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a scene from

by Henrik Ibsen

adapted for the stage by Walter Wykes

RUBEK: Irene?


Is it ... is it really you?


Don’t you recognize me?


It’s me. Arnold.


IRENE: Who was that woman—there at the table?

RUBEK: [Reluctantly.] My ... my wife. Maia.

[Pause. IRENE stares at him.]

IRENE: She does not concern me.


IRENE: She was taken after my lifetime.

RUBEK: After your—?

IRENE: And the child? I hear the child is prospering.

RUBEK: Oh, yes. The child ... our child has become famous the world over. I suppose you’ve read about it.

IRENE: It has made its father famous as well. That was your dream.

RUBEK: I suppose so ... yes ... at the time.

IRENE: I should have killed that child.

RUBEK: What—?

IRENE: Killed it before I went away! Crushed it into dust!

RUBEK: I ... I don’t understand. Why would you want to harm the ... it was as much a part of you as—

IRENE: More! More me than anything!

RUBEK: Yes. All right. More. You’re right, of course. I ... I didn’t mean to upset you.

[Pause. He moves closer.]

I can’t believe you’re really here—sitting right in front of me. I’ve often wondered what happened to you. You disappeared so suddenly ... left no trace. I searched for you, but—

IRENE: [A bitter laugh.] Why?


IRENE: You no longer had any use for me.

RUBEK: No use for you?

IRENE: Your masterpiece was complete. Your great work! The child stood transfigured in the light. And I slipped into darkness. My work was done. What need could you possibly have had for me then?

RUBEK: How can you ask that?

[No response.]

Surely you don’t think I would have just ... abandoned you? Do you? Irene?

[No response.]

Surely you know me better than that.

[She ignores him. Pause.]

Where did you go? When you left—

IRENE: What does it matter?

RUBEK: I want to know.

IRENE: I’ve traveled many lands.

RUBEK: How did you survive?

IRENE: A woman can never go hungry if she is willing to make use of her body. You taught me that. I turned the heads of all sorts of men. I did more than that. Much more than I could ever do with you, Arnold. You always kept such a tight lid on yourself.

RUBEK: You married?

IRENE: Yes. I married one of them. A distinguished diplomat. I managed to drive him quite out of his mind. It was great sport.

RUBEK: Where is he now?

IRENE: In a churchyard somewhere. With a fine monument over him and a bullet rattling in his skull.

RUBEK: He killed himself?

[No response.]

I’m so sorry.

IRENE: For what?

RUBEK: The loss. Your husband.

IRENE: [Shrugs.] There were others to take his place.

RUBEK: Others?

IRENE: My second husband, for one. The Russian.

RUBEK: Satow?


RUBEK: And where is he?

IRENE: In one of his gold mines.

RUBEK: Ahh. Still living, then?

IRENE: Not exactly—no.

RUBEK: Not exactly?

IRENE: I killed him.

RUBEK: Killed—?

IRENE: Killed him with a fine sharp dagger which I always keep under my pillow.

RUBEK: [Laughs.] You’re trying to frighten me, Irene. I know you better than that—you’re not capable of such a thing.


RUBEK: No. I wouldn’t believe it for a second.


Did you have any children?

IRENE: I’ve had many children. With many men.

RUBEK: And where are they—your children?

IRENE: I killed them too.

RUBEK: Preposterous! Now you’ve gone too far!

IRENE: I killed them, I tell you! Murdered them, one by one, as soon as they came into the world! Slit their little throats with that same sharp dagger! Put them in the ground before they could dirty their lungs on this black air!


RUBEK: There is something hidden behind everything you say.

IRENE: How can I help that when every word I say is whispered in my ear?!

RUBEK: More riddles. But riddles are meant to be solved, Irene. And I believe I am just the man to divine your meaning. Now, let me have a good look at you.

[He rests his hands on the table and stares at her intently.]

Some of the strings of your nature have been broken.

IRENE: That always happens when a young warm-blooded woman dies.

RUBEK: Dies?

IRENE: Yes. Dies.

RUBEK: So you—

IRENE: I have been dead for many years.

RUBEK: Strange. You appear quite lifelike.

IRENE: Your senses deceive you.

RUBEK: You’ve a fine complexion for a dead woman. Let me feel your pulse.

IRENE: No! Don’t touch me!

RUBEK: Irene ... stop this foolishness.

IRENE: I could no more stop the moon in its tracks or pluck the stars from the sky. Some things are simply beyond one’s control, Arnold. Just as it was beyond my control that night—

RUBEK: What night?

IRENE: —when they came for me—

RUBEK: Who? Who came?

IRENE: —when they bound me ... laced my arms together ... lowered me into a grave ... a dark hole in the ground with iron bars and padded walls ... and no one on the earth above could hear my screams.

RUBEK: I don’t understand. Padded walls? They locked you away? In ... in an asylum?

IRENE: No! In a grave!

RUBEK: Irene ... my god ... if I ... if I’d only known, I—

IRENE: [Sharply.] What?! What would you have done?! Come to my rescue?


IRENE: You? The very cause of my ... [Laughs incredulously.] You forced me into the grave, Arnold! It was your doing!

* * *

Download the full text of When We Dead Awaken

Copyright © 2006 by Walter Wykes

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that When We Dead Awaken 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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