Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Scene: A luxuriously furnished room belonging to a lady called POLITICA. There is a dressing table with many mirrors, on which are placed all kinds of perfume and make-up. Next to the main wall there is a large 'wardrobe. A pink-colored lamp sheds a romantic light to illuminate the room. It is evening. The lady is sitting at her mirror, applying lipstick. Next to her is seated a good-looking man. He seems kindly and well mannered. His name is PEACE.

PEACE (gazing at her intently): You like to wear make"'-up, I see.
POLITICA (without looking at him): It's a habit. An old habit.
PEACE: Yes, but what a habit! I don't understand why you use all that garish make-up for everyone to see.
POLITICA: There's no point now hiding what everybody knows.
PEACE: Even in front of me? While I'm here? You do it, and you don't feel any embarrassment at all?
POLITICA: It's better than letting you see me looking unsightly.
PEACE: I've told you many times, darling, I love you just as you are.
POLITICA: Do you really mean that?
PEACE: I swear I do! But you've no trust in my word. You're coldhearted and don't believe in love. And yet I don't believe I can live without you.
POLITICA (looking coquettishly in her mirror): Words, words. I hear them all the time!
PEACE: You hear them all the time? Who from? From someone else? Your husband?
POLITICA (indifferently, still applying her lipstick): Yes. From my husband too.
PEACE: Your husband! That uncouth, boorish scoundrel War?
Can a man like him have any real tender feelings?
POLITICA (picking up her rouge): He says he can't live without me too.
PEACE: Does he love you that much?
POLITICA (coquettishly): Are you jealous?
PEACE: I hate him. I hate him!
POLITICA (smiling): I'm sure he feels the same way about you.
PEACE: Take care he doesn't suspect anything between us!
POLITICA: Do you want me to be quite frank with you?
PEACE (shouting): Oh, no! You haven't told him, have you?
POLITICA: Would I be that crazy? Calm down and stop worrying
PEACE: What does he know about me?
POLITICA: He only knows you make passes at me sometimes.
PEACE: Make passes at you?
POLITICA: He couldn't help seeing it. And it's not my fault, darling. He's caught you asking for me on the phone, and caught you standing in front of the house gazing at my window and whistling that tune of yours - and when you saw him coming toward you, you ran away, didn't you? And lastly, he found your present to me, which you'd given the janitor to give me - that spray of white apricot blossoms. A reminder spring had come.
PEACE: Did he ask about me?
POLITICA: Of course. And I said: "It's a young man who makes passes at me. I can't do anything about it." Wasn't that the best way out?
PEACE: And what did he say?
POLITICA: Nothing - he simply grunted, then he' muttered between his teeth: "I just hope I get my hands on that 'young man' one day. Him and his spray of white blossoms! I'll smash his head for him and break his spine!"
PEACE (trembling with fear): God help us all!
POLITICA (smiling): Are you afraid?
PEACE (looking around at the closed doors): Are you sure he's out tonight?
POLITICA: Would I be so foolish as to invite you to my room, just so my husband could find you and break your beautiful head?
PEACE: Perhaps that would have pleased you!
POLITICA: You don't know me, darling. And you don't know what pleases me and what annoys me.
PEACE: At least I know my being here doesn't displease you.
POLITICA: Well, if you know that, why be so worried?
PEACE: How can I help being worried when I love you so much? I love you with all my heart. But I never know everything that's in yours. How can I be sure you're not toying with me?
POLITICA: Why should I have any reason to do that?
PEACE: How can I ever know what your reasons are? It baffles me, to see a beautiful, intelligent, graceful woman like you letting herself be married to an uncouth boor of a husband like that.
POLITICA: Actually our marriage isn't based on love and passion.
PEACE: You mean you can't be happy with him?
PEACE: Well, then I pity you, darling - and I'd so like to rescue you. I'm at your service. One word from your lips, and I'll carry you far away from that brute.
POLITICA: How would you do that?
PEACE: It's easy enough. We'll elope and go off - anywhere!
POLITICA: Just like that, in front of the whole world? You want scandal, do you? You don't know me, darling. I can't bear open scandal.
PEACE (thinking for a while): There is another solution. But it all depends on you.
POLITICA: What is it?
PEACE: Confront your husband, openly. Be brave and tell him you don't love him, and can't stand being near him - that it isn't right your life should be bound up with his - that you shouldn't be living together under the same roof - that the only solution is divorce!
POLITICA: Divorce?
PEACE: Yes! That's what you should be looking for, what you should insist on, to get rid of that husband of yours!
POLITICA: There's no need to insist - the whole thing won't cost me more than a single word, I assure you. There's a wager between us, you see. Yesterday we decided to play that game called "Yadass" - "In My Mind." Do you know it? It's a kind of memory game.
POLITICA: It's a simple game really. Each of you tries to hand something to the other. If one of you takes it without thinking, and forgets to say "it's in my mind," the other says "Yadass!" and can make the first one pay a forfeit. I'm sure I'll beat him - and I'll make his forfeit giving me a divorce. Don't you see? That way it won't cost me more than one single word.
PEACE (joyfully): Do it quickly, then - and may God be with us!
POLITICA: And after that?
PEACE: I'll marry you. And we'll live happily ever after.
POLITICA (smiling): That will be lovely, won't it?
PEACE: Isn't it the best solution?
POLITICA: How naive you are, my dearest darling!
PEACE (taken aback): What are you saying?
POLITICA: Have him divorce me, so you can marry me?
PEACE: Would you refuse?
POLITICA: I'm not refusing you. You know how I feel about you. You want to make sure I'm happy - and happiness might even be within my reach, who knows? But do I have the
right to think of happiness, and speak of it? Am I capable of having it? I'm afraid!
PEACE: Afraid of me?
POLITICA: Afraid of the future.
PEACE: And is that husband of yours likely to make you feel secure? Sure about things?
POLITICA: He has authority, and power and influence.
PEACE: Yes, that's true enough! You rely on his power, don't you, to get a lot of the things you want? But happiness. Happiness. Happiness!
POLITICA (sighing): Ah! Yes, such a beautiful dream!
PEACE: We all have to make sacrifices, to make our dreams come true.
POLITICA: But dreams should be short - just like these stolen times we have together. They're enjoyable because they're rare, because they only come now and then, like a cool breeze in the
hot season. Please, my dearest darling, don't waste these precious moments in this sort of futile discussion. Let me put on my most beautiful dress for you, to be worthy of this evening with you! (She gets up, goes to her wardrobe and opens it.) What would you like me to wear tonight?
PEACE (casting a long look at the contents of the wardrobe): Are all those dresses yours?
POLITICA: I love to keep changing my dresses.
PEACE: What a woman you are!
POLITICA (looking smilingly through the dresses in the wardrobe): Which one, do you think? It's the woman that makes the dress. And there's a dress for every hour in a woman's life.
PEACE: Which dress is right for this hour, then?
POLITICA (smiling): It's the dress that makes the woman.
PEACE (pricking up his ears as he hears a noise outside): Did you hear that?
POLITICA (turning to him): What?
PEACE: A door, opening and shutting.
POLITICA: Are you sure? My husband must be back!
PEACE (getting up, frightened): Your husband? What are we going to do?
POLITICA: Calm down. Hide, quick!
PEACE (looking around, distraught): Where? Where?
POLITICA (looking aroundfor a place): Quick - get in my wardrobe. I'll lock you in with my key - that's the safest place.
PEACE (rushing toward the wardrobe): Save me, please!
POLITICA locks the door of the wardrobe with the key, then hides the key in her bosom. Soon afterwards the door of the room opens, and her husband, WAR, appears, carrying a spray of white apricot blossoms.
WAR (offering the bouquet to his wife): Here's a spray of apricot blossoms - they've just started to flower. As you see, darling, I'm not without my tender feelings where you're concerned.
POLITICA (without stretching her hand to take it): Thank you. It's really very kind of you. But - why are you back so early tonight? Before your usual time?
WAR: I would have thought you'd like me to surprise you.
POLITICA: I like you to come at your usual time. That's the ideal husband.
WAR: I've always been an ideal husband to you. Well, haven't I? But I came without telling you tonight, to give you this bouquet.
POLITICA: Yes. I see. Thank you, darling!
WAR (offering her the flowers): Well, aren't you going to take them?
POLITICA (smilingly): Yes, I'll take them. But - "it's in my mind"!
WAR: What a cunning woman you are!
POLITICA (smiling): Do you think my memory's as bad as yours? I'd never forget the wager we made.
WAR: Oh, I was so looking forward to beating you!
POLITICA: So you came to give me the bouquet, hoping I'd take it and forget to say, "it's in my mind."
WAR: And then I'd have said, "Yadass"!
POLITICA (laughing): How naive you are!
WAR (contemplating her): You were putting on your make-up, I see.
POLITICA: Yes, just to pass the time.
WAR: Perhaps you were going out -
POLITICA: I did think about it.
WAR: Alone?
POLITICA: What kind of a question is that?
WAR: I'm sorry - I didn't mean to insinuate anything. I was just curious.
POLITICA: When a husband gets curious, it's called something else.
WAR: What?
POLITICA: Sometimes it's called doubt, and sometimes jealousy.
WAR: What makes you think I'm jealous?
POLITICA: Those floweing apricot blossoms are whispering in my ears. Whatever made you think of apricot blossoms, in particular? Those white blossoms blooming on their branches?
WAR: What kind of a question is that?
POLITICA: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to refer to anyone in particular. It's just a simple deduction.
WAR: With all respect to your sharp intelligence, and your clever deductions, I assure you that young man you're thinking of doesn't worry me in the least.
POLITICA: Which young man do you mean? Do you mean that young man I said was making passes at me, and I couldn't do anything about?
WAR: Forget about him!
POLITICA: Quite right, darling. Thinking about him is very tiresome - he's so insistent and stubborn and willful! Imagine, he's done the impossible and entered this very room!
WAR (shouting): Entered this very room? When?
POLITICA: Tonight - while you weren't here.
WAR: And he saw you?
POLITICA: Of course.
WAR: And spoke to you?
POLITICA: Of course.
WAR (contemplating her make-up and clothes): And how come you were thinking of going out? Perhaps you were going out with him!
POLITICA: Of course.
WAR (shouting): What are you saying, woman? Do you think it's right and proper to go out with this lover-boy at night? While I'm not here? Behind my back?
POLITICA: I don't know what came over me all of a sudden. He amused me, and he persuaded me.
WAR: Amused you, and persuaded you?
POLITICA: He told me how he felt. It all seemed quite honest and sincere.
WAR: And you let him talk?
POLITICA: Yes, I kept on listening, very calmly.
WAR: How very odd! And you didn't throw him out of the window?
POLITICA: I'm not like you. I don't knock people about.
WAR: You listen instead, keep on listening, calmly! Yes! Tell me, would you please, all those fine things he said to you?
POLITICA: He said he loved me and couldn't live without me. And wanted to elope with me.
WAR: Elope with you?
POLITICA: And get away from you - to give me the happiness I can never find with a blackguardly ruffian like you.
WAR (enraged): The scoundrel!
POLITICA: Calm down, darling.
WAR (shouting): Calm down? How can I calm down after what I've just heard? Elope with you? Snatch you away from me? That ridiculous young weakling I could blow away like a feather? Hit him once, and he'd crumple up! That young man, elope with you? Take you away from me? How can he take you away from your husband? Has the fool forgotten I'm your husband?
POLITICA: He begged ,me to ask you for a divorce.
WAR: Divorce?
POLITICA: So he could marry me afterwards.
WAR: Is he out of his mind?
POLITICA: No, he's quite sane. He honestly believes he deserves me more than you do. That my marrying you was an unforgivable mistake.
WAR (shouting): And you - ? You - ? You - ? You let him say all that without slapping his face?
POLITICA: I leave the job of slapping to you.
WAR: Now? Mer you've let him run away? The coward!
POLITICA: Who said he's run away?
WAR: He didn't run away? Where is he then?
POLITICA: In your hands.
WAR (shouting): I don't understand. Explain yourself!
POLITICA: He's here, in this very room.
WAR (bursting out in fury): Here? Where? Where? Show me. Now, straight away - I'll smash him, I'll blot him out of existence! Where is he?
POLITICA: Here - in the wardrobe.
WAR: In your wardrobe?
POLITICA: Yes. I tricked him into going into it, then I shut him up inside like a mouse in a trap, to wait till you came
WAR (shouting): I'll break his bones and pound them to a mush! (He rushes to the wardrobe and shakes its doors.) It's locked. Where's the key?
POLITICA: I have the key here.
WAR (stretching out his hand and shouting): Give it to me!
POLITICA (taking the key from her bosom and giving it to him): Here, take it.
WAR takes the key from her hand and rushes in a frenzy to the wardrobe.
WAR (taken aback and stopping): What a fool I am!
POLITICA (triumphantly): Hey, didn't I tell you you'd never win?
WAR: You mean you made up that whole story, just so you could hand me the key without me remembering? Here, take your cursed key - you scheming woman! (He throws the key on the floor.)
POLITICA: That's not all you have to do.
WAR: What else do you want me to do?
POLITICA: Pay me your forfeit!
WAR: What is it?
POLITICA: I want - I want -
WAR: Go on then!
POLITICA (thinking): I want - a necklace of real pearls, a long double string, to adorn my breast.
PEACEWAR: Tomorrow, as soon as the stores open. I'll bring it to you then.
POLITICA: And now we must drink a toast to my victory over you. Go down, now, and get us a bottle of best champagne from the liquor store.
WAR: Your wish is my command.
He goes out. No sooner has he disappeared than she picks up the key from
the floor and opens the wardrobe.
POLITICA (to PEACE, who is inside the wardrobe): You can come out, darling. You're safe now.
PEACE comes out, looking very pale.
POLITICA: Why so pale, darling?
PEACE (in a weak voice): Do you think there's a drop of blood left in my veins?
He walks toward the door.
POLITICA: You're not going?
PEACE: While I'm still in one piece. Before something disastrous happens!
POLITICA (walking with him to the door): Till we meet again, darling. And I'll drink a toast to your health.
PEACE (talking as If to himself): What a woman you are!

He goes out without looking at her.

A play by Tawfiq Al-Hakim
Translated by May Jayyusi and David Wright

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