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a scene from

by Leonid Andreyev

adapted by Walter Wykes

[CONSUELO (an acrobat) and HE (a clown)—backstage at the circus. For a moment, they stand in silence.]

CONSUELO: It’s so sad.

HE: Why did she do it?

CONSUELO: Because she isn’t happy.

HE: But to take such a chance—

CONSUELO: If one isn’t happy … maybe it’s the best thing.

HE: Do you really believe that?

CONSUELO: I don’t know.  Maybe.


HE: She’s in love with Bezano?

CONSUELO: Bezano?  My Bezano?

HE: Yes.

CONSUELO: But she’s so old. [HE Laughs.] I like your costume, HE.  Did you come up with it yourself?

HE:  Jackson helped.

CONSUELO:  Jackson is nice.  All clowns are nice.

HE: I am wicked.

CONSUELO: [Laughs.] You?  You’re the nicest of them all!

HE: On the outside.  But on the inside …

[HE makes a scary face.  She laughs.]

CONSUELO: Are you going to watch me perform tonight?

HE: I always do.

CONSUELO: I can see you.  In the wings.

HE: You’re so beautiful.

CONSUELO: [Smiles.] Little Eve?

HE: Yes.  But is Little Eve happy?


HE: What if the Baron asks you to marry him—will you?

CONSUELO: Of course.  I don’t love him.  But I’ll be his honest, faithful wife.  What else am I going to do—work in the circus all my life?

HE: Are those your words—“his honest, faithful wife”?


CONSUELO: Who painted the laughter on your face?

HE: This?  I did it myself.

CONSUELO: How do you do it—all of you?  I tried once, but it was awful.

HE: I could teach you.

CONSUELO: That would be nice.  Why are there no women clowns?  Why is that?    

HE: I don’t know. [Pause.] Give me your hand—I want to see what it says.

CONSUELO: A palm reading?  Do you know how?

HE: Of course.

CONSUELO: You’re a man of many talents, HE. [HE studies her hand.] Will I be rich?

HE: No.

CONSUELO: No? [Laughs.] I’m not sure I like your palm reading!

HE: Shhh!

CONSUELO: What’s wrong?

HE: The stars are talking.

CONSUELO: Oh.  You’re taking this very seriously.

HE: It’s a serious matter.  When the stars talk, you must listen.  Their voices are distant and terrible. [HE studies her hand.] You stand at the door of Eternity, Consuelo.

CONSUELO: What does that mean?  Will I live a long time?

HE: Yes.  This line—see how far it goes?  You will live forever.

CONSUELO: Forever?

HE: For all eternity!

CONSUELO: [Smiles.] Now I think you’re only telling me what I want to hear.

HE: No, it’s written here.  And here.  See.  You have eternal life, love, and glory—but listen closely … you must not belong to anyone born of earth.  If you marry the Baron, Consuelo, you’ll die.

CONSUELO: [Laughs.] Will he eat me?

HE: Don’t laugh at the stars, Consuelo.  They’re far away, their rays are pale, we can barely see their sleeping shadows, but their sorcery is stern and dark.  You stand at the gates of eternity.  Your die is cast.  You are doomed.  And Bezano, who you love in your heart even though you don’t know it, he can’t save you.  He’s doomed too.  He, too, is a stranger on this earth, submerged in a deep sleep—a little god who has lost himself.  Forget Bezano—

CONSUELO: You’re scaring me, HE.  Why are you saying this?

HE: I’m trying to save you!  I’m the only one who can!

CONSUELO: [Laughs.] You?

HE: Yes!  Don’t laugh!  Look.  Here is the letter H.  And the E.  HE.

CONSUELO: He Who Gets Slapped?  Is the whole thing written there on my palm?

HE: Yes!  The stars know everything!  Like the strings of a divine harp, spreading their golden rays!  Like the hand of God, giving harmony, light, and love to the world!  Forget the boy!  I love you, Consuelo!

CONSUELO: Let go of my hand.

HE: I speak the language of your awakening!  Accept your god, who was thrown down from the summit like a stone!  Accept your god who fell to the earth in order to live with you in the drunkenness of joy!  Of ecstasy!  I love you!  I—

[CONSUELO slaps HE hard across the face.  He steps back.]

HE: What was that?

CONSUELO: A slap!  You forget who you are.  You are He Who Gets Slapped!  Some god!


HE: Slap me again.


HE: I need it for my play.  Slap!

CONSUELO: For your play?

HE: Yes.

CONSUELO: Then … you were only playing?  HE … I’m so sorry.  Why did you play so seriously that I believed you?  Here, then.

[She touches his cheek with her fingertips.]

HE: You are a queen, and I am the fool who is in love with you.  Didn’t you know, Consuelo, that every queen has a fool, and he is always in love with her, and they always beat him for it.  He Who Gets Slapped.

CONSUELO: No.  I didn’t know.

HE: Yes.  Every queen.  Beauty has her fool.  Oh, how many fools she has!  Her court is crowded with them, and the sound of slaps never ends, even through the night!  But I never received such a sweet slap as the one given just now by my little queen.

* * *

Download the full text of He Who Gets Slapped

Copyright © 2007 by Walter Wykes

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that He Who Gets Slapped is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional and amateur stage performing, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved.

Inquiries concerning all rights should be addressed to the author at sandmaster@aol.com



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