The fool speaks

I found this long-lost fragment of an age-old drama and thought I would send it out into the blog-cosmos just to see what might happen; just a bit of playfulness to pass some time on a dark night . . .

Allow me to set the scene: two neighbouring kingdoms have been locked in constant warfare for many years. But finally a decisive battle has been fought, and the victorious army has come home with much plunder and many prisoners, some of them quite high-ranking. The most notable among them are being led in chains before the King for his perusal, and judgement regarding their fate. Shall they live, or shall they die?

Toward the end of the process, a weary prisoner, still wearing the torn remnants of royal uniform is brought forth. Understandably under the circumstances, he is downcast. While two foot-soldiers, with swords drawn, watch the prisoner closely, the king is addressed by an officer.

Officer.           Your Majesty,

Here is one with a ready, though heavy wit,

What shall we do with him?

(The King rises from his throne and, after walking a circle around the prisoner for a closer look, resumes his splendid, cushioned seat.)fool

The King.         A prince in his own country, I see;

But so grave now.  He shall be the fool.

Give him balls to juggle, and rattles to shake,

And tell him that if he but move his tongue

Toward the inclination of speech, it will mean his head.

We will laugh at his misery, and his foolish posturing,

And praise God for our own good fortune

Not to have been thus afflicted.”

The Officer.               Amen to that, Your Majesty.

(Later that evening in the Great Banquet hall the Feast of Victory is underway, with much gaiety. The once-noble and powerful Prince has been stripped of what remained of his Royal attire and given the suit of a fool to wear, with bells on the toes of his pointed shoes. The King is at the head of the Great Banquet table. Musicians playing various instruments can barely be heard above the din. But then, as the King is apparently about to speak, all grows quiet. )

The King.  (Turning toward the fool)  You there, fool,

Show us a trick or two while we dine.

(The fool picks up several balls, and a rattle. He studies them intently for what seems after a while like an insolently long time. He turns these tools of the fool’s trade over and over in his hands. He puts them down again, and looks over at the King.)

The Fool.         But how can I tell you the truth if I can’t speak?

And who will, if I don’t?

I was a Prince, but now I am a Fool,

And not even a good one at that,

Seeing I have no facility with these tools.

So, this is how it goes, old man:

The day comes when nothing remains,

Except, if you’re lucky, a poor fool and his voice,

To make you laugh on the edge of darkness.

Fear not, My Lord, I will learn that trick.

(Swords are drawn. But the King intervenes.)

The King.      No, let him live.

Here’s a new kind of brave fool after all.

Let mercy and peace henceforth follow this victory.


Thus ends the fragment.


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