Drake’s Drum
a play in two acts by
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
Francis Drake — late 30’s — sea captain & adventurer
Sir Thomas Doughty— early 40’s — gentleman & investor
Elizabeth — 44 — Queen of England
Marcie — 55 — sales representative
Voice of the Pachamama
Book-on-Tape Voice
July 1577. And today.
Southeastern coast of South America, near the Straits of Magellan. And a car on the I-5 between Chico, CA, and Los Angeles.
At one side, an Elizabethan-style table with two chairs. At the other, the front of an automobile, facing the audience.
At one side, an Elizabethan-style table with two chairs. At the other, the front of an automobile, facing the audience.
In the Sebastopol production, the scenic background was a robe, painted in dark sea colors, that emanated from Queen Elizabeth, draped across the back of the stage and extended out along the side walls of the auditorium. Above it, a sky drop painted in dark reds and yellows. The floor under the table area was painted as a 16th Century map of the Americas. The highway was a steeply raked platform diagonally bisecting the stage with a solid white line. Above, a freeway sign: I-5 South/Los Angeles.
Sound & Music
A score of incidental music is available on CD from the composer. Through most of the action, as appropriate, there is the sound of the sea behind Drake & Doughty, the sound of highway traffic behind Marcie.
© 2005 Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
Act One
Sharp light on figures in limbo.
DOUGHTY: I am a footnote in history.
DRAKE: My history. The triumph of faith and enterprise.
DOUGHTY: One cloud in a blazing sky.
Black. Sound of jazz on a car radio, its reception breaking up. The headlights flare then dim. Marcie, a woman in her mid-fifties, is driving.
MARCIE: Rest stop forty miles. Stay awake. Stay awake, Marcie. You hear me, girl? God, I hate the I-5.
No you don’t. You made the choice to drive instead of fly. Attitude adjustment: God, I love the I-5!
I need some French fries.
Shuts the music off abruptly, fumbles in the passenger seat.
Books on tape. “Sir Francis Drake.” I don’t think so. Why’d I take that? Shoulda checked out some murder mystery. Something I could relate to.
Yawns, shakes herself, takes a cell phone from her bag, punches it with one hand while driving.
I shouldn’t do this.
Connects with a machine.
Phoenix, hi, this is Marcie. Calling your studio cause it’s kinda late, didn’t want to drag you outa bed. But I’m gonna be in L.A. tomorrow, if you want to have dinner, catch up, whatever. Never quite sure how Cindy feels about your ex-wife dropping in, but— Sorry, not Cindy, Janelle — I never could keep’em straight. I’m babbling.
It’s about midnight, I’m on the I-5, driving, chance for some solitude, meditate, guess that’s why I’m making cellphone calls.
But anyway, hope things are going well, and how’s your band doing? I’ve got meetings, this shopping mall. They are actually considering going solar, which is neat, changing the paradigm, that stuff, although it’s kinda like upgrading your cancer.
Hey, did she tell you? Our daughter’s in love again. She’s off to Yosemite, wilderness hiking, so it must be serious.
Anyway, you got my number, so give me a buzz. So long, buddy.
Sir Francis Drake. Ok, sank the Spanish Armada? Sailed around the world, maybe landed in California, cause there’s a boulevard and a bay and a hotel, maybe a car-wash, named Sir Francis Drake.
I loved those guys in their cute little foxy beards and pleated ruffs, like their heads were on dinner plates. No wonder they chopped so many off. Well ok...
Shoves the cassette into the player.
TAPE: —have enjoyed as great or as durable a reputation as Sir Francis Drake—
MARCIE: (over tape) They didn’t wind it back!
TAPE: In his own day, he was the most celebrated of Englishmen—
She shuts it off.
MARCIE: Go, Francis. Yeh, and there’s a poem— My God, I did that for Oral Interp in high school. State contest. “Drake’s Drum.” Something about Drake coming back whenever England is in peril, like King Arthur, so don’t worry, guys, Daddy’s coming.
No, Marcie, you really do not want to listen to this. You really just want some peace and quiet. You really just— Aw shit.
Punches it to play.
TAPE: —of November, 1577, Francis Drake set out from Plymouth harbor with five ships on what the crew believed to be a trading mission to Egypt but was in fact—
She punches fast forward, then play.
MARCIE: I’ll start with his midlife crisis. That I could relate to,
Drake and Doughty appear, facing each other. They are in Elizabethan dress.
TAPE: —an ongoing quarrel between Drake and Sir Thomas Doughty, who had been cohorts and apparently friends during the Irish campaign, began in the early stages of crossing the Atlantic—
Tape begins to have multiple overlays.
—where Magellan himself had hanged three men for mutiny, Drake put Doughty on trial, charged with treason, mutiny, and black magic—
DRAKE: Tried by a jury of peers—
DOUGHTY: Tried and found expendable.
TAPE: On the day of execution, Drake and Doughty took communion together, dined together, and then the ax fell. One wonders what they spoke of at dinner.
MARCIE: One wonders. Nuffa that.
She punches it off. Instead, it emits a trumpet fanfare, then drums.
Hey. Stop! Don’t do this to me! Oh, Jesus! I need a lot more than French fries.
Music. The men speak in unison:
CHORUS: All hail our Glorious Majesty Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, Queen of England.
We present for Your Highness’ edification the Solemn Spectacle of “Drake’s Drum,”
With the execution of Sir Thomas Doughty and the heroic voyage of Francis Drake in the Year of our Lord 1577.
Heaven bless Your Majesty.
Trumpets. Queen Elizabeth is revealed, nine feet tall.
ELIZABETH: Heaven blesses whom it will. Amuse us. We are rapt.
MARCIE: I need coffee.
CHORUS: Course the First: Sir Thomas Doughty, condemned to death, sits to supper with his accuser.
MARCIE: Fantastic. It’s Fox News, 1577.
DRAKE: Unshackle Sir Thomas. This is a friendly repast.
Doughty stretches his arms free.
Thank you for accepting my invitation.
DOUGHTY: The summons of a captain is not to be dismissed.
DRAKE: Or a friend’s.
Perhaps not a friend. Friendship is fleeting in this age. A comrade in arms. Those who have killed Irish together form a bond. Irishmen are mad quarry.
ELIZABETH: A moment.
Elizabeth raises glasses to observe them.
DOUGHTY: Should I feel more honored to dine with a captain? Or you, to share the company of a gentleman?
DRAKE: Let us both feel honored. I commend this dish to whet the appetite.
He ceremoniously offers a fast-food container of French fries. Doughty tastes, then takes another.
A native delicacy. I will not say what it is. If I did, you would spew.
The aboriginals of Africa and America have much to teach us. Their souls are damned, but they are human, I truly believe it.
DOUGHTY: The question is, are we?
DRAKE: By God’s Grace.
I learned much from my youthful days on slave ships. I spoke with a blackamoor who told of a village where music was made by chimes, great echoing chimes. It might seem hellish to us, a pandemonic cacophony, but to them it was voices from God.
One day their chimes were gone. They had been sold for strings of beads. We had taught them buying and selling, you see, and so they had sold their god.
But here is the comical thing. They did not see that buying and selling were real. They saw it as borrowing: our child goes to live in your house, and yours in mine, and then they return. Their chimes did not return.
DOUGHTY: Did you copulate with their females?
DRAKE: I had hoped for a pleasant meal.
DOUGHTY: Clear skies.
DRAKE: We are partly provisioned. In a month, God willing, we face the Straits of Magellan.
DOUGHTY: Something akin, we are told, to the gates of hell. I should not like to risk it. Though, considering my options, perhaps I should.
Might you prefer that we sip a cordial and finish this business early?
DRAKE: As you will.
DOUGHTY: As I will? Well then, let us prolong the distraction.
They eat.
MARCIE: Amazing. Imagine these guys breaking out a couple of beers, then off with his head!
They break out beers.
ELIZABETH: My Lord Chamberlain: commission some scribbler to write us a jollier play. Ah but they said “edification.” Let us then be edified. Proceed!
DRAKE: To Her Majesty.
Drake toasts. Elizabeth acknowledges. They drink.
DOUGHTY: And to your voyage, no longer mine.
Strange to imagine Our Savior dining with His betrayer. No doubt it was a pleasant meal.
DRAKE: Who is the betrayer here?
DOUGHTY: We are all betrayers of His Grace and His example.
DRAKE: Well said, Sir Thomas.
DOUGHTY: Thank you, Sir Francis.
Drake reacts sharply.
I knight you in advance. When you return, there will be a knighthood. In these enlightened times, a worthy commoner may rise high. I will not see your advancement, therefore I prefigure it. We should dine as peers.
Allow me my whimsy. It is in short supply.
DRAKE: Knighthood is the Queen’s to bestow. Accepting this whimsy, even in jest, would be presumption.
DOUGHTY: Whimsy is treason to an orderly soul.
Then let me abase myself. Let it be Thomas, not Sir Thomas, but Thomas the plain, Thomas the fool, poor Tom.
Knowing our titles are bestowed by men, not by God — all titles save that of Her Majesty, which is truly that of God.
ELIZABETH: Is this mockery?
DRAKE: Do you mock me? Speak plainly. I am a simple man.
DOUGHTY: Whimsy, Francis.
ELIZABETH: Ah. Whimsy. Delightful.
MARCIE: Why are you listening to this, Marcie? Why are you listening to this? Why are you listening to this?
DOUGHTY: Will you be present? At my demise?
DRAKE: I shall.
DOUGHTY: I should like to ask one favor.
DOUGHTY: Spare my life.
Silence. He smiles.
Whimsy. I should have said, prior to my death, allow me privacy to relieve myself. We are but clay. I was present when Norfolk went to the block. He befouled the festivities.
DRAKE: Granted.
DOUGHTY: Well Francis, I have puzzled. What does he want of me? He is not a man for diversions. What is in his mind?
Nostalgia, perhaps, when we shared a campfire in the wilds of Ireland and bathed in the icy rivers to wash out the stench of blood. Oh for our days of friendship, slaughtering Irish.
Forgiveness? But the man never questions his virtue.
Or I thought, approaching the Straits of Magellan you might doubt you stood high enough in the Grace of God to assure safe passage. You seek the help of magic. There being rumors of my traffic with darker powers. Yes?
Perhaps you wish to flaunt your magnanimity: you bear me no ill will for slaying me. Friendship still, though I can hear your voice once the ax has fallen—
DRAKE: “Thus die all traitors.” You know me well enough.
DOUGHTY: I have it: You are curious to know if I am guilty. Which concerned you very little at the trial.
DRAKE: You were found guilty.
DOUGHTY: By a jury of my peers, under your command.
DRAKE: By authority of the Queen.
DOUGHTY: Whose commission we have not seen.
DRAKE: You will stand before a higher judgment soon.
Sir Thomas— Well then, Thomas. You ask my purpose.
I pay tribute to our past friendship and your service to this voyage. You were helpful in securing investment. You were my entry to the Earl of Essex, I grant you.
I wish there to be peace between us. That was my intent.
DOUGHTY: Why do you lie to a dead man?
DRAKE: Give me the lie again, and I will cut out your tongue before you lose your head!
Forgive me. I am distempered by evil speech.
DOUGHTY: Evil is the name we give to the unfamiliar. Truth is unfamiliar to us, therefore we call it evil.
DRAKE: Blasphemy, Sir Thomas. Remember Judgment.
DOUGHTY: Will you escort me there to testify?
DRAKE: I will devote myself to my dinner.
He pops a morsel into his mouth.
MARCIE: I hate this guy.
DRAKE: You question why I invited you. Why did you accept?
DOUGHTY: You dine well, Francis. My last meal should be memorable. The taste might linger in the afterlife.
Or perhaps to end your voyage abruptly, with a single thrust.
DRAKE: Shall we strip you to find where the dagger is concealed?
DOUGHTY: Under my tongue.
DRAKE: You are merry, Thomas. Should you not think on your immortal soul?
DOUGHTY: Well, but I do. I look at the poor naked thing, shivering in your shadow. I must laugh, lest I beshit myself.
DRAKE: I would counsel you as you approach the Gates.
DOUGHTY: Indeed. Satan’s wiles are futile there. Better the wiles of a godly man.
DRAKE: Is this a meal of bitter herbs?
DOUGHTY: Curiosity has a bitter tang. The foretaste of the blade.
DRAKE: The feast wanes.
DOUGHTY: Excellent, though. Your gastronomic sensibilities are fully a match for your piratical inspirations.
DRAKE: I dispute the term pirate.
DOUGHTY: I am rude.
DRAKE: We were friends.
DRAKE: Despite our difference in breeding.
DOUGHTY: Curse the notion of breeding.
DRAKE: Never. I know my father. A plain man who knew his station. And myself. I know myself. As a man curst, and blest, with the sin of pride. Yet pride turned to service of my Sovereign and my God.
To you, your title is a trifle. Yet by land you were a better soldier than I. You would have done well to stay in Ireland.
DOUGHTY: I had my fill of killing. There was so much killing yet to do, I despaired of it. The Irish are so fertile and I so barren.
DRAKE: You are a man outside your time.
I was a boy when I saw the pageant play at Whitsun. Beelzebub emerged in a burst of smoke and sulphur, railing against God.
You resemble him. You see blackness when all others see light. You mock all virtue. You dispute the genius of our times — action, enterprise, belief. Your soul is steeped in vinegar.
DOUGHTY: Yet did not the Devil gain the greater plaudits?
DRAKE: I confess he did. My father beat me when he learned I saw the play. All full of Popery and sin.
DOUGHTY: I am sorry for it.
DRAKE: Sorry?
DOUGHTY: Had your father not beat you, I might not be dying. He beat all questions out of you. For you a question mark is Satan’s claw. You loathe a questioner. And yet your every act breeds questions as a whore breeds cankers.
When we turned south, and it was clear that this voyage was neither that promised to the crew, a trading mission to Egypt, nor as we gentlemen investors surmised, a raid on Panama, but something divinely mad: sail up the backside of America and bugger the Spaniard facing East!
When the Straits of Magellan loomed, we were locked in the jaws of history. Stern jaws, and a sour morsel.
DRAKE: Howsoever, you are my guest. It pleases me to dine together as mortal men. To open our souls, or not, as God wills. I would call you to repentance, you would riddle me with riddles. Who can tell the whim of the winds?
Yet the feast before us is toothsome. The aboriginals prize this highly.
He reaches behind the table, takes out two bags containing cheeseburgers.
DOUGHTY: So then, let us feast.
He takes a bite. Marcie snaps off the cassette. They freeze.
MARCIE: That’s just what I need. This historical guy thing. History is last year’s reruns. The series is over, it’s disgusting, it’s dead, but it runs and it runs and it runs.
But there’s a genius there, I guess, like the mutations of a virus. You think wow, this kills really well.
ELIZABETH: We depend on such.
MARCIE: And the dude on the throne is a lady.
Drum roll.
ELIZABETH: Hear me now.
ELIZABETH: My body is but a weak, feeble woman, but my soul is the soul of kings.
MARCIE: “Kings?”
ELIZABETH: It is given me to be the channel of a mighty river.
We are all mortal, yet charged by Almighty God to carry burdens that only God can give us strength to bear. It is beyond me.
And yet I myself, by the Grace of God and the love of my subjects, shall steer the ship given in my charge.
How I may birth a prince I know not yet. But I know that I shall bear to the world a mighty nation, a nation whose boundaries expand to embrace the Earth itself.
MARCIE: Where have I heard this before?
ELIZABETH: To this aim, I must forego the restful sleep, the communion with nature, the joys of wedlock.
I must consort with commanders, ministers of state.
I must choose a husband, or not, by consent of my council. It is for my council to wed me and bed me, decide if my womb shall be full. My council to let me be woman.
CHORUS: Fear it.
ELIZABETH: They fear me.
They fear the will of my father within me, the sire who beheaded my mother.
They fear my fury, my malice, my virtue, my wit, my whim and my calculation. They fear my seven languages and my silence. They fear my death, and they fear I may live too long.
They express their fears as love, and so they court me, they flatter me, they cry—
ELIZABETH: So very long.
MARCIE: Rest stop.
She pulls over, stops, tries to sleep. The men speak in unison.
CHORUS: Course the Second:
Sir Thomas Doughty defends and betrays himself.
Drake produces a pizza. Doughty takes a slice. Drake nibbles as he speaks.
DOUGHTY: I ask again, Francis, why this feast? You are the bluntest man I know, and the most devious.
DRAKE: Devious only when I am out-gunned. My foes find me merciless in battle, magnanimous in victory.
ELIZABETH: My little pirate is talkative. I had not thought he would chatter so.
DRAKE: Yet I am no dissembler. You ask a purpose? Well then, I seek facts. Who commissioned you?
DOUGHTY: On pain of being denied dessert? Commissioned me to what?
DRAKE: Mutiny.
DOUGHTY: I am no hireling.
DRAKE: Who at Court? Was it Burghley?
DOUGHTY: No one.
DRAKE: I would know my enemies.
DOUGHTY: I made no mutiny.
DRAKE: You can be put to the torture still.
DOUGHTY: And I would name a dozen names. Burghley, yes, and Walsingham too. Christopher Hatton, the Earl of Lincoln, the keeper of the hounds— How many enemies shall I conjure up for you?
DRAKE: Speak the truth!
DOUGHTY: Myself. At my demon’s command.
DRAKE: You confess the black arts? We will consign you to the fire.
DOUGHTY: You ask me to speak the truth and condemn me to fire?
DRAKE: Your blasphemies condemn you.
DOUGHTY: What I call my demon is my very nature. It is my demon who sports with you. My demon who abused you. My demon who is cousin to yours: our unquenchable thirst.
DRAKE: Now we have it! Like all lost souls, he ascribes to others the sins of his heart.
My thirst is for my country, my Queen and my God. Yours, for I know not what, yet I know that the thirst of the sinner shrieking in hell is unquenchable!
ELIZABETH: Captain! I spend long days hearing babble. Fewer words, if you please.
Drake bows.
DRAKE: Sir Thomas—
Thomas, you are much changed. You once were full of laughter.
DOUGHTY: I was a merry young wastrel. Until that hour in battle, pissing myself as I grappled with a raving Catholic. In the name of our Lord and Savior, I cut his throat. Before my eyes he clutched his crucifix, prayed aloud till he gagged, the wine gone sour. A fierce communion.
Then his demons flew out the slit, and into me. They pulse in my chest, mimicking a heart.
DRAKE: A Christian heart is proof against demons.
DOUGHTY: Then not my heart. It flew deep to my Christian bowels, where demons break wind.
A guffaw from Elizabeth.
DRAKE: You sport with me, Thomas. I would know where I have merited your scorn.
DOUGHTY: I am a false man, Francis, yes. I know the truth, I choose not to honor it. You honor it without knowing it, so you are more devious than I.
ELIZABETH: Enough babble! Words swarm like gnats. Dispatches from Walsingham, reports on Spanish troops in the Lowlands, Scottish intrigue, Lord Burghley’s calculations.
And here we are harried by a petition regarding the trial of the late Sir Thomas Doughty. They offer confused accounts. Instruct us, if you please.
CHORUS: The Trial of the Traitor Thomas Doughty.
Drake and Doughty rise to opposite sides. Marcie tries to nap.
DRAKE: Thomas Doughty, you have here sought by divers means to discredit me, to the great hindrance of this voyage. Of which if you can clear yourself, you and I shall be good friends. If to the contrary, you deserve death.
DOUGHTY: It shall never be proved that I merit villainy.
DRAKE: By whom will you be tried for your seditious dealings?
DOUGHTY: Why Captain, let me come back to England, and there be tried by Her Majesty’s laws.
DRAKE: Circumstance does not permit. I will here impanel a jury.
DOUGHTY: Why then, Captain, I hope your commission be good. Let us see your commission from the Queen, that you have such authority.
DRAKE: My commission is good enough.
DOUGHTY: Pray let us see it. It must be shown.
DRAKE: My masters, this fellow is full of talk. Bind his arms, lest he attempt my life.
DOUGHTY: This is not law, nor agreeable to justice.
DRAKE: I have not to do with lawyers. Read out the charges.
CHORUS: You are charged with inciting to mutiny.
With defaming our Captain.
With treason against Her Majesty the Queen.
You are charged with black magic.
You are charged with other prodigious crimes.
How do you plead?
DOUGHTY: That you permit me to answer in England.
DRAKE: Well, let these men find whether you be guilty or no, and then we will talk further.
DOUGHTY: This is nothing, Captain, but the sum of petty quarrels. On this voyage we have had our differences, and your temper has outrun your reason. You have sought out men who will say what they believe you wish to hear.
I freely admit that I have spoken ill of you, as you have used me ill. You have cursed me. You have bound me to the mast. Yet on no occasion have I counseled mutiny.
I was ever your friend. I myself first brought you in Ireland to the presence of my Lord of Essex.
DRAKE: You did so? My masters, see how he discredits me? This fellow was never with my lord but once and was little esteemed. I was daily with my lord.
DOUGHTY: I ask again that you show your commission from the Queen to take these liberties with a gentleman.
DRAKE: Will you deny that when I gave you command of the Mary that you spoke a speech to the crew?
DRAKE: And spoke thus:
(reading) “There hath been great fallings out among you. Our Captain has sent me to take charge in this place. My authority I have from Captain Drake, who has his from the Queen, to punish with death if need be.”
Are these your words?
DOUGHTY: My words—
DRAKE: Your words confirm my commission. Testimony!
Ned Bright: “Master Doughty sought to enlist me at the very start. He had a mind to break from the Captain and use the plunder to earn indemnity for his conduct.”
DOUGHTY: When have I been seen in company of that man? What friendship between us that I should trust him with such words?
DRAKE: I swear that what Ned Bright has said is true.
DOUGHTY: Why then did he not report me as a traitor when he heard me speak? Yet he waits to speak it here.
DRAKE: Truth will come out.
DOUGHTY: In a place where will is law and reason sent to exile.
CHORUS: Inciting to mutiny.
Defaming our Captain.
Treason against the Queen.
Black magic. Black magic.
And other prodigious crimes.
DOUGHTY: Nothing is proven by your charges.
DRAKE: The proof is in your words. Even here you defy me to my face.
DOUGHTY: I defy your accusations.
DRAKE: Hear how he minces words!
From your own brother’s lips: (reading) He states that he and his brother — his brother — can conjure as well as any man. Can raise the devil and bedim the sun.
This at a time when — you remember, masters? — we descended the coast in baffling mists, high winds arose from calm, and we saw the natives’ bonfires cursing us.
DOUGHTY: This was said in jest. To fright the ignorant.
DRAKE: He names his brother. He names his brother guilty of the storms.
DOUGHTY: Had I been a master of demons, why stir the winds when I could more effectually have provoked mass diarrhea?
DRAKE: What, my masters, shall be done with this man?
He has sought the overthrow of this voyage. He has threatened my life, and you to be cast away on an alien shore, to be doomed to starve, to drink each other’s piss.
Consider, my masters, what a great voyage we are like to make, never the like made out of England, whereby the lowest in this fleet shall become a gentleman. If this voyage go not forward, which it cannot if this man live, what a reproach it will be, to our country and to us.
Therefore, if any man can, before he is pronounced the child of death, devise a way that might save his life, I will hear it.
DOUGHTY: Well, General, it is come to this pass. I pray then that you carry me with you to some shore and set me to fend among cannibals, Papists, or cockatoos, as God so wills.
DRAKE: You would have me flout Her Majesty’s laws, which demand justice. Yet if any man will warrant me to keep you secure, Thomas Doughty, I will consider this.
DOUGHTY: Master Winter, will you be so good as to undertake my custody?
MARCIE: (sleepily) Sure, why not?
DRAKE: Then my masters, we must nail him close under the hatches and return home. We must end the voyage and suffer disgrace in the eyes of our countrymen and our Queen.
How say you?
MARCIE: God forbid.
DRAKE: Then those who would become rich men and have this man die, hold up your hands. And those who would not have him die, and so betray the Queen, hold down your hands.
Marcie sleepily raises her hand.
DOUGHTY: Why then, let me not be found guilty of opposing your will.
He raises his hand.
DRAKE: Then prepare for your death. You have one day’s respite to set affairs in order. I hold you in my prayers. For the sake of friendship.
DOUGHTY: Curious friendship.
Headlights flare. Marcie pulls out from the rest stop.
MARCIE: All aboard.
She picks up her cell phone, punches a number.
Great thing about telephones is nobody answers.
Hi, sweetheart, this is your mom. You said you’re gone this week, but I just felt like calling, say I love you. I’m halfway to LA, driving down this time. Talking on the cell phone, which I know I shouldn’t be doing, but I’m trying to stay awake. Listening to books on tape about all the heroes over the centuries who made us what we are. And thinking about my insignificant little life.
So I’m coming back on Thursday, I could stop through Oakland if you’re back yet, so lemme know. Tell Raven that her grandma called and really loves her, and I’ll tell her a story when I see her. Love you, Jo. Bye.
Clicks off.
} I give up. I’m asleep, and I’m having this horrible nightmare that this is the Twenty-first Century.
She punches the cassette. Music. Focus on Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH: I am troubled, my lords.
We twist the tail of the Spanish bull. We sport with fire.
We tend the balance of trade and suckle the ravenous babe of the Royal Exchequer. Daily we foil the blade of conspiracy.
We dance the quadrille of queenship.
MARCIE: “I am troubled, my lords...”
Will it be said, next millennium, she was a great queen, but lacking, this queen whose starched ruff cuts the head from the body.
This fetid virgin. This monster of virtue. This salt fish.
MARCIE: Five minutes of the news does that for me.
ELIZABETH: Trapped in the daily tedium of state, the placement of furniture, the endless march of kingship, queenship, ship of state, ship of death, ship of fools.
I combat a tyranny, perhaps to supplant it with a more enlightened tyranny, and promote the true religion of our merciful and loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with blood.
Blood in the Lowlands, blood in the New World, blood in the sea, blood one day across the skies.
MARCIE: You nailed it.
ELIZABETH: And beheadings to attend to. Political expediency. My own mother was but one on the list of the beheaded. I must not fault my father for it. Beheading, perhaps, is good for the soul.
Yet it blurs our vision.
MARCIE: Vision...
ELIZABETH: A vision dimly glimpsed as a girl among the greenery.
Our poets envision new worlds, worlds ungoverned by plague, by war, by death, by gold. Worlds of passion, rivers, wonder.
A world deep-rooted. Should I not glim this world, and bend my armies to its birthing?
MARCIE: Armies as midwives. . .
ELIZABETH: Imagine a queen presiding over a world without nightmares, a world of love, where no mothers are beheaded—
A world where a woman might rule and still be a woman—
A world where a child is conceived, engendered, and born, and lives in joy—
A world where all men remember their suckling at a breast, and that is communion.
A world at peace. A world in blossom, not blood.
MARCIE: Could I please have a piece of that pizza?
Drake rises to give her a piece. They look at each other a moment, puzzled, then he returns to his seat.
This was going to be a restful drive.
History is no big help in saving the world. Which isn’t really my job, except to the degree that solar panels provide us with the green, renewable energy to lead our stupid, selfish lives.
Marcie punches the cassette.
CHORUS: Course the third: The Secrets of Friendship.
DOUGHTY: What drew us together, Francis? Butchering Irish made good sport, yet we are so unalike.
My egalitarian streak, perhaps, was whetted by befriending a commoner, yet one who bore the seed of true nobility.
Even on this voyage: You dine from silver plates and goblets, stand on the deck in finery, speak a voice that brooks no hesitation, harbors no doubt. Every step is filled with belief. You are a taller man than men a foot taller.
DRAKE: And yet you sported with my faith, my purity, my scant education. I gave you scope for merriment. I was the prize hound whose keeper boasts of his skills, yet always the hound.
DOUGHTY: And I the keeper of the staircase upward, to which your vision led. I was your entry to my Lord of Essex, though you denied me at the trial.
DRAKE: We should have better drink.
Drake produces two wine glasses, pours from a bottle.
Yes, we have used each other, as friends use friends. And yet is friendship to be denied?
DOUGHTY: You are a man of few friends.
DRAKE: Few enough. And yet I am drawn to those who dream. I recall your musing on the eve of the Irish landing, as we picked lice from each other’s beard.
DOUGHTY: They showed no preference for noble blood. We were equals in our parasites.
DRAKE: You were not then so bitter. I loved you for your enthusiasms. This man must be with me on the voyage to come. His words are near heretical, yet may I without presumption claim a common blood?
DOUGHTY: My blood is yours? I grieve for you, then, that you are soon to shed it.
DRAKE: Shedding of blood... Have you spoke with our pilot, the Portuguese we captured?
DOUGHTY: Señor Nuño da Silva. No.
DRAKE: Remarkable man. He knows the Brazilian coast and the western sea. He speaks of those who have seen the mines of Peru, and the natives enslaved in the mines.
They worship demons, of course. Pachamama. The mother of Earth, or the Mother Earth.
DOUGHTY: Pachamama.
MARCIE: Omigod. Pachamama.
DRAKE: She is a thirsty goddess. Were I to set you ashore, they would drain out your blood to Pachamama. Blood to nourish the crops.
DOUGHTY: So I might be of service to agriculture? I would prefer it not go to waste.
And what crop, Francis, do I nourish here? Do you, possessed of the true religion, see me in a different light than does your demon goddess, as I pour out my blood to these sands?
What do you see? A conspirator? A brother at arms? A wit?
DRAKE: What do I see? I see a gallant man, a friend, and a fool.
DOUGHTY: Why fool?
DRAKE: No man calls me liar to my face.
DOUGHTY: I merely said your words were not to be distinguished for their truth.
DRAKE: Were that true, it was not wise to say it.
DOUGHTY: You are Spanish at heart. You sail to the windward of truth so you can be its master.
DRAKE: I thrust straight and true.
DOUGHTY: To the throat.
DRAKE: Señor da Silva gave me a trinket the shape of this goddess. I shall present it to the Queen.
MARCIE: Pachamama.
DOUGHTY: You present the Queen demons?
Drake is silent. Doughty laughs.
I did meet Satan once. Or if not Satan, then his footman. Master John Dee. Strange that he’s not been hanged, he so richly deserves it. Our gracious Majesty welcomes his astrologies and ignores his sorceries.
He has a magical mirror, in which he discerns very boring things. Conundrums that promise all and deliver trifles.
Your magic is stronger. Your yield glitters.
DRAKE: My magic—
DOUGHTY: Is Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom lies our salvation.
They eat in silence.
Midway in the feast. A few more courses, then a prayer will end it. Imagine: a prayer. A plea for life, and the joys of life. I fear I have less appetite than I had.
DRAKE: I will not insist.
DOUGHTY: I recall we were speaking of friendship.
DRAKE: Friendship is cruel, Sir Thomas. In your betrayals you have held a mirror to me, in which I discern my faults.
I am proud. I am quick to anger. To other races I am generous, tolerant even of their sacrilege, yet I am quick to judge my fellows. My spirit is great, and yet my soul must stand tiptoe to see out the portals.
DOUGHTY: We are harsh mirrors to one another.
DRAKE: Honest. More honest, I would think, than Master Dee’s magic mirror. They say the sorcerer who looks in a mirror cannot see his own face.
DOUGHTY: No man sees his own face.
DRAKE: Mayhap the test of friendship is this: to see my own face in the eyes of my friend?
DOUGHTY: Can you well afford a future without a merciless mirror?
Dare you unleash the force of your will when the jester who tells you true lies bereft of a head?
Have you so many honest friends that one is expendable? Might we not be firmer friends when I have tasted humility and you mercy?
DRAKE: You ask mercy.
DOUGHTY: Mayhap.
DRAKE: We have already spoke.
DOUGHTY: Words are wind.
DRAKE: Wind is the mariner’s god.
DOUGHTY: With God are all things possible.
DRAKE: Do you not feel shame at supplication?
DOUGHTY: The headless corpse is long past shame.
DRAKE: I will think on it.
DOUGHTY: We might do much.
MARCIE: Forget it. There’s no suspense. The ax fell right on schedule.
They look at her.
Sorry. Just stating the obvious.
They eat in silence.
DRAKE: Friends should have no secrets. We each have secrets. Shall we speak them, and so be done?
DOUGHTY: If you will.
DRAKE: Well then, Sir Thomas, what is your death to you?
DOUGHTY: Mm. A serious inconvenience. A tedious comedy. A national calamity. It depends on the slant of light.
DRAKE: And what is it to me?
A curse and a necessity.
Consider my gentlemen and my crew. All but a few believed their port of call was Egypt and Arab musk.
DOUGHTY: And their captain leads them into the dragon’s mouth. The Straits of Magellan. New seas uncharted. The whirlwinds of hell.
DRAKE: They require distraction, some challenge to temper the will, and God provides. What, Sir Thomas, was the source of our quarrel?
DOUGHTY: I must say I charge our quarrel to your brother. He is not the wisest man in Christendom.
You forbade tampering with the prize cargo. Your brother broke open a chest. I took him to task. He begged me not to report him. I did my duty. And you swore great oaths against me.
DRAKE: This surprised you.
DOUGHTY: It did.
DRAKE: As it should. Had you known me ever to commit such injustice?
DRAKE: And so a man is helpless in the face of the unexpected.
There was much ill will against you, Thomas, for your haughtiness, from common seamen. They sail our ship, you know. They spoke many words against you.
DOUGHTY: You believed such hearsay?
DRAKE: I sought it out. I welcomed it. If I dishonored you, your mutinous spirit would show itself the sooner. You would set your jaw, gall your heart, march deeper into the swamp. I know men’s hearts, Thomas, it would come.
Why not spur it on, offer up an entertainment fit for queens, and for men who need inspiration? Your death is prelude to our glory.
Drake claps his hands in triumph. Silence.
DOUGHTY: Well then, more fool I.
Blind. They say the carrion birds first pluck out the eyes of the dead. Yet I am persuaded that blindness begins at birth. Who seals the infant’s eyes?
A few poets or saints walk sighted through the world, crying out truths that none believe. And the pickpockets, cutthroats, tormentors, the generals and monarchs — except our glorious Queen — they prowl clear-eyed among us, devouring what they will.
DRAKE: I say nay. I say God offers light to the faithful and sharpens the eyes of those who serve Him.
DOUGHTY: Serve Him by betraying your friend? Thus did Judas.
DRAKE: He compares himself to Christ. I would give you to know, as you place your head on the block, you serve the Queen.
DOUGHTY: As the carrion spawns the blowflies.
DRAKE: No mercy in the face of necessity. Blood is required.
DOUGHTY: As by Pachamama, to nourish the crops.
DRAKE: I have spoke my secret. Speak yours.
DOUGHTY: You know it.
DRAKE: I do?
DOUGHTY: If you know men’s hearts.
DRAKE: Heed your words. God hears all.
DOUGHTY: Then best to speak out clear.
I confess my desire and my sin. My desire, each day from Plymouth harbor outward, was for your death. My sin is that I could not achieve it.
All the petty motives: Envy. Lust for command. Imagined affronts. Sheer boredom. Yet more: To rid our nation of its heroes. A land curst with heroes will never stop bleeding.
I dread the true believer. The eyes that never move from the target. The voice within, the Voice of God he believes, that screams out its commandments.
The true believer. Worshipper of the Holy Trinity: God, Country and Profit. Our inheritance unto the seventh generation.
DRAKE: And you the man of no belief. Against the very nature of man—
DOUGHTY: You would save the world from the Antichrist, to fix it between the jaws of your investors.
And beset with my sloth, my ambition, my petty resentments, I failed to act on my certain knowledge that you are but one of the yammering horde of mongrel heroes whelped by the Virgin Queen—
DRAKE: (rising) By God’s wounds—
Enraged, Marcie screams at him.
MARCIE: Stop it! Shut up! What’s the point?
DRAKE: The interdiction of Spanish gold that funds the Duke of Alba to prepare the invasion of Britain.
MARCIE: The purpose being—
DRAKE: Defense of the True Faith against the forces of darkness—
MARCIE: The result being—
DRAKE: England’s glory!
MARCIE: And the news, the news, the news is the same shit we’ve heard for the last four hundred years!
Just print the same newspaper, every day same headline, THE BOYS ARE AT IT AGAIN!
Suddenly, she loses control of the car, screams, swerves. The headlights flare. At last, she pulls over to the side of the freeway, shaken to the core.
DOUGHTY: There are eyes upon us, Francis. They judge us.
MARCIE: Omigod... Omigod...
ELIZABETH: Lord Chamberlain, we would have an interval to refresh ourselves.
Drake turns to Doughty.
DRAKE: More wine?
DOUGHTY: I should not linger here.
Shall we call it a feast, Francis, or play for a higher stake than mere survival?
DRAKE: What higher stake?
DOUGHTY: Our souls. Might I corrupt your vision? Or you bring me to repentance?
DRAKE: So be it.
He pours wine.
DOUGHTY: And so you claim friendship with the man you will have dead? Then let us drink to friendship.
Slow toast.
Sealed in blood.
To black.
Act Two
The figure of the Pachamama is seen through the sky, chanting in Quechuan. Marcie is driving.
MARCIE: Keep driving.
Drake and Doughty quietly eat potato chips. Behind, Elizabeth turns her head toward the Pachamama. The figure disappears, her voice fading.
I’d love to believe so fervently. What do you believe, Marcie? What did you teach your kid? Be nice to each other. Clean up your mess. Don’t kill your little playmates. That all seems so simple.
Hey Phoenix, we did better than these guys. We chopped off each other’s heads, but they grew back. Never killed Irish together, but we killed lotsa bottles of Scotch. And you gave me a statue of Pachamama. Still got her. She doesn’t look very friendly.
Drive on, girl. My voyage to L.A. to change the course of history. In the name of energy conservation, burning fossils all the way. Drive on through the night.
She shoves a new cassette into the player. The two men speak in unison, their mouths full of chips.
CHORUS: Course the Fourth: Certainty vs. Doubt.
ELIZABETH: If you please, I should like a crisp.
Drake brings her a chip, then returns.
DRAKE: So, Thomas, we should contest for souls? How shall our match proceed?
They munch for a time.
DOUGHTY: Two blackamoors you brought from Panama, they speak passable English. At night they told stories by the fire.
One, of a king who vowed to invent a punishment that by its fierceness would be an absolute deterrent to crime. And so when a man came before him, who had done a ghastly act, he punished him thus: He was to be as a dead man, living. Anyone seen to speak to him, make any response, was to die the death.
The man went forth. He called out and no one spoke, knocked and no one answered. He was stricken. He thought of self-destruction. And then he saw that if there was fruit or meat, he could take it. And he did. If he touched a woman unlawfully, she bore it. He saw a man in his path, he smote the man, who died without turning his head.
Power was his, through the portal of non-existence, and he made great depredation. The crimes were gruesome, yet the people accepted this as they accepted the plague. The perpetrator was Nature itself, that ghastly human nature born in a shriek.
But as the blackamoor told the story, a dispute arose with the other, enslaved from a different tribe, where it had a different end.
In one, the man saw that, cut off from his fellows, his life had no meaning, that all possession was plunder, all touch was murder, all love-making rape. And he devised himself a horrible death.
But for the other tribe, the king tired at last of waiting and commuted the sentence. Now you will be as the rest. Speak and be answered. Kill and be punished. You are a man again. And that man went out from the king, took his knife and plunged it to his heart.
Both stories teach a lesson, Francis. Can you guess it?
DOUGHTY: Pay no mind to the babble of savages.
DRAKE: If a story has two endings, one ending is a lie.
MARCIE: Maybe both.
DRAKE: Is this apt matter in our contest for souls?
DOUGHTY: It is. The world you birth shall be a world bereft of stories, since all endings have but a single lesson. You have your truth and your lie, and we may save our breath.
ELIZABETH: This is a curious character. Have we many such in England? I should hope not. He is aptly named, this Doughty. A creature of doubt.
DRAKE: I am not so doltish as you think me, Thomas. My faith is proof against your mockery.
DOUGHTY: I shall choose the time for my assault.
DRAKE: You are no strategist.
DOUGHTY: Once, at an obscene revel, Master Dee confided in me, saying, “Satan himself is all-knowing except in one thing. That he does not know he is Satan. That is his blindness, and his power.”
DRAKE: You call me Satan?
Another toast, Sir Thomas. May the judgments upon us both, in future days, be merciful.
DOUGHTY: Agreed.
They drink.
DRAKE: You were startled when I said the colored races are human. I came to this view during my voyages with Hawkins.
Slaves are a perishable commodity. One day I went into the hold to check for dead. A mother held her child at her breast. I bent down — they sometimes continued to nurse dead babies — and it turned its eyes to me. The rats had eaten its face.
Doughty stops mid-bite.
Bon appetit, they say in France.
My gorge rose. The mother reached out, she could only reach my foot, and she patted my foot. My vomit had spattered her child, yet to comfort me she patted my foot.
My slaving days were done.
DOUGHTY: When my wife was dying, she asked, Bring fennel. I brought her sprigs of fennel. She smelled the fennel. “It’s beautiful.” And of course I wept and resolved that each day would bring me to a deeper praise of life.
Yet only now, at my final meal, do I smell it. The smell of the earth. Its heat.
You see, I match you sentiment for sentiment.
DRAKE: Always mockery. It entertained me once, for its boldness. It quickly pales.
DOUGHTY: She was frail.
MARCIE: Aren’t we all?
DOUGHTY: You were never much the one for women, Francis. Not for you the strumpets of Portsmouth.
DRAKE: I have a wife.
DOUGHTY: A wife. No children, I believe?
DRAKE: Not as yet.
DOUGHTY: You would have children?
DRAKE: God willing.
DOUGHTY: I might have had. Perhaps I have. Better to have them without knowing it. No confusion, then, what to teach them.
Theology, economics, the conundrums of history, the ethics of sharing your sweets. The teachings of death.
DRAKE: Death is a simple teaching. The body dies, the soul is judged and if found worthy, blessed with eternal life.
DOUGHTY: That teaching has its utility.
I wonder about the teaching of death in Jesus’ time. Did the Roman schoolboys walk to school on the road where the criminals hung? Did they romp between the crosses on Golgotha?
Our children, too, see death in its daily working. In our streets, at our gibbets, the town square diversion as whole families watch, and they feel a tingle as the first cut is made, and the skin skinned back like a rabbit’s skin, the lead is melted and dripped, and the cheers go up—
DRAKE: These are usages as potent as Holy Scripture to bend the souls of the young toward God in His terrible majesty.
My father, though severe, preached mercy, the will of Christ Jesus. But mercy in measure. Mercy never at the cost of Justice.
DOUGHTY: So mercy crowns the soul, but death makes a nation great.
DRAKE: You skirt the question, Thomas. Do you forfeit our match?
DOUGHTY: (taking a chip) Well, just one.
Have you read the book Utopia of Sir Thomas More?
DRAKE: I read no books but the Holy Word and navigation.
DOUGHTY: As befits your calling.
Yet that other Sir Thomas, who was also deemed a traitor, pictured a magical land, its peoples, its trade, its laws, the ways of its men and women with one another. I read it young, and it set me dreaming. So alien from us, and yet so wise.
How if we should find such a land? Very near us, perhaps, around the next cape, and then the shining towers. No squalid savages, but men and women of stature, skins of bronze, who see us as jesters, fools, clownish things.
DRAKE: I believe a kingdom’s laws are ordained by God, Whose forms are immutable.
DOUGHTY: Immutable? Then why sail these ships? We should build our ships as dictated by God to Noah.
DRAKE: God has put in our hearts the capacity for invention. Yet His laws are as immutable as the tide.
DOUGHTY: Might the tides shift over time?
MARCIE: Tides...
They’ve always got the answer. That’s the beauty of the human mind, to find some way to believe whatever crap we need to believe.
You don’t fit here, Marcie. They’re doing all the big stuff. You’re totally irrelevant, except as a distant admirer.
And every minute the world grows colder, hotter, meaner, and all you can claim is that you’re relatively harmless. At this point in time, for a human being, that’s a major achievement.
DRAKE: Now I pose you a question. Answer me plain. What is required for a nation to achieve greatness?
I should say Courage. Daring. Faith. Will.
DOUGHTY: I would say rather: superior weapons, investment capital, a vast underclass from whom to recruit your armies, and a circle of corpulent swine with the hunger of starving wolves.
These are the raw ingredients. Add poets who praise it, whatever its follies.
DRAKE: You speak of your motherland.
DOUGHTY: My mother is a whore. My mother’s roads are filled with beggars cast loose by the market for English wool. The commons are enclosed to pasture sheep, the tenant farmer starves.
What does England propose to nourish him? Courage. Daring. Faith. Will.
DRAKE: You speak treason.
DOUGHTY: I speak truth. I draw it out crudely, like the midwife with a baby backward in the womb. It emerges blue, but it sputters to life.
DRAKE: This truth you would midwife?
DOUGHTY: The Spanish call you El Draco. The dragon. A demon, perhaps the very Father of Lies.
DRAKE: Well then, Sir Thomas, you are a dog. I call you a dog, but that does not make you one.
DOUGHTY: You called me traitor, and so in the eyes of men, I am one.
DRAKE: Let us have your truth. That I am a pirate, as they say?
DOUGHTY: No. You are a patriot. A pious man. A good investment.
DRAKE: I repay my investors.
DOUGHTY: With Courage, Daring, Faith, Will.
DRAKE: You accuse me of all the virtues.
DOUGHTY: The virtues that shall remake our world from the veil of tears that God hath created to the hell that only humans could devise.
DRAKE: I repay my investors with gold, and they empower me to stand between our nation and the Antichrist.
DOUGHTY: The Antichrist?
DRAKE: Spain. Spain the Antichrist casts its tentacles over the face of the Earth. It gorges on gold. It swallows souls. It enslaves in the name of Our Savior — tortures, flays, burns. It puts whole races to the sword.
Its saints grimace like demons, sing canticles of death. Their holy water is blood. This is truth. This is truth. And I have attacked this viper at its throat. Nombre de Dios!
ELIZABETH: Glorious sport! My little sailor!
Drums. Drake rises, striking bold tableaux.
CHORUS: The Raid on Nombre de Dios, 1572.
DRAKE: We approach Nombre de Dios, the shipping point of the Spanish gold. It is fortified. It would be madness to attack. I attack.
CHORUS: Courage.
DRAKE: With fifty men I storm the fortification. Outside the stores of gold, I fall wounded, my men retreat. We have failed. We must not fail. It would be madness to stay. We stay.
CHORUS: Daring. Faith. Will.
DRAKE: We cross Panama to lay in wait for the mule trains of gold from Peru. A drunken sailor raises an alarm. We have failed. We must not fail. It would be madness to attack. We attack.
CHORUS: Faith.
DRAKE: So close to Nombre de Dios we hear the sounds of hammers. We capture the gold. We are pursued. We come to meet our ships. They are gone. We build a raft. We raft three days to our ships.
DRAKE: The gold is ours. The wealth—
CHORUS: Courage.
DRAKE: The triumph—
CHORUS: Daring.
DRAKE: The fame—
CHORUS: Faith. Will.
DRAKE: The blessing. Our triumph confirms our faith. All praise to the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, everlasting, life without end, amen.
ELIZABETH: My little Devon pirate rewards his investors. Piety and patriotism pay handsome dividends.
Silence. Drake returns to his place.
DOUGHTY: You shake my defenses.
Marcie punches her cell phone.
MARCIE: “Drake he’s in his hammock...” How does that damn thing go? I knew it by heart.
Bekka, hi. Please fax me those quotes first thing, soon as you get this message. Same hotel.
So I’m kinda wired right now. Running off the freeway is a great adrenalin rush. Nothing serious.
Here’s a thought for the day. Why are we so hot for heroes? Longing for something that’s larger than ourselves, even though we’re all twenty pounds overweight. Guys who think outside the box, even though from here it looks a helluva lot like the inside of a box.
I forgot to mention, please don’t say anything to Mr. Anderson about me driving to L.A. He’s new, so let him get used to me gradually. Let’s not freak out the suits. Thanks, bye.
ELIZABETH: (looking at a road map) Decrees. Decrees. Which direction?
MARCIE: Straight ahead.
ELIZABETH: How decisive. She should be Queen, not I.
Elizabeth tosses it away.
And where might this direction lead us? Have we considered?
MARCIE: Los Angeles. All history leads to L.A.
ELIZABETH: They speak in tongues.
MARCIE: “Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand mile away,
((Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?))
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe." I still remember. Wow.
ELIZABETH: Our people must have heroes.
Monarchs are loved or hated, as the weather turns. Heroes are but shadows, yet their shadows fill our dreams.
MARCIE: With poison. It’s all about the voyage, the vision, and how many people die in the wake is just the price you pay.
And then it’s the Empire, it’s Manifest Destiny, it’s the Workers’ Paradise and the Thousand-Year Reich, and then the hydrocarbons, the carcinogens, the GMO’s, the uranium smoothies, the plutonium piling up like the national debt, my citizenship in the New World Order, my credit card with the Master Race, and the lies and the lies and the lies—
Yeh, I’d sink their damn ship if I could.
Drake produces a bag of Gummi Worm candy.
DRAKE: A fruit you have not tasted. A rare treat.
MARCIE: I know. We can’t blame everything on you guys. You Brits weren’t angels, but the Spanish did a way better job of death at wholesale prices.
ELIZABETH: We must have heroes who rise to our need. Captain Drake is such a one. He sets our eyes seaward, toward our future.
MARCIE: “Drake’s Drum.” I took second place at State. “Expressive and inspiring.”
She continues driving.
CHORUS: Course the Fifth: The Forbidden Mirror.
DOUGHTY: Well Francis. It is rumored in Spain that you are possessed of a magic mirror. In which you may see the movements of shipping, the armaments and prizes, and the future.
DRAKE: Children of Satan imagine no good can come except as a gift from Satan.
DOUGHTY: You have no such mirror?
DRAKE: None except God-given common sense.
DOUGHTY: Ah, but I have one. Your eyes. I read your future in them.
DRAKE: It is forbidden to read the future. Death by fire.
DOUGHTY: The future is only the past renamed. I might tell it you.
DRAKE: To discomfit me with disasters?
DOUGHTY: No. To glut you with glory. We read of an ancient tribe whose shields were mirrors Their foes were faced with their own ferocity.
DRAKE: You tempt me to sin.
DOUGHTY: What man passes a mirror without stealing a glance? Can a mirror sin? Its nature is to mirror.
Silence. Doughty turns Drake toward the future.
You pass the Straits of Magellan, braving the treacherous tides.
The fleet is scattered by storm. Only your ship survives.
You ravage the Western shore. You capture great prizes.
Voice of the Pachamama.
You land among natives who proclaim you gods.
But not gods. You see yourselves as gods, and so you see their astonishment as seeing gods. To them, you are the whitened dead. Their dead come gibbering to life.
And at last you sail west through the teeth of death. You encompass the globe and pay your investors forty-seven-fold.
ELIZABETH: The Spanish ambassador demands satisfaction. What shall we do with our troublesome Captain Drake? Strike off his head?
Drake kneels.
Our captain is too stiff-necked for beheading. We must punish him with knighthood.
She gestures with her fan. Drake rises in triumph.
Sir Francis! My new-hatched fighting cock.
DOUGHTY: The Spanish basilisk spreads its wings and spawns a great armada. You kill it as the Spanish kill their bulls, by darts and spears and weariness. You become a hero for the ages.
DOUGHTY: One thing only is required to make this mirror tell true. A tiny death. The severance of one misguided head. Erasure of a name that stands but as a footnote to your glory.
Sir Thomas Doughty. Promoter of doubt.
In confusion, Drake returns to his place at the table
DRAKE: So your mirror promises success to our voyage.
DOUGHTY: If you trust the mirror of a dead man.
DRAKE: I trust its harmony with my vision. I see a new world. A world of order, a world of light. I voyage to create that world.
MARCIE: Twenty-six miles to a rest stop.
DOUGHTY: My Utopia, perhaps?
DRAKE: Whenever you spoke of your Utopia—
DOUGHTY: I spoke it before?
DRAKE: I could recite it to you. A pretty tune. The charm of a child babbling of butterflies.
Nay. I shall create reality.
The Pachamama laughs. They look about puzzled.
DOUGHTY: Yes, our chaplain is wont to enthuse of our departure from the ancient parts of the world and our journey to the new-discovered. God’s bounty.
Yet what if the New World has no secrets, no magic to bestow, but only a new setting for our chronicles of death? The child, having ravaged its playthings, its indulgent Father gives it all things new.
DRAKE: Mar not the feast with blasphemy.
DOUGHTY: I speak of God’s benevolence and his children’s foulness.
DRAKE: All men are born to sin. Yet I believe the true religion may guide us. I believe in England. England is the Crown, and the Crown is all. God gives us our own crown, places in our hearts the seed of aristocracy which, nurtured, will flourish.
DOUGHTY: You are a leveler, then.
DRAKE: I am no leveler. I believe in rule by those born to rule.
DOUGHTY: Yet as you rise, the established order must give way. I am your friend in this. I believe that many heads should roll, along with my own. Let the shopkeepers have their turn to rule. They could do no worse.
DRAKE: Questions, tangles, doubts.
DOUGHTY: The shapes in my mirror, Francis, are filigreed with question marks. Shall I tell you more?
DRAKE: From your mirror?
DOUGHTY: Your eyes. I look deep, and I see—
He looks. Silence.
A world of perpetual war. Whose gods’ thirst cannot be slaked. Whose bellies rumble more, more, more.
A great empire supplanting the Spanish, and that in turn ground down by its own mad pride.
Great wonders wrought from the cauldron that renders down whole populations, our philosophies swarming in our heads like frenzied scorpions.
The force of the human mind turned to inventing death.
All the Old World’s diseases infecting the genitals of the New.
Christ Himself, the Lamb of God, become judge and crucifier.
And heroes. Heroes for God, Country, and Profit — the three Cardinal Virtues achieving greater abominations than the Seven Deadly Sins.
Drake grasps him, face to face.
We were brothers at arms in Ireland. Why Ireland? Our fear that it might become a base for Spain. Therefore all means are justified if we are to be secure. But shall we ever be secure? Murder our way to security? How many English dead, how many Irish— We break them and we will break them, century after century—
Yes, you proclaim the humanity of blackamoors, but what of the Irish? Where were your objections when you put Master Norreys’ troops ashore on Rathlin Island to commence, as my Earl of Essex said, the Irish purification?
DRAKE: You are smitten with love for the Irish?
DOUGHTY: I love nothing. I loathe the human heart.
DRAKE: Hatred falls by the force of love.
DOUGHTY: We kill our way in and we kill our way out. The sea of blood grows deeper. What is the end of it? Universal death? We lack only the means and the vocabulary.
One day we shall achieve the capacity to inflict death from afar, death from the sky, merely by wishing it, merely by speaking the word.
DRAKE: Quoth our Savior: I bring not peace but a sword.
DOUGHTY: Truly spoke. And so much more.
DRAKE: You see this in your mirror?
DOUGHTY: I see more than I care to see.
DRAKE: These are visions from the Father of Lies.
DOUGHTY: The Dark Arts, Francis, are no more than a focus of will. The incantations, foul stews, serve only to home us to the target. The ultimate Dark Art is military discipline—
DRAKE: Master Doughty—
DOUGHTY: One will bending a dozen, a hundred, a hundred thousand souls out of their wives’ embrace and onto the enemy’s pikes. How else explain it?
DRAKE: Explain it by courage. By valor. By faith in the service of God.
DOUGHTY: We are back to that. The true navigator. You always find your way home.
DRAKE: And you to your desolation. You return like a dog to your vomit, wagging your tail.
Silence. Suddenly, Drake laughs, then stops.
I never laugh.
DOUGHTY: You do, Francis. You are a great thief because you relish it.
After a moment, Drake laughs again, then Doughty. At the height of their laughter, Elizabeth raises her hand.
ELIZABETH: We would have laughter that diverts and renews. Bitterness defiles it. Laughter should be joyous. Why must we laugh at freakish jesters, malformed monsters of jest?
I confess I do. Yet should I not be queen of a realm that seeds the Earth with laughter? Children’s laughter, like surf.
MARCIE: “Nothing I can do about it. Shit happens. I’m just a queen.”
She pulls into a rest stop.
DOUGHTY: I’m charmed by your trinket, Francis. Pachamama, you call her? A whole people’s god become a trinket, and the Earth she mothers a toy in the hero’s pocket.
Is there no true magic found in the womb of your trinket goddess? Might I see her?
Drake raises his hand, holding a carved image of the Pachamama. Elizabeth holds in her hand a tiny statuette. Doughty takes the image from Drake.
A curious female. Captive, wrested from her world. One can feel the demon spirit. The force that drives the roots of trees, the lava’s flow, and the breast milk.
ELIZABETH: My little pirate— I should not call him that, short men are easily offended.
From his last enterprise to the Western isles to twist the tail of my popish cousin, my little pirate brought me a trinket. The Spanish had carried it thousands of leagues from where they suck out their gold.
She looks at the distant Pachamama.
A strange little creature, a goddess. Or demon. Perhaps just a woman, they call all women demons. But carved with rare precision, and set with emerald eyes.
CHORUS: Avaunt thee, witch!
ELIZABETH: I keep it in my closet with my baubles and my combs, all my frivolities. I seldom notice it, except when it speaks to me.
Or not to me, perhaps, perhaps to its hunger. My sinful little female sprite, hidden among my baubles, crying to me.
Crying: Where are my people? Where my earth? Where the rich ore under my skin, the jewels that are cousins to my eyes, the gold in its glittering immutability?
Where the tangle of vegetation, the effervescence of decay, humid fertility, the blood poured out in my lap, the bounty I bestow? Where is the queen who will claim me as her own? Give me the womb to set fire to?
Not here.
CHORUS: Avaunt!
ELIZABETH: Not here. We are Christians here, little witch who lives captive in my closet. We have an efficient faith which blunts all questions.
You are my trinket. My fool. My freak with her emerald eyes and her woman’s longing.
I shut my closet and return to affairs of state.
My little bauble goddess, speak no more. Keep silence in the presence of the queen. The murmur interferes with empire.
DOUGHTY: Perhaps I believe in your Pachamama. At least I believe she will devour us all.
MARCIE: We devour ourselves.
DOUGHTY: I challenge you, Francis. Kill her.
Dare you kill her? You proclaim your faith in our Lord Christ Jesus? How deep is your trust? Can you cast down this Mother Earth? Crush it under your will? Trust Our Savior to shield you from this witch’s wrath?
You will do it some day, of course. Your ships will sail forth, the investors waving from shore, and the trees will fall, the rivers run red, the skies go black and the soul drain out of the Earth.
But can you this moment, now, grind her under your heel? Who better than the man fated to encompass her girth, to embrace your mother as a wench to be raped? Show us your faith, Thomas. Cast the demon idol to the floor. Crush her.
Drake throws the image to the floor, crushing it. Pachamama disappears. Elizabeth looks around, confused, her hand empty.
CHORUS: Course the Last: Communion.
Drake pours a dessert wine.
DOUGHTY: No more, Francis. I have had my fill. One is never done with tasting, but what is the purpose? To live a few more breaths with as little purpose as all my decades held? Let it suffice.
DRAKE: You are finished, then?
DOUGHTY: We have spoke what there is to speak.
DRAKE: Much of our friendship was silence.
Drake and Doughty stand.
DOUGHTY: Well then, Francis. How would you have me comport myself at the appointed hour?
DRAKE: With courage.
DOUGHTY: For my sake. But for yours?
Shall I ask forgiveness of the company? Take communion with you, then kneel and ask blessings upon the Queen? Embrace you as my captain, and lay my head deliciously on the block?
That would be more fitting than to die with a curse congealed on my mindless lips.
DRAKE: You jest with me.
DOUGHTY: It is a jest, but a solemn one, and the laugh is cut off sharp.
DRAKE: Comport you as you will.
DOUGHTY: Yet I would have you succeed.
Drake stares in disbelief
DOUGHTY: We are the same man.
What your will has wrought, I despise, and yet it fills me. I no more oppose you than a three’s shadow opposes the tree whose shape defines it.
I merely glove your fist in words. We are twins, though one be stillborn.
DRAKE: And so—
DOUGHTY: I must not have died in vain. And therefore, heed my counsel.
You are wise to use my death, but you must use it well. You must learn from our poets and our scribblers for the stage: a deed is good or evil depending on the language that enshrines it.
DRAKE: And so—
DOUGHTY: And so you must deliver yourself of words befitting a hero. Words that stir the soul. Words—
DRAKE: “Thus die all traitors!”
DOUGHTY: Good, but lacking. Let us school you, Francis. Let us make you immortal.
On Sunday next, let Parson Fletcher stand forth to deliver the sermon, and you rise, and with an imperious motion, pronounce these words—
DRAKE: “Nay, soft Master Fletcher, I must preach this day.”
Drake moves into a role, obsessed.
DOUGHTY: Yes yes. Then humble, overwhelmed by the task—
DRAKE: “My masters, I am a very bad orator. My bringing up hath not been in learning. Yet I will speak nothing but truth.”
DOUGHTY: Short and to the point.
DRAKE: “Thus it is, my masters, that we are far from our country and friends, compassed on every side with enemies. Wherefore we must have these discords that are grown amongst us cease.”
DOUGHTY: “By the life of God—”
DRAKE: “By the life of God it doth even take my wits from me to think on it. Such controversy between the sailors and the gentlemen, and the gentlemen and sailors, it doth make me mad. My masters, I must have it done.
DOUGHTY: “My masters, I must have it done!”
DRAKE: “My masters, I must have it done! For I must have the gentleman to hail and draw with the mariner, and the mariner with the gentleman. I must have you both.”
DOUGHTY: Now sound the note of charity.
DRAKE: “Truly, my masters, there shall no more die, although some have deserved it.
“And now, my masters, let us consider— ”
DOUGHTY: A dash of honesty.
DRAKE: “I am bereaved me of my wits to think what we take in hand.
“We have set together by the ears three mighty princes, Her Majesty, then the Kings of Spain and Portugal. If this voyage should fail, we should not only be a scoffing stoke unto our enemies, but a great blot to our country for ever.”
DOUGHTY: Our country!
DRAKE: “And so go your ways. You have work. As do I. God bless our enterprise.”
DOUGHTY: And leave them wondering what was said.
DRAKE: Clouds coming in.
DOUGHTY: Like nations. Great beasts that change their shape, flash, break wind, all to no purpose but the roaring.
DRAKE: The aboriginals call them gods.
DRAKE: Yet I would guide your thoughts to your soul’s salvation. I grieve for you, Thomas.
DOUGHTY: I share your grief.
DRAKE: Communion?
DOUGHTY: Yes. We had best not keep Lucifer waiting. He frowns on late arrivals.
Marcie starts up, pulls out. Drake and Doughty kneel, mime taking Communion.
MARCIE: Arriving in Lucifer City at— My God, what am I gonna do in L.A. at five a.m.?
Maybe drive out to Santa Monica, sit in the car, look at the ocean. Gets light around six. Think about the ocean. Think about your daughter, your granddaughter. Think about solar panels. Forget about heroes.
They make the Sign of the Cross, then rise.
DOUGHTY: What deep words should fill my last moments? Imagination fails.
DRAKE: Need you to relieve yourself?
DOUGHTY: I think not. I have eaten lightly.
DRAKE: Have you requests that I in conscience can fulfill?
DOUGHTY: I should like—
A drum at my execution. The roll of a drum. A drum’s tattoo.
And I would have you keep this drum, perhaps hang it on the wall of some fine house that your fortune brings you to, that my death not be lost in your memory as you ascend the heights.
I should like to be remembered by you, Francis. And on this condition, I shall repent all, and my soul be saved.
DRAKE: It shall be so.
He brings forth a drum as Marcie speaks.
MARCIE: “Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago."
Doughty steps forward, addressing all.
DOUGHTY: My comrades, all.
I ask your forgiveness. I ask blessings upon your voyage.
I heartily ask remission of my sins, and punishment proper to them. I ask that my friends be forgiven.
And I ask that all loyalty be given, all heed be paid, to our good captain, in whom lies all your hope. I ask blessing upon him, and absolution for my soul.
Your voyage, of which I may not partake, is sacred. It will transform this world, this veil of tears, into something . . . undreamed of.
He kneels, tips his head sideways. Drake signals. Drum roll. Elizabeth flicks her fan with a sharp crack.
DRAKE: (mouthing silently) Thus die all traitors.
Doughty looks around, confused.
CHORUS: Death is a confusion.
DOUGHTY: I’ve always imagined that the dying are present at their dying, but at a distance. They’re somewhere at the edge of the crowd, trying to get a better view, they can only hear the choking, then the calm.
They look around, they can’t remember names, they hear someone reciting a poem they learned in school. They call out for their mother, any woman who might be their mother, and they wait for their mother to find them.
He approaches the Pachamama, disappears.
ELIZABETH: One day, perhaps, my wee sister, we may hear your voice again.
The time may come when we have sickened of our wars, grieving that the blood the blood the blood spilled in the war that like the last war and the next war and the next is the war to end war.
Time may come that a new age dawns.
We will find you on a shelf somewhere, then call you once again speak in your whisper and your flood. When queens may shed no blood except in childbirth, and kings spend their hours among children.
And your words might fill us then.
Elizabeth disappears. Drake drums on the drum.
MARCIE: Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’,
They shall find him, ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago.
The drumming crescendos.
He stops, confused.
We’re finished with that. We don’t need that. Wind it back.
He goes out, following Doughty. Marcie comes to a stop.