I wrote this a tthe time of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," when many people in America were debating the limits of free speech during a time of war. The idea of writing it as a bogus Elizabethan verse play was simply to take the audience out of 21st-Century America so a larger, more universal issue could be addressed. I will always be indebted to Joel Helms, Mike Hicks, and Mark Wells for tackling this challenging script the first time.
The difference in viewpoints between these two young men escalates until they have drawn their swords and are slashing at each other. (Spoiler: It ends the way you might expect.)
The play has been performed several times in my home town since, with some intriguing responses. Many people feel strongly that it advocates one point of view, while others think it argues successfully for the opposing view. I couldn't be happier with this result! Engaging people's interest and intellect is much more interesting to me than bombarding them with my opinions.
I hear some rumour of a knavish thing
wherein there’s mirthful mocking of the king.
That same is this. And I am told of how
this author’s text doth send upon the stage
complaints against his gen’rals too – oh, God!
it makes my breast to burn with righteous rage.
And are these players not always harangued?
How can they play this piece and not be hanged?
An ancient law they claim yet giveth still
each man the right to speak whate’er he will.
If ancient law to them this freedom gives-–
It gives no such to any man that lives.
There is no law or statute made whereby
a man may safely write a treas’nous lie.
Is treason meant whene’er a man may say
some king is not the best in ev’ry way?
Is treason meant? What call it you, when sub-
jects of the crown can make a play wherein
the king doth plunder foreign riches while
his soldiers die in wars they cannot win?
`Tis treason, Balthasar, to plot to kill
the king or help our foes to work their will –
–- and so these actors do, for in the play
this king invents a tale about his foes –-
--concocting claims of all their weapons fierce
when all such weapons long had been disposed.
If what these players say of him is true
shall those who love their land not him beshrew?
Then you would wish upon our king a curse?
If he’s unfit to rule I wish him worse.
Balthasar draws his blade.
I'll hear such scornful talk from thee no more.
Complaints are treason during time of war.
But, friend, when any subjects of a king
with worthy righteous rage `gainst him are filled
Will not that king think best to make a war
against some foe until those tongues are stilled?
No deed of ours did start this present brawl.
Our enemies had planned to kill us all.