Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Play Scene)

Dramatis Persona

WILLIAM – 26. Servant of Sir Fonds. Bored with a life of servitude, hatches a plan after a duel

DANIEL – 31. Servant of Sir Jermaine. Rather timid and requires guidance

SIR FONDS – 23. Aristocrat challenging the honor of Jermaine, whom Fonds insulted

SIR JERMAINE – 23. Aristocrat defending his honor from an insult about his hair from Fonds

Settings

A grassy knoll. Early morning in the French countryside, covered in a thick, ankle-high fog

Time

Some time in May to August of 1789

It’s early in the morning. The sun has only just begun to rise. The sound of sabers clanging echoes over a quiet field. Two figures rush around, fencing in an ankle-high fog, as two other men stand watching them. The two fencers slide forward, thrusting their swords, and are both stabbed through the heart. Time freezes and the cast remains still, except for William.

 

WILLIAM

[to the audience] I knew it. It was bound to happen eventually. This was his third duel in a month. About nine and a half since the start of the New Year. How do you have half a duel? Well, when the woman you’re fighting over intervenes to say she’s marrying some duke in Germany, both sides tend to call it quits. [William paces while addressing the audience, walking in front of the two frozen fencers] I used to like my master; he wasn’t necessarily the most agreeable sort, but he had a certain amount of respect for the hard work we did for him. Granted, he still made outlandish requests, but he was usually grateful. If there’s one thing I could never stand, however, was his love of the duel. He was quite good at fencing – I taught him everything he knew! [pantomimes fencing techniques] Well…except [points to the sword in his master’s chest] for that. I didn’t teach him that. He learned that all on his own. But that’s the problem with aristocrats, isn’t it? Money made them brittle – too much coin made the slightest of slights hurt feelings like sticks and stones break bones. As much wealth as my young Sir Fonds had, I could never assure him of his worth, to save him from a duel. He had everything he could ever want in life, but he always needed ‘satisfaction.’ [William walks back in to the mark where he started] Anyway, back to the matter at hand…

The fencers unfreeze, reacting to their respective wounds and falling to the ground. William’s shoulders sink as well, and he lets out a loud sigh. Daniel glances in shock between both of the duelists as they fall over.

 

DANIEL

Oh…is…what? [Daniel looks at William]

William nods solemnly. Daniel moves to check Sir Jermaine.

 

DANIEL

[Kneeling at Jermaine] He’s dead!

 

WILLIAM

Sounds about right.

 

DANEIL

Shall I…check your master? I am the apothecary for this arrangement.

 

WILLIAM

That won’t be necessary – I’m sure my master is gone, too. You don’t really walk that off.

 

DANIEL

Then…they’re both dead…?

 

WILLIAM

That tends to happen when opponents stab each other. [William puts his hands on his hips]

 

DANIEL

Then…who won?

 

WILLIAM

I haven’t a clue. [Points a finger back and forth between Fonds and Jermaine] Certainly not either of those two.

 

DANIEL

This has never happened before…or at least it has never been widely discussed. [Turning to William] What should we do?

William shrugs.

 

WILLIAM

Perhaps…bury them?

 

DANIEL

What…what about satisfaction?

 

WILLIAM

I’d imagine neither of them are very satisfied at the moment.

 

DANIEL

[Over Jermaine’s body] Oooooh you fool of a man! Why couldn’t you just let it go! They were only words!

 

WILLIAM

Not even that scathing of words, either. Not one of my master’s best insults, to be sure. “Hair like a hen’s hind,” really?

 

DANIEL

[Points at Fonds’ body] And you! Do you need to constantly look down on others?!

 

WILLIAM

[Quietly] He can’t hear you, sir.

 

DANIEL

[Ignoring William] Is your worth as a man so weak that you must bring them down to your level? Oooooh you loathsome, detestable-

 

WILLIAM

[Interrupting Daniel] Still can’t hear you.

 

DANIEL

Oh this world! This world where aristocrats think so little of their own lives.

 

WILLIAM

[Nodding] Honor is more important, despite coming much cheaper.

 

DANIEL

Is it so cheap?

 

WILLIAM

Cheaper than life; as people throw it around, using their own lives as tender to uphold what amounts to what other people think of you, and nothing more.

 

DANIEL

It’s not even what they think of you, only your name. One’s name is pulled through the muck, but the man himself is no worse for the wear. With all the dress and costume, would anyone even know an aristocrat if he had the look of a pauper?

William cocks his head to the side.

 

WILLIAM

Or…would anyone know he was a pauper if he dressed as an aristocrat. If he wore their name like they do the white wig, [William pantomimes placing a wig on his head] the scabbard on their hip, [William pantomimes sheathing a sword on his hip] and spent frivolously with their sizable purse? [William rubs his fingers and thumb together to imply money]

 

DANIEL

What are you on about? [Standing to address William] You jest in a time of crisis, sir.

 

WILLIAM

I jest not in a time of crisis. Though if I did jest, this is exactly the kind of [air quotes] ‘crisis’ I would jest within, given it is more a circus than anything else.

 

DANIEL

Then explain your ramblings, good sir, or keep your mouth shut.

 

WILLIAM

Well then, hear me out this idea of mine: our masters are dead, [both Daniel and William make the sign of the cross] May they rest in peace. They are both dead, but the only witnesses to this event are the present company with beating hearts. As their seconds, we are left.

 

DANIEL

And a beating heart I have, assuredly. It beats so fast at the moment, it could beat for two bodies.

 

WILLIAM

Fantastic, a healthy heart you have. To the point: we take the identities of our masters, bury them respectably in this field where they seem quite comfortable as it is, and live the life of nobility until we grow old and die – whichever fate delivers to us first.

 

DANIEL

I told you not to jest, so shut your mouth now.

 

WILLIAM

I tell you, good sir, this is no jest, for I’m as serious as our masters – for which I mean to say I am as serious as death.

 

DANIEL

You are serious.

 

WILLIAM

[Bowing slightly] I am death.

 

DANIEL

And now you mean to become Sir Fonds?

 

WILLIAM

[pointing at Daniel] And you to become Sir Jermaine.

 

DANIEL

But I look nothing like my late master? [Both make the sign of the cross] May he rest in peace.

 

WILLIAM

Of course. And I, myself, have no real semblance to my master. [Both make the sign of the cross] May he rest in peace.

 

DANIEL

Then how exactly do you propose that we take their identities if we look nothing like them?

 

WILLIAM

We don’t need to look like them. We only need their identities.

 

DANIEL

Hand me a map, you’ve lost me.

WILLIAM

You said it yourself, sir: their name is what’s important. No one sees the man behind it, underneath the makeup, powdered wigs, and gaudy frocks. So, we appropriate only that which they already see. We don’t need their faces, only the face they care so much about saving.

 

DANIEL

Saying that I believe you – not that I do – but if I did, what do you propose we do?

 

WILLIAM

We take our late masters, [Both make the sign of the cross] Dress in their frocks, bury them here in the field, and live the high life.

 

DANIEL

What of the other servants?

 

WILLIAM

I can only imagine they will be happy to work less.

 

DANIEL

Then they are to be accomplices in your scheme?

 

WILLIAM

It’s the only way it will truly work. The estates will be closed up, say…because of unwell masters. That will keep away unwanted visitors, and give people time to forget what they really looked like.

 

DANIEL

And now you speak of likenesses, as if we should be concerned.

 

WILLIAM

Only a precaution, I assure.

 

DANIEL

Then what of the duel?

William looks at both Jermaine and Fonds, kicking Fonds’ foot gently.

 

WILLIAM

I should think that’s very well resolved itself.

Daniel turns away in contemplation, and Sir Fonds’ stirs, his eyes opening. Surprised, William pulls out a kerchief, kneels down, and places it over Fonds’ face. Daniel continues contemplating to himself. Sir Fonds’ begins breathing, making the kerchief billow, which William pushes down with each new breath. Frustrated, William takes Sir Fonds’ sword and stabs him in the side. Sir Fonds’ reacts, raising his hand. William quickly takes Sir Fonds’ hand as Daniel turns back around, and looks quizzically at William.

WILLIAM

[Muttering] Yes, that’s…he’s…that’s death. [Checking Sir Fonds’ wrist for his pulse]

 

DANIEL

But what of the people who know there was to be a duel? How do we explain the outcome if both our masters, [Both make the sign of the cross] are still ‘alive and well’?

William paces back and forth for a moment, tapping his chin in thought.

 

WILLIAM

After a mutual drawing of blood, both parties were satisfied. We can even explain an absence in town for a few weeks as time taken to convalesce.

 

DANIEL

You have this all planned out, don’t you?

 

WILLIAM

It’s all just coming to me, honestly.

 

DANIEL

What about family? Most of Jermaine’s is gone, but Fonds’?

 

WILLIAM

Fonds was…not fond of what little family he had, fortunately.

Daniel stands in silence, contemplating the proposal again.

 

WILLIAM

Dare I say you’re considering?

 

DANIEL

I’m afraid I am.

William throws his arm around Daniel’s shoulder, shaking him with excitement.

 

WILLIAM

Don’t be afraid, dear sir! Soon we shall be living like kings.

 

DANIEL

They’ve decapitated kings, you know.

 

WILLIAM

Well, what do they do to those who impersonate nobility?

 

DANIEL

No one has been foolish enough to try such a thing, so I don’t know.

 

WILLIAM

Serendipitous! Neither do I.

Daniel groans, brushing William’s arm from his shoulder.

 

DANIEL

I’m glad you’re happy about this little venture.

 

WILLIAM

Chin up, ‘Sir Jermaine’! This year, in the Lord’s 1789 and onward, is going to be our time!

 

DANIEL

[Unenthusiastically] Hooray…

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