Which crime do you take most seriously?

Frank Wedekind
King Nicolo or so is life
Frank Wedekind

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Fifth act

Throne room.

(The king in courtly clothes. His office as court jester is discreetly indicated by a suitable headgear; in his limp hand he holds a short fool's staff. He looks remarkably aged; his bloodless face is deeply furrowed and his eyes appear twice larger than before)

The king. This life is strange! During many years of deprivation of all kinds, I felt the strength of my body grow daily. Every morning sun found me livelier in spirit, found my muscles more resilient. No mishap left me in doubt about the resilience of my nature. And since I've been living here in carefree and well-being, I've shrunk like an apple in spring. Gradually I feel life pulling away from me; and the doctors, with long faces and shrugs, confess to one another that they do not understand the decline. - - Should I have ruled in these halls once? Every day since I've been here I've been repeating the question and every day it seems more absurd to me. It becomes so difficult for me to believe in it, as if someone was trying to convince me that I had already lived on another celestial body. King Pietro is the most worthy prince who ever held a throne, and I am the last in all his states to want to trade with him. That is my last word every evening, a word that does not make me dream of dry prison air, but of dripping, storm-bent, lamenting rustling treetops, of endless gloomy heaths, of untouched morning dew on bushy grass and of the wobbly cart that a daring vagabond people dragging from spot to spot and on whose swaying ladders all hearts beat towards me, undecided between regret and awe. - A peculiar cramp has been noticeable in my left arm for a few days. It's not gout; this is not old age. But before the inhibiting membrane bursts, I still have a work to do. Let me complete it, O destiny, that we part, thankful to one another, in friendship! With all the caution that my life threw as the only profit, I threaded it. Or should I be the fooled guy again? Didn't the stormy young hearts need my help at all? Is it only in vain self-arrogance that I consider myself the merit of promoting their union? Who will open my eyes about me ?! Blind as I came, should I go ?! - - I go and - listen! Then I don't need to think about the answers later. - (from)

Enter King Pietro and Hereditary Prince Filipo

King Pietro. I asked the Medici in Florence whether they were inclined to give you a daughter as a wife. I have just received the news that the Medici, trusting in the firmness of our rule, very much welcome such a union.

Filipo. Before you did that, my dear father, I explained to you most definitely that I would not marry anyone other than Donna Alma, the daughter of Alexandrion!

King Pietro (quick-tempered). The daughter of my court jester! You belong back in the workshop you came from.

Filipo. Then let me return to the workshop, my gracious father!

King Pietro. Even if this girl's virtue is above all doubt, the general welfare demands that you marry a princely daughter. If you wanted to free for the daughter of a citizen of Perugia, I could not see any of your unworthy connection in it without slapping our own origins in the face. Even so, your choice would be a crime against the public interest, as it would result in partisanship and violence among the civil sexes. But if you choose a queen for your people of the darkest origin, then you show them in advance that you are disregarding the duties of the prince. Who wants to calculate which heirs you will get from such a connection! Instead of trusting your entry into government, you will be greeted with dogged shyness, disdain and arrogance, fear and stubbornness. Did I bring King Nicolo down and drive him to an early death, so that my son could begin again in the hopeless delusion that cost him his throne and his life ?! That’s why I stood by Alexandrion’s side, because he’s thinking about these most serious questions! (Lifting a doorman) Call the fool! - - Now he should show me whether his wisdom can withstand the bonds of blood! Now should he show me whether he himself is acting on his sayings, as I do, or whether he is just a short-winded boastful?

THE KING (entering). What does my dear master command?

King Pietro. Your advice in hours of dreadful danger owed you to my gratitude. If I hadn’t let myself be guided in difficult decisions willlessly by your waiting, level-headed, insidious cunning, we might be under foreign domination today. But now I am demanding a sacrifice that you owe to the state and our government as the father of your child. I gave your mind unreservedly the power to rule between me and my blood, without realizing how soon I would have to ask him to place himself between yourself and your own child. This prince demands your daughter from me to be his wife!

The king. My child is so high above me; his soles never touched the earth without the lush seeds of happiness blooming out of my narrow footsteps!

King Pietro. I want to believe you; but you will order your daughter to reject any application from the prince!

Filipo. Donna Alma will never be ordered to do that!

King Pietro. Shut up. Be quiet!

The king. I have nothing to command in this country.

King Pietro. Probably true! But you have to obey!

The king. Probably true! But my child does not have to obey!

King Pietro. Enough of the joke! I am sorry I overestimated your cleverness. You understand that if you refuse to remain at my court, it will be no longer. It pains me to see your calm deliberation fail on this cliff. You are a bad father, Alexandrion, that you should not be afraid to rob your child of my favor! In order to secure myself against the accusation of ingratitude, I will have your salary paid out to you for the future. . .

The king. I thank you, brother; I no longer need your grace.

King Pietro. Are you out of your mind ?!

The king. I see more clearly than you! You can as little hinder the fulfillment of the wonderful, mighty fate as I can.

King Pietro. Stop the chatter! I ask you for the last time: Do you obey my commands ?! Otherwise fear my anger !!

The king. It is beyond your power as well as mine!

King Pietro. Well then! Let my son run after you when he feels the need! So from this day on I banish you and your child for life from the country of Umbria, imposing the death penalty in the event that they return!

The King (breaks out into long, cheerful laughter).

Filipo. Holy Virgin, what about him!

King Pietro (enter). That's a madman's laugh!

The King (laughing). Dear ones, allow me to laugh because I am paid to be foolish!

King Pietro. Give us a discussion, Alexandrion, of what is going on inside you!

THE KING (straightening up high). Do you know that here in this room you once banished me from Umbria under the death penalty ?!

King Pietro. I can't possibly remember all of the judgments that I have confirmed!

The king. You gave your first verdict on King Nicolo, and he is me!

King Pietro (shocked). It was foreseeable long ago that it would come to such an end for him! (To the King) Do you want to perform a tragic scene for us from your previous job?

The king. I, who stand here, am King Nicolo!

King Pietro (in apparent anger). I have nothing to do with scammers! Do you really hope to achieve something with such pranks ?!

The king. I am King Nicolo! I am King Nicolo!

King Pietro (to Filippo). It happened to him! God have mercy on his soul!

Filipo. His poor child! Merciful Heaven, if it hears about it!

The King (in great astonishment). Why are you not in awe of it? - You don't believe me ?! - You probably even demand that I still meet you proofswhat I've only kept secret since my fall through superhuman soul power ?!

Filipo. We believe you, Alexandrion! Let me lead you to your room. We believe you!

King Pietro. Just wanted to calm your poor heart down first!

The King (frightened). No no! I am not calming down! You don't trust my words! You doubt my reason! - Almighty God, where do I get evidence that confirms the truth for me ?! - Call for my daughter! - It is high time; for a long time I no longer see the light! - Call for my daughter! - I'm too weak to fetch it myself. - Let my child call! - My child!

Filipo. I swear you, my father, do not comply with his request! The girl dies in pain when she sees him unprepared in his disorientation!

The king. Call my child! I have nothing to leave him but his princely origins; and now through my immeasurable folly it is said to have been cheated of this last good too! Who will believe the girl when my eyes are broken! Of course, nothing reminds me of a king! And my pictures, my statues are destroyed! And if a picture could also be found, who would accept similarity as proof of my monstrous assertion! Similarity that time left no trace! Enlighten me, O Lord in Heaven, in this tenfold fear of death!

King Pietro. Have you completely forgotten, my dear Alexandrion, that King Nicolo is dead ?!

The king. Dead? - How kindly you speak because you think I'm insane! - dead? - Where is he buried ?! I struggled with the indignant floods and rescued myself from the city wall on land. But who will believe me! Call my child! It will advise me as it has helped me a hundred and a thousand times by its cleverness!

Filipo. I hurry to get your personal doctor, my gracious father!

The king. My child is calling! My child!

Princess Alma (rushing in). My father! Almighty God, I hear your woeful voice filling the house!

The king. Am I King Nicolo or not ?!

Alma. You are King Nicolo, my father! Do not be afraid! What can one still do to us today!

The king. So you too are maddened or a miserable deceiver! You don't believe us! How can we prove it to them, so that I can lay my head on the block and leave you with a testimony of your birth ?! Send to jail! There they recorded the scars on my body. I had desecrated the king's name. Curse the king! I had called. I was that king! - But where does a person of common sense live who believes in such fates! That I didn't think about it all these years! Who then has documents with him that his head has fallen victim to the executioner twice! And now I am supposed to have fathomed the traces of omnipotence more deeply than any human being in order to ultimately be considered insane? - But that's life! So life is!

King Pietro. The sight of your pain is heartbreaking, Alexandrion! But your claim is ridiculous!

Alma. He is King Nicolo !!

Filipo. Consider your speeches, Donna Alma!

Alma. He is King Nicolo !!

The king. Investigate your brain, my wise dear child, whether you do not know of some means that will bring the truth before your eyes, shining like sunlight!

Alma. I will create proof for you, my father, as soon as the judgment is taken from your head.

Filipo. Wasn't King Nicolo's daughter's name Alma?

King Pietro. A thousand children are baptized in princely names!

The king. Do you hear it, my child? Unmistakable evidence! Otherwise I will end my unfortunate fight with the world in the tower of fools and charge you for life with the most hideous of all curses, with the curse of ridiculousness!

Alma. Take us to the Ursuline Sisters!

Filipo. Would it be possible! The king in the service of his conqueror! - Talk to me, my father! Free him!

King Pietro. Whoever you may be, I will exempt you from any punishment that threatens you.

The king. And now the evidence, my child! Quick evidence! Because be as clear as the day when I am dead, help your descent to be recognized as little as my empty words can now!

Alma. The Mother Superior at the Ursuline Sisters will give testimony. . . (Horrified) My father! Jesus Maria, your looks! Who are you looking for so helplessly! For God's mercy, speak!

Filipo (has rushed to the king's aid). Go Donna Alma! The strength threatens to leave his limbs.

The King (struggling with death as he is laid to bed by Alma and Filipo on the steps of the throne). I'm looking for evidence! - Proofs! - Who can prove by his corpse that he was king! - It's the last deadline! - I am not insane! - Hurry up, my child! - Proofs! - - Too late! Too late! - - So life is!

Alma (leaning over him, wailing). Father! My father! Don't you hear me Look me in the eye, my father! What is your hand reaching for? Your child is kneeling next to you!

The king. - I give thanks - but not as a king - but only - as a person. . . (He dies)

Alma. Alas, alas, his eyes! - Father! Move your hand! Oh, woe to me, is there no help? O pity for me, he no longer hears my voice! His cheeks numb! How do I warm his heart? Your mighty soul, my father, where is it to save you! Do not leave me alone, my father! Don't leave me alone! - Oh woe me, woe me, he has left me!

King Pietro (for himself). I stand here like an outlaw!

Filipo. Tame your pain, Donna Alma!

King Pietro. I want to try to make up for her loss to the best of my ability if she is willing to become my child through you.

Filipo. Thank you God, my father!

King Pietro. We bury him, be he who he is, in the royal crypt. But no one hears a word of what has happened here between us at this hour. History shouldn't tell me that I made a king my court jester!


end


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