Absalom the King


Act I
Scene i


(Behind a scrim as in a dream, a young woman, Tamar, brings to her half brother, Amon, lying "ill" in his bed, some cakes to eat. But he suddenly grabs her arm and pulls her towards himself. He gestures for her to lie with him and she shakes her head "no". He continues to pull her to his bed and there rapes her. Afterward she cries and he gestures for her to leave. She will not. He rises from his bed and summons his servants to eject her and bar the door to her. She is pushed through a door (outside the scrim) into a road and the door is bolted so that she cannot reenter. She reaches down and takes a handful of dirt and rubs it into her hair and smears it on her face. She then tears her fine garments and robes and sits upon the ground weeping. Only when she is outside the scrim is her weeping audible to the audience. There is no dialogue.)

 

Scene ii

(Tamar and Absalom are alone in a room of the palace)

 

Tamar

What I have told you, that hath he done!
I am lost to self and to family.
Should not such a deed be punished?

 

Absalom

The aim of his arrow was not true,
For t'was I he meant to harm, not you.
His insolence takes me for a coward
In me the bitter seed he plants hath flowered
I shall bide my time with a smile,
But in my heart, plan my revenge the while!
My response will not fall wide the mark.
Then will be revealed what now is dark.

 

Act II Scene i

(Two years later two servants in a hall of the palace speak in hushed tones.)

 

First Servant

The king weeps in his chambers now.

 

Second Servant

Wherefore doth great King David weep?

 

First Servant

Prince Absalom hath killed his brothers all.

 

Second Servant

What? Murdered them? All? In his house?

 

First Servant

The prince invited them to his estate
To celebrate the shearing of the sheep
And the gathering of the unspindled wool.
When they were safe collected there,
And eating and imbibing the sweet wine,
Then did he, and his servants, slay them all.
So it was told by one who has escaped.

 

Second Servant

A fearful hospitality!
He must be altogether mad!
Why would he do such evil thing?

 

First Servant

It doth make him the only heir.

 

Second Servant

The people won’t accept such ways,
They fear that God will punish Israel!

 

First Servant

But David loves fair Absalom
And the King is beloved by God.

 

Second Servant

Did David love his other sons?
I think he did not love them less.


First Servant

When Cain slew Abel he was sent
By God from Eden out to other lands.

 

Second Servant

Should David send away his son?
The young Prince Absalom?
Would it not surely break his heart!

 

Scene ii

(A state room in King David's Palace.)
(ENTER King David with family and friends comforting him)

 

King David

My sons, all my dear sons, all gone!
Punish not the children, O Lord.
Why hast God done this thing to me?
Why hath He slain my family?
Why have they borne the punishment
That should have been mine alone?
Those children, dear, that once
Rejoiced with me, ate at my table here,
Whose sweet fond voices I did love,
And wiped away their tears.
All that I did was done for them.
Here I will be lost in old age,
Who shall keep my name in remembrance now?

 

 (A young man pulls gently on King David's robes)

 

Young man

My King, I am thy humble servant Sire.
I may know something of this thing.
If it please thee, may I speak more?
It may ease thy mind and heart some
Which art now battered and so broke by it.

 

King David

If words can do that, then thy words
Are richer than all my wealth in this world

 

Young man

Do not be certain Absalom
Slew all thy sons who were with him.

 

King David

Pray God that thou art right!

 

Young man

His quarrel was with Amon since
He forced himself upon his sister once.
And ever after he did full hate him,
Although he did not speak it out to him.

 

King David

Why killed he all the others then?

 

Young man

Be not so well persuaded that he has!
We only heard from Amon’s servant, Sire,
Who fled the throng before the rest
And feared for his life when his master fell.
If even the worst thou hast dreamt
Did happen there this night, yet some escaped,
And they will come here to tell thee,
And ask for thy protection now.