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Preparation
Written by and copyright Stephen Yellin

 

Characters

Anna – Mid-20s, brown hair, somewhat attractive. Practical and modest.

Kitty – Late teens, blond, devastatingly beautiful. Think “California Girl” - personality, with a flair for the dramatic.

A Gentleman

Time and Place

Anna’s bedroom, Richmond Palace (England), July 1540. It is late morning.

Lights up on ANNA and
GENTLEMAN. ANNA sits on a
bench Stage Center, her hands
absentmindedly playing with rosary
beads. GENTLEMAN paces back
and forth next to her as they talk.

 

ANNA

Her voice level, composed.

Have they decided what to do with me?

GENTLEMAN

Yes, Madam.

ANNA

What do they plan to do with me?

GENTLEMAN

I don’t know, Madam.

ANNA

When will I be told?

GENTLEMAN

Soon, Madam.

ANNA

Will they come to tell me?

GENTLEMAN

Yes, Madam.

ANNA

With a touch of sarcasm.

Thank you, sir. You’ve been most helpful.

GENTLEMAN

I will let you know when they come.

GENTLEMAN exits.

ANNA

And so I’ll wait. Here. While they take their time, and come to tell me that my time is up.
It might be a minute or two. Or an hour. Maybe a day, or even a week. But they will come.

She notices that she’s still holding the beads.

Why did he give me these? I thought they were banned in England years ago. Or I’m wrong. Like I was wrong to come here. Like I was wrong to think I could love him, if only I tried. I was wrong all along; I should have stayed home –

Her anger, despair and sorrow have bubbled out.
She almost throws the rosary beads away, thinks twice, and then sets them down.

I mustn’t cry. I knew this was coming. Once he sent me away –

Stands up, paces.

I wonder what happens, when they come to take me away. Do I get carried off, like a pirate’s plunder? Or do they kiss my hand, like they used to, and say, “Madam, I am sorry, but we must arrest you.” Does it matter what for? No. But then what? Do they kill me as soon as I get there? And where is there? The Tower, or somewhere else? And how do they kill me? Who will be there? And with what do they kill me?

To us, wryly.

I wish there was a pamphlet that told you how to die. That way you could prepare, be dignified about it, have an honorable end. It’s the least they could do, right? Isn’t it?

Sits.

I’m tired of waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

KITTY enters, carrying a basket of laundry.
She is oblivious to Anna’s presence at first.

You are the last person I would expect to see here.

KITTY

Looking up in surprise.

Oh! Forgive me Madam, I thought I was alone.

ANNA

So did I. I thought all my ladies were sent away?

KITTY

Setting the basket down.

Not me. Well, I was sent away, but then they asked me to come back.

ANNA

They?

KITTY

Oh, you know – Uncle Thomas, Grandmamma, that funny-smelling old Bishop, what’s-his-name – you know who I mean?

ANNA

Having absolutely no idea who she’s referring to.

Yes. Did they say why?

KITTY

Not very convincingly.

They, uh, wanted me to…keep you company. Make sure someone does your, uh, laundry.

ANNA

Without malice.

You’re here to spy on me. To gather more evidence.

KITTY looks away, guiltily.

It’s all right, Kitty. You don’t need to feel ashamed.

KITTY

But it’s wrong, and – and you haven’t done anything –

ANNA

Here, sit.

KITTY sits on the bench next to ANNA.

She sets the basket on the ground next to her.

One thing I have come to understand about the English is that they like to do things honestly – when they can. In my case, they could just simply make up evidence against me – that I’m a whore or a witch, that I did one horrible thing or another, that sort of thing. But they’d prefer that I’d actually done something horrible – or, better yet, that I really was a whore or a witch. And that’s why you’re here. Am I right?

KITTY

May I speak plainly?

ANNA nods.

I don’t see what the point is. If the King feels so guilty about killing you without proof, then he shouldn’t try to kill you to begin with.

ANNA

Oh, but Kitty – if my husband decided not to do that, then you would still be some girl in the country. And not his future wife.

KITTY

Helplessly.

Madam…

ANNA

Anna. My name is Anna. Everyone here calls me “Madam”, or “Your Grace”, or whatnot. And soon no one will say my name at all. So, for once, I’d like to be called who I am – Anna.

KITTY

…I was told never to call the Queen by her first name.

ANNA

What does that matter? Soon a stone will have more life than I, and you could call me whatever you’d like to.

KITTY

Anna, then.

Shifts closer to ANNA.

ANNA

Good. So, tell me – how is Henry these days?

KITTY

Oh, he’s lighter than air. He’s actually up and running now – the doctor, that smelly old man, you know, what’s-his-name, he said, “Ohhhh nooooo, he shan’t do that, it’ll kill him”, and I said, “It’ll kill him if he sits in that smelly old chair all day, shitting all the time, while you poke him with your pins and needles. He needs to get up.”

So now I wake him up early. We go out to the gardens, and he picks out the best roses for me – that’s what he calls me, you see, “My rose without a thorn”. And I have 50 ladies waiting on me, and I don’t have to do any chores now –

ANNA

I’m sorry – what does he call you?

KITTY

He calls me “my rose without a thorn”.

ANNA

How…romantic.

KITTY

It’s stupid and unoriginal, really. Ugly Joan Bulmer back at Grandmamma’s house gets called that all the time by her pimply-faced suitor, you know, what’s-his-name…

ANNA

I don’t know this particular “what’s-his-name.” Is he a sibling of the first “what’s-his-name”, or just a cousin?

KITTY

You don’t need to be snotty about it. It’s not like I wanted him to fall in love with me.

ANNA

I don’t believe you. Who wouldn’t want my husband’s love?

KITTY

Anyone with a brain.

ANNA

But think of the power that comes with his love. The jewels, the clothes, the dances, all the young men of the world at your feet –

KITTY

Oh, that’s just silly. I’ve already got a man in love with me. See?

Takes a locket out to show ANNA.

This is Francis. Isn’t he pretty?

ANNA

Horrified for Kitty’s sake.

You had better burn that locket before anyone can find it.

KITTY

Why? He gave it to me when we promised to marry.

ANNA’s jaw drops open.

I mean, I did tell him to go sod off when Uncle said the King was after me.

ANNA

Do you understand the concept of Caesar’s wife?

KITTY

Thinks hard, comes up short.

Who’s Caesar?

ANNA

Never mind that. The point is – my mother told me this, before I left for England – the point is that whoever married Caesar had to be above all suspicion. Since he was so proud, so mighty, his wife could not give him a single reason to be displeased with her, or else he would have to kill her.

KITTY

I don’t get it.

ANNA

I am Caesar’s wife. You will be Caesar’s wife. You cannot give him any hint that you love another man, even for a moment – or he will strike.

KITTY

Stubbornly.

But he loves me.

ANNA

He loved your cousin, too, before he chopped off her head.

KITTY

Cousin? You mean…that Boleyn woman? The one we’re not allowed to talk about?

ANNA

I guess there will be two Anne’s now that can’t be talked about.

KITTY

But my cousin was a whore. Everyone knows that.

ANNA rises abruptly. 

ANNA

You should be ashamed of yourself, to insult your kinswoman like that!

KITTY

Now just a second – she was guilty of adultery.

ANNA

She was innocent –

KITTY

Five men slept with her, if I remember it right –

ANNA

She was innocent

KITTY

Including her brother!

ANNA

It’s a lie! I know it’s a lie, because I looked into it. When they hauled Cromwell, my husband’s minister away, I looked at his papers. There’s a letter in there from my husband. And he says, in so many words – “kill her. Make it all up if you have to, but kill her. I will marry another.”

KITTY’s jaw drops.

You are not marrying a man. You are marrying a monster. A monster who spent two years trying to get me to marry him, only to take one look at me and say, “I hate her.” I thought I could love him, I really did. But then it hit me – if he didn’t like me, then nothing else mattered. I was a dead woman the moment he saw me.

KITTY

A small, frightened voice.

…What do I do? How can I keep him with me?

ANNA

I would say that having a baby boy would help. But after our wedding night, I don’t think that’s possible.

KITTY

So he is impotent. Oh God…

ANNA

He sprawled on top of me for an hour, like a beached whale, trying to…well, you know. But he just – couldn’t.

KITTY

Anna…I’m so afraid…

ANNA sits down, holds KITTY in her arms.

ANNA

So am I, Kitty. But you, at least, will know what to expect. I didn’t. So maybe you’ll make it, until his body bursts with all the fat and grease in him. If you can forget the young man, I think you might.

KITTY

I will never love him. Never.

ANNA

You must. For if you don’t, he will suspect you love another. Remember, Kitty – Caesar’s wife.

KITTY

Caesar’s wife can go to Hell.

ANNA

Agreed. She can get the bloody rot – is that how you say it?

KITTY looks up and smiles.

KITTY

Yes. May Caesar’s wife get the bloody rot.

They laugh together. KITTY sits up.

ANNA

I will miss you, Kitty. I really will.

KITTY

When do they come for you?

ANNA

Soon. That’s all I know. Soon. Kitty, I – I don’t know what to expect. What do I say? Where will I go? How do I – prepare for this?

KITTY

Oh, it’s quite simple, really.

ANNA

Simple?

KITTY

Yes – I mean, I’ve seen it happen to a bunch of people. Uncle Thomas took me to an execution once, so I know all about that, too.

ANNA

What happens first?

KITTY

Standing up.

Well, first they come to formally arrest you. They’ll say –
Mimicking a stern old man.

“Your Grace, we are here to arrest you for High Treason. You will not need to pack your belongings. You will come with us by boat to the Tower.” And so you go. It’s good form to smile as you go, but if you’re the dramatic type you could kick and scream and all that.

ANNA

And then?

KITTY

Like a tour guide.

Then they put you in a barge, and row you down the Thames to the Tower of London. You’ll pass under London Bridge, where you’ll probably see the heads of your fellow traitors – lovers, in this case, I guess. Then they row you through Traitor’s Gate, and lead you upstairs to your room.

ANNA

No dungeon?

KITTY

Not for important people like you and me. Some of the nicer rooms up near the walls get used.

ANNA

That sounds rather awkward. Do they give you a pillow and bed sheets, for a good night’s sleep? 

KITTY

I’d think so. After all, they don’t want you to be tired the next day. Oh, and a priest will hear your confession; write down your last requests, pray with you, that sort of thing.

ANNA

…And in the morning?

KITTY

In the morning the Constable of the Tower will come for you – the man with the balding head and the runny nose, old what’s-his – Master Kingston, that’s his name. Master Kingston will lead you to the courtyard. Only a few people – some nobles, a few ambassadors, that kind of crowd. Oh, and the executioner, of course.

ANNA

What does he kill you with?

KITTY

Well, in Anne Boleyn’s case it was a sword. Sharp, clean, quick. But that’s an exception – they usually use an axe.

ANNA

Do you…say anything?

KITTY

Oh, sure. It’s considered proper, decent even, to say something before they kill you. You’ll climb onto the scaffold, and say a few words. Something like…

Thinking. Then, the actress in her takes over.

Good people – I have been justly condemned and deserve this terrible fate. I urge you, for the sake of your immortal souls, to heed my warning and never commit my crimes. I urge you to pray for the King, our most gracious lord – may he rule over us forever! And, finally, I urge you to pray for my tortured, troubled soul.

Turns to ANNA in a mock curtsy.

So that’s what you say. Or something like that. And then the executioner will get down on a knee and ask you to forgive him for what he’s about to do. And you say “yes, I forgive you,” and you give him a coin that you’ll get beforehand for the purpose. Like I said, everything is prepared in advance.

ANNA

And how does it end?

KITTY

Well, first you’re blindfolded –

ANNA

Really?

KITTY

You’re not supposed to see the blow coming, or you might get scared and wiggle or something, and then he might miss. Like – so.

She takes a thin piece of linen out of the basket.

And someone there ties it around your eyes. Would you mind?

ANNA moves around, takes the piece from KITTY.

She ties it around KITTY’s eyes.

And then you kneel next to the block.

ANNA

What’s it shaped like?

KITTY

Well, uh…like the basket, almost. Except the basket’s upside down.

ANNA

Right.

She takes the basket and places it upside down on the bench.
The laundry in it tumbles out at KITTY’s feet.

KITTY

Was that my – ? Right.

ANNA

Ooh, sorry.

KITTY

So – you kneel at it. Like this – would you mind?

ANNA helps her over to the bench.

KITTY kneels upstage of it, head above the basket.

And then you give the signal for the man to swing.

KITTY places her head on the basket.

She throws her arms outward in a dramatic pose.

ANNA

After a pause.

And so it ends.

KITTY

Removing the linen.

Well, for you at least. Once your head’s cut off, the man will hold it up and shout, “Behold the head of a traitor!” or something like that. And everyone applauds and goes home.

ANNA

This does seem…rehearsed.

KITTY

Almost like a play.

GENTLEMAN enters with papers, puzzled.

ANNA and KITTY turn to meet him.

ANNA

Are they here?

GENTLEMAN

I’m not interrupting something, am I?

ANNA and KITTY

Are they here?

GENTLEMAN

Um…well you see, your Grace, the King has sent you some documents to look over.

Hands over papers to ANNA.

ANNA

…Documents?

GENTLEMAN

He has decided that, if you are willing to agree to a divorce, he will be most generous in paying for your wellbeing.

This takes a moment to register with ANNA.

ANNA

…Divorce? Not…I’m not being arrested?

GENTLEMAN

He is being generous, isn’t he? Madam, I imagine you would be loath to leave his Majesty’s side, but I suggest you at least consider his offer.

ANNA

Consider? My God, get me the ink and pen and I’ll sign it right now.

GENTLEMAN

Yes…Madam…

Utterly baffled at ANNA’s response, HE exits.

KITTY

Congratulations!

KITTY hugs ANNA.

I really am happy for you.

ANNA

I’ll have to go see the document myself. Will you be my witness when I sign it?

KITTY

Do you he’d appreciate the irony, though?  Go ahead – I need to pick up the laundry.

ANNA squeezes KITTY’S arm with affection, and then exits.

KITTY goes to collect the laundry in the basket.
As she does, she looks at us with sad eyes.
She kneels, and collects the rosary beads.  

And so I prepare…

The End