Act III Scene ii
A hall in the citadel of Susa, later that night
Enter King Xerxes
Xerxes: Light! Light! Bring light!
Servant 1: (off) Light! Light for the king!
Xerxes: Curse these dark halls!
Exit King Xerxes
Enter Servant 1
Servant 1: Light! Light for the king!
Servant 2: (off) Ho! I have a light
Servant 1: Hurry! All speed!
Enter Servant 2 with a light
Servant 2: I have a light! Where is the king? What is our alarm?
Servant 1: Quickly! The king did rise of a sudden from his slumber and then did in a torrent walk these halls. ‘Pon finding this way dark, he did bid me find him a light and then like a whirlwind was away again.
Servant 2: Such night rantings doth stir the nest of the citadel into buzzing. Where be his royal highness now?
Servant 1: I know not! I did but stumble through these halls but to find thee; now we are found but without king who is without.
Servant 2: I did pass by a hall from whence came a royal call, but I could not discern its text. Then I did hear thee call “a light for the king,” and so came I hence.
Servant 1: Say you passed by the king?
Servant 2: I did hear his kingly footfall ‘pon a side passage hither, but then to answer thy summons—
Servant 1: Let’s away—
Exuent Servant 1 and Servant 2
Re-enter King Xerxes
Xerxes: Light! Is ‘t not a grievous state of our realm when none is left to tend to its king t’ shine a brand upon our path? Light!
Servant 1: (off) Light!
Xerxes: Light, ho! Now unseemly am I waked from sleep by some vexation of which I know not. ‘T is like the dream of Nebuchadnezzar which did disturb his rest. Unbelike ourselves the Babylonian did have a torch or brazier to bring illumination to ponder that which lay hidden before him. Curse this darkness! Light!
Exit King Xerxes
Re-enter Servant 1 and Servant 2
Servant 1: Light ho!
Xerxes: (off) Light by the four winds!
Servant 2: Here, came it from back this way!
Servant 1: Be still! Be still! Are those footfalls here?
Servant 2: ‘Tis but dripping of yon garden’s fountains
Servant 1: Find we him with light or no, our heads are forfeit.
Servant 2: I could strike thee and feign robbery.
Servant 1: An’ say I was robbed for my fire?
Servant 2: ‘T is in demand from the king, makes it not that valuable?
Servant 1: King may wish to vomit ‘pon his pleasure, but that makes it not fashionable nor valuable.
Servant 2: So sure are you? Fashions are but fickle airs with nowt substance but that carry weight enough to drown a man in its whimsies.
Servant 1 & 2: Hold there!
Haman: Peace! Peace. Look thee upon me as if I were not of flesh and blood? Flushed am I from my haste to these royal halls; I seek the king.
Servant 2: As do we.
Haman: Hast he not retired this night?
Servant 1: Indeed, he did as his fashion. But presently he is found with his chamber disturbe’d from repose and calling o’er the desert seas for a light.
Servant 2: So swift doth he pace these halls we are at a loss to carry his command.
Haman: Search thee not together, but diverge thy ways so that thy hunt shall be double’d
Servant 1: Aye, an’ done and done.
Haman: Well, get thee gone! Do and do! “T is not my place to keep servant’s times and ways, I am in haste on king’s business.
Servant 2: We shall presently so!
Exuent Servant 1 and Servant 2
Haman: Leave me not thus! Sirrah!
Xerxes: (off) Light!
Haman: What ho! Blinded so! Such sounds come from inky stuffs, an’ not from sighted archways and halls. ‘T is strange how oft the ear needs the eye to hear. Hallo!
Re-enter King Xerxes
Xerxes: Ho! We doth command armies and whole peoples of all different languages, but can we not command a single torch? Light!
Servant 1: Light!
Xerxes: Comes now our rescue when our eyes have become akin to this darkened veil.
Re-enter Servant 1 with a light
Servant 1: Light! My gracious sovereign.
Xerxes: What fancy is this to leave thy king thus, sirrah?
Servant 1: Pardons, highness. As thy presence doth fill this palace, this city, nay, this empire from border to border and beyond, so does thy royal voice fill these halls so that his majesty comes from this chamber and that, from thence and from thither all at once.
Xerxes: I am unsettled!
Servant 1: Again, pardons, highness—
Xerxes: Hold thy tongue thou knave! I’faith peace! Fetch hither the chronicles of our reign; we wish to review our enoble’d career.
Servant 1: At once, sire.
Exit Servant 1
Re-enter Servant 1
Servant 1: Highness?
Xerxes: Leave us not in this darkness presently! We shall follow.
Exuent King Xerxes and Servant 1
Haman: Light! Zounds! I would make scaffoldings for all these sluggard servants. Methinks they are like unto mice, whose scurryings can be heard, but never seen in th’ storehouse. And yet, i’faith, families, clans, whole tribes of furried vermin may live underfoot an’ ne’er be found save for their gnawings and leavings.
Servant 2: (off) Light!
Haman: Patters my mouse now; I hear his squeakings. Light!
Re-enter Servant 2
Servant 2: Good, my royal head of virtue, forgive my tardiness to thy service.
Haman: Rise, knave, I am in good spirits this eve, for Mordecai hangs anon in my garden ‘pon a seventy foot scaffold. Forgive I thee thy trespass.
Servant 2: Pardon, good sir, I mistook thee for the crown!
Haman: That is an easy transgression, as well.
Servant 2: I must needs find his royal eye for by this light to see by.
Haman: Stay you! Leave me not in this black cloud of night or I shall see thee laid open and flayed. Now, our way lies along the same path, our noble Xerxes our destination both. We shall together take this path and search for our lord and master.
Servant 2: A flock of pardons, my lord, but come I just from that manner and found him not within. Nay, not a jot.
Haman: Come, then. Our path lies the same, it matters not which we take.
Exeunt Haman and Servant 2
Re-enter King Xerxes and Servant 1 with Carshena, Shether and Memucan
Carshena: …after having sufficient evidence to secure their guilt, the conspirators Bigthana and Teresh were executed and displayed.
Xerxes: We were greatly pleased at the undoing of so spoile’d a fruit so hatefully grown. Our noble wife did warn us of their treacherous thoughts e’en as her first official duty.
Shether: ‘Struth, noble lord, thy queen acted as messenger for the one who did overhear the plot and report faithfully to now thy royal queen.
Xerxes: Indeed, that comes t’ mind as it comes t’ ear. Who among us did tell of this plotting?
Carshena: One Mordecai the Jew, my king.
Xerxes: The very same. But now we are at a wilderness, for we cannot recall what honor we bestowe’d ‘pon our fortuitous guardian.
Memucan: The chronicles report none, my king.
Xerxes: What’s this?
Memucan: Mordecai was eclipse’d when thou didst raise Haman the Agagite to prominence, my liege. But as Haman rises as noble, Mordecai is his equal in ignoble.
Xerxes: That our royal person was spared by the hand of this man and we remain so beggardly in thanks and reward is a blot upon our brow. I’faith I have shone kindness greater to an enemy in battle, an’ one without valor, than I have to this patron subject.
Haman: (off) Halloo!
Xerxes: What’s this?
Servant 1: Haman the Agagite walks these halls this hour, my king. He seeks audience with you on some matter.
Re-enter Haman and Servant 2
Haman: My noble king, may thy royal crown live forever! I have a mind that harkens to all speed of attention.
Xerxes: Our friend Haman, we have also a mind that harkens to all speed of attention.
Haman: My king shall but speak, I am his servant. Then in turn shall I lay my will before thy royal ear.
Xerxes: Thou art best to know and advise us in this dear Haman: what should be done for the man the king delights to honor?
Haman: (aside) Zounds! I am doubly grace’d this night! First the queen doth honor me with her banquet and tonight the king doth ask what honor he can bestow ‘pon my brow. Treble shall my fortune be honore’d when he doth grant my demand to kill mordecai and hang his body ‘pon my scaffold seventy feet high. –My king is gracious beyond the sands and the sun and the stars.
For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king himself has worn and a horse the king himself has ridden, one with a royal crest placed ‘pon its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the streets proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”
Xerxes: Thou art gifted in tongue and sight, for this doth please us greatly. Go at once, get the robe and the horse and do just as you suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended. But first, we shall hear thy petition.
Haman: (Aside) All is lost! In one single thunderbolt I am struck down! I cannot refuse the command of the king though I shriek from within at this bidding. Doubly am I undone, for I dare not ask to hang the very man my king hath commanded me to honor!
-- My king, my desires are thine own. As I do this thing that so pleases thee may I continue to be thy loyal and trustworthy servant.
(Aside) How shall I endure this day to come? My shame shall tower o’er my scaffold.
Xerxes: Having set our affairs to order, we shall retire this eve, for ‘t is late and much is requre’d of state business in the morn.
Exuent King Xerxes, Shether, Carshena, Memucan, Servant 1, Servant 2
Esther, The Hebrew Queen
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