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.]
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.
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?
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.]