Saturday, May 31, 2008

Excerpt from the play THE REVENANT

FRANCESCA is facing the Inquisition. At the moment SHE is in her cell, silently mouthing what appears to be a prayer. Actually, it’s the spell to summon the demon ASMODEUS. Dressed as a monk, ASMODEUS obligingly steps out of the darkness.

ASMODEUS: You have called. I have come.

FRANCESCA: … from whatever part of the world, come presently, come affably, manifest that which I desire. I command thee by Whom all creatures …

ASMODEUS: Command? You command? Command the dung at your feet, then, and the worms that live upon it. There is your kingdom now.

FRANCESCA: I command thee, O demon Asmodeus; in the name of the ten guardians of the Sepherat: Keser, Chochma …

ASMODEUS: Persist as you will. Although for what further purpose I cannot imagine. You have requested my presence. I am here.

FRANCESCA: Angels are requested. Those of the lower regions are commanded.

ASMODEUS: Ah. The pupil now instructs the teacher. Have I been thus enjoined to play word games?

FRANCESCA: You have taught me well. To properly name a devil gives power over him. I name you the demon Asmodeus, tempter of men, destroyer of marriages, Prince of whores.

ASMODEUS: If I be that illustrious Prince, then you must be my most eager and loyal subject. Although I must confess a disappointment. Loyalty is only effective if it’s tempered with a degree of – shall we say – imagination.

FRANCESCA: Sweet Asmodeus, do not admonish me for that which I have pledged; to serve and obey.

ASMODEUS: This is why you have so rudely called me hither? Consider your task accomplished, then. You serve me better than you know.

FRANCESCA: How may that be, when I am so confined. For your love I have dared everything. Is my usefulness so easily dismissed? Was I not a witness to murder, and a receptacle for your indulgence beside that still warm body? Do I not stand mute before my judges, endure bludgeoning without crying aloud? Is there to be no surcease? Tell me the purpose I serve, and I will be comforted.

ASMODEUS: You serve MY purpose! That should be enough. As for your comfort, pleasure and pain are two faces on the same coin. In one there is always a reflection of the other. Do not despair. Revel and rejoice! Take your comfort from the sensations of the flesh, for that is all I ever promised you.

FRANCESCA: You promised the material things of this world. Wealth, power, domination over others. My name respected and feared.

ASMODEUS: I have given unstintingly all you’ve asked for, and more. Do not be so foolish as to think such gluttony as yours lasts forever.

FRANCESCA: I was to be given these things for my lifetime!

ASMODEUS: So you have them. For your lifetime.

FRANCESCA: I know you are without compassion or pity, but is there not some bargain I may yet devise for my release and those things I hold dear?

ASMODEUS: You waste my time.

FRANCESCA: Wait! For my freedom, then. All that I have for my freedom alone.

ASMODEUS: You intrigue me after all. With what would you bargain? What is still yours to give?


ASMODEUS: I thought as much.

FRANCESCA: Myself! I can still give myself!

ASMODEUS: A husk fit only for swine? When you were twelve you were of value to me. Why should I bargain for used goods when new are mine for the taking?

FRANCESCA: My soul, then. My everlasting soul.

ASMODEUS: That is not yours to give! The soul is a feather, buffeted by the wind, an inconsequential speck caught up in the conflict between the Gods of the Upper and Lower regions … usually to land on the shore of least resistance. Do not speak to me of your soul. Give me something I may hold in the palm of my hand.

FRANCESCA: It was desire for all I could not have which led me willingly – nay, eagerly – into iniquity’s hot embrace. I tell you, devil, you cannot understand the hunger in here, that no table scrap, however generously given, may satisfy.

ASMODEUS: All these years of instruction and still you have a dullard’s lack of perception. I not only understand that delicious hunger, I engender it.

FRANCESCA: Then know you that the path I trod is not a lonely one. The pitfall which lured me beyond its rim may be used over and again, if it is effectively baited.

ASMODEUS: The creatures I hunt are small. There is no need to slaughter a calf to tempt a mouse. No, your arguments are logical, as well they should be. I taught you the technique. But they fail to convince. I nurture desire for something. I care nothing for the thing itself.

FRANCESCA: There must be something! Some THING! Else, why are you here? Am I truly adept enough to cause your appearance by my will alone? If so, I am in a better position to bargain than I thought. Or … have you come merely to gloat over my wretchedness? No. I have neither risen so high nor fallen so low as to be worthy of more than passing derision. So there must be something, if I have wit enough to grasp it. Something obvious, perhaps so natural to my sight that is invisible. A task incomplete, or one yet to be performed. Yes! Speak, devil! Whatever it is, I shall do it. But there will be a price.

ASMODEUS: Feckless woman, why do you so entreat me? I have long ago given you the keys to your cell – cunning and guile. Do not be too clever for both our purposes.

FRANCESCA: I perceive you are of a single mind in this regard, and I shall comply with your demands. But I still wonder which has the greater worth, the deed or the perpetrator.

ASMODEUS: I had thought you a valuable tool, molded of hardened metal and tempered in fire. But if that tool bends easily or breaks with use, then it is of inferior material and quickly discarded.

FRANCESCA: If a tool receives proper care and handling, it may be useful for many years, and considered a prize possession. But if it is ill used, to be thrown away too soon, it is not the fault of the tool, but of the craftsman. Do you hear me, devil?! Have a care you do not discard your tools in haste!

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