tv Journal LINKTV November 12, 2013 2:00pm-2:31pm PST
the play for this program, ubu roi, by alfred jarry. now, your host, mr. jose ferrer. like most burlesques, ubu roi is irreverent towards all that conventional society holds sacred. in the tradition of clowns and puppets, this play makes fun of ambition, nobility, idealism and government. its hero, if ubu can be called that,
is a grotesque monster who mishandles everything he touches and everyone he knows. where traditional drama seriously deals with plots against a ruler or the downfall of a kingdom, ubu goes to work with water pistol and kazoo. where traditional drama shows the whispered conspiracy of a queen inciting her husband to greater power, ubu roi shows a blowsy-looking, overstuffed woman hurling obscenities as undignified as any uttered by her husband. and where traditional drama carefully builds a plot from opening scene to final resolution, ubu roi jumps around in time and space, deliberately episodic, showing that plays should be constructed to match a world that doesn't make sense. at first glance, you may be amused by this comedy and yet startled to find that it has a place in the history of the theater. the date of its composition, 1896,
helps to explain why ubu roi is important. it was new, different and shocking. as you watch it, keep that date in mind: 1896, when ubu roi was first performed in a theater which rocked with audience protest. in the years which followed, this play, written by a young frenchman, has been credited with having been a major influence on the theater of the absurd. and the outrageous events of the 20th century have made ubu roi seem prophetic and ominous as well as funny. great tragedy, telling the stories of great men, depends on a belief in order. the hero suffers because he has made an overwhelming error in judgment, or because he has incurred the anger of the gods. in either case, the hero is great, dignified and significant. as a schoolboy writing ubu roi in its first version
when he was only 15, alfred jarry knew the great tragedies well enough to make fun of them. for instance, lady macbeth encouraging her husband to murder king duncan might look and sound like this. nor time, nor place did then adhere, yet you would make both. they have made themselves and that their fitness now does unmake you. i have given suck, and know how tender it is to love the babe that milks me. i would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had i so sworn as you have done to this. - if we should fail. - we fail. but screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail. when duncan is asleep, whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey soundly invite him. his two chamberlains will i with wine and wassail so convince that memory, the warder of the brain,
shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason a limbeck only. when in swinish sleep their drench natures lie as in a death, what cannot you and i perform upon the unguarded duncan? what, not put upon his spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt of our great quell? bring forth men children only. [music] in the parody of the scene in ubu roi, the couple are decidedly less dignified. similarly, when king duncan rewarded macbeth with a new title, royalty is treated ceremoniously, like this. to contend against those honors deep and broad wherewith your majesty loads our house. give me your hand. conduct me to mine host, we love him highly
and shall continue our graces toward him. by your leave, hostess. having been king of aragon, you are content to ride in reviews at the head of 50 bumpkins armed with billhooks when you-- in ubu roi, a similar scene is like an upside down version. dignity is as lacking here as in a groucho marx movie or a punch and judy show. where shakespeare's characters speak in blank verse, exploring the whole range of human emotion, jarry's shout out crude threats and insults. and my god, madam, you really have come too far. it is clear that ubu roi burlesques shakespeare, but it is unlike the drama of its own time too. during an age when ibsen and chekhov were commenting in their own daring ways on the beliefs of their society, no one was quite like jarry. other playwrights put daring words
into the speeches of their characters. jarry provided characters who are distortions of people, anatomic miracles and sartorial disasters. ibsen, with his well-made play, suggests that once social laws and attitudes are changed, the world may be an orderly place for reasonable people to live. other playwrights examine the inner lives of characters or puzzled over a philosophy worth believing in. only jarry, by emphasizing the base, brute-like passions of cartoon characters in a chaotic play punctuated by rude music, suggests that humanity isn't worth taking that seriously after all. as you watch ubu roi, you will be amused, if not startled, by the language and the abrupt changes in scene and costume.
pa ubu, you're a dirty old man. watch out and don't bash your lot in, ma ubu. it's not me you want to do in, old ubu, oh, no. it's someone else for the high jump. by my green candle, i'm not with you. how come? do you mean to say that you are content with your lot? pshit, madam, yes. by god, i am perfectly satisfied. who wouldn't be? captain in the dragoons, aide-de-camp to king wenceslas, decorated with the order of red eagle of poland, ex-king of aragon. you can't get higher than that. so what? having been king of aragon, you are content to ride in reviews at the head of 50 bumpkins armed with billhooks, when you could get your loaf measured for the crown of poland? huh? i don't understand a word you're saying, my love. how stupid can you get? by my green candle, king wenceslas is still alive. but isn't he? and even if he does kick the bucket, hasn't he masses of children?
why shouldn't you finish off the whole bunch and put yourself in their place? now, by god, madam, you really have gone too far. and you shall be, very shortly, beaten up, good and proper. you great slob. if i'm beaten up, who is going to put a patch on the seat of your pants? so what? haven't i a bum like everyone else's? if i were you, i should try sitting that bum on a throne. you could become enormously rich, eat as many bangers as you like, and roll through the streets in a fine carriage. if i were king, i'll get them to make me a great bonnet, like the one i used to wear in aragon, which those lousy spaniards had the cheek to pinch off of me. can't you go get yourself an umbrella and a guard officer's greatcoat that would come right down to your feet. that's more than i can resist. pshit the bugger, and bugger the pshit.
if i catch him alone on a dark night, he's for it. well done, pa ubu. now you're talking like a man. oh, no. me, a captain in the dragoons to brutally murder the king of poland? i'd rather die. oh, pshit. so you want to stay as poor as a church mouse, hmm, mr. ubu? god's wounds, madam. pshit. i'd rather be poor as the stingiest mouse, than rich as the cruelest cat. and your bonnet and your umbrella and your officer's greatcoat? and then what, you old cow? [music] pfart, pshit, what a stingy bastard. but pfart, pshit. i think i've got him pshitting just the same. thanks be to god and myself, within a week, i may be queen of poland.
[music] you're looking exceptionally ugly tonight, madam. is it because we have company? pshit. i'm rather hungry. i think i'll bury my teeth in this bird, a chicken. i fancy. not bad at all. you wretch. what are our guests going to eat? there's plenty left for them. i shan't touch another thing. go look out of the window, ma ubu, and see if our guests have arrived. ah, here comes captain manure and his merry men. old ubu, what are you eating now? nothing, nothing, just a spot of veal. the veal. he's eaten my veal, the lout. the veal. help. help.
by my green candle, i'll gouge your eyes out. [music] good day, gentlemen. we have been awaiting your arrival with impatience. good day, madam. but where is mr. ubu? here i am. here i am. by my green candle, pshit. i shouldn't have thought i'm so easy to miss. good day, mr. ubu. well, madam, and what succulent dishes have you prepared for us today? polish broth, spareribs of polish bison, veal, chicken and hound pie, parson's noses from the royal polish turkeys, charlotte russe... that's enough. isn't there any more? iced pudding, salad, fruit, cheese, boiled beef, jerusalem pfartichokes and cauliflower a la pshit.
do you think i'm an oriental potentate, shelling out all that money? take no notice of him. he's off his rocker. get away. i shall sharpen my teeth on your shanks. why don't you eat up and shut up, old ubu? here, try the polish broth. oh, what muck. you're right. hasn't quite come off. you ill-mannered louts, what do you want? i've got an idea. back in a jiffy. gentlemen, let's try the veal. oh, excellent. what there is left of it. and now, for the parson's nose. absolutely delicious. - hurrah for ma ubu. - hurrah for ma ubu. and soon you'll be adding, hurrah for pa ubu. try a taste of that. pass me the spare ribsbs of polish bison, mother, and i'll dish them out.
get out, all of you. i know something i want to say to captain manure. but we haven't had our dinner yet. you've had your dinner. get out, i say, all of you. not you, manure. are you still here? by my green candle, i'll do you all in with a vice grip. go out. get out, all of you. - get out, i say. - help. rescue. men defend yourselves. - i don't have to say it again. - you run-- - get out. - you stupid old skunk. do i make myself plain? well, good, they've gone. that's better. now, we can relax. well, captain, did you enjoy your dinner? very good, sir, except for the pshit. oh, i didn't think the pshit was too bad. a little of what you fancy, they say. captain manure... ay. i am going to create you duke of lithuania.
but i thought you were completely broke, mr. ubu. in a few days, with your help, i shall be king of poland. you mean you will assassinate wenceslas? the bugger's no fool, he's guessed it. if it's a matter of killing wenceslas, i'm with you. i'm his deadly enemy, and i can answer for my men. oh, manure, i love you dearly for that. oh, god, man, how you stink. don't you ever wash? occasionally. never. i'm going to tread on your toes. fat lump of pshit. well, manure, that's all for now. but i swear to you, on the head of ma ubu, that i'm going to make you duke of lithuania. - but-- - silence, my angel. [music] master ubu.
i have resolved to reward you for your many services as captain of dragoons. and i therefore proclaim you count of sandomir. oh, sire, i'm speechless with gratitude. tut. think nothing of it. but be sure to be present tomorrow morning at our grand review. i shall be there, sir. in the meantime, kindly deign to accept this magnificently decorated kazoo. you don't expect me to start playing a kazoo at my age, surely? oh, well, i'll give it to young boggerlas. [laughter] now, who is this ubu creature?
well, i'll bugger off. help. rescue. i've ruptured my gut and smashed my rattle box. oh, ubu, are you hurt? yes, badly. and i shall certainly croak. what will become of ma ubu? oh, we shall provide for her upkeep. you are most kind. [music] ungenerous sire, but you will be liquidated just the same, king wenceslas. [music]
well, my good friends, it's high time we planned our little conspiracy. let each give his counsel. with your permission, we will begin with mine. speak, mr. ubu. very good, my friends. i am of the opinion that we should simply poison the king by stuffing his lunch with arsenic. [laughter] the moment he starts the grousing and scuffing he'll drop dead, and i shall be king. [laughter] you wicked old thing, you. why? you don't like that idea? all right, then. let's hear from manure. my suggestion is that i fetch him a good wallop with my sword and cleave him from top to toe. very -- and gallant.
but, but, supposing he kicks out at you. oh, just a moment. for his grand parades, he wears iron boots, which can be jolly painful. if i'd half a chance, i'd snitch on the lot of you. that way, i'd be rid of the whole beastly business and very likely pick up a reward into the bargain. oh, the traitor, the coward, the rotten mean skunk. - oh, down with old ubu. - down with ubu. shut that ruckus, gentlemen, or i'll turn you all in. very well, i'll take all the risks on your behalf. captain manure, is it agreed that your job is simply to split the king down the middle? wouldn't be better if we all jumped on him at once, striving and yelling, in that way we have a better chance of winning over the troops. no, look. i'll tell you what. i'll try to tread on his toe. he'll kick out of me, i'll yell, pshit, and that will be the signal for you all to hurl yourselves upon him.
and then the moment he's dead, you'll pinch his crown and scepter. and i and my men will go in pursuit of the royal family. leave a sharp lookout for young boggerlas. one moment, gentlemen, we are forgetting an indispensable ceremony. we must all take an oath to quit ourselves like men. but how can we? we haven't got a priest. my old woman will be the priest. well, so be it. do you all swear, on the head of madam ubu, to kill the king good and proper? we swear it. long live old ubu. ubu. ubu. ubu. [chanting ubu, ubu, ubu]
really, sire, are you quite determined to attend this parade? and pray, madam, why not? i'll tell you once more. no. i saw him in a dream smiting you with mass weapons and throwing you into the vistula. and an eagle, like that which figures in the arms of poland, placing the crown on his head. ah-choo! on whose head? old ubu's. oh, ridiculous. master ubu is a most worthy gentleman who would let himself be dragged apart by wild horses rather than betray my interests. how wrong you are. silence, young rascal. and as for you, madam, to show you what complete faith i have in master ubu, i shall attend the grand parade dressed as i am, without sword or breastplate.
oh, what fatal rashness. i shall never see you again alive. oh. no. come, ladislas. come, boleslas. [music] may god and the great saint nicholas protect you. ah, noble master ubu, enter the royal enclosure with your followers. and we will review the march pass together. well, shall we? coming, sire. [music] ah! there's my regiment of danzig horse-guards. oh, what a magnificent spectacle. you really think so? looks like something the cat brought in. look at that one. you there.
when did you last have a shave, you lousy slob? but this fellow is very well turned out. what on earth is the matter with you, old ubu? this! [stomps] treason! [stomps] pshit! after him! oh! help! help! help, holy virgin! help! i'm dying! help! i have the crown! death to the traitors! [chanting ubu, ubu, ubu] help! help! those maniacs have forced their way into the palace. they're coming up the stairs. may god protect us. that vile ubu, wretch, rascal. i just like to get my hands on him. i... you would, would you? and what, brave boggerlas, would you do to me?
by god's will, i shall defend my mother to the death. the first man to make a step forward is good as dead. oh, get me out of here. i'm scared. boggerlas, surrender. here's one for you, you dog. that's the spirit, boggerlas. keep it up. we promise to save your life, boggerlas. i brought the army you broken laggards, swine blackguards, mercenary scum. oh, bother, but i'll still win in the end. mother, escape by the secret staircase. and you, my son, what about you? i'll follow you. capture the queen. pshit, she's got away. ubu. ubu. ubu. ubu. ubu. as for you, you little lamb. by god's will, here's my vengeance. mother, i follow you.
[whistles "close call"] behold me, monarch of this fair land. i've already got a guts ache with overeating. and soon, they're going to bring in my great bonnet. we owe a great debt of gratitude to the duke of lithuania. - who is that? - why, captain manure. for god's sake, woman, don't you ever mention that slob to me. as far as i'm concerned, he can whistle for his dukedom. he's not gonna get it. you're making a great mistake, pa ubu. he'll turn against you. oh, i should worry. so far as i'm concerned, he and boggerlas can go and jump in the lake. bring out the chest for nobles. and the slash half on nobles, and the bolt hook for nobles,
and the account book for nobles. and then bring in the nobles. for pity's sake restrain yourself, pa ubu. gentlemen, i have the honor to inform you that as a gesture to the economic welfare of my country, i have decided to liquidate the nobility and confiscate their goods. horror to all of us. soldiers and citizens defend us. bring on the first noble and pass me the bolt hook. those who are condemned to death, i shall push through this door here, where they will fall down into the bleed pit chambers and then proceed to the gas room where they will be debrained. what's your name, you snob? count of vitepsk. what's your income? three million rix dollars. guilty. [music] this is base brutality. you there, what's your name? come on, answer, you snob. grand duke of posen.
excellent! excellent! i couldn't ask for a better. down the hatch. you there, what's your name, ugly mug? the duke of courlande and of the cities of riga, ravel, and mitau. oh, very good. i shall ask the lot. that's all? get down the hatch. what's your name, number four? prince of podolia. what's your income? i'm bankrupt. take that for disobedience. now get down the hatch. number five, what's your name? margrave of thorn, count palatine of pollock. that's not very much. are you sure that's all you are? it's been good enough for me. well, it's better than nothing, i suppose. get down the hatch.
what's eating you, ma ubu? you're too bloodthirsty, pa ubu. i'm getting rich. now i'm going to have him read out the list of what i've got. registrar, read out my list and my titles and possessions. count of sandomir, count... the princedoms first, stupid bugger. princedom of podolia, grand-duchy of posen, duchy of courlande, county of sandomir, county of vitepsk, palatinate of pollock, margravate of thorn. - go on. - that's the lot. what do you mean that's the lot? oh, well, i'm going to make some laws next. hmm, that will be worth watching. i shall begin by reforming the judicial code, and then turn my attention to financial matters. [music] we are strongly opposed to any change. so, pshit. in the first place, judges will no longer receive a salary.
and what shall we live on? we are all poor men. you'll keep the fines you impose, and the possessions of those you condemn to death. - that's unthinkable. - infamous. - scandalous. - contemptible. we refuse to judge under such conditions. down the hatch with the judges. what have you done, pa ubu? who will administer justice now? why, i will. you'll see how well it will work out. yes, it will be a right old mess. shut your gob, clownish female. i'm now going to turn my attention to financial matters. [music] in the first place, i intend to pocket half the tax receipts. - but that's ridiculous. - quite absurd. it doesn't make sense. are you making fun of me? get down the hatch, all of you. [music]
calm down, lord ubu. kings are not supposed to behave like that. you're butchering the whole world. so, pshit. no more justice, no more financial system. fear nothing, my sweet child. i shall go around the villages myself and collect the taxes. - hey, did you hear the news? - huh? the king is dead, and all the nobles as well. what's more, pa ubu has seized the throne. and it seems they're going to raise all the taxes and that pa ubu is gonna make the rounds to collect them. great god. what will become of us? look. sounds like someone is knocking at the door. open up, pshit, in the names of saint john,
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