Act II Scene i
A hall in the citadel of Susa, a month later
Enter Trest and Brem
Trest: --And thus the thick Philistine did drink the barrel of vinegar, and then, without change of face, did in all earnest pronounce it an excellent vintage of grape!
Brem: I’faith, methinks my belly ‘t will burst
Trest: From mirth, or from girth?
Brem: Ay, both, and neither. ‘T was enough in th’ glory of his noble display drinking to our good king Xerxes.
Trest: To the king’s health.
Brem & Trest: To the king. (They drink)
Brem: But with the royal wedding and our most gracious Esther, our newly establishe’d queen—
Trest: To the newly establishe’d queen’s health.
Brem & Trest: To the queen (They drink)
Brem: ‘Tis enough to make one dizzy with such endless revelry!
Trest: To our own health in endless revelry!
Brem : To dizzy revelry!
Brem & Trest: To our dizzy health (They drink)
Trest: ‘Struth, indeed. Not a day into the wedding fests and the queen doth point to conspiracy ‘gainst the king by his own chamberlains. Swiftly were they found out and impale’d until dead, an now hang they ‘pon gallows for us to drink their unhealthy.
Brem: To their unhealth!
Trest: To the conspirators! (They drink) Eyes plucke’d out by feasting ravens, may they serve as reminder ‘gainst all that plan ill against our most gracious king!
Brem: To our most gracious king!
Trest: To the king! (They drink)
Brem: How see thee this, my good nog. ‘T is said the plot first discovere’d by a Benjamite Jew named Mordecai, didst hear the conspiracy in this very hall. Yet the king’s hand of favor passe’d over him, and he did exalt Haman, the Agagite, even above all royal officials and advisors. ‘Struth, an now, to whom this glorified one, during this festive time, we are oblige’d to kneel in homage every day.
Trest: Mark you, also, that Mordecai bends not his knee to the newly honore’d Haman, when the populace does so by decree of royal command.
Brem: Here now comes our most effective and affected sheriff of Susa! How now, Mordecai!
Mordecai: Health to thee, gentles all.
Brem: And health to thee, gentle Mordecai.
Trest & Brem: To Mordecai’s health. (They drink)
Trest: Stoup thee with us, noble sir?
Mordecai: Gracious thanks, but I decline; I wish to retain my memory of these days, these happy hours.
Brem: Call these hours happy, good sir?
Mordecai: Ay, as dreams come to pass, I have secure’d the future of one dearest to me as happy as could be provided.
Trest: (Aside) Surely, means he, the life of our gracious king. –I ‘faith, thou hast saved our dearest king from peril and its reward the king’s happiness, indeed. But hope for thee not more from the hand of our gracious Xerxes, noble Mordecai?
Mordecai: Eh? What say you?
Brem: Indeed, our enriched friend; seek thee not fortune nor position from our grateful king? His hand of honor and favor come tardy upon thee and rest his royal doting ‘pon our recently esteeme’d Haman.
Mordecai: Call me not noble nor rich for I care for neither; my reward this day is beyond what may be possesse’d. But mention not that name unto me, no not in fair terms of esteem: it doth burn ‘pon my ears to hear ‘t, and alights the fire of my empassione’d wrath. Fury doth rattle and rage within my breast to hear it sounded in reverence from border to border.
Trest: Hail us not with the maelstrom of thy fury, afeare’d are we to bear its brunt and survive it not; but we shall bend our tipsy ears if thou wouldst disgorge to us the cause of thy displeasure’d bile.
Brem: To thy displeasure’d bile! (He drinks)
Trest: Pickle thy tongue and plague us not with thy wilted knaveries, sodden sot! Esteeme’d Mordecai, we stand as thy confederates in confession, open thy mind and loose thy tongue unto us, and we shall in silence and all sympathy bear thy burdens that do vex thy brow.
Mordecai: Come hither, an’ open thy ears and seal thy lips for what I shall impart unto thee. Marked you, this day, the command to esteem the Agagite, Haman, that we all bow to our knees to his name when announce’d at celebration, and then comes ‘pon its heels the order that we should stand in his presence?
Brem: With all attention, for ‘t was a royal command!
Trest: Yet we noticed thou didst defy these accolades of reverence when all others kneeled.
Brem: Thought we the jealousy for his honor rooted in the slight from the king’s eye despite thy assassination report.
Mordecai: Nay, my swaying friends. I grudge not any man who has caught the favor of the king; for his whims are his to indulge, not mine to judge. Such is the nature of kings and subjects.
Trest: Then why this defiance at thy own peril ‘gainst the favore’d Haman?
Mordecai: Bear thy ears to mine, without falling down, and I shall open the fullness of my means unto thee both. Some five hundred years hence my people left bondage in Egypt to a land promised to us by Our Most Sovereign God Jehovah.
Brem: Such we have heard of the Jews an’ the plagues of Egypt. ‘T was murmered that Jews would bring plagues ‘pon our land anon when we didst take thee into captivity. ‘T is why it pleases us to see thee an’ thine free to emigrate to thy homeland.
Trest: Ay, not unlike the flight of the migratory birds what roost here an’ there at seasons, but without return.
Mordecai: God does as God does. Upon our destined journey, we were set upon by the people of Amalek, much to our God’s displeasure. His words to our people was that our God Himself would be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation. Israel was not to forget, but must blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.
Trest: Amalek stands not today, to my knowledge.
Mordecai: Ay, king Saul did war with Amelek, and crushed that city and scattered its people.
Brem: I rattle my ears for sense. How then does Haman the Agagite earth thy wrath?
Mordecai: Our memories are long, and must needs be when the nation is commanded by God. The king of Amelek slain at the battle was named Agag. This Haman is the descendant of that hated king, and thus my enemy by tradition commanded and deific decree.
Trest: And now doth this enemy enjoy the highest of the king’s favor.
Mordecai: Ay, he may enjoy royal honors of a king, but still bears he the ill mark of our God.
Brem: I think the stars that I am merely a humble servant in the house of our gracious king.
Trest: To the king!
Brem: An’ to thy God; we drink His health.
Mordecai: Ay, an’ Brem does as Brem does. Fare thee well, my gentles. My spirit is restless and thy spirits are wrestling with thy heads.
Enter Carshena, Shether, Memucan and Haman
Carshena: Hear you all, citizens of Persia and all lands of the 127 provinces from Cush to India. Entering these halls comes the revere’d Haman, of whom king Xerxes, my his kingship reign forever, has decreed all shall show honor. Stand in his presence as he passes, by decree of Xerxes the king.
Brem: Oh, fortune’s smile keep me from passing away!
Trest: Hail, revere’d Haman!
Trest: Mordecai! Defy him not to his eye! Let not this prejudice lead thee to breach royal decree.
Mordecai: Thou hast but one decree, I have another. He is Jehovah’s enemy.
Memucan: Sirrah! Help thy sick friend, there, to his feet.
Mordecai: He cannot help me, nor am I sick. I shall remain seated as I am.
Haman: Is this the rebel of whom I have heard hath defile’d my honor these past days?
Shether: Art thou Mordecai the Jew?
Mordecai: When I sent to the king of his peril, I did send word that Mordecai, his faithful servant, doth beseech his majesty; I did not think to call myself Jew, then.
Haman: Thou say thou art the king’s faithful servant?
Mordecai: In all ways that such as I can humbly serve a mighty king, I am.
Haman: Yet thou doth spurn his royal command to kneel in my honor when homage is calle’d ‘pon, and thou wilt not rise in my presence.
Mordecai: Faith, my lord, I can never remember when to do which, when to rise and when to kneel, and so I recline seated ‘twixt the two.
Haman: Think thou art the king’s savior and are exempt from his command?
Mordecai ‘Struth, I did hear the king declare a man elevated to a seat higher than all but I find not a man in bearing and stature to be so honore’d. Are you this man’s servant? For I am anxious to meet him.
Haman: When thou insultest the king’s man, thou insultest the king!
Mordecai: Then take off thy mask and reveal for us the ass thou art; for it honors not the king to bestow such offices ‘pon the braying beasts of the field.
Haman: Jew! I shall see thee punished for thy brackish tongue!
Mordecai: As my ancient father Saul, a Jew and a Benjamite, brought down thy ancestor Agag, I swear to thee this day that I shall see thee fall from thy high seat, and thou wilt join the ranks of those hung ‘pon the impaling stakes of the citadel’s walls that display the condemn’d of this kingdom.
Haman: Mark thee, Jew! Thou hast seale’d the fate for thyself and thy people. I shall go to the king and receive from him seale’d orders to sweep all thy generations from every hill and valley of this kingdom. And I shall hang thee out for the ravens to peck upon, and then will I call a great feasting so they not dine alone. See thou whose oath will come to pass! Away!
Exuent Haman, Carshena, Shether, and Memucan
Brem: Faith, good sir, I have cousins in Persepolis. Mayhap they can hie thee safely to thy homeland. The emigration to Israel is quite popular betimes.
Mordecai: Thy kindness strikes me deep, but I shall not flee in the face of this one and his threats and oaths. Who knows, maybe some good shall come of this, i’faith, I know not. Be that as it may, my friends, it seems I am dangerous company today. Let’s see thee to thy reveling, and I to mine own means.
Trest: May the four winds blow thy way.
Brem: Fare thee well.
Brem: Mark thus, Trest. With the beauteous queen Vashti and now the noble Mordecai, must all our revels end in grievous disaster?
Trest: Empty is my cup and hollow is my heart; full is my belly and heavy is my head. Vex me not with such riddles while I still have eyes to see and legs to carry me to bed.
Exeunt Brem and Trest
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