A Roman Wedding in One Act

Cast of Characters:

Silvius—Heir of the house of Valerius, a rich Roman family

Gaius—Friend of Silvius

Aurelius—The paterfamilias of the Aureli home

Jullina—Aurelius’ wife

Aurelia—Aurelius’ daughter

Nomenclature of Aurelius

Act I

Scene 1:  The light of early morning is peeping over the rooftops of the houses that crown the Caelian Hill of Rome, tinging the roofs in gold and the shadows in gray. Clients are already gathering in the vestibulium of the house of Aureli.  Silvius is about to enter when a friend on the street recognizes him.

Gaius:  Good morning, Silvius!  What brings you here?

Silvius:  Some personal business with Aurelius.

Gaius (with a wink):  Not in debt with him, I hope?

Silvius (seriously):  No, I’m here to ask for his daughter in marriage.

Gaius:  Well, you’re a rich, promising gentleman!  You deserve Aurelia, and I bet her father will think the same.  The gods be with you.  Bring your news to the Campus Martius this afternoon.  I’ll be there.  (Silvius looks embarrassed.)  Is anything wrong?

Silvius:  Whenever I have visited Aurelius before, he never seems to remember me!  He always consults his lurking nomenclature when I show my face in the atrium.

Gaius (waving his hand dismissively):  Oh, I doubt he cares what his future son-in-law’s name is as long as it’s that of a rich aristocrat.  Can’t wait to hear your happy announcement!

(Gaius exits, leaving Silvius pacing in the vestibulium.)

 

Scene 2:  Silvius enters the atrium where Aurelius sits with his nomenclature standing next to him.

Aurelius (aside to nomenclature):  Who is that man?  He looks familiar.  Is his name Julius?

Nomenclature:  No, sir.  It’s Silvius Valerius.

Aurelius (sotto voce):  Oh, yes!

Aurelius (aloud):  Silvius, welcome!  What business brings you here?  Not debts, I think!  (laughs heartily, for the Valerius family is famously rich)

Silvius:  I’m here to sign a contract with you.  I would like to marry your daughter Aurelia.

Aurelius:  I could not find a happier choice in a son-in-law.  You have my happy blessing, Julius—

Nomenclature (in an urgent whisper):  Silvius!  His name is Silvius, sir!

Aurelius (turns slightly red and clears his throat):  That is Silvius.  Lapsus linguae!

(Silvius does not appear convinced, but he does look happy as he and Aurelius bid farewell.)

 

Scene 3:  Jullina prepares Aurelia for the wedding.

Jullina:  Today is the day!  The omens are favorable, and all is prepared.  You look beautiful, Aurelia.

Aurelia (smiles):  Thank you, mother.

Jullina (placing the flame-colored wedding veil on Aurelia’s head):  The perfect color for you, my beautiful daughter!

(Jullina and Aurelia embrace affectionately.  The noise in the house grows louder.)

Jullina:  We must go down.  Silvius will be here soon.

(They exit.)

 

Scene 4:  A crowd waits outside Silvius’ new house as Silvius and Aurelia complete the wedding ceremony inside and light their hearthfire.  At last, they emerge into the sunlight, smiling.

Silvius: Thank you for sharing in our joy, friends.

Gaius (yells from the crowd): I was right!

(Silvius smiles and winks at Gaius as everyone else becomes distracted.  Too late, Gaius sees the wedding torch Aurelia tossed.  It knocks him down, but a moment later he pops up, torch in hand and grinning.)

Silvius (mouths to Gaius): You’re next.

Gaius: Hope you’re as right as I was!

(The End.  Curtain falls.)

Fig Tree Perspectives

Act I

Scene 1: (The early morning sun illuminates a giant fig tree, bursting with leaves and fruit.  Cawing crows, blue jays, and cardinals break from the fig tree in flashes of jet, blue, and red, flushed by the noises of approaching humans.  A crow alights beside a squirrel in a nearby tree.)

 

MAUD: The nerve of those invaders!  They think everything is theirs.

FRISK (chattering): Dive at them, dive, dive, dive!  If you’re quick, you can drive them off!

MAUD: I suppose you are offering your services towards this endeavor.

FRISK (subdued): Well, no.  We squirrels are very fleet, but it would be much safer for a bird.

MAUD: I think I’ll just sit right here, thank you very much.  If you think your idea is so great, you can test it yourself, and I’ll content myself with watching.

FRISK (resigned): Oh, all right.

FRISK (a moment later): Hey, maybe the invaders have poor eyesight and will miss most of the fruit!

MAUD (patronizing): Think what you like.

 

Scene 2: (The sun is higher, and the humans are trudging away from the tree carrying buckets heaped with figs.  Frisk slings himself off a branch and lands in Maud’s tree again.)

 

FRISK: Look!  Look!  They’re leaving!  Let’s go see if they left some fruit!

MAUD (calmly): I suppose I’ll come along.

(Frisk skims down the tree trunk and springs over to the fig tree and up its sweeping boughs.  Maud glides from her perch, brakes her wings, and alights with a rustle.)

FRISK (popping out of the leaves beside Maud): I was right!

MAUD (startled and a little cranky): What do you mean?

FRISK: They are blind!  They missed the entire top half of the tree and didn’t get anywhere near the middle of it, either.  Gotta go before the fam gets here and raids what’s left!

(Frisk scampers away.  Maud shakes her head and thoughtfully tears a plump fig off an overhanging branch.)

MAUD (to herself): Those squirrels!  So excitable and silly.  Can’t they understand that the invaders don’t have the wings or climbing skills to reach the top of the tree?

A Fig

Act II

Scene 1: (A cat dances lightly through lush grass.  She jumps onto a low branch of the fig tree, black and white fur brushing the big, fuzzy leaves as she moves up the branch and into the tree.  The jungle encloses her, and she is at home.  Ears swiveling and tail twitching, the huntress prowls from branch to branch in her one-tree forest.  Sensing the cat’s presence, the birds that drew her here fly out of the tree, protesting vocally.)

 

MAUD (alighting beside Frisk): That cat is at it again in the fig tree.  Between her and the invaders, I scarce have chance to snatch a bite of fig.

FRISK (suspiciously): Do you think the invaders employ that beast to guard the tree?

MAUD: I doubt it, but they might as well as far as we’re concerned, for she’s quite successful.

FRISK (over his shoulder, as he bounds away): Well, I’m starting to give up on the figs this year.  I’m going to go find some nuts.

MAUD (aside): You won’t have to look very far.  I think one just ran away.

Dignity

The scene is an magnificent throne room, resplendent in marble, cloth-of-gold, etc.  An elegant young queen sits in state upon the throne, clothed in purple garments and resplendent jewels.  Two stoic looking, silent servants are positioned by the doors at the end of the hall.  A few feet from the dais stands a somewhat ruffled-looking knight in amour, clutching his helmet.

THE QUEEN (pursing her mouth):  My dear Sir Reginald, We wish for an explanation of your conduct…  (she pauses for an instant, then almost imperceptibly shrugs)  Actually, I really want to know what in the world you were thinking…  (she regains her composure, and clears her throat)  You will give us an account.

SIR REGINALD:  I…ah…um…well  (makes an unintelligible noise)  …ah…three weeks ago, your majesty had a feast.

THE QUEEN: We are aware of it.

SIR REGINALD:  And…I…um…

THE QUEEN:  Sir Reginald, I would advise you to make this explanation phenomenal…  (gasps in frustration)  But, if it would make it any easier, let us very well begin at this beginning.  For whom did We hold a feast?

SIR REGINALD:  (brightening)  This particular one was for the closest members of your majesty’s court, about one hundred fifty people, I believe.

THE QUEEN:  Why did We hold a feast?

SIR REGINALD:  It was in celebration of the fifth year of your majesty’s reign.

THE QUEEN:  Indeed.  And what transpired at that feast that brought on so extraordinary a method of conduct from you?  (she purses her mouth again)  Sir Reginald, what does this have to do with anything?

SIR REGINALD:  (cringing)  Ah, yes, well your majesty was seated at the head of the table…

THE QUEEN: As is my wont.

SIR REGINALD:  …and was in conversation with two of your majesty’s closest friends.  Um, the Lady Marianne and the Lady Geraldine.

THE QUEEN:  Halt a moment.  (she motions to the two servants)  Fetch the ladies Marianne and Geraldine.

The ladies arrive, curtsy to the Queen, and nod to Sir Reginald.  The Queen motions them beside her.

THE QUEEN:  Ladies, Sir Reginald declares that three weeks ago there was a feast for one hundred fifty members of my court celebrating my fifth anniversary as Queen, and that I sat at the head of the table in conversation with both of you.  Is it so?

LADY MARIANNE:  It is so.

LADY GERALDINE:  Assuredly.

THE QUEEN:  (a trifle sarcastically)  Good then!  Continue, Sir Reginald.

SIR REGINALD:  Well…in the course of that evening your majesty declared that your majesty would award your majesty’s best castle on the banks of the Nile to the one who brought the Crown Prince of Lumonia trussed up like  chicken to your majesty …

The faces of the ladies have been growing more and more extraordinary. 

LADY MARIANNE:  (laughing)  What?

THE QUEEN:  (torn between amusement and outrage)  I did no such thing!

LADY GERALDINE:  (outraged)  What in the world?

SIR REGINALD:  (eagerly)  Oh, it is quite true, you majesty.  And so I summoned a few of my friends and we rode straightway to Lumonia and ambushed a hunting party…

THE QUEEN:  What!?!

SIR REGINALD:  But unfortunately, it wasn’t the Crown Prince’s hunting party, it was his younger brother’s .  But we ambushed it anyway, figuring once we returned to your majesty we could use him for ransom or something.  But hoping to find extra favor in your majesty’s eyes we trussed the Prince up like a chicken anyway to present to your majesty!  I hope I have pleased your majesty!

THE QUEEN:  WHAT!?!  (half laughing, half hyperventilating)  Pardon my inattention, but what was that again about me saying something at the feast?

SIR REGINALD:  (smiling)   Your majesty said that your majesty would give your majesty’s finest castle on the Nile to the man who brought back the Crown Prince of Lumonia to your majesty trussed up like a chicken, and I have done my best.

THE QUEEN:  (almost laughing) What!  What?  I would say no such ridiculous thing!

Lady Marianne has been looking a bit embarrassed, chewing on her lip.  At this point she taps the Queen on the arm.

LADY MARIANNE:  (murmuring)  Well, your majesty, you know, we did get a bit…tipsy that night…

THE QUEEN:  (face falling)  Oh dear…

LADY GERALDINE:  Yes, you both were.

THE QUEEN:  (very downcast)  Oh dear…  (she motions to one of the servants)  Morold, you were near me that evening…can you…can you recall me…saying…anything like that?  (she puts her face in her hands)

MOROLD:  Ah, yes, your majesty, I believe it was…  (he stops, uncertain)

THE QUEEN:  (resignedly)  Don’t worry; proceed without fear.

MOROLD:  I believe your majesty’s exact words were:  “By all means!  If a King may kidnap his bride, then why not a queen her husband?  I shall gift my finest castle on the Nile to the one who brings me the Crown Prince of Lumonia trussed up like a chicken!”

The Queen lets out a groan.

LADY MARIANNE:  (whispering) I seem to recall several large bouts of laughter that evening.

LADY GERALDINE: Yes, indeed.

The Queen rouses herself.

THE QUEEN:  Morold, please relay to the Prince of Lumonia my request that he join me here in the throne room, along with my sincere compliments and apologies (again) and my hopes that the sores from the ropes may have healed.  (Morold retires)  And now, Sir Reginald, I must confess that I was only joking in my request for the Crown Prince of Lumonia trussed up like a chicken.  Neither do I not own a castle by the Nile, wherever that is…  (Sir Reginald opens his mouth, but the queen raises her hand)  However, your loyalty to the crown is admirable.   Therefore you will be awarded ten thousand crowns…  (she motions the other servant close and whispers)  Ronald, get him out of here, I don’t care if you have to gift him an estate as well (is ten thousand enough?)  I don’t want to see his face around here again.  (Does he know he could start a war?)  The same with his companions.  Shut them up.  I don’t care how you do it, I don’t want word of this going farther than can absolutely be helped.

Sir Reginald is led off, beaming, as the Prince of Lumonia is led in.  The Queen looks rather nervous, and foolish, but pulls herself together.

THE QUEEN:  (hurriedly)  My lord Prince, let me once again express my deepest apologies and…

THE PRINCE:  No apology necessary, my lady, I’m sure it wasn’t your fault.  Anyway, I’ve had worse done to me.

THE QUEEN:  (brightening)  Oh?  Well, that’s a relief.

THE PRINCE:  Yes, in the Second Penem War…but that’s another story, anyway, after the ridiculous explanation Sir Reginald offered me upon my capture I was sure it was all a misunderstanding.

THE QUEEN:  (still embarrassed)  Yes well, the fact of the matter is, I still owe you an explanation.  You see, it was one of the many feasts celebrating my fifth year as queen, and this one was a more “private” one, and I (and my ladies) got a bit…what was the word, Marianne?…ah…tipsy, you see, and we were talking about how I would need to be married soon and all, and someone  (Lady Geraldine coughs)  mentioned how your brother, the Crown Prince of Lumonia, was very handsome and all, and…one thing led to another and I…I assume you know what I said?

THE PRINCE:  (waiving his hand)  Think no more of it, my lady.

THE QUEEN:  (regaining her dignity for the first time in a long time)  Well, this shall serve as a lesson to me to always retain my royal composure…and now, Lord Prince, would you care for some refreshment?  I personally am rather tired out…

They exit, arm in arm…