA: To your own heart, then? Can it beat against the silence of an empty marriage bed?
HERMIONE: Yes, even more lustily, not having a treasonous husband to dampen its sound. Stand aside, Paulina. I will be obeyed.
PAULINA: I do not believe this speech.
HERMIONE: Do what you will, I care not but that you get out of my way.
ANGELINA: Would you lower yourself to him?
HERMIONE: He will not see me weep! Though he has murdered what made me wife, he will discover what makes me woman. His crime sticks me here, so I will him.
PAULINA: And if you fail? If the king, your Lord, not die from this? He will deliver the sentence he has yet to pass for phantom crimes unto your life and honor both.
HERMIONE: Honor once I cherished, but what of that, with not one to tend it for? Remove yourself or, gods mark me, I will.
PAULINA: Hear me, Hermione. Were it not better to see him live? Not as innocents do, but live as without color, without taste, without pleasures of the soul? He will walk, leaving no proof of being, across the earth, his eyes scanning the heat-waved horizon for a lost daughter, dragging his heels toward that pale blue light of dawn that never will come. For in that blue, he might have spied a pigment once conjured in his dead child’s eye. So a husk treads upon the earth. Were this not a more fitting death?
HERMIONE: It has a likeness to mine.
PAULINA: Yes, but mend you will. He cannot, having bloodied twice his hands.
HERMIONE: Of his punishment, I see your intent. But how of my revenge? I’ll not remain so near the viper that has taken every joy from me and be silent.
PAULINA: Your revenge I envision thus … nearby you will seem. I’ll to him presently and speak the tale of your death. So will he lose his children, wife, and public all in a single, erring day. Then will I a pebble in his marriage band be, whispering tales of what diamond I do pretend. His days made long with tapestries I spin of your goodness, his children’s innocence, and his tyranny.
HERMIONE: And I to be a priestess? Cloistered away, given new matrimony of devotion to his misery?
PAULINA: Hardly.
HERMIONE: Then where will I remain?
PAULINA: Wheresoever your regal heart wants.
HERMIONE: I don’t understand.
PAULINA: Lady, your binding fetters are gone. All matters that tethered your gracious self so wholly to Sicilia are dissolved in a single day. There were never worthier eyes than yours, therefore they may reign over the world. See what in your youth time and duty, with vice-like grip, did not permit … until your husband’s monstrous debt is paid. Then will you resume your country to begin its healing.
HERMIONE: With a barren purse, now its partner purse is cut off? You know the full wealth of my father’s kingdom did but roll across my palm on its path to my husband’s.
PAULINA: Let me see to it. For Lady, as you suffer for want of two futures and I for valiant love banished, so both we suffer for want of objects at which to aim our care. Thus to your heart will you attend and it is you I will strive to mend.
HERMIONE: I have done nothing, nor will ever achieve time enough to deserve such a friend as you.
PAULINA: The score vanished long ago: that hour we ceased as friends and began as one. Now it’s time to prepare: you to tempt foreign shores and I to retribute local ones. I must tell the king his queen is dead.
HERMIONE: So may his penance commence.
PAULINA: Though I will see that he does, it will be more than he can bear.

[PAULINA signals to ANGELINA to follow and goes out. ANGELINA begins to go, then turns to HERMIONE.]

ANGELINA: Your majesty. When you in prison languished, I was bade take every precious item from your room to make the king’s. I obeyed to one degree and kept [she takes HERMIONE’s dagger from her skirt pocket:] this. I am ashamed I did not give it you when you asked, but I, fearing the murder in your eyes, thought you meant to make yourself its scabbard; I would not have lived an hour more had I a hand in that. [Kneeling and offering the dagger:] Forgive me, my queen.
HERMIONE [helping her up]: At that moment, I was not your queen, but a stranger. I thank you for seeing it returned, sweet Angelina.

[ANGELINA smiles, curtsies, and goes out. HERMIONE looks at the dagger.]

HERMIONE: More than he can bear.

[As if in a trance, SHE takes it over to her bed and approaches her husband’s side. SHE raises the dagger and plunges it into the mattress where LEONTES’ heart would be. Blackout.]

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Sand Castle

Girl with Sand

A girl with caramel hair, curly and untamed, crouches in the sun-baked sand on the bank of a massive river–the Tiber, the Amazon, the Nile. Her rosy and rounded fingers, four dimples on the back of her palm, grasp as much of the soft, dense sand as possible; then uncurling each finger one by one, she lets the sand plop like goopy raindrops on one another. With each trip, her structure grows taller, wider; her fingers grow longer, reach more grains, all the concentrated skin that made them rosy and rounded now stretches to make them long and lithe. Her hair grows darker, perhaps with the spray of the water, and longer. The sandcastle expands, growing into a pyramid, a fixture on the bank.

 

A solitary figured, with a curved back, dust-infused hair, a neck exhausted with the awkward, outstretched weight of my head, I crouch amidst my just-near twenty-one years. In my room that had seemingly only charted the movement of dust particles from surface to surface, I feel a fixture on the bank of some massive river. The room had been stagnant; it was made of cardboard, like a page in a picturebook. It wasn’t made up of things anymore, but was one collective idea … my room. Now, I pick up each square and turn it over–reading papers, fingering handmade jewelry, smelling old fabrics–and find individual grains of sand underneath.

But they’re not mine. I realize with some alarm that this young girl of 9 or 11 is unfamiliar. I do not know her, remember her, yet she was in my room. I have not seen or heard from her in some time and, based upon her writings, I’m not displeased with this. Just unsettled. I read her stories. Simple. Elementary. One begins to recall something in me. I remember this. Yes, I remember this story’s inception and its promise. It was going to be great. Now, of course, I see it was not and would never be beyond the bounds of my mind. This grain of sand is still not mine–time enough to warrant neglect has passed and removed it from my possession–yet it was in me all along.

 

The now young woman stops her construction for a moment. She delicately presses two fingers into the side of her structure, parting the grains of sand, bound by fickle water, and gingerly reaches into the core of it. She removes a single grain and examines it. This was from year nine. October. Years had passed since it touched her skin, yet she remembers it fondly–so young, sunny, hopeful. Content with her examination, she eases it back into its place in the structure.

 

I put the story down. While unfamiliar to me now, I recognize the story was in me all along. It’s underneath every story. It’s amidst my newest play. It whispers behind the words of my latest poem. It fortifies these words. That author is in me, somewhere in my gut, supporting the woman I know. Though she be unfamiliar, she shares my blood, thoughts, and I love her for it.

 

The young woman continues to pile sand on. Some grains skitter down the sides. Some grains are covered and disappear silently into the core. Yet still the castle grows.

What Was It?

So if it wasn’t an itch in your fingers to slap your neighbor down so you could remain,

And it wasn’t a desire to recapture your youth by being contrary,

And it wasn’t that your arm is incomplete without a firearm to give it flare,

And it wasn’t dormant sadism wanting to watch neighbors bleed in the streets,

And it wasn’t your holy book autonomously flapping open to condemn love of all shades,

And it wasn’t that inferiority complex flaring up to claim the enemy beneath must be lanced,

And it wasn’t that whisper in your head saying, ‘all they’re good for is oil, they all just want to kill us,’

And it wasn’t a recapitulation of that founding, paternal gene that bade you take away then make property,

And it wasn’t a resurgence of that lifelong aversion to your mother,

And it wasn’t the lesser of two evils …

 

Then what was the reason? Has it survived? And has he destroyed your faith in your government as you destroyed mine in our country?

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

It’s officially been a year since I started Quarter of Noon!

I am so happy and thankful that you wonderful 51 subscribers have joined me along with many others who have commented and connected with me in other ways. I was a little hesitant to even start this blog, but I am so pleased I did! Thank you! To celebrate, here’s one of my favorite posts and one of the most-viewed from the past year, Coffee Culture.

Enjoy!

The Back of My Banner

I’ve seen the back of my banner.

The stripes are as they were, in alternating succession, one moment white in professed innocence, the next red in righteous anger. Thirteen of them, just as intended. The blue is now to the east, oriented to the orient, the rising sun. The stars boastful in their symmetricality.

But now as I see the back panel of my flag, I see the frayed edges, the grounded red stripe nearly dissolved into air. Stars have fallen off, some hang by one of their sword tips, some with hazardous hand sewn back on with blackened thread, bursting in and out of the glossy fabric, slashing the star in gory scores. While others still look fresh from the needle’s eye, having not endured the time since past from their author’s passing, frozen in their royal blue sky.

I see your silhouette from the other side, where I once was. You will not be moved. Nor will I, having seen such a sight. To profess my banner the true banner above yours, I risk a lie shrouded from even my eyes in fickle belief.

Yet here am I, on foreign shores, and find the remainder of civilization upon each arm. They, whom you’ve never considered, make my banner, by democratic decision, not alternative, but true.

And, if you be not careful, it is in their banners that I and my generation will wrap ourselves–having woke from the American Dream, setting off to find liberty elsewhere, waving to our Lady’s back from an outbound boat.

Yellow: Proceed with Caution

reaching-out-from-the-darkness

Is reincarnation a reversible concept? Like a gym pinnie?

Most people like the kickass red side-the one that whispers the reason you don’t like water is because you drowned in a past life. Most people like the red deja vu side … it’s romantic in a weird way. It’s sexy to know where you’ve been.

But no one acknowledges the shitty yellow side that has all the sweat and grass stains from exertion and failed attempts-the one that pulls you forward, towards the morass of what lies ahead. People don’t seem to like the yellow side … it’s not the psychic with the crystal ball who, despite her occupation, has a phone number, or the mysterious bandana-ed tarot card reader in a tent.

I quite like the yellow side. Sure, the nagging imp of deja vu, knocking at the paned glass of your mind, is a fun, yet fleeting guest. But I like even more the benevolent, silent specter of the future gliding into your chest cavity and pulsing an electric current through the speedway of your veins; you hum back to life like a rejuvenated generator and your mind senses that this place or person or thing will be of significance to it … will be integral to your future.

Deja vu yanks you backward by your red collar, halting forward progress, grumbling, “you’ve been here before, you idiot, don’t you remember?”

But future coaxes you onward with lithe fingers, reaching for your yellow, sullied pinnie, whispering, “this is all right. You’re where you’re supposed to be.”

Court the Spark

flint-and-sparks

She has a mind of flint.

Set her against thirsty, hungry, sex-starved vegetation
-So the petalled rose of her cheeks may spring green envy-
And seek not spring nor asphyxiating mud.

Find percussive device of proper density,
Be it sylvan or mountainous or forged in the earth’s heart-like hearth
And wield in the most motherly hand, having birthed ideas from out the brain, warmest womb.

Then, against better judgement, strike her.
From lump inanimate and strawish, abandoned kindling
Leaps forth a spark borne from her electric neurons and synapses.

Now watch the truest holy fire.

Raging with healing, brightest knowledge that consumes the old and
Creates the new, swirling, hypnotic, invasive smoke, she sets the world aflame.
She intermingles with the eternal atmosphere, forever altering.

From peak to peak, then over and under, her flames
Devour and mutilate the old world of
Hunger and mindful darkness and clenched tyrannical fists.

Let this mind, and all like it, succeed that
Ill-famed trinity upon humankind’s throne
For though prejudice and tyranny has mutilated the three,

They and she are one and the same.