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BIOS
The Kings (Los Reyes)
A prose poem for the stage in five frames
Argentina | Spanish | Drama
Figures
Minos
Theseus
Ariadne
Minotaur
A Singer (musician)


ONE

Morning. In view of the labyrinth.
A cold, hard sun casts its rays against a curving wall that seems to be made of chalk.


MINOS
The ship will appear when the shadows are singed by the mid-day sun. The shadows are like a snail. They withdraw into a damp shell, and seek respite inside more peaceful confines. Impenetrable labyrinth, cavernous marble ruin! What profound silence must resound within your endless bowels!

He lives there. From there he plots my destiny and schemes to usurp my throne. His eyelids of stone taunt me. Insatiable Minotaur! My dreams chafe against his horns.

Yet without him my power over the vast sea and its veins of blue islands would be futile. His existence gives me power. It’s a reminder to all that the edge of my blade is still sharp. Minotaur, son of our illustrious queen: the whore! He’s been condemned to prison forever! Where’s the contraption that can accurately measure a king’s fear?

In my dreams I enter the labyrinth. I’m there alone, unchained; the scepter bends in my fist. And he comes before me: monstrous, sweet, monstrous, free. And I can no longer govern my dreams!

My dreams must also be within my jurisdiction. Each night I wake consumed by hatred. His death is more preferable to me than any declaration of victory on foreign shores. A king’s ultimate responsibility is to be sovereign of his own being. And yet, it’s impossible!

Ariadne approaches without looking at the ground; her eyes are fixed on the wall of the labyrinth.

ARIADNE
It’s a plain ship with white sails. “There are also black sails,” a sailor once told me, “but they’re buried in the hold, where tar and witchcraft protect them from the rats. Pallas wouldn’t wish us to hoist them up on our way back.”

MINOS
You speak as if you were better than me. We’re here, but it’s clear you don’t speak to me.

ARIADNE
To speak is to speak to oneself.

MINOS
Speak, then, on your own.

ARIADNE
You’re like a bronze shield. I hear myself better when I speak to you. When I arrived, you were listening to yourself in the air’s towering mirror.

MINOS
It’s more solid than air. Look over there, raise your voice and it will return to you like a knot of dry branches against your face.

ARIADNE
Are you afraid of the echo?

MINOS
There’s someone behind it. As there is in every mirror. There’s always someone who knows and waits.

ARIADNE
Why are you afraid of him? He’s my brother.

MINOS
A monster doesn’t have siblings.

ARIADNE
The two of us were created from Pasiphae’s breast. Both of us made her scream, and bleed so she could bring us forth unto this earth.

MINOS
Mothers don’t count. Everything’s determined by the burning seed that chooses them, and uses them. You’re the daughter of a king: Ariadne, the feared one, Ariadne, the golden dove. He is not ours. He is a construct. Do you know whom he is the brother of? His own cage, his own stone prison: the labyrinth. The hideous snail! He’s a construct, do you see? The same as his prison. Daedalus created them both, such a cunning engineer!

ARIADNE
Well, Pasiphae was my mother.

MINOS
That foul jar has already been broken. You were born of me like a bouquet of aged wine. Daughter of a king, golden dove. You were first. In Knossos ecstasy arose like a colt rearing up its hind legs at mention of your birth. Then Daedalus conceived the living statue, the bronze machine, whilst he degraded it in secret. And I dined with ambassadors, and presided over tortures. Pasiphae surrendered her desire to me for ardent caresses and slit throats. It was her royal duty.

ARIADNE
Don’t say such things. To hear something spoken out loud is not the same as to know its meaning in your heart. To know something without words, and have it stay in our hearts, protects us from our image of it like a piece of armor.

MINOS
Nobody saved me from hearing it. I will use words. I will tell you the whole story so that you may finally vomit her from your heart, and think of yourself only as a king’s daughter. When he hardly had any voice left, on the third day of torture, Axto, her servant, spilled the truth with his blood. The bull was from the north. It was red and swollen. You could see it come up through the meadow like one of those Egyptian vessels that carry perfumed bandages and emissaries of destiny. She squatted inside the luminous cow. She feigned a lonely, honeyed moo: a shudder on the breath.

ARIADNE
Please, stop. Axto died mutilated, in a fury. His pain spoke for him. But you are the king.

MINOS
The bull came toward her like a flame igniting a wheat-field. All of a sudden the golden brilliance fell away, and Axto, from afar, heard Pasiphae’s piercing howl. Split open, blasted, she shouted names and things, absurd rules and expressions. And then her howl gave way, and became a moan of pleasure; her raving lasciviousness is to this very day entwined with laurels and saffron in my memory. That’s all I know. Axto died in the middle of a word. I remember the word: smile.

ARIADNE
The bull was from the north. It was red and swollen. I say it as if I was spitting up the tiny bones of a roasted dove or the scales of a fish. I don’t wish to repeat it, but you have thrust his flesh into my mouth. I feel a burning blood-lemon juice course through my lacerated tongue. Oh king, dear father. He is alive in there. And you condemn him cruelly.

MINOS
And I am alive here, and he condemns me cruelly on this day that arrives each year as if on a ship of tears, on this day when I must be king.

ARIADNE
They must be on their way now.

MINOS
And he, seething and ravenous, will stalk the bewildering corridors that separate the sun from his blinded forehead. Don’t you hear it? What a noise! As if he was sharpening a double bolt of lightning against the marble!

ARIADNE
He used to be peaceful and quiet.

MINOS
Tell that to the shadows of the Athenians. Tell that to the fair virgins.

ARIADNE
How could he live without eating? Fury was born of the first being who ever felt hunger. He strolled through the palace humbly and obediently. He slept on dry leaves. They wouldn’t let me speak to him but sometimes we would catch each other’s eyes from a distance, and he would slowly lower his red head until only his exceedingly white horns were aimed at me, like the curved ivory eyes of a small votive statue.

MINOS
He was summoning his strength, secretly calculating the measure of his wrath. It was necessary to fit him in stone so that he wouldn’t overthrow me.

ARIADNE
I saw when they took him away.

MINOS
A woman doesn’t know what she sees, for she can only see her dreams.

ARIADNE
My king, my father, that’s how heroes and gods see. What do you see during the day if not the night, fear, and the Minotaur that you have threaded from insomnia’s film? Who cultivated his ferocity? Your dreams. Who brought him the first pack of young men and women, torn away from Athens by terror and the glory of sacrifice? He is your furtive creation, like the shadow of a tree is the vestige of a chilling night.

MINOS
The Athenians have never come out again.

ARIADNE
No one knows what myriad living forms or what multiple deaths fill the labyrinth. You have your vision of it, and it’s inhabited with bleak tortures. The public imagines it as a body of earthly deities, or the aperture to an endless void. My labyrinth is clear and desolate, with a cold sun and central gardens, where voiceless birds fly over the image of my brother asleep next to a column.

MINOS
Ah, go to him! You do nothing but reproach me. So near and yet so far. I should have locked both of you up together, and ceded you to his jaws. I could still do so.

ARIADNE
No, you know you cannot. We are on this side of the wall. Just as the chest forms a wall between the black heart and the white sun, so has the architect’s wall drawn a boundary between our worlds. An acute, desolate horror holds me back. I imagine the central garden. I see its two-horned guest. My heart caves in. I relinquish any hope of solving the enigma. Knowledge is a dream dreamt at noon. Accede to this, attest to this! And on the very threshold I will withdraw like a dirty wave filled with sand. I will retreat into my confused ignorance, where horror’s pleasure throbs, and hope is renewed!

MINOS
They’re here.

ARIADNE
Oh freedom! The entrance is easy and smooth. How many times have I come to this corridor as it starts to spin and conjure the subtlest of mirages…

MINOS
They will come dressed in tears as they do every year. The men will hold up the virgins and will forget their own fear in manly consolation.

ARIADNE
I stop. Everything that follows now will be desire: sad, instinctive flesh. Oh lonely brother, oh monster, you’re capable of surpassing me even in your absence, of shrouding even my first caress with fear! Oh vile red forehead!

MINOS
Now you are queen.

ARIADNE
Now I do not know who I am.


TWO

The condemned are at a distance, looking towards the labyrinth. Theseus comes forward. He regards Ariadne for a long time before facing the king. Ariadne moves away until she is leaning on the wall of the labyrinth. The sun beats down as if it was lead, and the sky is a hard, faded blue.

MINOS
Believe me, I don’t do this happily. The priests poured sacred liquid onto bronze plates and divined the Minotaur’s threat. Knossos does not rejoice at your death. But he demands his cyclical tribute: seven virgins and seven young men are to be sacrificed. It must be enforced.

THESEUS
And he demands Athenians, I suppose.

MINOS
Who are you to pitch your acid-tipped arrow at me when you are so close to death?

THESEUS
I’m your equal.

MINOS
Theseus.

THESEUS
Look at those people. They waste their lamentations. All their beings converge in tears, as if tears could grant them immortality. Can you conceive that a man, a machine of such power, would reduce himself to tears, to expending salt, as it were, to no purpose?

MINOS
Theseus the killer. Yes, you have your father’s forehead and harsh tongue. I can see by looking at you that you’re governed by your will, like others are by their grace or silence. I don’t know why you come here, what shrewdness your gods have conferred upon you with their fearful dialectics. I don’t prefer you like this, my enemy’s son! You have not come to die. Instead, your presence introduces terror. It alters the sacred order, disrupting the sacrifice like a wild calf or a grossly spilled libation. I don’t wish for you to be here.

THESEUS
You’ll never know how much your words mirror my thoughts. Calm yourself, king. Imitate the virgin who clings to that enigmatic wall and regards us with an uncertain and tender gaze, outside of time. See how her tunic complements the distant replica of those columns. Oh harmonious present! Exultant reflecting point in a continuum! Aerial ribbons bind her double flight, and from those subtle ties I earn my delight. Calm yourself and mollify all the dark transactions in which you traffic by looking at what lasts, fixed and clear, in her mid-day rhythm.

MINOS
She is Ariadne.

THESEUS
She couldn’t be anyone else. Even in regard to her we are alike. In Athens they spoke to me of Ariadne. I desired her like the stern-side wind and the familiar profile of the islands. She is the vertex that unites our two royal lines.

MINOS
And you say everything as if today was over and done with, as if you’d crossed a bridge, and death echoed among the stones. Reckless one! You’re nothing more than fodder coveted by the Minotaur!

THESEUS
You know that’s not true.

MINOS
My guards will drag you in there the same as they drag everyone else.

THESEUS
I will go in first and I will go in alone.

MINOS
You will die trembling.

THESEUS
You know full well I won’t. But I do have a problem: how to get out of the labyrinth. How many sleepless nights my teachers spent trying to discover a solution to Daedalus’s enigma! Some of them told me that the labyrinth was made up of concentric corridors, full of false doors. They’ve advised me to walk through it with my eyes closed to avoid being swayed by any illusion; my instincts will be heightened in darkness, and in helplessness.

MINOS
With your eyes closed! Yes. So you can avoid seeing him before he lifts you up on the tips of his luminous horns.

THESEUS
You do understand I mean only after I’ve killed the monster.

MINOS
Speak. It will help you not to think.

THESEUS
But the problem persists: his death makes me master of a prison. If I don’t return, how will they know in Athens that I’ve killed the notorious Minotaur?

MINOS
Must you kill him?

THESEUS
Yes, for the same reason that you had to jail him. This is where our paths diverge, king, but intelligence reigns over us all, and can be shared from one man to another, despite their differences.

MINOS
You persist in seeing a resemblance between us, where there is only a shared destiny.

THESEUS
This destiny, like all destiny, has been woven meticulously, and the Minotaur brings it to light the same as the dew enveloped Arachne’s tapestry in silvery betrayal. Nobody hears us. I am Theseus. That is to say: I am also Minos. This is between us, and goes no further than our kingdoms and names. Because you are also Theseus. Crete and Athens mean nothing. Over these perishable lands, kings implement their superhuman mandate, using blunt, remote language, face to face.

MINOS
Now I know you lie. Our vertex is not Ariadne, but rather that which is on the other side of the wall, and lies in wait.

THESEUS
Oh king, you understand me perfectly!

MINOS
I’m still in the dark as to this unspeakable clarity that you so describe. I don’t know why you’ve come, or what you propose. I can only ascertain that you’ve come here out of dire necessity. We both face the wall of the labyrinth under Ariadne’s eyes. This much is understood. It’s both a threat and a transgression.

THESEUS
It’s more than understood. It reverberates in the chest’s nocturnal cage, where all signs rest. Do I know why I’ve come here? When my teachers tried to explain it to me, I would stop them and laugh: “Quiet now, philosophers. The moment you provide reasons for my valor, I will start trembling.” I’m here to obey an order that’s been handed down to me by my family. It doesn’t consist of words or plans, but only of action and force.

MINOS
You have to kill him. I know your response is the same as mine: a single word can unravel an enigma.

THESEUS
Who cares about enigmas? I attack.

MINOS
It’s one solution. How many people succumb to enigmas by believing they’re a matter for subtle examination, by answering the very structure of a word with words? But do you have to kill him?

THESEUS
He’s in my way, like the others. He obstructs my path.

MINOS
It’s strange. Each one of us constructs our own path. Why, then, are there obstacles? Do we carry the Minotaur in our hearts, in the dark recesses of our will? When I ordered the architect to build that marble serpent, it was as if I could foresee a bull’s head penetrating it. It was as if I could see your ship—killer of cruel dreams—coming up the river with its black sails straight towards Knossos. Have we engendered the tormented state we’re in? Do we build our own harsh destiny?

THESEUS
I would go to the gymnasium and I let my teachers think for me. Don’t think I follow you in your swift games. I follow my own lead and I don’t ask questions. When the moment comes, I know I must draw my sword. You should have seen Aegeus’s face when I added myself to the condemned. He wanted reasons, reasons. I’m a hero. That’s enough.

MINOS
That’s why there are so few heroes.

THESEUS
Besides, I’m a king. Aegeus is dead to me. Athens will soon find its master. As a king, you can ask of me much more than you can ask common Theseus. Suddenly, I find I have a dangerous facility with words. What’s worse, I love to weave them, to see what happens when I cast their nets. Oh, but I restrain myself! Look, I know why I must dash the head of that bull. His cunning worries me.

MINOS
You as well.

THESEUS
It’s daunting in there.

MINOS
No more so than out here, except that its notoriety precedes it. I had to jail him, you know, and he takes advantage of that fact. I’m his prisoner. Not the other way around. He was so cooperative when he was taken away! That morning I realized that what awaited him was a most startling freedom, while Knossos slowly turned into a hard cell.

THESEUS
If you knew your scepter wasn’t mighty enough to make the most of his life, you should have killed him.

MINOS
It’s not easy to keep in hiding. You see, all of Daedalus’s constructs turn horribly against me. And now you come here… and speak so peacefully of murder!

THESEUS
What I do for you will put you at ease.

MINOS
Yes. He must die. That’s what you’ve come to do, and there’s nothing more to say. We understand each other well. But I’m a bit older than you; I’ve suffered more, and have endured many un-guarded, and solitary nights standing on terraces meditating under the stars. What you call murder…

THESEUS
You could have done it yourself. Instead you nourish him with Athenian flesh, which I will make you pay for on the same day that Aegeus’s scepter falls from his withered hand and into my eagle-like fingers.

MINOS
You think the Minotaur devours them? Sometimes I wonder if he isn’t using his influence to sway those young men into being his allies, and to those virgins his wives. I wonder if he isn’t weaving the fabric of a fearsome Cretan race.

THESEUS
Why then do you renew the tribute?

MINOS
You know it as well as I. You would’ve done the same thing in my place. Aegeus trembles when the winds rise up from the waters, and the looming deadline begins to close in on him. Year after year, Athens lives in terror of the ceremony.

THESEUS
You will pay for all of this when the time comes.

MINOS
Yes, and not that it should matter to you but you must do this with the same secret repulsion that I feel when I claim my prey. My public worships me because the monster is in my hands. In Egypt too, they speak about the wonders of the labyrinth. Imagine if I let him starve to death. It would be immediately reported as: “Oh, he wasn’t that fearful. No sooner was the tribute taken away from him than his triumphant bellowing ceased! The piercing screams that would rise up through the palace at mid-day like trumpets blaring at a great feast have finally stopped.” I don’t hand over the Athenians to the Minotaur but rather to a demon that needs to be fed.

THESEUS
You talk too much. But you needed all those words to spin such lies! Demon! I will kill that demon. I will drag his crushed body through the streets of Knossos.

MINOS
In the end you will kill him for the same reason that I fear to kill him. Only our methods are different. One day you will know this.

THESEUS
We are less alike than I thought.

MINOS
Time will tell.

THESEUS
You will be a shadow. The vengeance of Athens will force its way into your throat, which is swarming with ants, the ants of perjury. You want him alive? Hasn’t his existence sustained your power beyond this island? Call the funeral singers, have them at the ready!

MINOS
I don’t care if you kill him.

THESEUS
You care. That is why I will stick the sword into him with twice my power.

MINOS
And at the same moment I will plunge my sword between Ariadne’s breasts.

THESEUS
Ariadne? I hadn’t thought of Ariadne. Why not kill me?

MINOS
Because Athens would leap like a giant lobster onto my island. Let the Minotaur kill you; they will respect that since it comes from a higher source.

THESEUS
Ariadne. Yes. There is Ariadne. But I must kill the Minotaur.

MINOS
Kill him and conceal his death as if you had a stone in your hand. Then I will give you Ariadne.

THESEUS
Be silent about his death? But do you think Theseus can return to Athens without the news of the monster’s defeat preceding him?

MINOS
You will return with Ariadne and your heart at peace. Think: with Ariadne and your heart at peace.

THESEUS
The islands will be free of monsters; because this is the last one.

MINOS
And people will always be fearful. The Athenians will bow down before me with their annual tribute. Of course I will pardon you. There are always the Africans to feed a monster’s reputation.

THESEUS
Not a monster alive.

MINOS
Our thrones secure.

THESEUS
Not a monster alive. Only men.

MINOS
Men who uphold our thrones.

THESEUS
And you will give me Ariadne.

MINOS
See how alike we are.


THREE

The Athenians enter the labyrinth preceded by Theseus. With a light, almost indifferent, manner the hero carries in his hand the tip of a gleaming thread. Ariadne lets the skein of thread move between her curved fingers. Once she is left alone before the labyrinth, only the skein of thread moves on stage.


ARIADNE
In the cool solemnity of the corridors, his forehead must seem even redder still: a red ripened by shadows. His luminous horns will rear up like enemy moons. Wrapped in the bovine silence that has presided over his bitter youth, he will wander with his arms across his chest, bellowing slowly.

Or he will speak. Oh, such anguished soliloquies. The palace guards used to listen to them with fascination, yet without comprehension. His profound recitation would repeat itself in waves, where he would take pleasure in the names of the stars, and in cataloguing an endless variety of plants. He would eat them, pensively, and then later he would classify them with secret delight, as if the very taste of the stems had revealed their name to him… He would enumerate the entire, sacred order of the stars and with the dawning of a new day he would forget it, as if his memory had been erased by the sun, just as the rising sun erases the stars. And the following night he would entertain himself by establishing a new order, filling the hollow space of the labyrinth with the ephemeral names of imagined constellations…

Now I’ll never know why his prison has always instilled in me a feeling of fear.

Perhaps there was once a time when I understood that his existence was alien to that of other beings. Brothers always seem less human, less alive. They are mere images bound to us, barely free. It hurts to say ‘brother.’ He hardly exists, save for the turbulent night of our mother’s fall! Oh Minotaur, I don’t want to think about Pasiphae; you’re the bull, the head of a bull, bitter and secluded! And someone advances toward you while my skein grows smaller, hesitates, leaps like a pup in my hands, and stirs quietly…

Theseus’s eyes looked at me with tenderness. “A skein? That’s a woman’s thing. I would have never escaped without your shrewdness.” Everything about him signifies flight. He knows nothing of sleepless nights, of the vigorous battle between love and freedom, (oh he who dwells within these walls!) and between the horror of what is other, different, and of what is not immediate, possible, or sanctioned.

He told me of how he would triumph. He spoke of his ship and of a nuptial chamber. Everything so clearly manifested. At his side I felt as if I was a malignant, impure thing, a milky stain on a clear emerald. It was then that I offered him my veiled message: “If you speak to him, tell him that it was Ariadne who gave you this thread.” He went on without further questions, sure of my complicity, sure he would impress me. “If you speak to him, tell him that it was Ariadne who gave you this thread…” Minotaur, I see your head streaked by veins of purple lightning. I see how freedom releases you. I see how he places the key into the very hands that will tear him to pieces!

The skein is very small now, and it spins rapidly. The sound of muffled drums, a sound deep as a well is heard from within the labyrinth. Steps, shouts, echoes of a duel. It all blurs into a single murmur, like a dense ocean. Only I know. Terror, tear your tenacious wings away from me! Cede a place to my secret love. Don’t scorch your feathers upon me, filling me with such horrible doubt! Cede a place to my secret love! Come, brother, come to me, lover at last! Rise from the depths I’ve never dared plumb. Cross the void that my love has bridged. Break free; snatch the thread that this reckless man brings to you! Naked and red, bathed in blood, emerge and come to me, oh son of Pasiphae. Come to the queen’s daughter. She thirsts for your sighing, monstrous lips!

The skein is still. Oh, destiny!


FOUR

In the curved corridor, Theseus confronts the Minotaur. The end of the thread can be seen at the hero’s feet, as he takes up the sword.

THESEUS
You ask in vain. I don’t know anything about you. That gives my hand strength.

MINOTAUR
How can you strike someone? Without knowing who they are, or what for?

THESEUS
If I waited to listen to you, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to kill you afterwards. I’ve seen judges bow their heads as they were about to condemn someone. At that moment, a kind of grandeur, a strange immensity would loom over the accused. But I look at you because I don’t judge you. I don’t kill you, but your actions, the echo of your actions, and its distant repercussions on the Greek coasts. There is so much talk of you that you’re like a massive cloud of words, a maze of mirrors, the thousandth retelling of an elusive legend. At least that’s the language those who’ve shaped my rhetoric use.

MINOTAUR
It’s as if you look straight through me. Yet, you don’t see me with your eyes; it’s not with one’s eyes that one faces a myth. Not even your sword is aimed properly. You should strike with a proven method, a spell: with another legend.

THESEUS
We are still equals. The rumors from the ports cannot be heard here. I’ll be the one who returns with the delicate thread wound in my hands. I’ll fan the flames to burn your name, so that mine will rise up out of the ash heap where yours was buried.

MINOTAUR
A thread! So you can leave.

THESEUS
With a bloody sword.

MINOTAUR
The one who kills the other can leave.

THESEUS
As you see.

MINOTAUR
The sun must cast its rays endlessly through the courtyards of the palace. Here the sun seems to bend itself to the shape of my prison. It’s furtive and sinuous. And the water! I miss water so much. Only water would accept a kiss from these grotesque lips. It would carry my dreams away in its moist hands. Look how dry this place is. It’s as white and austere as the song of a statue. The thread at your feet is a stream, a small viper of water that points toward the sea.

THESEUS
Ariadne is the sea.

MINOTAUR
Ariadne is the sea.

THESEUS
She gave me this thread, so I could find my way back to her after I’d killed you.

MINOTAUR
Ariadne!

THESEUS
After all, you share the same blood. Anyway, what I kill in you is the bull. If I could save the rest…your body is still that of an adolescent.

MINOTAUR
What for? Ariadne laced her fingers with yours to give you the thread. You see? The thread of water dries up like any other stream. Now I see an ocean without water, a green and curving wave devoid of water. Now I see only the labyrinth. Once again, only the labyrinth.

THESEUS
It seems to me that you’re afraid to die. Believe me, it doesn’t hurt that much. I could wound you in such a manner… I will finish you off promptly, as long as you don’t fight back, and keep your head bowed.

MINOTAUR
As long as I don’t fight back. What an arrogant puppy you are! Can’t you see how close you are to your own death? A simple butt of my horn, and your blade would be a broken mosaic of bronze. Your waist is a reed between my fingers. Your neck is the delicate sheath of a kidney bean. Burning hatred rises to my forehead. I know I should kill you, follow the thread’s path back, break through the gates like a sun enveloped in black foam… But to what end?

THESEUS
If you’re so strong, prove it.

MINOTAUR
To whom? So I can go to another prison, the definitive prison, which is already populated so horribly by Minos’s face and cloak? Here I was a species and an individual. My monstrous duality ceased. I only become an animal again when you look at me. Alone, I am a being of pleasing design. If I choose to deny you my death, we would fight a strange battle: you against the monster, and I watching you wrestle an image that I don’t recognize as mine.

THESEUS
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why won’t you fight?

MINOTAUR
As you can see, I’m having trouble making up my mind. If the tip of the thread is held by Pirithous, or by any one of your comrades, you’d already be part of the earth you stand on. But you said: “Ariadne is the sea.”

THESEUS
It’s a way of saying things. She has nothing to do with our battle. It’s not her fault if you are a coward.

MINOTAUR
If I offer you my neck, am I a coward?

THESEUS
No, Minotaur. Something tells me you would fight but you don’t want to. I promise to wound you well, as one wounds a friend.

MINOTAUR
There is no malice in your eyes, young king. They’re so transparent that reality passes through them, leaving nothing more than traces, like sand through a sieve. And yet you have not conquered me yet. You don’t know that I’ll be different when I am dead. I’ll weigh heavy upon you, Theseus. As much as an immense statue. Marble horns will one day sharpen themselves against your chest.

THESEUS
Stop talking, and make up your mind now.

MINOTAUR
In death I’ll be more of myself—oh decision, a necessary end! But you’ll be diminished; you’ll be lesser for having known me. You’ll collapse unto yourself like a crumbling cliff or a disintegrating corpse.

THESEUS
At least you’ll be quiet.

MINOTAUR
Yes, so you may hear yourself. You’ll remain here, alone amongst these walls, and there, inside the ocean.

THESEUS
So many deliberations!

MINOTAUR
Wait for the day when the world of men will harbor my story in blood’s secret river. You have not heard me yet. Kill me first.

THESEUS
Now you provoke me, as if you’re plotting some kind of scheme.

MINOTAUR
I’ve made up my mind. Ultimate freedom is fostered by that blade which you hold in your fist, the same as a sudden parting of waters in the ocean deep. What do you know of death, grantor of profound life? Look, there is only one way to kill a monster, and that is: to embrace him.

THESEUS
Yes, and to have them gore your throne.

MINOTAUR
They wouldn’t necessarily have horns.

THESEUS
Or to have them erase your achievements with nothing but the sheer power of their hideous image.

MINOTAUR
They would slip in unnoticed, like the horrifying game-cocks or falcons in a nightmare. Don’t you understand that I’m asking you to kill me, that I’m asking you for my life?

THESEUS
That’s what I came here for. To kill you and keep quiet. Only as long as Ariadne is in danger. As soon as I set her on my ship, I will shout, and proclaim your death so that the echoes in the air may fall like a plague upon Minos’s face.

MINOTAUR
I will go before you, embedded in the wind.

THESEUS
You will be no more than a memory that will die with the first sunset.

MINOTAUR
I will reach Ariadne before you. I will stand between her and your desire always. Rising like a red moon I will ride on the prow of your ship. The men will acclaim you from the port. But I’ll come down to inhabit their dreams, and those of their children, and those of their heirs. From there I will gore your throne and its vulnerable scepter…from there I will attain my final, ubiquitous freedom: the tiny and horrible labyrinth in every human heart.

THESEUS
I’ll have them drag your cadaver through the streets so that the public will detest your image.

MINOTAUR
When the final bone is separated from my flesh, and my image has become oblivion, I will truly be born into my infinite kingdom. There I will live always, like an absent, magnificent brother. In the air’s translucent habitation! In a sea of songs, and the endless murmur of trees!

THESEUS
Like so: keep your head still and all will be done.

MINOTAUR
Ariadne, from your virginal depths I will rise up like a brilliant blue dolphin. Like the free gust of wind that you dreamed of in vain. I am your hope! You will return to me because I will be ensconced, eager and ecstatic, in the restless maidenhood of your dreams!

THESEUS
Lower your head further!

MINOTAUR
Oh, how clumsily you have wounded me!

THESEUS
You will bleed to death gently, you won’t feel anything.

MINOTAUR
My blood tastes of oleanders. It runs through my fingers full of little moving suns.

THESEUS
Be quiet! At least die in silence! I’m sick of words (thirsty bitches)! Heroes hate words!

MINOTAUR
Save for a song of praise.


FIVE

The Minotaur writhes in agony. He holds his red head up against the wall. The young singer¹ approaches him fearfully, while other inhabitants of the labyrinth—young men, maidens—stand further away.

SINGER
Oh, lord of games! Master of rituals!

MINOTAUR
Leave me alone, singer. You can’t give me anything but music; and I crave silence now in what’s left of my life, my craving rises up in me like the wind.

SINGER
So much blood!

MINOTAUR
You only see what doesn’t matter. You’ll only mourn my death.

SINGER
How could I not mourn? You filled us with grace in the secluded gardens. You helped us overcome our restless adolescence, for that is all we brought with us when we came into this labyrinth. How could we dance now?

MINOTAUR
Now yes. Now, more than ever, you must dance.

SINGER
We can’t. My instrument hangs from my fingers as futile as a dry branch. Look at Nydia weeping with the other virgins. She’s forgotten the rhythm that used to rise up from her feet as easily as the morning dew. Don’t ask us to dance!

MINOTAUR
Nydia will one day feel a dance throbbing between her thighs, and the world will embrace music once again. The rhythm of the morning will make you face the sun, and celebrate… Eagles will descend from this silence in which I leave you. But you needn’t remember me. I don’t want to be remembered. Memory is a mere reflex. I will achieve immortality in a different manner.

SINGER
How could we ever forget you?

MINOTAUR
You will soon enough. A lifetime of forgetting awaits you. I don’t want tears; I don’t want statues. I only want oblivion. Only then will I be more myself. When the human race reaches maturity, I’ll be its imperceptible yet everlasting essence. Oh my delicate blood surrenders…! Look at it. It flows out of me like a foreign river; it’s no longer mine. An infinity of stars incites its motion, as if it was born out of a trembling pomegranate. This is how I wish to enter the dreams of men, and to inhabit their secret heaven and distant stars, the same stars that are invoked when destiny and the dawn are at risk. Watch me die and then forget me. At a later hour I will seek your voice out and you will recognize it as a blinding light, and that is when the singer in you will be able to sing the final words. Watch me fall silent, Nydia with your fair hair. Dance when you are cleansed of memory. Because I’ll be there.

SINGER
Your voice is so distant now.

MINOTAUR
It’s no longer mine, it’s the wind now, a bee…a pomegranate, rivers, a blue field of thyme, dawn’s colt, Ariadne… And a time where water runs free, a time when no one—

SINGER
Quiet, quiet all of you! Can’t you see he is dead? The blood no longer flows from his forehead. What’s that noise coming from the city! They must be coming to desecrate his body. They’ll rescue us all; we’ll return to Athens. He was so melancholy, so genuine. Why do you dance, Nydia? Why does my instrument insist on having its strings resound? We are free, free! Listen. They’re coming. And we are free! But not because of his death… Who will understand our affection for him? We’ll have to forget him… We will have to lie, always lie, until we have paid for this rescue. Only in secret, at the hour when souls settle on their own path… What strange words you left us with, lord of all games!

They’re coming. Why do you start to dance again? Why can’t I stop singing?

A dance of ecstasy, wild, liberating, chaotic, free, rages.²

End of play



¹ Originally designated as Musician in original text.

² This stage direction is not in the original text but a suggested, interpretive direction by the adaptor/translator.


Julio Cortázar
Julio Cortázar was born in Brussels of Argentine parents in 1914. After World War I, his family returned to Argentina where he received a literature degree from a teachers college in Buenos Aires in 1935. From 1935 to 1945, he taught in secondary schools in several Argentine towns. From 1945 to 1951, he worked as literary translator, translating the complete prose works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as works by Gide, G.K. Chesterton, and Daniel Defoe. He refused a chair at the University of Buenos Aires because of his opposition to the Perón regime. In 1951, he moved to France, where he lived until his death in 1984. His novel Hopscotch (Rayuela) was published in 1963 and translated into English by Gregory Rabassa in 1966 to wide acclaim and praise. Other major works include Around the Day in Eighty Worlds; Bestiary, 62: A Model Kit; and the short story collection We Love Glenda So Much and Other Tales. His work also inspired the classic Antonioni film Blow-Up. He is considered one of the modern masters of the short story, and one of the most inventive and radical novelists in contemporary letters, after his compatriot Jorge Luis Borges. His work with text, photography, and the constant free juxtaposition of mediums also marks him as one of the first proponents of hypertext.
Caridad Svich
Caridad Svich is a US Latina playwright of Cuban-Argentine-Spanish-Croatian descent. Her plays and translations have been seen across the US and abroad. Key works include 12 Ophelias; Any Place But Here; Alchemy of Desire/Dead-Man’s Blues; Fugitive Pieces; Iphigenia…a rave fable; The Booth Variations; The Tropic of X; and The Labyrinth of Desire. She has adapted and re-imagined works by Isabel Allende, Shakespeare, Euripides, Sophocles, Wedekind, Calderon de la Barca, and Lope de Vega, and translated nearly all of Federico Garcia Lorca’s dramatic works as well as contemporary plays from Cuba and Mexico. She is alumna playwright of New Dramatists, founder of theatre alliance & press NoPassport, contributing editor of TheatreForum and associate editor of Contemporary Theatre Review. She is member of The Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. She holds an MFA from UCSD. Her website is www.caridadsvich.com.

For enquiries about this translation, contact:

Caridad Svich
c/o New Dramatists (Alumni)
424 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
csvich21@aol.com

and

Gloria Masdeu
c/o Carmen Balcells Agency
Diagonal 580
08021 Barcelona
Spain
g-masdeu@ag.balcells.com


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