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Full Online Book HomePlaysMaster Olof: A Drama In Five Acts - Act 2 - Scene 3
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Master Olof: A Drama In Five Acts - Act 2 - Scene 3 Post by :eagle75 Category :Plays Author :August Strindberg Date :May 2012 Read :2584

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Master Olof: A Drama In Five Acts - Act 2 - Scene 3

ACT II - SCENE III

(The Sacristy of the Church of St. Nicolaus. There is a door leading to the church, and another, smaller one, leading to the pulpit. The walls are hung with chasubles and surplices. Priedieus and a few small chests are standing about. The sunlight is pouring in through a window. The church bells are heard ringing. Through the wall at the left can be heard a constant murmuring. The Sexton and his Wife enter, stop near the door, and pray silently.)

SEXTON.
That's enough! Now, Catherine dear, you'd better hurry up and do some dusting.

WIFE.
Oh, there's no special occasion. It's nobody but that Master Olof who's going to preach to-day. Really, I can't see why the Chapter allows it.

SEXTON.
Because he's got permission from the King, you see.

WIFE.
Well, well!

SEXTON.
And then he has had a sort of basket built out from the wall--nothing but new-fangled tricks! It's all on account of that man Luther.

WIFE.
I suppose we'll have the same kind of trouble that we had yesterday. I thought they were going to pull the whole church down.

SEXTON
(carrying a glass of water up to the pulpit).

I'm sure the poor fellow will need something to wet his whistle to-day.

WIFE.
Well, I shouldn't bother, if I were you.

SEXTON
(speaking from the pulpit).

Catherine--here he comes!

WIFE.
Goodness gracious, and the sermon bell hasn't rung yet! Well, I suppose they won't ring it for a fellow like him.

(Enter Olof, looking serious and solemn. He crosses to one of the prie-dieus and kneels on it. The Sexton comes down from the pulpit and takes from the wall a surplice which he holds out to Olof.)

OLOF
(rising).

The peace of the Lord be with you!

(The Wife curtseys and leaves the room. The Sexton holds out the vestment again.)

OLOF.
Leave it hanging!

SEXTON.
Don't you want any robe?

OLOF.
No.

SEXTON.
But it's always used. And the handkerchief?

OLOF.
Never mind.

SEXTON.
Well, I declare!

OLOF.
Will you please leave me alone, my friend?

SEXTON.
You want me to get out? But as a rule, I--

OLOF.
Do me the favor, please!

SEXTON.
Oh, well! Of course! But first I want to tell you that you'll find the missal to the right of you as you get up, and I have put in a stick so you'll know where to open it, and there is a glass of water beside the book. And you mustn't forget to turn the hour-glass, or it may chance you'll keep it up a little too long--

OLOF.
Don't worry! There will be plenty of people to tell me when to quit.

SEXTON.
Mercy, yes--beg your pardon! But you see, we've got our own customs here.

OLOF.
Tell me, what is that depressing murmur we hear?

SEXTON.
It's some pious brother saying prayers for a poor soul. (Exit.)

OLOF.
"Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee."--God help me! (He drops on his knees at a prie-dieu; there he finds a note, which he reads.) "Don't preach to-day; your life is in danger."--The Tempter himself wrote that! (He tears the note to pieces.)

(Enter Olof's Mother.)

MOTHER.
You are straying from the right path, my son.

OLOF.
Who knows?

MOTHER.
I know! But as your mother I reach out my hand to you. Turn back!

OLOF.
Where would you lead me?

MOTHER.
To godliness and virtue.

OLOF.
If godliness and virtue are vested in papal decrees, then I fear it is too late.

MOTHER.
It isn't only a question of what you teach, but of how you live.

OLOF.
I know you are thinking of my company last night, but I am too proud to answer you. Nor do I think it would do any good.

MOTHER.
Oh, that I should be thus rewarded for the sacrifice I made when I let you go out into the world and study!

OLOF.
By heaven, your sacrifice shall not be wasted! It is you, mother, I have to thank for this day when at last I can stand forth with a free countenance and speak the words of truth.

MOTHER.
How can _you talk of truth, you who have made yourself a prophet of lies?

OLOF.
Those are hard words, mother!

MOTHER.
Or perhaps I and my forbears have lived and worshipped and died in a lie?

OLOF.
It wasn't a lie, but it has become one. When you were young, mother, you were right, and when I grow old--well, perhaps I may find myself in the wrong. One cannot keep apace with the times.

MOTHER.
I don't understand!

OLOF.
This is my one sorrow--the greatest one of my life: that all I do and say with the purest purpose must appear to you a crime and sacrilege.

MOTHER.
I know what you mean to do, Olof--I know what error you have fallen into--and I cannot hope to persuade you out of it, for you know so much more than I do, and I am sure that the Lord will put you on the right path again--but I ask you to take care of your own life, so that you won't plunge headlong into perdition! Don't risk your life!

OLOF.
What do you mean? They won't kill me in the pulpit, will they?

MOTHER.
Haven't you heard that Bishop Brask wants the Pope to introduce the law that sends all heretics to the stake?

OLOF.
The inquisition?

MOTHER.
Yes, that's what they call it.

OLOF.
Leave me, mother! To-day I must stand up and preach.

MOTHER.
You shall not do it.

OLOF.
Nothing can prevent me.

MOTHER.
I have prayed to God that He would touch your heart--I'll tell you, but you mustn't speak of it to anybody. I am weak with age, and I couldn't trust my own knees, so I went to see a servant of the Lord and asked him, who is nearer to God, to say some prayers for your soul. He refused because you are under the ban. Oh, it's dreadful! May the Lord forgive me my sin! I bribed the pure conscience of that man with gold--with the Devil's own gold--just to save you!

OLOF.
Mother, what do I hear? It can't be possible!

MOTHER
(takes Olof by the hand and leads
him over to the left, close to the wall).

Listen! Do you hear? He is praying for you now in the chapel next to this room.


OLOF.
So that was the murmur I heard! Who is he?

MOTHER.
You know him--Brother Marten, of the Dominicans--

OLOF.
You get Satan to say prayers for me!--Forgive me, mother--I thank you for your good intention, but--

MOTHER
(on her knees, weeping).

Olof! Olof!


OLOF.
Don't ask me! A mother's plea might tempt the angels of heaven to recant!--Now the hymn is ended: I must go! The people are waiting.

MOTHER.
You'll send me into my grave, Olof!

OLOF
(passionately).
The Lord will resurrect you!

(Kissing her hand.)

Don't talk to me any more--I don't know what I am saying!

MOTHER.
Listen! Listen! The people are muttering!

OLOF.
I'm coming! I'm coming! He who protected Daniel in the lions' den will also protect me!

(Olof ascends the stairs leading to the pulpit. Throughout the ensuing scenes a man's voice can be heard speaking with great power, but no words can be distinguished. After a while mutterings are heard, which change into loud cries.)

(Enter Christine.)

CHRISTINE.
Mother, did you see him?

MOTHER.
Are you here, child? I asked you to stay at home!

CHRISTINE.
Why shouldn't I visit the house of the Lord? There is something you hide from me!

MOTHER.
Go home, Christine!

CHRISTINE.
May I not hear Olof preach? It's the word of God, isn't it, mother?

(The Mother remains silent.)

You don't answer? What does it mean? Hasn't Olof permission to preach? Why do the people out there look so mysterious? They were muttering when I came.

MOTHER.
Don't ask me! Go home and thank God for your ignorance!

CHRISTINE.
Am I a child, then, since nobody dares to tell me--

MOTHER.
Your soul is still pure, and nobody must defile it. What place is there for you in the battle?

CHRISTINE.
Battle? I thought so!

MOTHER.
Yes, here the battle rages, and so you must get out of the way. You know our lot when the men go to war.

CHRISTINE.
But let me first know what it is all about. Not to know anything at all makes me so unhappy. I see nothing but a dreadful darkness, and shadows that are moving about--Give me light, so that I may see clearly! Perhaps I know these ghostly shallows?

MOTHER.
You will shudder when you see who they are.

CHRISTINE.
It is better to shudder than to be tormented by this horrible calm.

MOTHER.
Don't pray for the cloud to flash forth lightning: it may destroy you!

CHRISTINE.
You frighten me! But tell me the truth--I must know--or I shall ask some one else.

MOTHER.
Are you firm in your decision to withdraw within the sacred walls of the convent?

CHRISTINE.
My father wishes it.

MOTHER.
You hesitate?

(Christine does not answer.)

There is some tie that holds you back.

CHRISTINE.
You know?

MOTHER.
I know, and tell you to break it!

CHRISTINE.
It will soon be impossible.

MOTHER.
I will save you, child, for you can still be saved. I will offer the Lord the greatest sacrifice of all if a single soul can be saved from perdition--my son!

CHRISTINE.
Olof?

MOTHER.
He's lost, I tell you, and I, his mother, have to tell you so!

CHRISTINE.
Lost?

MOTHER.
He is a prophet of lies. The Devil has taken possession of his soul.

CHRISTINE
(passionately).

It isn't true!

MOTHER.
God grant that you are right!

CHRISTINE.
Why--why haven't you told me this before?--But, of course, it's a lie! (She goes to the door leading into the church and pushes it ajar.) Look at him, mother--there he is! Can that be an evil spirit speaking out of his mouth? Can that be a hellish flame burning in his eyes? Can lies be told with trembling lips? Does darkness shed light--can't you see the halo about his head? You are wrong! I feel it within me! I don't know what he preaches--I don't know what he denies--but he is right! He is right, and the Lord is with him!

MOTHER.
You don't know the world, my child. You don't know the tricks of the Devil. Beware! (She pulls Christine away from the door.) You mustn't listen to him. There is no strength in your soul, and he's the apostle of Antichrist!

CHRISTINE.
Who is Antichrist?

MOTHER.
He is a Luther!

CHRISTINE.
You have never told me who Luther is, but if Olof is his apostle, then Luther must be a great man.

MOTHER.
Luther is possessed of the Devil!

CHRISTINE.
Why didn't you tell me before? Now I can't believe you!

MOTHER.
I am telling you now--Alas, I wanted to save you from the world's wickedness, and so I kept you in ignorance--

CHRISTINE.
I don't believe you! Let me go! I must see him--I must listen to him--for he doesn't talk like the rest.

MOTHER.
Jesus, my Saviour! Are you, too, possessed by the unclean spirit?

CHRISTINE
(at the door).

"Bind not the souls," he said--did you hear? "You are free, for the Lord has set you free." See how the people shudder at his words--now they rise up--they mutter. "You want no freedom--woe unto you! For that is the sin against the Holy Ghost!"

(Enter Sexton.)

SEXTON.
I don't think it's well for you to stay here any longer, my good ladies. The people are getting restless. This will never end well for Master Olof.

MOTHER.
Jesu Maria! What are you saying?

CHRISTINE.
Fear not! The spirit of the Lord is with him!

SEXTON.
Well, I don't know about that, but he's a wonder at preaching. Old sinner that I am, I couldn't keep from crying where I was sitting in the organ-loft. I don't understand how it can be possible for a heretic and an Antichrist to talk like that. That man Luther, I must say, I--

(Cries are heard from the church.)

There, there! Now something dreadful is going to happen again! And to think that the King should be gone just now!

MOTHER.
Let us get away from here. If the Lord is with him, they can do him no harm. If it be the Devil--then Thy will be done, O Lord--but forgive him!

(Cries are heard outside. Exeunt the Mother, Christine, and the Sexton. For a few moments the stage stands empty and Olof's voice is heard more clearly than before. It is interrupted by cries and the rattling of stones thrown at the pulpit. Christine returns alone, locks the door on the inside, and falls on her knees at a prie-dieu. A number of violent blows are directed against the door from without, while the tumult in the church continues to increase. Then silence is restored, as Olof descends from the pulpit. His forehead is bleeding and he wears a haggard look.)

OLOF
(dropping into a chair without perceiving Christine).

In vain! They will not! I take the fetters from the prisoner, and he hits me. I tell him he is free, and he doesn't believe me. Is that word "free" so big, then, that it can't be contained in a human brain? Oh, that I had one at least who believed--but to be alone--a fool whom no one understands--

CHRISTINE
(coming forward).

I believe in you, Olof!

OLOF.
Christine!

CHRISTINE.
_You are right!

OLOF.
How do you know?

CHRISTINE.
I can't tell, but I believe it. I have been listening to you.

OLOF.
And you do not curse me?

CHRISTINE.
You are preaching the word of God, are you not?

OLOF.
I am!

CHRISTINE.
Why have we not been told these things before? Or why have they been told us in a language that we do not understand?

OLOF.
Who has put those words into your mouth, girl?

CHRISTINE.
Who? I haven't thought of asking.

OLOF.
Your father?

CHRISTINE.
He wants me to enter a convent.

OLOF.
Has it come to that? And what is your own wish?

CHRISTINE
(catching sight of Olof's bleeding forehead).

They have hurt you, Olof! For heaven's sake, let me help you!

OLOF
(sitting down again).

Have I unsettled your faith, Christine?

CHRISTINE
(takes the handkerchief, tears it into strips,
and begins to dress Olof's wounds while speaking).

My faith? I don't understand you.--Tell me, who is Luther?

OLOF.
I mustn't tell you.

CHRISTINE.
Always the same answer! From my father, from your mother, and from yourself. Are you timid about telling me the truth, or is the truth really dangerous?

OLOF.
Truth is dangerous. Can't you see? (He points to his forehead.)

CHRISTINE.
So you want me to be shut up in a convent cell to live a lifeless life in ignorance? (Olof does not reply.) You want me to weep away my life and my youth, and to keep on saying those endlessly long prayers until my soul is put to sleep? No--I won't do it, for now I am awake. All around me they are fighting, and suffering, and despairing. I have seen it, but I was to have no share in it. I was not even to look on, or to know the purpose of the fighting. You wanted me to be sunk in bestial slumber. But don't you believe me possessed of a soul, then--a soul that cannot be satisfied by bread or by dry prayers put into my mouth by others? "Bind not the spirits," you said. Oh, if you could only know how that word pierced me! Daylight came, and those wild cries out there sounded like the singing of birds in the morning--

OLOF.
You are a woman, Christine, and not born to fight!

CHRISTINE.
But in the name of God, let me suffer, then! Only not be asleep! Don't you see that the Lord has awakened me in spite of all? You have never dared to tell me who Antichrist was. You have never dared to tell me who Luther was, and when your mother called you a Luther, I blessed Luther. If he be a heretic or a believer, I don't know, and I don't care; for no one--whether it be Luther, or the Pope, or Antichrist-can satisfy my immortal soul when I have no faith in the eternal God.

OLOF.
Will you follow me into the battle, Christine? For you can sustain me, and you only!

CHRISTINE.
Now I am able to answer you with a frank "yes," for I know my own will--and I can do so without asking father first, for I am free. Oh, I am free!

OLOF.
And do you know what is in store for you?

CHRISTINE.
I know! You will not have to shatter my mocking dreams--they are already gone. But you may be sure that I, too, have been dreaming of a knight who was to lay a kingdom at my feet and talk to me of flowers and love--Olof, I want to be your wife! Here is my hand! But this much I must tell you: that you never have been the knight of my dreams, and that I thank God he never came. For then he had also gone--as a dream.

OLOF.
Christine, you want to be mine--and I will make you happy. For when I suffered sorrow and temptation, you were always in my mind--and now you shall be at my side! You were the maiden of my dreams, kept captive in a tower by the stern castellan--and now you are mine!

CHRISTINE.
Beware of dreams, Olof!

(Blows are heard on the door from outside.)

OLOF.
Who is that?

VOICE
(outside).

Gert.

OLOF. What will he say? My promise--

CHRISTINE.
Are you afraid? Shall I open?

(Olof opens the door.)

(Enter Gert.)

GERT
(starting at the sight of his daughter and Olof).

Christine?--You have broken your promise, Olof!


OLOF.
I have not.

GERT.
You lie! You have stolen my child, my one solace.

CHRISTINE.
Olof is not lying.

GERT.
You have been to church, Christine?

CHRISTINE.
I have heard what you didn't want me to hear.

GERT.
O Lord, this only joy Thou hast begrudged me!

OLOF.
The stream that you wanted to set free takes its victims where it can.

GERT.
You have robbed me of her, of my child!

OLOF.
Give her to me, Father Gert!

GERT.
Never!

OLOF. Is she not free?

GERT.
She is my child.

OLOF.
Are you not preaching freedom? She is mine! The Lord has given her to me, and you cannot take her away.

GERT.
You are--thank God--a priest.

OLOF and CHRISTINE.
A priest!

GERT.
And as such you cannot marry.

OLOF.
And if I do?

GERT.
You would dare?

OLOF.
I would.

GERT.
Do you want a man who is under the ban, Christine?

CHRISTINE.
I don't know what that means.

OLOF.
There you see, Gert, there you see!

GERT.
Thy punishment is harsh, O Lord!

OLOF.
The truth is for all.

GERT.
Your love is greater than mine, which was nothing but selfishness. God bless you! Now I stand alone! (He embraces them.) There, now! Go home, Christine, and set their minds at rest. I want to speak to Olof. (Exit Christine.) Now you belong to me.

OLOF. What do you mean?

GERT. Kinsman!--You got my letter?

OLOF.
It was you who advised me not to preach?

GERT.
Quite the contrary, although I expressed myself somewhat strangely.

OLOF.
I don't understand.

GERT.
No--no! You are still too young, and so you need a providence. To a man like you one says "Let be" when one wants him to do something.

OLOF.
Why were you and your followers not in church?

GERT.
None but the sick need doctors. We were busy elsewhere. You have done a good piece of work to-day, and I see that you have got your reward for it. I have set you free to-day, Olof.

OLOF.
_You have?

GERT.
The King commanded you to quiet the rebellious, and what have you been doing?

OLOF.
Now I begin to understand you, Father Gert.

GERT.
I am delighted! Yes, you have aroused even the calmest.

OLOF.
So I have.

GERT.
What do you think the King will say to that?

OLOF.
I shall have to face it.

GERT.
Good!

OLOF.
The King will approve my actions, for he wants a reformation, although he does not yet dare to start one himself.

GERT.
You idiot!

OLOF.
I see that you want to set me against my lawful sovereign.

GERT.
Tell me, how many masters do you think you can serve? (Olof makes no reply.) The King is here.

OLOF.
What do you say?

GERT.
The King has just returned.

OLOF.
And the Anabaptists?

GERT.
Locked up, of course.

OLOF.
And you stand here so calmly?

GERT.
I am old now. Once I used to rage like you, but it only tired me out. Rink and Knipperdollink have served as my outposts. They had to fall, that's plain; now my work begins.

(Drum-beats are heard from the street.)

OLOF.
What is that?

GERT.
The royal drums that keep the captives company to prison. Come here and see!

OLOF
(mounting one of the benches and looking out of the window).

What do I see? Women and children are dragged along by the soldiers!

GERT.
Well, they have been throwing stones at the King's guard. Do you think such things can be allowed?

OLOF.
But are madmen and sick people to be put into prison?

GERT.
There are two kinds of madmen. One kind is sent to the hospital and treated with pills and cold baths. Those of the other kind have their heads cut off. It is a radical treatment, but then, for a fact, they are rather dangerous.

OLOF.
I'll go to the King. He cannot wish such dreadful things to happen.

GERT.
Take care of your head, Olof!

OLOF.
Take care of your own, Father Gert!

GERT.
No danger in my case, for I have a warrant for the asylum.

OLOF.
I cannot bear to see these things. I am going to the King, even if it cost my life. (He goes toward the door.)

GERT.
This is a matter not to be settled by the King. You should appeal to the law.

OLOF.
The King is the law!

GERT.
Unfortunately!--If the horse knew his own strength, he would never be mad enough, as he is now, to bear the yoke. But when once in a while he gets his reason back and runs away from his oppressors, then they call him mad--Let us pray the Lord to give these poor creatures their reason back!

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