David Bruce: George Peele’s THE OLD WIVES’ TALE: A Retelling — Scenes 11-12

— Scene 11 —

At an inn, the hostess and the Ghost of Jack set food on the table and fiddlers came to play. Eumenides walked up and down, and he would eat no food.

“What do you say, sir?” the hostess asked him. “Do you please to sit down?”

“Hostess, I thank you,” Eumenides said. “I have no great appetite.”

“Please, sir, what is the reason your master is so strange?” the hostess asked the Ghost of Jack. “Doesn’t this food please him?”

“Yes, it does please him, hostess, but it is my master’s custom to pay before he eats; therefore, give us the bill, good hostess.”

“Indeed, you shall have it, sir, quickly,” the hostess replied.

She exited.

“Why, Jack, what do thou mean?” Eumenides said. “Thou know I haven’t any money; therefore, sweet Jack, tell me what shall I do?”

“Well, master, look in your purse,” the Ghost of Jack replied.

“Why, indeed, it is foolish to do that, for I have no money.”

“Why, look, master,” the Ghost of Jack said. “Do that much for me.”

“Looking into his purse, Eumenides said, “Alas, Jack, my purse is full of money!”

Why “alas”? Is it necessarily a good idea to take money from a ghost?

“You say ‘alas,’ master!” the Ghost of Jack said. “Is that word appropriate to this situation? Why, I think I should have seen you cast away your cloak, and in a bravado make a show of joy as you danced a lively galliard-dance round about the room. Why, master, your manservant can teach you more intelligence than this.”

The hostess returned.

The Ghost of Jack said, “Come, hostess, cheer up my master.”

“You are heartily welcome,” the hostess said to Eumenides, “and may it please you to eat a fat capon — a fairer bird, a finer bird, a sweeter bird, a crisper bird, a more skillfully prepared bird — that your worship has never eaten the like of before.”

“Thanks, my fine, eloquent hostess,” Eumenides said.

“But listen, master, to one word by the way,” the Ghost of Jack said. “Are you content that I shall get halves and share equally in all you get in your journey?”

“I am, Jack,” Eumenides said. “Here is my hand.”

They shook hands.

Eumenides now trusted the Ghost of Jack.

“Enough, master, I ask no more,” the Ghost of Jack said.

“Come, hostess, receive your money, and I thank you for my good entertainment,” Eumenides said.

He gave her money.

“You are heartily welcome, sir,” she replied.

“Come, Jack, to where shall we go now?” Eumenides asked.

“Indeed, master, let’s go to the conjurer’s immediately.”

“I am happy to do that, Jack,” Eumenides said.

He then said, “Hostess, farewell.”

Eumenides and the Ghost of Jack exited.

Oddly, Eumenides seems to have left without eating. He may have taken the food with him because he wanted to hurry to the conjurer’s castle.

— Scene 12 —

Booby the Clown and Celanta, the ugly wench, went to the Well of Life for water.

Booby, who was blind, said, “Come, my duck, come. I have now got a wife. Thou are fair, aren’t thou?”

Celanta, the ugly wench, said, “My Booby, I am the fairest and most beautiful wench alive; have no doubt about that.”

“Come, wench, are we almost at the well?” Booby asked.

“Aye, Booby, we are almost at the well now,” Celanta replied. “I’ll go fetch some water. Sit down while I dip my pitcher in.”

A Voice came out of the well and said this:

Gently dip, but not too deep,

For fear you make the golden beard to weep.

Celanta gently dipped her pitcher in the well.

A Head came up out of the Well of Life with ears of corn dangling from its hair and said this:

Fair maiden, white and red,

Comb me smooth, and stroke my head,

And thou shall have some cockell-bread.”

Celanta combed — raked with her fingers — the ears of corn onto her lap. The corn silk resembled a golden beard.

Another Voice came out of the well and said this:

Gently dip, but not too deep,

For fear thou make the golden beard to weep.

Celanta gently dipped her pitcher in the well.

 A Second Head came up out of the Well of Life with ingots of gold dangling from its hair and said this:

Fair maiden, white and red,

Comb me smooth, and stroke my head,

And every hair a sheaf shall be,

And every sheaf a golden tree.”

Celanta combed — raked with her fingers — the gold onto her lap. The gold dangled from the Second Head and resembled a golden beard. By being kind to the First Head, Celanta had reaped a golden beard of corn. Because she had been kind to the First Head, she was given the chance to be kind to the Second Head and reap a golden beard of gold. Her kindness had made both Heads call her a “fair maiden.”

“Oh, see, Booby, I have combed a great deal of gold onto my lap, and a great deal of corn!” Celanta said.

“Well done, wench!” Booby the Clown said. “Now we shall have toast enough. May God send us coiners — makers of coins — to coin our gold. But come, shall we go home, sweetheart?”

He wanted the ears of corn to be made into toasted cornbread, and the gold to be made into gold coins.

“Come, Booby, I will lead you.”

Talking to himself, Booby said, “So, Booby, the prophecy has come true:

Things have well hit;

Thou have gotten wealth to mend thy wit.”

“Well hit” means “ended well.”

This may be a happy marriage. Booby, being blind, will think that Celanta is beautiful. Indeed, her kindness makes her beautiful.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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Buy the Paperback

This is an easy-to-read retelling of George Peele’s “THE OLD WIVES’ TALE.” It is a play within a play. An old wife tells a fairy tale to visitors. As she tells the tale, the characters come to life and act out the fairy tale.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-bruce/george-peeles-the-old-wives-tale-a-retelling/paperback/product-24090320.html

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John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce

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