THE KING’S ATTRITION, by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Will I Am

Will I Am

THE KINGS

ATTRITION

by

WILLIAM

SHAKESPEARE

With Contributions Appropriated From:

John Donne, John Milton, Jonathan Swift, Ben Jonson, Lao Tzu, D.H. Lawrence, Dalton Trumbo, Stephanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Richard Wright, Roger Ebert, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hobbes, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Henry James and David Loughery

Composed and Edited With Amendments By: Jason Horn

Featuring Illustrations by

Andrew Verhoeckx

Epilogue Publishing/Epilogue Publication

0-9877208-978-0-9877208-0-1

A Foreword

 

Some might see this work as a sequel to Macbeth (or, for those of you who are superstitious, “the Scottish play”), though if I were to think of it in such terms I think I’d rather see it as an epilogue of sorts.  Ideally though I think this work is one that stands on its own.  Knowing what happened in Macbeth may offer some insights into The Kings Attrition, but the narrative is one that is very different than Macbeth, more akin to Hamlet in that it revolves around a protagonist who is defined by internal struggles.  While Malcolm serves as the title character, his internal struggles are not all the play has to offer.  There are elements of  ‘queer theory’ throughout the play, both in the relationship between Celie and Volumnia, and also in the dialogue shared between Malcolm and David Bathsheba, the later of which offers scriptural precedent that sanctions homosexual love.  The play also offers views on class issues and issues based on percieved race and speaks a great deal of issues regarding gender and feminism.  It is meant to be a post-modern text that draws on the multiplicity of human nature, and though some of the ideas may seem dated, I feel there lies a fresh perspective on many of these themes within this work.  And keeping with the post-modern tradition I have employed the pastiche in concert with appropriation and deconstruction.  Very little of the play’s content is original (if any at all), and I see myself more as the work’s composer rather than the author.  The word combinations are like notes that were already there, simply waiting to be placed alongside other notes with the hopes of creating a pleasant melody.  The Kings Attritionis a re-contextualization of passages and poems by a great number of authors.  If one ever wondered what type of work John Donne, John Milton and William Shakespeare would have produced if they’d worked in concert, The Kings Attrition would serve to answer the question quite nicely, while also allowing George Bernard Shaw an opportunity to let his work stand alongside the master of theatre.  It is a feminist work, at class-conscious work, a work on race and homosexuality, and a great many other things, all wrapped up with a Freudian exclamation mark, and I hope anybody whoever chooses to invest their time in The King’s Attrition enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed composing it.

The Players:

Amon

Ardea

Banquo

Toirdelbach Ua Briain (called Brian)

Celie

Donalbain

Martha Gongsun

Helen

Lennox

Leopold

Georgia Lukács

MacDuff

Malcolm

Ross

Spurius

Elizabeth Stride

Volumnia

a Soldier

and

Mrs. Warren

 

Scene:  In a room which serves as a kitchen and living area.  There are three doors, one on the left wall leading out of the home, and two opened doors leading into darkened rooms opposite the audience.  From the room on the left of the far wall, there are sounds of a sexual nature made by a man and a woman.  After some time a young girl no more than 14 comes out of the door on the right of the far wall, wakened by the noise.  Her name is Ardea.  She walks through the kitchen and makes a slight noise which draws the attention of the man, who upon hearing Ardea enters the room from the opened door on the left of the far wall.  The man is King Malcolm.  He is wearing only pants and whatever clothes he has resting on the table near center stage.  He walks to the young girl who eyes him silently and curiously.  Malcolm then kneels before her.

Malcolm:  This earthly saint, adored by this devil.  *He rises.*  Such hazard now must the doting king make, pawning his honour to obtain his lust; and for himself he must forsake: Then where is truth, if there be no self-trust?  As corn ov’rgrown by weeds, so heedful fear is almost chok’d by unresisted lust.  *The woman who was sharing the room with the king enters, wearing a dress and blouse, both put on quickly and without attention.  She carries the rest of the king’s clothes and places them on the table.*

Helen:  This is my daughter: Ardea.  *Helen takes her daughter by the hand and begins to lead her back to her room, but Malcolm takes fast hold of her and looks to Helen.  Helen sees in his eyes the lust that is fast growing.*

Malcolm: She that never cop’d with stranger eyes could pick no meaning from their licentious looks.  Her beauty and innocence are more enticing than the womanly curves and all-too pliant doorways of her mother.

Helen:  Reward not hospitality with such black payment as thou hast pretended!

Malcolm:  Guards!  *Through the door on the left wall enter two guards.  One is named Amon, the other Leopold.*  Take hold of this woman.  *Malcolm takes the young girl by the hand as the guards take hold of Helen, and Malcolm leads Ardea to her bedroom.*

Helen:  O, that prone lust should stain so pure a bed!  The spots whereof could weeping purify her tears should drop on them perpetually.  Your momentary joy wouldst breed in us lifelong pain.

Malcolm:  O, what excuse can my invention make, when thou shalt charge me with so black a deed?  Will not my tongue be mute, my frail joints shake, mine eyes forego their light, my false heart bleed?  The guilt being great, the lust doth still exceed, because, alas,by our eyes, our hearts oft be tainted.  *To Ardea*  Wilt thou be the school where lust shall learn?

Helen:  Thou art not what thou seem’st; and if the same, thou seem’st not what thou art, a god, a king, for kings like gods should govern everything.  Should not the king protect such innocence?

Malcolm:  This ambitious foul infirmity, in having much, torments us with defect of that we have: so then we do neglect our duties and our morality.  Evil be my good, desire my pilot, beauty my prize.

Helen:  *With tragic futility Helen fights to free her arms from the guards, and speaks as if begging for mercy from some omnipotent being, or perhaps from the guards that hold he fast.*  To be weak is to be miserable!  Here red with lust he doth premeditate the dangers of his loathsome enterprise, his hand, that yet remains upon her breast, rude ram, to batter such an ivory wall!  May feel her heart-poor citizen!  Distress’d, wounding itself to death, rise up and fall, beating her bulk, that his hand shakes withal.  This moves in him more rage and lesser pity, to make the breach and enter this sweet city.  In bloody death and ravishment delighting, and neither children’s tears nor mothers’ groans respecting, swell in their pride, the onset still expecting.

Malcolm:  *As Malcolm is about to enter Ardea’s room, her shoulders fast within the grips of his overpowering hands, he turns to Helen.*  Everything within the walls of mine kingdom doth belong to me!  As she is mine, I may dispose of her as I please.

ArdeanewHelen:  I beg of thee, let not thy sins be visited upon this poor child.  Fair torch, burn out thy light, and lend it not to darken her whose light excelleth. *Malcolm takes Ardea into her room, ignoring the wailing of her mother.*  Disturb his hours of rest with restless trances, afflict him in his bed with bed-rid groans!  Let there bechance him pitiful mischances, to make him moan, but pity not his moans!  Stone him with harden’d hearts harder than stones!  Let mild women to him lose their mildness, wilder to him than tigers in their wildness!  Let him have time to tear his curled hair!  Let him have time against himself to rave!  Let him have time of Time’s help to despair!  Let him have time to live a loathed slave!  Let him have time a beggar’s orts to crave, and time to see one that by alms doth live disdain to him disdained scraps to give!  Let him have time to see his friends his foes, and merry fools to mock at him resort!  Let him have time to mark how slow time goes in time of sorrow, and how swift and short his time of folly and his time of sport!  Let his unrecalling crime have time to wail th’ abusing of his time!  *From the door on the left wall, a man emerges.  His name is Spurius and he is husband to Helen and father to Ardea.  He is a muscular man with a full beard and thick long hair.*

Spurius:  What is this?  My wife weeping on the floor?  The king’s guards, from whence mine own pub came, now stand in mine own home?  Where be my daughter?  Where be the king?  *Malcolm emerges from the girls room, blood smeared on the top most part of his pants and lower stomach.*  What hath happened here?  Let it not be what it appears to be.  Let not mine own daughter be ravaged by a despotic king!

Malcolm:  I am but a guest of your wife, who did offer up her home and her body to her rightful king.

Spurius:  *To Helen*  Truly, and to cast away honesty upon a foul slut, were to put good meat into an unclean dish!

Malcolm:  If you would allow it, I would take your daughter into my palace, and make of her a lady in waiting to my queen.  Her education would be as fine as the clothes and jewels which would be adorned upon her.

Spurius:  I would my daughter were dead at my feet than to wear your jewels in her ear, or about her wrists and neck!  What crime hath thou committed?

Malcolm:  No crime, for I am king, and as such I am incapable of committing crime.  I am the law, and thou shouldst be thanking me.  Thou hath paraded thine beautiful wife before troves of bawdy drunkards that thou may turn in more gold at thine own pub.  And what hath prevent’d these hordes from ravishing this woman you call a wife?  And this girl you call a daughter?  Surely you do not believe it was the threat of your own wrath.  Surely not the threat of your own vengeance.  It was my law that protected them!  Their fear of my hand!  Their respect of my will.  Were there no man such as myself in place here, you would have seen your wife and daughter ravaged more times than you could bear to witness, and neither would remain your own, but fall under the rule of a stronger fist.  I, not thee, hath saved them from such barbarity!  Your wife has willed her body to me, and there is not crime in that.  As for your daughter, I take her as a prize for services rendered, and now offer her a home better than thou could ever hope to give.  Wouldst thou deprive her of such a life?

Spurius:  You have made treason not a crime against the state, but a crime of the state!  Guilty of treason, forgery, and shift, guilty of incest, that abomination, for if thou art god’s person on earth, then you would ravage your own child?  So will I grow, so live, so die, my own lord, ere I will yield my virgin patent up, unto his despotic lordship, whose unwished yoke, my soul consents not to give sovereignty.  *Spurius awaits a response, but none is given.*  Thou bitch-wolf’s son! Canst thou not hear?  Feel then!  *Spurius strikes the king.  The guards push Helen to the ground and immediately take fast hold of Spurius* 

Amon:  You treasonous whoreson!  *Amon strikes Spurius, knocking him to the floor and bloodying his mouth.*  You should be hanged for your actions.  *Amon and Leopold both begin to beat Spurius, but Malcolm stops them.*

Malcolm:  As I am king of this land, so is this man king of his home.  Let him make his own laws within his territory, and carry out what justice he sees fit.

Spurius:  To you our father should be as good as yea hath been to your children.  Let him take care of you in the afterlife.  But in this world, let your corpse be mine!  Ere this night shall wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!  A sword can never win the honour lost, but my revenge shall know no bounds!

Malcolm:  I have offered to deliver your daughter from this life of poverty.

Spurius:  So that you might have her readily available to serve your lust?

Malcolm:  You let your pride deny your daughter of a life you cannot afford her. *Spurius spits at Malcolm.*  So be it.  *Malcolm gathers his clothes from the table and exits the home, his guards follow.  Spurius crawls on the floor toward his daughter’s room, and props himself against the far wall, in between the two doors.* 

Spurius: Ardea!  Come, feel no shame and let your father bear witness to this crime.  *Ardea comes out of the room weeping almost silently, barely standing, her white gown that falls down to her ankles stained with blood.  She collapses onto her fathers lap without saying a word.*  Helen, what shame have you brought into this house?  To cuckold me would have been unbearable enough alone, but to invite such a devil into our home, one that would steal the most precious thing we know.

Helen:  *Speaking through tears from the spot whence she was thrown onto the floor by the guards.*  I am sorry, a thousand times I am sorry.  I throw myself at your feet.

Spurius:  No apology will undo what has already been done.

Helen:  What then, do you ask of me?

Spurius:  Answer me this: Was it well done of rash Virginius to slay his daughter with his own right hand because she was enforc’d, stain’d, and deflower’d?

Helen: It was.

Spurius:  Your reasons?

Helen:  Because the girl should not survive her shame, and by her presence still renew his sorrows.

knifeSpurius:  A reason mighty, strong, and effectual; a pattern, precedent, and lively warrant, for me, most wretched, to perform the like.  Here I sheath in her harmless breast a harmful knife that thence her soul unsheathe!  Die! Die! Ardea! *Stabbing his daughter in the chest.*  And thy shame with thee!  And with thy shame thy father’s sorrows die.  Defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote!

Helen: No!

Spurius:  What can be worse than to dwell here?  As she is mine, I may dispose of her how I please.

Helen:  O, why should nature build so foul a den unless the gods delight in tragedy?

Spurius:  Blame not the gods for your own misdeeds.  It was you who broke your wedding vows to invite the devil into our home.  Death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wished for!  *Spurius rises from his seated position.*  The murderous knife, with her blood stain’d upon it, I pour revenge I hold it in chase!  *He approaches his wife, wielding the knife in his hands, and she attempts to run away, but Spurius takes fast hold of her by her hair and spins her around so that she is facing him, their bodies pressed tightly together.*

Helen:  O Fate, take not away thy heavy hand!  Deliver me from my prison of misdeeds.

Spurius:  I shall oblige you this your final wish.  *Spurius plunges the knife into her chest.  She falls toward him, her hands sliding down his chest as she drops to the floor consumed by tears and deep breaths until life has escaped her body.*  The will and high permission of all-ruling heaven left him at large to his own dark designs, and in me birthed the seed of sinful vengeance.  You have told me to resist not evil, that whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, to turn to him and offer the other also, but I have not another daughter whose purity I could offer, nor would I.  You spoke of cheeks, and eyes, and teeth, but yet yea hath never instructed me in matters such as this!  The dark seed of wrath has already taken root within me and corrupted my conscience.  Out of this evil I shall seek to bring forth good.  How all this malice served but to bring forth infinite goodness, grace and mercy shown on man by him seduced but of him treble confusion, wrath and vengeance poured.  Our despot shall die by my hand!  Farewell happy fields where joy forever dwells; hail horrors!  Evil be my good, and let my fainting courage dispel my fears, for only in destroying will I now find ease!  Wrath without end on a man whom death must end.  I know virtue, and so hate vice!  I know fair Ardea and so hate Malcolm!  My vice shall breed virtue.  My wrath shall bear justice!  All is not lost; the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield.  And what else not be overcome?  That glory never shall his wrath or might extort from me!

*The lights go dark.*

 

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Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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