Saturday, 21 March 2020

SINNERS OF WITTENBERG (Act 1 Scene 1)


The dark stage is covered in clouds of smoke, the only visible feature for sometime, as a pensive monologue lasts. It is the voice of a lady, waxing lyrical over the tune of an old classic song: 

'Alas, the time has come, judgement must start from the house of God, then to the house of thieves, brigands and whores. Who shall live thereafter to measure the rooms of Wartburg Castle? Who shall live to speak of his own nobility, of coins dropping in the coffer, of souls springing from hell, and of sinners who were once saints? 
Luther's smoke rises ever so highly, yesterday it was seen from as far as Bonn, tomorrow it would be seen from as far as Bucharest. And soon it shall be a story of saints who were once sinners. Maybe, he is right that we have lived a lie well-rehearsed, maybe he is indeed a wild boar out to destroy the Lord's vineyard. Maybe he is the judgement which must start from the house of God.
Alas, we are afraid of ourselves, we tremble now at our past, we hide from our sins, and we shiver at our guilt, one nail has held ninety-five charges to a door, another nail would soon hold more numerous names to more numerous doors. Now, arise, man of Saxony. Arise, Hans of Wittenberg, the night is spent, the morning is here and at your door are the feet of friends.'


As the monologue fades with the tune, the smokes fade too and the spotlight is focused on Hans who is lying on a bed at the center of the stage. He awakens suddenly to the consciousness of the room around him; an elaborate chamber which is now made more visible as the stage lights are turned on. Behind his bed is a long stretch of curtains running the length and height of the stage, at one side of his bed is  a desk and a seat, and at the other side is a wardrobe. 
Enter Jerome and Karl with a clatter to the displeasure of Hans who sits up on his bed immediately.
HANS: Have you two left behind your manners? No knock on the door?
KARL: Have you not awaken with your manners? No greetings for your visitors?

The two men sit with playfulness at both sides of Hans, and to cheer him up begin to sing a familiar rhyme.

KARL AND JEROME [singing]: 
'Lonely but saddled this donkey rides
Heavy and gladly his burden glides
Tic toc tic toc this clock ticks by
Many a friend would walk by, yeah
But too few good friends would stop by, Hans.

HANS [sighs, indifferent]: Is that why you are here this early? To relive childhood fun?
JEROME: Is that why you are waking this late? To ask questions?
HANS [pensive]: I had a long dream...
KARL [interrupting]: Of course, you had a long night.
HANS: And I would soon forget everything if you keep talking back at me. [Takes a deep breath and buries his head in his palms as one would do in meditation].
JEROME [passively pulling on his beards]: Now, tell, what was it you saw in this famous dream of yours?
HANS: Lots of wisdom and signs of discord. 
KARL: Wisdom? Not one of your strengths.
HANS [stares dolefully at Karl]: I saw a pillar of gold around which danced a fair maid. 
JEROME: What is the subject? The pillar or the dancing beauty?
HANS: Both were interesting to look upon. What attracted me to the maid was the rhythm of her dance; it was new and slow, almost sorrowful but still interesting. I noticed that as she moved her hands around the pillar, names appeared on the surface of the pillar. There were so many names, names of noblemen, of common men, of all estates of men.
KARL [stretches his hand to feel Hans' neck]: It is certainly not fever.
Hans responds with a dreadful stare.
JEROME: I struggle to find the discord between a dancing lady and a golden pillar, but even then where is the wisdom you spoke of?
HANS: A long counsel from a medium that I had gone to consult, her words have almost all flown away. I remember she said something of Luther's smoke rising so highly.
JEROME: Which of the Luthers? The Butcher on my street or Frederick's shepherd dog?
HANS: Luther; the wild boar.
KARL: Hmmm; indeed what fire he has started and how large the bellows of his smoke.
JEROME [scoffs]: Oh, Karl, do not breathe life into a mere dream. There is nothing to these words nor to Luther's waning influence. The peasants war has shown that he is just another scam. 
HANS: How do you mean that the peasants war has exposed him?
JEROME: Of course it has, when he nailed his lies at the door of All Saints, who were his first converts? Were the peasants not easily seduced by his questions and doctrines? But when they started a war, he betrayed them.
HANS: Truth is often the first casualty of reason when the man who reasons is insufficiently informed. 
KARL [nods in appreciation]: Hmm, wisdom.
HANS: You have left a lot of gaps on the way to your conclusion, Jerome. And I wouldn't breathe further life into your confusion.
JEROME: Of course, you retain a lot of sympathy to his cause. You always have.
HANS [In a fit of rage]: I am a daily communicant!...
JEROME: And so what? That doesn't and hasn't stopped you from finding Luther appealing.
KARL [intervening]: Alright, gentlemen. We shouldn't let the matter of a dissident sequestered in a castle somewhere across the world to come in the way of such a beautiful morning. How about we meet at my place in the evening, I will have a boar grilled and we would see what it tastes like when washed down with a jug of beer.
HANS: Sounds like fun to me.
JEROME [still seething]: Of course, of course.
HANS: I will be there, Karl. Hopefully, we wouldn't go on about Luther and misinformed people.
JEROME: Yes, Karl. We won't come telling dreams of dancing women and rising smoke.
KARL [pulling Jerome along with him]: We take our leave now, Hans. A breakfast awaits us at Frederick's. We merely decided to stop by.

As they leave, Hans lies back on his bed, and light fades.

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