Sylvain Maréchal, “The Last Judgment of Kings” (1793)

Related texts:

THE LAST JUDGMENT OF KINGS,

PROPHECY IN ONE ACT, IN PROSE,
BY P. SYLVAIN MARÉCHAL,

Performed in the Théâtre de la République, in the month Vendémiaire and the days following.

Tandem!…

AT PARIS,

From the printing shop of C.-F. PATRIS, Printer of the Committee, Rue du Fauxbourg St.-Jacques,
at the so-called Dames Ste.-Marie.

The second year of the French Republic, one and indivisible.

NOTICE
to the directors of spectacles in the departments.

The author, undersigned, reserves the rights that a decree of the national convention secures for him, over the presentations of his play, by the different theaters of the republic.

Note. The passages of the play marked with quotation marks are not recited in the Theater.

The idea for this play is taken from the following Apologue, part of the Lessons for the Eldest Son of a King, a philosophical work by the same author, published at the beginning of 1789, and placed in the Index by the Police.

In those days, returned from the court, very tired, a visionary gave himself up to sleep, & dreamed that all the peoples of the earth, on the day of the Saturnalia, gave each other the word to seize the persons of their kings, each on their side. They agreed at the same time on a general rendezvous, to gather this handful of crowned individuals, & to relegate them to a small, uninhabited, but habitable island, the fertile soil of which awaited only arms & a light cultivation. A cordon of small armed launches was established to watch over the island, and to prevent its new settlers from leaving it. The predicament of the new arrivals was not slight. They began by stripping themselves of all their royal ornaments, which embarrassed them; it was necessary that each one, to live, pitch in & do their part. No more valets, no more courtiers, no more soldiers. They had to do everything on their own. Those fifty characters did not live long in peace; & the human race, a quiet spectator, had the satisfaction of being delivered from its tyrants by their own hands.—pages 30–31.

THE AUTHOR OF
THE LAST JUDGMENT OF KINGS,
To the audience of the first performance of this piece.

Citizens, recall how, in the past, in all the theaters they debased, degraded and shamefully ridiculed the most respectable classes of the sovereign people, in order to make the kings and their court valets laugh. I thought that it was past time to return the favor, and to amuse ourselves in turn. So many times these gentlemen have had the laughter on their side; I thought it was the moment render them up to public ridicule, and thus to parody a happy verse from the comedy of the Méchant:

The kings are here below for our little pleasures. — Gresset.

That is the reason for the somewhat charged scenes of the Last Judgment of Kings.

(Extract from Prud’homme’s newspaper, Révolutions de Paris, de Prud’homme, XVII, page 109, in-8o.)

COSTUMES OF THE CHARACTERS.

[…]

THE LAST JUDGMENT OF KINGS,
PROPHECY IN ONE ACT.

The theater represents the interior of an island, half volcanic. At the back, or upstage, a mountain shoots out small flames from time to time, throughout the action, until the end.

On one of the sides, downstage, some trees shade a shack, sheltered behind a large, white rock, on which can be read this inscription, drawn with charcoal:

For a neighbor, it is better to have
a volcano than a king.
Liberty . . . . Equality.

Below it are several figures. A stream cascades down, and flows around the side of the thatched hut.

On the other side, the view of the sea.

The sun rises from behind the white rock during monologue of the old man, who adds a number to those already drawn by him.

SCENE I.

THE OLD MAN. (He counts.)

1, 2, 3 . . 19, 20. Today, then, it has been precisely twenty years since I was transported to this desert island. The despot who signed my banishment is perhaps dead now… Over there, in my poor homeland, they believe me burned up by the volcano, or torn by the teeth of some ferocious beast, or eaten by cannibals. Thus far, the volcano, the carnivorous animals and the savages seem to have respected the victim of a king…

My good friends are slow to come, but the sun is up!… What is this that I see?… These are not ordinary dinghies… A launch!… It approaches, driven by oars. Whites… Europeans!… If it was my compatriots, the French… Perhaps they are coming to search for me… The tyrant will be dead; and his successor, in order to make himself popular, as is the practice at all ascensions to the throne, will have pardoned some innocent victims of the previous reign… I want no clemency from a despot: I would remain, I would die on this volcanic island, rather than return to the continent, at least as long as there are kings and priests.

Hidden behind this rock, I must learn what everyone intends here.

SCENE II.

Twelve or fifteen SANS-CULOTTES, one from each nation of Europe. (They disembark.)

The FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE.

Let’s see if this island is suited to our purpose. It is the third that we have visited: it appears to have been volcanic, and to be active still. So much the better! The globe will instead be rid of all the crowned brigands which whose deportation we have been entrusted.

The ENGLISH.

It seems to me that they will do very well here. The hand of nature will hasten to ratify, to sanction the judgment passed by the sans-culottes on the kings, these villains who have for so long been privileged and unpunished.

The SPANISH.

Let them experience here all the torments of hell, in which they do not believe and which they made the priests, their accomplices, preach to us, in order to nous stupify us.

The FRENCH.

Comrades! This island seems to be inhabited… Do you see these footprints?

The SARDINIAN.

At the entrance of this cavern, here are some freshly harvested fruits.

The FRENCH.

My friends! Hey, come! Come and read:

For a neighbor, it is better to have a volcano than a king.

Several SANS-CULOTTES together.

Bravo! Bravo!

The FRENCH continues to read.

Liberty . . . . Equality.

There is some martyr here from the old regime. A fortunate encounter!

The ENGLISH.

Oh! how very well we have been sent! The one who groans in this place does not expect to find his liberators today.

The FRENCH.

The poor unfortunate knows nothing: he would be dead, without learning of the liberty of his country.

The GERMAN.

And of all of Europe. He must not be far off: let us seek him; let us be one step ahead.

The FRENCH.

I look forward to meeting him! He is doubtless on of ours; and, judging by the holy names that he has traced on that rock, he is worthy of the great Revolution, since he has been able to foresee it at this end of the world.

SCENE III.

THE PREVIOUS ACTORS and the OLD MAN.

Several Sans-culottes at once.

Good old man!… venerable old man!… What are you doing here?

The OLD MAN.

Frenchmen!… Oh, happy day!… It has been so long since I have seen Frenchmen!… My friends! My children! What do you seek?… But above all, a shipwreck has perhaps cast you on this shore; are you in need of food? I have nothing to offer but this fruit, and the water from that spring. My hut is too small to contain you all at once. I did not expect such numerous and such good company.

The FRENCH.

Grandfather, we are in need of nothing. We only need to hear you, to know your story; afterwards, we will tell you ours.

The OLD MAN.

Here it is, briefly: I am French, born in Paris. I lived in a small estate beside the park of Versailles. On day, the hunt passed on my side; the stage was chased nearly into my garden. The king and all his entourage entered my house. My daughter, tall and beautiful, was noticed by all these gentlemen of the court. The next day, one of them took her from me… I raced to the castle to demand my daughter; I was mocked: I was rebuffed: I was chased out. I was not put off: tears in my eyes, I threw myself at the feet of the king as he passed. Someone said a word in his ear regarding me; he laughed in my face, and gave the order that I be removed. My poor wife obtained no more; she died of sorrow. I returned to the castle. I recount my sorrow to everyone. No one wanted to get involved. “I demand to speak to the queen;” I grasped her by the robe, as she came out of her apartment. “Ah!” she said, “it is that annoying character. When will you be forbidden from my presence?” I presented my self to the ministers; I raised my tone; I spoke as a man, as a father. One of them, a prelate, made no response; but he made a sign. I was arrested at the entrance to his audience; they plunged me into a dungeon, from which I was released only to be cast in the hold of a ship that, passing, left me on this island, precisely twenty years ago. That, my friends, is my adventure.

The FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE.

Listen in your turn, and learn that you have been well avenged. To tell everything would take too long. Here is the essential point: Dear old man! You have before you a representative of each of the nations of Europe, now free and republican: for you must know that there are no more kings in Europe.

The OLD MAN.

Is it really true? Could it be possible?… You toy with a poor old man.

The FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE.

The true sans-culottes honor old age, and are not amused by it… as the dull courtiers of Versailles, Saint-James, Madrid and Vienna used to be.

The OLD MAN.

What! There are no more kings in Europe?…

A SANS-CULOTTE.

You will see them all disembark here; they follow us (in their turn, as you have been,) deep in the hold of a little armed frigate, which we precede in order to prepare their lodgings. You will see them all here, with one exception.

The OLD MAN.

And why that exception? One of them has never been better than the others.

The SANS-CULOTTE.

“You are right… except for one, because we have guillotined him.

The OLD MAN.

Guillotined!… what do you mean?…

The SANS-CULOTTE.

“We will explain that and much more:” we have cut off his head, in accordance with the law.

The OLD MAN.

So the French have become men!

The SANS-CULOTTE.

Free men. In a word, France is a republic in the strongest sense of the term…. The French people have risen up. They have said: We want no more kings; and the throne has disappeared. More, they have said: I want a republic, and, voilà we are all republicans!

The OLD MAN.

I would never have dared dream of such a revolution: but I understand it. I have always thought, to myself, that the people, as powerful as the God that is preached to them, have only to want it… How happy I am to have lived long enough to learn of such a great event! Ah! my friends! My brothers, my children! Am enraptured!…

But thus far you have only spoken of France; and, it seems to me, if I heard you well at first, that all Europe has been delivered from the contagion of kings…?

The GERMAN.

The example of France has born fruit: it has not been without exertion. All of Europe was in league against them, not the people, but the monsters who impudently call themselves their sovereigns. They have armed all their slaves; they have made use of all the means to dissolve that nucleus of liberty that Paris had formed. At first, they disgracefully slandered that generous nation that had first done justice to their king: they wanted to moderate it, to federalize it, to starve it, or even better to enslave it, to repel forever the men of the régime of independence. But through contemplating the sacred principles of the French Revolution, through reading the sublimes traits, the heroic virtues to which it has given rise, the other nations said to themselves: But, we are well duped to let ourselves be led to the butcher’s shop like sheep, or to let ourselves be led on the leash like hunting dogs in bull-baiting. Let us fraternize instead with our elders in reason, in liberty. As a result, each section of Europe sent to Paris some brave sans-culottes, tasked with representing them. there, in that assembly of all the nations, they agreed that, on a certain day, all of Europe would rise up en masse,… and would emancipate itself… In fact, a general and simultaneous insurrection broke out among all the nations of Europe; and each of them had their July 14 and October 5, 1789, their August 10 and September 21, 1792, they May 31 and June 2, 1793. We will teach you about these eras, the most astonishing in all of history.

The OLD MAN.

What marvels!… For the moment, satisfy my impatient curiosity on a single point. I hear you all repeat the name Sans-Culotte; what does this singular and biting expression mean?

The FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE.

That is for me to tell: A sans-culotte is a free man, a patriot par excellence. The masses of the true people, always good, always healthy and sane, is made up of sans-culottes. They are pure citizens, all close to need, who eat their bread by the sweat of their brow, who love work, who are good sons, good fathers, good husbands, good relations, good friends, good neighbors, but who are as jealous of their rights as of their duties. To date, for lack of understanding, they had only been blind and passive instruments in the hands of the vicious,—of the kings, the nobles, the priests, the egoists, the aristocrats, the men of state, the federalists, all people whose maxims and crimes we will explain to you, wise and unfortunate old man. Charged with all the maintenance of the hive, the sans-culottes no longer wish to suffer from now on, either above or among them, cowardly and destructive, arrogant and parasitic hornets.

The OLD MAN with enthusiasm.

My brother, my children, and I too am a sans-culotte!

The ENGLISH takes up the tale.

“So, on the same day, each nation declared itself a republic and established a free government. But tat the same time they proposed to organize a European Convention, which was held at Paris, capital of Europe. The first act proclaimed there was the Last Judgment of the Kings already detained in the prisons of their castles. They have been condemned to deportation to a desert island, where they will be kept in custody under the responsibility and control of a little flotilla that each republic will, in its turn, keep afloat until the death of the last of these monsters.”

The OLD MAN.

But tell me, please, why you have gone to the trouble of bring these kings here. It would have been more expedient to hang them all, at the same hour, beneath the porticos of their palaces.

The FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE.

No, no! their torment would be too mild and would be finished too soon: it would not have fulfilled the intended purpose. It has seemed more suitable to offer Europe the spectacle of its tyrants help in a menagerie and devouring one another, no longer being about to satisfy their rage on the brave sans-culottes that they had dared to call their subjects. It is good to leave them the leisure to reproach one another for their crimes, and to punish one another with their own hands. Such is the solemn and final judgment pronounced against them, unanimously, which we have come across these oceans to execute.

The OLD MAN.

I yield.

A SANS-CULOTTE.

Now that you are nearly up to date, tell us, fine old man, does this island, which you have inhabited for twenty years, seem proper to you for depositing our cargo of bad merchandise?

The OLD MAN.

My friends, this island is not inhabited. When I was cast ashore here, it was morning; I would not encounter another living being during the whole course of the day; in the evening, a pirogue anchored in this little harbor. From it came several families of savages, of whom I was afraid at first. I had not done them justice: they soon dispelled my fears with a hospitable welcome, and promised to bring me, each evening, some fruit and something from their hunting or fishing: for they came each day, at the fall of night, to this island, in order to render religious worship to the volcano that you can see. “Without challenging their belief, I invited them to at least divide their homage between the volcano and the sun. they did not fail to return at dawn, the third day following, in order to see the phenomenon that I had announced to them, and to which they had paid no attention in their smoke-filled huts. I placed them on this white rock; I made them contemplate the rising of the sun up out of the ocean in all its pomp: this spectacle held them in ecstasy. Since that moment, there has not been a week that they have not come to worship the rising sun.” Since that moment as well, they have regarded and treated me as their father, their physician, their advisor; and, thanks to them, I have lacked nothing in this uncultured solitude. Once they wanted quite seriously to recognize me as their king; I explained to them, as best I could, my adventures, and they swore to me that they would never have any kings, nor any priests.

I believe that this island will perfectly suit your intentions; all the more so, since for some weeks the crater of the volcano has been growing steadily, and seems to threaten an imminent eruption. It would be better for it to erupt on the crowned heads than on those of my good neighbors, the savages, or of my brothers, the brave sans-culottes.

A SANS-CULOTTE.

Comrades, what do you say? I think that he his right. Let us signal the fleet to come join us here, and let it vomit up the poisons with which it is laden.

The OLD MAN.

I catch sight of my good neighbors; lower your pikes, in a sign of fraternity; you will see them lay their bows at your feet. I do not know their language and they do not know ours. But the heart knows no country: we communicate by gestures and we understand each other perfectly.

Some savage families emerge from their canoes. The old man presents them to the sans-culottes of Europe. They fraternize; they embrace: the old man climbs the white rock and pays homage to the sun for the fruit that has been brought by the savages in skillfully crafted wicker baskets.

After the ceremony, the old man converses with them through gestures and briefs them.

The kings disembark: they enter the scene one by one, scepters in hand, royal cloaks on their shoulders, golden crowns on their head, and at their necks a long iron chain, the end of which is held by a sans-culotte.

SCENE IV.

THE PREVIOUS ACTORS, SAVAGE FAMILIES.

The OLD MAN.

Braves sans-culottes, these savages are our elders in liberty, for they have never had kings. Born free, they live and die as they were born.

SCENE V.

THE PREVIOUS ACTORS, THE KINGS OF EUROPE.

A GERMAN SANS-CULOTTE, leading the emperor, who enters first.

Make way for his majesty, the emperor… He only lacked the time and genius to perpetrate all of the crimes committed by the house of Austria, and to bring to their height the evils that Joseph II and Antoinette wished for and committed against France. Scourge of his neighbors, he was also the scourge of his neighbors, whose population and finances he has exhausted. He let agriculture languish, hindered commerce, enchained thought. (Shaking his chain.) Not having been able to have the main share in the partition of Poland, he wanted to compensate for it by ravaging the borders of a nation whose enlightenment and energy he dreaded. False friend, perfidious ally, doing evil for its own sake. He is a monster.

FRANCIS II.

Pardon me; I am not as monstrous as you appear to believe. It is true that Lorraine tempted me. But hasn’t France been too happy to buy peace and order at the price of a province? Hasn’t it enough already? Besides, if someone is to blame, it is old Kaunitz, who abused my youth and my inexperience: it is Cobourg; it is Brunswick.

THE GERMAN. (He releases him.)

Speak your ugly soul, your wicked heart… End your life here, separated forever from the human species, which you and your fellows have for too long subjected to shame and torment.

AN ENGLISH SANS-CULOTTE leading the king of England by a length of chain.

Here is his majesty, the king of England, who, aided by the machiavellian genius of M. Pitt, squeezed the purse of the English people and further increased the burden of the public debt in order organize in France civil war, anarchy, famine and, finally, federalism, which is worse that all those.

GEORGE.

I was not in my right mind, and you know it. Do you punish a madman? You put him in a hospital.

The ENGLISH, releasing him.

The volcano will render justice in y

A PRUSSIAN SANS-CULOTTE.

Here is his majesty the king of Prussia: like the duke of Hanover, a destructive and shifty beast, the dupe of the charlatans, the executioner of good people and free men.

WILLIAM.

The manner in which you act towards me is a complete injustice. For in the end you should know me: I never had the military genius of my uncle; I concerned myself much more with the Illuminati as with the French. If my soldier have done a bit of evil, it has been well repaid. So things are even: as many killed as wounded, on one side of the other, and all is offset.

THE PRUSSIAN.

Those are indeed the sentiments and the language of a king. Monster! Atone here for all the blood that you have made flow on the plains of Champagne, before Lille and Mayence.

A SPANISH SANS-CULOTTE.

Here is his majesty, the king of Spain. He is indeed of the blood of the Bourbons: see how foolishness, false devotion and despotism are stamped on his royal features.

CHARLES.

I admit it. I am only a fool, whom the priests and my wife have always led around by the nose; so pardon me.

A SANS-CULOTTE OF NAPLES.

Here is the crowned hypocrite of Naples. A few more years, and he would have ravaged more of Europe than Mount Vesuvius, which stands at his door.

FERDINAND, king of Naples.

Volcano for volcano… Would you leave me here! I was the last to join forces. It was necessary, in the end, that I rank myself in the party of my brothers the kings. Should I not have howled with the wolves?

A SARDINIAN SANS-CULOTTE.

Here, in this box, is his sleeping majesty: Vittorio Amadeo Maria of Savoy, king of the groundhogs. More stupid than them, when he wanted to play the bad man; but we have quickly put him back in his box. Amadeo, hurry back to sleep. I greatly fear that the volcano will not allow you to get your six months of slumber

THE KING OF SARDINIA exiting his box, yawning and rubbing his eyes.

I am hungry… Ah! ah! where is my chaplain to say my Benedicite.

THE SARDINIAN.

Say rather your graces… Go! (pushing him) that is what they are good for, all these kings; to drink, to eat, to sleep, what they cannot do evil.

A RUSSIAN SANS-CULOTTE.

(Catherine steps on stage, walking briskly, with long strides.)

Go on, then! You put on airs, I think… Here is her Imperial Majesty, the Tsarina of all the Russias; otherwise, the Lady of the Imperial Stride; or, if you prefer, Catau, the Semiramis of the North: a woman above her sex, for she never knew the virtues nor modesty. Without morals and without shame, “she was the murderer of her husband, in order not to have a companion on the throne, and to have no lack of them in her impure bed.”

A POLISH SANS-CULOTTE.

You, Stanislaus Augustus, King of Poland, let’s go and quick! Carry the train of your mistress Catau, whose jackslave you were so constantly.

A SANS-CULOTTE, holding in his hands the ends of several chains, attached to the necks of several kings.

Hold on! Here is the bottom of the barrel. It is the small-fry, who do not merit the honor of being named.

The old man serves as intermediary for the savages, before whom the kings pass in review. He translates, for them, in sign language, what is said as the kings appear on stage. The savages give, in turn, signs of astonishment and indignation.

A SANS-CULOTTE OF ROME, leading the Pope.

On your knees, crowned scoundrels! To receive the benediction of the holy father: for there is but one priest capable of pardoning your crimes, of which he was the accomplice and devious agent. Eh! In what odious plot have the priests and their chief not taken part? In what criminal intrigue have they not played a role? It is this triple-crowned monster, who, underhandedly, prompted a murderous crusade against the French, as in other times his predecessors had counseled one against the Saracens. After the kings, the priests are those who have done the most evil to the world and to the human species.

Blessings, immortal blessings to the French people, who first among the recalled the patriotism of Brutus and unmasked the tartufferie of the soothsayers. The French made the Romans blush at the incense with that they debased themselves at the feet of a priest in the capitol, the same where the ambitious Caesar was stabbed by virtuous, republican hands.

THE POPE.

Ah! ah! you are too unkind… Cite a single one of my predecessors who has shown as much moderation as me. Following their example, I could well have proscribed the whole kingdom of France…

THE FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE interrupts him.

Say “the republic…”

THE POPE.

Well, the republic it is! The republic.

I could have called the vengeance of heaven down on the heads of all the French; I was content to raise against them all the powers of the earth. Could a priest do less? Listen; spare me, and for all the rest of my life I will pray to God for the sans-culottes.

THE ROMAN SANS-CULOTTE.

No, no, no! we want no more prayers from a priest: the God of the sans-culottes is liberty, it is equality, it is fraternity! You do not know and you have never known those gods. Go instead and exorcise the volcano which must soon punish you and avenge us.

A FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE, after lining up all the kings in a semi-circle, and before leaving them:

Crowned monsters! You should each have died a thousand deaths on the scaffold: but where could we have found the executions who would consent to soil their hands with your vile, corrupted blood? We abandon you to your remorse, or rather to your helpless rage.

Yet here are the authors of all our troubles! Future generations, could you believe it! Here are those who held, who so careless held the destinies of Europe in their hands. It is to serve this handful of cowardly brigands, for the good pleasure of these crowned crooks, that the blood of a million, of two million men, the worst of whom was worth more than them all, has been spilled on almost all points of the continent and across the seas. It is in the name or by the order of this score of ferocious animals that entire provinces have been devastated, crowded cities changed into heaps of corpses and ash, countless families violated, stripped naked and reduced to famine. This infamous group of political assassins has held great nations in check, and has turned against one another peoples made to be friends and born to be brothers. Here they are, these butchers in times of war, these corruptors of the human species in times of peace. It is from within the courts of these filthy beings that the contagion of all the vices has been exhaled into all the cities and over our countryside. Has there ever existed a nation having a king and morals at the same time?

THE POPE.

There were no morals in Rome!…

The cardinals have no morals!…

THE FRENCH SANS-CULOTTE.

And these ogres found eulogists and supporters! The priests gave to their God only the remains of the incense that they burned at the feet of the prince; « and slaves laden with cloth of gold, strutted and thought themselves important when they said: the king, my master…» More that a hundred million men have obeyed these plats tyrants, and trembled pronouncing their names with a holy respect. It was to procure pleasures for these man-eaters that the people, from morning to night, and from the year’s beginning until it end, worked, sweat and wore themselves out. Future races! Will you forgive your good ancestors this excess of debasement, stupidity and forgetfulness of self? Nature, hasten to finish the wok of the sans-culottes; breathe your fiery breath on these dregs of society and return the kings, forever, to the void from which they should never have emerged.

Consign there as well the first among us who from now on would pronounce the word king without accompanying it with the imprecations that the idea attached to that infamous word naturally suggests to every republican mind.

As for me, I pledge to strike straightaway from the book of free men anyone who would, in my presence, sully the air with an expression that would tend to speak favorably about a king, or about any other monstrosity of that sort. Comrades, let’s all swear it, and re-embark.

THE SANS-CULOTTES exiting.

We swear it!… Long live liberty! Long live the republic!

SCENE VI.

THE KINGS OF EUROPE.

FRANCIS II.

How they treat us, good God! With what indignity! And what will become of us?

WILLIAM.

O my dear Cagliostro, why aren’t you here? You would get us out of this fix.

GEORGE.

I doubt it. What do you think, holy father? You held him prisoner for a long time in the Castel Sant’Angelo.

BRASCHI OR THE POPE.

He could do nothing about all this. We need something supernatural.

THE KING OF SPAIN.

Ah! Holy father, a little miracle.

THE POPE.

That time has passed… Where are the good old days when saints flew through the air astride a staff?

THE KING OF SPAIN.

Oh, my relation! Oh, Louis XVI! It is still you who has had the best fate. A bad half-hour is soon passed! At present, you have no need of anything. Here, we lack everything: we are between famine and hell. It is you François and William, who attract all this to us. I have always thought that this French revolution, sooner or later, would play a dirty trick on us. We should not have got mixed up in it at all, not at all.

WILLIAM.

It suits you well, lord of Spain, to accuse us. Was it not your usual tardiness that has doomed us? If you had assisted us, that would have been it for France.

CATHERINE.

As for me, I am going to sleep in this cave. Instead of quarrelling, who would like to follow me?… Stanislaus, won’t you come and keep me company?

THE KING OF POLAND.

Old Catau, look at yourself in that fountain.

CATHERINE.

You have not always been so proud.

THE EMPEROR.

Cursed Frenchman!

THE KING OF SPAIN.

These sans-culottes, whom we despised so much at first, have however accomplished their intention. Why didn’t I make a fine auto-da-fé, to serve as an example to others?

THE POPE.

Why did I not excommunicate them in 1789? We have held back too much, spared too many.

THE KING OF NAPLES.

All these reflection are fine, but they come a bit too late. We are in the galley and we must row: above all, we must eat; let us occupy ourselves, first of all, with fishing, hunting or tilling.

THE EMPEROR.

It would be a find thing to see the Emperor of the House of Austria scratch the earth in order to live.

THE KING OF SPAIN.

Would you rather draw lots to see which of us will serve as feed for the other?

THE POPE.

We do not even have enough to make the miracle of the multiplication of loaves! That does not surprise me. We have schismatics here.

CATHERINE.

It is doubtless to me that this speech is addressed: I want satisfaction… En garde, holy father.

The empress and the pope fight, the one with her scepter and the other with his cross: a scepter-blow shatters the cross; the pope throws his tiara at the head of Catherine knocks off her crown. They beat each other with their chains. The king of Poland wants to put a stop to it, taking the scepter from Catherine’s hands.

THE KING OF POLAND.

Neighbor, that is enough. Hey! Quit it!

THE EMPRESS.

It is just like you to take away my scepter, coward! Is it to compensate for your own, which you have allowed to be cut into three or four pieces?

THE POPE

Catherine, I ask your pardon, escolta mi: if you leave me alone, I will give you absolution for all your sins.

THE EMPRESS.

Absolution! Knavish priest! Before I leave you alone, you must confess and repeat after me that a priest, that a pope is a charlatan, a shell-game swindler… Go on, repeat it:

THE POPE.

A priest… a pope… is a charlatan… a shell-game swindler.

THE KING OF SPAIN, apart, in a corner of the theater.

What a find! I still have a leftover bit from the ration of bread given me in the hold. What a treasure! There are no rupees, no piastres worth a scrap of black bread, when one is dying of hunger.

THE KING OF POLAND.

Cousin, what are you doing, off by yourself? You are eating, I believe. I’ll take some of that.

THE EMPRESS and the other kings hurl themselves on the King of Spain to snatch away his crust of bread.

And I as well, and I as well, and I as well…

THE KING OF NAPLES.

What would the Sans-Culottes say, if they saw all the kings of Europe fight over a bit of black bread?

The kings battle: the ground is littered with fragments of chains, scepters and crowns; the cloaks are in tatters.

SCENE VII.

THE PREVIOUS ACTORS AND THE SANS-CULOTTES.

The sans-culottes, who have wanted to enjoy from afar the predicament of the kings reduced to famine, return to the island to roll a barrel of biscuit in the midst of the famished kings.

ONE OF THE SANS-CULOTTES, smashing open the barrel, and spilling out the biscuit.

Hold on, knaves, there is your feed. Eat up. The proverb that says: Everyone must live, was not made for you, for there is no necessity that kings lose. But the sans-culottes are as open to pity as to justice. So feast on this hardtack, until you are acclimated to this country.

SCENE VIII.

THE KINGS pounce on the hardtack.

THE EMPRESS.

One moment! I, as empress and proprietor of the largest domain, must have the largest portion.

THE KING OF POLAND.

Catherine was never a picky eater: but we are no longer in Petersburg; each to their own.

THE KING OF NAPLES.

Yes! Yes! Each to their own. That barrel of biscuit must not resemble the soi-disant republic of Poland.

THE KING OF PRUSSIA gives a blow of the scepter on the fingers of the empress.

THE EMPRESS.

Silence, ravisher of Silesia.

THE POPE.

Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.

THE EMPRESS.

If you gave to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, little bishop of Rome…!

THE EMPEROR.

Peace, peace: there is some of it for everyone.

THE KING OF PRUSSIA.

Yes, but that will not be for a long time.

THE KING of NAPLES.

But here is the volcano, which seems to want to put us all in agreement: a burning lava descends from the crater and advances towards us. Gods!

THE KING of SPAIN.

Our good Lady! Save me… If I escape, I will become a Sans-Culotte.

THE POPE.

And I will take a wife.

CATHERINE.

And I will join the Jacobins or the Cordeliers.

The volcano begins its eruption: it throws rocks, burning coals, etc. on the theater.

There is an explosion: fire besieges the kings from all sides, they fall, consumed in the bowels of the half-opened earth.

END.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2274 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.