Act III Scene iii
Prologue: And from the heights of glorification to the depths of despair, such it is to live by noble favor. (To VIP) Beggardly are we who scrap and scrape but to put upon these trappings and fancies. And such a trifle, nay, a drop in the sea ‘tis in a discerning purse, to make a ripple, nay a wave, nay a tide when but a jot of worth is placed in skilled hand and such revels can be invented with only a pittance. (again to VIP)
But soft, come we to the house of Haman and for the second time in as many eves, our noble master has not come home betimes.
The house of Haman, the next night
Enter Zeresh solus
Zeresh: Come not my husband home last eve, nor this day. ‘T is ‘bout time for him to prepare for the queen’s banquet again this night, but I’ve seen him not. Great a spectacle did I see from my rooftop, i’faith, for the king did honor some man today. Richly dressed was he in robes unmistakably regal, for I recognize the style emblazen’d ‘pon the king’s own garments.
Then did he ride ‘pon a noble stallion with royal crest ‘pon its head, groomed and plumed as for a parade. Ay, a one man parade it was, an’ in tow of a bedecked prince of some kind in his fine robes, calling to the streets “This is how the king gives honor to those he favors.”
Would that I could, for I could not for the crowd, discern if ‘t was my husband riding the horse or no. ‘T would not surprise me. Honors often become numb the oftener they are carrier.
Haman: (off) Undone! I am undone!
Zeresh: Comes my husband, drunk again?
Haman: (off) Woe unto this house!
Zeresh: What is this caterwauling?
Haman: I am undone!
Zeresh: What means thou by this, my husband? Why doth thou stagger about with thy head covered in such disgrace’d fashion?
Haman: Disgrace! Ay, thou hast name’d me true. Disgrace is my name! I cannot pass through the streets without murmurings of Disgrace, Scorn, Shame – for they are my badge, my dishonor guard.
Zeresh: Sober thy tongue and speak clear!
Haman: Sober, hah! (he drinks) Would that I were drunk! (he drinks) Would that my head were mottled and adrift in a sea of grape. (he drinks) Would that I were to purge a dry belly an’ heave my heart from my breast than to bear this shame! (he drinks)
Zeresh: Cease this discourse and tell plain! Cast not about lost in this desert of Babel. What is this that thou dost speak? What cause for such curse’d desire?
Haman: From its zenith I have fallen, fallen to earth into its bowels, and from the bowels, I am ill.
Zeresh: Steady thy composure! Speak not in such riddles as the writing on the wall. As thou doest love me, still thy body physic and spew up unto me the cause of thy affliction.
Haman: Hear my tail, O wife, and join in deep despair. Grieve with me as I impart this infamous day, rue the light of dawn that did herald it in. Departed I last eve to lay before the king my desire to seize upon Mordecai the Jew when I did meet ‘pon him deeply entwined upon matters of state.
Zeresh: Even as such hour?
Haman: Ay, the very hour. Wherefore he then did ask for my mind upon how the king should put honor upon one who has pleased him in his service. Thought I that he did mean to heap upon me whatever honor I should name for myself, and not being greedy in desiring jewel nor land, I bid him robe the honore’d one in his own purple robe, mount him ‘pon a royal horse of his own, then appoint a prince to lead the train through the streets proclaiming notice to all the favor the king may bestow upon those that please him.
Zeresh: This very spectacle I did see from the rooftop. Fancied I that thou might be the subject so richly saddle’d and nobly trumpeted.
Haman: O ruin! O shame! O despair!
Zeresh: Cry thee so for not riding in th’ saddle of praise? ‘T would be no such slight that the king should call attention to the valor of some other subject worthy of praise. Dost thou groan and moan for not being party to the king’s spectacle?
Haman: Ay, an’ that, an’ that, an’ that! Thou hast hit the mark! Would that I were not of that spectacle. Would that I were not! Saddle’d was I not, but truly did I lead the horse an’ shout my throat dry praises set forward, for the king bade me play the part of the hearald.
Zeresh: O stars above! O blowing desert winds! This is the nature of thy undoing? This is why thou dost howl as a dog and bray as an ass? Dost thou not understand? To stand next to the king is two edges like a sword, one of position and one of service. ‘Struth an’ some service of which that would likely be spurne’d by the basest digger of ditches.
Haman: Hold thy tongue, woman, and speak not so churlish, for I am in no humor for thy chidings. Such a display for the king I would swallow, as ‘t were a bitter pill, for I am a subject well versed in understanding of his place and stature.
Know thee the nature of the bile that wells within, that which vexes me to my nature, my very soul: the subject for whom I did cry the praises this full day was none other then the Jew I did seek to execute.
Zeresh: Mordecai? He who will not kneel?
Haman: Ay, the same. ‘T was only the blindest of chance that I did not blurt my request t’ kill the man who unbeknownst tome was most recent in the king’s favor.
Zeresh: What service hath he done of late?
Haman: None by my counting. He was famous a time for sounding out the assasins of the kin, but nowt had been done to his credit. Now the king repays with interest, drawing ‘pon my account to settle my enemy’s debt.
Zeresh: Good, my husband, now that he is in the kin’s favor, thou must give up thy designs ‘pon him.
Haman: Get thee gone!
Zeresh: Husband, give me thine ear! Thy place and position is well establishe’d; do not set the king ‘gainst his own affections – ‘t would go ill should he favor Mordecai above thy head. King’s favors are not the stuff my which to build a house upon. They are as undependable as a draw of the pur. Why doth thou stare at me so?
Haman: Out! Out, desert snake! Poison not my mind!
Zeresh: Harken unto me! ‘T is ruinous to pursue against this Jew! Think to all the enemies the king did sweep away with the wave of his hand; whose shoulders and heads were severe’d by a royal nod.
Haman: I have sworn his destruction, I will see it!
Zeresh: Then bide thy time in patient mask. Make thyself a friend unto him and then betray him at last. Promise him shelter from the king’s deadly edict and then present him as its first condemne’d subject.
Slay his family before his eyes – nay, preserve him to the end, so that he may see the entire people destroye’d; ground to dust like the Assyrian and the Babylonian before us. Then, when his heart grows heavy, blot out his eyes an’ carve up his tongue so he cannot shed tear nor shout his grief.
Spend what time thou will in plots an’ plots upon plots of his demise, and feast upon such thoughts and laugh thyself into dreams e’er comes the morn.
Haman: Methought the sun had dropped from the sky an’ I sunk into everlasting night. But thou my wife hath made the eclipse pass into bright day again. I’faith thou hast the cunning of th’ leopard with the sight of an eagle. Still have I my victory, and Mordecai the Jew will be no more come the thirteenth of Adar. I am heale’d in body and soul from the ravages of the day’s shame and public scorn.
Zeresh: Have thou not the still the king’s high seat? Art thou not twice summoned to the queen’s elite table?
Haman: Quick an’ away! My clouded mind had nowt the queen’s invitation ‘til thee had summoned it to the fore! I must needs be off to prepare for to drink and sup with the royal twain! I am gone!
Zereth: Ay, and thou art gone; but wherefore is known only to the winds, and they blow about as unsteady as our days.
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