Beauty and the Beast

version 0.3, 1/00

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Characters: Beauty
The Beast
Merchant (Beauty and the Sister's Father)
Sister 1 (Michelle)
Sister 2 (Brigette)
Louis

Scene 1

Courtyard of a castle. To the right, a turret with a doorway leading in to the interior which glows warmly. Running across left (just up from center) a short wall with columns covered in vines and rose tendrils projecting upward through the railing. Beyond the wall are what appear to be statues of people. The downstage floor is stone and is presently free of furniture. A roar is heard off left.

The BEAST enters left and stalks to nearly center and stops. He pulls himself into a more human posture and collects himself before entering the castle (The BEAST is played by an actor accompanied by a large, fierce looking mask, but his human face is clearly visible behind it at all times).

A moment later, BEAUTY rushes out of the castle in a lovely gown. She runs towards the garden. The Beast enters and stops in the doorway.

BEAST:Beauty! Stop! Please...
BEAUTY: No! My answer is still no. It will always be no. For the love of heaven, why must you ask me every night?
BEAST: You know I am forbidden to tell you. I ask you a second time, Beauty, will you marry me?
BEAUTY: No! (She turns to run, but stops when The Beast calls).
BEAST: Beauty. For the third and final time, will you marry me?
BEAUTY: No Beast. I have known you to be gentle and kind. You have been so kind and good to me since I came here, but no, My Lord Beast, I will not marry you. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.
BEAST: Very well Beauty. I shall see you tomorrow at dinner.
BEAUTY: Yes My Lord Beast. (She exits).
BEAST: I am not lord here Beauty. Since you came, this house has had one ruler, you. (He removes a hand mirror from his coat) Show me, my captor. Show me how she came to me that I might understand how to win her heart.

Scene 2

Light explodes in the garden behind wall. Three of the forms (which looked like statues) come to life: SIS1, SIS2, and the MERCHANT.
SIS1: Father! Is it true?
SIS2: One of your ships has come into port?
SIS1: Can we leave this dreadful farm at last?
SIS2: Will we live in the city again?
MERCHANT: Please children, peace! Yes, my friend Thomas writes that the ship Demeter, long since thought lost, has docked in Normandy. That ship bears a precious cargo and I have much at state in it. I shall leave for Normandy this very day to lay claim to money goods.
SIS1: Oh, it's too wonderful...
SIS2: After two years on this farm...
SIS1: Surrounded by farmers...
SIS2: And their wives...
SIS1: And their dreadful little children...
SIS2: Endless talk of weather...
SIS1: Crops...
SIS2: Animals...
BOTH: Ugh!
SIS1: At last we're going home...
SIS2: To Paris...
SIS1: The beauty of the city...
SIS2: The river...
SIS1: The shops...
SIS2: The food...
SIS1: The handsome...
SIS2: rich...
SIS1: eligible...
SIS2: young...
BOTH: Men.
MERCHANT: Now my darlings, don't get your hopes too high. Thomas doesn't say anything about the ship or my cargo other than to come at once. It may be some time before we can go back...
SIS1: But Father...
SIS2: How long can we wait...
SIS1: We're not getting any younger...
SIS2: and there are no men here...
SIS1: At least none of any refinement...
SIS2: or manners...
SIS1: or breeding...
SIS2: or wealth...
SIS1: Except...
SIS2: Perhaps...
BOTH: Louis (giggle).
SIS1: I mean he's... not bad.
SIS2: For a country bred boy.
MERCHANT: Now girls, while I'm gone I want you to help your sister (they moan). Enough! This farm keeps a roof over your heads, puts food on the table, and you have little enough to do now except fritter away your time in trivial pursuits. I'll be gone for at least a week, so you'll have to help Beauty with the chores.
SIS1: But Papa, my hands...
SIS2: My nails...
SIS1: My milky complexion...
MERCHANT: Are not my concerned. I'm not asking you to pull the plow for goodness sake. Just help Beauty with the washing and the cooking (they start to protest). Since I'm sure there's a little something you'd like me to bring back.
SIS1: Papa you know how much I've wanted a new dress to wear to Lewis' party next month...
SIS2: And I suppose I could get by with that dress Lewis hasn't seen if I had a lovely new necklace to set it off...
MERCHANT: Very well my children. Now I must pack and be on my way.
BEAUTY: (enters in a simple dress carrying a bucket of water) Papa, where are you going?
SIS1: Sister it's so marvelous...
SIS2: The Demeter has arrived in Normandy...
SIS1: Father's fortunes are changing...
SIS2: We'll be on our way back to Paris in no time.
BEAUTY: Papa, that's wonderful.
MERCHANT: Yes, well as usual your sisters are getting ahead of themselves. Right now, I must mount up and go at once to Normandy.
BEAUTY: I'll go pack you food for your trip.
SIS1: And I must write out my measurements for the dress...
SIS2: And I'll get you a piece of fabric from my gown so the necklace will match perfectly.
BEAUTY: Sister, perhaps you could help father pack instead and be sure he takes his warm cloak. And sister, perhaps you could lead Claude in from the field so that he'll be ready for Father to ride.
SIS1: See how she orders us about Papa.
SIS2: She has no understanding of what's important.
MERCHANT: Girls enough. All has been seen to. Go fetch your trinkets that I may be away. Beauty, what would you like me to bring you?
BEAUTY: Papa, there's nothing I need.
MERCHANT: For once dear daughter, this is not a question of need but of want. What can I bring you back that would please you?
BEAUTY: (after a pause) A red rose.
(To each other as they move towards the garden)
SIS1: Alas, our sister is mad.
SIS2: As I said, she has no sense of what's important.
BEAUTY: We have a lovely garden here, but no red roses. So if you can bring one home, it would make me happy.
MERCHANT: Then I shall surely have to bring one home.
(Lights change. BEAUTY exits, SIS1 & SIS2 return to the statuary garden.)
BEAST: Oh my precious Beauty, how could you have had any idea of the cost of that simple request? But there was so much you did not know. The Demeter was wrecked in Normandy. Your father could salvage nothing, and on his way home, he became hopelessly lost.

Scene 3

(The Merchant wanders through the garden, sounds of a violent storm).
MERCHANT: Thank goodness, a light. (As he knocks on the door, the wall pivots out revealing the interior of the castle) have a... hello is anyone here? Please, good people, I am lost and the weather is most fearsome. May I have shelter for the night? (Sound of a horse whinnying. The merchant rushes to a window) Claude! There's a light across the courtyard is that... (a table with food rolls on behind him) a stable. (Cupping his mouth and calling) Thank You! One less worry. He's safe in the stable. Hello! Please, is someone here? (He spies the table) Was that here before? I should wait, surely someone will be here shortly to eat it. But someone lend Claude to the stable. Oh! So much food... I'll make my apologies when my host appears for starting without him. (He sits in the chair by the table and begins eating as the lights fade).
BEAST: The first person to cross my door in years. I have all but given up hope of release. He offered the prospect of freedom. His thoughts were transparent. I used you both badly, Beauty, but you can't imagine how desperate I was. (Light up on the merchant, asleep in the chair. The table has been replaced by a small trunk with a teacup and a bowl of fruit on top).
MERCHANT: (waking up) Oh, I... I must have dozed off. I... good heavens, it's morning already. And my host... mmmmm, my favorite. Thank you. Thank you very much indeed. (Seeing his suitcase) Ah! My valise, I should be on my way. Thank you kind Sir... or Madam for your generosity. I'll be on my way and trouble you no more... (reading from a note on top of the case) "With my compliments." Merciful heavens! This is too much. This necklace is precisely what Michelle wanted and this fabric... exactly what Brigitte described. Surely this is a magical castle. The best to go while I'm able. Many thanks again, my benefactor.
As he walks, he spies a perfect red rose growing from a column on the promenade. He stops)
MERCHANT: so lovely... (the bag containing the fabric and necklace grows suddenly heavy). They've been so generous... surely the Lord or lady of the manner wouldn't miss a single loan (he reaches for the flower and freezes).
BEAST: Try to forgive me, Beauty. Forgive my basic treachery. (He covers his face, visible through the openwork of the mask, with a black cloth. The Merchant un-freezes and snaps in the rose free. Thunder crashes and The Beast roars, leaping over the wall.)
MERCHANT: Ieeeee! Oh, no! Help me, please, help me.
BEAST: Thief! Prepare to meet the fate of theives...
MERCHANT: I never meant... the note... it was given to me, I thought...
BEAST: I fed you, I sheltered you, I cared for your animal. I made you fine gifts of these trivial goods you sought, but that was not enough for your theivish heart. Now, pay the price for your treachery.
MERCHANT: It was but a trifle for my daughter. Mercy! Have mercy, my Lord!
BEAST: I am no Lord. Look on me. Look at me! Do you see a Lord? I am a beast. Yet my rule here is absolute. Expect no pity from a beast (he makes to strike).
MERCHANT: My Lord Beast, I entreat you, pardon this offense for the sake of my children. Their mother is long dead, I am in their only family. Spare me and I give you my word I shall amend the offense I have done you.
BEAST: Impossible.
MERCHANT: Upon my life, I swear it. Surely if you discovered these trinkets my daughters requested you have seen something of my heart. I have lost all that I once owned, but not one creditor and I left unsatisfied. (With pride) I settle my debts, Lord Beast. Name your price and I will pay it.
BEAST: The price is named. My roses are my children. See what you have done. It cannot be made whole again and will wither.
MERCHANT: Then if you will spare my poor old horse and give me but a moment with pen and paper. Please, fearsome Master, and do not leave my end a mystery to my children for their hearts would surly break not knowing. Let me send them a final farewell.
BEAST: Pick up the rose (he does so). Now hear your doom. My roses bloom for nine days, then fade. I give you a reprieve for the rest of its life. I will return you to your home. Tell your family what has happened. Be back by the time the last petal falls.
MERCHANT: Thank you, Lord Beast.
BEAST: Do not thank me. There is a price for this. When you return, bring your daughter, the one who wanted a rose. She will witness your end or she will save you through sacrifice.
MERCHANT: No! No! Slay me now! (Thunder crashes)
BEAST: Too late. Be more careful what you ask for. Go! Mount my horse, Magnifique. Speak in his ear, "Go, Magnifique. Go where I am going. Go. Go. Go."
MERCHANT: No! Beast, take me now. Do not make my daughter pay for my error.
BEAST: Your sentence is pronounced. On your way. Take this dross with you. Take everything in the castle for all I care. Return within nine days. Bring your daughter with you or all your family will know a fate far worse than death.

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