King Ubu – Act 3
Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu.
PAPA UBU. Now, by my green candle, here am I, king in this country. I’ve already given myself indigestion and someone is fetching my big cape.
MAMA UBU. What’s it made of, Papa Ubu? Being king is all very well, but we have to economize.
PAPA UBU. Madam my female, the cape is made of sheep-skin with a clasp and bridles made of dog-skin.
MAMA UBU. Why, that’s beautiful. But it’s even more beautiful to be royal.
PAPA UBU. Yes, you are right, Mama Ubu.
MAMA UBU. We owe a great deal to the Duke of Lithuania.
PAPA UBU. To who?
MAMA UBU. Hey! Captain Bordure.
PAPA UBU. Do me a favour, Mama Ubu: don’t speak to me of that buffoon. Now that I don’t need him any more, he can kiss my arse. He’s not getting that duchy.
MAMA UBU. You’re making a mistake, Papa Ubu. He’ll turn against you.
PAPA UBU. Oh! I pity him a lot, this small man. I worry as much about him as I do about Bougrelas.
MAMA UBU. Hey? Do you think you’re done with Bougrelas?
PAPA UBU. You bet your arse. What do you think he’s going to do to me, that fourteen-year-old monkey?
MAMA UBU. Papa Ubu, pay attention to what I tell you. Try to win over Bougrelas by your kindness.
PAPA UBU. More money to hand out? Ah! No! You’ve already made me waste twenty-two million.
MAMA UBU. Watch your head. Papa Ubu. Or he’ll cook it for you.
PAPA UBU. Hey well, you will be with me in the pot.
MAMA UBU. Listen once again. I am sure that young Bougrelas can beat you because he has justice on his side.
PAPA UBU. Ah, dirt! Isn’t injustice just as worthy as justice? Ah, you abuse me, Mama Ubu. I’m going to cut you into little pieces!
Mama Ubu runs away, pursued by Ubu.
The great hall of the palace.
Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu, officers and soldiers, Lap, Battery, Cotice, nobles in chains;
financiers, magistrates, clerks.
SUBTERRANEAN NOISES. Kneading the glottises and larynges of the jaw without a palate,
How fast the printer prints!
The sequins tremble like the windmill’s vanes,
The leaves fall, in the teasing of the wind.
The jaw of the skull without brains chews up the strangers brain,
Sundays, on the hill, to the sound of fifes and drums,
Or on red-letter days, in the endless cellars of the palace.
Unfolding and explaining, the Debraining Machine,
How fast, how fast, the printer prints!
PAPA UBU. Bring in the noble crate and the noble hook and the noble knife and the noble book! And then – bring in the nobles!
The Nobles are brutally shoved in.
MAMA UBU. Restrain yourself, Papa Ubu, for goodness’ sakes.
PAPA UBU. I have the honour to inform you that to enrich the kingdom I’m going to kill all you nobles and take your possessions.
NOBLES. Horror! To us, people and soldiers!
PAPA UBU. Bring the first Noble, and pass me my Noble hook. Those that are condemned to death I’ll put through the trapdoor and they’ll fall into the basement of Pinchpork and then into the room below where their brains will be removed by the debraining machine. (To the 1st Noble.) Who are you, you buffoon?
FIRST NOBLE. Count of Vitepsk.
PAPA UBU. What’s your income?
FIRST NOBLE. Three million rixdales.
PAPA UBU. Condemned!
He grabs the Noble with the hook and puts him down the hole.
MAMA UBU. What base ferocity!
PAPA UBU. Second Noble, who are you? (The Noble says nothing.) You going to answer, dirt bag?
SECOND NOBLE. Grand Duke of Posen.
PAPA UBU. Excellent! Excellent! That’s all I want to know. Into the hole! Third Noble, who are you? You have a dirty head.
THIRD NOBLE. Duke of Courlande and of the cities of Riga, Ravel, and Mitau.
PAPA UBU. Very well! Very well! Don’t you have something else?
THIRD NOBLE. Nothing.
PAPA UBU. Into the hole then! Fourth Noble, who are you?
FOURTH NOBLE. Prince of Podolie.
PAPA UBU. What’s your income?
FOURTH NOBLE. I am skint.
PAPA UBU. For using foul language, you go in the hole. Fifth Noble, who are you?
FIFTH NOBLE. Margrave of Thorn, Palatine of Polack.
PAPA UBU. That’s not much. Don’t you have anything else?
FIFTH NOBLE. It is sufficient for me.
PAPA UBU. Hey well!. It is better to have little than nothing. Into the hole! What are you snivelling about. Mama Ubu?
MAMA UBU. You are too ferocious, Papa Ubu.
PAPA UBU. Hey! I’m becoming richer. I’m going to have them read me MY list of MY possessions. Herald, read me MY list of MY possessions.
THE HERALD. Earldom of Sandomir.
PAPA UBU. Begin with the principalities, you dickhead!
THE HERALD. Principality of Podolie, Grand-Duchy of Posen, Duchy of Courlande, Earldom of Sandomir, Earldom of Vitepsk, Palatinate of Polack, Margraviate of Thorn.
PAPA UBU. What else?
THE HERALD. That’s all.
PAPA UBU. How can that be all? Oh well then, let’s get on with the Nobles, and seeing it’s taking so long to get richer, I’m going to execute them all. So I’ll get all their possessions. All right, throw the Nobles down the hole.
(The Nobles are herded into the hole.)
PAPA UBU. Hurry, if you please. Now I want to make laws.
SEVERAL. This we’ve got to see.
PAPA UBU. I’m going to first reform justice. After that we will proceed to finances.
SEVERAL MAGISTRATES. We oppose all change.
PAPA UBU. Pshite! From now on, magistrates will no longer be paid.
MAGISTRATES. And what will we live on? We are poor.
PAPA UBU. You can have the fines you impose and the possessions of those you sentence to death.
FIRST MAGISTRATE. Horror!
ALL. We refuse to judge under those circumstances.
PAPA UBU. Into the hole with the magistrates!
They struggle in vain.
MAMA UBU. Hey, what are you doing, Papa Ubu? Who’s to render justice now?
PAPA UBU. Me! You’ll see how well things’ll go.
MAMA UBU. Yes, that’ll be perfect.
PAPA UBU. Shut up, you brainless tart. And now, gentlemen, we proceed to matters of finance.
FINANCIERS. There’s nothing needs changing.
PAPA UBU. I want everything changed! First, I want to keep half the taxes.
FINANCIERS. How excessive!
PAPA UBU. Gentlemen, we’ll put a ten percent tax on property, another on trade and industry, a third on marriages, a fourth on not marrying, and a fifth on deaths, of fifteen francs each.
FIRST FINANCIER. But that’s that’s silly, Papa Ubu.
SECOND FINANCIER. It’s absurd.
THIRD FINANCIER. That has neither head nor tail.
PAPA UBU. You dare argue with me? Into the hole with the financiers!
They stuff the financiers in.
MAMA UBU. But really. Papa Ubu, what kind of a king are you? You slaughter everybody.
PAPA UBU. Hey pshite!
MAMA UBU. No more justice, no more finance .
PAPA UBU. Fear not, my sweet child. I’ll go from village to village to collect the taxes in person.
A house of peasants in the vicinity of Warsaw.
Several peasants are assembled.
A PEASANT (coming in). Did you hear the big news? The king is dead, the dukes also and the young Bougrelas ran away with his mother to the mountains. And on top of all that, Papa Ubu has seized the throne.
ANOTHER. I know some other news. I come from Cracow where I saw them carry away the bodies of more than three hundred nobles and five hundred magistrates he killed, and it appears they are going to double the taxes and Papa Ubu will come to collect them himself.
ALL. Great God! What will become of us? Papa Ubu is an awful sagouin and his family, it is said, is abominable.
A knocking at the door.
A PEASANT. Listen! Is that not someone knocking at the door?
A VOICE (outside). Horn-belly! Open by my pshite, by Saint John, Saint Peter, and Saint Nicholas, open up! Blood and money! Hornducats! I’ve come for the taxes!
The door is demolished. Ubu enters followed by his legion of money-grabbers.
PAPA UBU. Which one of you is the oldest? (A peasant advances.) What’s your name?
THE PEASANT. Stanislas Leczinski.
PAPA UBU. Well then, horn-belly, listen to me well, otherwise these gentlemen will cut off your ears. Do I have your attention?
STANISLAS. Your Excellency has yet to say anything.
PAPA UBU. What? I’ve been speaking for an hour. Do you think I came here to preach to the wilderness?
STANISLAS. Such a thought is far from my mind.
PAPA UBU. I’ve come to tell you and direct you and inform you that you have to produce and show your money immediately, otherwise you will be slaughtered. Let’s go, noble snot-noses of finance, bring in the money wagon.
Someone brings in the wagon.
STANISLAS. My lord, we are down on the register for only one hundred and fifty-two rixdales, which we’ve already paid six weeks ago come Michaelmas.
PAPA UBU. It is very possible, but I’ve changed the government and I announced in the newspaper that you will have to pay all existing taxes twice, and three times those that will be designated subsequently. With this system I’ll make my fortune quickly; then I will kill everybody and leave.
PEASANTS. Mister Ubu! Have mercy on us. We are poor citizens.
PAPA UBU. I don’t give a pshite. Pay.
PEASANTS. We are not able to. We have paid.
PAPA UBU. Pay! Or I’ll break you with torture and separation of the neck from the head! Horn-belly, I am the king, am I not?
ALL. Ah, it is thus! To arms! Long live Bougrelas, by God’s grace King of Poland and Lithuania!
PAPA UBU. Forward, gentlemen of Finance! Do your duty.
A fight ensues. The house is destroyed, and old Stanislas runs alone across the plain. Ubu remains to collect the money.
A dungeon in the fortress of Thorn.
Bordure in chains, Papa Ubu.
PAPA UBU. Ah, citizen, that’s how it is. You wanted that I pay you what I owed you, then you rebelled because I didn’t. You conspired against me and now you’re in chains. Hornstrompet! The trick is turned so well on you it must surely be to your taste!
BORDURE. Take care, Papa Ubu. In the five days you’ve been king, you’ve committed more murders than it would take to damn all the saints of Paradise. The blood of the king and his nobles cries for vengeance, and their cries will be heard.
PAPA UBU. Hey! my beautiful friend, you’re talking heavy! I don’t doubt that if you escaped it could result in complications, but I don’t believe the dungeons of Thorn have ever set free any of the fine young men entrusted to them. And so, good night, and I invite you to sleep well although the rats dance a beautiful sarabande.
He leaves. The gaoler comes to lock all doors.
The palace at Moscow.
The Emperor Alexis and his court, Bordure.
CZAR ALEXIS. Was it not you, infamous adventurer, who cooperated in the death of our cousin Wenceslas?
BORDURE. My lord, forgive me. I was forced into it in spite of myself by Papa Ubu.
ALEXIS. Oh! The awful liar! Anyway, what do you want?
BORDURE. Papa Ubu had me gaoled on a trumped-up charge of conspiracy. I succeeded in escaping, and I rode on horseback five days and nights across the steppes to come and implore your gracious mercy.
ALEXIS. What did you bring me as a token of your submission?
BORDURE. My free sword and a detailed plan of the city of Thorn.
ALEXIS. I’ll take the sword, but burn this plan by Saint George! I don’t want to owe my victory to treason.
BORDURE. One of the sons of Wenceslas, young Bougrelas, is still alive. I will do anything to restore him to the throne.
ALEXIS. What rank did you hold in the Polish army?
BORDURE. I commanded the 5th regiment of dragoons at Wilna and a company of mercenaries in the pay of Papa Ubu.
ALEXIS. Good. I name you sub-lieutenant in the 10th Cossack regiment, and beware if you turn traitor! If you fight well, you will be rewarded.
BORDURE. I do not lack courage, my lord.
ALEXIS. That is well. Disappear from my presence.
Ubu’s council chamber.
Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu, Councillors of Phynance.
PAPA UBU. Gentlemen, the meeting is now open. Try to listen carefully and keep calm. First we’re going to examine our finances, then we’ll talk about a little system I’ve invented for making good weather and bringing rain.
A COUNCILLOR. Very good indeed, Mister Ubu.
MAMA UBU. What a silly man!
PAPA UBU. Lady of my pshite, watch yourself. I won’t endure your silliness. Well then, gentlemen, I have informed you that the finances are going fairly well. A considerable number of dogs in woollen stockings pour into the streets, and the dognappers are doing fine. On all sides one sees only burning houses, and people bending under the weight of our finances.
THE COUNCILLOR. And the new taxes, Master Ubu, are they working?
MAMA UBU. Not at all. The tax on marriage has produced only 11 coins, and so Papa Ubu pursues people everywhere to force them to get married.
PAPA UBU. Blood and money! Horn-belly! Madam financier, haven’t I ears to speak with and you a mouth to hear me? (Burst of laughter.) Or rather, no! You confuse me and you are the reason I am silly! Now horn of Ubu! . . . (A messenger enters.) Now what does he want? Go then, sagouin, or I’ll poach you with beheading and with twisting of the legs.
MAMA UBU. Ah! He’s gone but he left this letter.
PAPA UBU. Read it. I believe I’m losing my mind, or else I don’t know how to read. Hurry up, buffoonette, this must be from Bordure.
MAMA UBU. Precisely. He says the Czar welcomed him very well, that he’s going to invade your dominions to re-establish Bougrelas, and then you will be killed.
PAPA UBU. Ho! Ho! I am afraid! Ha, I think I’m dying. Oh poor man that I am. What’s to become of me, great God? This mean man is going to kill me. Saint Anthony and all the saints, protect me! I will give you money and I will burn candles for you. Lord, what’s to be done?
He weeps and sobs.
MAMA UBU. There’s only one way out, Papa Ubu.
PAPA UBU. Which is what, my love?
MAMA UBU. War!!
ALL. Praise God! There! That is noble!
PAPA UBU. Yes, and I’ll suffer even more blows.
FIRST COUNCILLOR. Let’s run! Let’s run to organise the army.
SECOND. And assemble the provisions.
THIRD. And to prepare the artillery and fortifications.
FOURTH. And to raise money for the troops.
PAPA UBU. Ah, no! I’m going to kill you. I don’t want to spend money. And another thing – I was once paid to make war and now I have to do it at my own expense. No, let’s make war by my green candle since you are so set on it, but don’t pay a single coin.
ALL. Long live war!
The encampment before Warsaw.
Soldiers and Paladins.
SOLDIERS and PALADINS. Long live Poland! Long live Papa Ubu!
PAPA UBU (entering with casque and cuirass). Hey, Mama Ubu, give me my breastplate and my swagger-stick. I’m soon going to be so loaded down I won’t be able to walk if I’m pursued.
MAMA UBU. Fi, the coward!
PAPA UBU. Ah! There’s the pshite-sword that runs away and the money-crook that doesn’t hold! I’ll never be ready, and the Russians advance and they’re out to kill me.
A SOLDIER. Lord Ubu, you’re losing your yard-scissors.
PAPA UBU. I’m going to kill you with my pshite-hook and mug-knife.
MAMA UBU. Ah he is beautiful with his helmet and his breast-plate. One is put in mind of an armed pumpkin.
PAPA UBU. And now I’m going to get up on my horse. Bring, gentlemen, the Horse of Phynances.
MAMA UBU. Papa Ubu, your horse won’t be able to carry you. It hasn’t eaten anything for five days and is nearly dead.
PAPA UBU. How do you like that! They make me pay 12 coins a day for this nag, and she cannot carry me. Ubu horn! Do you kid me, horn of Ubu, or are you robbing me? (Mama Ubu blushes, and lowers her eyes.) All right, bring me another beast, but I won’t go on foot. Horn-belly!
Paladin Lap [in blackface] leads in an enormous horse.
PAPA UBU. I’m getting on. Oh! I’d better sit because I am going to fall. (The horse starts.) Ah! Stop my beast. Great God, I’m going to fall and die!!!
MAMA UBU. He is indeed an imbecile. Ah, he’s up. But now he’s down.
PAPA UBU. Fizzihorn, I’m half dead. But it doesn’t matter. I’m off to war and I will kill everybody. Anybody who steps out of line I’ll fix with twisting of the nose and teeth and extraction of the tongue.
MAMA UBU. Good luck, Mister Ubu!
PAPA UBU. I forgot to tell you that I’m handing you the regency. But I’m taking the accounts with me. To bad on you if you cheat me. I’m leaving Paladin Lap to help you. Farewell, Mama Ubu.
MAMA UBU. Farewell, Papa Ubu. Kill the Czar good.
PAPA UBU. For sure. Twisting of the nose and teeth, extraction of the tongue and forcing of the swagger stick in the ears.
The army moves off to the sound of fanfares.
MAMA UBU (alone). Now that this thick stooge is gone, let’s make it our business to kill Bougrelas and seize us the treasures.