King Ubu – Act 1

Act 1


Poland – that is to say nowhere.

Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu.

PAPA UBU. Pshite!

MAMA UBU. Oh! that’s a fine thing. What a pig you are, Papa Ubu!

PAPA UBU. Watch out I don’t kill you, Mama Ubu!

MAMA UBU. It isn’t me you ought to kill, Papa Ubu, it’s someone else.

PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, I don’t understand.

MAMA UBU. What! Papa Ubu, you’re content with your lot?

PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, pshite. Madam, certainly yes, I’m content. I could be content with less. After all, I’m Captain of Dragoons, Privy Councillor to King Wenceslas, Knight of the Red Eagle of Poland, and formerly King of Aragon. What more do you want?

MAMA UBU. What! After being King of Aragon, you’re content with reviewing fifty flunkies armed with cabbage-cutters, when you could put the crown of Poland on your head where the crown of Aragon used to be?

PAPA UBU. Ah, Mama Ubu, I don’t understand a word you’re saying.

MAMA UBU. You are so stupid.

PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, King Wenceslas is very much alive. And suppose he snuffs it – hasn’t he got legions of children?

MAMA UBU. What prevents you from slaughtering the whole family and putting yourself in their place?

PAPA UBU. Ah! Mama Ubu, you do me wrong. Watch out you don’t end up in the soup.

MAMA UBU. Poor unfortunate, when I’m in the soup who’ll patch the seat of your pants?

PAPA UBU. Who cares? Isn’t my arse just like everybody else’s?

MAMA UBU. If I were in your place, I’d want to plant that arse on a throne. You could make lots of money, and eat all the sausages you want, and roll through the streets in a carriage.

PAPA UBU. If I were King, I’d wear a big wide-brimmed hat, the kind I had in Aragon, the one those Spanish rogues stole from me.

MAMA UBU. You could also obtain an umbrella and a big cape that would fall to your heels.

PAPA UBU. Ah! I yield to temptation. Buggery pshite, pshitey buggery! If I ever run into him in a corner of the woods, he’ll pass a bad quarter of an hour!

MAMA UBU. Ah! well, Papa Ubu, now you’re acting like a real man.

PAPA UBU. No, no! Me – Captain of Dragoons – slaughter the King of Poland? I’d sooner die!

MAMA UBU (aside). Oh, pshite! – (Aloud.) Would you rather remain as beggarly as a rat, Papa Ubu?

PAPA UBU. Bluebelly! by my green candle, I’d rather be poor a beggar like a skinny and brave rat than rich like a mean and fat cat.

MAMA UBU. And the broad-brimmed hat? And the umbrella? And the big cape?

PAPA UBU. And then what, Mama Ubu?

He leaves, banging the door.

MAMA UBU (alone). Vrout, pshite! He’s slow to understand, but vrout, pshite! I believe he’s been shaken. Thanks to God and myself, in eight days I may be Queen of Poland.


The stage represents a room in the house of Papa Ubu where a splendid table has been set.

Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu.

MAMA UBU. Hey! Our guests are bloody late.

PAPA UBU. Yes, by my green candle. I’m bursting with hunger. Mama Ubu, you’re very ugly today. Is that because we have guests?

MAMA UBU (shrugging her shoulders). Pshite!

PAPA UBU (grabbing a roast chicken). Hey, I’m hungry. I’m going to bite into this bird. I believe it is a chicken. It is not bad.

MAMA UBU. What, you wretch, are you doing? What will our guests eat?

PAPA UBU. They will still have plenty. I won’t take any more. Mama Ubu, go look out the window and see if our guests are arriving.

MAMA UBU. (going to the window). I don’t see anyone.

Meanwhile Papu Ubu steals some veal.

MAMA UBU. Ah! There’s Captain Bordure arriving with his men. What are you eating now, Papa Ubu?

PAPA UBU. Nothing, a little veal.

MAMA UBU. Ah! veal! veal! veal! He ate the veal! Help!

PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, I’m going to pull your eyes out.

The door opens.


Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu, Captain Bordure and his men.

MAMA UBU. Good day, gentlemen, we’ve been waiting for you impatiently. Sit yourselves down.

BORDURE. Good day, Madam. But where is Papa Ubu?

PAPA UBU. Here I am! Here I am, damn it! By my green candle, I’m certainly fat enough.

BORDURE. Hello, Papa Ubu. Be seated, men.

They all sit.

PAPA UBU. Ouf! A few more pounds and I’d go through the chair.

BORDURE. Well, Mama Ubu, what are you giving us that’s good today?

MAMA UBU. Here’s the menu.

PAPA UBU. Oh, this interests me.

MAMA UBU. Polish soup, cutlets of rastron, veal, chicken, pate of dog, rump of turkey, charlotte russe…

PAPA UBU. Hey, there’s enough, I suppose. Is there more?

MAMA UBU (continuing). Sherbet, salad, fruits, dessert, boiled beef, Jerusalem artichokes, cauliflower a la pshite.

PAPA UBU. Hey! Do you think I’m an oriental Emperor that you should spend so much?

MAMA UBU. Don’t listen to him, he’s an imbecile.

PAPA UBU. Ah! I’m going to sharpen my teeth against your calves.

MAMA UBU. Eat your dinner instead, Papa Ubu. Here’s some Polish soup.

PAPA UBU. Bugger! That’s bad!

BORDURE. It’s certainly not good.

MAMA UBU. You heap of savages, what do you want?

PAPA UBU (striking himself on the forehead). Oh! I have an idea. I’ll be back in a little while.

He goes out.

MAMA UBU. Gentlemen, we are going to eat veal!

BORDURE. It’s very good. I’m finished.

MAMA UBU. To rumps now.

BORDURE. Delicious! delicious! Hurray for Mama Ubu!

ALL. Hurray for Mama Ubu!

PAPA UBU (returning). And soon you’ll be shouting “Hurray for Papa Ubu!”

In his hand he holds an unmentionable mop. He dashes it on the banqueting table.

MAMA UBU. Wretch! what are you doing?

PAPA UBU. Try a little of that.

Several taste it and fall down poisoned.

PAPA UBU. Mama Ubu, pass me the cutlets of rastron. I’ll serve.

MAMA UBU. Here they are.

PAPA UBU. To the door, everybody! Captain Bordure, I have to speak to you.

THE OTHERS. Hey! we haven’t eaten.

PAPA UBU. How have you not eaten? To the door, everybody! Remain, Bordure.

No one moves.

PAPU UBU. Not gone yet? Now by my green candle, I’m going to murder you with these cutlets of rastron.

He begins throwing them.

ALL. Oh! Ouch! Help! Defend yourselves! Curses! I’m dead!

PAPA UBU. Pshite, pshite, pshite! To the door! I order it.

ALL. Save yourselves! Miserable Papa Ubu! Traitor and crude beggar!

PAPA UBU. Ah! they’ve left. I can breathe easy now, but I dined very badly. Come, Bordure.

They leave with Mama Ubu.


Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu, Captain Bordure.

PAPA UBU. Well then. Captain, did you dine well?

BORDURE. Very well, sir, except for the shit.

PAPA UBU. Eh! the pshite wasn’t bad.

MAMA UBU. Each to their own taste.

PAPA UBU. Captain Bordure, I’ve decided to make you Duke of Lithuania.

BORDURE. But how? I thought you were terribly poor, Papa Ubu.

PAPA UBU. In a few days, if you please, I shall reign over Poland.

BORDURE. Are you going to kill Wenceslas?

PAPA UBU. He’s not silly, this chap. He guessed it.

BORDURE. If it’s a question of killing Wenceslas, I’m in. I’m his mortal enemy and I’ll answer for my men.

PAPA UBU (throwing himself on Bordure to kiss him). Oh! oh! I love you, Bordure.

BORDURE. Hey! you stink, Papa Ubu. Don’t you ever wash?

PAPA UBU. Rarely.

MAMA UBU. Never!

PAPA UBU. I’m going to stamp on your feet!

MAMA UBU. Thick pshite!

PAPA UBU. Go, Bordure, I’ve finished with you. But by my green candle, I swear by Mama Ubu to make you Duke of Lithuania.


PAPA UBU. Say nothing, my soft child.

They leave.


Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu, a Messenger.

PAPA UBU. What do you want, mister? Get out of here. You tire me.

THE MESSENGER. You are summoned, sir, by the King.

He goes out.

PAPA UBU. Oh! pshite, jarnicotonbleu, by my green candle, I’ve been found out! I’m going to be decapitated! Oh! Oh!!

MAMA UBU. What a softy! And time is short.

PAPA UBU. Oh! I have an idea: I’ll say it was Mama Ubu and Bordure.

MAMA UBU. Ah! thick P.U.. If you do that…

PAPA UBU. Hey! I’ll go there at once!

He leaves.

MAMA UBU (running after him). Oh, Papa Ubu, Papa Ubu! I’ll give you sausages!

PAPA UBU (offstage). Oh, pshite! You know what you can do with your sausages!


The King’s palace.

King Wenceslas, surrounded by his officers; Bordure; the king’s sons, Boleslas, Ladislas, and Bougrelas; plus Ubu.

PAPA UBU (entering). It’s not me, you know! It’s Mama Ubu and Bordure.

THE KING. What is the matter, Papa Ubu?

BORDURE. He’s drunk.

THE KING. As was I this morning.

PAPA UBU. Yes, I’m drunk. I’ve had too much French wine.

THE KING. Papa Ubu, I am anxious to reward you for your numerous services as Captain of Dragoons, and I make you today Count of Sandomir.

PAPA UBU. O Wenceslas, sir, I don’t know how to thank you.

THE KING. Don’t thank me, Papa Ubu. Just be there tomorrow at the big parade.

PAPA UBU. I’ll be there, but please do me the honour of accepting this small kazoo. (He gives the king a kazoo.)

THE KING. What would a man my age do with a kazoo? I’ll give it to young Bougrelas.

YOUNG BOUGRELAS. He is a beast, this Papa Ubu.

PAPA UBU. And now I am going back home. (He falls down turning away.) Oh! Ouch! Help! By my green candle, I’ve busted a gut and cracked the bouzine!

THE KING (picking him up). Are you badly hurt, Papa Ubu?

PAPA UBU. Yes certainly, and I’m surely going to burst. What will become of Mama Ubu?

THE KING. We shall see to her maintenance.

PAPA UBU. You’re very kind. (He goes out.) Yes, but King Wenceslas, you won’t be any the less slaughtered.


Ubu’s house

Lap, Battery, Cotice, Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu, Conspirators and Soldiers, Captain Bordure.

PAPA UBU. Hey! my good friends, it’s high time we formulated a plan of action. Everybody’ll give their opinion. I’ll give mine first, if you’ll permit.

BORDURE. Speak, Papa Ubu.

PAPA UBU. Hey well, my friends, my idea is simply to poison the king by putting arsenic in his lunch. Then when he goes to taste it, he’ll drop dead, and so I will be king.

ALL. Fi, the sagouin!

PAPA UBU. Hey what, doesn’t it please you? Then let Bordure share his idea.

BORDURE. I think we should give him a big stroke of a sword that will split him from the head to the belt.

ALL. Yes! Voilà! That is noble and valiant.

PAPA UBU. And if he starts kicking you? I just remembered – on parade he wears iron boots that hurt badly. If I’d thought of it before, I’d have gone and denounced you for trying to involve me in this dirty business, and I reckon he would reward me too.

MAMA UBU. Oh! the traitor, the coward, the nasty wretch!

ALL. Boo, Papa Ubu!

PAPA UBU. Hey! Gentlemen calm yourselves if you don’t want to visit my pockets. I agree to take the risk for you. By the way, Bordure, you’re in charge of slicing the king in two.

BORDURE. Wouldn’t it be better for us all to jump on him at once while bawling and bawling? We’d have a better chance of winning over the troops.

PAPA UBU. Then, voilà I’ll try to step on his feet. He’ll jump back, and I’ll say to him: PSHITE, and on that signal you will jump on him.

MAMA UBU. Yes, and as soon as he has died, you will take his sceptre and his crown.

BORDURE. And I will lead my men in pursuit of the Royal Family.

PAPA UBU. Yes, and I especially recommend you get the young Bougrelas.

They leave.

PAPA UBU (running after them and making them come back). Gentlemen, we forgot an indispensable ceremony. It is necessary to swear to fight valiantly.

BORDURE. And how do we manage that? We don’t have a priest.

PAPA UBU. Mama Ubu can stand in place of one.

ALL. Hey well. Whatever.

PAPA UBU. Do you swear to really kill the king?

ALL. Yes, we swear it! Hurrah for Papa Ubu!


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