Salon in the villa, furnished and decorated so as to look exactly
like the throne room of Henry IV. in the royal residence at Goslar.
Among the antique decorations there are two modern life-size
portraits in oil painting. They are placed against the back wall, and
mounted in a wooden stand that runs the whole length of the wall. (It
is wide and protrudes, so that it is like a large bench). One of the
paintings is on the right; the other on the left of the throne, which
is in the middle of the wall and divides the stand.
The Imperial chair and Baldachin.
The two portraits represent a lady and a gentleman, both young,
dressed up in carnival costumes: one as "Henry IV.," the
other as the "Marchioness Matilda of Tuscany." Exits to
Right and Left.
(When the curtain goes up, the two valets jump down, as if
surprised, from the stand on which they have been lying, and go and
take their positions, as rigid as statues, on either side below the
throne with their halberds in their hands. Soon after, from the
second exit, right, enter Harold, Landolph, Ordulph and Berthold,
young men employed by the Marquis Charles Di Nolli to play the part
of "Secret Counsellors" at the court of "Henry IV."
They are, therefore, dressed like German knights of the XIth century.
Berthold, nicknamed Fino, is just entering on his duties for the
first time. His companions are telling him what he has to do and
amusing themselves at his expense. The scene is to be played rapidly
LANDOLPH (to Berthold as if explaining). And this is the throne
HAROLD. At Goslar.
ORDULPH. Or at the castle in the Hartz, if you prefer.
HAROLD. Or at Wurms.
LANDOLPH. According as to what's doing, it jumps about with us,
now here, now there.
ORDULPH. In Saxony.
HAROLD. In Lombardy.
LANDOLPH. On the Rhine.
ONE OF THE VALETS (without moving, just opening his lips). I
HAROLD (turning round). What is it?
FIRST VALET (like a statue). Is he coming in or not? (He alludes
to Henry IV.)
ORDULPH. No, no, he's asleep. You needn't worry.
SECOND VALET (releasing his pose, taking a long breath and going
to lie down again on the stand). You might have told us at once.
FIRST VALET (going over to Harold). Have you got a match, please?
LANDOLPH. What? You can't smoke a pipe here, you know.
FIRST VALET (while Harold offers him a light). No; a cigarette.
(Lights his cigarette and lies down again on the stand).
BERTHOLD (who has been looking on in amazement, walking round the
room, regarding the costumes of the others). I say...this room...
these costumes...Which Henry IV. is it? I don't quite get it. Is he
Henry IV. of France or not? (At this Landolph, Harold, and Ordulph,
burst out laughing).
LANDOLPH (still laughing; and pointing to Berth old as if inviting
the others to make fun of him). Henry of France he says: ha! ha!
ORDULPH. He thought it was the king of France!
HAROLD. Henry IV. of Germany, my boy: the Salian dynasty!
ORDULPH. The great and tragic Emperor!
LANDOLPH. He of Canossa. Every day we carry on here the terrible
war between Church and State, by Jove.
ORDULPH. The Empire against the Papacy!
HAROLD. Antipopes against the Pope!
LANDOLPH. Kings against antikings!
ORDULPH. War on the Saxons!
HAROLD. And all the rebels Princes!
LANDOLPH. Against the Emporer's own sons!
BERTHOLD (covering his head with his hands to protect himself
against this avalanche of information). I understand! I understand!
Naturally, I didn't get the idea at first. I'm right then: these
aren't costumes of the XVIth century?
HAROLD. XVIth century be hanged!
ORDULPH. We're somewhere between a thousand and eleven hundred.
LANDOLPH. Work it out for yourself: if we are before Canossa on
the 25th of January, 1071...
BERTHOLD (more confused than ever). Oh my God! What a mess I've
made of it!
ORDULPH. Well, just slightly, if you supposed you were at the
BERTHOLD. All that historical stuff I've swatted up!
LANDOLPH. My dear boy, it's four hundred years earlier.
BERTHOLD (getting angry). Good Heavens! You ought to have told me
it was Germany and not France. I can't tell you how many books I've
read in the last fifteen days.
HAROLD. But I say, surely you knew that poor Tito was Adalbert of
BERTHOLD. Not a damned bit!
LANDOLPH. Well, don't you see how it is? When Tito died, the
Marquis Di Nolli...
BERTHOLD. Oh, it was he, was it? He might have told me.
HAROLD. Perhaps he thought you knew.
LANDOLPH. He didn't want to engage anyone else in substitution. He
thought the remaining three of us would do. But he began to cry out:
"With Adalbert driven away...": because, you see, he didn't
imagine poor Tito was dead; but that, as Bishop Adalbert, the rival
bishops of Cologne and Mayence had driven him off...
BERTHOLD (taking his head in his hand). But I don't know a word of
what you're talking about.
ORDULPH. So much the worse for you, my boy!
HAROLD. But the trouble is that not even we know who you are.
BERTHOLD. What? Not even you? You don't know who I'm supposed to
ORDULPH. Hum! "Berthold."
BERTHOLD. But which Berthold? And why Berthold?
LANDOLPH (solemnly imitating Henry IV.). "They've driven
Adalbert away from me. Well then, I want Berthold! I want Berthold !"
That's what he said.
HAROLD. We three looked one another in the eyes: who's got to be
ORDULPH. And so here you are, "Berthold," my dear
LANDOLPH. I'm afraid you will make a bit of a mess of it.
BERTHOLD (indignant, getting ready to go). Ah, no! Thanks very
much, but I'm off! I'm out of this!
HAROLD (restraining him with the other two, amid laughter). Steady
now! Don't get excited!
LANDOLPH. Cheer up, my dear fellow! We don't any of us know who we
are really. He's Harold; he's Ordulph; I'm Landolph! That's the way
he calls us. We've got used to it. But who are we? Names of the
period! Yours, too, is a name of the period: Berthold! Only one of
us, poor Tito, had got a really decent part, as you can read in
history: that of the Bishop of Bremen. He was just like a real
bishop. Tito did it awfully well, poor chap!
HAROLD. Look at the study he put into it!
LANDOLPH. Why, he even ordered his Majesty about, opposed his
views, guided and counselled him. We're "secret counsellors"--in
a manner of speaking only; because it is written in history that
Henry IV. was hated by the upper aristocracy for surrounding himself
at court with young men of the bourgeoise.
ORDULPH. Us, that is.
LANDOLPH. Yes, small devoted vassals, a bit dissolute and very
BERTHOLD. So I've got to be gay as well?
HAROLD. I should say so! Same as we are!
ORDULPH. And it isn't too easy, you know.
LANDOLPH. It's a pity; because the way we're got up, we could do a
fine historical reconstruction. There's any amount of material in the
story of Henry IV. But, as a matter of fact, we do nothing. We've
have the form without the content. We're worse than the real secret
counsellors of Henry IV.; because certainly no one had given them a
part to play--at any rate, they didn't feel they had a part to play.
It was their life. They looked after their own interests at the
expense of others, sold investitures and-- what not! We stop here in
this magnificent court --for what?--Just doing nothing. We're like so
many puppets hung on the wall, waiting for some one to come and move
us or make us talk.
HAROLD. Ah no, old sport, not quite that! We've got to give the
proper answer, you know. There's trouble if he asks you something and
you don't chip in with the cue.
LANDOLPH. Yes, that's true.
BERTHOLD. Don't rub it in too hard! How the devil am I to give him
the proper answer, if I've swatted up Henry IV. of France, and now he
turns out to be Henry IV. of Germany? (The other three laugh).
HAROLD. You'd better start and prepare yourself at once.
ORDULPH. We'll help you out.
HAROLD. We've got any amount of books on the subject. A brief run
through the main points will do to begin with.
ORDULPH. At any rate, you must have got some sort of general idea.
HAROLD. Look here! (Turns him around and shows him the portrait of
the March ioness Matilda on the wall). Who's that?
BERTHOLD (looking at it). That? Well, the thing seems to me
somewhat out of place, anyway: two modern paintings in the midst of
all this respectable antiquity!
HAROLD. You're right! They weren't there in the beginning. There
are two niches there behind the pictures. They were going to put up
two statues in the style of the period. Then the places were covered
with those canvasses there.
LANDOLPH (interrupting and continuing). They would certainly be
out of place if they really were paintings!
BERTHOLD. What are they, if they aren't paintings?
LANDOLPH. Go and touch them! Pictures all right...but for him!
(Makes a mysterious gesture to the right, alluding to Henry
IV.)...who never touches them!...
BERTHOLD. No? What are they for him?
LANDOLPH. Well, I'm only supposing, you know; but I imagine I'm
about right. They're images such as...well--such as a mirror might
throw back. Do you understand? That one there represents himself, as
he is in this throne room, which is all in the style of the period.
V/hat's there to marvel at? If we put you before a mirror, won't you
see yourself, alive, but dressed up in ancient costume? Well, it's as
if there were two mirrors there, which cast back living images in the
midst of a world which, as you will see, when you have lived with us,
comes to life too.
BERTHOLD. I say, look here...I've no particular desire to go mad
HAROLD. Go mad, be hanged! You'll have a fine time! BERTHOLD. Tell
me this: how have you all managed to become so learned?
LANDOLPH. My dear fellow, you can't go back over 800 years of
history without picking up a bit of experience.
HAROLD. Come on! Come on! You'll see how quickly you get into it!
ORDULPH. You'll learn wisdom, too, at this school.
BERTHOLD. Well, for Heaven's sake, help me a bit! Give me the main
HAROLD. Leave it to us. We'll do it all between us.
LANDOLPH. We'll put your wires on you and fix you up like a first
class marionette. Come along! (They take him by the arm to lead him
BERTHOLD (stopping and looking at the portrait on the wall). Wait
a minute! You haven't told me who that is. The Emperor's wife?
HAROLD. No! The Emperor's wife is Bertha of Susa, the sister of
Amadeus II. of Savoy.
ORDULPH. And the Emperor, who wants to be young with us, can't
stand her, and wants to put her away.
LANDOLPH. That is his most ferocious enemy: Matilda, Marchioness
BERTHOLD. Ab, I've got it: the one who gave hospitality to the
LANDOLPH. Exactly: at Canossa!
ORDULPH. Pope Gregory VII.!
HAROLD. Our bête noir! Come on! come on! (All four move
toward the right to go out, when, from the left, the old servant John
enters in evening dress).
JOHN (quickly, anxiously). Hss! Hss! Frank! Lolo!
HAROLD (turning round). What is it?