Gustav Adolf: Stage Play in Five Acts

Gustav Adolf: Stage Play in Five Acts

By August Strindberg

Translated by Wendy Weckwerth

Volume 6, Issue 4 (Fall 2017)

Strindberg’s Gustav Adolf: A Brief Intro to a Long Play

I’m on something of a mission with Strindberg’s history plays—bringing these well-crafted plays to the attention of English-speaking theater makers and scholars. Of Strindberg’s approximately sixty plays, nearly a third are history plays—and he wrote them from the start of his writing career to the end. They display many of the same innovative dramatic structures that Strindberg implemented over his three decades of writing for the theater. His history plays not only embellish our dramatic repertoire; as a group they offer a vital, and largely unexplored, window into Strindberg’s work.

My first encounter with this group of history plays was reading the translations done by prolific mid-century Strindberg scholar Walter Johnson. Those translations piqued my interest, and they demonstrated that the passage of more than half a century has created ample space for fresh, playable American translations.

Gustav Adolf (1900) isn’t just Strindberg’s longest historical drama—it’s his longest play, full stop. If you were inspired to stage every scene of its five acts, you’d be in for at least a seven-hour theater experience.

The play dramatizes the last two years of the reign of Swedish king Gustav II Adolf (b. 1594, d. 1632), during which time he was engaged in the Thirty Years’ War (the same conflict at the center of Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 play Mother Courage and Her Children). Referencing Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s 1779 masterpiece, Strindberg called Gustav Adolf his Nathan the Wise, because it pairs the realities of a violent religious conflict with the burgeoning promise of religious tolerance. These are concerns that resonate throughout history, and are still at the crux of a number of violent conflicts today.

In Gustav Adolf, Gustav is a new iteration of Strindberg’s “characterless character,” a term he coined in his preface to Miss Julie to describe a “vacillating and disintegrating,” conglomerate of impulses, motivations, and cultural nurturing. Which is to say that “characterless” figures, according to Strindberg, transcend character type: a “fixed” sense in which a character’s temperament and actions are both quickly interpreted and consistent throughout a text.

In Strindberg’s post-Inferno dramas (those he wrote after the period of years commonly referred to as his Inferno crisis, 1894 to 1896), his central characters also call into question the stability of their dramatic realities. Strindberg employs this theatricalist strategy to keep us aware at all times that we’re watching a performance (or, as may be the case, reading a text intended to be embodied on a stage).

Another resonance with Miss Julie is that Gustav Adolf can be described as largely naturalistic in its style. Nonetheless, alongside its somewhat chiaroscuro naturalism, a particular source of delight for me is Gustav Adolf’s frequent self-consciousness—the wink-wink, nudge-nudge quality of its situational ironies. The play also features a parade of high and low characters—part of a seemingly endless cast of sixty—who come together to offer a wide-angle view of the Thirty Years’ War and it destructive consequences.

One of the challenges of translating Strindberg’s history plays is capturing the quotidian quality of his Swedish. Rather than trying to re-create the antiquated diction of the seventeenth century, the era in which Gustav Adolf is set, Strindberg uses the Swedish of his own moment. Rendering conversational banter, with its exclamations and interjections, is a perennial concern of translation, and it was a challenge for this piece, as was addressing Strindberg’s many allusions to Swedish history, unknown to most outside of Scandinavia. Instead of offering copious footnotes, I’ve opted to let the references exist within the play on their own terms, though readers may wish to keep a Web browser handy. In the event of a production, they could be addressed relatively simply through small trims or minor, contextualizing additions. The play’s unwieldy length could be adjusted with judicious trimming.

It’s all there for the plucking in Gustav Adolf—an engaging historical drama waiting to be staged.

—Wendy Weckwerth

During his forty-year career, Swedish dramatist, painter, experimental photographer, philosopher, scientist, and historian August Strindberg (1849–1912) created more than sixty plays. His dramaturgical innovations—e.g., the naturalist crucible of Miss Julie (1888), the expressionist journey of To Damascus I and II (1898), and the associative prism that is A Dream Play (1901)—helped usher in theatrical modernism. Nearly one-third of Strindberg’s almost sixty dramas are historical plays, yet they are almost unknown among English-speaking theater scholars and artists, and they’ve rarely been produced outside of Sweden.

As a Minneapolis-based freelance dramaturg, translator, editor, and teacher, Wendy Weckwerth is committed to collaboratively crafting stories about the human experience. In addition to new-play dramaturgy and editing book manuscripts, one of her ongoing projects is translating August Strindberg’s history plays—her translation of Kristina premiered at the August Strindberg Repertory Theatre in 2015, and her translation of Gustav Adolf had a staged reading there in 2014. She has also completed translations of Strindberg’s Erik XIV and Karl XII. Her translation of Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay for Autumn Sonata was the basis for Robert Woodruff’s adaptation that premiered at Yale Rep in 2011. Wendy has taught at Yale, Dartmouth, Colby, Mount Holyoke, and Bard Colleges. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, and master of fine arts and doctor of fine arts degrees from Yale School of Drama.


Gustav Adolf 



Gustav Adolf, age 36

Maria Eleanora, his consort, Elector of Brandenburg’s sister, age 31

Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor, age 47

Fabricius, court pastor

Grubbe, the king’s secretary

Gustaf Horn, field marshal, age 38, cavalry

Johan Banér, age 35, general

Åke Tott, age 32, major general with the cavalry

Lennart Torstenson, age 27, artillery

Fredrik Stenbock, age 23, with the Småland Regiment

Nils Brahe, age 26, Yellow Brigade

Erik Rålamb, age 20, chamberlain

The Miller, later a driver [in the baggage train], Lutheran

The Miller’s Wife, Catholic

The Bailiff, a Jew from Wolgast, later the leader of the fire brigade

His Assistants

The Sergeant Major, formerly a student in Uppsala, from Västergötland

The Quartermaster, Zwinglian, from Småland

The Provost, a gypsy, pagan

The Schoolmaster, a former soldier, from Östergötland

Finnish Ensign in the Swedish army named Axel Eriksson Sparre, son of Erik Sparre, who was executed in 1600 under the rule of Karl IX

Danish Ensign

The Cooper

His wife

Luise, their daughter

Rudolf, a student in Wittenberg, her cousin

Governor of Mecklenburg, acting for Wallenstein, age 70, Lutheran

Schwarzenberg, minister for the Elector of Brandenburg, Catholic

Marcus, representative of the Bank of Israel in Hamburg, Jewish

Gustav Gustafsson, Gustav Adolf’s son with Margareta Cabiljau, a student in Wittenberg and Rector illustris, 15 years old

Hrasan, the Jews’ reader for worship services

Georg Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg, Gustav Adolf’s brother-in-law, Calvinist

Johan Georg, Elector of Sachsen. Syncretist (supporter of the fusion of all Christian churches)

Gravedigger I

Gravedigger II

Nils, trumpeter, age 11

Fredrik V of the Palatinate, the “Winter King,” formerly the King of Bohemia, whose appointment to the throne was the most immediate cause of the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War

Host of Auerbachs Hof

Book Printer (in Munich)

Sculptor (also in Munich)

Painter (also in Munich)

Cantor (also in Munich)


Grooms Eriksson and Jönsson


Blacksmith’s boy



Farmer’s wife

Two guards

Erik Soop

Torsten Stålhandske

Karl Hård

Axel Lillie

[Kronberger, a Bavarian cavalry officer

A Croatian on a horse

Acorn pickers]

Note: This translation of Gustav Adolf is based on the text printed in August Strindbergs samlade verk, edited and annotated by Claes Rosenqvist (Vol. 42, series edited by Lars Dahlbäck, Stockholm: Stockholm Universitet, 1998). The basis for that edition was Strindberg’s original manuscript, which is held in Stockholm’s Nordiska Museet.


Landing on the German coast.

Act One

The shore of Usedom. Oak forest, ancient, in the sunlight; grass and flowers under the trees. geraniums, elder-flowered orchids, lungwort, woundwort, etc. Through the woods a stripe of sea, light blue, is visible. Above, towering clouds in fantastic shapes.

To the right, a dilapidated cloister that’s now a watermill. Outside the gate is a long table with benches under white and lavender lilacs. Behind the corner of the building, a large water wheel and dam with a bridge at the sluice are visible; bulrushes and water lilies border the millrace. The watermill isn’t operating, and only the murmur of the water is heard. In the middle of the stage there is a covered image of the Madonna.

The Miller’s Wife approaches the Madonna with a lighted candle that she sets in a tube affixed to the fence; crosses herself and kneels. The Miller enters, stands still and waits. The Miller’s Wife rises.

MILLER:  I didn’t mean to intrude.

MILLER’S WIFE:  I know, my dear. In the twelve years since we wed, even while war rages, we’ve kept peace in our home. You with your Lutheran views and me with my Catholic faith.

MILLER:  My mother taught me that we should let each be happy in his own faith.

MILLER’S WIFE:  So they say. But when you’re crammed together to say grace over the last crust of bread, keeping the peace is hard.

MILLER:  Listen. It’s Midsummer Day, the sun is shining and we should celebrate with our friends. But there’s nothing to put on the table. The mill wheel has been still for a year, waiting for something to grind—because no grain will grow where Wallenstein’s horses have trampled. And they’ve been trampling for twelve long years. The millrace is overgrown and the only thing we’re getting out of it are a few flowers. Our son’s at war, and our daughter . . . Well, it’s better to stay silent.

MILLER’S WIFE:  What are you getting at?

MILLER:  I wish I knew. — To get away from this endless misery!

MILLER’S WIFE:  Where would we go? Pomerania has been ruined, Mecklenburg has been ravaged, Brandenburg is desolate. Where could we go?

MILLER:  To war with everyone else. Better to plunder than to be plundered.

MILLER’S WIFE:  That’s not true! Better to eat acorns with the beasts than steal a steak for yourself. We have to take the bad days alongside the good.

MILLER:  So they say! — How did you take the “bad day” when the Croatians tossed your daughter over a horse and rode off? You took it so poorly you had be taken to the madhouse in Wolgast—

MILLER’S WIFE:  Hush, hush, hush. That was God’s punishment for my sins, that I should walk through the valley of death and see what I had never imagined. Perhaps it was also a consolation—that memory became dull, that the bitterness couldn’t take hold.

MILLER (looks toward the back of the stage):  There’s rustling in the brush and the crunch of pebbles. (lies down and puts his ear to the ground) — hoof beats and the clang of weapons. Evil has arrived, dear. Worse than the year the Croatians murdered so many people upstream that the waterfall ran red and the big wheel whipped blood as if it were the autumn slaughter. Do you remember the body that got caught in the paddles and flopped up and down, up and down… I can still see it, and the axle still bears the mark. They say that’s why the water lilies are red this year, and why the eels in the pond are fatter than ever before, but no one dares eat them. Because they smell like a corpse and are blue as a dead man.

Three acorn pickers, gaunt and ragged, enter. They gather acorns from under the oaks and put them in bags.

It’s the acorn pickers, the only birds around this year. The starlings never came, the nutcrackers are nowhere to be found. No swallows are building under the eaves, no rooks or wild doves in the fallow fields, where only thistles and thorns will grow. There are no pike jumping in the reeds—no perch in the rocky shallows. The fish in the stream and the brook have wandered out to sea, scared off by the gunshots and the thundering cannons. Ah, my country. My poor German country. What have we done to deserve this suffering?

MILLER’S WIFE:  We have sinned.

MILLER:  Which we? Hasn’t it hit both the bad and the good, Lutherans and Catholics, the emperor’s subjects and the elector’s? — Tilly even quarters his men and demands funds from his own Catholics. And Wallenstein, that rotten Friedlander, plunders Mecklenburg, his own lands. It’s the chaos of Babylon, a flood of sin, the last days. (Pause; he listens.) See, over there: the horsemen of the Apocalypse!

A Bavarian cavalry officer, named Kronberger, rides in, in the background, from the left; the horse is black, with a black saddle that has silver trim. The officer is in black armor with a white skull on top of the closed helmet. He has a lance with a small white banner. He rides slowly and looks out to sea; stops in the middle of the background; opens his visor and looks out at the sea again; lowers the visor and rides out to the right.

MILLER (and his wife have hidden behind the Madonna):  Death’s scout? Who’s coming next? — A Croat?

A Croat enters on a horse from left; knapsacks, dead geese and chickens, clothing, a basket, etc., hang behind him. He follows the Bavarian officer and looks straight ahead as he goes. The acorn pickers follow the Croat and can be seen picking something up.

MILLER:  See, the crows follow the sower! And the sower is the horse — ah, God, to be horse these days!

Beggars and marauders enter, follow the others, silent and stealthy.

MILLER:  The rear attachment: misery, hunger, theft, vice. All the vices. And shame. — All for the sake of honor, and for virtue and religion.

Two Walloons enter on foot, climb the hill, and stand looking out to sea.

MILLER:  Tilly’s Walloons. And what are they looking for? Those clouds out over the sea mean thunderstorms. But those people don’t fear the thunder of the heavens or the fires of hell!

The Walloons rush out.

MILLER’S WIFE:  Evil is among us.

MILLER:  New evil. Is there any evil that isn’t old? A new crime, a new vice — it would take a genius to invent one.

MILLER’S WIFE:  Don’t blaspheme! Surely you noticed that in our fortunate days misfortune stood just behind the door. And that in our time of need, help sat by the fire and waited — (ecstatic) — Look to the north: the golden clouds don’t bring thunder, because behind those clouds the sun will rise. Out of the north the unweary Gideon will come, because the Spirit of the Lord resides in the northlands.

MILLER:  Where’d you get that? A cuckoo heard from the north sings of sorrow. The Danish Kristian IV barreled down from the north to help us, so they said, but he was so soundly defeated at Lutter by Tserclaes Tilly that we’ve had it seven times worse since.

MILLER’S WIFE:  Further north, further north!

MILLER:  Up where the Swedes live? They’ve been talking about them since they were down ravaging Polish Prussia, but they’re staying politely at home . . .

MILLER’S WIFE (looks out to sea and shades her eyes with a hand):  Believe me, believe me — I see crosses in the sky. One cross, four crosses, five, eight, nine, so many no one can count. And they’re like yellow rye. And then I see white gulls as big as ships. And the good blond man stands in the prow and waves his hand in blessing over the waters and the lands. I can’t see if he walks on the water, but thousands of people stand on the shores to greet the great blond man: Blessèd is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

MILLER:  Where do you see all that?

MILLER’S WIFE:  In my eyes, when I lift them to the clouds.

MILLER:  So you’re seeing a vision, while I see nothing. — Well, I do see the bailiff from Wolgast riding with his assistant in front of him. (Looking left.) Go in, dear. This will probably be unpleasant.

MILLER’S WIFE:  He’s a dark man, the bailiff. But after him will come the blond one. (Goes in the house.)


The bailiff rides in on an ass, which is led by an assistant.

BAILIFF (dismounting):  God’s peace, Martin Miller.

MILLER:  God bless you, bailiff. Please sit down.

Bailiff sits at the table; thinks for a while.

MILLER:  Is it bad news or good news?

BAILIFF (quickly):  Martin, have you heard about the Edict of Restitution?

MILLER:  Edict of Rest-i-tu-tion? Must have.

BAILIFF:  Restitute, hoc est: to restore, to return to the original owner. Well then: when the Protestant movement began to spread here in northern Germany, the Lutherans confiscated all church properties, including the cloisters, which they said had no owners, or were res nullius. Among those was this Cistercian cloister, which you purchased and converted to a mill. (Pulls out a document.) Based on this edict, in my capacity as confiscator imperii, I am required to declare your property restored. Thus it is taken from you.

MILLER:  Now the emperor uses religion to seize property?

BAILIFF:  Just like the Protestants when they stole the church’s silver and its cloister properties under the guise of faith.

MILLER:  Yes, with the approval of the religious Peace of Augsburg.

BAILIFF:  And nullified by the Battle of White Mountain. You see: it all comes around. What’s wrongly taken is easily lost. You bought stolen property, and now you’ve lost it.

MILLER:  Will it be a cloister again?

BAILIFF:  No. It will be a storehouse for the emperor’s troops.

MILLER:  One question. Are you Catholic?

BAILIFF:  That kind of question is no longer asked, and for good reason. The hundred-year religious struggles were settled, and we learned to live side by side with Christian tolerance. Why do you want to raise the double-edged sword of conflict between us?

MILLER:  I don’t want to—

BAILIFF:  Well, then, you don’t need to know my faith. — On to other matters: Have you seen that cloud over the sea?

MILLER:  Yes, of course.

BAILIFF:  Some say it’s gunpowder vapor, others that it’s a thundercloud. We’ve heard thunder, seen lightning, and old women say they’ve seen signs—you know…

MILLER:  My wife was just saying something like that. What do you believe?

BAILIFF:  I don’t dare believe, but I hope—hope the great war will end, our fields will be planted again, and our children will experience better times.

MILLER:  Our children. My children, who are lost out in the world, who I expected to welcome home again. But our home isn’t mine anymore. To tell you the truth, I have nothing left to hope for. And my wife—she won’t get through it.

BAILIFF:  Martin, if you knew what I and my family have survived—if only you knew! (stands, orders his assistant) Post the notice!

Assistant pastes a paper on the Miller’s door.

BAILIFF:  Move your belongings before the executors come.

MILLER:  Where? I can’t manage it alone, and my wife is ill. She’ll get worse. And if I drag my belongings outside, the Croats will come.

BAILIFF:  What’s the matter with your wife?

MILLER (his wife appears on the stairs; points to his forehead):  Shh!

BAILIFF:  My errand is done. Don’t be angry with me. I’ve only done my duty. (Pause.) Did you know this is a festival day? No? Yes, in Wolgast they’re celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, which gave freedom to the Protestants.

MILLER:  Freedom?

BAILIFF:  Yes! — Come to the festival. It will distract you. Strengthen your courage and your faith.

MILLER:  Thanks very much, but since my wife can’t come along—because she’s Catholic—I’ll stay away.

MILLER’S WIFE (looking at the notice):  What does it say?

MILLER:  It says: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessèd be the name of the Lord. — In other words: we’ve lost it all.

Miller’s Wife falls down, unconscious.

MILLER:  It was more than she could bear. — Help me!

Miller and the Bailiff’s Assistant move toward the Miller’s Wife.

BAILIFF (calmly):  Is she dead?

MILLER:  No! But why are you standing there like a dead man?

BAILIFF:  Because I’ve seen so much misery that I can’t suffer or even feel anymore.

MILLER (sits on the bench):  My God, you’re right. It makes no difference if she lies inside or out here. I believe I’d rather see her at the bottom of the sea, and me too. It’s strange. I’m almost happy—that it’s come to this.

Walloons run through the background.

MILLER:  Why are they running?

BAILIFF:  I’ve been asking myself the same thing all day. Something’s happening in the distance. We don’t know what, but these carrion birds smell it. Aren’t you going to help your wife?

MILLER:  No. I can’t lift a finger, even if my heart were breaking. Misfortune has paralyzed me and I’ll never see another happy day. But I can’t cry either. — There lies the bride of my youth, the only woman to own my heart—my son at war, my daughter raped. Imagine: raped. Oh, my wretched country, what have you done?

BAILIFF:  A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

MILLER:  Yeah! That’s what they say.

ASSISTANT (to the Bailiff):  Look, sir—the mirage over the sea.

They look at the cloud hanging over the sea, which has taken the shape of an old city with towers, gables, battlements, and spires, but in shadows of the clouds’ colors.

BAILIFF (to the Miller):  What’s this?

MILLER (without turning around):  It’s a specter, maybe a mirage. People say it’s Vineta, the city that sunk to the seabed after being plundered by the Danes and Swedes.

BAILIFF:  Was it out there?

MILLER:  On the island of Wollin. Its inhabitants were avowed haters of Christ. That’s all I know.

Smoke rolls out of the mill building.

ASSISTANT:  The mill is burning! For Christ’s sake, put it out!

BAILIFF:  Open the millrace, Miller, and get the water going!

MILLER:  Why bother?

BAILIFF:  Save your belongings, man!

MILLER:  Nah. They’d just be taken by the Walloons, those murdering arsonists.

ASSISTANT:  Look, Bailiff! It’s haunted out there again. See—crosses. The golden cross!

In the mirage a large number of masts with flags are now visible; the yellow cross on a blue background.

MILLER’S WIFE (wakes up and rises):  Vineta has sunk and its heathen houses have toppled in front of the symbol of the cross. The Gold King is here, the savior has come. Blessèd is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!

BAILIFF (to the Miller):  What’s she going on about?

MILLER:  Since she lost her mind, she claims her soul wanders while her body lies as if dead. — Which may be true, but something has happened out there

Noise offstage.

VOICE:  The Swedes are coming!

ANOTHER VOICE:  The Swedes are coming!

BAILIFF:  The Swedes are coming!

MILLER:  The Swedes are coming!

Walloons run from left to right, followed by the acorn pickers and the marauders.

BAILIFF:  Take care then, Martin. I’m going back to town to get more information.

MILLER’S WIFE:  Why is there smoke in the mill?

MILLER:  Because it’s burning, and it’s burning because the Walloons torched it. — Let the emperor’s house burn. It will be a midsummer fire to guide the Swedes! — See, the rats are fleeing the burning house. Come, dear, we’ll do the same. Out into the wide world.

Now the blue and yellow flags are more apparent and under them the uppermost sails.

ASSISTANT II:  Bailiff, sir!

BAILIFF:  Spit it out.

ASSISTANT II:  The Swedes landed this morning. They set up camp, and now they’re here.

BAILIFF:  And the imperial forces?

ASSISTANT II:  They’re withdrawing. Without resistance.

BAILIFF:  Unbelievable. But everything’s off kilter in this war—no one knows who’s a friend and who’s an enemy. What do our people say?

ASSISTANT II:  They’re celebrating the arrival of our liberators.

People—farmers and city people—have gathered on stage.

BAILIFF (to the people):  The mill is burning. Put out the fire! Put out the fire!

Some of the people rush into the mill, and the smoke gradually stops.

BAILIFF (to the Miller):  The sun has come out from behind the clouds. Now you can ignore the emperor and settle down under your own roof again. Such is life, Martin.

Miller goes up to the sluice; opens the millrace. Miller’s Wife goes out left.

MILLER (Miller comes down from the sluice, over to the Bailiff):  Is it right that we pay taxes to the emperor?

BAILIFF:  Pharisee! — Render unto God the things that are God’s; the emperor will always get what’s rightly his.

MILLER:  Whose friend are you?

BAILIFF:  I am a friend to Cato and Plato—but preferably to justice.


A Swedish herald enters, preceded by three trumpeters and three drummers; followed by the Quartermaster and the Sergeant Major.

BAILIFF:  Aha! Now we’ll get some real information.

The trumpeters blow a fanfare and the drummers drum; the people gather around them.

HERALD (reads from a proclamation):  “Gustavo’s Adolphus Rex, King of the Swedes, etc., hereby declares and proclaims to all the people of the German nations and the evangelical confession that he has landed in Pomerania as a friend and protector to save those who share our faith from the papists’ intolerable oppression and to secure freedom of conscience for believers in the pure Lutheran doctrine. And we assure the nation’s citizens that they will maintain their individual and property rights, urging that anyone caught stealing, plundering, or extorting others should be reported to the commanding officer so that he may be remanded for the appropriate penalty without delay.

Issued in Wolgast at Our Headquarters,

Gustavus, as above.”

Trumpets and drums. The Herald goes out; Sergeant Major and Quartermaster move about, sizing up the area.

BAILIFF (to the Miller):  Well-ll?

MILLER (scratching his head):  Yes. That’s good, very good… but—

BAILIFF:  Didn’t you hear the sour note? Your wife’s a papist. So the Swedes have come to defend you against her.

MILLER:  I would have liked it to be a bit different — — — but one must be accepting, accepting.


QUARTERMASTER (reading the notice on the mill door):  Is this the emperor’s mill?


QUARTERMASTER:  Belongs to the papists, according to this notice. (to the Sergeant) This will be a suitable accommodation for the generals. Make a note.

BAILIFF:  Excuse me, sir, but has the foreigner come as a friend this time?

SERGEANT MAJOR (blustering):  Stranger? The Swedish king is no stranger to this country. The Elector of Brandenburg is his brother-in-law, as the Prince of Sibenbürgen, Gabriel Bethlen, once was. The Elector of the Palatinate is his kinsman, as are the Dukes of Mecklenburg, Lauenburg, and Holstein, and he’s related to the Landgrave of Hesse as well. And take note that his nephew King Sigismund of Poland makes the King of Sweden a relation to Emperor Ferdinand II himself. Furthermore, my king is a German prince in the general government of Prussia in its main settlements of Braunsberg, Elbing, Pillau, and Memel. So not really a stranger after all, is he? Eh?

BAILIFF:  A hearty welcome then, gentlemen, to your kindred country. Hope the trip over was good.

QUARTERMASTER:  Good enough.

BAILIFF:  I present myself as the Bailiff of Wolgast and commend these well-intentioned people for your best consideration.

Swedish soldiers and baggage train people come in; put up tents, set up stalls, make fires equipped with cooking gear; set up field forges, a shoeing stall, move in tables and benches, etc. It has darkened over the sea; the rustle of trees and waves are heard.

BAILIFF (to the Miller):  Now your mill is gone again, at least for now, but this is the surest way to get it back.

MILLER:  Dreams! No, now I’d rather enlist and prowl the kingdom instead of sitting here in an empty mill while the water flows in vain. — The kettles are in the camps and if you’re on the rolls, you know you’ll always get fed.

Swedish banners are placed at the doors, where guards are also posted.

BAILIFF:  Good luck, Martin. A new tide has come—terrible for some, good for others. Good luck!

Goes out with his assistants and the ass. Miller goes out right, pensive.


Sergeant Major and Quartermaster sit at a table.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That was a real — so-and-so — of a trip (shouldn’t curse in the service). Three weeks of bucking the wind. Wouldn’t you say that’s a bad start? And then they ate all the provisions so we had to plunder Öland. That was a slimy move, and the people there aren’t too happy with us. — Well, now we’re here. But there’s nothing to eat, and I don’t even want to talk about drink (yawns and licks his mustache). No horses for the baggage train, not to mention a driver. The generals, who are expected to arrive any minute now, will have to sleep on empty flour sacks with empty stomachs. Phew! It takes a lot of religion for a campaign like this.

QUARTERMASTER:  Good to have a little religion. And you could stand some more.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  And you could use a little humor. We didn’t come to convert redskins or baptize Turks.

QUARTERMASTER:  The Turk, my son, is in your heart. Seek him there and surely ye shall find him!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  So you’re off the deep end then, old man?

QUARTERMASTER:  I’m not off any deep end, but I want to ask you a question, a life-changing question, young man. A question for your whole life: (accentuating each word) Do – you – know – what – makes – a – Christian (faster now) what he is? — No – you – do – not! — I’ll tell you! It’s election by grace.

SERGEANT MAJOR (turns his back and moves upstage):  Go home and curl up in a corner.

QUARTERMASTER (without letting himself be disturbed):  There are sectarians and proselytizers who argue that the Formula of Concord is binding for all nonconformists, but they forget one thing — What is that? — The last of the Lutheran confessions of the Reformation, given in our year of the Lord 1577 at the convention in Torgau—

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Shut your mouth!

QUARTERMASTER:  — Did I say Torgau? I meant—what was it again? Just a minute, I’ll remember. (Thinking and counting on his fingers.)

Drummers beat the drums. Sergeant Major sits at a table; takes paper and a writing implement from a bag. A group of women (soldiers’ wives) gather on stage.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Quiet with those drums! — Provost, come here!

Provost enters.

SERGEANT MAJOR (proclaims):  Inasmuch as a camp will now be formed, and insofar as according to the articles of war no loose women may be allowed near it, only the wives of soldiers, the commanding general has ordered that every woman who can’t prove with a certificate of marriage her legal union with an active-duty foot soldier, cavalryman, or baggage worker will be driven off.

Are your papers ready, women?

The women approach the table and show their soiled papers.

WOMAN I:  Kind and gracious sir—

SERGEANT MAJOR (speaks quickly):  Shut up until I ask a question! (looking at the paper) Anna Magreta… I couldn’t care less about that: Who are you married to? Småland cavalry officer number 246. — Provost! Look at the rolls for the Småland cavalry: number 246.

PROVOST (reading):  Småland cavalry officer number 246. Married.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Go, woman. You can wash up in the mess hall. March!

Woman I goes.

SERGEANT MAJOR (shouting):  Number two!

WOMAN II:  Kind sir… it’s number 68…

SERGEANT MAJOR (shouting):  You’re going to correct me?! When I say number two, you are number two. Your husband, however, may be number 68. Let me see — Småland cavalry number 68! Provost, look at the rolls for the Småland cavalry. Number 68.

PROVOST (reading):  Småland’s cavalry number 68. — Vacant.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Vacant? — Is he dead?

PROVOST:  He’s dead.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  So, you hussy. Do you think this is a marriage mart? Have you gone to war to capture a husband? Do you think there’s any military support for widows or orphans here? Out. Out. Out! — — —

WOMAN II:  He’s not dead! He’s not dead!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  If he took off, then we’ll hang him as a deserter. So his place will be vacant anyway. Out, woman! — Provost, take the woman away.

Quartermaster! —

QUARTERMASTER:  Yes, well — that was almost like the Marburg Colloquy.

Provost takes the woman out.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  God save the king! But it’s a real nuisance that they drag their women along with the baggage.

QUARTERMASTER:  Paul says: It is better to marry than to burn.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  As if marriage isn’t burning. Will you just take the women with you and distribute the food over there? Soon the generals will be here, and by then the camp should be as polished as a parlor floor.

QUARTERMASTER:  You know what, son. I’ve made a covenant with my eyes—woman born of woman is a firebrand from hell.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Take the Provost with you. He’ll come with switches and scorpions if you can’t trust your flesh.

QUARTERMASTER:  My flesh? — Shame on you. — Follow me, women! (Goes, accompanied by the women.)


SCHOOLMASTER (an old soldier with a wooden leg, glasses, and a cane, enters):  God save you, sergeant.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  God save you, Old Powder. — What do you need?

SCHOOLMASTER:  I’m trying to find a place for my boys.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Is there such a rush for your abracadabra? Give the boys a day off from school and let them throw stones on the shore. But if they holler you’ll have to wring their necks. It’s supposed to be quiet—the generals are coming here to sleep.

In the background Scotsmen have entered, dancing after a bagpipe; in the middle of the stage is a Swedish fiddler.

SCHOOLMASTER:  God save the king, but does the Sergeant Major know why women and children must be along for the war?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Because there’s nothing to eat at home, I suppose.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Is there anything to eat here?! I haven’t even seen a cookie crumb yet.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Please keep your thoughts to yourself. And don’t be conspiring or you’ll hang from a tree until your flesh hangs off your rotted bones. Do you understand? (stands.)

SCHOOLMASTER:  So. That’s how you treat a source of knowledge, a forest of forests, a hortus deliciarum, whose only goal is to be a servus servorum eruditorum

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Abracadabra, abracadabra, abracadabra, ortus meretricorum, in secula seculorum. Eistenueian panton ton filon; kai hapanton, kai panton proserkomenin filo. Do you know what that was?

SCHOOLMASTER:  It’s Finnish.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  No. It’s Greek… I spent five semester in Uppsala as liber studiosus. Drank and fought, got drafted—and now I’m here. So, source of knowledge, just follow the road to the forest of forests.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Joshev beseter äljon.[1] Do you follow?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Hassur tamin påålo.[2] — Got one for that? — Go to the quartermaster and abracadabra with him. Here come the bigwigs.

SCHOOLMASTER (going):  A nice midsummer day this is.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You probably wanted to dance around the midsummer pole.

SCHOOLMASTER:  You’re mocking my misfortune. You know it was my honor to lose a limb in battle.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  During your retreat from the tavern after a binge you fell into a ditch and broke your leg. That’s what the records say. That’s why you have to sleep like a rooster now—on one bony leg—you old boozer. Salaam alaikum!

SCHOOLMASTER:  So charming. — Ass. (exits.)



Finnish Ensign enters with a Danish Ensign.

FINNISH ENSIGN (in a Finnish accent, yelling):  Can you just imagine…

DANISH ENSIGN (in a Danish accent):  I spent a lot of money. But I don’t think my wife will bawl me out.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Still, can you imagine…

DANISH ENSIGN:  Where did we stop?

FINNISH ENSIGN:  I can’t tell you that now.

DANISH ENSIGN:  You won’t outsmart me, devil take you!

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Well, well, well, well. (Trumpet signals from around the stage.) Oof, they’re already sounding the call to bed down for the night.

DANISH ENSIGN:  So what? Why not find some more fun tonight?

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Well, I don’t want to dance to that bagpipe like the Scots. And they should have given that fiddler the boot on a holy night when we shouldn’t have to suffer any shenanigans in camp. Ah, I’d like to be home. Away from all this papistry. Sure, they’ve had their fun with me. But by god, if I make it home, I’m planting myself there.

SERGEANT MAJOR (has stood and given a signal that the Scots and the fiddle player should be quiet. Now he approaches the ensigns.):  Ensigns shouldn’t be so loud! The generals are on their way.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  So? I don’t know any generals.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You’re about to. Attention!

Trumpet fanfares. There is silence on stage; all stand up and look to the left. The Sergeant Major and the Ensigns stand hidden behind a tree so they can’t be seen by the Generals. The march begins, from stage left to stage right, and then into the mill, where the honor guard stands.

Gustaf Horn first, dressed for mourning; shortly after, he’s followed by Nils Brahe.

SERGEANT MAJOR (to the Ensigns):  Gustaf Horn. Son of Karl Henriksson Horn.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Horn of Kankas, the Finn? Can you imagine…

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Yep, but do your imagining a little more quietly. Karl Henriksson was condemned to death by Karl IX at the bloodbath in Linköping, but he was pardoned.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Whew. That was a bloodbath.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Nils Brahe. — Son of Abraham Brahe, who was the judge at the Linköping bloodbath.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Yes! And a nephew or cousin of Ebbe Brahe.


Johan Banér.


FINNISH ENSIGN:  That must be the king.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Nope. But he’s a lot like him. — Son of Kristina Sture and Gustav Banér, who was beheaded at the Linköping bloodbath.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Can you just imagine! —

Fredrik Stenbock.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Fredrik Stenbock. Grandson of Malin Sture and Erik Stenbock, Gustav Vasa’s brother-in-law; pardoned at Linköping.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Oh, no kidding. Vasas and Stures.

Lennart Torstenson.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Lennart Torstenson, son of the traitor Torsten Lennartsson, who went to Poland with Sigismund.

Erik Soop.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Erik Soop of the Västergötland cavalry—saved the king’s life at Weissenburg.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Never in my whole life…

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Shh. — Karl Hård of the Västergötarne, with Axel Lillie of the Österbottningarne.

Karl Hård. Axel Lillie.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  The one coming next, you must know him? Torsten Stålhandske, of the Finnish cavalry.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Nope. I don’t think so.

SERGEANT MAJOR (holds him back):  Quiet!

Torsten Stålhandske.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Good Lord, it’s like all of Swedish history is marching out in front of God and everyone—

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Hold! More are coming. — Åke Tott, Erik XIV’s grandson. Vasa blood and the king’s cousin.

Åke Tott.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  It’s all been fun and games until now, eh, my Danish friend? (Looks around and notices that the Danish Ensign disappeared.) That kiss-ass got away! It killed him to see these big shots because none of them are slippery Danes.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Ensign, it’s my duty to remind you that in the Swedish camp we do not insult other nationalities — not even Jews or Gypsies. — That’s our king’s command, and we must respect it.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Well, they’re definitely not as prejudiced here as I’m used to. What about the emperor’s people?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  The emperor’s people have no nationality.

Erik Rålamb enters; wearing black with two feathers in his hat: one white, one red.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  The king’s, or rather, the queen’s chamberlain, Rålamb. His uncle was beheaded in Kalmar by Duke Karl.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Then we can expect the king soon.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Of course, certainly.


ÅKE TOTT (comes out of the mill, with his hat in his hand; irritated.):  The devil himself couldn’t stay here! — Sergeant, what kind of quarters are you providing! It smells like a fire pit and it’s hot as hell.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  My lord, we have nothing else. We can’t help it that the Croats set fire to it before we got here.

ÅKE TOTT:  At least set the table out here, and see to it that we get good wine.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  God help me, but there isn’t a crust of bread in the whole camp.

ÅKE TOTT:  Get out there and forage then!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  My lord, that means we’d be taking it from the people. But, first, there’s nothing to take. The emperor’s troops have plundered the country. And second—

ÅKE TOTT:  And, third, you’ll ride the wooden horse[3] if you let your officers go without food. You and the quartermaster. And, fourth, the king will be here soon for his dinner.


JOHAN BANÉR (comes out of the mill, bare-headed):  I’ve slept in barns and pigsties, but I’ll be damned if I’ve been stuck anywhere like this. — Where’s the quartermaster?

ÅKE TOTT:  He’s mustering the women, but we have the sergeant major here.

JOHAN BANÉR:  So then the sergeant can put up the tents out here.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  As you wish, but the king’s tent is supposed to go here, and the baggage hasn’t arrived.

FREDRIK STENBOCK (enters with his boots in his hands and throws them toward Tott.):  Isn’t there some poor devil around to polish my boots?

Åke Tott kicks the boots aside.

FREDRIK STENBOCK:  You dare to kick my boots!

ÅKE TOTT:  Come here and I’ll kick you! In a place you won’t soon forget!

FREDRIK STENBOCK:  You’ll answer for that—[4]

ERIK RÅLAMB (comes out):  My lords! The field marshal begs for peace and quiet. Not only has his son’s recent demise bowed him with grief, the difficult trip damaged his health. Peace, for God’s sake, peace.

ÅKE TOTT:  That’s a fine thing to say to hungry people. I’m so hungry I could eat my tongue.

ERIK RÅLAMB:  Is this new for you, Åke Tott, to face hardships in the field?

ÅKE TOTT:  No, not when it’s necessary. But this is the negligence of the baggage people.

JOHAN BANÉR:  Damned carelessness.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  No, my lords, it’s not negligence—

ÅKE TOTT:  Cut his throat if he talks back—

FREDRIK STENBOCK:  I couldn’t give a damn about food. If I could just get my boots brushed—

ÅKE TOTT:  Peacock!

FREDRIK STENBOCK:  And what about you? Pig!

ERIK RÅLAMB:  Fredrik, don’t bait Åke. He’s just a spoiled royal brat.

JOHAN BANÉR:  Hey, Åke, there’s some kind of festival in Wolgast. Let’s get our horses; we’ll ride in and pay for a little midsummer grazing.

ÅKE TOTT:  What a brilliant solution to the food problem. Let’s go. (Hurries out, followed by Johan Banér.)

FREDRIK STENBOCK (pulls on his boots and hurries after.):  Wait a minute! — I’m coming! — Åke, man, wait! (Exits.)

QUARTERMASTER (has come in; turns to the Sergeant Major):  And they’re the Lord’s instruments on earth…

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Not all brooms are clean, and even fewer shovels.

FINNISH ENSIGN (comes up to them):  It’s just amazing to see the offspring and relatives of the executed lords coming together in one place.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That’s proof of our great king’s noble and conciliatory nature. But at home in Stockholm, sit even more Linköping lords: Johan Sparre, the councilor, is the son of Erik Sparre, beheaded; Per Banér, secretary of the chancellery, is the son of True Banér, beheaded; Nils Bielke, councilor, is the beheaded True Bielke’s kinsman. Brutal Karl IX’s gentle son atones for his father’s sins. The quartermaster might call that satisfactio vicaria personalis, or vicarious personal reparation.

QUARTERMASTER:  Me? No, far from it. That was Anselm of Canterbury and the heretic Abelard, who in opposing the nonconformists and semi-Pelagians wanted to establish, as in the letter to the Galatians—

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Stop! Stop there. I can’t believe I opened the spigot. — Now he’s really spouting. Let’s go, ensign. — Ah. Here comes a minister.


Fabricius, the court chaplain, enters with Secretary Grubbe.

SERGEANT MAJOR (to the Finnish ensign):  Court Chaplain Fabricius and Secretary Lars Grubbe. The king must not be far away.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  No, but listen now—

Fabricius speaks quietly with Grubbe.

GRUBBE (to Erik Rålamb):  His Majesty is on the way. He requests that his tent be set up near the generals’ quarters.

ERIK RÅLAMB (to the Sergeant Major):  Quick! His Majesty’s tent, here under the oaks.

The Sergeant Major and Quartermaster go out and come back with men who set up an open blue-and-yellow-striped tent roof between the trees. The evening has become darker.

GRUBBE (to Erik Rålamb):  His Majesty requests a meeting with Field Marshal Horn, General Torstenson, and Colonel Nils Brahe.

Erik Rålamb bows.

GRUBBE:  The trumpets will sound the call to rest for the night and Court Chaplain Fabricius will lead prayers—after which there should be silence. Severity with our own people and patience with the locals: that’s the king’s command.

Erik Rålamb goes into the mill.

Fabricius speaks quietly with Grubbe, then goes out, right. Adjutants come out of the mill and disperse to the right and left. Then the call to rest for the night is heard, on drums and trumpets, near and at a distance, all around. Grubbe sits at a table, takes up a writing instrument and writes.


Gustaf Horn, Lennart Torstenson, and Nils Brahe come out of the mill, sit at a table under the king’s tent. Erik Rålamb comes out after the others; stands behind Horn. Grubbe stands and goes out to the right. Silence; the generals appear worried and embarrassed; they stare at each other for a while.

HORN:  Say something!


BRAHE:  In all truth, it will take the king’s unwavering confidence and firm faith to not be discouraged by such a poor start.

TORSTENSON:  I can’t deny that the locals’ conspicuous coldness is disheartening. Why aren’t they greeting their liberators with jubilation, instead of running off to hide?

BRAHE:  That could be explained by their fear of the emperor—maybe even a natural aversion to strangers. But what’s inexplicable is that we’ve landed without seeing so much as a single imperial soldier. Where’s the enemy? Where’s Conti? Where’s Tilly? And most importantly, where’s Wallenstein?

TORSTENSON:  No reports have come in to answer those questions. But we know one thing: the emperor’s troops are scattered around us, and in numbers considerably greater than ours.

HORN:  Don’t worry. When the king comes, he’ll untangle the knot. Where we see unrelenting darkness, he’ll see pure light—he was born in light and holds it within himself.

RÅLAMB (excited):  Well said, Gustaf Horn. I always think of the sun or of gold when I see my hero approaching—and the day I find a blemish on his pure, welcoming soul, I’ll stop believing in anything good.

HORN:  That will never happen, Erik Rålamb.

RÅLAMB:  But if I did—

BRAHE:  Be quiet. The king is coming.

All who were seated stand up and wait silently. The glow of torchlight is visible from the left. Then three torchbearers, then three guards. Finally the King.

KING (in light yellow with a light blue sash; in his hat he has one white and one red plume, the queen’s (Hohenzollern) colors; in his hand he has dispatches that he throws on the table):  Well! Now I’m here. — How are you? — So quiet! Have you had supper?

HORN:  No, Your Majesty.

KING:  Why not?

HORN:  Because there’s nothing to eat.

KING:  Then we’ll have to bed down hungry for once—and still be thankful for such a brilliant start.

HORN:  Brilliant?

KING:  Isn’t it amazing that we could execute our landing without the slightest opposition? Isn’t it an unequaled success that the enemy has withdrawn? I’m so pleased that—I’m afraid, afraid as always, that our good fortune won’t last long. — Does anyone know where Wallenstein is?

HORN:  No, but they say Tilly is somewhere to the west.

KING (unrolling a map):  Good. — Look at this map, at the red line. First I’ll take Stettin, which is the key to the Baltic and the road to Berlin . . . . Then I’ll take Frankfurt an der Oder, and separate my cousin Sigismund from Brandenburg, my dear brother-in-law. After that, Spandau will be a gift and I’ll have Magdeburg sewn up. — You look hesitant, Gustaf. You’re like my good Oxenstierna, who always sees the problems. He didn’t like this war, but when he couldn’t stop it, he gave in. — — — Why are you so quiet? Say something, Nils. Lennart… say something.

TORSTENSON:  Your Majesty, the enemy who doesn’t show himself is more dangerous that the one we can see—

KING:  That’s foolish talk, Lennart. I’ll leave you since you’re trying to strip me of my courage. Where is my friend Johan?

BRAHE:  Banér, Tott, and Stenbock rode into Wolgast to attend a festival, and find some delicacies.

KING:  No! That’s comical. I just came from that festival—there was nothing wet or dry around. Well, it was dry. They’re celebrating the centennial of the Augsburg Confession with fasting and prayers. And since the reformed church wasn’t part of the Treaty of Passau, the good folks of Wolgast were at each others’ throats. I’m imagining Åke and Johan with empty stomachs and parched throats listening to an eight-hour exegetical discourse! Ha! Yes, let them soak it up. — Go to bed now, friends; I’ll stay out here under the stars.

HORN:  And in the morning?

KING:  In the morning we’ll take Stettin! Erik Rålamb, stay with me and let the guards go rest.

HORN (going into the mill):  Good night, Your Majesty.

KING:  I wish you the same, Gustaf, and that your grief doesn’t interfere with your rest.

BRAHE:  Good night, Your Majesty.

KING:  Sleep well.

TORSTENSON (to the king):  God’s peace and blessings.

KING:  The Lord be with you, Lennart. Believe God is good, and peaceful sleep will come.


Guards and torchbearers leave at a sign from Rålamb. The foreground and the king are lit by the reflection of an offstage fire. In the background it’s murky and the seven brightest stars of Ursa Major [Karlavagnen/the Big Dipper], which have gradually appeared as dusk fell, are now visible. Crashing waves are heard in the distance.

KING:  Sit down, Erik.

Rålamb sits, his head is bare.

KING:  Can anyone hear us?

RÅLAMB:  No, Your Majesty. But someone can see us.

KING:  Who?

RÅLAMB:  The all-seeing one, above the stars.

KING:  Yes. May he look into my heart and see that my love for my fellow believers is as boundless as my hate for the papists. “I hate them with perfect hatred,” says David about the unjust.

RÅLAMB:  David lived under the law just as the papists do, but we live in faith under the Gospels.

KING:  So you mean I should love them? Love Richelieu, love Wallenstein? Never.

RÅLAMB:  Isn’t there a middle ground between love and hate? Can’t we tolerate them?

KING:  I can’t tolerate intolerance—so I hate the Catholics. You know, I can smell a Catholic within gunshot, and when I’ve had to shake one of their hands, it seemed as if I were taking hold of a snake. That’s why my position is so clear, my task so simple. That’s why I didn’t need a declaration of war, why I didn’t need allies—because sheep know their shepherd, and the shepherd knows the wolves. And he who isn’t with me is against me! — Where are you, Erik, my friend?

RÅLAMB (on his knees):  Here, at your feet, my hero and my king. And may my soul wither the day I fail you.

KING:  Yes, yes. You’re so young! — But if I fail, what then?

RÅLAMB:  Then I’ll turn my back on you, shatter my sword, and despise you forever.

KING:  You love me, Erik—do so always, whatever may happen. But get up now, someone is coming.

RÅLAMB (kisses the king’s hand and rises):  My leader and my God!

The king pulls his hand away.


MILLER’S WIFE (enters with an armful of willow branches in her apron and scatters them in her path as shoe approaches the king):  “And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the earth. Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all inhabitants of the land.”

RÅLAMB:  So said Jeremiah, woman. But Isaiah says: “I have raised one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay.”

MILLER’S WIFE:  He didn’t understand. — Jeremiah says: “For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me…” Blessèd is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

KING (offers her his hand):  Stand up, woman. Your faith is as warm as your hand. My brethren know me, as I know them. (to Rålamb) The first Protestant to welcome me. (to the woman) Peace be with you.

MILLER’S WIFE (crossing herself as she goes):  Et cum spiritu tuo. Amen. (exits)

KING (gives Rålamb a startled look that transforms into a smile):  What was that?

RÅLAMB:  I’m not sure. But I know she was a Catholic.

KING:  Who welcomes me…?

RÅLAMB:  A Pomeranian woman who’s been waiting for liberation from the Austrians. So? Wasn’t her hand warm? Well, so was her heart.

KING:  Don’t grin at me, Erik. I’ll get wiser with each passing day. — And forget that; it was just a mirage. (Goes upstage with his arm across Rålamb’s shoulders, stops, and stares out at sea.) See there? Ursa Major. That way is home—to where my little girl sleeps. (Blows a kiss.) Goodnight, my royal child. Goodnight, my queen. Goodnight, stars of home. (Comes back downstage; stops, with a worried look.)

RÅLAMB:  Majesty, you’re worried.

KING:  No. Do you know what your king is? — He’s hungry! — But now I’ll sleep off the hunger. You’ll read me to sleep out of the Good Book. (sits down facing the fire)


Trumpet signals in the distance; new signals move ever closer. Finally, drums begin to beat close by. The camp awakes and launches into urgent action. Horn, Brahe, Torstenson, and the other generals come out of the mill with belts and swords, which they put on.

KING:  Over there! What’s happening now?

RÅLAMB:  An alarm.

SERGEANT MAJOR (enters quickly with torchbearers):  The enemy is here! Now—Torstenson, Horn, Brahe! All of you: the Swedish watchword. Take it: God is with us.



Act Two

1) In Stettin.

2) In a peasant’s cottage outside Frankfurt an der Oder.

3) In a camp outside Frankfurt an der Oder.

4) In the palace park in Berlin.

5) In the Spandau fortress.

Scene One

A rich burgher’s home in Stettin. Dark, carved cabinets; tables with heavy cloths in saturated colors; chairs of the same style. At the back one large, open window that faces the harbor, where Swedish warships are moored, flags flying. On the back wall copper-engraved portraits of Luther, Melanchthon, and Gustav Adolf. To the left, a table is set for a birthday party with two candles, flowers, and several gifts set on a white tablecloth that is festooned with greenery and flowers.

Rudolf, a student from Wittenberg, and Luise, his cousin, by the window.

RUDOLF (sticking a Swedish flag out the window):  The emperor’s eagles have fled the golden crosses, and the Snow King brought a coolness to this stifling July heat.

LUISE (hanging a wreath under Gustav Adolf’s picture):  Hail, golden king, who opened our harbor so ships can come and go. Just think, Rudy, now I’ll get silk from France again so I can finish your sash.

RUDOLF:  Luise, I’ll wear my sash the day my friend Gustaf Gustafsson is awarded a rectorship at Wittenberg. Me, Luise—friend to Gustav Adolf’s son. Too bad he isn’t a prince.

LUISE:  But his father is the king.

RUDOLF:  His mother isn’t the queen, though. (quietly) Margareta Cabiljau, his beautiful mother, is married now, up north somewhere.

LUISE:  You shouldn’t have told me that. I don’t know why, but—it isn’t right to abandon a woman.

RUDOLF:  True. But the king’s own mother, the dowager queen, brought them together to save her son from his great and true love for a lady at court—called Brahe, I think.

LUISE:  Enough, please. Father’s coming soon with company and by then there should be wine at the table, (she takes out wine bottles and glasses and sets them on the table) joy in our hearts, and only happy thoughts.

RUDOLF (indicates the portrait of Gustav Adolf):  Light and light don’t make a picture, Luise—take away the shadows from that likeness and you’ll just see a white paper with some water stains that were hidden by the shading.

LUISE:  Is it philosophy you’re studying now?

RUDOLF:  And erotica.

LUISE:  What’s that?

RUDOLF:  That’s—women.

LUISE:  I don’t like your words or your manner, Rudolf. Times are evil when war is on, and people turn into animals. Watch yourself.

RUDOLF:  Listen, Luise. It’s your birthday, your seventeenth. The whole harbor’s full of flags—in your honor. The Swedish navy is saluting—in your honor. Luise, won’t you—

LUISE:  Shh, Mother’s coming.


MOTHER (enters with a duster; muttering to herself):  I don’t like this.

RUDOLF:  What, auntie?

MOTHER:  I don’t like this at all. The gun smoke that destroys my curtains. The explosions and shooting that scare the life out of the sick. And the whole town’s full of drunken sailors and soldiers.

RUDOLF:  Aunt Gertrude, forget all of it and think about how important this day is for us, for Luise. Listen to me, for God’s sake. It’s your Luise’s birthday today, and I—your brother’s son—have come to visit for a while— (raises his voice, annoyed) —for as long as—. Let me finish—

MOTHER:  Hush! Father’s coming. And he has our guests with him.

COOPER (in a leather apron and with hoop iron in his belt rather happily enters with the Finnish Ensign, the Schoolmaster, and the Provost):  Here’s my home! — And here are my new friends. My Swedish friends. And a Finnish ensign in the cavalry — what was your name?

FINNISH ENSIGN:  My name’s Axel Eriksson, but I don’t think I should just barge in like this.

COOPER:  Erik Axelsson, of course! And this is the schoolmaster. Rudolf, he’s your kind.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Field schoolmaster, if I may be precise—

Rudolf seems contemptuous.

COOPER (points to the provost):  And this is the professor.

PROVOST:  No, my goodness—

COOPER:  Hush now, and sit down for a glass of wine. My daughter, Luise, will serve.

Mother moves around disapprovingly, fussing with her duster; then she takes a towel and wipes the table between the guests. Luise reluctantly fills the wine glasses. Rudolf approaches the Provost suspiciously.

COOPER:  A toast to the king! Take a knee!

Three cannon shots outside. They drink as they kneel.

ALL (except Mother, Rudolf, and Luise):  Hurrah!

Mother wipes between the glasses and looks annoyed.

RUDOLF (to the Provost):  Professor!

PROVOST:  No, I’m not a professor. I’m the provost. Provost!

RUDOLF (signals Luise and they sneak away):  What a crew.

MOTHER:  I don’t like this. Not at all!

COOPER (pouring more):  Why are you wiping here? — And watch your tongue, Gertrude.

Mother exits.

COOPER (raising his glass):  Friends, benefactors, and liberators! With those three words I share my heartfelt opinion. — My house is yours, and mine together, all I own…  Put up your feet, Ensign. Make yourself at home, Professor.

FINNISH ENSIGN (and the others make themselves too comfortable):  How long ‘til that beautiful girl’ll be back?

SCHOOLMASTER:  In Latin: Puella! Beautiful women—the warrior’s reward.

COOPER (a bit awkward):  I don’t follow…

SCHOOLMASTER (drunk; knocks over a glass):  Estisne preparati? — Sumus! — A cantilena! (sings and drums on the table)

Sum, sum, sum,

Dum, dum, dum,

Bum, bum, bum,

Trum, trum, trum!

Jumps on his chair; sings a mournful melody and dances along.

Young Sverckling rode away                [Där var unge Herr Sverckling

on a horse of gray.                                   Han rider på hasten grå

He passed a hundred miles                   Så rider han over hundra mil

Before looking back in dismay.             Innan han sig tillbaka såg.


Between mountain and dale                  Emellan berg och dala

Lie the dead warriors.                             Där ligga de krigsmän döda

In Sweden are their small children,     Uti Sverige efter dem barnen små

Crying for their food.[5]                          Som gråta fast efter sin föda.]

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Come on—who sings such sad songs around strangers?

COOPER (with stifled rage):  Get off that chair.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Watch yourself, Finn.

COOPER:  Get off of that chair! I’m expecting company for my daughter’s birthday party.

SCHOOLMASTER:  You have company, Cooper, and you won’t find any finer!

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Come now, schoolmaster, don’t be so rude.

COOPER:  It’s upsetting, even painful you might say, to see a down-on-his-luck old man make such a fool of himself. Forgive me for saying so, gentlemen—

FINNISH ENSIGN:  I suppose you could say it was bad luck that this scarecrow went on a bender and snapped his leg in two…

SCHOOLMASTER:  You dare to taunt me, but no dares touch me. — I dare you: touch the cripple. Touch the cripple! Touch!

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Just listen to the wretched old duffer. That’s my thanks for taking pity on you.

SCHOOLMASTER (deliberately knocks over a glass with his crutch):  It’s amusing how much one can teach with the sharp edge of whip!

Sum, sum, sum

Trumm, trumm, trumm—


SERGEANT MAJOR (enters, back straight, but drunk):  Get off that chair, you scoundrel. — Are you the leader of the coopers’ guild?

The Schoolmaster moves away from the table.

COOPER:  At your service, Sergeant. Did you forget something?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Yep. I forgot a glass—a couple of glasses—a couple of glasses of wine. Bonum vinum infelix gaudeamus!

COOPER:  An amusing man. Please help yourself.

They drink.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I had another errand too, but that’s for the Quartermaster to handle. In good company, with a good glass — — — (empties his glass) I’d rather not darken the mood with unpleasant news. Life is short, and after death there’s no pleasure. Ergo bibamus. (depression [as in—he really brings down the mood of the room]) This is the bright side of war! Yes, sir, it is!

QUARTERMASTER (enters):  Why are you planted here getting drunk, Sergeant Major? And you, Ensign? Provost? And you, Schoolmaster? — Are you the leader of the cooper’s guild? Is this your house? Yes, well, then. (takes out a paper) May I sit?

COOPER:  Sit down and have a drink in honor of the day, Quartermaster.

QUARTERMASTER:  No, a thousand times, no.

COOPER:  Oh, let me tempt you!

QUARTERMASTER:  Tempt me? For me there are no temptations. See, here is a glass. (lifts a filled glass) Here is some lovely wine, and here are my lips. Here is my nose that smells the lovely wine. And so what? So—I do this. (Puts down his glass.) I have overcome the last temptation. But now, to the point. — According to the treaty reached between the Swedish king and the Duke of Pomerania, the city is obligated to accept Swedish garrison. And during the allocation of resources, the commanding general designated this house as the royal headquarters. Is that clear?

COOPER:  A great honor, certainly, but a greater inconvenience. We were celebrating a birthday here today—

QUARTERMASTER:  Yap, yap, yap. All of you, go. Except the cooper.

SERGEANT MAJOR (emptying his glass):  This is the dark side of war. (Exits.)

QUARTERMASTER:  Then clean this room. All the knickknacks should be removed, and all traces of dissipation swept away.

FINNISH ENSIGN (going out):  Nooo, just listen…

SCHOOLMASTER (going out):  Sum, sum, sum! Preparati sumus. We are ready for everything — except death.

QUARTERMASTER:  Prepare for the gallows, you godless heathen. —


COOPER (worried):  So I’m being driven out of my own house?

QUARTERMASTER:  Using a loose translation of the term billeting, I suppose you could say that. But that’s the punishment for your sins. For over a hundred years you Protestants have been sinning without consequence. When Luther proclaimed that faith is everything and good deeds are nothing, you embraced faith like a mutt after a lump of sugar. But you abandoned good deeds. Thus your degradation has entered its final phase, and now He who will punish you with beatings and scorpions is coming—and only after that will He give you true freedom.


The Fire Chief, formerly the Bailiff of Wolgast, followed by the Provost, who carries a bundle of pitch wreaths.

QUARTERMASTER (to the Cooper):  This is fire chief. Do your work, chief.

COOPER (to the Fire Chief):  We’ve met before. Aren’t you the bailiff in Wolgast?


COOPER:  You were with the emperor—and now you’re with the king.

FIRE CHIEF:  Yep. I am what they make me. If they’re good to me, I’m good to them—and the opposite.

COOPER:  Depending on how well you’re paid.

FIRE CHIEF:  Of course. — So, Cooper, pony up your fire tax. 500 gyllen, your share of the 50,000 riksdaler that the city of Stettin has committed to pay (rattles a money bag).

COOPER (in a fury):  Fire tax?! Is the enemy upon us, or has the devil sent a false friend to drive us out of our homes and squeeze us for money?

QUARTERMASTER:  Oh, stop. A soldier doesn’t argue.

COOPER:  I’m not a soldier, but I could sign up with the Croats! — Think about that number of years our city has defended itself against the emperor, enduring the siege with honor. And now the liberators arrive, friends who fool us into opening the city gates so they can plunder and burn. And for these swine I open my home and offer a drink of welcome. To hell with it. (throws a tray with wineglasses out of the window) And for this Turk I’ve hoisted the flag of another country. Traitor that I am. (unfastening the Swedish flag and throwing out the window) No! I am for emperor and fatherland, not foreigners and their foreign king. (turns Gustav Adolf’s portrait toward the wall) But this is what we get for our dissent, for rising up against our lawful lord. Poor Germany, if only you knew what you’ve done.

FIRE CHIEF (quietly):  Yell all you want, just pay up.

COOPER:  Yes, I’ll yell: long live the emperor! I’d rather one honest enemy than fifteen thousand faithless friends.

FIRE CHIEF:  Provost! Get your pitch wreaths. — And what are they? Symbols of the risk the city was taking if it failed to pay.

COOPER:  Arsonists!

FIRE CHIEF:  They’re just symbols.

(The Cooper grabs the wreaths from the Provost.)

QUARTERMASTER:  Now you’ve crossed the line. Call for help. Guards!


Rålamb enters, followed by Luise; Mother appears in the doorway.

RÅLAMB (signals that everyone should leave):  Leave the room. The King will be here soon.

Everyone starts to go except Rålamb, Luise, and Mother.

RÅLAMB (to the Cooper):  There will be justice, and all offenders will be punished. We’ve already hanged one of our own who stole a farmer’s cow. As for the fire tax, it will support the troops and fortifications for the city. It was levied with the duke’s approval—

COOPER:  His approval while facing your cannons with his heart in his throat…

RÅLAMB:  My friend, don’t say anything else. It may be that I… share your opinion. But I can’t really do that. So go before that happens.

COOPER:  Finally, the words of a friend (going).

RÅLAMB:  Just go!


RÅLAMB (to Luise):  My lovely child, the hard realities of war, the current state of need, the soldiers’ grumbling have forced us to these actions. It’s not the best people who go to war, but we’re not all the worst either. It pains me more than I can say—this intrusion into your family and disrupting your party. Especially since it’s yours, lovely girl.

LUISE (starts to clear the birthday table):  What do you know about me and what I deserve?

Mother moves around, disgruntled, wiping up.

RÅLAMB:  Miss Luise, let the table be. No one will desecrate this little altar of parental love for a cherished child. I will keep watch over it each night, and before the candles burn down your home will be yours again. Where virtue and beauty abide, nothing evil or ugly thrives.

MOTHER:  What are you talking about? Get a hold of feelings!

RÅLAMB:  My feelings, woman, are so distant, so lofty, that your thoughts couldn’t reach them. (He removes his hat and preens over the red and white feathers.)

Martial music on the street below.

RÅLAMB:  Come out quickly. The King is here. (Leads Luise and Mother out.)

MOTHER:  I don’t like this. It’s not fair.

LUISE:  Mother, perhaps we must go through much tribulation to attain happiness.

The King enters. Rålamb stares out the window and turns his back.

KING:  Erik!

Rålamb sulks.

KING:  Are you still displeased with your king?

Rålamb keeps sulking.

KING:  Erik! You’re a spoiled child and you’re abusing the power my friendship gives you.

Rålamb turns to him.

KING:  You despise me?

RÅLAMB:  Yes. A thousand times, yes.

KING:  But I can’t just turn back because the soldiers have no means of support. And I won’t resort to plundering.

RÅLAMB:  What’s this fire tax, then? It’s “pay up, or I’ll burn down your house!” If that’s how you treat friends, fellow believers, what can the enemy expect?

KING (takes his arm):  Clearly you don’t understand. Be reasonable, or go out and cool off.

RÅLAMB:  No. I won’t leave this room until it is restored, intact, to the woman who owns it.

KING:  The woman who owns it? Ah, are you already unfaithful to your sweetheart?

RÅLAMB (embarrassed):  No, of course not.

KING (seeing his reversed portrait):  Who else has turned his back on me?

RÅLAMB:  Just someone pushed into a corner.

KING (rights the portrait):  Erik Rålamb, the day I get angry at you—and stay angry—I’ll be so thoroughly enraged that I fear the moment.

RÅLAMB:  Postpone that moment, for as long as possible. Be good to everyone, even the humblest, and always do what’s just and right—

KING:  I’m always just, and I have nothing to apologize for—

RÅLAMB (takes the king’s hands and looks in his eyes):  Oh God, you believe that. You believe that.


Lars Grubbe enters.

KING:  So, Lars, what do you have?

GRUBBE:  To be succinct: the French ambassador is here again to offer you an alliance.

KING (sits):  Again! And he dares to try again after his latest offence against the Edict of Nantes, after the siege of La Rochelle with all its horrors—where our fellow believers were starved and slaughtered. Instruct him to return to his country and tell Cardinal Richelieu that the Swedes will eat the bark off Brandenburg’s pine trees before they’ll eat French bread from the hand of a heretic.

GRUBBE:  Your Majesty, may I offer a word?

KING:  Speak.

GRUBBE:  The ambassador has 400,000 riksdaler with him to assist with the first year—

KING:  And I hope he chokes on them. Did Kristian IV benefit from the Jesuit money he accepted? — The negotiations are over. What else do you have to say?

GRUBBE:  The Duke’s 50,000 riksdaler has been distributed as half-pay to the soldiers, but they still have nothing to eat.

KING:  What’s that? Lars, go out and look at the birds in the sky, and then come back and tell me who feeds them. That will give you a new perspective on the matter. What else do you have to report?

GRUBBE:  Letters and audiences.

KING:  Start with the letters.

GRUBBE (takes out an opened letter from a bag):  From the Elector of Brandenburg.

KING:  What does he say?

GRUBBE:  He will not grant you the right of passage, and he won’t release any of his fortresses.

KING (opens a map):  No right of passage to rescue Magdeburg? Not exactly a friendly gesture. Well. Then I’ll go and take Frankfurt an der Oder. And Brandenburg and I can talk about it later. — A red X on Frankfurt! — What does the Elector of Saxony say?

GRUBBE:  Three letters so far, and no response.

KING:  Good. Then he can come to me three times to ask for help before he gets it. His high-and-mighty self. — Who wants an audience?

GRUBBE:  The Governor of Mecklenburg, Wallenstein’s representative in the duchy.

KING:  No, Wallenstein’s representative? Finally? Let him in immediately.

RÅLAMB:  Your Majesty, he could be a Jesuit.

KING:  So what if he is? They’re people too, just like the Mohamedans, Jews, and heathens on my payroll. Go, Grubbe, and send him in right away. —

Grubbe goes.

RÅLAMB:  Your Majesty—

KING:  Quiet, Erik. Don’t you see that God is with us? So who can be against us? I hate Jesuits as deeply as you do, but I fear them less. If you’re worried, then stay. — Either way, my guards are coming.


BANÉR (enters without noticing the king; somewhat noisy):  Isn’t the old man here?

KING:  Do you mean me?

BANÉR:  Beg your pardon, Your Majesty. I mean Gustaf Horn; he’s only thirty-eight, but he’s the oldest. And so—

Torstenson enters.

KING:  Yes, Johan, I know you’re a warrior, especially when you’ve been drinking. But learn a little diplomacy from Lennart and I’ll like you more.

Horn enters.

And a little wisdom from Gustaf Horn.

Brahe enters.

A little charm from Nils Brahe. — Come sit here, Nils. (The King indicates a place at the table for Brahe; goes himself to the open door and looks out.)

BANÉR (to Brahe, under his breath):  Watch yourself, Nils.

BRAHE (Puzzled look.)

BANÉR:  His Majesty might drown… in sweet memories… of your cousin Ebba…

BRAHE:  Hush.

KING (sits at the table):  Places. — The Governor of Mecklenburg is here. Bring him in, Erik.

Rålamb goes out the door.

KING:  Sober up, Johan. This is a serious game.

RÅLAMB (enters again, followed by the Governor):  The Governor of Mecklenburg presents his respects to His Majesty, the King of Sweden.

Governor enters, bows, and looks around for a chair.

KING (stays seated):  Welcome, Governor.

GOVERNOR:  Your Grace.

RÅLAMB:  Say “Majesty.”

GOVERNOR:  Your Grace.

KING (angry):   Is it out of ignorance or spite that you don’t use my royal title?

GOVERNOR:  Neither. I speak and act only in accordance with orders of my prince, the Duke of Mecklenburg, Albrecht von Wallenstein.

KING:  And he denies me the royal title of Sweden.

GOVERNOR:  The Majesty of Sweden, King Sigismund Vasa, resides in Warsaw.

KING (violently):  What?

BANÉR (slams his fist on the table):  Watch yourself, Jesuit!

KING (to Banér):  Quiet, Banér! (to the Governor) Let me inform you that I was elected King, elected by the Estates.

GOVERNOR:  Ah. We believed Sweden ceased to be an elective monarchy when the great Gustav Vasa made it a hereditary monarchy in 1544.

KING (to Horn):  I can’t speak with this Jesuit.

The Governor moves a chair to sit in, but Banér pulls it away.

KING:  State your errand. Quickly. Tell us what your lord, the Duke, has planned. What he intends.

GOVERNOR (smiles):  He doesn’t share his plans.

BRAHE (to the King):  Your Majesty, don’t cross words with a papist. Let a sword do your talking.

GOVERNOR:  Why are you calling me a papist and a Jesuit when I’m neither?

KING:  What are you then?

GOVERNOR:  I’m a Lutheran.

KING:  Serving the Duke of Friedland, the emperor’s own Wallenstein?

GOVERNOR:  Yes! That’s how my lord is. Born a Protestant himself, he’s finally put all religious conflict behind him. Life has taught him to have tolerance for all beliefs. That you’re treating me like the enemy surprises me. My prince admires Your Grace, whom he even considers a friend.

KING:  Unbelievable.

GOVERNOR:  If I may have a chair, I’ll explain further.

KING:  Erik, give the governor a chair. He’s an old man, and we’re young.

Rålamb reluctantly offers the Governor a chair.

GOVERNOR (sits, puts on eyeglasses, and sizes up the room):  You gentlemen are really very young, which is not to say immature—

HORN:  No, now he’s gone too far!

KING:  Let the old man prattle. His insolence amuses me.

GOVERNOR (to the King):  Your Grace was the late Gabriel Bethlen’s brother-in-law? Right? The prince of Siebenbürgen was a vassal of the Turks, and two years ago Your Grace attempted alliances with the Turks and the Tartars. That wasn’t nice and it wasn’t good politics. Because regardless of what we believe, we Christians are obliged to band together against the heathen dogs.

BRAHE (draws his sword):  You—

KING (to Brahe):  Put that sword away, Nils!

GOVERNOR:  My prince, my hero, Albrecht von Wallenstein — (stands and bows) — takes the long view. So he’s made it his life’s work to unify Germany, which can happen only by eliminating princes and electors—and then throwing the Turks out of Europe, restoring Byzantium, and rebuilding the Eastern Roman Empire. That is the plan of an emperor, don’t you think?

KING (involuntarily intrigued):  A great plan, certainly.

GOVERNOR:  Thus the great Russian powerhouse is folded into Europe and Asia ceases to be a concern. — And to circle back to the beginning, the unification of Germany through the elimination of petty princes, Your Grace (bows) has already appeared as the Friedlander’s ally. I end this audience by offering my lord’s sympathy and best wishes for your continued success. (Stands and hands the chair back to Rålamb.)

KING:  No, sit down again and explain further.

GOVERNOR:  Impossible. Duke Bogislav is expecting me — (assesses the group, one by one) — You are Field Marshal Horn. General Banér. Colonel Torstenson of the artillery—only twenty-seven. (smiles) Colonel Brahe, always standing closest to the king. All of you the king’s relatives, more or less. All young and glorious men, full of faith and zeal and ambition and self-indulgence. Farewell, young men. The future is yours. If you learn to not underestimate your enemy. (He goes.)


KING:  What was that? Who was that man who in a few minutes turned my thoughts upside down? Wallenstein’s governor is a Protestant?

HORN:  Yes, Your Majesty, just as his Friedlander generals Hebron and Pechman are Lutheran and half his army are unbelievers or Protestants.

KING:  So I’ll be fighting against fellow believers. But the object of the war was to protect them.

HORN:  Life’s contradictions won’t be solved by us mortals.

BANÉR:  Maybe not solved, but cut off! —

KING:  Wallenstein has greater plans than I. He sees unity in the distant future, where I only saw divisions. — And this archenemy, this antichrist, says he’s my friend? Can I be my enemy’s friend?

TORSTENSON:  This apparent contradiction was resolved by St. Paul when he said: “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended… that he might fill all things.)” But, the apostle adds, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man… that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men… But… grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

BANÉR:  Thanks very much, Lennart, but I didn’t come to hear a lesson from St. Paul; I came to fight.

BRAHE:  I agree.

KING:  If I don’t exactly agree, it’s because my thoughts are going another direction. — I’ll try to follow them.


TOTT (enters quickly):  Your Majesty, I come uninvited!

KING:  You always do, Åke Tott. Have a seat.

TOTT:  A refugee from Magdeburg says Falkenberg is surrounded and Tilly arrived to begin a siege.

KING:  That means everyone to his post so we can take Frankfurt an der Oder. Then Brandenburg will have to grant us a right of passage. To Magdeburg! (Gets up. All get up.)

TOTT (setting a packet of letters on the table):  But here’s a stack of past-due bills for Hamburg brought by the Jew.

KING (putting the packet in his pocket):  Good. My brother-in-law will take care of them—in Berlin.

TOTT:  And the Jew?

KING:  Bring the Jew along and feed him like a king. — “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him,” so says St. Paul. Right, Lennart?

TORSTENSON:  But surely he means something else—

KING:  Surely. — Let’s go.


STENBOCK (enters):  Your Majesty, I’m too late.

KING:  You’re always too late, Stenbock, because you’re always fussing with your clothes. Spit it out.

STENBOCK:  Your Majesty. The troops are disgruntled and are threatening mutiny.

KING:  Give the signal to march immediately, and their discontent will collapse like a weary horse.

STENBOCK:  A hungry horse won’t carry his burden. And soldiers want butter on their bread.

KING:  They won’t get it. March! (goes toward the birthday table, where Rålamb has been standing most of the time) What are you guarding?

RÅLAMB:  Two young people’s heartfelt secrets; two old people’s hope and joy.

KING:  I understand. You’re a dreamer, a knight protecting virtue and honor. Go tell your wards that— that—. Oh, figure it out on your own. (Exits.)



Scene Two

A peasant’s cottage cluttered with captured flags, drums, weapons, and other war detritus; the King sits at a table with a map in front of him. Horn, Torstenson, Banér next to him; all appear worried and thoughtful.

KING (uses chalk to draw on the map):  I’ll put a red X through Frankfurt an der Oder; it’s taken. (to Horn) What do you think, old man?

Horn silent, distressed.

KING:  He says nothing. — Well, Lennart. What does St. Paul say about this?

TORSTENSON (hurt):  Your Majesty.

Pounding on the door.

KING:  There, there. Come on now, forgive me. (to Banér) Johan, what would you do now in my place?

BANÉR:  Well, I’d rather not say.

KING:  Didn’t you send Rålamb up to the main house?

BANÉR:  Yes, I did, Your Majesty.

Pounding increases.

KING:  Yes, well. I sent him away so we can speak freely. That young man has so thoroughly won my affection that he guards my conscience like a jealous woman. Sometimes I’m afraid of him! (The king’s speech is met with silence.)

He’s a tyrant—why, I’m not sure, but that’s how it is.

What’s that noise outside? Speak up, Johan. You’re the bravest.

BANÉR:  It’s the soldiers, of course. Dissatisfied because they haven’t gotten their pay—

KING:  It’s always the pay!

HORN:  And they’ve only had dry bread to eat for the last three days—

KING:  Provisions are expected from Hamburg any moment!

HORN:  They’ve turned back and gone to the enemy—to the emperor’s troops outside Magdeburg—because their bills weren’t paid.

KING:  What else haven’t you told me! — — — How’s my friend Marcus of Hamburg?

HORN:  He isn’t suffering—Tott is pampering him. But he isn’t satisfied. He’ll probably retaliate.

BANÉR:  And he’s joined forces with the Jewish fire chief from Wolgast and other Israelites. They claim that when there are ten of them, they’ll worship together—read the Torah, as they call it.

KING:  What’s the Torah? Do you know, Lennart?

TORSTENSON:  The Torah scrolls? They’re the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch. It’s the same holy book as—

KING:  Not the Gospels. So they’re heathens. Surely I can’t allow them to worship. — All this noise, it’s making me ill. — Johan, go and find out what’s happening, and ask Fabricius to come.

Banér exits.


KING:  Friends, you know I feel like someone has dragged me by the hair somewhere I don’t want to be. Those cries out there, they’re not cries of distress or suffering, they’re the evil passions let loose by war. — I know where it will lead. I know I don’t want to go there, but I’m being dragged that direction nonetheless. (stands, upset) I’ve been on the battlefield for twenty years, but I never get used to the hateful smoke from gunpowder. It smells like the devil—the sulfur and saltpeter. And it makes people evil, as if it rises straight from hell to challenge heaven’s thunder. But it only brings showers of tears and blood instead of blessèd rain for the earth’s crops.


BANÉR (comes in with Marcus):  Your Majesty, the Jew Marcus of Hamburg requests an audience.

KING:  What do you want, Marcus?

MARCUS:  Majesty, if I don’t report back to my superiors with—

KING:  You’ll get your money, but I need a deferment.

MARCUS:  More time? But I won’t get more time from—

Banér goes out; noise increases.

KING:  And that’s why you retaliated by rerouting the supply train?


KING:  Do you think that’s fair?

MARCUS:  It’s justice. More just than cutting down two thousand of the emperor’s troops in Frankfurt because they had cut down four hundred Swedes in Neu-Brandenburg. And it’s better than taxing fellow believers!

KING (to Horn):  Should I take this?

HORN (Silent.)

KING (to Marcus):  Go to my secretary, Grubbe, who handles the money—

MARCUS:  No, I won’t do that. I just came from the secretary and he sent me here—to the one who signed the notes.

KING (sits):  What would you ask for a thirty-day deferment?

MARCUS:  I don’t have the right to negotiate for what I don’t own.

KING (fiercely):  Do you think I’m trying to do something illicit?

MARCUS:  Yes, that’s exactly what I think.

KING (controlling himself):  Listen. I’ve heard that you and others want to hold worship services together—

Torstenson makes a sudden, impatient movement and rattles his sword.

KING:  I certainly don’t want to confuse matters of faith with money concerns—

MARCUS:  And yet…

Horn—violently agitated—quickly stands, surges toward the King, leans forward and whispers to him.

MARCUS (in the pause):  For a Christian everything’s a commodity, even freedom of faith. And while he’s a happy buyer, he’s a poor payer.

KING:  Field Marshal Horn offers his personal fortune as a guarantee for the amount due. Will that satisfy you, Marcus?

Banér enters.

MARCUS:  The field marshal’s name is good. He owns fine lands. Offer accepted.

KING:  So gracious. —

BANÉR (takes Marcus by the collar and shoves him out.):  Out, devil. Out! (to the King) He got the troops all worked up.

KING:  What do the soldiers want now?

BANÉR:  To plunder.

KING:  I knew it. — Plunder my brother-in-law’s city, my wife’s countrymen? No. We’re not doing that.

BANÉR:  There’s no other way. The Scots are angry, the Irish are drunk, the Dutch and the Saxons are running around with fire — the whole army has gone crazy.

KING:  I’ll go talk to them. — But send for Fabricius.

BANÉR:  Don’t go out there, the storm is raging.

KING:  I’ll quiet it, then. Get Fabricius. — Stay here. (When the others start to follow him.) Stay! (Hurries out.)


HORN (to Banér):  Why did he send for the pastor?

TORSTENSON:  He always does that when he plans to do something wrong.

BANÉR:  He’s like an endearing child or a gorgeous woman: everything flatters him, even his less becoming deeds.

HORN:  That’s why he’s been called—

TORSTENSON:  Even called to sin. Without sin he’d be self-righteous.

BANÉR:  I think a little sin becomes him. Otherwise he wouldn’t be human, he’d be too powerful, too superhuman.

HORN (listening to what’s happening outside):  But this won’t end well.

BANÉR:  Everything ends well for God’s golden boy.

TORSTENSON:  But this will end with him accepting French money.

HORN:  So let it. When our natural allies—Pomerania, Brandenburg, and the Saxons—don’t want to help—

TORSTENSON:  For shame, Gustaf.

BANÉR:  If we’d just limit ourselves to serving rather than giving advice, I think we’d be better off.

HORN:  My thoughts exactly.


BRAHE (enters):  Where’s the king?

BANÉR:  Who knows? — Here he is.

KING (enters, upset, without his hat, clothes disheveled):  Now this. Now this! Compromise, concede, withdraw! They threw stones at me. See, I lost my hat. And now they’re plundering. — Here are the articles of war—our good, pure intentions—torn to pieces. (Scatters around printed pages from a torn book.) The Swedish soldier is no better than the emperor’s men. Identical scoundrels. — Listen to the screams of the innocent people. (Puts his hands over his ears.) Nils, sit down here by me. You look like you have something to say.

BRAHE:  Your Majesty, there is a way out of this.

KING:  Can I get out of it?

BRAHE:  Yes, there’s one way. Only one.

KING:  Tell me.

BRAHE:  The French ambassador is here.

KING (stands):  He’s always after me. Tempting me to the devil. — — — Get him behind me.

BRAHE:  But then Marcus won’t get behind you. And he’d be right. Marcus would be ruined. He’s a family man with duties, feelings, and a legitimate claim on life.

KING (childish, sly):  Where is Erik Rålamb?

BRAHE (roguish):  He’s been sent too far away to hear you.

KING:  Why are you so mean to me? You all are, because I have to be lenient with you — thanks to the sins of my father [at Linköping]…


TOTT (rushes in): Your Majesty, this is going beyond all reason. I’m not squeamish, but I can’t stand to hear women and children screaming curses at us. — If they were the enemy, perhaps, but they’re our friends and fellow believers—

KING:  Stop, Åke —

TOTT:  No, I can’t be silent. Two thousand enemy troops cut down, a thousand Croats captured, but not a single enemy left in the city. Why in God’s name do we continue?


FABRICIUS (enters):  The king called for me.

KING:  Yes, because I have these terrible advisors. Listen. The troops have mutinied because they weren’t allowed to plunder; without an army, I can’t wage war —

FABRICIUS:  The troops demanded plundering because they weren’t paid. Pay them and they’ll stop plundering.

KING:  I have no money. (Pause.) I can hear your thoughts through your silence. I’m listening. Go ahead, counsel me.

FABRICIUS:  No. I was sent here to comfort the dying and the ill, not to be a military advisor.

KING (to Horn):  Counsel me, Gustaf Horn.

HORN:  No. I’m just a servant. Only the king commands and is accountable.

KING (to Tott):  Åke?

TOTT:  I don’t understand statecraft; I’m just a soldier.

KING (to Torstenson):  Lennart?

TORSTENSON: (silent.)

KING:  Nils Brahe, say this: Of two evils, one must choose the lesser, but if the two choices are equally evil, then one doesn’t get to choose. That’s Nils’s advice. — So now I’ll go to the French ambassador.

BANÉR (blocks the doorway):  No. Not the king. Our king will stay as pure as the flag we follow. Gustaf Horn, prove that you can get your hands dirty for your king.

HORN (stands):  Well said, Banér. Let us muck around in the dirt, but not him. To the French ambassador, then. We’ve heard the mandate.

KING (childishly pleased, as if he escaped something unpleasant):  Thank you, my friends. It takes more courage to do something repugnant than to capture a fortress. (When Brahe follows them.) No, Nils, not you.

Horn and Banér go.

KING (sinks onto a chair):  This is exactly what I didn’t want. But thy will be done, Lord.



Scene 3

In a camp outside Frankfurt an der Oder. In the foreground, the King sits by a simple table. Lars Grubbe stands beside him. In the background, part of the city is visible.

KING:  I’ve signed the agreement with France and I’m waiting for the money. Now I can force the Brandenburger and the Saxon into an alliance against the emperor.

GRUBBE:  Is it a substantial sum?

KING:  A half million French livres per year.

GRUBBE:  And the conditions?

KING:  I didn’t promise anything. I only signed my name. You know the bullet from Dirschau hinders me from writing anything more than that—and the wound has been bothering me more recently. Look, here comes the blood money.

Horn, Banér, accompanied by the Sergeant Major, who are carrying blue linen bags, are escorted in by six Finnish cavalrymen led by the Finnish Ensign.

HORN:  Your Majesty, the agreement was ratified and the money is hereby submitted.

KING:  Lars Grubbe, go and pay the bills from Marcus of Hamburg. Then distribute half of what’s left to the soldiers. With the remaining half, try to make reparations for the plundering.

GRUBBE:  Pardon, Your Majesty, but then we’ll be just as poor in the morning.

KING:  So be it. Aren’t we Christians — even if we’re not apostles or missionaries? Go and do what is right first, or we can’t expect to be blessed.

Grubbe goes, followed by the escort.

KING (who has seen the ensign):  Ensign, stay.

Finnish Ensign remains, terrified.

KING:  Come here. What’s your name?

FINNISH ENSIGN (speaking now without his Finnish accent):  Axel Eriksson, of the Finnish cavalry.

KING:  Any other name?

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Other name?

KING:  We’ll get to that. — You were among those who threw stones at me recently. And you were one of the leaders of the mutiny.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Majesty, that wasn’t me.

KING:  Ah, so then it was Sparre.

FINNISH ENSIGN (falls to his knees):  Mercy.

KING:  Axel Eriksson Sparre. Your father lost his life in the bloodbath at Linköping because he didn’t want to break his oath of loyalty to King Sigismund. Your mother’s name was Brahe—Ebba, no less—and her father, old Count Peder called my grandfather King Gösta [Gustav Vasa] uncle. You’re my kinsman; that you can’t be my friend, I understand. What my father did to yours you can’t forgive. But I forgive you what you’ve done to me. — Do you want to stay in my service?

FINNISH ENSIGN:  Majesty, I’m not worthy of your mercy.

KING:  Rise, then, and try to be worthy.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  I don’t know—

KING:  Don’t you know if you can trust yourself?

FINNISH ENSIGN:  No! I was a child when my father died in Linköping. And I was on my knees in the snow next to my mother to beg the Duke for mercy when he rode past. We stayed there for hours. I cried, I froze… When the Duke finally came, he looked away from us, but his horse kicked dirt into my face. I swore then—

KING:  I understand all that, and I would have done the same as that poor child. But now these two noble lords—Horn and Banér, also kinsman of those who fell at Linköping—they have forgiven. Go, Sparre, and try to do the same.

FINNISH ENSIGN:  I wish I could, but—

KING:  Just stay and if the temptation becomes to great, come to me, free yourself from your hate. But don’t try to hurt me. Behind my plain coat and unassuming manner hides the Lord’s anointed one. (stands) Farewell.

The Finnish Ensign goes, after looking back as if he’d like to say something else.


KING:  Why should I have to be reminded of that today, of what needs to be atoned for? And why has the bullet from Dirschau, Sigismund’s souvenir, started to bother me again? The thorn in the flesh. — It’s sad to be alive — sometimes… There’s Lennart, nearly running. It must be important if it got him to hurry.


TORSTENSON:  Your Majesty, important news —

KING:  Quickly!

TORSTENSON:  Wallenstein has been dismissed.

KING:  What does that mean for us?

TORSTENSON:  The Assembly of Electors in Regensburg demanded his dismissal, and he gave up his command, disbanded his army, and shut himself away in Gitschin, his castle in Bohemia.

KING:  Has the emperor lost his mind? To disarm in the face of your enemy, to withdraw!? What does it mean?

TORSTENSON:  No one knows.

KING:  Is the war over, then? Who would I fight?

HORN:  Tilly. Tilly remains.

KING:  He doesn’t matter. — No, Wallenstein was real the enemy. — Do you remember what the Governor said about the emperor’s plans? And now he’s gone. Don’t you miss him?

HORN:  No. Just focus on Tilly.

KING:  I have Tilly sewn up in the forests of Thuringia; all that’s left is to knot the threads. — Let’s go to Berlin. Follow me, Banér. (Exits, accompanied by Banér.)

HORN:  What now?

TORSTENSON:  This bright, cheerful mood usually only follows a clear conscience.

HORN:  This divine good cheer that makes him think everything he does is right.

TORSTENSON:  But you saw that what happened was unavoidable. How could he have a guilty conscience about something that couldn’t be avoided?

HORN:  Nevertheless, in just a few hours we’ve become mercenaries for Catholic France instead of their allies. France hasn’t committed to join the war, just pay for it. What has this war become? Cardinal Richelieu against the Hapsburgs. But do you know France’s conditions that the king didn’t want to read?


HORN:  Well, Sweden has agreed to remain neutral to the Catholic League and the Elector of Bavaria.

TORSTENSON:  That’s nonsense. Or it means the war is over.

HORN:  Do you believe our good king has a clear idea of what this war is?

TORSTENSON:  Hardly. But Oxenstierna did. Do you remember what he told the council? That “the main objective of the German war was by no means to defend religion—the weapons for that are spiritual, such as prayer and tears—but rather to obtain for the Swedish crown and its religious allies, the German electors, security and independence.”

HORN:  Thank God it’s not a religious war, because our weapons aren’t spiritual.

TORSTENSON:  But the king came over here with his bright, happy faith—

HORN:  Just let him be. He’ll walk safely on his rope as long as he sleeps, but if you wake him, he’ll fall into the net. He left Oxenstierna at home so he’d be undisturbed. He always has to analyze everything and rip the king’s impulsive conclusions to shreds. We can all see that we’re moving forward, forward toward something unknown, undefined—but forward all the same.


TORSTENSON:  Do you believe the king intends to honor the neutrality provisions?

HORN:  Today, yes. Even tomorrow. But he’ll break them the day after that.

TORSTENSON:  That’s called the art of statecraft: to make a promise and not keep it. (stands)

HORN:  Let’s stick to the art of war then, Lennart, where we just do what we can. (stands) So then, to Berlin.



Scene Four

Park outside the palace, Berlin. Clipped trees and bushes, trellises, colonnades, a fountain, benches, tables. Above them the palace is visible with lighted windows and an open balcony with people in formal wear.

Horn and Banér enter.

HORN:  The elector is certainly not expecting us at his party.

BANÉR:  It would be a bit much to expect him to receive twenty thousand men and Torstenson’s cannons in his salon.

HORN:  True, but it’s beyond insulting to reluctantly receive the Swedish king.

BANÉR:  There’s the king. — Now it will be the elector looking for an audience.


KING:  Here we are, as planned. And promptly. Good. (looks up at the palace) Thoroughly ugly building, isn’t it? Regardless… — Now, Johan, go up to the palace and tell the Elector his brother-in-law is receiving visitors here in the park. And if he wants to throw you out, go to a window and wave your sash. Torstenson will respond with an immediate volley, which we’ll call a welcoming salute. — Are you scared, Johan?

BANÉR:  Scared? Only of the stares of beautiful women. I’m not afraid of rattling the Elector.

KING:  So then. Forward and upward.

Banér runs up the stairs and enters the palace.


KING (sitting on a bench):  Coming. Not coming. Coming. Not coming—

HORN:  He’s coming.

KING:  Where is Erik Rålamb now?

HORN:  He was sent to Magdeburg.

KING:  I miss him sometimes, despite his intolerable interference. He’s never easy, but his high ideals never troubled me, though they made me pale by comparison. (The widowed Princess Anna [the King’s mother-in-law] and Princess Catherine [the widow of Gabriel Bethlen and the King’s sister-in-law] walk past in the background.) No, look. My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. And I let myself be surprised here like an apple thief in an orchard. (hides behind a tree; the women exit.) I don’t care for this. I’d rather have stormed the palace with sword in hand.

HORN:  I see Johan. The palace is taken.

Banér is seen on the palace balcony; waves his sash; a cannon shot is heard and then a volley of musket shots. Movement in the palace windows. Banér disappears.

KING:  Now he’s coming.


Georg Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg and Gustav Adolf’s brother-in-law, comes down from upstage with Banér; they’re having a heated exchange. The King moves toward them a few steps, then stops to wait.

ELECTOR (upset):  I can’t bid you welcome, brother-in-law or not, when you show up with your army on my land.

KING:  No need. I come to a kinsman and a fellow believer—

ELECTOR (irritated):  May I point out that I’m not your fellow believer—I’m a Calvinist, so the religious peace of Augsburg has nothing to do with—

KING:  There are so many confessions of faith here that there’s no point speaking of them. But we do have a common enemy—

ELECTOR:  We had a common enemy: France. But now you’ve allied yourself with the enemy, which is why we can no longer be friends.

KING:  That’s direct. So, as an enemy, then, I demand with strength of my superior forces that you surrender the fortresses at Spandau and Küstrin.

ELECTOR (furious):  My fortresses? Never. Not as long as I am a servant of the emperor, and he hasn’t released me from my oath.

KING:  The emperor broke his oath—

ELECTOR:  I won’t break mine because of that. His mistake wouldn’t make mine better.

KING (urgently):  I’ll have to seize your fortresses, if you can’t see what’s in your best interest. I must go to relieve Magdeburg, which under siege by our common enemy, the emperor’s General Tilly.

ELECTOR:  Magdeburg? What do you know about Magdeburg?

KING: More than you. Most importantly, that Elector Johan Georg of Saxony will not offer me his support.

ELECTOR:  May the Saxon, that damned Lutheran, fall into his grave!

KING:  I’ve heard that you Calvinists and Lutherans are divided so fiercely that you treat each other like Turks and Tartars—but when a common enemy threatens you both, common interests should bring you together.

ELECTOR (rages, wiping sweat from his face from time to time):  Us together? Better to join the pope in Rome or the devil in hell than Martin Luther. You talk about the Edict of Restitution, the restoration of the stolen cloisters and other church properties. Yes, who stole them? Do you know that Luther left a huge fortune: first, the large Augustinian cloister in Wittenberg that his heirs sold for 3,700 gulden; second, the little cloister that his heirs sold for 300 thaler; then an orchard and hops garden for 500 gulden; the estate in Wechsdorf for 1,500 gulden; and the Zerlsdorf estate for 956 gulden. — Where did he get all that? Just ask the Saxon, that wine sack—he hasn’t been sober since he was baptized—

KING (who had tried to interrupt several times):  This isn’t a religious debate—

ELECTOR:  Ah, so if it’s diplomacy, may I send my minister von Schwarzenburg? He has full authority and he’s not as quick-tempered as I am. Please excuse me, then, so I may return to my guests. His Excellency will be with you very soon.

KING:  Wait! — When you treat me like a stranger, an intruder, you forget that I am a German prince of East Prussia, which through the Truce of Altmark was ceded to the Swedish crown. You forget that I control the customs and duties there. That Stralsund, Stettin, and Frankfurt were freed from the emperor’s invasion by Swedish troops. And that Magdeburg declared itself for us. Now, when Magdeburg is under threat and you can do nothing, I’m asking to man Spandau and Küstrin to protect my march through—

ELECTOR:  His Excellency will be with you very soon… (exits.)


KING:  My brother-in-law is rude, and he’s also scared of gunfire. Gustaf, signal Lennart to give his Excellency a salvo when he comes down. That should move the conversation along.

HORN (going out):  Yes, Your Majesty.

KING:  And you, Johan, stay behind the bushes there and witness the conversation. — Should Erik Rålamb come along unexpectedly, restrain him until it’s over. —

BANÉR (hides himself behind the bushes):  I will, Your Majesty.

KING:  Now his Excellency can come whenever he wants.

Soft music can be heard from the palace, and couples can be seen dancing past the windows.


Schwarzenberg comes down from the palace; he is polite, smooth, but superior. The King stays standing and waits.

SCHWARZENBERG:  Majesty, I haven’t had the privilege of meeting you—

Volley of gunshots off.

SCHWARZENBERG (without showing any reaction):  —but I am aware that the Swedish king is an old and valued friend of the German empire—

KING:  The Protestant portion, perhaps.

SCHWARZENBERG:  I beg your pardon, I meant the whole empire, without regard to faith—

KING:  It’s remarkable how little importance you attribute to faith.

SCHWARZENBERG:  Yes, well. There are so many faiths now: faith in the heart, faith in speech, and so many others—

KING:  But may I negotiate with you, Excellency, one believer to another?

SCHWARZENBERG:  If we could put aside faith and limit ourselves to matters of state—

KING:  No. Maybe we aren’t fellow believers. Perhaps you, like my brother-in-law, are a Calvinist?

SCHWARZENBERG:  To be truthful, Majesty, I’m not even that. I remain with the church in Rome, and I will stay there until I find a Protestant faith that appeals to me more.

KING:  This surpasses my understanding. You are Catholic and you are the Elector’s minister?

SCHWARZENBERG:  Yes. That’s how we are here. I’m pleased to offer Your Majesty a humble greeting from the papal nuncio, who is up in the palace right now—

KING:  I don’t accept greetings from nuncios.

SCHWARZENBERG:  The Holy Father, Urban VIII, expresses through his emissary his sincere joy for Your Majesty’s victories over the emperor—

KING:  I don’t follow. Are you joking? The emperor and the pope aren’t friends anymore?

SCHWARZENBERG:  The pope has never supported the emperor. And never could. The emperor is a heathen descendant of Rome ruled by ancient Caesars. The pope is the heir of the Rome made Christian by Christ’s apostles. His kingdom is not of this world since Christ himself is its ruler. That’s why we can’t accept your Luther—because he was a friend to the emperor and those who opposed the pope, which is why we also call Luther a pagan and an antichrist.

KING:  What’s all this you’re saying?

SCHWARZENBERG:  Yes, Majesty. When you meddle — excuse the expression — in other peoples’ domestic affairs, you should hear what those people think and feel—

KING:  Jesuit!

SCHWARZENBERG:  Jesus is my Lord, and what you use as an insult, is to us a title of honor—

KING:  Are you a member of that order?

SCHWARZENBERG:  The Jesuit Order has always been important to me. It has taught me humility and obedience—

KING:  Yes, I suppose it has. Devious words that confuse the mind, intellectual sorcery that steals people’s faith and their sense of well-being. I came here for an amicable discussion of your fortresses and you tempt me into a thought labyrinth so I’ll forget why I came. Would you like to discuss the fortresses now?

SCHWARZENBERG:  No, I’d rather not waste words.

KING:  Good Lord, man, are you mocking me? You’d just have me listen to your sermons like a schoolboy?

SCHWARZENBERG:  Majesty, I’ve come for your signature—

KING:  On a false document? Never.

SCHWARZENBERG (takes out a paper and writing instruments):  Listen to me. This assigns Spandau and Küstrin to you, provided they’re returned to the Elector of Brandenburg when Magdeburg has been taken. The guarantee of two Swedish generals is enough.

KING (reads the paper):  Well. — Why these long litanies, then? —

Signs with his left hand after he tries and fails to sign with his injured right hand.

KING:  Banér, come and sign.


Banér enters, staring at Schwarzenberg, who stares back.

KING (presenting):  General Banér.

SCHWARZENBERG:  The unconquerable.

KING:  Sign, Johan.

Banér signs after some hesitation.

KING (signals outward):  Gustaf Horn!


Horn enters.

KING (presenting):  Field Marshal Horn.


KING:  Sign, Gustaf. We have Spandau and Küstrin.

HORN:  Without conditions?

KING:  With the condition that they’ll be returned when Magdeburg is taken.

HORN (thoughtful):  Taken? By whom?

KING:  By me. Sign.

Horn signs.

SCHWARZENBERG (takes the paper):  And now the Elector will receive Your Majesty as a guest in his palace.

KING:  Offer my thanks to my brother-in-law, but I’d rather sleep in Spandau. It It’s easier to sleep in a fortress than outside a palace.

SCHWARZENBERG:  The Swedish King’s wish is as good as a command. — I have the honor, and I take the liberty, to wish Your Majesty continued blessings on his path to victory.

KING:  You don’t mean that.

SCHWARZENBERG:  Oh yes, Majesty, I do mean it. (Exits.)


KING (happy):  That’s how to take a fortress — with a pen.

HORN (serious):  The sword would have been better.

KING:  But think. His Excellency is Catholic just as Wallenstein’s governor is a Protestant. Soon we’ll have to require field badges for the different faiths. Does anyone understand it all? I don’t, but let’s just keep going.

BANÉR (shakes Horn):  Why aren’t you pleased, old man? Cheer up — tonight we’ll celebrate in Spandau.

HORN:  Leave me alone.

Stenbock and Tott, rather cheerful, come down from the palace arm in arm, without seeing the King.

BANÉR:  Where have you peacocks been?

TOTT:  We’ve been dancing in the palace—beautiful women, good wine—

STENBOCK:  And music. (executes a few dance steps with Tott)

HORN:  Quiet, boys!

STENBOCK:  What? Haven’t we taken the palace?

KING (comes forward):  No, Lennart did that, with his guns. But have you seen Erik Rålamb?

TOTT:  Yes, he’s up there — will be down soon.

KING:  Then I’ll flee. The only one I flee is Erik. (to Horn and Banér) Come on. Lennart is signaling us to a prayer service. Let’s go. (Goes out, followed by Horn and Banér.)


ERIK RÅLAMB (down from the palace):  Is the king here?

TOTT:  What’s it to you?

RÅLAMB:  Did he run away from me? Why?

STENBOCK:  To hell with you.

RÅLAMB:  I don’t want to talk to drunks—I want to find the king.

TOTT:  You can’t.

RÅLAMB:  Who will hinder me as long as I tread the path of righteousness?

STENBOCK:  I will. But one little question: with what right do you wear the queen’s colors—the colors of Brandenburg?

RÅLAMB (embarrassed):  Her Majesty presented them to me — (takes off his hat) as a reminder of my pledge as a knight to watch over her consort—

STENBOCK:  Erik, your cheeks are hoisting her majesty’s colors—white and red—a little too obviously. Watch your head — and your heart.

RÅLAMB:  Blasphemer. — Where’s the king? His life is in danger.

TOTT:  Are you starting to see Jesuits, too?

RÅLAMB:  No. But I did see Axel Eriksson Sparre desert to join the emperor.

TOTT:  What’s the difference? What’s one dog more or less?

RÅLAMB:  Where did the king go?

(Stenbock points in the opposite direction of where the king exited.)

RÅLAMB (hurrying out in the direction the king went):  This way, then.


STENBOCK:  Very clever. —

TOTT:  Do you think he’s in love with the queen?

STENBOCK:  Who knows. He’s infatuated, but there’s no harm in that.


BRAHE (enters):  The king commands all his officers to the prayer service.

TOTT:  If only I was sober.

BRAHE:  You will be soon. When you get to Spandau.

STENBOCK:  Spandau, yes. But in Magdeburg we’ll really get to drink.

BRAHE:  In Magdeburg, sure.

The lights in the palace windows go out.

STENBOCK (going toward the palace):  Goodnight, beautiful ladies. We’ll see each other again soon and—

TOTT:  And then?

BRAHE (drives them out with his sword drawn):  March! Move!



Scene Five

In Spandau fortress. A writing room. The King, Horn, and Banér at a table.

KING (pointing at a map):  After visiting Berlin, I can make a red X here for Magdeburg.

BANÉR:  Make it black, Majesty.

KING:  Why?

BANÉR:  Because the latest news is pure disaster.

KING:  Surely not.

BANÉR:  A king believes only what he wants.

KING:  What can we do to help the city?

BANÉR:  March right up to it and flank Tilly.

KING:  We can’t march without money, and we don’t have soldiers who’ll do it for free. (pause) The French gold slipped away, not that it did much good. (pause) And Oxenstierna writes that Sweden is desperate for food. (pause)

BANÉR:  Marcus is here.

KING:  Always Marcus. — He represents the house of Israel in Hamburg, the same Israel who bought the church silver and bells from my grandfather. Isn’t it strange that Sweden bought its freedom from Jews in Lübeck whether they were baptized or not? And now the house of Israel is to save Protestant Magdeburg. — Tell Marcus to come in. Or rather — I’ll go to him. (exits)


HORN:  Did you see the red glow in the southwest this morning?

BANÉR:  That’s just what I saw, and I think it was coming from Magdeburg.

HORN:  I think it did too. — When I was on the ramparts this morning I could smell smoke on the wind. When I looked up at the clouds, a burned scrap of paper fell in front of me. It was a page from a printed book and I could still make out a few letters—

BANÉR:  What was on it?

HORN:  I don’t want to say. You’ll think I’m superstitious. But I took it as a message from… people in distress.

BANÉR:  Now that you’ve spoken up, so will I. While we were speaking with the king, I saw a flock of storks coming from the southwest. They were covered in soot with ragged-looking wings. — And I heard, or thought I heard, a scream…

HORN:  You too. (stands) For several hours I’ve been feeling as if the suffering of thousands was striking at my heart. The same feeling I had when my young son died, even though I was far away from him.

BANÉR:  Do you understand this war, Gustaf?

HORN:  No, I understand nothing. But it seems to me that the Lord has gripped our great king and led him where he doesn’t want to go.

BANÉR:  Do you think God is actually with us?

HORN:  So far the Lord has helped us — but at what price?

BANÉR:  Yes, at what price. — The king.

KING (enters, agitated):  Do you know what happened? Magdeburg is gone. Thirty thousand cut down and burned. Thirty thousand. Is it even possible? And there’s only one building standing: the Lord’s house.

HORN:  It was true, then. Then our mission ends here.

BANÉR:  God is not with us.

KING:  He’s with Tilly.

HORN:  If He stands against us, what else is there to do?

KING:  You mean we should turn back?

HORN:  I suppose we’ll have to since Spandau must be returned.

KING:  I don’t see why.

HORN:  No? Spandau was to be returned after we saved Magdeburg. Now Magdeburg can’t be saved since it doesn’t exist. So the whole agreement is invalidated.

KING:  That’s not logical.

HORN:  More than logic—it’s simple honor. What do you have to say, Johan?

BANÉR:  When an agreement’s subject becomes invalid, so does the agreement. Spandau must be returned.

KING:  Never.

HORN:  Your Majesty, remember that Banér and I guaranteed that the agreement would be fulfilled.

KING:  Remember the agreement: that the fortress was to be returned when Magdeburg was rescued. Magdeburg hasn’t been rescued, and never can be. So the fortress will not be returned.

HORN and BANÉR:  Sophistry!

KING (violent):  What are you saying?

HORN (calm, humble):  The truth.

KING (haughty):  You call me a sophist, you forget that I stand above your criticism, that I am the king—

BANÉR:  We haven’t forgotten—

KING:  You dare to interrupt when I’m speaking!

BANÉR:  Yes!

KING:  Go away from here, far away. So far that my anger can’t reach you.

HORN:  Then I’ll go too.

KING:  Go! I won’t be alone.

Horn and Banér going out.

KING:  If I’ve nurtured little tyrants who think they’re above me — well, my father taught me the cure.

HORN:  Your Majesty, don’t evoke bloody memories—

KING:  Save your advice. I don’t need it.

Horn and Banér, near the door.

KING:  Send in Nils Brahe, Lennart Torstenson, and Marcus the Jew.

HORN:  The Jew?

KING (furious):  Watch yourself!

HORN:  When we plan to forsake Christ, the Jew is right there waiting for us. — I’m going to the Elector to present myself as a hostage for Spandau. And I know Banér will do the same. We honor our agreements. (exits, accompanied by Banér)


The King sits at the table looking worried; puts his head in his hands.

CHAMBERLAIN (enters):  Marcus the Jew requests an audience.

KING:  Send him in.

Chamberlain exits; Marcus enters.

KING:  Magdeburg is gone, Marcus.

MARCUS:  Yes, and I’m not crying.

KING:  And why is that?

MARCUS:  All that happens has a sufficient cause, ratio sufficiens. They say Magdeburg, the virgin’s city, was founded by a Roman in Venus’s honor. The city’s wealth came from plundered churches and cloisters, property that was supposed to be returned to its owners. But if that happened, a third of the inhabitants would’ve been homeless. The thieves had everything to lose. The archdiocese’s income was squandered by lascivious priests and crooked city bureaucrats—because sacrilege is never followed by blessings. And the city was also a haven of intolerance. The Catholics were persecuted. Their masses were interrupted, and three years ago Father Aegidius was murdered leaving the Corpus Christi festival. In a word, the virgin’s city had become a brothel and a Sodom. That’s why it had to burn.

KING:  You sound like a Catholic.

MARCUS:  And how do they sound?

KING (silent, controlling himself)

MARCUS:  Pardon me, Majesty. I’m not a friend of the Catholics. The Eternal God doesn’t appear to love one child more than the others, despite his hatred of the Virgin’s city. The last courier reports that after the city was plundered a fire broke out in Tilly’s camp that destroyed all he’d stolen. Doesn’t that remind you of when the Lord commanded King Saul: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” But then Tilly — I mean Saul — spared them for shameful gain and unclean spoils. Hence, he earned the Lord’s disfavor and had to give up his throne and his life.

KING:  Are you a prophet?

MARCUS:  Not at all. But Samuel was, and if he was alive, he would say: “Now go, Prince of the North, and destroy Tilly, who did not obey God’s voice. For now the Lord your God has turned away from him because he did not destroy the spoils.”

KING:  It’s you, Marcus, who is speaking, but it’s as if I’m hearing the voice of another. — How can you, a Jew—

MARCUS:  Have we not all the same Father? Hasn’t one God created us all?

KING:  Yes. But we get to the Father only through the Son, and you hate the Son.

MARCUS:  No. I can’t hate what I don’t believe exists.


KING:  Then you don’t believe men burned Magdeburg?

MARCUS:  No. Fire broke out in sixty places at once. And neither the citizens nor the invaders wanted to destroy the city. — It was the angel of death who did it. But before him the Lord in his mercy sent another angel to warn them. When Tilly convened his war council in Hameln, a storm raged over Magdeburg that struck down houses and church towers. The water in the river turned to blood and someone possessed ran through the streets calling: “Woe, woe unto the city! For its arrogance, its injustice, its vices, and its sins!”

KING:  I didn’t know what. — — — Do you know what I was thinking about before you came in?

MARCUS:  I’m not a fortune-teller, Your Majesty.

KING:  I was thinking about returning to my homeland, because I thought I could see God’s finger raised in a threat: Go back! — But then you came…

MARCUS:  …the Jew.

KING:  Did you know that I’m being blamed for Magdeburg’s destruction? And I felt the blame weighing heavily on me until you freed me from it. — Advise me.

MARCUS:  I already did.

KING:  To stay?

MARCUS:  Of course. — And, most importantly, to be just. Return Spandau.

KING:  Then I can’t move.

MARCUS:  Doubt not, but believe. Give a small thing, and you will receive something great. Don’t doubt God, but try him. Believe that He is good. Try.

KING (after some hesitation):  Yes, well. So may it be in Jesus’s name. (writes something on a paper; slaps the table)


Chamberlain enters.

KING:  Send this open letter to the nearest Brandenburg legate. — Tell Torstenson to signal our departure. We’re returning this fortress.

Chamberlain goes.


KING:  Now I’ve sacrificed Isaac.

MARCUS:  Isaac wasn’t sacrificed because Abraham demonstrated his good intentions.

KING:  What next?

MARCUS:  Get up and smite Amalek—but don’t touch their cursed riches. If you do, you’ll die. And you will smite them on the last plain, where the northland ends and the mountains of the south take hold. When you see the mountains rise up, then turn northward again and return to your homeland, where you’ll be sustained.

KING:  How can you know that?

MARCUS:  Hold onto your success, but know that adversity destroys no one.


TORSTENSON (has entered):  Your Majesty.

KING:  What do you want?

TORSTENSON:  If we return the fortress, the only option is to end the war and return home.

KING:  Are you sure?

TORSTENSON:  Yes. After the fall of Magdeburg, for which we’re being blamed, we have no friends left and no allies.

KING (to Marcus):  You’re an advisor too.

MARCUS:  Yes. And a bit better than the others.

KING:  You can go now, Marcus. But ask me for a favor first.

MARCUS:  Well, I ask that we Jews in camp may celebrate Passover.

KING:  Outside the camp.

MARCUS:  Outside the camp. Preferably. (starts to go)

KING (hesitating):  Farewell, Marcus.

MARCUS:  Did you forget something?

KING:  The most important thing.

MARCUS:  Money isn’t the most important thing here. And it won’t help. But patience will help, and faith, and hope. — Believe, and hope! (goes out)


KING:  No money, just good advice. — So, Lennart, going back to an impoverished homeland where they’d like to stone me, will that be the end of all this?

TORSTENSON:  So it seems.


KING:  I haven’t told you that I’m expecting my queen. In my last letter I asked her to come.

TORSTENSON:  That’s not good. A king can show no weakness.

KING:  Nevertheless, I was weak. When Erik Rålamb left me I lost the constant admiration that I need. And now that Horn and Banér have left me, I feel the desolation more sharply. It’s as if they took my better self along with them. (pause) Say something.


KING:  Speak! The Jew—


KING:  I hate him really, in my heart of hearts, but I also believe he has a role in my life. And it seems to me that the Lord’s favor is with him. — These days, Lennart, I feel as if everyone is in His favor except me. Everything turns away from me, but nothing surrenders. Where’s Wallenstein? Where’s Tilly? Where’s the enemy, and where are my friends? Where are the oppressed who were to be defended, and where are the oppressors? It seems I’ve been lured into an ambush where I’ll be crushed between fallen trees and burned alive.


TORSTENSON:  Will the fortress be returned?

KING:  It’s already been returned. Go tell Horn and Banér.

TORSTENSON:  And then?

KING (distressed):  Home. As a beaten man. Home to dishonor and oblivion.

TORSTENSON:  I don’t believe that, but I’ll obey. (goes out)

KING (Alone. Folds the map stuffs it in a pocket; puts on his sword; picks up his hat and puts it on his head, as if he’s planning to leave. As he approaches the door, Erik Rålamb hurries in):  Erik!

RÅLAMB:  “Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?”

KING:  Yes. Scold, scold. But if you had carried my burden—

RÅLAMB:  I would rather have collapsed under it than set it down. The great goal, the holy cause, all forgotten for the enemy’s gold. What have we earned except fellow believers’ disgust and our enemies’ disdain? Magdeburg, that great city, was a Protestant stronghold—and now it’s fallen. And fallen as our Sodom because we were supposed to protect it.

KING:  Yes, blame me, but I did what I had to do. With the money from the French to pay the troops, Frankfurt would be in ashes just like Magdeburg. Without—

RÅLAMB:  Without the treaty with France, the Swedish king would have the freedom to handle the Catholic League, which Tilly now leads—

KING:  What did you say?

RÅLAMB:  Didn’t you read the treaty?

KING:  No, I didn’t read it.

RÅLAMB:  No? All of Germany read it because it was printed. All of Europe knows that the Swedish king promised neutrality for the League and the Elector of Bavaria—and tolerance for the Catholics.

KING:  Neutrality? How will I continue the war?

RÅLAMB:  You really didn’t read it?

KING:  I can’t suffer your contempt any longer. Let’s be enemies, Erik.

RÅLAMB:  No. I swore to the queen that I would never leave her king’s side until — until —

KING:  Until you have returned him to his queen. Erik, go and get the queen. She should be in Stralsund by now.

RÅLAMB (hesitant):  And I didn’t know.

KING:  You don’t need to know everything. — Will you go?

RÅLAMB:  I will. Because — what I haven’t been able to do, she will.

KING:  Go in peace. We will part ways.

RÅLAMB:  And will we see each other again?

KING:  That only God knows.


BRAHE (enters):  Your Majesty. Great news.

KING:  Tell me.

BRAHE:  The Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, afraid of meeting Magdeburg’s fate, have sent their representatives to humbly plead for an alliance with Sweden.

KING:  Praise be to God.

BRAHE:  Tilly is withdrawing to the south. If our combined armies march now, we can catch up with him before he reaches the protection of the mountains.

KING (to himself):  Marcus, Marcus. (to Rålamb) Where will we meet again? — Leipzig! (to Brahe) Where are Gustaf and Johan?

BRAHE:  Just outside.

KING:  Are they angry?

BRAHE:  No, they’re fine.

King opens the door. Horn and Banér enter.

KING (embraces them, first one, then the other):  Gustaf, forgive me. — Johan, you too. — Now we head south. Now the war really begins. Against Caesar, against the heathens’ apostle.



Act Three

1) In a church graveyard near the battlefield of Breitenfeld-Leipzig.

2) In Auerbachs Hof.

Scene One

A church graveyard, on a hill, in the foreground. Three Swedish cannons have been placed among the graves. To the right, a small village church. The foreground conceals the battlefield, which is below the hill. The background, at a great distance, represents the hills near Leipzig, villages and the great highway; edges fade into subtle, subdued colors. Faint dawn light. Lights from inside the church make its stained glass windows stand out.

Two gravediggers are digging a grave.

GRAVEDIGGER I:  A horrible time. A horrible day. Not even the dead get any peace.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Yeah? What day is it?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  September 7th is St. Clovis’s Day.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Clovis? Who was he?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  The priest just told us during mass. So, he was the king of the Franks, the one who made France Christian. So, France and Germany were one country then, he said. So, he said Clovis, who had the true Christian faith, fought against the Protestants of the time — the Arians, they were called — and he defeated them —

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Why’d you call them Protestants?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  Because they protested against salvation, against the true church.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Haven’t you heard the Lutherans saying they “believe in the holy universal church, the communion of saints” and all that?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  So then the Lutherans are Catholics, because catholic means universal.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  What the hell sort of nonsense is that?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  Nonsense? Watch it.

GRAVEDIGGER II (threatens with his shovel):  You watch it!

They fence with their shovels.

QUARTERMASTER (enters):  What’s going on? Even old men with one foot in the grave can’t keep the peace. Why are you fighting?

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Because that heretic says Lutherans are Catholics because they believe in one holy, universal church—

QUARTERMASTER:  Now boys, there’s only one universal Christian church, and that’s the Lutheran church. First, the Catholic church isn’t Christian, since it’s led by the pope, who’s the antichrist. And second, it isn’t universal, because there are many other churches.

GRAVEDIGGER I:  So what about the Reformed Church, then?

QUARTERMASTER (thumbing his nose):  That’s nothing. Less than nothing. It doesn’t exist.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Well, our friends the Brandenburgers are Reformed, so it must exist.

QUARTERMASTER:  I hate being contradicted. But if I have to explain myself— — — They’re a figment, Satan’s minions, the abomination of desolation, dead men’s bones. — — — Whose grave are you digging?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  I wish we knew. They say it’ll be for the Catholics who fall on the battlefield—

QUARTERMASTER:  Is that church Catholic?

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Yes. One of the few still standing around here.

QUARTERMASTER:  Are you Catholic?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  Sure, a little.

QUARTERMASTER:  Then you’ll go to hell. There’s no “a lot” or “a little” in this. It’s all or nothing.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Stop. That’s not true—

QUARTERMASTER:  Shut up. I hate being contradicted. — Do you know, boys, why there’s such a grievous division within the church?


QUARTERMASTER:  Because you don’t accept the same interpretation.

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Whose interpretation?


GRAVEDIGGER I:  And that’s what Luther said too.

QUARTERMASTER:  Yes! And Luther was right. — And do you know how this grievous division of the church can end? Only when you accept my — our— interpretation. It would be so easy, so natural, so — well, it’s obvious —

GRAVEDIGGER II:  It’s foolish.

QUARTERMASTER:  Shut up. I can’t tolerate criticism. — Do you know what’s happening over there in the church?

GRAVEDIGGER I:  Morning mass.

QUARTERMASTER:  Papal gimmicks, the tricks of man, vanity, superstition, folly. Don’t you know that mass has been abolished?

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Nope. Clearly it hasn’t.

QUARTERMASTER:  Then I’ll abolish it.

GRAVEDIGGER I:  Watch out. The Elector of Brandenburg’s prime minister is in there worshipping—

QUARTERMASTER:  Von Schwarzenberg, our ally—

GRAVEDIGGER II:  Sweden’s ally and our comrade, who is right now praying for Sweden and its allies.

QUARTERMASTER (embarrassed, and bitter):  Yes, well. Fine. — So much is happening… The globe is turning square. What used to be in the back is now at the from… Fine. I don’t mind. Let it all go to hell. There are many ways to get there, many! — I wash my hands of it.

GRAVEDIGGER I:  Mr. Lutheran, please just listen. I won’t contradict or criticize you. I just want to tell you something. — I was born in the Palatinate as a Lutheran. That was my childhood faith. But my family was forced to accept Calvinism four times until Tilly came with fire and sword and made us all Catholic—

QUARTERMASTER (in his own thoughts, didn’t listen):  — von Schwarzenberg, His Excellency, good heavens —

GRAVEDIGGER I:  What do you think about my story?

QUARTERMASTER:  Probably a lie. The real heart of the matter: Do your job. And shut up. (goes out to the right)


PROVOST (enters from the left, accompanied by soldiers’ wives):  Fall back to village of Podelwitz, women, and don’t let your innate curiosity seduce you into watching the battle. — You might be hit by a stray bullet or —

Midwife enters, earlier the Miller’s Wife of Act One.

PROVOST:  Why is the midwife prowling around?

MIDWIFE:  Well, obviously, a baby is about to be delivered.

PROVOST:  Move on then, old woman. (to the Gravediggers) A very important person: she’s in charge of recruiting. (to the Midwife) Go on, go on. And make sure we get tall cavalryman; we have enough infantry.

Midwife exits to the right.


SERGEANT MAJOR (enters, accompanied by the Driver of the baggage train, earlier the Miller of Act One.):  Driver, get going! Your team is waiting in the village where the women are going. Hurry, the shooting will start soon.

DRIVER (cracking a whip):  So I’ll shoot right back.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  And, uh, when the plundering begins — think of me if you have any extra space in the wagon.

DRIVER:  I’ll think about it. (goes)

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You can’t think, though, can you?


SCHOOLMASTER (enters with a group of boys, one of whom is a trumpeter):  Shh! Hush. Listen up, now, boys!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  What do you say, boys, when the king gets here?

BOYS:  God save the king!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  — and the fatherland, you rascals! Hasn’t that abracadabra-man taught you better?

SCHOOLMASTER:  Listen up now, boys. Now I’m the king, and now I’m coming — what do you say?

BOYS:  God save the king and fatherland!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That’s good! Go over to the left of the baggage train, and east of the women. — Ah, wait! General orders for youth. Boys are by nature a horrible species, more prone to evil than good. Now, when the battle starts and bullets are whistling past your ears, you boys should drop facedown. Then take your left thumb and forefingers and get a firm hold on your belt, while your right middle and ring fingers — — — pay attention now! — carefully open the buttons to find the place nature has chosen as the point of release for the inevitable effects a powerful explosion of powder has on the human organism. Have I expressed myself clearly?

BOYS:  No!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Well: maxima debetur pueris reverentia. That means: Boys should not only learn to behave, but also to keep their underwear clean! — Go in peace. Valete!

The boys laugh.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That’s the dark side of war. — Now: Forward, march!

BOYS:  Hurray!

SCHOOLMASTER:  Listen, sergeant — Excuse me, but — Shouldn’t you, a former liber studiosus, say a serious word in a moment like this, when the honor and future of the fatherland depend on the—

SERGEANT MAJOR:  No. I can’t say the kind of thing you mean. I’ve been doing this too long and I’ve seen too much, heard too much. I’ve been drinking and fighting my whole life. That’s why I’m here. How can I stand here lamenting and posturing to young people in my old age? No. You’ll have to do that yourself. —

SCHOOLMASTER:  Impossible.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I see you have a trumpeter. If he has the guts for it, he can stand up there next to the signal cannons.

SCHOOLMASTER:  If he has the guts! Nils, step up and signal assembly.

SERGEANT MAJOR (alarmed; rushes up and jerks the trumpet from the boy’s hand):  No! Be quiet for the sake of millions — Boy, you don’t know what you were about to do. If you blow that thing with your grimy little mouth, those three cannons will fire. And then, you better believe, the dance begins. Seventy-five thousand men, on horseback, on foot, Croats and Walloons, Swedes and Saxons, Spaniards, Italians, Scots, Tartars, Poles — all of Europe will clash there on that field you can’t see. Good God, boy, aren’t you terrified?

TRUMPETER (in a Västergötland accent):  Not really.

SERGEANT MAJOR (in the same accent):  What’s that? Your accent gives you away. You’re a Västergötlander like me. By God, a countryman. Do you know Erik Soop? He’s commanding the Västergötland troops today. He’s a good man, even if he leans more to a deck of cards than a book of hymns. So, goosey, you’ll stay where you’re told, huh?

TRUMPETER:  Yes, of course.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  How old are you, Nils?

TRUMPETER:  I’m ten. Almost eleven.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You’re only half dry, as we say in Borås. Do you know what that means?

TRUMPETER:  I know, and if anyone else had said it, I’d have clobbered him.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Good. Now put your trumpet away, and put this patch on your arm. Now you’re in the army. (puts a yellow badge on the kid’s right arm) Now go, boys — but give your Nils a cheer first.

BOYS:  Hooray! (going out, right)

SCHOOLMASTER (to Nils):  Say goodbye to your comrades. Nicely.

TRUMPETER (struts):  ’Bye, guys.

SCHOOLMASTER:  That wasn’t nice. Not nice at all. (going)

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That’s true, but it was human — and just like a boy. Get going, old man!


Three artillerymen enter with cannon brushes and take their places next to the cannons, which they clean.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Now go up to the cannons and be quiet. Remember: you’re an important man. Europe’s waiting for you.

Trumpeter goes up to the cannons and takes his position.


Two Afghans enter from right, lay out prayer rugs, and pray silently in the Mohammedan way.


Provost enters from right.

SERGEANT MAJOR (to the Provost):  So, who are they, and what’s that hocus-pocus they’re up to?

PROVOST:  They’re Afghan cavalrymen from Gabriel Bethlen’s disbanded strike teams.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  There are many mansions in the house of the Lord, but — I don’t care for guests like them. Listen, are you really a heathen?

PROVOST:  I’m not baptized, but — I’m Romany, if you must know.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You mean a gypsy. What do you believe in?

PROVOST:  One God, the Father of us all.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Then you can’t be a heathen, right?

PROVOST (quietly):  Sergeant Major, they say Tilly has hardened himself, that he’s hard as ice inside, and no sword can pierce him. Is that true?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  They claim he’s made a pact with the devil — like all the papists.

PROVOST:  That can’t be true. — But listen, I can make words be sharper than swords. — I’m looking for a neck vertebra from a dead man, the third from the top. It has a little bone in it called luz

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Watch out for the stake or an axe. If you get caught at witchcraft —

PROVOST:  Do you believe in it?


PROVOST:  If it doesn’t exist, how can someone be punished for it?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Ah, so you’re a questioner. Do you know who the first questioner was? The devil! Now off to hell with you. Finer folks are coming. (exits right, followed by the Provost.)


Rudolf from Act Two and Gustaf Gustafsson enter, both dressed in cavalry armor.

GUSTAF G. (disturbed, to Rudolf):  I’m Gustaf Gustafsson, but what does it matter? I’m not a peasant, but I’m illegitimate. I’m the son of a king, and the son of a concubine. My great father loves me, writes to me — but can’t see me. And now —

RUDOLF:  Calm down, Gustaf —

GUSTAF G.:  Sure, of course. — Except my mother wrote to me the other day to tell me she married a man I’ve always hated. — So I’m all alone in the world. More alone than a stepchild, because I can’t even call my father’s wife my stepmother!

RUDOLF:  Does the king know about your mother’s marriage?

GUSTAF G.:  I don’t know. I don’t think so. And when he finds out I think he’ll be hurt — hurt to know another man has her.

RUDOLF:  Why are you here? What do you want?

GUSTAF G.:  I want to see him, just look at him before he goes into battle. Because he could be killed. My mother always said he’d die young because he’s a darling of the gods.

RUDOLF:  You shouldn’t believe that. But if you want to see him, stay here. He’ll come here to signal the start of the battle.

GUSTAF G.:  The critical battle that I can’t be part of, and you can. I’m supposed to sit over there in the church tower, watching. A spectator instead of an actor. That’s my lot. — Where’s Luise?

RUDOLF:  She and her father are headed to Leipzig. — Why do you ask?

GUSTAF G.:  Because we’re friends. Since we met in Stettin, her friendship has been the one bright light in my dark life.

RUDOLF (thoughtfully):  Really?

GUSTAF G.:  If I weren’t the son of a king, I’d make her my wife.

RUDOLF:  Ah huh.

GUSTAF G.:  Listen, Rudolf, I know you’re in love with your cousin. Just protect your feelings and don’t indulge in false hope. — You know, there’s no way my father could recognize me. He hasn’t seen me since I was four years old.

RUDOLF:  There’s no way he could. — Stand here behind this gravestone. People are coming.

GUSTAF G.:  Where? — (Goes behind the monument.) — Here? —

RUDOLF:  Yes, there! — Farewell, Gustaf. Your fate isn’t bright, but you’re without guile, and that’s a lot. You’ve been the real friend of my youth — you brought joy into my dull, little life. — If we don’t meet again, Gustaf, marry Luise. Marry her. — Do you promise?

GUSTAF G.:  I promise. — But if we meet again?

RUDOLF:  Then we’ll see each other again in Auersbach after the battle’s over. After victory. And we will win! Farewell!

They embrace.

GUSTAF G.:  I envy you, from a family of coopers, you who gets to jump in with the people and the princes. While I, a king’s son, who’s both fatherless and motherless, I — (weeps) — — — Farewell!

Rudolf hurries off.


The Elector of Brandenburg, Georg Wilhelm, and the Elector of Saxony, Johan Georg, in armor, enter from the right.

SAXONY:  We made it this far.

BRANDENBURG:  Yes, forced into it. Coerced into breaking our vow to the emperor.

SAXONY (quietly):  I wrote to the emperor to ask for his forgiveness. I couldn’t do otherwise. Do you think that’s reprehensible?

BRANDENBURG (quietly):  No, especially since I did the same myself.

SAXONY (offers his hand):  I’m glad to hear it. — But at least you don’t have troops or people at risk like I do.

BRANDENBURG:  Because I’ve already lost them. — If we didn’t have these unfortunate disagreements among the Protestants about the foundation of faith, we’d have already driven the stranger back to the Baltic.

SAXONY (urgent):  Yes, disagreements. Weren’t we all Lutherans once? Why did Brandenburg have to get tangled up with Zwinglianism?

BRANDENBURG:  Because Zwingli was right!

SAXONY (violent):  The hell he was.

BRANDENBURG:  What the —

SAXONY:  Cursed be the hour when German men started to search for what was hidden and began discussing faith. — People go crazy when it’s mentioned. I go insane when I hear the names Zwingli or Calvin instead of Jesus Christ! My dream was to see one Christian church built on the Apostolic Creed — the one we all confess —

BRANDENBURG:  Who hasn’t had that dream? — Maybe it will materialize after what will happen down there. (points to the battlefield)

SAXONY:  Down there, in front of Leipzig, where this was all let loose a hundred years ago. In my Leipzig, where until then all things peaceful flourished, world trade alongside the sciences — today it will be sown with tears and watered with blood, harvests we won’t see: one united German people and perhaps one church. — Why doesn’t the battle begin?

BRANDENBURG:  They’re just waiting for the sunrise.

SAXONY:  Everybody waits for the sun that God shines on the just and on the unjust alike.

BRANDENBURG:  May the darkness pass soon, then. — — — (Schwarzenberg comes out of the church, from which a Catholic hymn and organ music can be heard.) There’s my friend Schwarzenberg. Isn’t it remarkable that I can tolerate his Catholicism more easily than your Lutheranism?

SAXONY:  We all need to learn tolerance for each other. All of us.

They go toward Schwarzenberg, walk up to the cannons, where they look out over the battlefield with field glasses. Fabricius and Grubbe enter. The Afghans, who have been still, resume their prayers.

GRUBBE (to Fabricius):  I’ve been ordered to observe the battle from here and report back to the chancellor after.

FABRICIUS:  Well, then we’ll stay together. — Who are they? (indicating the Afghans)

GRUBBE:  They’re some Mohammedans with Cochitzky’s cavalry, but they’re not allowed to fight because they’re not Christian.

FABRICIUS:  Ah. And what are they saying?

GRUBBE (listens to the Afghans):  Al ilah Allah…

FABRICIUS:  Oh, it’s a prayer.

GRUBBE:  What does it mean?

FABRICIUS:  It means: “There is no God but God, the only true, great and highest God is complete unto Himself, is eternal, was not born and will not beget, is perfect unto Himself, fills the universe as an everlasting, omnipotent, omniscient, good, merciful, and unchanging God.”[6]

GRUBBE:  Isn’t that the same God as ours?


GRUBBE:  They must be praying for our victory.


Marcus, the Fire Chief (earlier the Bailiff of Wolgast) and eight other Jews in white tallithim; two Jews carry on poles the sacred receptacle in which the Torah scrolls are kept. Marcus and the Fire Chief carry silver trumpets; one Jew carries a ram’s horn. The receptacle is set down and opened; the Torah is removed and handed to two men who bow and go through other rituals, after which the Torah is removed from its wrappings.

FABRICIUS:  That’s an abomination.

GRUBBE:  They’re Jews.

HRASAN (the reader reads from the Torah after the man with ram’s horn blows it):  “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me… Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy G-d in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

GRUBBE:  That’s from the Ten Commandments in Dr. Luther’s catechism.

FABRICIUS (putting a finger to his lips):  Slaves to the law, only able to order and rebuke. Not one word about the saving message, not one word about peace and blessing.

HRASAN (who has silently finished reading the Ten Commandments, now speaks up):  “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying: On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel; ye shall say unto them: The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; The Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.’”

GRUBBE (to Fabricius):  Pastor, that’s “The Lord bless thee.” The same Lord, the same servant. One God, the Father of all.

HRASAN (reading):  “Make an uproar yourselves, O ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces; And give ear, all ye of far countries; Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces… Take counsel together, and it shall be brought to naught; Speak the word, and it shall not stand; For God is with us.”

GRUBBE: “God is with us”: Immanuel! That’s the Swedish watchword for the day.

The sun comes out and lights up the church; a procession of choirboys, dressed in all-white robes, come out singing “Ave regina coelorum,” preceded by a boy carrying a banner with the Virgin Mary in gold on a blue background. Six Lutheran pastors enter, stand next to Fabricius. The Elector of Brandenburg and the Elector of Saxony point to the battlefield and take off their hats. The trumpet boy blows the call to attack. Drums respond. Marcus and the Fire Chief blow into their silver horns while the eight other Jews cover themselves with their tallithim. The Afghans cry, “Allah, Il Allah!” The Lutheran pastors, with bare heads and hands lifted high, “God is with us!” The Jews answer, “Immanuel! Immanuel!” — The three artillerymen approach their cannons to light the fuses. Gustaf Gustafsson has removed his helmet, fallen to his knees, and prays with his folded hands uplifted. The Electors remain standing, but Schwarzenberg crosses himself and falls to his knees. The procession of choirboys does the same. All have put on yellow armbands.

Curtain falls.


Scene Two

The Auerbachs Hof in Leipzig. The foreground is part of the Auerbachskeller, where some of Dr. Faust’s adventures are said to have happened. The ceiling is cross-vaulted; two colossal paintings on wood with Faust motifs are on the walls. At the back is a large portrait of Luther. Wine casks are piled up along the walls. Tables, chairs, benches. Wreaths of leaves, flowers, and lights are hung from the ceiling.

Second level: a perspective view of wine casks mixed with tables and benches; at the very back, bazaars with variegated fabrics, glassware, books, engravings, etc. An orchestra gallery at the left.

When the curtain goes up, the Host of the Auerbachs Hof is standing in the foreground with the Cooper, in conversation. From outside can be heard alternately chimes and bells ringing, horn music, singing, organ music, fanfares, shouts of “hooray,” and shots. Note: the banquet celebrating the victory is under way in the large banquet hall adjacent.

HOST:  A blessèd Sunday. The unconquerable Tilly, thoroughly defeated, wounded, half-dead, and fleeing—

COOPER:  And thirteen thousand dead on the battlefield.

HOST:  Yes. Through death to resurrection and eternal life.

COOPER:  And plundering. The emperor’s camp is being plundered now, and the Catholic League’s war chest has been captured.

HOST:  Where did you pick up such hostility for your liberators?

COOPER:  At home in Stettin. I had to pay five hundred gyllen as a “fire tax” — that I couldn’t afford. That’s why I came here to the Leipzig Fair to earn what I can —

HOST:  And that’s why you took your wife and daughter with you?

COOPER:  No, that’s not why. But that’s not the point.

HOST:  Quit croaking. You’d be better off picking over the battlefield with the other crows instead of disturbing a celebration. All German men with a soul and a heart can unite in a tribute to the hero — the liberator from the north.

COOPER:  Yeah, who liberated me from 500 gyllen.

HOST:  For shame, Cooper, to be so petty on a day like this, when peace heals the wounds from the conflict of a hundred years—

COOPER:  Conflict about the pope’s beard and the emperor’s new pants, about election by grace and justification by faith, about faith or deeds—

HOST:  Get out, vulture! Or I’ll turn the people loose after you.

COOPER:  Yes, yes. Remember the prophet’s words: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light… I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies… Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” (exits)

People begin to gather: burghers, soldiers, students.


SERGEANT MAJOR (enters; to the Host):  And this is the famous — what’s it called?

HOST (rattles off):  Auerbachs Hof with the famous Auerbachskeller. According to the stories, Dr. Faust practiced his hocus-pocus here, which is pictured on the walls. But its greater claim to fame is a historic event that reached its full significance today. It was here in 1519 that Luther, after seventeen days of a public disputation with Dr. Eck, accepted his friend Auerbach’s hospitality; and out of this cask—it’s an actual Rauenthaler—replenished his depleted powers.

SERGEANT MAJOR (knocks on the cask):  A beautiful piece.

HOST:  Holds five thousand pitchers.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Five thousand? Impressive.

HOST:  And today the Swedish king has promised to honor our mass—

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Oh? There will be a mass?

HOST (provoked):  We call our annual market fair mass— The Swedish king, as I was about to say, will an empty a mug in honor of the victory when he comes. (angry) Have I been clear enough?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Yes, of course. But the king doesn’t empty “mugs.”

HOST:  Well, a glass then, a stein, a quart, a pitcher, a tankard — whatever the hell you want to call it.

SERGEANT MAJOR (to himself):  Five thousand pitchers?

HOST (enraged):  Fifty thousand, five hundred thousand, millions, if you like. Flay me like a cod if you think I’m standing here lying; and that Dr. Luther drank here, you can find testimony on parchment about that — with seals, stamps, signatures, all of it. Good enough?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Did you hear that the queen of Sweden is coming too?

HOST:  Yes, I did. She’s already here.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  And the students from Wittenberg will be part of the parade. The students. Do you follow?

HOST (shouting):  Yes.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Good! — — — Ah, there’s the quartermaster — and the kid with the trumpet.


QUARTERMASTER:  The Sabbath, a blessèd day.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  For us, yes. But I guess the Lord knows His business. (to the Trumpeter) Well, rascal, you blasted us to victory.

TRUMPETER:  Yes, of course!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  And now you’re in the famous Auerbachs Hof. There’s Dr. Faust, and there’s Dr. Luther hanging over there; there’s Luther’s Rauenthal cask that holds five thousand pitchers; and here’s where we’ll be celebrating.

QUARTERMASTER:  Sergeant. Listen.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I’m listening.

QUARTERMASTER:  Well, I wanted to say — it seems like something’s not right (points at his forehead) in here.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Have you lost your mind?

QUARTERMASTER:  No, I haven’t, but something else happened… I’ve stopped researching the secrets that surround us.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  And maybe started drinking?

QUARTERMASTER:  Not exactly.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  So there are temptations now?

QUARTERMASTER:  No, I wouldn’t go that far. But if drinking is a meaningless act, then it can’t be a temptation. For me to drink is a simple, natural thing —

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That’s what I think too.

QUARTERMASTER:  —and hence, it’s not a temptation.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Good Lord, what a Jesuit—you’ve been converted. In reverse.

QUARTERMASTER:  Through the battle to peace. I’ve stopped fighting my desires, and now I have peace.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Just like the Elector of Saxony who suddenly stopped fighting, turned his back on Tilly, and started running. May he go in peace — and you too, you old hypocrite. (goes)

QUARTERMASTER (going):  Yes, well, you don’t understand.

Boys enter.

TRUMPETER (proud):  What do you want?

BOY I:  We just wanted a look — at you.

TRUMPETER:  Hey, you jerks, I’m His Majesty’s trumpeter. I led the battle. I mean, I started it.

BOY II:  Oh, you started it, Nils? Do you know what that gets you?

TRUMPETER:  If you call me Nisse, I’ll kill you.

BOY II:  Aww, listen to Nisse

BOY I:  Punch him in the lip, so he can’t blow the trumpet right any more.

TRUMPETER:  Watch it, or I’ll go tell the king. Yes, I know the king! He patted me on the head and said I was great and now I get to signal the start of the banquet but if you touch me you’ll have to ride the wooden horse like an in-sub-ordin-ate-traitor. Know what that is?

Boy I starts crying and runs off with the others.


Erik Ralåmb enters, dressed in his usual black with white and red plumes in his hat. Gustaf Gustafsson dressed as a student.

RALÅMB (very upset):  And that’s why you came. Only because of that?

GUSTAF G.:  Only to see my father, who can’t actually be my father.

RALÅMB:  Go ahead, but your timing is bad. The king is just seeing his queen again for the first time in a year.

GUSTAF G.:  That may be, but consider it from my point of view. All my friends from Wittenberg are coming here to greet the hero from the north. I’m the only one who can’t.

RALÅMB:  But you must know that for the queen your very existence is living proof of the sin her consort committed—

GUSTAF G.:  Yes, I’m a love child, born in sin because love itself is a sin.

RALÅMB:  Illicit love, yes.

GUSTAF G.:  That was his sin, not mine.

RALÅMB:  No one has the right to reproach him. He atoned for that sin with repentance and penitence. — Just do what I tell you, and stay out of sight. Let the hero celebrate his victory without being disturbed by a past mistake, one he rejected but nonetheless can’t take back. Imagine if the queen came in — she’s in there in the banquet hall —you’d destroy her happiness too. She’d probably think the king had arranged to meet you.

GUSTAF G.:  I’ll stay out of sight, but I won’t leave. I promised to wait for someone here.

RALÅMB:  Rudolf. — Are you sure he’s alive?

GUSTAF G.:  I’m not. He was with Cochitzky’s cavalrymen.

RALÅMB:  Who were slaughtered, every last man, by Torstenson’s cannons.

GUSTAF G.:  Are you guessing or are you certain?

RALÅMB:  I’m certain. Unless he ran off, he’s dead.

GUSTAF G.:  Rudolf didn’t run off.

RALÅMB:  So you’re waiting for Luise.

GUSTAF G.:  What don’t you know? Yes, I am.

RALÅMB:  To comfort her because you love her.

GUSTAF G.:  Yes.

RALÅMB:  But she loves Rudolf, whether he’s alive or dead. That’s just how it goes.

GUSTAF G.:  As if you could know that.

RALÅMB (looking around):  Quiet.

GUSTAF G.:  Did you bring the queen here? Does she make my father happy?

RALÅMB:  Happy? Happiness? What does that even mean? — The past, I guess. I used to be my king’s friend, but not since his queen came. I’m redundant. I’m in the way, people laugh at me — my time is over. I’m jealous of the queen. Can you imagine?

GUSTAF G.:  As long as you’re not jealous of the king.

RALÅMB:  Gustaf! I’m jealous of them both. That’s my secret.

GUSTAF G.:  You and I, we were destined to be unhappy…

RALÅMB:  —I can’t bear to see the king as a husband. It’s disgusting, nauseating. I can’t bear to have a woman touch his soul. Tangle her little thoughts around his. When he talks with her, he looks foolish. He softens his voice so he doesn’t frighten her — the thundering god devolves to a lisp.

GUSTAF G.:  And yet you love her?

RALÅMB (wildly):  I saw them together this morning. She’s beautiful, that can’t be denied. — But my feelings are no one else’s concern as long as I keep them to myself.

GUSTAF G.:  Hide them better, Erik.

RALÅMB:  Better? No one could.

GUSTAF G.:  How old are you, Erik?

RALÅMB:  Twenty. I’m a man who has lived, learned some, and knows a little. But you’re just a child, Gustaf, only fifteen. When you fall in love, though, then you’ll grow up.

PAGE (enters):  Her Majesty the queen awaits Chamberlain Ralåmb in the banquet hall. (going)

RALÅMB (to the Page):  At your service! (to Gustaf G.) At least she’s not scared of me. (Takes off his hat and fluffs the feathers.)

GUSTAF G.:  Careful you don’t burn those feathers flying too close to the sun and fall back to earth like a plucked bird.

RALÅMB:  You think they’re borrowed?

GUSTAF G.:  Maybe from an ostrich. — Now I’ll fly, says the ostrich.

RALÅMB:  Yes, I’ll fly all right. (goes)


Luise and her Mother enter; Gustaf G. approaches them.

GUSTAF G.:  Luise, come here and sit down.

MOTHER:  What do you mean by that?

GUSTAF G.:  You know me. And you know Rudolf’s fate.

LUISE:  Is it true that he’s dead?

GUSTAF G.:  Yes, we’re certain.

Luise sinks down on a bench.

GUSTAF G.:  Luise, you probably know that Rudolf made me promise something before he went into battle?

MOTHER:  What promise?

GUSTAF G.:  To ask for Luise’s hand. There are some obstacles, however, in the way of fulfilling this promise.

MOTHER:  Yes, I imagine there are.

GUSTAF G.:  My high birth…

MOTHER:  Listen here: First, your nonexistent manners are an insurmountable obstacle. To start aggressively courting the girl before the man she loves turns cold—that doesn’t suggest you’ll make a considerate husband. But there’s another hindrance —

GUSTAF G.:  I can remove any obstacle —

MOTHER:  Wait! According to the law of the coopers guild, the guild leader’s daughter can’t marry baseborn man.

GUSTAF G.:  Baseborn?

MOTHER:  A concubine’s son, then — or illegitimate, if you prefer.

GUSTAF G.:  Oh, my father, why have you done to me?

MOTHER:  So the story ends there. Come, Luise.

Gustav G. sits down, brokenhearted, at one of the tables.

MOTHER:  Come, Luise! The banquet rooms are not our place. Other duties call us home to grieve.

GUSTAF G.:  At least let me follow my friend to his grave.


GUSTAF G.:  Cast out. I belong nowhere. I’m not allowed share anyone’s happiness, anyone’s grief.


Åke Tott and Fredrik Stenbock enter, somewhat drunk and cheerful.

TOTT (takes Luise in an embrace and tries to kiss her):  Fortune in love is the victor’s best payment.

GUSTAF G. (draws sword):  Stop!

TOTT (draws sword):  Die, boy!

STENBOCK (gets between them):  Not here. Not here! The king could come in —

GUSTAF G.:  Let him come.

TOTT:  Do you know who I am?

GUSTAF G.:  Do you know who I am?

TOTT:  I don’t need to. But you should know that I have royal blood, Vasa blood — grandson of Erik XIV.

GUSTAF G.:  Månsdotter blood too then. But I am the son of a king. Gustaf Gustafs-son.

TOTT (to Stenbock):  Is it really him?

STENBOCK:  So it seems.

TOTT (to Gustaf G.):  Kinsman, please forgive me.

GUSTAF G.: Your insult to me, yes. But not your insult to this young lady.

STENBOCK:  Quiet! The queen’s coming.

Luise and her Mother step away. The Queen enters with Erik Ralåmb and accompanied by ladies-in-waiting.


QUEEN (to Ralåmb):  What is happening here?

STENBOCK:  Your Majesty, only renewing old acquaintances, made possible by the unpredictable shifts of war —

QUEEN:  That’s not true. Who’s the girl over there with the woman?

MOTHER (comes up; kneels):  An innocent girl whose mother who begs for justice and protection for her child.

QUEEN:  What happened?

MOTHER:  This colonel, Tott, insulted my daughter — who is in mourning for her lover, who fell fighting for the Swedes and against the emperor.

QUEEN:  Is that true, Tott?

TOTT:  If you like.

QUEEN:  Go to the field marshal and surrender your sword, Tott. Wait there for the king’s orders. (to the Mother) Go in peace. There, there. Enough now. Enough! (to Ralåmb, indicating Gustaf G.) Who’s the young man?

RALÅMB:  A student from Wittenberg.

QUEEN:  Is that so? He’s wearing a sash that’s only for nobles at the university.

RALÅMB (Silent, embarrassed.)

QUEEN:  So… (looks searchingly at Gustaf) It’s you. (to Ralåmb) You could have spared me this… infamy.

GUSTAF G.: I didn’t make myself infamous. Nor is it my fault if I disturb your banquet, Your Majesty.

QUEEN (turns her back and goes; to Ralåmb):  Why must I be reminded of this now, just now, when my hero is as pure and high as he’s ever been before? Let us go.


Nils Brahe enters, approaches them.

QUEEN:  Brahe. Who sent for him? I can’t stand him and his dove eyes—they remind me of his cousin Ebba. (turns, and goes toward the entering Schwarzenberg) — — — Another one. Protect me, Erik, from this man, my brother’s evil spirit, the Jesuit (whispers) and the emperor’s friend. (turns to the back of the stage, but meets her brother, the Elector of Brandenburg) And there he is, the evil renegade of the family, who became a Calvinist to create conflict and take control. Get me out of here, Erik. I feel like a deer surrounded by hunters. (Marcus and the Fire Chief enter.) And these Jews. — How can we share our celebration with heretics? This banquet was intended to raise the spirits of our fellow believers by honoring Dr. Luther, the father of our church.

RALÅMB:  Majesty, the king insists that the banquet not have an exclusively Lutheran character because so many of our friends who will be present practice other faiths. He specifically refuses to accept the burghers’ invitation to toast to the memory of Luther because it could lead to another Bartholomew’s Night.

QUEEN:  Schwarzenberg is coming. — Help me avoid him, Erik.

RALÅMB:  Impossible, Your Majesty. Brandenburg is our only certain friend. Saxony our certain enemy.


SCHWARZENBERG (to the Queen):  Your Majesty, allow me to convey my respects and bid you welcome to German soil.

QUEEN:  Thank you, Excellency.

SCHWARZENBERG:  As an expression of my fellow believers’ sincerest admiration and as thanks for the tolerance they’ve been shown, I offer this small gift as a memento of the victory at Breitenfeld. (Hands her a diamond necklace that looks like a rosary.)

QUEEN (looks at the gift):  Are you asking me to wear your necklace?

SCHWARZENBERG:  Maria Eleanora of Brandenburg has worn Hohenzollern jewels before.

QUEEN:  Well. I will receive the gift as a symbol of the ties that bind me to my former homeland. Thank you.

SCHWARZENBERG:  No, please, thank you. (moving off to join a group of other people)


QUEEN (looks closely at the necklace; to Ralåmb; makes a dismissive sound):  It’s a rosary. Take it away. Or — — — send it to my little Kristina to play with; she likes jewels.

RALÅMB (receives the necklace):  An unexpected toy, and a strange gift.

QUEEN:  Everything is strange here. And so different from what I expected. Everything and everyone. — Am I among friends gathered to celebrate a remarkable victory? They look like they want bite each other but don’t dare. (quietly) I thought I’d be met by my loving husband, but instead I find a cold, calculating sergeant, who scolds me because I didn’t bring more cannons and battle supplies. — I don’t understand war, but I know something isn’t right here. They say the king accepted money from Cardinal Richelieu in return for leaving the Catholics alone. Is that true, Erik?

RALÅMB:  It’s true.

QUEEN:  Is it also true that he absorbed five thousand of Tilly’s Catholic soldiers into his army?

RALÅMB:  I don’t know, but if so —

QUEEN (whispers):  I know it’s true. And I also know he negotiated a treaty with Wallenstein.

RALÅMB:  We’ve suspected that for a long time, but we didn’t know. “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.”

QUEEN:  Get me out of here, Erik. My heart is heavy. Everything that seemed great, lofty, and pure has been dragged through the dirt.

RALÅMB (following the Queen out to the right):  I could say that’s the hard law of life — that no angels live on earth. That those who push aside the hands of Providence to take the wheel run aground. That the purest among us must be dragged through filth so we learn no one is pure. But I’ll only say: “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.” (exits)


Horn, Banér, Torstenson enter; serious, thoughtful; sit at a table downstage, away from the rest of the people.

HORN:  Say something.

BANÉR:  Sooo-ooo — sometimes it’s a good thing I’m always talking, huh? — Well: The goal is won. North Germany and the shore of the Baltic are clear of the emperor’s forces, and of Italians and Spaniards. The North drove the South back inside its borders, and balance is restored. And — what usually follows a victory? Gustav?

HORN:  Peace!

BANÉR:  Lennart?


BANÉR:  Johan? — Peace! — And if there’s no peace? What should we call the victor then? — Johan? — An insatiable warmonger, fighting to keep fighting, maybe to profit, but above all for himself.

TORSTENSON:  Don’t say that; the king could hear us.

BANÉR:  No, he’s done listening to us — ever since his “bride” arrived. And the lady of the house doesn’t like us. I’d say our best days are over. Think about it—on the day of our victory, our success, I’m reminiscing about the days of trouble and adversity, of youthful enthusiasm, when we lived like vagrants, but were full of courage and hope and faith.

TORSTENSON:  You’re right, Johan — Most of us know how to handle adversity, but we don’t know what do with success.

HORN:  Does anybody know the king’s plans?

BANÉR:  Partly. The war will continue. In the morning we’ll break camp, then through Thuringia to the Rhine and on to Frankfurt.

TORSTENSON:  Why Frankfurt and not Vienna?

BANÉR:  Frankfurt is the coronation city, the East Franks’ old capital — the West Franks’ is Paris — in Frankfurt’s town hall is the golden bull — oh, and Frankfurt has a synagogue.

HORN:  Hush, Johan.

BANÉR:  Let me talk.

HORN:  He who drinks —

BANÉR:  — should watch his step, yes! — See, the biggest problem with the French money is that taking it wasn’t as crazy as it seemed. France and Germany, the West Franks and the East Franks, were originally one. When Charles V — a Spaniard, a man from the South who could barely speak German at all — began stretching his arms toward the North, he crushed Flanders and soon enough the old kinship between the French and the Germans reawakened. Henri II even made an alliance with Elector Moritz of Saxony against the usurper Charles V — and the French took Lorraine with Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Notice that Verdun is where the kingdom of the Franks was divided to make France and Germany.

HORN (jokingly):  Don’t you want another drink, Johan?

BANÉR:  Do you think my imagination needs feeding? Or that my tongue needs oiling? — — —Anyway, the elector of Saxony was called a traitor then, but he wasn’t, because his help let the French make a wedge between Spanish Flanders and the Hapsburg crown lands, and the Spanish devil, who wanted to gobble up Europe after conquering America, wanted to invade England from Flanders and even threatened Gothenburg. Who did we chase out of Pomerania, out of Mecklenburg? Spaniards and Italians: Torquati Conti, Spinola, Maradas, Colalto, Mérode, Montecuccoli, and the devil and his mother. And who were fighting outside Breitenfeld-Leipzig? Colloredo, Isolani, Chiesa, Balderon, Piccolomini, Strozzi: Italians and Spaniards! And now we’re going toward the Rhine — the river over which the Germans and French should be giving each other friendly winks — and we have Ossa, Don Silva, and whatever their names are, the Spaniards! Summa summarum: The French alliance is the king’s greatest act of diplomacy. Because he transformed from a single-minded general for one side into a statesman who’s a credit to his teachers, Hugo Grotius and Petrus Ramus. But now he should make peace! Which is to say: I don’t personally have anything against war, but I can hear something in one ear telling me: So far, but no farther! — Now I need a drink! (Pounds on the table. The Host comes. Banér interrupts him.) Yes, this is Auerbachskeller, and there’s that devil Faust, and there’s Luther hanging around too! (to Torstenson, who makes a disapproving face) That’s right, to hell with Luther and the pope and Calvin and all the rest. I’m a Christian, and I’d rather be a syncretist if I have to be anything. — Syncretists think it’s all the same, as long as you can say the Lord’s Prayer with a fairly clear conscience. — I said fairly, Lennart. Don’t nitpick.

TORSTENSON:  You are and always will be, our old Johan — but you really shouldn’t drink so much.

BANÉR:  What would I be if I didn’t drink? I wouldn’t be Johan! So: bottoms up!

Host sets three glasses and a flagon of wine on the table. Horn and Torstenson turn their glasses upside down to show they don’t drink.

BANÉR:  You’re hopeless!


Stenbock enters.

BANÉR:  Come here, Fredrik, and tell us the news.

STENBOCK:  Gladly. I’ve lost my comrade-in-arms and friend Åke Tott.

BANÉR:  Why, where is he?

STENBOCK:  He was sent north to Bremen for trying to kiss the wrong girl.

BANÉR:  Is it the queen’s doing?

STENBOCK:  Probably.

BANÉR:  Where’s the king?

STENBOCK:  In there with electors and dukes —

BANÉR:  Doesn’t concern himself with us anymore. Sends for his wife just like he used to send for Fabricius when he was planning some kind of mischief. So Tott’s gone. He’s the first. We’ll be next, I suppose.

STENBOCK:  Probably — he sent for Oxenstierna.

HORN:  Oxenstierna?

STENBOCK:  Yes, they’re going to start negotiating in earnest now — and the cardinal is furious.

TORSTENSON:  Oxenstierna? Does that mean there’ll be peace?

STENBOCK:  It means war! And something else too. Haven’t you heard that the Elector of Brandenburg’s son will be engaged to the king’s daughter, Kristina?

HORN:  Apparently we’re out of favor. We didn’t know that.

BANÉR:  See, the king has long-term plans. Sweden and Brandenburg. Then Denmark’s done for.

HORN:  Very astute, Johan.

BANÉR:  Who knows? — There’s young Ralåmb. He looks crushed.

STENBOCK:  He has a crush, at least — on the queen.

RALÅMB:  Have you heard? — The king is negotiating an alliance with Wallenstein.

HORN:  They’ve talked about that for a long time.

BANÉR:  And why not? The religious war effectively ended when Tilly’s five thousand Catholics were shoved into the Swedish army. Accept one to defeat the other, that’s just good strategy.

RALÅMB:  No, Banér. Christian tolerance doesn’t require that we make friends with our enemy.

BANÉR:  Oh, stop it. Someone has you stretched a little too tight.

RALÅMB:  “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

TORSTENSON:  For God’s sake, be quiet. The king is here.

RALÅMB:  Fine. Let the ax fall.


The king appears at the back with Fabricius, Grubbe, the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, Schwarzenberg, and Nils Brahe.

BANÉR:  He sent for Fabricius. So we can expect something big. And has Ebba — I mean — Nils Brahe’s eyes on him. That means his wife isn’t in favor.

The King and his group sit down at a table to the right; Horn, Torstenson, Banér, and Stenbock, who are sitting to the left, get up to greet him. The King signals them to stay seated.

BANÉR:  The king looks ten years older today. No more boyish manner. Don’t you think he’s grown in the past two days?

HORN:  Quiet, quiet!

BANÉR:  Look at Ralåmb. He’s staring at the Jesuit as if he’s ready to bite — if only someone would give the order.


KING (to Ralåmb):  Chamberlain Ralåmb. — Where is the queen?

RALÅMB (cold, rude):  At home crying over her lost happiness, over broken faith, over six thousand dead and wounded and over the five thousand Jesuits you’ve taken under your wing.

(Amazement among those present. The King, first embarrassed, then angry, finally calms down.)

KING:  Chamberlain Ralåmb has earned our disfavor with his violent temper. As punishment, he’ll serve the table until he has regained our favor by changing his attitude. — Get glasses and fill them for us.


General shock, then silence.

RALÅMB (speaks vehemently and quickly):  The King of Babylon said: “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, — (Nils Brahe rises and signals to the wings. Drums and snare drums beat, but Ralåmb raises his voice and continues) — Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. — (raises his voice still more) — How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

Horn, Banér, Torstenson, and Stenbock have stood and moved toward Ralåmb, who hurries out to the right.

KING (wanted to interrupt Ralåmb’s speech but wasn’t able to break in; when he’s composed himself, he stands):  Let the banquet begin!

Music. A procession of Scots, then the Wittenberg students in festive clothing and carrying banners; then Afghans, Kalmucks, Turks, Poles; then Catholic priests with Virgin Mary banners, choirboys, monks; then the Jews in their white tallithim, two with silver trumpets; finally, the burghers with Protestant clergymen. The King stands and uncovers his head.



Act Four

1) Landscape in Thuringia with Wartburg visible.

2) Castle terrace outside of Mainz, on the Rhine.

3) Near Ingolstadt, on the Danube.

4) Munich. A square.

Scene One

A pass in Thuringia. Wartburg is visible in the background. Rålamb stands concealed behind an oak tree on an outcropping of rock. When the curtain goes up, Tott is climbing up the cliff.

TOTT:  Erik, if you’re following me north, do me a favor and stop darting up mountains like a doe.

RÅLAMB:  I have to see the great Tilly. I hate him — and I can’t help but admire him.

TOTT:  So admire him — at an appropriate distance. Tilly’s cavalrymen are roaming the forest, and if they see us, we’re out of luck.

RÅLAMB:  Yes, well, my life isn’t worth much since I’ve lost faith in my hero.

TOTT:  Sure, faith. Do you remember how we used to fight in Uppsala? You were on Messenius’s side; I thought Rudbeckius was right. And now we’ve traded sides. That’s one life’s little jokes. — Now you’re on a cliff in Thuringia across from Wartburg, Luther’s Wartburg, so you can admire Tilly! And why the hell do you have to admire everything anyway? Nil admirare! — according to Horace, and he’s right. I like the king, but I’ve never admired him. So I don’t despise him now that he’s kicked us aside.

RÅLAMB:  Do you remember the speech I gave in Uppsala that caused such a ruckus?

TOTT:  You mean: “On Truth, the Highest Virtue—More Important than King, Wine, and Women”?

RÅLAMB:  Yes, that.

TOTT:  That it almost led to two prosecutions. One for treason, because they thought you were pointing out the king’s peccadilloes, and the other for heresy because they thought you were poking fun at Luther’s “wine, women, and song.”

RÅLAMB:  Why can’t I respect both Luther and Tilly at once? Recognize the mistakes of one and reject the other’s weaknesses? Tilly’s never tasted wine, or made love to a woman. He’s only cruel to himself. Not only was he innocent of the destruction of Magdeburg, but he wept over the city — as if he might quench the fire with his own tears. He even, by his own hand, saved women and children. Luther — well, I hardly need to sing his praises here at Wartburg.

TOTT:  Yes, I think you do — for better reasons than you sing Tilly’s! Listen, Rålamb. Remember — your grandfather betrayed mine, Erik XIV, and converted to Catholicism with John III. Then your uncle, who was educated by Jesuits, was beheaded by Karl IX at Kalmar. How could you forget that?

RÅLAMB:  I suppose I did forget, but I’m beginning to remember —

TOTT:  Let me also remind you about the Statute of Örebro in 1617, which exiled the Catholics and Calvinists, and of Johannes Hammerus, who was tortured and beheaded because he was a Catholic eleven days after the law took effect. And Behr, Anthelius, and Campanius, who were executed for the same reason in 1624.

RÅLAMB:  Why are reminding me of that now? Here?

TOTT:  To convince you that your hero, our king, is more worthy of your admiration now that he rejects the Statute of Örebro than when, in the ignorance of youth, he supported it. It takes more courage to recognize a mistake than to ignore it. Here in sight of Wartburg, the city of St. Elizabeth, Wolfram, and Walther, and Luther. Here I command you, Erik Rålamb, to shout, “Long live the brave renegade, Gustav Adolf the Great!”

RÅLAMB:  Quiet, you fool!

TOTT:  And Luther. The Augustinian monk who rejected the Catholic errors of his childhood faith. Don’t you want to celebrate his memory? Right here and now? — No? Ah, so now you finally understand, you self-righteous idiot. If you’re a papist, go to hell with your precious Jesuits!

They wrestle.

RÅLAMB:  Stop, you crazy Vasa! (falls off the edge of the outcropping and disappears)


Out of the ravine come two Bavarians, cavalrymen in black with white skulls on their helmets—see Act One, Scene 1; Tilly rides behind them on a large, white horse; he has one arm in a sling; behind him a number of monks on horses are visible.



Scene Two

The terrace of a summer palace outside Mainz. A Roman colonnaded path runs across the middle of the stage, covered in ivy. To the right a loggia with tables and chairs, where the action isn’t visible by those strolling on the walk. At the back the Rhine is visible next to hills covered with vineyards and castle ruins.

Johan Banér and Nils Brahe sit at a table in the loggia, observing the princes, prelates, and ambassadors who come out of the King’s audience room at the right.

BANÉR (not quite sober):  So, young Brahe, we never dreamed that Gustav Adolf, grandson of Uppland farmer Gustav Eriksson, would be sitting on a throne in Mainz while all of Europe’s monarchs send their ambassadors to beg for peace! Today is a good day to be a Swede.

BRAHE:  True enough. It’s a day my family can be proud to share those same humble Eriksson roots — — —

BANÉR:  First time since the Viking Age Swedish ships have rested on the Rhine. We slept at home for nearly a thousand years — minding our own business and dealing with our neighbors. We made a few expeditions eastward now and then, but now we’ve gone west toward the sun, left behind icy aquavit and found the grape’s — hm! — golden, golden… (quickly). You probably think I’m preoccupied with alcohol, but that’s just how it is. — Nils, there’s the Rhine. There’s France. Here we sit with the Duke of the Franks, our own Gustav II Adolf; and over there sits the French king, Louis XIII. The West Frank and the East Frank shake each other’s hands. It’s a great and blessèd day.

BRAHE:  And what happens now?

BANÉR:  No one knows. The Elector of Saxony suggested the emperor’s crown, but the king is too smart to grasp at chimeras. He wants the shores of the Baltic to hold off the emperor and to surround Denmark, and to maintain a unified North Germany against the emperor’s Germany of the south.

BRAHE:  You’ve become quite a politician lately.

BANÉR:  I keep hearing that. — They’re calling the king Joshua. I think he’s our Moses, leading us around the wilderness, but never getting to see the Promised Land himself. No, the real Joshua who will march in and take the land — that will be Brandenburg. That’s why, young Brahe, the king’s making plans for Brandenburg’s son and his own daughter. — Seems they got stuck over religion. — Makes no difference, the honor is ours. — — — Look over there! The Winter King, Fredrik of the Palatinate, the root of the problem.


Fredrik of the Palatinate goes from right to left in the colonnade, stops for a moment, and looks out over the landscape.

BRAHE:  He defeated the emperor and was elected King of Bohemia.

BANÉR:  Exactly, thus starting the war. To be more precise, it began when the Protestants in Prague threw Martinitz and Slawata, both Catholics and supporters of the emperor, out a window —

BRAHE:  The ones who landed on the pile of manure?

BANÉR:  Yes, the manure pile, according to the Protestants. But the Catholics claim they landed on their heads in an elder bush — that makes a nicer story, of course. I suspect they’re all lying. — I’m a syncretist, as I’m sure you know. — So, Fredrik of the Palatinate, coming from a meeting with the king and Axel Oxenstierna — you know Oxenstierna’s in there too.

BRAHE:  Yes, he arrived just in time.

BANÉR:  Oh yes, of course. The old phalanx is starting to thin out. — — — Tott was sent north; Rålamb was sent off like a letter; Torstenson is lying in bed with a stone in his head at Kreuznach; Gustaf Horn is in mourning again — his wife died in Stettin. —— There are the French ambassadors. Three of them.

The French ambassadors come from the right in the colonnade and go slowly to the left.

BANÉR:  Cardinal Richelieu’s own brother-in-law. — The one who’s in back. These French are truly amusing. The king is just as afraid of the Cardinal as of the devil himself, but the Cardinal’s even more afraid of the king. So he took Louis with him to Metz, and they’re waiting and watching from there.

BRAHE:  I’ve never understood this friendship with the French. The King of France is a Catholic —

BANÉR (with exaggerated authority):  Of course, but he gave the Protestants freedom of religion. When those same Protestants misused their freedom to form a political party and occupied fortresses to oppress the Catholics, then he said, “Stop.” That’s why La Rochelle had to be under siege — (Procession of ambassadors, etc., in the colonnade) — Look at that, young Brahe! — Here comes the Turkish ambassador. There’s the one from the Swiss Union. — Holland’s. — Scotland’s. — Fredrik of the Palatinate is married to James I’s daughter. — And a gaggle of electors. Impressive, isn’t it? And that eternal Palatinate again. We’re sort of related to him. Karl IX was, as you know, first married to Maria of the Palatinate — and the king’s half-sister Katarina is married to Johan Casimir of the Palatinate. Right now he’s in Sweden running some government office while his wife brings up our gracious crown princess. — God only knows how her education is turning out. Little Kristina’s a tiny devil whose mission seems to be to undo what her father has done. — There, the audience is over. (The boy Trumpeter enters and takes his place by the colonnade.) What are you looking for, kid?

TRUMPETER:  The king is coming!

BANÉR:  And you’re supposed to blow him in. — Listen, haven’t I seen you before?

TRUMPETER:  Yes, Excellency, at Breitenfeld.

BANÉR:  He’s already saying “Excellency” — he’ll go far! Ah, you were at Breitenfeld, and it was your pipe we danced to. Looks a little dented now. So, do you know this Excellency?

TRUMPETER:  Yes, Colonel Brahe, he’s called “young Brahe.” The colonel of the Yellow Brigade or the king’s cushion —

BANÉR:  Why is he called the king’s cushion?

TRUMPETER:  I can’t say.

BANÉR:  Do you know who I am?

TRUMPETER:  Johan Banér, the bravest of —

BANÉR:  Listen to this one! Well then, what do people say about me?

TRUMPETER (puts the trumpet’s mouthpiece to his mouth [as if taking a drink])

BANÉR:  That I’m a drinker, you mean. Yeah, that’s true — but I do my duty nonetheless.

BRAHE:  Quiet, Johan — the King’s coming.


KING (enters from right, clothed sort of like an elector):  You had to wait for me.

BANÉR and BRAHE (stand):  Majesty!

KING:  Would you like to come along for a little pleasure trip up the Rhine?

BANÉR:  At your service, Your Majesty.

KING:  Yes, but my wife is coming as well. You don’t like her?

BANÉR (snide):  Is Fabricius going too?

KING (smiles):  Just as insolent as always, Johan. — Tell me, why don’t you like her?

BANÉR:  Because I like her husband.

KING (laughs):  If my father had heard that, he would’ve had your head. Ah, life is good as long as you can smile. So let’s smile today, the first day of spring. Tomorrow we’ll have to be serious. — Go change your clothes. — — — Nils, you haven’t said a word.

BANÉR:  He’s talking with his eyes.

KING (severe):  Banér.

BANÉR:  Pardon.

KING (sadly):  You overstep your place, because you know I can’t manage without you. Don’t do it again. Please. — — — You saw how it went with Rålamb! (heavily) Go. The chancellor’s coming.

Banér and Brahe pretend to be scared.

KING:  You’re more afraid of Oxenstierna than of me.

BANÉR:  He’s so painfully earnest, can’t even crack a smile…

KING:  Enough. Go!

Banér and Brahe exit.


OXENSTIERNA (enters):  One word more, if it isn’t inconvenient.

KING:  Did something happen?

OXENSTIERNA:  Yes, the courier from the south arrived.

KING:  Have a seat.

OXENSTIERNA (sits):  First: Tilly is in Bavaria, and its elector has made an alliance with France.

KING:  What? France, our ally, aligned itself with our enemy, Bavaria? It’s another one of Richelieu’s dilemmas, intended to ensure that no matter how we proceed, it will be wrong.

OXENSTIERNA:  Yes. That’s how it goes with shady diplomacy. You never come away with clean hands.

KING:  That’s your judgment of my alliance with France?

OXENSTIERNA:  I’d rather not judge the actions of my king… There are Franks in France, but they speak the Latin —

KING:  And understand German well. France forced the Peace of Passau, which was how the religious peace of Augsburg came about — and nonetheless: the French gold has always weighed down my conscience like the wages of sin.

OXENSTIERNA:  Don’t look back. And don’t try to reconcile your account with Providence! I know you remember I was opposed to this war from the beginning because it’s too much for our depleted nation. But I knew I had to accept it. And now that we’re out on the ice — we have to get across the lake.

KING:  What can we do?

OXENSTIERNA:  When Tilly and Bavaria attacked Bamberg, they broke their neutrality — thus they’ve declared war. Only one option remains — defending ourselves. We must go to Bavaria.

KING:  But do we have the right to break a treaty just because they did?

OXENSTIERNA:  Majesty, let’s abandon the tangle of reasoning and theorizing — and defend by the sword what we’ve won by the sword! I admit our journey hasn’t exactly been clean, but if we’re forced to climb through the dirt, we’ll do it. There’ll be time to wash it off later.

KING:  So you mean, march into Bavaria? — to the Danube and then against Vienna?

OXENSTIERNA:  One at a time, depending on our opponents’ next move — — — That was number one.

KING:  And number two?

OXENSTIERNA:  King Sigismund of Poland is dead.

KING (jumps up):  Finally! — God forgive me. — He was my kinsman, but I will never forget the damage that wretched man caused my country.

OXENSTIERNA:  Not so, Majesty. Sigismund was raised Catholic by a pious mother. They say even when he was a child he was beaten in the name of faith. A child who suffers for his faith is beautiful. Moving.

KING:  You always see the beauty in ugly things.

OXENSTIERNA:  I have two eyes, therefore I see two sides.

KING:  So — then the throne is mine.

OXENSTIERNA:  The Polish crown?

KING:  Yes, of course

OXENSTIERNA:  A powerful Brandenburg will make Poland superfluous. And the Polish crown doesn’t belong on the head of the Swedish king. One head, one crown.

KING:  And the emperor?

OXENSTIERNA:  The imperial eagle is two-headed, and his wings stretch over two hemispheres —

KING:  But my coat of arms shows three crowns.

OXENSTIERNA:  Heraldry is a fine craft, but statecraft is a science. (stands) Majesty, please allow an old friend —

KING:  — to stand in the way of my plans? No. Not even an Oxenstierna can do that.

OXENSTIERNA (sits again):  Apparently it’s true that success has so intoxicated our king that he’s dreaming of becoming a second Alexander the Great.

KING (violently):  Chancellor, no more!

OXENSTIERNA:  Your Majesty, no more! — — — Stop and return to the little country where God set your cradle.

KING:  It’s too cramped for me.

OXENSTIERNA:  It’s too cramped? Our vast country, whose borders and full area no one knows yet? Where one man sits per square mile, wishing for neighbors? Our forefathers, the Goths and the Normans, left home because they found it too cramped, but soon they were squeezed out by streams of other emigrants. They were swallowed up, and didn’t leave a trace after them. Sweden is big enough for those with the mind and spirit strong enough to fill the empty spaces, and with the vision to populate the empty wilderness.


Queen enters, without being noticed by Oxenstierna. King offers the Queen his hand behind his back.

OXENSTIERNA:  This rich land with its white wheat and its yellow wine disgusts me. Red cottages in green pine forests, black bread, and brown ale — those are my simple desires. And the day I see Lake Mälar again, with its vast silence and deep solitude, I will thank God that he allowed me to return to land where I was born. But I imagine that day will be long in coming. — Stay in your own country, and stay honest. (Notices the Queen; stands and greets her.)

QUEEN:  Go on, chancellor. Don’t let me disturb you. (She sits beside the King, who now and then surreptitiously touches her hand.)

OXTENSTIERNA (sits):  So, Your Majesty, you’ll go south, and I’ll go north?

KING:  I’ll go to the Danube, the great river that comes from the Black Forest and flows by the black city and empties into the Black Sea. And where will we meet again?

OXENSTIERNA:  In Erfurt, or in Weissenfels. Maybe in Leipzig, where the road home begins.

KING:  Farewell, then, Oxenstierna. Until then.

OXENSTIERNA:  Farewell, my king. When you get to the South, don’t forget the North. If you do forget, just look at the heavens on a starlit night. Where Ursa Major sits — that’s home. (leaves)


QUEEN:  Finally! May we go now?

KING:  No, my love, now we have other things to think about. Tilly has reared up again, so I must march south today, toward the Danube.

QUEEN:  Isn’t the war over? Weren’t we going to have peace?

KING:  Once they leave me in peace…

QUEEN:  My poor Germany.

KING:  Your poor Sweden. Can’t you remember you’re Swedish?

QUEEN:  Yes, but I can’t forget I am German.

KING:  Your Germany will reap what my Sweden has sown! (to the Trumpeter) Nils, signal assembly.

TRUMPETER (blows; the Swedish flag is raised on a pole below the terrace)

QUEEN (holding her ears):  The trumpet of war again, blood and tears again, murder and fire —

KING:  Do you want to go home?

QUEEN:  Yes. With you, my love!

She wants to hug him; he tears himself away. Trumpets and drums in the distance.

KING:  First I’ll go to the Danube, then I’ll go home.

QUEEN:  No, now. Come home —

KING:  It’s too late. — Leave me now, you’ll be in the way. The generals will be gathering momentarily, and I don’t want to be rude to you.

Fabricius and two Jesuits can be seen in the colonnade.

QUEEN:  My dear, do you associate with these black-robed Jesuits?

KING:  Yes, with these two, because they saved my life from two other Jesuits. There are good people and bad under all types of garments. Now I’ll say farewell — for a while. We’ll see other again before I leave. — Nils, signal for departure. No one is coming.

QUEEN:  Farewell!

KING:  Farewell, beloved child! — Go now, there’ll be shooting here soon. — Why isn’t anyone answering my signal? (Goes to the canons; strikes fire with a steel and flint, lights a match or fuse.)

Queen hurries out.


Marcus enters.

KING:  Good timing, Marcus. We need money. Do you have any?

MARCUS:  Yes, but I also have something else.

KING:  Good counsel, I suppose. I’m grateful for the offer, but I don’t need any right now. (Waves the lighted match.)

MARCUS:  No? Does Your Majesty know that Sigismund of Poland is dead?

KING:  I knew before you did.

MARCUS:  No, I knew yesterday. Your Majesty got the news through me today. — So, who will get that throne now?

KING:  You know that too?

MARCUS:  I might.


KING:  The choice has been made?

MARCUS:  Your Majesty doesn’t already know?

KING (angry):  You are a bastard!

MARCUS:  Is that so?

KING:  Since you know so much, speak up.

MARCUS:  Well, then. When Your Majesty presented your candidacy for the Polish crown through Ambassador Russel, the proposal for religious freedom for Catholics was very well received. But, when the codicil demanded that the Jesuit gang — that was the word used! — was to be exiled, the Poles were indignant, and the document was publicly burned!

KING:  How can you know all that?

MARCUS:  Because my people, unsere Leute, are everywhere and are friends to everyone. We never wage war. We bind together in unity. We have no priests, because the congregation is its own priest. We have no kings — (coughs, a sort of accusatory “ahem” cough) — no armies — (coughs). So, when I get to Warsaw, I’m as much at home there as in Vienna, Lübeck, London, Amsterdam, anywhere. We have one language, one faith, no sects, one God, one hope.

KING:  You still hope?

MARCUS:  Yes, we hope the Messiah will come who — who will make all people as fortunate as we are.


KING:  Will you come to Sweden?

MARCUS:  No, it’s too hot for us.

KING:  Hot?

MARCUS:  Yes, people burn there.

KING:  That was in my youth. It doesn’t happen anymore. — Tell me, why do you always have money and we never do?

MARCUS (slyly):  No, that’s a secret only the frugal know.

KING:  Do you mean we’re spendthrifts?

MARCUS:  Well, it’s certainly wasteful to burn cities, tear down villages, trample fields, and feed a hundred thousand voracious soldiers while industrious people starve.


KING:  Will you come with me, Marcus?

MARCUS:  Yes, a little way, but not too far. Sacrifice myself, no. Our sacrifices ended with the destruction of Jerusalem. — — — Should I share my news now?

KING:  Yes, speak.

MARCUS:  Wallenstein, the Friedlander, has joined the emperor.

KING:  But Wallenstein was just negotiating with me!

MARCUS:  Yes, that’s Wallenstein.

KING (violently):  Why hasn’t anyone come? — Signal again, Nils! — Where in God’s name is everyone?

MARCUS:  Your stay among these vine-clad hills hasn’t been good for the Swedes. They’re complacent and drunk. — Just ring the dinner bell, then they’ll come. (He pulls on a rope; a bell starts ringing.) It’s all going downhill, Your Majesty! Downhill!

KING:  Downhill?

MARCUS:  Yes, downhill.



Scene Three

The square in a village near Ingolstadt on the Danube; the backdrop is a Danube landscape. In the square is a Maypole; near it is a raised platform with music stands. To the right, a tavern with tables and benches outside. Fabricius and Grubbe stand on the platform and observe the battlefield with field glasses; the rooftops are covered with spectators. The schoolchildren with the Schoolmaster stand in a group. The Sergeant Major and the Quartermaster in the foreground. The Trumpeter boy below the platform. Noise in the distance.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Aren’t you going up to watch the battle?

QUARTERMASTER:  Uh-uh, I can’t stand to see slaughter; never could. What about you?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Today I’m not so cheery either. We’ve come so far south that I’ve started missing home. And this Danube could carry you all the way down to the Turks. It looks dark and sinister —

QUARTERMASTER:  I’ve noticed that you aren’t full of jokes any more.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I’m tired, tired of this game that never end. Didn’t we defeat Tilly at Breitenfeld? Now he’s up again, dancing around with his Walloons down in the valley.

QUARTERMASTER:  And what are we doing? This is a Catholic country — there’s hardly a singleLutheran church.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Who even talks about churches these days — now that we have five thousand of Tilly’s soldiers. Think about how crazy it all is: today Tilly’s fighting against his own men. (Shouts from the spectators on the rooftops.) Something happened.

Cheers and screams of joy from the rooftops.

VOICE:  Tilly has fallen!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Is he dead?

VOICE:  He’s dead!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Then I say: Hurray! (Embraces the Quartermaster.)

QUARTERMASTER:  Will we get to go home now?

Fabricius and Grubbe shake hands. The schoolboys throw their hats in the air and shout hurrays; then they dance in a circle around the Maypole after the Schoolmaster has gone out to the left.


The Driver [the Miller from Act One] and the Midwife [the Miller’s Wife] enter.

DRIVER:  Why are you crying?

MIDWIFE:  Tilly’s dead!

DRIVER:  That’s something to cry about?

MIDWIFE:  Yes — for me, for us.

DRIVER:  I don’t understand. Woman, aren’t you part of the Swedish army, as a midwife? Haven’t you delivered soldiers’ wives without regard to character, rank, nationality, and religion? And now you’re crying about a defeated enemy?

MIDWIFE:  He was a holy and pious man —

DRIVER:  Good, then you have even less reason to cry over him — because if that’s true, he went to his eternal rest without fear. — Look, I’ll be serious. — Go ahead and cry, old woman. I won’t laugh in your face. Everyone is saved by his own faith, now just as before. — And when peace is made, I’ll retire with the tidy sum I’ve gathered.

MIDWIFE:  Where?

DRIVER (pats his coat):  Here!

MIDWIFE:  Yes, but from where?

DRIVER:  Everywhere! When it rains on a priest, some rolls off onto the sexton. Didn’t I tell you from the beginning that I’m only in this war to avoid being plundered? I became the plunderer instead. — But I had another motive: revenge for our daughter, ruined by Wallenstein’s Croats —

MIDWIFE:  I don’t want to hear more. But I’ll say one thing. If you’ve taken anything unjustly, return it at once. Because one thing is certain: you didn’t steal from your friends the heretics.

DRIVER:  I thought there wasn’t going to be any more talk of heretics and non-heretics.

MIDWIFE:  Many believe that. Or pretend to believe it. (exits)


Shouts from spectators on the roofs.

VOICE:  Duke Kristofer of Baden has fallen!

FABRICIUS (turning away):  No, Grubbe, I can’t watch this.

GRUBBE:  He lost his head. Yes, that is upsetting. It’s an unfortunate day for some.


Provost enters; goes to the Driver.

PROVOST:  Tilly has fallen. Do you know what that means for us?


PROVOST:  It means Munich is ours — you understand? Ours. Munich will have to pay a levy. And since the man in charge of the levy is one of ours, we’ll be among the winners.

DRIVER:  Can we depend on the Jew?

PROVOST:  So far we’ve been able to trust him. In Wurzburg, Mainz, Nuremberg, he took care of us honestly — Shh, there he is.


FIRE CHIEF (enters, speaks to Driver):  How many wagons do you lead now?

DRIVER:  Six wagons, and twenty-four horses.

FIRE CHIEF:  Get twice as many. The capital of Bavaria is to be sacked.

DRIVER:  How much will I get?

FIRE CHIEF:  One quarter, as usual.

DRIVER:  No, I’d rather work for myself.

FIRE CHIEF:  You want to be on your own?


FIRE CHIEF:  You can’t. You work for me.

PROVOST:  Hold on now. Aren’t I part of this too? After all, I represent the law —if not always justice?

FIRE CHIEF:  Shouldn’t we get money since the men fighting down there get the honor? Shouldn’t our peaceful efforts be rewarded? We don’t hurt anyone; we don’t kill anyone; we gather honey like bees — without stinging —


Screams from spectators on the roofs.

VOICES:  The King has fallen!

GRUBBE:  The King! — God have mercy on us.

FABRICIUS:  O Lord and Eternal God.

All hurry out, except the Trumpeter.


TRUMPETER (lays the trumpet on the ground and falls to his knees):  Lord God, please help our king so he doesn’t die.

Curtain lowers for a moment.


The King enters, bloodied, without a hat, and one boot without a sole or heel. He leans on Horn and Banér; Torstenson follows. The King sits on a bench.

KING (to Banér):  No, Johan, I can’t joke anymore. I’ve walked through the valley of death. When Tilly fell, I thought he was the only one who’d earned our Lord’s disfavor — that I was the chosen one. So I had to learn my lesson. It wasn’t my time yet, but I’m thankful for the warning.

HORN:  Majesty, turn back. Go no farther.

KING:  First to Munich. Then I’ll turn back.

BANÉR:  Tilly is dead. We should rejoice.

KING:  I did. Then when I was shot, I remembered: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” Gustaf Horn, we’ll part ways now. You’ll turn back and go north to protect the way home. Even I’m longing for home. I’m tired and it’s all going downhill — downhill, as Marcus said in Mainz. — But first we’ll go to Munich. — Farewell, Gustaf Horn. You were my best man. No one can argue with that. — Grief has been your faithful companion, and so you became a better man than me. — What my father did to your father you atoned for, not me. — Farewell, Gustaf. Embrace me, my friend.

HORN (touched, with uncovered head, embraces the King):  Farewell, my king. Forgive me if I have not always obeyed without question. My protests were because I didn’t always understand your plans and purposes —

KINGMy plans, my purposes, haven’t really been mine. I’m only just beginning to understand that. I’ve been a blind subordinate of the Lord, whose plans we’re never allowed to fathom. — Go with God, Gustaf. When we meet again — if we meet again —

HORNBecause we’ll never meet again… (on his knees)

KING:  You feel it too. — Well, farewell forever, then. — Go now, before — (turns away to hide his emotions)

HORN (stands, embraces Banér):  Johan Banér, we’ll see each other again. Meanwhile, try to be just a little more serious.

BANÉR:  Seriousness comes with age, old man.

HORN (embraces Torstenson):  Lennart Torstenson —

BANÉR:  Don’t look so morose, Lennart. Life is hard enough already.

HORN (hurries out)

The King, Banér, and Torstenson wave to him with their hats and shout: Long live Gustaf Horn!

KING:  Now. — Where is Wallenstein?

BANÉR:  He’s still invisible and silent.

KING:  What else, Lennart?

TORSTENSON (with a gesture and look indicates he knows nothing)

KING:  Have you lost your tongue, Lennart?

BANÉR:  Yes, perhaps he’s lost his tongue. But with his cannons he always speaks the loudest. (to the king) He lost some of his hearing —

KING:  But he still listens to voices we can’t hear, and his tender conscience has stern words for him, apparently. — Signal the men to break camp and assemble. And then, we go south, to our last shot.



Scene Four

In Munich. In the foreground, a little square. To the right, a Catholic chapel. A narrow street with medieval houses adorned with flags and banners stops at the square. In the background, at the end of the street, the palace and its gates are visible. On the square’s left side, a little palace with a stone balcony outside the ground floor. The balcony extends all the way to the apron. On the square’s right side, the large open window of a book-printing shop. It is dusk; the sun casts a red glow on the palace in the background as it sets, but there are black clouds above the palace. The street and square are deserted.

When the curtain rises, a window on the right side of the street opens; a richly dressed burgher’s wife sticks out her head as if checking on the weather. A window directly opposite opens and another woman sticks out her head.

VOICE 1:  Hello!

VOICE 2:  Hello!

VOICE 1:  Has the apostate arrived?

VOICE 2:  The apostate has come, the one who rebelled against the faith of his fathers. From the land of Gog and Magog, he has come and we will call him Abaddon, Apollyon!

SEVERAL VOICES (one after another, from windows along the street):  Apollyon!


The Sergeant Major and the Quartermaster come down the street; they look very serious; they stop outside the Book Printer’s shop.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Did you hear voices on the air?

QUARTERMASTER:  Yes, and I’m not sure they were human. The sky is black, and the thunder isn’t far away. If I were to confess the whole truth, I’m filled with anxiety.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You too? This town troubles me. We have no business being here. It’s a foreign country, where everything is foreign, even the gods. — And the king promised the soldiers they could plunder. He had to or there would’ve been a mutiny.

QUARTERMASTER:  It’s awful, but there’s nothing to be done —

SERGEANT MAJOR:  At least there’s the king’s proclamation of capital punishment for anyone who disrupts a Catholic service or interferes with observances of faith.

QUARTERMASTER:  One can’t do anything more than that, and shouldn’t either — To turn a blind eye is to give consent.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Don’t speak so loudly. The king’s quarters are just over there.

QUARTERMASTER:  I should know — I had to clean Jesuits out of the house.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  So, then you must know where the printer lives. The one printing the proclamation.

QUARTERMASTER:  Let me see, should be here right by the square. — Yes, there he is.


Printer comes out a door.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Good day, sir.

PRINTER:  What do you want?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Did you print the proclamation?

PRINTER:  I don’t print proclamations for the enemy.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  If the enemy is the victor, and the victor is your master, then you are your master’s servant! Do you follow?

PRINTER:  If foreigners invade a city whose inhabitants never interfered with anyone’s rights, then the foreigners are thugs and criminals.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Did you read what you were supposed to print?

PRINTER:  Yes. I read that you intend to set fire to the city if we don’t pay 400,000 thaler — that we don’t have.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Then you must’ve also noticed that our gracious king granted Catholics the right of unrestricted worship.

PRINTER:  Yes, very gracious. Wasn’t your intent to secure religious freedom for all?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You think I came here to debate with you?

PRINTER (throws a piece of paper on the street):  Just go! We’re good-natured people, but we recognize that we have some obligations to ourselves. Printing this offends my conscience.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Pick that up, or we’ll destroy your home!

PRINTER:  It won’t be destroyed.

SERGEANT MAJOR (takes a piece of red chalk and marks the Greek letter theta above the entrance to the house):  Just watch.

Quartermaster picks up the paper.

PRINTER:  This house will not be destroyed. (goes in, closes the door and shutters)

QUARTERMASTER:  I can’t help it, I think he’s right. I’d have done the same.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  The dark sides of war are numerous. It’s our duty to close our eyes to them.


QUARTERMASTER:  There really is thunder in the air. — Let’s go!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Are you afraid of thunder?

QUARTERMASTER:  Yes. It’s dangerous, so I’m afraid. Since I’m not a soldier, I have that right. And now I’m (thunderclap) very effectively terrified! (hurries toward the chapel) I want to get inside.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  But don’t go in there. It’s dangerous for Protestants to go in Catholic churches.

QUATERMASTER:  Dangerous? (looks into the church) But it’s beautiful.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Yes, exactly. — Watch yourself so you don’t stay.

QUARTERMASTER:  No, no, not me. For someone who survived Breitenfeld, there are no dangers, no temptation. (goes into the chapel)



The Sculptor and the Painter enter on the street, the Sculptor with a work pedestal, the Painter with a palette, easel, etc.

SCULPTOR (to the Sergeant Major):  Is this where the king of Sweden is staying?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  No, but he intends to. What is this about?

PAINTER:  We intend to do his portrait.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I can see you’re a painter, but I need to know something else. Forgive this personal question.

PAINTER:  A personal question won’t be forgiven until the man who asks it takes one on the jaw. (shakes his fist)

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Young man —

SCULPTOR:  Let him ask first, we can always hit him after.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  You act as if you’re in charge of this city.

PAINTER:  Aren’t we?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  No, we are.

SCULPTOR:  You were, but not anymore. The Swedish king spared us from the fate of the conquered, and we want to commemorate this generous and noble act by capturing the great hero’s features for posterity.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  The city is spared?

SCULPTOR:  Yes, for an adequate ransom. — What were you going to ask?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Well, before anyone has an audience with the king, we have to ask if… he’s a Catholic.

SCULPTOR:  What? Can’t you tell what we believe just by looking? Can’t you smell it out? — Well, the king just saw a delegation of Capuchins, and he’s in a Jesuit meeting right now. Then he’s planning to attend mass over there in the Chapel of Our Lady —

SERGEANT MAJOR:  That’s a lie!

SCULPTOR:  Should we hit him?

PAINTER:  Nah, it’ll just make a spectacle—and, as philosophers, we should be above that.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I don’t understand.

PAINTER:  Have you ever understood anything? Does the shoemaker need to understand anything but his last?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  I’m going home to lie down now.

Goes up the street; meets the Schoolmaster, who is drunk.


SCHOOLMASTER (sings):  Sum, sum, sum! Dum, dum, dum!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Where are you headed?

SCHOOLMASTER:  Exactly. Where’s it all headed? The king’s with the Jesuits and — can you imagine? — they say a Capuchin… has converted him!


SCHOOLMASTER:  Papism or Catholicism — the great schism.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  It’s a lie, of course.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Of course, but what business does he have at mass?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  He’s at mass?

SCHOOLMASTER:  In the Chapel of Our Lady!


SCHOOLMASTER:  Here or there, how would I know?

SERGEANT MAJOR (to the Sculptor and the Painter):  If the king is in there, he went in another way.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Who are these cuckoos?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Two philosophers.

SCHOOLMASTER:  What are they philosophizing about?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Well, it’s hard to tell. They’re above explaining such things.

SCHOOLMASTER (approaches the chapel):  What sort of inn is this? Ah yes, it’s one of the papist cottages. (sings) Sum, sum, sum! Brum, brum, brum!

CANTOR (comes out of the chapel):  Don’t disrupt the worship service.

SCHOOLMASTER (lifts his crutch):  Piss off!

SERGEANT MAJOR (to the Schoolmaster):  Mind your manners.

SCHOOLMASTER (strikes the crutch against the church door):  Trum, trum, trum!


QUARTERMASTER (coming out of the church):  Who’s disturbing the worship services? Ah, so it’s you, you old deadbeat. — Don’t you know that the king’s inside?

SCHOOLMASTER:  What the hell? Then it’s true he turned Catholic?

QUARTERMASTER:  No, it’s not true.

SCHOOLMASTER (to the Cantor):  Go back in to your Virgin Mary. Don’t stand here playing the saint! (lifts down a wreath with his crutch that hangs at the foot of the statue of Mary; throws the wreath onto the stage)

CANTOR (shouts):  Sacrilege! Desecrator!

VOICES (from windows lining the street):  Apollyon! Abaddon!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Voices in the air again. Now I’m afraid.


Banér, Torstenson, Fabricius appear in the street.

BANÉR (coming forward):  What is this? Why all the yelling?

CANTOR (points to the Schoolmaster):  An Antichrist, a godless man, who defiled the holy —

BANÉR:  Explain.


The King, with Schwarzenberg and Fredrik V of the Palatinate, appears at the church door.

KING (angry):  What’s happening? Who disturbed the holy act?

SCHOOLMASTER (on his knees, sobered):  Mercy!

KING:  So it’s you, teacher. You dishonor me and the name of all Swedes. (to the Sergeant Major) Take him to the punishment dictated by the articles of war and my orders — Death.

SCHOOLMASTER:  Most merciful king —

KING:  No, I am unmerciful to lawbreakers and desecrators. Get him out of my sight. He will be put to death. — Fabricius, look after his soul. — Now you hesitate. You were just today preaching tolerance and freedom of conscience —

The Sergeant Major takes the Schoolmaster away, and Fabricius follows unwillingly.

CANTOR (on his knees in front of the King):  Great King, may a humble servant of the Lord — who appreciates that your judgment can’t be challenged — beg your mercy for a criminal who acted out of ignorance?

KING:  No! May his example be a lesson to others — particularly about obedience. — Go in peace!

Banér, Torstenson, and Fabricius with expressions that show their displeasure with the harsh judgment. Cantor goes into the chapel.


KING (to the Quartermaster after he observes the red mark above the Printer’s door):  Why did you mark that this house is to be confiscated?

QUARTERMASTER:  Because the owner refused to print the proclamation.

KING:  Bring him out and let him be heard.

Quartermaster knocks on the door.


Printer comes out.

KING:  Why didn’t you obey the order?

PRINTER:  Carrying it out goes against my conscience.

KING:  It’s offends your conscience that I’m granting you freedom of conscience?

PRINTER:  No, most merciful king, not that. But the first part of the proclamation — about the levy on our innocent city. I couldn’t bring myself to print it.

KING:  Well. Bring the document here.

QUARTERMASTER (hands it to the King):  Majesty.

KING (reads it, folds it in half, draws his sword, and cuts the paper in two pieces; gives one part to the Printer):  Then we’ll do this. — Print this half; then your conscience will be free, and so will mine.

PRINTER (on his knees):  Great King. You even know how to heal the conscience —

KING:  Stand. (to the Quartermaster) Spare his home.

Quartermaster erases the red mark above the door.

SCULPTOR:  The judgment of Solomon.

PAINTER:  The judgment of Solomon.

KING:  What do you want?

PAINTER:  We would like to capture the Swedish king in a portrait. Just as we were arguing about its allegorical presentation, Your Majesty himself offered us the subject: The judgment of Solomon!

KING:  I am no Solomon, and I can’t pose. — Thank you for your kind offer, but I have neither the time nor the inclination. — Farewell.

The Printer, the Sculptor, the Painter, the Quartermaster leave; the King stands in the foreground with Schwarzenberg and Fredrik of the Palatinate. In the background stand Banér and Torstenson, downcast.


KING (to Schwarzenberg):  So, Excellency, I honored your reasonable request. I have seen and I have heard. — But I haven’t changed my opinion, except in minor issues.

SCHWARZENBERG:  Minor issues could be major issues.

KING:  Not at all. — However, there are many mansions in the house of the Lord, one for each of us. Your cult is very beautiful, very pleasing, and very expensive — suitable for your wealthy countries. But for our poor-man’s country, a poor-man’s religion is more suitable. — Wine for you; ale for us; wool for us; velvet for you. — That’s what I’ve learned walking through your temples. And now I’ll return to my work. Thank you for the company. Farewell.

SCHWARZENBERG:  Is that all?

KING:  That’s all I learned from you! Do you want to learn something from us? No! Non possumus. — So farewell, Excellency.


KING:  Enough. I won’t be converted, you know that.

Schwarzenberg leaves unwillingly.


KING (goes up on the balcony; sits as far downstage as possible; invites Fredrik of the Palatinate to sit):  Well, kinsman, what do you have to say?

Candles are lit in the palace.

FREDRIK OF THE PALATINATE:  Kinsman and king. By capturing the Elector’s funds, we’ve also destroyed the stronghold of the Catholic League—Maximilian of Bavaria was its head, and Tilly its right arm. I recommend you wipe the city from the face of the earth—as I pledged, and as you promised your army.

KING:  When both the head and the arm have been shot off, what’s the point in further defiling the corpse?

FREDRIK OF THE PALATINATE:  You promised. Your soldiers will revolt if you don’t let them plunder the city.

KING:  The Lord promised Jonah that the city of Nineveh would be destroyed, but He took mercy on the great city, and Jonah became angry unto death. Don’t be angry, Fredrik. Don’t allow your hatred to control you. When you were king of Bohemia you abused your power to plunder churches and persecute the Catholics. Then your intolerance deluded you into being cruel to other Protestant sects. You’re not a martyr — your exile, your suffering were the results of your own choices. It all comes from you, this entire awful war, this irreconcilable conflict, this brutal hatred we attribute to the enemy. Just think of the best emperors — Ferdinand I, Charles V’s brother, was so tolerant of Protestants that Pope Paul IV didn’t even want to recognize him. Remember Maximilian II, who was raised by Wolfgang Stieler, Luther and Melanchthon’s disciple — he was hated and threatened by Pius V for his Protestant sympathies. Recall that when his empire and the German lands were attacked by the Turks, who’d already taken Hungary, it was the Protestants who refused to help. Nonetheless, Maximilian allowed the worst dissidents to take Communion, and he even let the priests marry. What allowances did you make in Bohemia? — I don’t just mean among the Catholics, but even among the Lutherans. You allowed no concessions, and no Calvinist ever has.

FREDRIK OF THE PALATINATE:  Your Majesty, you sound like the enemy.

KING:  I finally listened to the accused, which is where I should have started, and I learned something. I’ve finally worked my way through the unsolvable contradictions I was tangled in at the beginning of this war. I found myself and my task, which I didn’t understand before. My decisiveness and courage are restored.

FREDRIK OF THE PALATINATE:  The latter of the two is reassuring. I presume we’ll finally be marching on Vienna.

KING:  No — because the simplest concept of the art of war, which you’ve never understood, says I shouldn’t march south when my enemy is north. Wallenstein and Maximilian are in Prague right now — your Prague — and stand ready to attack us here. So we go north. If you need an explanation: Munich will be spared; it has ransomed itself. The soldiers have agreed to two extra gyllen per man and released me from my promise. — I will bid you farewell now that we’ve attained our shared goal: Taking the headquarters of the Catholic League. Goodnight, then, to the head of the Union — neither the League nor the Union exists anymore. Going forward it will be the liberators against the oppressors.

FREDRIK OF THE PALATINATE:  Or Gustav Adolf in league with the Catholics.

KING (angry, stands):  Go, liar! Go quickly! May everlasting oblivion and eternal disgrace follow your name.

Fredrik, at first confident because he didn’t think this was serious, now gets scared and goes.

KING:  Sure, cry now, you coward! You lit the fire, and left it for me to put out!


Torstenson and Banér, who disappeared for a while up the street, come toward the King. Both look quite serious.


KING (harsh):  What do you want now?

BANÉR:  Our King’s ear.

KING:  Speak up then.

BANÉR:  Your Majesty’s impulsive promise that Munich could be plundered raised certain expectations for the soldiers — and they can’t be held back without the danger of rebellion.

KING:  You agree, Torstenson?


KING:  So now you’re counseling me to allow a destruction like Magdeburg, which we wept over together. You’re terrible advisors; you’ve earned my disfavor.

BANÉR:  Then we’ll have to endure your disfavor. First, let me beg for mercy for a poor wretch —

KING:  The schoolmaster? No, he’ll find no mercy from me.

TORSTENSON:  Majesty, people are astonished and upset that a fellow believer, a Protestant man, is to die for a foolish attack on the papists’ superstition —

KING (furious):  Torstenson! Is the schoolmaster a fellow believer? He who’s only had the devil’s name on his lips, who has treated the war like a bacchanal? Leave me. You are no longer my friend. Restrict yourself to my service, to benefit your fatherland. Go!

Pause. Torstenson goes slowly, Banér follows him.

KING:  Stay, Johan Banér!

BANÉR:  No. I’ll go too.

KING:  Watch yourselves, little kings. Remember the Folkungs, the Stures, the lords at Linköping.

BANÉR (furious):  Watch yourself, Vasa! Snow King! The Winter King has a successor!

KING:  Is it you, Johan Banér, speaking to me like that?

BANÉR:  Yes, Johan Banér, legitimate son of Councilor Gustav Axelsson Banér, who was beheaded in Linköping by the traitor Karl the Bloody — my father murdered by your father. My father killed because he kept his royal vow. And my mother, Kristina Sture — there are those Stures again, Vasa! — Yes, this is Johan Banér speaking!

Torstenson pulls on Banér’s arm; King stays silent. Banér goes with Torstenson.


King sits, distressed and reflective.

The palace doors out to the balcony open. The Queen comes out, accompanied by attendants who stop in the doorway.

QUEEN:  My king is not happy.

KING:  Distressed — — — unto death.

QUEEN:  And sitting in the dark?

KING:  The shadows are growing, even on this summer evening. — It isn’t true that the sun always shines in the South. At home, it shines all night this time of year.

QUEEN (gives a signal to the attendants, who bring out two large candelabra put them on the King’s table):  Everything in life is so different from what we expect.

KING:  Indeed. — It’s like a dream that I’m sitting in the capital of Bavaria and that I’ve just dismissed Fredrik of the Palatinate, the root and cause of this incomprehensible war.

QUEEN:  The ways of Providence are incomprehensible.

KING:  Maximilian and Fredrik. Bavaria and the Palatinate.

QUEEN:  What do you have to do with Fredrik?

KING:  Good question. He was head of the Protestant Union, so he was the one I had to be closest to. But nonetheless I have to fight against him, since he’s a Calvinist and I’m a Lutheran. — — — Bavaria and the Palatinate. We — Swedes — once had a king from Bavaria. Kristofer he was called, and he was the nephew of Erik XIII. My father, Karl IX, was first married to Maria of the Palatinate. My brother-in-law, Count Johan Casimir of the Palatinate, is at home in Sweden in charge of a government office, and his ten-year-old son Karl is a playmate of our seven-year-old daughter Kristina.

QUEEN:  Where are your thoughts traveling?

KING:  I don’t know, but I think I’ve always expected something fatal from this Palatinate. I don’t understand how my father, from our remote country, found a princess of the Palatinate. But — you probably didn’t know — when my grandfather, Gustav I, had to stifle the Dacke rebellion, that chieftain was supported by, among others, a Fredrik of the Palatinate, who was after the Swedish throne. And that was a hundred years ago. — So now — you understand.

QUEEN:  You mean our Kristina and Johan Casimir’s son could someday, through marriage—

KING:  Who knows? Sometimes Providence requires a hundred years to carry out a plan. — And everything repeats itself. Just think: my friend, who is also my kinsman, Johan Banér, just now rose suddenly to reveal himself as a Sture. You know about the Stures and the Vasas.

QUEEN:  It’s true that Banér’s father was beheaded in Linköping by your father?

KING:  We don’t like to speak of it, but it’s true. And Johan Banér’s mother was Kristina Sture. But the Sture saga is so interwoven with the Vasa saga that it’s impossible to easily unravel. The early Stures established the independence of the kingdom as regents. But Gustav Vasa got the crown. Erik XIV had Stures killed for reasons that weren’t completely clear. My father, Karl IX, beheaded the lords at Linköping and hit the Sture clan at the same time, probably without meaning to. — — — No fewer than six Sture families grieved after that day. Hogenskild Bielke was married to Ann Sture; Ture Nilsson Bielke to Margareta Sture; Ture Pederson Bielke to Sigrid Sture; Erik Stenbock to Malin Sture; Gustav Banér to Kristina Sture; and Krister Horn was the brother-in-law of Mauritz Sture.

That’s the bloodguilt I carry. That’s why I tolerate more from my friends Horn, Banér, and Stenbock than I would from any others.

QUEEN:  Is that why you let these friends — whom I’ve never cared for — get so close to you?

KING:  Yes, and I haven’t regretted my patience. They were dear, devoted friend until now. Nevertheless, my dear, I’m sitting here asking myself: Why did the Sture ghost show itself now? And in Banér? — His face transformed; his eyes glowed with a hate that’s been growing for two hundred years; his voice was someone else’s and he spoke words that weren’t his own. Words that killed me.

QUEEN:  What did he say?

KING:  He said the Vasas have no heir to the throne, but the Palatinate does.

QUEEN:  Why would he say that now?

KING:  Yes, exactly. That’s what my conscience is trying to solve. Did he mean — did he prophesy that my progeny won’t inherit the throne?

QUEEN:  Isn’t our Kristina heir to the throne?

KING:  Yes and no. According to the succession mandate of 1544, only men could inherit the throne. This was later changed arbitrarily.

QUEEN:  Well, that’s news to me.

KING:  But there’s another injustice that haunts me.

QUEEN:  Why these dark thoughts, my dear?

KING:  Because — it’s getting dark. Don’t you see it’s all going downhill, time is getting short —

QUEEN:  But, sweetheart, we aren’t going farther down, farther south. Tomorrow we’ll turn back home and go north.

KING:  …My father was a usurper, not because he overthrew Erik, not because he pushed Sigismund aside, but because he pushed aside Duke Johan, who was the real heir to the throne.

QUEEN:  But Karl IX was elected by the Estates —

KING:  Yes, but Sweden wasn’t an elective monarchy anymore. — — — So I’m a usurper too — the same Johan was still the legal heir.

QUEEN:  Duke Johan renounced his claims.

KING:  Yes, after Karl IX had compelled — forced — him into an unwanted marriage with his cousin. The marriage ended in madness — a true soul murder.

QUEEN:  Why stir up the past?

KING:  Because it returns.

QUEEN:  It returned after Breitenfeld — in Auerbachs Hof! But then it went back to sleep.

KING:  Since you brought it up, there’s something I want to say. An unfortunate coincidence — perhaps something else — brought you together with my son, Gustaf. You think I was cruel enough to arrange the meeting. I’ve let you think that, as a kind of penance. But now I’m telling you that I was innocent — of that at least.

QUEENYour son. Not ours. We have none.

KING:  Yes. That’s my punishment. I don’t know why you have to suffer for my sin. Can you forgive me?

QUEEN:  I already have. With my whole heart.

KING:  Then we won’t speak of it again.

QUEEN:  But about something else. Since my king has finally found time to take care of personal matters. — There’s a man whose constant presence hurts me.

KING:  Nils Brahe. Do you demand that I sacrifice him too?

QUEEN:  I don’t demand. I ask.

KING:  But he is my kinsman. And he doesn’t say very much —

QUEEN:  But his eyes tell a story that should be forgotten.

KING:  You’re right. I’ll do it. — (gets up) — It gets more and more empty around me, and desolate. In the end it will be only you and I.

QUEEN:  As it always should have been.

KING:  Maybe. — Tott, Rålamb, Horn, Banér, Torstenson, Brahe… gone.

QUEEN:  You miss them.

KING:  Yes, but I’ve found myself again — and you! Friends give a lot, but they take more. (Music is heard from the palace; shadows move.) Is there a party over there?

QUEEN:  Yes, you’re hosting it.

KING:  I had forgotten. — One more thing. — After the warning I got at Ingolstadt, I’ve been feeling a need to set my house in order. My thoughts are most often about my daughter. — Do you think it’s wise to let Johan Casimir, a Calvinist, raise our child?

QUEEN:  No, I never thought it was. — The Calvinists I knew growing up were worse than the Jesuits. And if our family isn’t in agreement about our faith —

KING:  Exactly. The thought that my child might accept a faith other than the Lutheran doctrine makes me despair. And Kristina’s contradictory spirit isn’t a good sign. You know she says up whenever I say down.

QUEEN:  Her willful stubbornness and insistence on having her own way are limitless. But there’s no need to worry. A seven-year-old can’t understand religion’s truths or its fallacies.

KING:  I do worry. — But I’ll leave it up to Providence. — Go join the guests, my dear; I’ll come in soon.

QUEEN:  Don’t sit alone — your heavy thoughts will make you despondent.

KING:  Ha. Not alone.


Nils Brahe comes quickly down the street with a dispatch in this hand that he hands to the King.

QUEEN:  I’m going now. (goes in)

KING:  He’ll be going soon too.


BRAHE:  Important news, Your Majesty.

KING (opens and reads the dispatch):  Wallenstein. Finally! — Wallenstein’s in Saxony, and he’s cut off our road home. — That enigmatic, dark man who has no faith but is always lucky in the saddle. I’ll finally meet him. — Nils Brahe — I can’t say why, though you probably suspect — please don’t go in to the party. I know you’ve been invited, but go back to camp and prepare your troops.

BRAHE:  Is this a declaration of disfavor?

KING:  No! And believe me when I say that.

BRAHE:  I don’t have the right to ask —

KING (moved):  But I have the right to demand that a friend understand and believe —

BRAHE (upset):  I believe — — — but I don’t understand. — Farewell, my king. (goes)

KING (looking after Brahe): Goodnight, Nils.


KING:  Alone. — — — Alone with you, my Lord and my God.


LEUBELFING (enters, kneels in front of the King):  Majesty and most gracious King.

KING:  Who are you? — Ah, the queen’s page. What do you want?

LEUBELFING:  Leubelfing. From Nuremberg. At your service.

KING:  So you are. — What do you want, child?

LEUBELFING:  To serve the king who I worship beside God in heaven.

KING:  Not that! Worship the Lord your God only. — Once I had a young friend who worshiped me, but when he saw I’m only a weak human being, full of faults, he left and spat behind him! Since then I’ve been afraid of young worshippers.

LEUBELFING:  Don’t be afraid of me, Your Majesty. I’ll be faithful unto death. I’ll follow you like a dog —

KING:  Tell me: were brought up a Catholic?

LEUBELFING:  Yes, Majesty, in a cloister, but when I saw how wicked the papists were… What miserable people—

KING:  Wait a minute — if you think Protestants are angels, you’re deceiving yourself. Go out into the camp and look at the vile behavior. You’ll see it’s the same everywhere. And you’ll rarely meet a Christian who’s as fine a man as my friend, Marcus the Jew. Now, my son, we should look past our assumptions. And remember, we’re given our country and our religion by God, so we should hold onto them. — You look at me… with kind eyes. What can you do?

LEUBELFING:  I can saddle a horse, read out loud, play the lute —

KING:  You can play? — Will your queen spare you?

LEUBELFING (embarrassed):  Yes, I think —

KING:  Maybe she’s the one who sent you?

LEUBELFING:  I wasn’t supposed to say.

KING:  Well, since you’re a gift from my true love, stay. I’ll take it as an omen, that you fell down like a ray of sunshine when I sat alone in the dark. —

LEUBELFING (kisses the King’s hand):  Now the treasured dream of my childhood is happening: I may serve the gold king. Will I get a horse?

KING:  A big horse! — But (takes Leubelfing by the ear) you can’t fall in love with the queen like the other chamberlains and pages.

LEUBELFING (embarrassed)

KING (stands):  Come, David, and play for your Saul.


Queen appears in the doorway.



Act Five

1) Camp near Alte Veste, outside Nuremberg.

2) Near Lützen. A smith’s forge.

3) Wittenberg’s castle church.

Scene One

The camp outside Nuremberg. The city is visible to the left at the back; Alte Veste to the right. Tents in the middle of the stage with streets between them. The King’s tent to the right, with tables and chairs outside of it. A telescope on a stand in front of the King’s tent. It’s an autumn sky, with dark clouds and a blood-red streak on the horizon.

The Sergeant Major and the Quartermaster stand downstage.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Sixty days in this dog-day heat and no battle. It makes no sense.

QUARTERMASTER:  You’re not counting the storming of Alte Veste this morning.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  It’s not clear that didn’t fail, maybe Wallenstein’s getting ready to claim his victory up there.

QUARTERMASTER:  Yes, Wallenstein! That faithless dog who only worships himself is impervious, but the pious Tilly was literally hacked to death — bit by bit! Who’s the Lord of Hosts today?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  The same One as yesterday and at the dawn of time, whose plans neither you nor I could grasp.

QUARTERMASTER:  Apparently the Sergeant Major’s doing some deep thinking!

SERGEANT MAJOR:  None too soon. And I hope not too late.

QUARTERMASTER:  That Wallenstein — who can figure him out? Did you know he was born and baptized a Protestant?


QUARTERMASTER:  Did you also know that as a child he fell out a window — from the third story — and not a scratch on him.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Just like Johan Banér of Horningsholm. He fell out of a third-story window without injury too. Third story seems to be the maximum. Martinitz and Slavata were pitched out of the third story in Prague. The whole war seems to have started on the third floor. And it’ll probably end in the cellar.

QUARTERMASTER:  Quiet! Now the music is really going in the Friedlander’s old stronghold —

SERGEANT MAJOR (goes to the telescope):  Just think if you could see him just once, the invisible, unmoving one who sits up on the cliff like one of the emperor’s eagles. (moves the telescope to look at something else)

QUARTERMASTER:  I’d give a lot for that.

SERGEANT MAJOR (looking into the telescope):  Wait!

QUARTERMASTER:  Do you see something?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Shh! He is there.

QUARTERMASTER:  Sure — but what do you see?

SERGEANT MAJOR (turns and twists the telescope):  Wait! I had his cape for a moment — but now — I want to really — see him —

QUARTERMASTER:  He probably looks evil, like a devil. He’s certainly not good, but he’s really rich. They say he owns twenty-two thousand farms in Bohemia, all confiscated estates —

SERGEANT MAJOR (turns away from the telescope):  I saw him. His head was bare, and he had a black beard —that’s all I could see before he was gone. But I saw something else — something blue and yellow —

QUARTERMASTER:  Swedish prisoners.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Yes, they were Swedes. Some new misfortune.

QUARTERMASTER:  We’ve found many misfortunes in this Catholic country — where we probably should’ve never come. Didn’t the Friedlander kill twelve thousand of our men and eight thousand of our horses in the last two months — I’ve been counting — But Wallenstein hasn’t starved us to death; he’s not the one who turned disease and vermin loose on us.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Who did, then?

QUARTERMASTER:  The angel of death, the same one who came to the plagues of Egypt, the one who destroyed Sennacherib’s army — The Lord is against us.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  But He’s also against the Friedlander, who’s suffering as much as we are.

QUARTERMASTER:  Then He’s against both of us — we should have made peace by now.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Are you the Lord’s confidant? Do you hear His secrets before the rest of us? You should be ashamed. — — —

QUARTERMASTER:  I’m ashamed, but not about that. We’ve become a disgrace to our country. We’ve gone from being soldiers of the Lord with discipline and honor — to being as bad as our enemies. Every vice, every crime stains our camp. We have as many pagans as Christians, and more dead soldiers than living. The whole country stinks around us, and our friends curse us!

In the background, a procession of green stretchers for the living and black stretchers covered with white sheets carried by white-clad attendants.

There’s the angel of death’s triumphal procession! (Fabricius is visible in the procession.) And the chief priest — who has to put both Christians and pagans to rest in the earth. — Everyone’s the same in the great pit. (The Queen can be seen in the procession; she is dressed in white and is carrying a small child in her arms; she’s followed by a crowd of children dressed in white.)

SERGEANT MAJOR (moved):  The queen.

QUARTERMASTER:  The good angel of mercy and suffering. The mother of abandoned children — of the deserted and the orphans. There are no birth certificates anymore — only “parents unknown.” — The king hurts, and the queen heals. Bless her!

The Queen passes by; children touch her skirt; the procession continues with the wounded, bandaged and on crutches.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  These are the dark sides of war. And my eyes can’t remember the bright sides. — Everything stinks, everything tastes like death. Even the wine.

Procession of ragged-looking people.

QUARTERMASTER:  There come the hungry. No bread and no money.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  It’s like there’s a curse on the French money; it never lasts.

QUARTERMASTER:  And these Jewish loans — they never do anything but come due.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  As all loans do, I suppose, in time.

QUARTERMASTER:  Where’s the king?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  At a war council with the Dukes of Lauenberg and Weimar and their Excellencies Schwarzenberg of Brandenburg and Arnim of Saxony.

QUARTERMASTER:  None of our men are along?

SERGEANT MAJOR:  No. Only dukes and electors can vote in the election of the emperor.

QUARTERMASTER:  Haunted by the emperor’s crown again.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Who can know? There’s so much gossip. (The procession has continued; now at the very end are the Provost, the Fire Chief, and the Driver.) And now, there go the wolves!


DRIVER:  I’ve driven my wagon around half of Germany, and I’m tired —

PROVOST:  And satisfied.

DRIVER:  And I’d like to retire —

FIRE CHIEF:  With a nice cushion —

DRIVER:  I used to be the Miller in Usedom —

FIRE CHIEF:  When I was bailiff in Wolgast —

DRIVER:  But then the Edict of Restitution came along and took the mill away. But — times have changed, and the mill has been returned. Should we say our goodbyes?

FIRE CHIEF:  To each other or to the war machine?

DRIVER:  I’m saying goodbye to you.

PROVOST:  Sure, goodbye. As long as you leave the wagons.

DRIVER:  The wagons? Yes, take them.

FIRE CHIEF:  So they’re empty? (taking the Driver by his collar) If you cheated us, you’re a dead man.

DRIVER:  Wait, wait! Don’t get worked up.

PROVOST (grabbing the Driver):  Thief, traitor, miserable —

DRIVER:  Help! He’s killing me!


MIDWIFE (enters from right; waves):  No, you won’t be murdered, but you’ll die for your atrocities, you disgusting grave robber!


BRAHE (enters with three guards; quietly and calmly tells them):  Take these three men to the gallows and let the executioner hang them. But wait with the Fire Chief until you receive new orders.

Guards lead the Provost, Driver, and Fire Chief out.


BRAHE (to the Midwife):  Go, woman. Your outburst wasn’t pretty. He was your husband after all. — What are you going to do now?

MIDWIFE:  I used to swaddle newborns; now I shroud the dead. Because no living children are born anymore.

BRAHE:  I don’t believe human beings are being born anymore, only wild animals. Go now, woman.

MIDWIFE:  General —

BRAHE:  Nothing more from you. Go shroud your husband, and make sure he gets into a decent pit.

MIDWIFE:  That heretic

BRAHE:  These days we’re all heretics to each other, so let’s not speak of it. Go now. In the pit we’ll all be the same.

MIDWIFE:  I thought that once, but not anymore —

BRAHE (to the Quartermaster while the Midwife says the preceding line and those that follow):  Where is the king?

QUARTERMASTER:  At the War Council.

BRAHE:  With the dukes?


MIDWIFE (under the above lines):  And I believed each is saved by his own faith —

BRAHE (without listening to the old woman; to the Quartermaster):  It’s a disgrace to our army and our nation when our Protestants behave as poorly as the enemy —

MIDWIFE (overlapping):  And I believed the liberator had come —

BRAHE (turns to the woman):  And so he has. You’re right. For once. Go to gallow’s hill, and you’ll see.

The Quartermaster pulls her off by her arm.


SERGEANT MAJOR (looking left):  The king!

Brahe goes to the right. Quartermaster and Sergeant Major go toward the back of the stage.


King enters from the left, accompanied by Marcus.


KING:  Sit. I mean —

MARCUS:  — stand. I know my place, Majesty. I don’t take advantage.

KING:  Will you accept the loans?

MARCUS:  No, King, because our paths diverge here. As long as you fought on the side of the oppressed, I was with you, against the Pope in Rome’s earthly dominion. But, when you go against the emperor alone, I can’t follow.

KING:  Why not?

MARCUS:  Because I’m German, and you’re a foreigner; because the he keeps the German empire together; and because I — and my people — owe a debt of gratitude to Hapsburg. Emperor Charles V gave Jews human rights — first at the Peace of Augsburg, then again at the Regensburg Congress. Augsburg and Regensburg, the two Protestant strongholds: 1530 and 1541 — the birth of Protestantism and the year of its confirmation. Now do you understand why we’re with the Protestants? Because we’re children of the same years.

KING:  And you can be grateful?

MARCUS:  A Jew can be everything a Christian can be, in good and in evil.

KING:  What would you do in my place?

MARCUS:  Make an honorable peace yourself, or accept the peace offer from the emperor.

KING:  It’s too late.

MARCUS:  Never too late to do the right thing.

KING:  And you know what’s right?

MARCUS:  When pagans, who are without law, intuitively follow the law — they show us all what’s right.

KING:  Tell me. Why are things going badly for me now?

MARCUS:  Because your camp is polluted — by sins and by crimes, by stinking cadavers and vermin. As it says in the Fifth Book of Moses: “For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy; that He see no unseemly thing in thee, and turn away from thee.”

KING:  The Lord has turned away from me. It’s true. What should I do?

MARCUS:  “If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up—If thou put away unrighteousness from thy tents… Then surely shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, And shalt lift up thy face unto God… Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee, And the light shall shine upon thy ways.”

KING:  Are those beautiful words your own?

MARCUS:  Have you read your Bible, Majesty? It was Eliphaz the Temanite speaking to Job.

KING:  Job? — — — “And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power.” — Marcus, why don’t you believe in the Savior? Because you can’t?

MARCUS:  I don’t know. Perhaps because I’m not allowed to. I don’t examine that too closely.

Noise outside.

KING:  One other thing before we part ways. You know your kinsman, the Fire Chief, has been convicted of unjustly extorting property, and has therefore been condemned to death according to our laws. What would your laws say about that.

MARCUS:  He must die so he does not pollute your land, because you shall push evil away from you, and all Israel will hear it and be afraid! According our holy laws. May the rotten limb be cut off so the whole body will not be infected; kill him so he won’t be a curse to all our people.

KING:  So be it. — And now, as our paths divide, where are you going?

MARCUS:  Who knows. Today east, tomorrow west. To the heathens they said, “They shall no more sojourn here.” The Lord Himself spread them around and about.

KING:  Farewell, Marcus. Thank you for what has been.

MARCUS:  What has been was great and wonderful. What is coming… — May the Lord bless you and keep you, Majesty, all the days of your life! (goes)


Stenbock enters.

KING (mild, sad, humble): Are you coming with a trial fit for Job?

STENBOCK:  Yes, Your Majesty.

KING:  Tell me.

STENBOCK:  Torstenson was captured —

KING:  And Banér?

STENBOCK:  Wounded — in his arm.

KING (as before):  And the Lord took… — Is there more?

STENBOCK:  We’ve taken a prisoner.

KING:  Is he important?


KING:  Bring him in.


Stenbock signals outside. Sparre brought in, wearing a Polish uniform.

KING (stands; upset):  Sparre!

SPARRE:  Sparre from Linköping, from the bloodbath at Linköping, yes. Just like Johan Banér.

KING:  You’ve turned Polish, I see.

SPARRE:  I always have been. The Sparres are faithful to their kings. When my father followed Sigismund to Poland, I was welcomed by a new fatherland.

KING:  Sweden is not Poland.

SPARRE:  No, but they are united — since Władysław was proclaimed king of Sweden, I’m as good a Swede as a Pole. And you, Majesty, who claim the Polish crown on the grounds of a right to inherit from your cousin, may one day wear these same colors without being a traitor.

KING (to Stenbock):  I believe it’s Erik Sparre himself talking — (violently) Take him away! I don’t want to speak with the dead. May he return from whence he came. He’s my kinsman, Stenbock, and yours, and I don’t want to wear mourning for that disgrace. Take him away — and release him.

SPARRE (to Stenbock):  Five Stenbocks were allowed to go free from Duke Karl’s slaughterhouse. And you came back to kiss the bloody hand —

KING:  Get him out!

SPARRE:  I certainly won’t wear mourning for him. (gets led out)

KING (to Stenbock):  Fredrik, tell me, was he right or wrong? I think I’ve come to a point where everyone else is right.

STENBOCK:  I can’t answer a double-edged question without cutting my tongue.

KING:  You’ve never liked me. You’ve always been like ice I couldn’t melt. Is it because your grandmother was a Sture? Is that it?

STENBOCK:  Maybe. Maybe because Malin Sture died in a cruel exile; maybe even because Karl Stenbock —

KING:  — was reprieved in Linköping —

STENBOCK:  — at execution site! Because he was faithful to his king, as I am to mine. Faithful, yes. I’ll be faithful unto death, but I won’t love him.

KING (upset):  Do you see how alone I am, Fredrik Stenbock? My only company is twelve thousand dead men and six thousand dead horses. Why do people leave me and avoid me?

STENBOCK:  Perhaps one of the German dukes can explain.

KING (violently):  Ah, so it’s the German dukes you’re angry about? Nonetheless, you were rude.

STENBOCK:  Well, it will have to do between kinsmen.

KING (agitated):  Kinsmen! Yes! But I am the king, and I could’ve worn many crowns. I could’ve had the Russian crown that was offered to my brother Karl Filip. I could’ve had the Polish crown through my cousin Sigismund; the Bohemian crown, offered by Fredrik of the Palatinate; and the Hungarian crown after my brother-in-law Gabriel Bethlen. You know all of those. But you don’t know that after the battle of Breitenfeld, the Elector of Saxony handed me the imperial German crown.

STENBOCK:  You’re such a child! Why didn’t you accept them then? Gösta — that’s what you asked us to call you — is it a cartload of crowns you’re dreaming of? Trying looking after your own for a start —

KING (frightened):  What do you mean?

STENBOCK:  Just what I said!

KING:  Did Fabricius betray me? Did he tell —

STENBOCK:  He hasn’t said a word.

KING:  Do you know I’m plagued by terrible dreams?

STENBOCK:  I guessed — the blond king has turned so dark.

KING (anxious):  In the quiet of the night when my senses extinguish and my mind turns sluggish — that’s when the tempter comes. Why am I telling you this? You’ll never understand. Why am I letting myself be tempted into sharing these vanities? — Aaah. If only I could unsay it. — Fredrik, advise me.

STENBOCK:  What’s the point? You ask for everyone’s advice, but follow no one’s.

KING:  Then command me, and I will obey. For two months I’ve been stuck here as if mesmerized — I can’t move. I want to, but I can’t. It’s as if Wallenstein were a sorcerer who can silence swords — and people — and individual will. I don’t own my own body and will; I can’t control myself. And, the worst of it is — the Eternal One I used to reach out to in prayer, he turned His back on me. I can’t find Him anymore.

STENBOCK:  Is that it? “To your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house.” For you have gone astray.

KING:  That’s what Oxenstierna said in Mainz. — Yes, so I’ll go home to my father’s country, to my lakes and forests, to my child —

STENBOCK:  Good. As long as the road to Leipzig stays open —

KING:  Gustaf Horn is guarding it.

STENBOCK:  Yes, but Pappenheim controls the pass in Thuringia.

KING:  Pappenheim. Another shadow blocking my path.

STENBOCK:  And worse — the Friedlander has twenty thousand men waiting at the Saxon border —

KING:  So am I cut off?

STENBOCK:  A question only tomorrow can answer. It boils down to: Rest tonight and wait for the couriers to arrive at daybreak.

KING:  Thank you, Fredrik. Why don’t you share your wisdom more often?

STENBOCK:  Why don’t you ask us a little more often — us, your old friends?

KING:  I don’t know. It’s as if someone is pulling me away from everything I’ve held close.

STENBOCK:  That may be. But don’t rely on the German princes anymore. They’ve had enough of Swedes — and they fear foreigners as much as they hate them.

KING:  Can we blame them for that? It’s their country.

STENBOCK:  Yes, exactly. And we should take that into account. — Now I must say goodnight. The sentries have to be posted.

KING:  Goodnight then, Fredrik.

STENBOCK:  Goodnight, my king. Sleep well — without dreaming about crowns.

KING (goes into his tent):  Be safe.


During the preceding scenes the red strip along the horizon faded away, the clouds disappeared, and the stars gradually started twinkling. During the scene that follows, the stars of Charles’ Wain [Ursa Major] become more prominent with long spaces between the stars.

The Trumpeter and Leubelfing, who’ve been visible in the background, now come forward; the Trumpeter looks ill and his left arm is in a sling. Leubelfing carries a lute; supports the Trumpeter.

TRUMPETER:  This war isn’t fun anymore.

LEUBELFING:  What pulled you into it, boy?

TRUMPETER:  Well, sir, I was born on a drum in Livonia; my cradle was a baggage wagon through Poland; and I started learning under schoolmaster’s cane in — let me see — Brandenburg.

LEUBELFING:  And your parents?

TRUMPETER:  Sir, you shouldn’t ask a soldier things like that. I’ve never once seen my own country — dream about it sometimes — a huge blue lake called Vänern, and a big, long mountain like a church roof, but no tower because it was built by giants —

LEUBELFING:  What do you mean, giants?

TRUMPETER:  Giants? They’re very large heathens who don’t like churches and church bells — and they’re limp as mittens, because they don’t have any bones in their bodies, and so that’s why you never find any of their bones in the ground. The sergeant major is from Västergötland too — that’s my home — and he calls me half-dry, that means a little boy — but he didn’t ever do that after the battle of Breitenfeld when I blew my trumpet to start the battle. — I think I have to lie down. My head is so heavy — and I want to go home.

Lies down; Leubelfing rolls up his cape and puts it under the Trumpeter’s head; wants to free him from the large trumpet, but the Trumpeter keeps a tight hold.

LEUBELFING:  You’re more ill than I thought, son.

TRUMPETER:  I’m so warm, and it’s nice, because we’ve been so cold. — No, you can’t have my trumpet! — Sir, may I ask. — Do you think the king is in his tent, sir?

LEUBELFING:  I don’t imagine he is. Why do you ask?

TRUMPETER:  Well, he hasn’t even looked at me lately. He probably has his own worries and is longing for home too — (nods off)

LEUBELFING:  Yes, everyone is longing for home. — Are you sleeping, boy?

TRUMPETER (wakes):  Was I asleep? — It’s so strange, I’m lying here gazing at the stars. It looks like the queen’s black velvet cushion, with the diamond on it. — Do you like the queen, sir?

LEUBELFING:  Maybe you want to sleep.

TRUMPETER:  I’m not sleeping? (falls asleep)

Leubelfing is silent for a time, then picks at his lute.

TRUMPETER (wakes):  Sir!

LEUBELFING:  Yes, boy.

TRUMPETER:  Where am I?

LEUBELFING:  Just outside the king’s tent.

TRUMPETER:  That’s good. I like to lie there. — Was that you playing?

LEUBELFING:  Should I play some more?

TRUMPETER:  Yes, but first I’d like to look at your picture book — the one that looks like a psalm book.

Leubelfing gives him a small book of devotions.

TRUMPETER:  Who painted this?

LEUBELFING:  Angels from start to finish.

TRUMPETER:  Nahh. I don’t believe you.

LEUBELFING:  You just don’t understand, boy.

TRUMPETER:  I don’t understand? Hm. — Play a little, sir.

LEUBELFING:  Does it hurt, boy?

TRUMPETER:  No, it’s nice here. Please play. (falls asleep)

Leubelfing plays an adagio.


The King appears in the tent opening; stands motionless watches the two children without them seeing him.

TRUMPETER (who has fallen asleep with the book in his hand, lets it fall; the noise wakes him):  Sir.


TRUMPETER:  Do you think… I’m going to die, sir?

LEUBELFING:  Are you afraid to die?

TRUMPETER:  No, why should I be? I haven’t done anything wrong.

LEUBELFING (lays his hand on the boy’s forehead):  Oh, little man.

TRUMPETER:  Do you think I’m going to die?

LEUBELFING (weeps):  Yes, I do.

TRUMPETER:  Don’t cry. I can do it. (falls asleep)


KING (goes forward, falls to his knees, feels the Trumpeter’s pulse):  Nils! (to Leubelfing) He has a fever, and there’s no doctor, no medicine! — There’s nothing to be done. Nothing.

TRUMPETER (wakes; without recognizing the King, throws his arms around the his neck, mistaking him for Leubelfing):  Sir, may I kiss you? But then turn your face away, because I’m embarrassed — I’ve never got or gave a caress. (He kisses the King without seeing who it is; dozes off again.)

King stands; trying to conceal how moved he is.

TRUMPETER (wakes):  I want to look at the pictures. — Sir, play some more for me. —

Leubelfing plays the same adagio as before.

TRUMPETER (wakes; gets up without seeing the King):  I want to go home. I want to go home.

KING:  Where, child? Where do you want to go home, child?

TRUMPETER (still without recognizing the King):  I want to go home! (falls back on the ground, his trumpet in his arms)

KING (on his knees beside the dead boy):  Sweet boy. How is it? — That was death. — — (stands) Now I want to go home too.

Leubelfing, on his knees, silently prays.


QUEEN (enters from left, bareheaded and dressed in white, followed by ladies-in-waiting and guards):  Who’s that lying there?

KING:  It’s Little Nils, the trumpeter from Breitenfeld.

QUEEN:  Hasn’t there been enough death?

KING:  Tomorrow we’ll start our journey home.

QUEEN:  Blessèd be the hour when that decision was reached. — Is he just going to be left lying there? (approaches the corpse)

KING (to Leubelfing):  Go and arrange an honorable burial for the boy. — He was dear to me. He reminded me of my greatest day — Breitenfeld-Leipzig. (to the Queen) We’ll go to Leipzig again, and then north, and then home.

QUEEN:  Home.



Scene Two

At Lützen. A run-down shed that contains a blacksmith’s forge. Open at the back; behind it three windmills half invisible in fog; the wings of the windmills are standing so that they form three † † †. To the left in the shed is the hearth with bellows; fire in the forge. The King’s large, white horse with a shining saddle and all the accoutrements stands at the back. Luebelfing holds its bridle; the grooms Eriksson and Jonsson hold up one of the horse’s hind feet; the Smith strikes one last blow on the shoe, then the horse is led out. The Smith’s Boy stands by the bellows. A member of the watch looks in at the opening of the shed at the back, at the road to Leipzig. Another member of the watch is within the smithy. Noise in the distance.

SMITH:  Now the Swedish king can race with the dead and the devil. — — — That was the first seal! “And I saw,” John says in Revelations, “and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” — — — (to the boy) Stoke the fire. It’s cold in here this morning.

GUARD I (outside):  Stop! — — — Where are you going?

RATCATCHER (with gear, stops):  To Leipzig.

GUARD I:  No one gets through here. — (points) In there to be examined.

RATCATCHER:  Oh! What’s going on?

GUARD II (examining him):  You’re a ratcatcher?

RATCATCHER:  Well, yes, but I haven’t caught a single one this morning. All the innocent animals are so terrified by the rumble and roar of the marching armies that they’ve crept down into the earth. The ground’s shaking so much that my teeth are chattering. — And this fog, ugh, it goes right through you. — It’s awful, and that’s the truth!

GUARD I:  Stop! Where to?

Farmer with a cart of vegetables. Farmer’s wife shoving it from behind.

FARMER:  To Leipzig.

GUARD II:  Come in.


GUARD II:  To be examined. — — —

FARMERS WIFE:  Come on, we have to get to the square early or we won’t get to sell a thing.

GUARD II:  No one goes to Leipzig today. And other things than commerce are happening here. — — —Don’t you know the armies are ready for battle?


GUARD II:  Stay there.

GUARD I:  Stop! — — — Where to?

MILLER (enters):  Where to? I’m going down to my mills.

GUARD II:  Ah, so they’re your mills. We’ll set them on fire right away.

MILLER (wild):  Fire?

GUARD II:  Sure. And, if you scream about it, we’ll shut you up. — Out of the way.

MILLER:  He’s going to set fire to my mills? Why? What did I do?

GUARD II:  Shut up, man.


Leubelfing, leads the King’s red horse, accompanied by Eriksson and Jonsson, appears in the opening of the shed; the Smith goes toward them; looks at the horse’s feet without lifting them.

SMITH:  The king’s number two! No flaws, fully approved, could go to a ball in the Auerbachs Hof! (lifts one of the horse’s hind feet and kisses the shoe) I kiss your foot, enviable beast — carrying His Majesty from the North. — The second seal: “And there went out another horse” — that’s John in Revelations — “that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another.” No, that doesn’t work. — Stoke the fire, boy.

The horse is led away.


Stenbock and Brahe enter, accompanied by the Quartermaster and the Sergeant Major, who carry the King’s armor.

BRAHE (to Guard II):  Get these people out of here. The king’s coming.

Guard II takes out the Miller, the Ratcatcher, the Farmer and his Wife.


STENBOCK (pointing outward):  There are Breitenfeld and Leipzig.

BRAHE:  And here is Lützen.

STENBOCK:  What do you mean?

BRAHE:  This is where it will happen. — — — The battle, I mean. We’re in a horrible hole, with the ground in waves like after an earthquake. I wish we were anywhere else.

STENBOCK:  What gets me is the terrible darkness. The sun’s been up for two hours but it’s still dark. It’s the last plague of Egypt — the first were the flies and the angel of death at Alte Veste.

BRAHE:  So that’s occurred to you too? — But it’s as if things are bewitched in this darkness and fog that delay the battle. If we’d get started before Pappenheim gets here from Halle, the game would be over. — — — Did you see the king?

STENBOCK:  Yes, I saw him. He slept in his carriage for a couple of hours. But he doesn’t look good. The bullet from Dirschau was moving, and he was shuddering with cold. Ugh, this fog. And it smells like lye. Have you noticed that?

BRAHE:  More like salted cod.

Pause. They go to the fire to warm their hands.

BRAHE:  What do you think?

STENBOCK:  What do you think?

BRAHE:  I’m not happy.

STENBOCK:  It does look a little tough.

BRAHE:  Well, if Duke Bernhard is supposed to hold the left flank with just the Germans, and I’m holding the center — I just don’t feel as confident as I’d like —

STENBOCK:  Maybe, but you’ll have the king to your right and I’ll be with him — and Axelsson, Sack, Soop, and Stålhandske. — Everything will go well, you’ll see. — Oh, and — we’ll all meet tonight in the Auerbachs Hof. Hope the host has his spiel about Luther’s cask of five thousand pitchers, or whatever it —

BRAHE (listening to something off):  What’s that?

STENBOCK:  That’s… your anxiety.

BRAHE:  Maybe.


BRAHE (jerking): Fredrik! What was that?

STENBOCK:  Now you’re making me anxious.

BRAHE (abruptly):  Can we rely on Kniphausen?

STENBOCK:  Completely.

BRAHE (paces the floor):  — Four, five, six. — Six! (thinking)

STENBOCK:  What? What is it?

BRAHE:  Nothing, nothing. — Imagine that. I can hear my watch ticking inside my coat.

STENBOCK (puts his arm over Brahe’s shoulders):  It’s not your heart?

BRAHE:  No, no. — But I did just think about Margaretha — and little Elsa. I haven’t even seen her yet.

STENBOCK (stern):  You only get that one thought of them today. One! (slaps his shoulder) Buck up, Nils, or we’re dead for sure.

BRAHE:  When I get on horseback, I’ll be ready —


GUARD I:  His Majesty, the King.

King enters; deathly pale; hollow-eyed; his beard, wet from the fog, hangs down. He’s followed by Leubelfing and the grooms.

BRAHE (aghast):  Ah, God in heaven.

KING (to the fire; nods to Brahe and Stenbock; speaks to the Smith’s Boy):  Put some wood on the fire. (to Stenbock and Brahe) I’m freezing down to my bones. — Were you frightened, Nils? — Fredrik, we changed our plans. You’ll have Ysslar, Beckerman, Bulach, Goldstein, and Duke Wilhelm behind you. — You don’t like the duke, but you’ll have to get along. — We could certainly have used Torstenson and Banér, but we’ll have to manage without them. I think it’s almost better that way. Almost. I miss Gustaf Horn most, but we have to forge ahead. (to the Quartermaster and Sergeant Major) Take that away. I can’t wear armor today. And it’s not much help anyway. That damn bullet’s on the move again! — — — Leubelfing, give me my cape. — This horrible fog and this darkness. Imagine if Pappenheim gets here, if he gets here before we’ve started! (dries his beard; sits on a bench, a little happier) Sooo, shall we have supper in Leipzig today? — And dinner in Wittenberg tomorrow. It’ll be nice to see Wittenberg. — No, this is horrible! — The sun is gone, and the great darkness has come.

Smith goes forward, falls to his knees and kisses the King’s foot.

KING (stands, irate):  Get up, man, or I’ll hit you!

SMITH (to the others):  He’s a martyr and a saint.

KING:  Saint? I thought only Catholics believed in saints. I’m telling you: I’m a pitiful sinner. So go back to your hearth! — — — Leubelfing, get the horses ready.


Fabricius enters.

KING:  What brings you, Fabricius? You look like you’ve come to prepare me for death.

FABRICIUS:  I believe Your Majesty has something to say to me.

KING:  Thank you, my friend. I said it all last night. (calmer) Everything that weighed on my heart and mind. Now I just want to take your hand — and lay it on my head. (takes Fabricius’s hand and puts it on his head) It’s a good hand, it warms. (in the background, the three windmills with their three crosses are in flames) What’s that? The three crosses. Is it Golgotha? Into Thy hands I commend my spirit, Lord Jesus! (up to Brahe; embraces and kisses him on the cheeks) Farewell, Nils. God protect you and keep you. (offers Stenbock his hand) Fredrik, no grudges, no more grievances. Forgive my harsh words.

Stenbock kisses the King’s hand. A shot in the distance.

KING (in anguish):  The battle begins. The horses, the horses! (falls to his knees at the back, with hands folded) Oh Jesus, our Savior, who has conquered the kingdom of death and rose again — have mercy on us, have mercy on us all!



Scene Three

The castle church at Wittenberg. Romanesque style with a triumphal arch and apse; stairs lead to the altar, at first concealed by a curtain. Below the stairs and on them are tripods with fires; to the right in the foreground is a chapel, where Brahe’s coffin stands with Leubelfing’s and the boy Trumpeter’s on either side. The coffins are closed; Brahe’s is oak, the other two are white; all three shrouded in flowers and wreaths. On the Trumpeter’s coffin sits his trumpet; on Leubelfing’s, a lute and a sword.

Soft violin music backstage.

All are dressed in mourning.

Sergeant Major and Quartermaster come on stage, in the foreground.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  So we’ve come to Wittenberg, but not to Leipzig. What’s this church called?

QUARTERMASTER:  The Castle Church. You didn’t know that?


QUARTERMASTER:  A holy room with great memories. Luther and Melanchthon, Fredrik the Wise, and Johann the Steadfast all lies in its vaults. Luther put up the ninety-five theses against indulgences on the door of this church. And he burned the papal bull calling for his excommunication outside Elster Gate. These paintings are the work of the masters — Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer. The chancellor couldn’t have chosen a more fitting place for the funeral.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Where… is the king?

QUARTERMASTER (points at the curtain): There.

Sergeant Major uncovers his head and offers a silent prayer.

QUARTERMASTER (points to the chapel):  And Nils Brahe is resting there — between the page Leubelfing, in whose arms the king died, and the little trumpeter from Breitenfeld —

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Brahe followed his king into death. And Stenbock barely came away with his life. It’s a sorrowful day — but also one of great joy. The way home is open, and all these Germans bless their liberator.

QUARTERMASTER:  Of course. I can hardly feel sad. This is the most beautiful and worthiest victory celebration. — For the hero sacrificed himself as an offering of thanksgiving to the God of Hosts.

SERGEANT MAJOR:  Yes, yes. It’s true.


Horn and Banér enter; look around.

HORN (to the Quartermaster):  Where — ?

QUARTERMASTER (points at the curtain):  There.

Horn and Banér fall to their knees and offer short silent prayers; then go over to the chapel.


Fabricius and Grubbe kneel by the curtain; stand.


Two chamberlains enter, each carrying a large wreath with ribbons and a dedication that they hand to Grubbe.

GRUBBE (reads the first wreath’s dedication):  From the Elector of Brandenburg. “To the Germans’ liberator from Rome!”

FABRICIUS:  Record that, Grubbe, with a gold pen.

GRUBBE (gives the wreath to the Sergeant Major, who hangs it on the first tripod on the left):  Brandenburg understood our king’s achievements best, and will best understand how to make use of them. (reads from the other wreath) The Elector of Saxony. “To the restorer of freedom of conscience. Seven colors, but only one light.”

FABRICIUS:  The good Saxon has captured an important point as well. The rainbow’s seven colors emerge out of one and the same light. Like the different religions. That is beautifully put.

GRUBBE:  In a dream, perhaps. (hands over the wreath, as before)

Two other chamberlains enter, carrying several wreaths.

GRUBBE (reads):  From the Turkish ambassador. “To Alexander the Great, conqueror of the king of the Persians.” (Hands it over, as before.)

FABRICIUS:  The king of the Persians. That’s the emperor. Recte tu quidem!

GRUBBE (reads):  “To the good blond man. From a Catholic woman.”

FABRICIUS:  Ah, that’s the Midwife from Wolgast. Give it a place of honor.

GRUBBE (hands it over, as before):  “The good blond man.” What a tribute from an enemy! (reads) “To King Solomon the Wise. From a poor book printer of Munich.” (hands it over, as before)

FABRICIUS:  Also a Catholic; I remember him.

GRUBBE (reads):  What’s this? — — — “To a beloved father, from a fatherless and motherless son. Gustaf Gustafsson.”

FABRICIUS:  What are we going to do with this one?

GRUBBE:  Respect a son’s legitimate sorrow and forget a great man’s less legitimate weakness. (hands it over, as before)

FABRICIUS:  And the queen?

GRUBBE:  The queen is accustomed to be enduring, all-suffering, all-sacrificing. (reads) “A formerly foolish young man, Erik Rålamb, kneels at his fatherly friend’s bier and with tears of humiliation pleads for forgiveness for his ignorance.”

FABRICIUS:  Erik Rålamb. A young man with a big heart and hot blood.

GRUBBE:  Which is to say, a young man with a high standard for low things.

FABRICIUS:  With fresh memories from our original, heavenly home that make him impatient with old people’s feeble attempts to establish heaven on earth.

GRUBBE (reads):  “King Erik XIV’s grandson to Duke Karl’s son.” That’s Åke Tott. Too proud even to mourn. Get that insult away. (throws the wreath away)

FABRICIUS:  Crows don’t change.

GRUBBE (reading):  “To Israel’s Gideon! Marcus, on behalf of the Jews.”

FABRICIUS:  Yes! “We who are Jews by nature and not sinners of the heathens,” says Paul. — — — I believe, Lord, remove my disbelief.

GRUBBE:  We have come a long way, Fabricius — from exiles and the edict of heresy.

FABRICIUS:  We must wander through the desert to get a glimpse of Canaan.

GRUBBE:  We haven’t arrived yet.

FABRICIUS:  But those who come after us will see the Promised Land.

Chief Marshal enters with staff; followed by the Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, Schwarzenberg, the Dukes of Weimar, Lauenberg, etc. Then Stålhandske, Soop, Hard, and Lillie. Other generals and commanders of various branches of the military; Scots, Frenchmen, Russians, Turks, Hungarians, Kalmucks, Italians, Jews. They arrange themselves in open rows in front of the stairs. Rålamb and Gustaf Gustafsson are visible in the chapel.

On a signal from the Chief Marshal, the curtain [in front of the altar] is drawn aside. Organ and violin music. Now the King’s open coffin is seen in the sanctuary. The King’s face is strongly lit.

Maria Eleonora enters from the left and kneels by the coffin. Axel Oxenstierna, bowed with sorrow, comes through the open rows down on the stage, followed by Horn and Banér to the foot of the stairs; goes up the stairs alone; when he has gone up into the sanctuary, he looks at the King’s face; places his right hand on the corpse’s forehead, and covers his own face with his left.

During this scene, Gustaf Gustafsson has wanted to rush into the sanctuary, but is held back by Rålamb, who has an arm around him.


End of play.


[1] According to Rosenqvist’s notes, this is a transliteration of Hebrew that corresponds to the beginning of Psalm 91:1—“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High” (KJV).

[2] From Deuteronomy 32:4: “He is the rock, his work is perfect” (KJV).

[3] A torture device used to punish soldiers.

[4] Literally: “Satisfaction! Satisfaction!” He’s calling for a duel.

[5] According to Rosenqvist’s notes, these are two stanzas from an existing song about the Battle of Lena (with “Sverige” swapped for “Danmark” in the second stanza. Consider using the Swedish rather than the translation here. (That’s why I’m including the Swedish text alongside.)

[6] Paraphrase of the Quran, chapter 112.

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