GOOD KING WENCESLAS
a play for 10-14 year olds by Jan Kĝesadlo
... formatted extract
(full version : click here)
SCENE I - THE CASTLE OF KUĜIM between A.D. 925 & A.D.929
(Radislas of Zlitse, Arnulf, Page)
<Radislas and Arnulf sitting at a table and drinking wine from Roman-style goblets: Page refilling their goblets from a jug.>
Now 'Ratslas', I am your advisor
on behalf of the German Keiser,
Henry the Fowler, or the First.
Hey, boy, here, here, oh what a thirst!
<he drinks avidly>
Where were we. Oh yes, with the Keiser.
Ratslas, you should be a bit wiser.
Now if you will give us a hand
you will be ruling all this land.
You must admit that's a fair bid -
because we do not want that kid!
We thought he would just shake and break
but he's as cunning as a snake.
First we thought we would intercept
because of wooden gods they kept
and that the Czechs may be
<takes a slow sip>
But this whole plan has been subverted
just quietly and without fuss
by that sly brat, that Wenceslas.
For Christians here you needn't search:
And now, he's building a new church
on Castle Hill - it's quite a size -
as if he wished to advertise
that pagan times are dead and gone.
So Christianising is not on.
This caused the Keiser some regret
Of course, we are not finished yet:
With our good aim we do abide.
So we thought we would goad his pride:
We'd ask for tributes to be paid..
He would refuse - and we'd invade.
But d'you know what? He said ok!
- and so back home we had to stay.
So now he sends us every year
some silver and a herd of steer.
He can afford it - nasty titch! -
the country's small, but filthy rich.
We don't think this is good enough
but we don't want to play it rough.
So - you yourself, Ratslas, will fight
on behalf of the German Might!
And I can promise - when it's over
You, Ratslas, will be in the clover:
After you've done for us that stunt
You'll be "der Fuerst von Boehmerland!"
Well. I suppose, it will be easy
the boy seems to be a bit queasy.
He may be cunning, even bright,
but has no stomach for a fight.
I admit he's got a good mind
but you know - he's the churchy kind.
He always serves the poor and needy,
the clothes he wears are rough and seedy,
he bakes the oblates for the Mass,
and makes the wine, treading the press.
Thus very strangely he behaves.
He even wants to free all slaves!
Of course, he met with opposition
from the priests of the latin mission
and so as yet he wouldn't dare.
Only that "masters must be fair"
he wants to moderate, to mince,
I tell you, he's not like a prince!
He even wouldn't have a drink.
I think he's some kind of a kink,
as he has never had a wife.
He really leads a funny life!
Why! Wenceslas is just a freak.
I'll fight him. He won't last a week!
<they strike their goblets and toast each other>
<End of Scene I>
SCENE II - NIGHT, A MEDIEVAL MILITARY CAMP
(Soldiers, Podiven, later Wenceslas and Scribe)
<Soldiers, in 10th century outfits sitting on the ground preferably at a campfire. In the background tents or at least one tent for Wenceslas to appear from. Podiven is among the soldiers.>
We've got what we've been looking for.
Now at last we have got a war!
You all said Wenceslas was yellow.
I've always known he's quite a fellow -
you see those manners mild, benign
are the true adventurer's sign.
Hear this, so you may always tell:
The COWARD can just brag and yell.
Of that the HERO has no need
as he proves himself by his deed.
Well, I think he's one of the Saints.
I can recall some strange events
since I've been servant to our prince.
I'm not that easy to convince
but there were things - just - mighty odd.
I'm sure he is a Man of God.
You don't mean that?
I do, too right!
God is with him and shows his might
although He does it out of sight.
Perhaps he knows some magic spell.
No, it's from God. Sure, I can tell.
What can you tell?
A little story -
How God through him has shown his glory:
It was last winter, I believe
the second day past Christmas Eve -
the day that's sacred to Saint Steve; -
and which our audience here may
refer to as the Boxing Day.
It was already after dark,
and the frost biting like a shark.
I am about to crawl in bed -
but he just sends me out for bread
and meat and wine and firewood.
I'd opt out if only I could.
You see, he'd been up in the steeple
and saw one of his dear poor people
collecting twigs: And it was done!
So we were out, and out of fun.
I thought that soon we both must freeze
for there began an icy breeze
it grew in force. And pretty soon,
it drove the clouds over the moon.
I had a running nose and cough
and soon also our lamp went off -
and all around the deep white snow
quite hard to walk in as you'll know
so - I was getting rather giddy
and cursed all the dear poor and needy
wishing I were back in my bed.
but Wenceslas just strode ahead
against the wind that blew in force.
You know, he's as strong as a horse.
And as the wind grew even stronger
I doubted I could go much longer
fin'ly I gave the prince a shout.
and then he stopped, and turned about
and then I tells him I'm worn out.
I felt so bad that I would cry
I told him we were doomed to die,
I swore at him. He only smiled.
He wasn't cross, just gentle, mild,
I told him we were going bust,
but Wenceslas: "In God we trust."
He said there was no turning back
and bid me follow in his track
I did. And - believe it or not -
the prince's footprints - they were hot!
It was like sitting by the fire.
So sure, there's something to admire.
We made it: Brought the wretch his snack
and then in safety made it back
So here I am - fit as you please
but without him I sure would freeze
The tale is true - in every bit.
A marvellous story, isn't it?!
\ENTER Wenceslas, stepping out of his tent\
Wenceslas: <looking around and at the sky>
Oh, what a splendid quiet night.
Yet tomorrow we'll have to fight.
Tomorrow is the day of battle.
People will die like slaughtered cattle.
This silent, deep and starry sky -
tomorrow many men will die
some of them slowly, in great pain
never to see these stars again.
Thus men have always been misled:
The masters quarrelled, servants bled
just for their master's cause - and hence
these battles don't make any sense.
Perhaps it may change in the future.
But anyway - I'm not a butcher!
I'll stop the slaughter - only how?
Get me a Scribe!
<Podiven runs away and after a moment returns with a sleepy cleric with a quill behind his ear, a scroll of parchment and a bottle of ink by his belt.>
\ENTER Podiven and Scribe\
Now, my good Scribe, sit down and write.
<Scribe sits near the fire and prepares for dictation>
Wenceslas: <pacing up and down, dictates>
Dear Radslas - re: the morrow's fight -
I do not deem it at all right -
that we should judge ourselves so high
above our men - to let them die -
at our request and our behest -
and for our selfish interest. -
And so, dear Radslas, be so brave -
to fight without a single knave -
between the camps - nine - on the hour -
there to decide who shall have power
over both armies. - For the right -
to rule this land we two shall fight. -
So none might die but one of us -
Yours very truly - Wenceslas.
<to the Scribe>
Ok. That's all. Now dry your quill
and then we shall append the seal.
<which they do, Wenceslas pressing his signet ring on the wax etc.>
Wenceslas: <to Podiven, giving him the letter>
You take a white flag and a lamp
and run to Radislas's camp.
To-morrow morn I'll have to fight
So I bid you a sweet goodnight.
<He disappears in his tent>
<End of Scene II>
(full version : click here)