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Volume of eight plays by Guan Hanqing, the "Shakespeare of China." Includes Snow in Midsummer, a work which appears on International Baccalaureate Curricula.
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This page copyright © 2006 Silk Pagoda.
* Professor of the Department of Chinese Literature in Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou.
The Chinese feudal economy reached a high stage of development in the eleventh century during the Northern Song Dynasty, when handicraft industries and commerce flourished and the urban class gained in strength. As printing was by now in general use, the craftsmen and tradesmen in the cities were able to read popular chante-fables or the librettos of operas, and this was a fruitful time for story-telling and the theatre. In Bianliang, present-day Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty, gathered all manner of folk artists who sang, told stories and put on variety shows, including simple comic operas.
In 1126, the Nuchen Tartars from the north-east established the Kingdom of Jin in northern China, and the Song emperor was forced to move to Hangzhou south of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River, which became the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. During the years when the country was divided, the northern Chinese absorbed into their own music the more stirring melodies of the Nuchen Tartars, who sang on horseback to the accompaniment of fiddles. So came into being a new northern school of music. The music popular at this time in the south was softer and more euphonious — a chamber music suitable for performance during feasts.
In 1234, the Mongols from the desert regions north of the Great Wall, led by Genghis Khan's son Ogutai, overthrew the Kingdom of Jin. In 1279, Genghis Khan's grandson Kublai Khan overthrew the Southern Song empire, uniting all China once more and founding the Yuan Dynasty.
Political conditions under the Mongols were among the worst in Chinese history. Because the people suffered untold hardships yet fought resolutely against their corrupt and despotic rulers, the literature of that period — the drama in particular — breathes a strong fighting spirit. On the whole, the vigorous northern tunes were best suited to express the prevalent mood; thus most of the melodies in the Yuan drama come from the northern music. A type of dramatic ballad popular among townsfolk and known as the zhu-gong-diao also had a great influence on the Yuan theatre. Such ballads were usually performed by a woman with a clapper in her hand, who reinforced her recitation and songs with simple actions and gestures accompanied by music. This was in fact an early form of drama.
A Yuan play is usually divided into four acts, which present the problem, build it up, bring it to a climax and provide a denouement. Sometimes in addition to these four acts a short scene was inserted to introduce minor episodes. When the action was too involved to be contained in four acts, more acts were added, as in the case of the famous drama Romance of the West Chamber. A play seldom had more than one leading male or female character. Thus Guan Hanqing's Snow in Midsummer and Rescued by a Coquette have a heroine in the main role, while all the other characters merely speak instead of singing — a relic of the dramatic ballad related by a single performer.
Intellectuals in feudal China tried to gain official posts by passing the government examinations. Since there were always many unsuccessful candidates, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries educated men who had failed in the examinations often attached themselves to the entertainment parks then popular in the large cities and wrote for the townsfolk, sometimes even taking part themselves in plays or variety shows. When the Mongols abolished the examination system which had opened the way to an official career for feudal intellectuals, many scholars were left without a profession and went down in the social scale. China was now united; there were good communications by land and sea within the empire and with countries to the west, and a prosperous mercantile economy in such cities as Cambaluc (present-day Beijing), Kaifeng and Hangzhou; so the popular arts were in ever greater demand. This provided new opportunities for the intellectuals, many of whom co-operated with actors and story-tellers, writing librettos or ballads for them. The townsfolk called such scholars “talented men.” They had their own guilds or “book societies,” in which they worked, exchanged experience and sometimes held dramatic contests. Indeed the appearance of these professional guilds gave fresh impetus to the development of the theatre. The brilliant playwright Guan Hanqing, one of the great names of Chinese literature, was undoubtedly — judging by historical records and what remains of his work — the most outstanding dramatist among the “talented men” of the Yuan Dynasty.
After overthrowing the Kingdom of Jin, the Mongols in 1264 set up their capital in Cambaluc. In 1279, after the overthrow of the Southern Song Dynasty, Cambaluc became the political and economic centre of the whole of China. Some famous writers in the north founded the Yu-jing Book Society there, and Guan Hanqing was one of its most active members. In his youth he had been a keen student and learned to write all forms of poetry and song. He soon became well-known in the capital for his versatility, his strong sense of humour, remarkable proficiency in music, dancing and singing, and his skill in the football game then in vogue.
From the middle of the thirteenth century to the beginning of the fourteenth was the great age of Yuan drama, when many playwrights of note were assembled in the capital. While there, Guan Hanqing formed his own company of players and sometimes trod the boards himself. Thus he knew every aspect of the theatre.
Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries all the singing in ballads and operas in the entertainment parks was done by singsong girls, most of whom had been sold to brothels by bankrupt parents, although a few were sent there because their families had opposed the government. Theirs was the lowest place in the social order, and such were their humiliation and hardships that they conceived an intense hatred for the rich and mighty. Guan Hanqing was one of the “talented men” who remained in close touch with these singsong girls as. well as with other members of the lowest walks of life during his career as playwright and actor. Knowing them so well, he came to sympathize with them and respect them. Through them he familiarized himself with the techniques of folk art and the vivid expressions of urban speech. This knowledge enabled him to show the sterling qualities and magnificent courage of Chinese womanhood in his plays, to present a comprehensive and truthful picture of town life, and to bring out the genuine nobility of humble folk.
We do not know the exact date of Guan Hanqing's birth and death. Judging by certain records of his time, he was born in the twenties or thirties of the thirteenth century and died at the end of it. Most of his plays were written in the later half of the century, especially in the last two decades — the heyday of the theatre in Cambaluc.
Guan Hanqing was one of the most prolific of the Yuan Dynasty dramatists. Titles of more than sixty of his works are known today, and eighteen of these are still extant. This volume contains a selection of eight of these plays.
Snow in Midsummer, The Wife-Snatcher and The Butterfly Dream deal mainly with justice and trials. Rescued by a Coquette, The Riverside Pavilion and The Jade Mirror-Stand have love and marriage as their themes. Lord Guan Goes to the Feast and Death of the Winged-Tiger General are historical plays.
Of the first group, Snow in Midsummer makes the greatest emotional appeal. Dou E's struggle with the Zhangs and the prefect is a penetrating exposure of the corrupt state of local politics and the social disorder during the Yuan Dynasty, while her rebellious spirit symbolizes the determined resistance of the common people to their cruel oppressors.
The law at that time decreed that the highest officials in the local government must be Mongols or other Tartars — who knew little about regional conditions. As much power was in the hands of their Han deputies, the local authorities were venal and the backward forces of feudalism were unchecked. Dou E loses her mother when she is three, and at seven is sold by her father to the Cai family as a child-bride. She marries at seventeen, but the next year her husband dies, leaving her alone with her mother-in-law. Naturally in such a society these two widows are insulted and abused. But a brave people never gives in. Just before her execution, Dou E swears that after her death Heaven will send down snow in midsummer. The dramatist uses this folk legend to bring out the girl's defiance to authority and her fighting tenacity — a tenacity which moves heaven and earth and persists even after her death. This is a vivid reflection of the essence of that society: the indomitable will of the people and their stubborn opposition to the powers of darkness. It is a characteristic of Chinese tragedy that popular heroes and heroines will not lay down their arms even as ghosts.
Mistress Wang in The Butterfly Dream, who lets her own son die rather than give up the sons of her husband's first wife, is the good mother of traditional Chinese morality. It goes without saying that she loves her son, and she offers to die in his place; but when the judge insists that one of the young men must lose his life, she sacrifices her own boy. After the release of her two stepsons she starts to mourn for her own child. But when they mourn for him too, she comforts them by saying that since they are spared she is content. This is a truthful picture of the mixed emotions of this common woman who, despite the heavy blows she suffers, displays such remarkable fortitude and powers of endurance.
She, too, has no respect for wealth and rank. When a noble kills her husband, she demands that he be tried in the same way as an ordinary citizen. When Prefect Bao wants to execute her stepsons for avenging their father, she clings to their cangues and calls the judge a fool. And when finally she has to let her own son go to his death, she tells him that once he meets his dead father in the shades they must hurl the murderer down into hell.
The Wife-Snatcher shows the tragedy of the families broken up by oppressive rule. At that time the troops stationed by the Mongols in different parts of the country abducted women and seized property at will. Lu Zhailang in this play is such a character. But as the playwright could not speak out directly against such iniquities, he had to present this as a story of a previous dynasty.
The second act, describing how Zhang Gui is forced to take his wife to Lu Zhailang's house, contains one of the most realistic passages in our classical drama. Since Lu is so powerful, Zhang has to deliver his wife to him at dawn. But unable to explain this to his wife, he pretends that he is taking her to a relative's wedding. Upon reaching Lu's house, he tries to drown his sorrows in wine; and his wife, not realizing that they are to part, urges him not to drink so much. Then Zhang bursts out with the truth, and she reproaches him. By means of such telling details, Guan Hanqing brings home vividly to his audiences the love between the husband and wife, their happiness and impending disaster.
Both in The Wife-Snatcher and The Butterfly Dream, the official who champions the common people is Prefect Bao, a historical figure. Bao Zheng was a fair and just official of the eleventh century. Because so few feudal functionaries had any sense of justice, stories about this good official spread and he became virtually deified. During the Yuan Dynasty, the general resentment against the government and longing for better rule made plays about Prefect Bao more popular than ever.
The three plays in this selection about love and various comedies of errors are among the best Yuan Dynasty dramas of this type.
The Jade Mirror-Stand is based on a traditional story about an old husband with a young wife. Though such a marriage is unnatural, Guan Hanqing approved of it because in his time polygamy was allowed; and since one husband could have many wives, it was better for a woman to marry an older man who was devoted to her than a young one with divided affections. The author's view was conditioned by his times. From the advice which Wen gives his wife, we can see how rich young men treated their wives and the loneliness of the unfortunate women who were forsaken — a common enough occurrence when a man had many concubines.
The Riverside Pavilion is packed with suspense and surprises from the first act when the abbess tricks Tan Jier into marrying her nephew, to the last when Tan Jier confronts Lord Yang. The third act is particularly good theatre, when the heroine approaches the enemy in disguise, catches them off their guard and disarms them. Her courage and tact are contrasted with the worthlessness and weakness of the seemingly mighty Lord Yang.
Tan Jier is a widow, and according to feudal conventions she should not remarry; but Guan Hanqing evidently considers it right for her to marry a second husband who respects her. This was an advanced view for those times, and a strongly anti-feudal one, for it meant considering the problem of second marriage for a widow not from the standpoint of feudal morality but from that of the woman herself.
Rescued by a Coquette is generally considered one of the best Yuan Dynasty comedies. The battle of wits between the singsong girl Paner and Zhou. She helps us to understand the hypocrisy and cruelty of the privileged elite — Zhou is an official's son — and the unselfish affection and fair-mindedness of the ordinary man and woman, which enabled Paner and her friend to triumph in the end.
The dialogue in Act III, when Zhou She meets Paner and again when she urges him to write a divorce paper for Yinzhang, reveals his craftiness and her wit and courage. It is worth noting that the tactics Paner uses against Zhou She are the same which he and other profligates employ to cheat singsong girls. The girls have so often been deceived that they are on the alert and know how to turn the tables — a logical development.
Just as the playwright probes deep into Zhou She's character, he gives no superficial description of Paner but reveals her real self by presenting her innermost thoughts as the action develops. When Yinzhang's mother shows Paner her daughter's letter and asks for her help, Paner's first impulse is to refuse because her advice was ignored when Yinzhang married Zhou She. But then the thought of the hardships of all singsong girls and the bonds between them finally decides her to go, disclosing her fine character. On the way to rescue her friend, it occurs to her that she may meet women of good family; and comparing her own behaviour and social status with theirs, she despairs of ever being able to overcome the faults she has picked up in her trade. In this soliloquy she pours out the bitterness of the singsong girls so despised in feudal society.
Death of the Winged-Tiger General is a historical play about events which took place at the beginning of the tenth century. The hero, Li Cunxiao, has won many battles for Li Keyong, the Tartar prince. But two wicked men, Li Cunxin and Kang Junli, who please the prince by their skill in singing and dancing, slander the hero and have him torn to pieces. This reflects the corruption of feudal ruling circles.
This Tartar prince, Li Keyong, won favour by helping the Tang government to crush the peasant revolt led by Huang Chao at the end of the Tang Dynasty. Li Cunxiao was one of his ablest generals and his adopted son. The author, whose understanding was limited by historical conditions, could not see the reactionary nature of a general who suppressed a peasant revolt, and considered him instead as a hero, a positive character. It is worth noting that the general's tragic end was due not only to slander but to the fact that he was not Li Keyong's own son. In the Yuan Dynasty there was sharp rivalry between different nationalities, and Guan Hanqing in this play clearly implies that those who serve the invaders will come to a bad end. The two villains here are trusted by the prince only because they know the Tartar language and flatter their master. The appearance of such characters on the stage must undoubtedly have reminded contemporary audiences of those who collaborated with the conquerors.
Lord Guan Goes to the Feast is a historical drama that has remained popular for the last seven hundred years. According to tradition, Liu Bei, the king of Shu in the Three Kingdoms Period, was a good monarch who loved the people, while his rival Cao Cao of the Kingdom of Wei was a crafty and cruel ruler. Lord Guan defended Liu Bei's territory against Cao Cao and Sun Quan of the Kingdom of Wu. We need not concern ourselves here with the real character of these three rivals, but Lord Guan was a popular hero in the Yuan Dynasty on account of his loyalty to Liu Bei. Guan Hanqing was able most effectively to bring this heroic figure to life on the stage.
The Confucian concept of an “orthodox government” was an ideological weapon used by the feudal rulers to control the country, but during a period of foreign domination the people could turn this concept to account as a unifying factor against aggression. Thus this play had a positive significance for that period because through the hero's speeches Guan Hanqing upheld the ideal of Han orthodoxy.
Guan Hanqing stands out in the history of Chinese drama for his strong fighting spirit. He could not tolerate the social injustice of his time, and exposed it so forcefully that his audiences could see the cause of their suffering and knew what to attack in real life. Indeed, his plays are filled with heroic characters whose struggles and victories inspired the people to fight against abuses in society. Moreover his intricate, well-constructed plots show clearly how his heroes and heroines expose their enemies and unite with their friends, and what stratagems they use to defeat their opponents. He teaches that those who uphold justice, provided they plan well and use the right tactics, can defeat any foe no matter how powerful. Tan Jier, Paner and Lord Guan have formidable enemies; but because their cause is right and their tactics correct, they triumph in the end.
Guan Hanqing's technical brilliance is also outstanding. The climaxes of his plays nearly always grow out of the environment and the special characteristics of his heroes and heroines, who are magnificently alive thanks to the inspired detail with which he draws them, revealing their mental conflicts. He shows great psychological insight in his treatment of his heroes and heroines during a crisis. For example, before Paner goes to Zhengzhou she tells Yinzhang's mother of her sympathy for her friend; when Dou E takes a final leave of her mother-in-law, she is firm to the end because she has lived up to her principles all her life; Lord Guan's advice to his sons before setting out to the feast shows his concern for the younger generation. Similar episodes, moving and authentic, can be found in all these plays.
Guan Hanqing also shows a sure touch when he uses certain episodes to throw his characters into strong relief or build up atmosphere. For instance, at the end of Act I in The Wife-Snatcher, Zhang Gui picks up the pellet with which Lu Zhai-lang has hit his child, and bows to it saying:
This shot served as a go-between,
Coming like a bolt from the blue.
You will have a wife tomorrow,
But I shall have none.
This expresses the agony which Zhang cannot disclose to his wife, and at the same time suggests to the audience that in the next scene husband and wife will be parted. Again, in Act III of The Riverside Pavilion, when Tan Jier comes up with a fish and describes how she has caught it with her net, the audience foresees that she will spread a net to catch Lord Yang too. In Act IV of Lord Guan Goes to the Feast, the songs which Lord Guan sings when arriving and leaving about the magnificent scenery of the Changjiang (Yangtze) and the gallantry of the brave men who have fought there are powerfully evocative.
Guan Hanqing depicts positive characters by the use of meticulous detail, while his villains are usually caricatures, their ugliest features sketched in with simple strokes. This difference in treatment was partly due to the fact that Yuan Dynasty dramatists generally placed the main emphasis on the chief character who did all the singing, but it also shows where Guan Hanqing's sympathy lay. Feeling a genuine antipathy for the bullies and hypocrites, he could lay his finger on their essential weakness, expose them and make them ridiculous to his audiences.
As a keen observer of life, Guan Hanqing was able to present various social phenomena on the stage and raise new problems. Since all his plots are taken from real life, they remain fresh and convincing.
To appreciate Guan Hanqing's greatness, we. must remember that he lived seven hundred years ago in a feudal society during an age of sharp class and racial conflicts. The stage conventions of that time were most exacting, as indicated earlier. The number of acts was strictly limited, and there could only be one chief character, while the tunes and songs were also governed by inflexible rules. The songs in each act must belong to the same musical scale and follow a definite pattern. The requirements of the music determined the length of the lines as well as the words accented. In those days, the songs or lyrical part of the drama were all important, while the dialogue was merely secondary. This tradition persisted till the fourteenth century, and it was only after a new form of drama, the Ming Dynasty zhuan-qi, became popular that there was a gradual introduction of more dialogue.
Guan Hanqing's plays exemplify the best qualities of many dramatists of his time. He helped to found the realist tradition in the classical Chinese theatre, and have had a deep and lasting influence. But since his plays exposed various abuses in feudal society and offended the privileged classes, from the fourteenth century onwards they were not highly regarded by the literati. This is why many of them have been lost. Today when the people are masters of their own fate, this great dramatist who had such faith in the common man is coming back into his own, a new edition of his works has been published, and his plays are being staged again.
Though the dates of Guan Hanqing's birth and death are uncertain, we know that seven centuries ago he was writing for the stage, and this year has therefore been chosen as his 700th anniversary. We are publishing these English translations of some of his plays in order to introduce this great thirteenth century playwright to lovers of the drama throughout the world.
MISTRESS CAI, a widow
DOU TIANZHANG, a poor scholar, later a government inspector
DOU E, Dou Tianzhang's daughter Duanyun
OLD ZHANG DONKEY, his son
THE OFFICER IN CHARGE OF EXECUTIONS
(Enter Mistress Cai.)
A flower may blossom again,
But youth never returns.
I am Mistress Cai of Chuzhou. There were three of us in my family; but unluckily my husband died, leaving me just one son who is eight years old. We live together, mother and son, and are quite well off. A scholar named Dou of Shan-yang Prefecture borrowed five taels of silver from me last year. Now the interest and capital come to ten taels, and I've asked several times for the money; but Mr. Dou cannot pay it. He has a daughter, and I've a good mind to make her my daughter-in-law; then he won't have to pay back the ten taels. Mr. Dou chose today as a lucky day, and is bringing the girl to me; so I won't ask him to pay me back, but wait for him at home. He should be here soon. (Enter Dou Tianzhang, leading his daughter Duanyun.)
I am master of all the learning in the world,
But my fate is worse than that of other men.
My name is Dou Tianzhang, and the home of my ancestors is Chang-an. I have studied the classics since I was a child and read a good deal; but I haven't yet taken the examinations. Unfortunately my wife has died, leaving me this only daughter, Duanyun. She lost her mother when she was three, and now she is seven. Living from hand to mouth, I moved to Shanyang Prefecture in Chuzhou and took lodgings here. There is a widow in this town named Cai, who lives alone with her son and is fairly well off, and as I had no money for travelling I borrowed five taels from her. Now, with the interest, I owe her ten taels; but though she has asked several times for the money, I haven't been able to pay her. And recently she has sent to say she would like my daughter to marry her son. Since the spring examinations will soon be starting, I should be going to the capital; but I have no money for the road. So I am forced to take Duanyun to Widow Cai as her future daughter-in-law. I'm not marrying my daughter but selling her! For this means the widow will cancel my debt and give me some cash for my journey. This is all I can hope for. Ah, child, your father does this against his will! While talking to myself I've reached her door. Mistress Cai! Are you at home? (Enter Mistress Cai.)
So it's Mr. Dou! Come in, please. I've been waiting for you. (They greet each other.)
I've brought you my daughter, ma'am, not to be your daughter-in-law — that would be asking too much — but to serve you day and night. I must be going to take the examination. I hope you will look after her.
Well, you owed me ten taels including interest. Here is your promissory note back and another two taels for your journey. I hope you don't think it too little.
Thank you, ma'am! Instead of asking for what I owe you, you have given me money for the road. Some day I shall repay your kindness in full. My daughter is a foolish child. Please take care of her, ma'am, for my sake.
Don't worry, Mr. Dou. I shall look after your daughter as if she were my own.
(kneeling to her) : If the child deserves a beating, ma'am, for my sake just scold her! And if she deserves a scolding, for my sake speak gently to her! As for you, Duanyun, this isn't like at home, where your father used to put up with your whims. If you're naughty here, you'll be beaten and cursed. When shall I see you again, child? (He sighs.)
I drum sadly on my sheath;
I have studied the Confucian classics;
My unhappy wife died young,
And now I am parted from my only daughter. (Exit.)
Now Mr. Dou has left me his daughter, and gone to the capital for the examination. I must see to the house. (Exeunt.)
(Enter Doctor Lu.)
I diagnose all diseases with care,
And prescribe as the Herbal dictates;
But I cannot bring dead men back to life,
And the live ones I treat often die.
I am Doctor Lu. I own a drug shop here. I've borrowed ten taels of silver from Mistress Cai of this town, and with interest now owe her twenty taels. She keeps coming for the money; but I haven't got it. If she doesn't come back, so much the better. If she does, I have a plan. I'll sit in my shop now, and wait to see who turns up. (Enter Mistress Cai.)
I am Mistress Cai. Thirteen years ago Mr. Dou Tianzhang left his daughter Duanyun with me to marry my son, and I changed her name to Dou E. But after their marriage my son died, so now she's a widow. That was nearly three years ago, and she'll soon be out of mourning. I've told her that I'm going to town to collect a debt from Doctor Lu. Now I've reached his house. Is Doctor Lu in?
Yes, ma'am, come in.
You've kept my money for a long time, doctor. You must pay me back.
I've no money at home, ma'am. If you'll come with me to the village, I'll get money for you.
Very well. I'll go with you. (They start walking.)
Now we are outside the city. Here's a good spot, with no one about. Why not do it here? I've got the rope ready. Who's that calling you, ma'am?
(The Doctor strangles the widow with the rope. Enter Old Zhang and his son Donkey. As they rush forward the Doctor takes to his heels. Old Zhang revives Mistress Cai.)
It's an old woman, dad, nearly strangled to death.
Hey, you! Who are you? What's your name? Why did that fellow try to strangle you?
My name is Cai and I live in town with my widowed daughter-in-law. Doctor Lu owes me twenty taels so he lured me here and tried to strangle me. If not for you and this young man, it would have been all up with me!
Did you hear that, dad? She has a daughter-in-law at home! Suppose you take her as your wife and I take the daughter-in-law? Propose it to her, dad!
Hey, widow! You've no husband and I've no wife. How about the two of us getting married?
What an idea! I shall give you a handsome sum of money to thank you.
So you refuse! I'd better strangle you after all.
Wait! Let me think a moment, brother!
What do you need to think for? You take my dad, and I'll take your daughter-in-law.
MRS. CAI (aside):
If I don't agree he'll strangle me! (To them.) Very well. Come home with me, both of you.
Let's go. (Exeunt.) (Enter Dou E.)
I am Duanyun, and my home was in Chuzhou. When I was three I lost my mother; and when I was seven I had to leave my father, for he sent me to Mistress Cai as her son's child-bride, and she changed my name to Dou E. At seventeen I married; but unluckily my husband died three years ago. Now I am twenty. There is a Doctor Lu in town who owes my mother-in-law twenty taels including interest; and though she has asked him several times for the money, he hasn't paid her back. She's gone today to try to collect the debt. Ah, when shall I escape from my misery?
My heart is full of grief,
I have suffered for so many years!
Morning or evening it is all the same:
From dawn to dusk I can neither eat nor sleep,
Racked by sad dreams at night, sad thoughts by day,
Unending sorrow which I cannot banish,
Unceasing reasons for fresh misery.
Wretchedness makes me weep, grief makes me frown;
Will this never come to an end?
Is it my fate to be wretched all my life?
Who else knows grief like mine?
For my sorrow, like flowing water, never ceases.
At three I lost my mother, at seven was torn from my father;
Then the life of the husband I married was cut short;
So my mother-in-law and I are left as widows,
With no one to care for us or see to our needs.
Did I burn too little incense in my last life
That my marriage was unlucky?
We should all do good betimes;
So I mourn for my husband and serve my mother-in-law, Obedient to all her bidding.
My mother-in-law has been gone a long time to collect that debt. What can be keeping her?
(Enter Mistress Cai with Old Zhang and Donkey.)
Wait here at the door while I go in.
All right, mother. Go in and tell her her husband is at the door. (Mistress Cai sees Dou E.)
So you're back, mother. Have you had a meal?
MRS. CAI (crying):
Ah, poor child! How am I going to break this to you?
I see her in floods of tears,
Hiding some grief in her heart;
Greeting her quickly,
I beg her to tell me the reason.
How can I say this?
She's shilly-shallying and looks ashamed.
What has upset you, mother? Why are you crying?
When I asked Doctor Lu for the silver, he lured me outside the town, then tried to strangle me; but an old man called Zhang and his son Donkey saved my life. Now Old Zhang is going to marry me: that's why I'm upset.
That would never do, mother! Please think again! We're not short of money. Besides, you are growing old — how can you take another husband?
Child, I couldn't do anything else!
Mother, listen to me!
What will become of you
If you choose a day and solemnize a wedding?
Now your hair is as white as snow,
How can you wear the bright silk veil of a bride?
No wonder they say it is hard to keep women at home,
If at sixty, when all thought of love should be over,
You've forgotten your former husband,
And taken a fancy to another man!
This will make others split their sides with laughter!
Yes, split their sides with laughter!
Like the widow who fanned her husband's tomb,
You're no tender bamboo shoot, no tender shoot.
How can you paint your eyebrows and remarry?
Your husband left you his property,
Made provision for the future,
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