A dialogue between wife and husband
Their power ambitions. Money, sausages and a carriage. The ancestors of the absurd rulers of the 20th and 21st centuries. An excerpt from Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, Act I, Scene I, a grotesque play satirizing capitalism and the bourgeoisie. First performed in Paris in 1896.
Selection by Gad Kaynar Kissinger
Poland – that is to say nowhere. Papa Ubu, Mama Ubu.
Papa Ubu: Pshite!
MAMA UBU. Oh! that’s a fine thing. What a pig you are, Papa Ubu!
PAPA UBU. Watch out I don’t kill you, Mama Ubu!
MAMA UBU. It isn’t me you ought to kill, Papa Ubu, it’s someone else.
PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, I don’t understand.
MAMA UBU. What! Papa Ubu, you’re content with your lot?
PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, pshite. Madam, certainly yes, I’m content. I could be content with less. After all, I’m Captain of Dragoons, Privy Councillor to King Wenceslas, Knight of the Red Eagle of Poland, and formerly King of Aragon. What more do you want?
MAMA UBU. What! After being King of Aragon, you’re content with reviewing fifty flunkies armed with cabbage-cutters, when you could put the crown of Poland on your head where the crown of Aragon used to be?
PAPA UBU. Ah, Mama Ubu, I don’t understand a word you’re saying.
MAMA UBU. You are so stupid.
PAPA UBU. Now by my green candle, King Wenceslas is very much alive. And suppose he snuffs it – hasn’t he got legions of children?
MAMA UBU. What prevents you from slaughtering the whole family and putting yourself in their place?
PAPA UBU. Ah! Mama Ubu, you do me wrong. Watch out you don’t end up in the soup.
MAMA UBU. Poor unfortunate, when I’m in the soup who’ll patch the seat of your pants?
PAPA UBU. Who cares? Isn’t my arse just like everybody else’s?
MAMA UBU. If I were in your place, I’d want to plant that arse on a throne. You could make lots of money, and eat all the sausages you want, and roll through the streets in a carriage.
PAPA UBU. If I were King, I’d wear a big widebrimmed hat, the kind I had in Aragon, the one those Spanish rogues stole from me.
MAMA UBU. You could also obtain an umbrella and a big cape that would fall to your heels.
PAPA UBU. Ah! I yield to temptation. Buggery pshite, pshitey buggery! If I ever run into him in a corner of the woods, he’ll pass a bad quarter of an hour!
MAMA UBU. Ah! well, Papa Ubu, now you’re acting like a real man.
PAPA UBU. No, no! Me – Captain of Dragoons – slaughter the King of Poland? I’d sooner die!
MAMA UBU (aside). Oh, pshite! – (Aloud.) Would you rather remain as beggarly as a rat, Papa Ubu?
PAPA UBU. Bluebelly! by my green candle, I’d rather be poor a beggar like a skinny and brave rat than rich like a mean and fat cat.
MAMA UBU. And the broad-brimmed hat? And the umbrella? And the big cape?
PAPA UBU. And then what, Mama Ubu?
He leaves, banging the door.
MAMA UBU (alone). Vrout, pshite! He’s slow to understand, but vrout, pshite! I believe he’s been shaken. Thanks to God and myself, in eight days I may be Queen of Poland.
Translation by Alfred Whittaker, freely available online at https://www.patakosmos.com/database-open-access/king-ubu-alfred-jarry.pdf