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Full Online Book HomePlaysMaster Olof: A Drama In Five Acts - Act 5 - Scene 1
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Master Olof: A Drama In Five Acts - Act 5 - Scene 1 Post by :eagle75 Category :Plays Author :August Strindberg Date :May 2012 Read :1602

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Master Olof: A Drama In Five Acts - Act 5 - Scene 1

ACT V - SCENE I

(The Cemetery of the Convent of St. Clara. In the background appears a partly demolished convent building, from which a gang of workmen are carrying out timber and debris. At the left is a mortuary chapel. Its windows are lighted from within, and whenever the door is opened, a brilliantly illuminated crucifix on the chancel wall, with a sarcophagus standing in front of it, becomes visible. A number of the graves have been opened. The moon is just rising from behind the ruined convent. Windrank is seated outside the chapel door. Singing is heard from within the chapel.)

(Enter Nils.)

NILS
(goes up to Windrank).

Good evening, Windrank.

WINDRANK.
Please don't talk to me.

NILS.
What's the matter now?

WINDRANK.
Didn't you hear what I told you?

NILS.
Has your scurvy ending as a skipper affected you so badly that you think of turning monk?

WINDRANK.
52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57.

NILS.
You haven't lost your reason, have you?

WINDRANK.
58, 59, 60--In the name of Jesu, get away from here!

NILS.
You had better have a little nightcap with me.

WINDRANK.
64, 65--That's what I expected! Get you gone, tempter! I'll never take a drink again--until the day after to-morrow.

NILS.
But it's a fine remedy against the plague, and with all this cadaverous stuff about, you had better be careful.

WINDRANK.
70--So you really think it's good for the plague?

NILS.
Excellent!

WINDRANK.
Only a drop, then! (He drinks from the bottle offered him by Nils.)

NILS.
Only a drop! But tell me, are you suffering from vertigo since you are counting to a hundred?

WINDRANK.
Hush! Hush! There's an epoch coming.

NILS.
An epoch?

WINDRANK.
Yes, the day after to-morrow.

NILS.
And that's why you keep counting like that?

WINDRANK.
No, it's only because I find it so hard to hold my tongue. Now, for heaven's sake, keep quiet! Please go away, or you'll get me into trouble!--71, 72, 73.

NILS.
Who's inside?

WINDRANK.
74, 75.

NILS.
Is it a funeral?

WINDRANK.
76, 77.--Go to hell, won't you!

NILS.
Just another tiny drop, and the counting will be easier.

WINDRANK.
Just a little one--I will! (He drinks. Singing is heard outside.)

NILS.
Here come the nuns of St. Clara to celebrate the memory of their saint for the last time.

WINDRANK.
That's fine mummery in days like these when everybody is getting educated.

NILS.
They have obtained the King's permission. You see, the plague broke out in the parish of St. Clara, and some believe it was because of the godless destruction of St. Clara's convent.

WINDRANK.
And now they mean to drive away the plague with singing--as if that bugaboo were a hater of music. But, of course, it wouldn't be a wonder if he did flee from their hoarse screeching.

NILS.
Will you please tell me who has dared to invade this last sanctuary--for it's here the bones of the Saint are to be deposited before the place is torn down entirely.

WINDRANK.
Then there'll be a fight, I fear.


(The singing has drawn nearer. A procession enters, made up of Dominican friars and Franciscan nuns, headed by Marten. They come to a halt and continue singing, while the workmen are making a great deal of noise in the background.)


Procession.
Cur super vermes luteos furorem
Sunnis, O magni fabricator orbis!
Quid sumus quam fex, putris, umbra, pulvis
Glebaque terrae!

MARTEN
(to the Abbess).

You can see, my sister, how the abode of the Lord has been despoiled.

ABBESS.
The Lord who has delivered us into the hands of the Egyptians will also set its free in due time.

MARTEN
(to the workmen).

Cease working, and do not disturb our pious task!

OVERSEER.
Our orders are to work day and night until this den has been torn down.

ABBESS.
Alas, that unbelief has spread so far down among the people!

MARTEN.
We are celebrating this feast with the permission of the King.

OVERSEER.
Well, I don't mind!

MARTEN.
And therefore I command you to cease your noise. I'll appeal directly to your workmen, whom you have forced into this shameless undertaking.--I'll ask them if they have any respect whatever left for holy--

OVERSEER.
You had better not, for I am in command here. Furthermore, I can tell you that they are glad enough to have a chance of tearing down these hornets' nests for which they themselves have had to pay--and then, too, they are pretty thankful to earn something during a time of famine. (He goes toward the background.)

MARTEN.
Let us forget the wickedness and tumult of this world. Let us enter the sacred place and pray for them.

ABBESS.
Lord, Lord, the cities of Thy sanctuary are laid waste! Zion is laid waste, and Jerusalem is lying desolate!

WINDRANK.
100.--Nobody can get in here!

THE CONSPIRATORS
(within the chapel).
We swear!

MARTEN.
Who has dared to invade the chapel?

WINDRANK.
It's no more a chapel since it has become a royal storehouse.

ABBESS.
That's why the godless one gave us his permission!

(The door of the chapel is thrown open and the conspirators appear; among them Olof, Lars Andersson, Gert, the German, the Dane, the Man from Smaland, and others.)

OLOF
(much excited).

What kind of buffoonery is this?

MARTEN.
Make way for the handmaidens of St. Clara!

OLOF.
Do you think your idols can keep away the plague that God has sent you as a punishment? Do you think the Lord will find those pieces of bone you carry in the box there so pleasant that He forgives all your dreadful sins? Take away that abomination! (He takes the reliquary from the Abbess and throws it into one of the open graves.) From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return, even if your name was Sancta Clara da Spoleto and you ate only three ounces of bread a day and slept among the swine at night! (The nuns scream.)

MARTEN.
If you fear not what is holy, fear at least your temporal ruler. Look here! He has still so much respect left for divine things that he dreads the wrath of the saint.

(He shows a document to Olof.)

OLOF.
Do you know what the Lord did with the king of the Assyrians when he permitted the worship of idols? He smote him and all his people. Thus the righteous is made to suffer with the unrighteous. In the name of the one omnipotent God, I declare this worship of Baal abolished, even if all the kings of the earth give their permit. The Pope wanted to sell my soul to Satan, but I tore the contract to pieces--you remember? Should I then fear a King who wants to sell his people to the Baalim? (He tears the document to pieces.)

MARTEN
(to his followers).

You are my witnesses that he has defamed the King.

OLOF
(to his followers).

And you are my witnesses before God that I have led the people of a godless King away from him!

MARTEN.
Listen, ye faithful! It is because of this heretic that God has smitten us with the plague--it is the punishment of God, and it fell first of all on his mother.

OLOF.
Listen, ye faithless papists! It was the punishment of the Lord on me because I had served Sennacherib against Judah. I will atone my crime by leading Judah against the kings of the Assyrians and the Egyptians.

(The moon has risen in the meantime. It is very red, and a fiery glare pervades the place. The crowd is frightened.)

OLOF
(mounting one of the graves).

Heaven is weeping blood over your sins and your idolatry. Punishment shall be meted out, for those in authority have fallen into wrongdoing. Can't you see that the very graves are yawning for prey--

(Gert seizes Olof by the arm, whispers to him, and leads him down from the mound. The crowd is panic-stricken.)

ABBESS.
Give us back our reliquary, so that we may abandon this home of desolation.

MARTEN.
It is better to let the bones of the Saint remain in this consecrated soil than to have them touched by the vile hands of heretics!

OLOF.
You are afraid of the plague, cowards that you are! Is your faith in the sacred bones no stronger?

(Gert whispers to Olof again. The procession has in the meantime scattered, so that only a part of it remains on the stage.)

OLOF
(to Marten).

Now you should be satisfied, you hypocrite! Go and tell him whom you serve that a box of silver is about to be buried here, and he'll dig it out of the earth with his own nails. Tell him that the moon, which is usually made of silver, has turned into gold, merely to make your master raise his eyes toward heaven for once. Tell him that you, by your blasphemous buffooneries, have succeeded in provoking an honest man's wrath--

(Exeunt Marten and the members of the procession.)

GERT.
Enough, Olof!

(To all the conspirators except Olof and Lars.)

Leave us, please!

(Exeunt the conspirators, exchanging whispers.)

GERT
(to Olof and Lars).

It's too late to back down now!

OLOF.
What do you want, Gert--speak!

GERT
(showing them a bound volume).

Before you two, servants of God, a people steps forth to make its confession. Do you acknowledge your oath?

OLOF and LARS.
We have sworn!

GERT.
This book is the result of my silent labors. On every page you will find a cry of distress, a sigh from thousands who have been blind enough to think it God's will that they should suffer the tyranny of one man--who have thought it their duty not even to hope for liberation. (Olof takes the volume and begins to read.) You shall hear complaints all the way from the primeval forests of Norrland down to the Sound. Out of the wreckage from the churches the King is building new castles for the nobility and new prisons for the people. You shall read how the King is bartering away law and justice by letting murderers escape their punishment if they seek refuge at the salt-works. You shall read how he is taxing vice by letting harlots pay for the right to ply their traffic. Yea, the very fishes of the rivers, the water of the sea itself, have been usurped by him. But the end is in sight. The eyes of the people have been opened. There is seething and fermenting everywhere. Soon the tyranny will be crushed, and the people shall be free!

OLOF.
Who wrote the songs in this book?

GERT.
The people! These are songs of the people--so they sing who feel the yoke pressing. I have visited city and country, asking them: "Are you happy?" These are the answers! I have held assizes. Here are the verdicts entered. Do you believe that a million wills may conquer one? Do you believe that God has bestowed this land with all its human souls and all its property upon a single man, for him to deal with as it suits his pleasure? Or do you not rather believe that he should do the will of all?--You do not answer? You are awed, I see, by the thought that it may come to an end! Listen to my confession! Tomorrow the oppressor dies, and you shall all be free!

OLOF and LARS.
What are you saying?

GERT.
You didn't understand what I was talking about at our meetings.

OLOF.
You have deceived us!

GERT.
Not at all! You are perfectly free. Two voices less mean nothing. Everything is prepared.

LARS.
Have you considered the consequences?

GERT.
Fool! Is it not for the sake of the consequences that I have done all this?

OLOF.
Supposing Gert be right--what do you say, Lars?

LARS.
I wasn't born to lead.

OLOF.
All are born to lead, but all are not willing to sacrifice the flesh.

GERT.
Only he who has the courage to face scorn and ridicule can lead. For hatred is as nothing compared with the laughter that kills.

OLOF.
And if it should miscarry?

GERT.
Dare to face that, too! You don't know that Thomas Muenster has established a new spiritual kingdom at Muhlhausen. You don't know that all Europe is in revolt. Who was Dacke, if not a defender of the oppressed? What have the Dalecarlians meant by all their rebellions, if not to defend their freedom against him who broke his plighted faith? He does such things and goes unpunished, but when they want to defend themselves, then he raises the cry of revolt and treason.

OLOF.
So this is the point to which you wanted to lead me, Gert?

GERT.
Have you not been led here by the current? You will, but do not dare! To-morrow, in the church, the mine will go off, and that will be a signal for the people to rise and choose a ruler after their own heart.

OLOF
(turning over the leaves of the book).

If it be the will of all, then nobody can stop it. Gert, let me take this book to the King and show him what is the will of his people, and he will grant them their rights.

GERT.
Oh, you child! For a moment he may be scared, and perhaps restore a silver pitcher to some church. Then he'll point toward heaven and say: "It is not by my own will that I sit here and do you wrong, but by the will of God!"

OLOF.
Then the will of God be done!

GERT.
But how?

OLOF.
He must die that all may live. Murderer, ingrate, traitor--those will be my names, perchance. I am sacrificing everything, even my honor, my conscience, and my faith--could I possibly give more for those pitiable ones who are crying for salvation? Let us go ere I repent!

GERT.
Even if you did, it would already be too late. Don't you know that Marten is a spy, and perhaps sentence has already been pronounced against the rebel!

OLOF.
Well, I won't repent--and why should I repent of an act that implies the carrying out of God's own judgment? Forward, then, in the name of the Lord. (Exeunt.)

(Enter Harlot, who kneels at a grave which she has strewn with flowers.)

HARLOT.
Hast Thou punished me enough now, O Lord, to pardon me?

(Enter Christine quickly.)

CHRISTINE.
Have you seen Master Olof, goodwife?

HARLOT.
Are you his friend or his enemy?

CHRISTINE.
Do you mean to insult me?

HARLOT.
Pardon me! I haven't seen him since the last time I prayed.

CHRISTINE.
You look so sorrowful! Oh, I know you now! It was you to whom Olof was talking that night in Greatchurch.

HARLOT.
You mustn't let it be seen that you are talking to me. You don't know who I am, do you?

CHRISTINE.
Oh, yes, I know.

HARLOT.
You know--so they have told you?

CHRISTINE.
Olof told me.

HARLOT.
O my God! And don't you despise me?

CHRISTINE.
You are an unfortunate, down-trodden woman, Olof told me. Why should I despise misfortune?

HARLOT.
Then you cannot be happy yourself?

CHRISTINE.
No, we have shared the same fate.

HARLOT.
I am not the only one, then! Tell me, who was the worthless man to whom you gave your love?

CHRISTINE.
Worthless?

HARLOT.
Oh, pardon--to one who loves, no one seems worthless! To whom did you give your love?

CHRISTINE.
You know Master Olof, don't you?

HARLOT.
Oh, tell me that it is not true! Don't rob me of my faith in him, too! It is the only thing I have left since God took my child!

CHRISTINE.
You have had a child? Then you have been happy once.

HARLOT.
I thank God, who did not permit my son to find out the unworthiness of his mother.

CHRISTINE.
Have you been guilty of any crime, that you speak so?

HARLOT.
I have just buried it.

CHRISTINE.
Your child? How can you! And I pray God every day to grant me a little one--so that I may at least have one creature to love!

HARLOT.
Oh, poor child, pray to God that He preserve you from it!

CHRISTINE.
I don't understand you, goodwife!

HARLOT.
Don't call me that! You know who I am, don't you?

CHRISTINE.
Well, don't they offer prayers in the churches for those who have hopes?

HARLOT.
Not for such as we!

CHRISTINE.
Such as we?

HARLOT.
They pray for the others and curse us.

CHRISTINE.
What do you mean by "the others"? I don't understand you at all.

HARLOT.
Do you know the wife of Master Olof?

CHRISTINE.
Why, that is I!

HARLOT.
You? Oh, why didn't I guess at once? Can you forgive me a moment's doubt? How could vice look like you and him? Alas! You must leave me. You are a child, still ignorant of wickedness. You must not be talking to me longer. God bless you! Good-bye!

(She starts to leave.)

CHRISTINE.
Don't leave me! Whoever you be, for God's sake, stay! They have broken into our house, and my husband is not to be found. Take me away from here--home to yourself--anywhere. You must be a good woman--you cannot be wicked--

HARLOT
(interrupting her).

If I tell you that the brutality of the crowd wouldn't hurt you half so much as my company, then perhaps you will forgive me for leaving--

CHRISTINE.
Who are you?

HARLOT.
I am an outcast on whom has been fulfilled that curse which God hurled at woman after the fall of our first parents. Ask me no more, for if I told you more, your contempt would goad me to a self-defence that would be still more contemptible.--Here comes somebody who perhaps will be generous enough to escort you, if you promise to let him have your honor and virtue and eternal peace for his trouble--for that is probably the least he will accept for his protection at such a late hour as this! Please forgive me--it is not at you that I am railing.

(Enter Windrank, intoxicated.)

WINDRANK.
Why the devil can't a fellow be left alone, even here among the corpses? See here, my good ladies, please don't ask me anything, for now I can't guarantee that I won't answer. The day after to-morrow I'll tell you all about it, for then it'll be too late. Perhaps you're some of those nuns that have been made homeless? Well, although women are nothing but women, I don't think I have any right to be impolite, for all that the sun set long ago. Of course, there is an old law saying that nobody can be arrested after sunset, but though the law is a bugbear, I think it's too polite to insist on anything when it's a question of ladies. Hush, hush, tongue! Why, the old thing is going like a spinning-wheel, but that comes from that infernal gin! Why should I be dragged into this kind of thing? Of course, I'll get well paid and be a man of means, but don't believe that I am doing it for the sake of the money! It's done now, but I don't want to--I don't want to! I want to sleep in peace nights and have no ghosts to trouble me. Suppose I goo and tell? No, then they'll arrest me. Suppose somebody else would go and tell? Perhaps one of you nuns might be so kind as to do it?

CHRISTINE
(who has been conferring with the Harlot).

If you have anything on your conscience that troubles you, please tell us.

WINDRANK.
Am I to tell? That's just what I want to get out of, but this is horrible, and I can't stand it any longer. I am forced to do it. Why should I be the one? I don't want to.

CHRISTINE.
My dear man, you mean to commit--

WINDRANK.
A murder. Who told you? Well, thank God that you know! By all means, go ahead and tell about it--at once--or I'll have no peace--no peace in all eternity!

CHRISTINE
(recovering from the first shock).

Why should you murder him?

WINDRANK.
Oh, there are such a lot of reasons. Just look at the way he is tearing down your nunneries.

CHRISTINE.
The King?

WINDRANK.
Yes, of course! The father and liberator of his country! Of course, he's an oppressor, but that's no reason why he should be murdered.

CHRISTINE.
When is it going to happen?

WINDRANK.
Why, to-morrow--in Greatchurch--right in church! (At a signal from Christine, the Harlot leaves.)

CHRISTINE.
How could they pick you for such a deed?

WINDRANK.
Well, you see, I gave a connection or two among the church attendants, and then I am poor, of course. What the devil does it matter who puts the match to the powder, if only some shrewd fellow is pointing the gun? And then we have several other little schemes in reserve, although I'm to fire the first shot. But why don't you run off and tell about it?

CHRISTINE.
It has already been done.

WINDRANK.
Well, God be thanked and praised! Goodbye, there goes all my money!

CHRISTINE.
Tell me who you are, you conspirators.

WINDRANK.
No, that I won't tell!

(Enter Nils. He crosses the stage followed by a troop of soldiers and a crowd of people.)

CHRISTINE.
Do you see that they are already looking for you?

WINDRANK.
I wash my hands of it.

NILS
(goes up to Windrank without noticing Christine).

Have you seen Olof Pedersson?

WINDRANK.
Why?

NILS.
Because he is wanted.

WINDRANK.
No, I haven't seen him. Are there others wanted?

NILS.
Yes, many.

WINDRANK.
No, I haven't seen any of them.

NILS.
Well, it will soon be your turn. (Exit.)

CHRISTINE.
Are they looking for the conspirators?

WINDRANK.
What a question! Now I'm going to clear out. Good-bye!

CHRISTINE.
Tell me before you go--

WINDRANK.
Haven't time!

CHRISTINE.
Is Master Olof one of them?

WINDRANK.
Of course!

(Christine sinks down unconscious on one
of the graves. Windrank is suddenly sobered
and genuinely moved.)

Good Lord in heaven, it must be his wife! (He goes to Christine.) I think I've killed her! Oh, Hans, Hans, all you can do now is to get a rope for yourself! What business did you have to get mixed up with the high and mighty?--Come here, somebody, and help a poor woman!

(Enter Olof, led by soldiers carrying torches
as he catches sight of Christine, he tears
himself loose and throws himself on his knees
beside her.)

OLOF.
Christine!

CHRISTINE.
Olof! You're alive! Come away from here and let us go home!

OLOF
(overwhelmed).

It's too late!

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