Act II scene iii
Prologue: Now my dear gentles, the sun has fallen and risen but once while we find ourselves here in Queen Esther’s private chambers. Happy and content is our queen in her newly assigned matrimonial station, and all the world seems to praise her name, face and station. But such delights can be snatched away, and ‘pon its heels come wreck and ruin. Alas our queen, who is even ensared in intrigue and squabbles ancient and old that shake to th’ very foundations her being, and her fleeting happiness scorched in the heat of hatred and pride.
Queen Esther’s private chamber, the next day
Enter Esther, Hegai, and maidens.
Esther: This thirty day we have spent with our close companions and ladies, our king contented with his match and now attends to state affairs. Now is the day of our glorified brow and humble’d knee. Crowne’d queen of the mightiest empire known, to rival the pharaohs of Egypt old, fair and noble Xerxes our honore’d head. For this we have many to thank, chief among whom is Hegai, for his favor and guidance while we were in waiting for the king’s selection, and our generous patron Mordecai who did by advice and deed instille’d us in our chair of position.
Hegai: My queen doth indeed speak of her humble’d knee, but hath omitted her humble fortitude as well. For thou certainly is not bereft of wit nor charm to discern from many counsels her road that led upwards to her enthrone’d station. We hail the, queen Esther! Long be thy days and fair may they be.
Maidens: Hail queen Esther! Long be thy days!
Esther: Our dears, ‘t is time we esteem our wise cousin Mordecai and present him to our court here. We have sent Hathach to escourt him through the palace that we may present him ourself. Here he comes anon.
Hathach: Hail, queen Esther, may light shine upon thee and may thy king live forever.
Esther: Sent we not thee to bring to us our patron?
Hathach: Please, O queen, be not angry with me, but my charge, this same Mordecai stands at the outer gates.
Esther: Why stands he not before our eyes this moment? Give thy tongue all speed, for we are anxious to receive our gentle benefactor.
Hathach: My gracious queen, he does wait without; the keepers of the king’s gate will not allow him entrance, he is dressed so.
Esther: What say thee? Sent we not such garments from our royal tailors to adorn him well from brow to foot? Offend these royal rags the gate keeper’s eye?
Hathach: Nay, my noble queen, I beseech thee to stay thy hand against my person for bringing thee this displeasature.
Esther: We forgive thee all pains in thy account, save for thy needless petitions. We hold not the tidings of thy report against thee, save for what thou dost hold from us.
Hathach: The guard holds no discrimination for thy cousin for his person or station. In truth, they do favor his company on his daily vigils.
Hegai: Thy benefactor doth still watch thee, e’en tho’ thou hath a crown ‘pon thy brow. A most tenacious watchdog is he.
Esther: We will have it plain! Why is not our cousin before us this hour?
Hathach: Thy cousin doth seek to gain admittance dressed in sackcloth, and is covered from pate to toe in ash. ‘T is for this display that he is spurne’d at city’s entrance.
Esther: What say thee? Hast died some close kin, neighbor or friend? Hast our homeland pilgrimages been raided or routed? Lay our native cities in smoke cinders burning? Speak, sirrah, and leave out not the least tincture of thy oration.
Hathach: Sat he in the open square before the gates and did he impart this discourse unto me: his spurning of the king’s favore’d Haman has led to a decree to be sent out to all provinces.
Esther: Weave unto me the pattern of this discourse and harken unto all its threads, We are at all attention.
Hathach: Good queen, I have well rehearsed his sending for he did have me give recounting of it until its perfection spun from my lips.
Upon the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, all the Jews are to be destroyed. He did also entreat me to deliver unto thee this copy of the text of the order.
Esther: How’s this?
Hathach: Further, he did tell me that Haman did offer to place into the royal treasury ten thousand talents of silver plundered from Abraham’s race to ensure the order carried to its letter.
Esther: Seale’d is this order with the king’s own seal!
Hathach: Then did he implore me to persuade thee to go into the king’s presence t’ beg mercy and plead with him for her people.
Hegai: Mean he plead for thy people as subjects, or thy people as kin, my gracious queen?
Esther: Sirrah! Return without and tell Mordecai that for to appear before the king without summon there is but one law: that the offender be put to death. Excepted only that the king extend the gold scepter and spare life; i’faith, full thirty days have passed since we were called to his most royal presence.
Hathach: Forgive these words, O my patient queen, for though they come form my tongue, they are only the means by which thy cousin doth speak to thee – but this post script he did impart upon me before sending me hither: “Do not think that because thou art in the king’s house thou alone of all Jews will escape this scourge. For if thou alone doest remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but thee and thy father’s family wilt perish. And who knows but that thou hast come to royal position for such a time as this for thy kith and kin.”
My pardon, great queen.
Hegai: (Aside) By the four winds, now is the veil remove’d. My patient inquiry hast been repaid in happenstance and unhappy tidings.
My desert flower’s tendrils doth trail to be rooted in the valley ‘twixt the seas. She is queen in the manner of Saul, David and Solomon: Hail the Hebrew queen. We are at thy service to command.
Maid 1: Hail! Our noble queen.
Maid 2: Hail! We are thy hands to guide.
Maid 3: Hail! We do pledge our affections to thee..
Esther: As thou doest love us, thou shalt keep what thou hast learne’d this hour as we have kept faith with our cousin our heritage and birth.
Maid 1: As thou hast our devotion, thou hast our silence.
Maid 2: Ours is but only for thy will and desire.
Maid 3: Direct us how we may serve thee, our queen.
Hegai: By all that binds, truly thou hast our word and our bond.
Esther: Sirrah, go and give this report back to our cousin: gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for us. Neither are they to eat nor drink for three days hence, night nor day. We and our maids shall fast as they do. When this is done, we shall go to the king, even though to go unbidden is against decree. And if we perish, we perish.
Do not let thyself become delayed nor distracted, thou art on queen’s business, and hold thy royal mistress in thy hands. Go now.
Hathach: As I am gone, it is done.
Esther: Follow us, fair maids, and we shall instruct thee in supplication and denial, though our seat affords us authority and indulgence. (Aside) Jehovah, my Sovereign, hear thy servant.
Exuent Esther and maids
Hegai: And thus it is to play the part of kings and queens. For as there are kings for nobles, the nobles lord over the officials, the officials over the citizenry, the man over his house, the woman over the servants, and the boy over his flock. And as the subjects are but instruments to carry the will of their overlord, so are kings and queens and nobles and men and women and servants and boys subject to gods and their will. In the end we are all equal to kings and equal subjects in the vast kingdom of man.
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