By Bob Shuman

SCENE: A dog park in the Bronx. 

NARRATOR:  As Mary Jane suspected, the dog park was closed, on 4/6/2020, along with all runs throughout the city.  Fearing Coronavirus infection, and a fine of one thousand dollars, if caught keeping a social distance of less than six feet from one another, people, out of home isolation, seemed to act silently and in slow motion. The public pathways, where Juno and Jasper were taken, were often uncrowded, especially in the April mists and rains, although this could change when there was sun.  Lantern was glimpsed, one morning, looking out a back window, rolled down, as Mary Jane’s car drove by the elementary school and slippery fallen magnolia blossoms, heading south. In the afternoons, Christie walked his dogs by the Hudson, and he recalled a little-known, sometime playwright of the archaic, who had composed, years before, a one-act on themes similar to those voiced now, during the pandemic.

 

TRAVELERS

 Based on and adapted from Shakespeare and Boccaccio, a companion piece to As You Like It

 

CHARACTERS:

DUKE SENIOR: His royal’s possessions included land in the Ardennes, where, after being exiled, he now lives in dense woods. (50’s) 

JAQUES:  A melancholy lord and follower of Duke Senior. (40’s)

FORESTER I:  A lord and follower of Duke Senior. (30’s)

FORESTER II:  Another of Duke Senior’s men. (40’s)

TOUCHSTONE:  A court fool of Duke Frederick, brother of Duke Senior.  The clown followed Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Arden after banishment, although he knows little of country ways. (20’s)

AUDREY:  An unsophisticated country wench. (20’s)

MARTEXT:  A country vicar. (50’s)

The forest setting includes rough-hewn benches and a table—a stone ring to make a fire.

Suggestion for introductory music: Huun Huur Tu “Sixty Horses in My Herd.”

 

 

SETTING:  In the forest.

PLACE: Duke Senior’s encampment.

TIME: The plague years.

 

AT RISE: DUKE SENIOR and MEN are putting out a fire, preparing to hunt deer.  JAQUES enters with excitement.

 

JAQUES:

(Entering.) A fool, a fool!  I met a fool I’ the forest.

 

FORESTER I:

(About Jaques.) Must herbs need.

 

JAQUES:

A motley fool; a miserable—

 

FORESTER II:

Valerian.

 

HUNTER I:

Will only make him more melancholy.

 

JAQUES:

Drawing a dial from his poke.  And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye—

 

FORESTER I:

Perhaps saffron and . . . eye of newt.

 

JAQUES:

It’s ten o’clock says the fool very wisely; Thus we may see, ‘quoth he, ‘how the world wags; ‘tis but an hour ago since it was nine—

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Without jerkin?

 

JAQUES:

Without gabardine.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Next to venison?

 

JAQUES:

On its path.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Come shall be retrieved.

 

JAQUES:

And after one hour more ’twill be eleven, he says . . .

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Perhaps shall we see your clown.

 

JAQUES:

And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot.

 

(JAQUES laughs. Silence. A note of sadness—the joke is not as funny as Jaques intended.)

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Dost think that jocund?

 

JAQUES:

More there was.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Doth not of patched amusement seem.

 

JAQUES:

If ladies be but young and fair, They have the gift to know it.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

‘Tis better.

 

JAQUES:

And hereby hangs a tale.

 

DUKES SENIOR:

(Ignoring.)  Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile . . .

 

JAQUES:

I am ambitious for a motley coat.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Then you shall have it.

 

JAQUES:

I thought thou wouldst delight.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(Returning to his speech.) Old custom hast made this life sweeter than painted pomp.

 

JAQUES:

(Thinking of the clown.) Oh, worthy fool.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?

 

JAQUES:

As I do live by food.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Like Robin of old England, who ’tis said we live like . . .

 

JAQUES:

Motley’s the only wear.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

From the rich he steals–givest to the poor.

 

JAQUES:

Grant me leave To speak my mind, and I will through and through Cleanse the foul body of the’infected world.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(Noticing that JAQUES has not been paying attention.) I can tell what thou wouldst do.

 

JAQUES:

If they will patiently receive my medicine.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Fie on thee!

 

JAQUES:

To expose the hypocrisy of the world.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Most mischievous foul sin, in chiding sin.

 

JAQUES:

Why, who cries out on pride? 

 

DUKE SENIOR:

If you cans’t earn your keep and help our endeavor instead of souring.

 

JAQUES:

That can therein tax any private party?

 

DUKE SENIOR:

There are spies from the court!

 

(Silence.)

 

JAQUES:

He is but a coxcomb, my lord.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Something more than that.

 

JAQUES:

A merry man of the woods.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Thinkest he hast no objective?

 

JAQUES:

To give mirth.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

For thyself has been a libertine. As sensual as the brutish sting itself; And all th’embossed sores and headed evils.

 

JAQUES:

(About himself.) Hast been a traveler.

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(About Touchstone.) When you have robbed him, pillaged for our company, shall you find him and strip his clothes as demonstration!

 

(Silence.)

 

DUKE SENIOR:

Come, shall we go shoot us venison?

 

FORESTERS:

Yes, my Lord.

(Silence.)

 

DUKE SENIOR:

(Waving negative thoughts away, as he exits.) It irks me the poor dapple fools being native burghers of this desert city should in their own confine with forked head Have their round haunches gored.

 

(DUKE and HUNTERS exit.)

 

(Silence.)

 

JAQUES:

(Thinking of the deer that has been felled earlier.) Poor deer, thou makest a testament as worldlings do, giving thy sum of more to that which had too much.

 

(ROSALIND enters as a man, as if from a dream.)

 

ROSALIND:

They say you are a melancholy fellow.

 

JAQUES:

I am so.  I do love it better than laughing.

 

ROSALI ND:

Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows, and betray themselves to every modern censure worse than drunkard.

 

JAQUES:

Why, ‘tis good to be sad and say nothing.

 

ROSALIND:

Why then, ‘is good to be a post.

 

JAQUES:

‘Tis a melancholy of mine own, composed of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplations of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

 

(Pause.)

 

ROSALIND:

Have you perpended tranquil canals in soft-hued Venice?

 

JAQUES:

Death.

 

ROSALIND:

The stately Nile on her course from south to north?

 

JAQUES:

Styx.

 

ROSALIND:

Woulds’t swim through the threadlike Hellespont?

 

JAQUES:

Drown.

(Silence.)

 

JAQUES:

Did’st not see the years wane, or calculate the height of waves.  Yet plagues I’ve seen . . . a pestilence so powerful that it attacked robust and vigorous strength–the way dry or oil close to fire will catch aflame.  Was’t living among the dead but dids’t not recognize it . . .  Just from the touching the clothes of those of the sick or anything felt or used by them.

 

ROSALIND:

(To herself.) Must pray harder think I often, if knowest how to.

 

JAQUES:

Fear filled us so complete that no one cared about the other.   Dost thou know what it’s like to in terror quake?—no, thou are still too young.  Brother abandoning brother, uncle abandoning  nephew, sister left brother and very often wife abandoning husband, and—even worse, almost unbelievable—father and mother neglecting to tend and care for their children, as if they were not their own.

 

ROSALIND:

You have great reason to be sad.

 

JAQUES:

Yes, I have gain’d my experience, boy.

 

ROSALIND:

I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s; then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.

 

JAQUES:

I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s which is politic; nor the lad’s which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these.

 

(ROSALIND has exited; TOUCHSTONE enters.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Come apace, good Audrey; I will fetch up our goats, Audrey.  And how, Audrey, am I the man yet?  Doth my simple feature content you?

 

JAQUES:

Shh, shh.  The jig-maker.  It is him.   (Jaques believes that Rosalind is still nearby.)

 

AUDREY:

Your features! Lord warrant us! What features!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I am here with thee and thy goats, as the most capricious poet, honest Ovid, was among the Goths.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) O knowledge ill-inhabited, worse than Jove in a thatched house!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room. Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.

 

AUDREY:

I do not know what ‘poetical’ is: is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, truly; for the truest poetry is the most feigning; and lovers are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign.

 

AUDREY:

Do you wish then that the gods had made me poetical?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I do, truly; for thou swearest to me thou art honest: now, if thou wert a poet, I might have some hope thou didst feign.

 

AUDREY:

Would you not have me honest?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, truly, unless thou wert hard-favoured; for honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) A material fool!

 

AUDREY:

Well, I am not fair; and therefore I pray the gods make me honest.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Truly, and to cast away honesty upon a foul slut were to put good meat into an unclean dish.

 

AUDREY:

I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Well, praised be the gods for thy foulness!  Sluttishness may come hereafter. But be it as it may be, I will marry thee, and to that end I have been with Sir Oliver Martext, the vicar of the next village, who hath promised to meet me in this place
of the forest and to couple us.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) I would fain see this meeting.

 

AUDREY:

Well, the gods give us joy!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Amen. A man may, if he were of a fearful heart, stagger in this attempt; for here we have no temple but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts.

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.) I must have liberty withal, as large a charter as the wind, To blow on whom I please, for so fools have.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

But what though? Courage!

 

JAQUES:

They that are most galled with my folly.  They most must laugh.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

As horns are odious, they are necessary. It is said, ‘many a man knows no end of
his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and knows no end of them.

 

JAQUES:

He that a fool doth very wisely hit Doth very foolishly, although he smart,

Not to seem senseless of the bob.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Well, that is the dowry of his wife; ’tis none of his own getting. Horns?
Even so.

 

JAQUES:

If not, The wise man’s folly is anatomized

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Poor men alone?

 

JAQUES:

Even by the squand’ring glances of the fool.  Invest me in my motley.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, no; the noblest deer hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man
therefore blessed?

 

JAQUES:

By how much defence is better than no skill, by so much is a horn more precious than to want.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No: as a walled town is more worthier than a village, so is the forehead of a
married man more honourable than the bare brow of a bachelor; Here comes Sir Oliver.

 

JAQUES:

Doth pride not flow as hugely as the sea Till that the wearer’s very means do ebb?

(SIR OLIVER MARTEXTenters.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Sir Oliver Martext, you are well met:

 

JAQUES:

(Aside.)What woman in the city do I name When that I say the city-woman bears

The cost of princes on unworthy shoulders?  Who can come in and say that I mean her. . . .

 

TOUCHSTONE:

(To Martext.) Will you dispatch us here under this tree, or shall we go with you to

your chapel?

 

JAQUES:

When such a one as she such is her neighbor? Or what is he of basest function That savest his bravery is not on my cost, Thinking that I mean him—But therein suits his folly to the mettle of my speech?

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

Is there none here to give the woman?

 

JAQUES:

Then he hath wron’d himself; if he will be free.

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

There then!  How then?  What then?  Let me see where in

My tongues hath wrong’d him: if it do him right

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I will not take her on gift of any man.

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

Truly, she must be given, or the marriage is not lawful.

 

JAQUES:

(Advancing.)  Proceed, proceed I’ll give her.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Good even, good Master What-ye-call’t: how do you,  sir? You are very well met: God ‘ild you for your last company: I am very glad to see you: even a
toy in hand here, sir: nay, pray be covered.

 

JAQUES:

Will you be married, motley?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

As the ox hath his bow, sir, the horse his curb and the falcon her bells, so man hath his desires; and as pigeons bill, so wedlock would be nibbling.

 

JAQUES:

And will you, being a man of your breeding, be married under a bush like a beggar? Methinks you’re more than that.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

(Aside, but AUDREY overhears.) I am not in the mind but I were better to be
married of him than of another: for he is not like to marry me well; and not being well married, it will be a good excuse for me hereafter to leave my wife.

 

JAQUES:

Dost not intend to stay?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Now am I in Arden; the more fool I; when I was at home I was in a better place.

 

JAQUES:

This fellow will but join you together as they join wainscot; then one of you will
prove a shrunk panel and, like green timber, warp, warp.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

By my troth, we that have good wits have much to answer for.

 

JAQUES:

Go thou with me, and let me counsel thee.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

‘Come, sweet Audrey: We must be married, or we must live in bawdry.
Farewell, good Master Oliver: not,– O sweet Oliver, O brave Oliver,
Leave me not behind thee: but,– Wind away, Begone, I say, I will not to wedding with thee.

(Exit AUDREY.)

 

SIR OLIVER MARTEXT:

‘Tis no matter: ne’er a fantastical knave of them
all shall flout me out of my calling.

(MARTEXT exits.)

 

JAQUES:

Brazen enough to wear motley among bumpkins?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

My weeds, sir.

 

JAQUES:

Think they wouldst not suspect thine purpose?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

To be married.

 

JAQUES:

Wilt see the duke again?

 

(Silence.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Doth thou know him?

 

JAQUES:

What wilt thou tell him of a rustic’s life?

 

 

TOUCHSTONE:

If thou never wast at court thou never saw’st good manners; if thou never saw’st good manners, than thy manners must be wicked; and wickedness is sin, and sin is damnation.  Thou art in a parlous state.

 

JAQUES:

Why wouldst examine?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

It is a good life, in respect of itself; but in respect that it is a shepard’s life, it is nought.  In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life.

 

JAQUES:

Must be companion to others from the court.

 

(Silence.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Come Audrey, let us make an honorable retreat.

 

(But AUDREY is gone.)

 

JAQUES:

Are you not solitary?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Single, to this day.

 

JAQUES:

A base, countryman and wife.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Am here to wed.

 

JAQUES:

Courtiers in disguise.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Wouldst not presume–

 

JAQUES:

Methinks you know something more.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Nothing, Sir.

 

JAQUES:

Know thou the look of informants?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I’m looking for naught.

 

JAQUES:

What does the Duke want?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I know not.

 

JAQUES:

Hey, fool?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

He wants his duchy peaceable.

 

JAQUES:

You know then.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

What else could he want?

 

JAQUES:

More!

 

TOUCHSTONE:

I know not more, I tell thee.

 

JAQUES:

Hast betrayed thyself.

 

(Jaques attacks Touchstone, tearing off his clothes.)

 

TOUCHSTONE:

No, sirrah.

 

JAQUES:

Live to be watched, not live to be free. Canst not tell woman from man?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Thinkest so, Lord.

 

JAQUES:

Think we’re daft?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Players is all.

 

JAQUES:

Spies.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Conceit in lusting spring.

 

JAQUES:

Shalt show thine major-domo?

 

TOUCHSTONE:

Nothing is wrongly done.

 

JAQUES:

Give me thine garb.

 

TOUCHSTONE:

We’re travellers.  Travelers– young.

 

JAQUES:

Then thou shalt know the cost.

 

(Touchstone has been stripped naked, exhausted.)

 

(JAQUES flees with the clown’s clothes.)

 

(END OF SCENE)

(“Travelers”: (c) Copyright 2016  by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. This free adaptation of As You Like It includes material from Shakespeare and Boccaccio’s Decameron.

(c) 2016, 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

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