English  version by

John Holmstrom
















CHAUMETTE, Procurator  of  the  Commune


DILLON, A General


FABRICIUS, A friend of Danton


JULIE, Dantons wife


LUCILE, Camille's wife



Members  of the  Committee  of   Public  Safety








FOUQUIER-TINVILLE, Public Prosecutor

Presidents  of  the Revolutionary  Tribunal




LAFLOTTE, An informer


SIMON, A prompter







Men and women of the people, whores, children, deputies, executioners,  carters,  ladies  and  gentlemen, etc


"A Danton, a Robespierre, chief-products of a victorious Revolution, are now arrived in immediate front of one another; must ascertain how they will live together, rule together. One conceives easily the deep mutual incompatibility that divided these two: with what terror of feminine hatred the poor seagreen Formula looked at the monstrous colossal Reality, and grew greener to behold him; the Reality, again, struggling to think no ill of a chief-product of the Revolution; yet feeling at bottom that such chief-product was little other than a chief windbag, blown large by Popular air; not a man, with the heart of a man, but a poor spasmodic incorruptible pedant, with a logic-formula instead of a heart. . . The  man  Danton  was  not  prone  to  show  himself; to act, or uproar for his own safety. A man of careless, large, hoping Nature …”


Thomas  Carlyle,  The  French  Revolution





S C E N E  1


HERAULT-SECHELLES and some ladies at a card table; some way off, DANTON on a stool  at the feet  of  JULIE.


DANTON. Look at that beautiful double-dealing bitch over there! She knows her stuff-- slips her husband the hearts,  and calls diamonds to the rest of 'em. You could make anyone fall in love with a lie.


JULIE.  But, Danton, you believe in me, don't you?


DANTON. Why ask that? We don't know much about one another, when it comes down to it. We've got very thick skins, and it's not much good fumbling with our hands, wearing each other away. We're lonely, and that's that.


JULIE.  But you know me, Danton.


DANTON.   They do call it knowing.  You've got  dark  eyes, and curly hair, and a good complexion, and you keep saying "Darling Georges." But what goes on behind the scenes, girl? Know one another? Go on, we're too clumsy to feel. We'd have to crack the nut open and drag all the little wriggly thoughts out by their tails.


A LADY, to HERAULT. What are you up to with your  fingers now?


HERAULT.  Nothing much!


A  LADY.  Well, don't do that with your thumbs, it isn't nice!


HERAULT.   It's not without its point, love.


DANTON.  No, Julie, I love you as I love the grave.






DANTON  No, listen! There’s peace in the grave, they say, the grave and peace are the same thing. Well, then, lying with you, I’m buried, I’m at rest. You lovely grave, your lips are funeral bells, your breasts are a mournful mound, your heart’s the coffin.


LADY. You lose, Herault!


HERAULT. An amorous adventure—one usually does.


LADY. So you made love by gestures, like a deaf mute.


HERAULT. And why not? They’re said to involve less misunderstandings than most. I made a date with a queen of cards, my fingers were forlorn princes witched into spiders; you, ma’am were the Good Fairy. But it wasn’t a success-- the queen spent the whole time being pregnant, rattling out knaves, sixty to the minute. Oh,  wouldn’t let any daughter of mine play: all the tupping and tumbling, and brats to follow.




HERAULT.  You look cheerful, Philippeau! Torn your red cap? Did Holy Joe make a nasty face at you? Did it rain when the guillotining was on? I know— you got a rotten place and you didn’t see a thing?


CAMILLE, to HERAULT.  Aping Socrates. You know his speech to Alcibiades one day when he found him moping: “Did you leave your shield on the battlefield, or lose at dice or sword fighting? Did someone sing or play better than you?” There was the classical republican, you see— a bit of a difference from our guillotine romantics.


PHILIPPEAU.  Twenty more today. We were wrong, you know— they didn’t get rid of Hebert’s lot because they were corruptors— it was because they weren’t systematic enough; and I think the Decemvirs probably thought anyone lasting a week, and being more feared than themselves, they’d be out.


HERAULT.  We’ll all end up Neolithic, if they get their way, St. Just would only be too pleased if we went back on all fours, for Robespierre to tinker with like the watchmaker of Geneva— fit us up with caps and school benches and an Almighty God.


PHILIPPEAU.  Oh, they wouldn’t mind adding a few noughts to Marat’s death budget, come to that. How long are we to go on being messy and bloody like babies fresh from the womb— with coffins for cradles, playing ball with the dead heads? We must move on— first, a commission of amnesty for prisoners, and then reinstate the expelled Deputies.


HERAULT.  It’s high time the whole thing was reorganized. In fact, we’ve got to forget about Revolution, and launch the Republic. What we must establish as a basic principle is the idea not of duty, but justice—not virtue, but contentment—and instead of all this discipline, simple self-preservation. Everyone must matter, and be the thing he is. I don’t care if he is clever, or sensitive, or good, or not—that’s no concern of the state’s. We’re all fools anyway, and no one’s got the right to impose his own particular madness on anyone else. Everyone must take his pleasure in his own way, so long as he doesn’t harm others by it, or interfere with theirs.


CAMILLE.  I say the Constitution must clothe the body of the people like a thin veil; through it you must be able to see every pulse of every vein, the flexing of any muscle or sinew. I don’t give a damn whether it looks pretty or not—she’s got to be the thing she is, and we’ve no business draping her in our favorite fashions. These people who are all for throwing holy veils over her bare shoulders, our sinful darling France—we’ll rap their knuckles for them—what we want is naked gods, and easy goddesses, Olympian delights and lovely lips singing of love—wicked love that releases the body! We’re not going to stop these dour Roman souls being vegetarian in corners if they must, but they should understand that Mars and his gladiators will not be appearing from now on. Epicurus the demi-god and Venus with her wanton loins, these shall stand at the gate of our Republic, and look a deal nicer than Marat and Chalier—Danton, you must lead the attack at the next Convention!


DANTON.  I must, you must, he must. "If we're spared," as the old women say. An hour passes, relieving us of sixty minutes-- eh, young  fellow?


CAMILLE.  What's that got to do with it? Of course it does.


DANTON. Yes, of course it does. Well,  and who's  going  to  set  the  whole  lovely  plan  in action?


PHILIPPEAU.   We are— and so is  anyone with  any  decency.


DANTON.   Isn't  that  rather  a  big  "and,"  don't  you  think?   It does get in the way a bit. Makes it just far enough for decency to get out of breath  before  we're  quite  there—and in any case—well, you can safely lend money to decent people, and be godfather to their kids, and marry your daughter  to them, but that's  about the lot, isn't it.


CAMILLE.  If that's what you think, why did you start all this?


DANTON. I couldn't stick the smugness of them-strutting about like little Catos. I wanted to kick them. It's just the way I am.


He gets up.


JULIE.  You're going?


DANTON. Yes, I'm going. These bloody politics of theirs get  on my nerves. May I just prophesy on the doorstep? As far as we're concerned, the statue of Liberty is not yet cast— but there's the hell of a great furnace waiting for  us  to burn our fingers in.  Goodnight.




CAMILLE.  Leave him alone.  Do you  really  think  he'd  keep his fingers out if it came to the point?


HERAULT. Oh, he might just pass the time with it— you know, like playing chess.







S C E N E  2


A street.


SIMON,  beating his wife.  You  nasty  pimping  slut,  you sickening hag, you rotten old  bag!


WIFE.  Hi, help! Help!


PEOPLE. running  up.  Get them apart, hold them off!


SIMON. Unhand me, fellow Romans! I am going to make this skeleton dance! Oh, you pregnant nun!


WIFE.  Nun, am I? Me!  I must say.


SIMON. "And having stripped you naked, I shall fling your reeking carcass to the dunghill curs." You old brothel bolster, you've lechery in every wrinkle.


They are separated.


FIRST CITIZEN.  What's it all in aid of?


SIMON. Where is that girl of ours, will you tell me?  No, I can't call her that. The maiden! Oh, dear me, no, hardly that. The young lady, the young woman! No, no, it won't do; I mean, I put it to you! There is a word, and one word only, but I can't— my own daughter!—The gorge rises, I cannot  bring  it out!


SECOND CITIZEN.  Good thing too, it'd stink of gin.


SIMON. Good old Virginius, hide thy ancient head— the raven Scandal perches there, to make thine eyes his meal. A knife, my Romans! Let me have a knife!


He swoons.


WIFE. Oh, he's not bad really, he just can't take very much; gin gives him a third leg, sort of thing.





SECOND CITIZEN.  Then he walks  on three.


WIFE.   No, he falls over.


SECOND CITIZEN.   I see what  you  mean,  missis,  he  starts with three, and then he falls on the third, till it falls  itself, sort of thing.


SIMON. Oh, hideous vampire, suck my heart's blood off.


WIFE. Leave him be, he gets all soppy after this; wait a bit, you’ll see.


FIBST CITIZEN.  How did it start, anyway?


WIFE. Well, you see, I was sitting in the front door, getting a bit of the sun, you see— because, you see, we've no coal and that—


SECOND CITIZEN.  Try your old man's nose.


WIFE. And my daughter had just popped round the  comer, you know— she's a good girl, she looks after her old mum and dad.


SIMON.  Ha, she admits it, does she?


WIFE. Oh, you Judas! Do you think you'd have a pair of trousers to put on if the young gentlemen  didn't  take theirs off for her? You old gin barrel, are you going  to  die  of thirst when she's off the beat,  or what? Well, look— you use  all the rest of your body to work with, I don't see why she shouldn't use that bit. Her mum used it  when  she  came  into the world, didn't she? So she might as well use  it  to work for her old mum a bit, mightn't she? It doesn't do her any harm anyway, does it, you silly old  fool?


SIMON. Ah, Lucretia! A knife, give me a knife, my country— men! Appius Claudius, ah!


FIRST CITIZEN. Oh, give him a knife— but not for the poor little bitch! What's she done, anyway? Damn-all.  It's hunger that goes whoring and begging. Let's keep knives for the bastards that are buying our wives and daughters! They've got it coming, making decent, respectable girls into tarts! You have cholera and things, and all they get is pains in their bellies; all your jackets are full of holes, and  they've got lovely warm coats; and your hands  are all swelled  up and nasty, and theirs are like ruddy velvet.  In fact,  you  work,  and they  do  damn-all;  you've earned it; they've gone and pinched it; in fact, if you just want tuppence back of what was yours in the first place, you've got to be a tart or a beggar; in fact, they're a pack of slippery bastards, and we've got to kill the lot of  them!





THIRD CITIZEN. All the blood in their veins they've sucked  from us. They told us to kill the aristos because they were wolves, so we ruddy well did, we hung 'em on all the lampposts. They told us the Veto was making all the shortages, so we fixed the Veto. They told us the Girondists were starving us out, so we guillotined the Girondists. But now all the bodies have been cleared away, and here we are still running around freezing-- cold, and no shoes to our feet. Why don't we tear the skin off their  bottoms  and make it into trousers? Why don't we boil the fat off 'em and make it into soup? Come on! Death to anyone who hasn't got a hole in his coat!


FIRST CITIZEN. Death to anyone who can read and write!


SECOND CITIZEN. Death to anyone who tries to emigrate!


ALL.  Kill'em! Kill 'em!


A young man is dragged in.


SEVERAL VOICES. He's got a handkerchief!  An aristo!  Hang him on the lamppost! The lamppost!


SECOND  CITIZEN.  Eh? He doesn't blow his nose on his fingers? Lamppost!


YOUNG  MAN.  Please, gentlemen!


SECOND CITIZEN.  There's no gentlemen here! Lamppost!



Those who slumber underground

By the hungry worms are found;

Better  swinging  in the air

Than the mess they make you there.


YOUNG  MAN.  No, don't, please!




THIRD CITIZEN.  Just a little game with a nice rope round your neck!  Won't take  long,  we're  not  cruel  like  you. We're murdered with work from the moment we're born; we're strung up and wriggling for sixty years, you know, but we're going to cut ourselves down now. Lamppost, d'you mind?


YOUNG MAN. I don't see that it's going to improve the light.


SPECTATORS. Oh, jolly good! Hark at him!


SEVERAL VOICES. Psst! Let him go.


He escapes.


Enter ROBESPIERRE, with women and sans-culottes.


ROBESPIERRE. What is the matter, citizens?


THIRD CITIZEN. What do you think? A few drops of blood in August and September weren't enough  to  bring  the  roses  to our cheeks, you know. It's too slow, the guillotine.  We want a good shower!


FIRST CITIZEN. Our wives and kids are crying for bread, so we're going to get 'em some nice  juicy  aristocrat steaks.  Kill anyone  who  hasn't  got  a  hole  in  his  coat!


ALL. Kill 'em! Kill 'em!


ROBESPIERRE. In the name of the law!


FIRST CITIZEN. What's the law when it's at home?


ROBESPIERRE. The will of the people.


FIBST CITIZEN. Well, we're the people, aren't we, and our  will is that there shan't be any law; ergo, this will is the law; ergo, no more law, in the name of the law; ergo, kill the lot of 'em.


SEVERAL VOICES. Come on, Aristides! Come on, the Incorruptible!   Hush!


A WOMAN. Hear the Messiah who is sent to order and judge us! He shall strike down the wicked with his sharp sword.  His eyes are the eyes of righteousness, and his hands the hands of justice!





ROBESPIERRE. Poor, good people! You are doing your duty, sacrificing your enemies.  You are great, my people! Your deeds fall like lightning, your voice is a voice of thunder. But, people, you must be very careful not to hurt yourself by what you do; because you are striking at yourself in your rage. Only your own strength can harm you, and your enemies know that. But your law givers are always watchful for you, they will guide your hand. Their eyes miss nothing, and their hand is unerring. Come to the Jacobins' Club then! Your comrades will open their arms to you, and we will sit in judgment on our common enemies!


MANY VOICES.  On to the Jacobins!  Long live Robespierre!


Exeunt all but SIMON and his wife.


SIMON. Alas, I am abandoned!


WIFE, helping  him up.  There now!


SIMON. Oh my sweet Baucis, you are heaping coals of fire on my head.


WIFE.  Come on now, stand up.


SIMON. Don't turn your back on me. Ah, can you forgive me, Portia? It was not my hand or arm—my  madness  did  it. His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.  Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.


Where's our daughter, where's my little Susie?


WIFE.  She's just  popped  round  the comer.


SIMON. We must go to her at once!  Come now, my  dear,  good wife.









S C E N E  3


The Jacobins' Club.


MAN FROM LYONS.  We have come here  from  our  comrades at Lyons to acquaint you  with  our  discontent.  Whether  the  cart that carried Ronsin to the guillotine was in  fact  the  hearse of Liberty itself, we can't say; but  we  do know,  and we can tell you, that since that day the men who murdered Chalier have stopped feeling as if they  were  walking  over their own graves. Have  you  forgotten  Lyons is a blot  on the  soil of  France,  which  must  be  hidden  under the bones of her betrayers? Have you forgotten this whore of kings has only the water of Rhone to wash her filth in? Have you forgotten the great torrent of revolution must carry away the bodies of aristocrats, to pile up in mid-ocean and strand the navies of Pitt? Your mercy, sirs, murders the Revolution. Each breath of an aristocrat  is  death to  Liberty.  It is the part of a coward to die for the Republic; a Jacobin kills for her. This is what I  came  here  to  say,  then:  if we  find that you have let go of the spirit that was  there  on  the  famous tenth  of  August,  and  through  September,  and  on the thirty-first of May-- if we  find  you  have  lost  this, then our own Gaillard, who loved his  country, has shown us  what to  take-- the  knife that Cato took.


Confusion, cheers and shouts.


A   JACOBIN.   We'll drink hemlock with you!




LEGENDRE, leaping up to the Tribune. You don't have to look as far as Lyons. What about our fine fellows with the fancy clothes, putting on their cultured voices, rolling to the theatre in coaches every night, and sitting in the posh seats— they're feeling safe again now, aren't they? Their heads look quite firm on their shoulders, don't they? They say clever things now, like; ''Why not have Marat and Chalier guillotined in effigy, and let them be martyrs twice?"




SCATTERED VOICES. They're as good as dead! They've talked their heads off.


LEGENDRE. Let them be damned in the blood of those saints! Members of the Committee of Safety, are you going to go on being deaf—?


COLLOT de'HERBOIS, interrupting.  Excuse me, Legendre, but will you tell us who these people are that  dare to give voice to such ideas? Because it is high time some of them were unmasked. It has come to this: that before our very eyes, causes stand up and accuse their effects, the cry accuses  its echo, arguments their conclusion. Please don't worry, Legendre. The Committee favors a more logical approach. Our revolutionary saints in their white marble will remain untouched; and, like the Medusa's head, will  turn a  traitor to  stone.


ROBESPIERRE.   I demand to be heard.


THE  JACOBINS.  Let him speak! The Incorruptible!


ROBESPIERRE. Citizens, your shout of indignation was the cue I had been waiting for. You must not think that we have been blind to all this. We saw the enemy raising himself from the ground, and reaching for his knife; but we were not sounding the alarm— we waited for the people to awaken of its own accord— because it was not asleep, indeed, its hand was on the sword. And so we allowed the enemy to show himself, and come out into the open; and there he is, comrades, a sitting target-you can't miss him, he's as good as dead.


Now, I have said this before, but I shall say it again: our enemies inside the Republic have split into two parties, two armies if you like. They march under different colors and by different routes, but their objective is one and the same.




One of these factions has now ceased to exist. This operated under a grotesque mask of fanaticism. It attempted to discredit the most notable patriots— to brand them as feeble and degenerate, and get rid of them, so that the Republic should be deprived of its most powerful defense. It declared war on divinity and property alike, the idea being a diversion in favor of the monarchy. It presented, in fact, an unworthy parody of revolution, a calculated  debauchery of principle, with the intention of making it hated and ridiculous. If Hebert's plan had worked, the Republic would have turned into chaos, to the  lively  satisfaction of despotism.


The traitor Hebert has fallen under the blade of the law.  But what difference does that make to the enemy if he's got another plan just as good up his sleeve, with the same end in view? We have achieved nothing if another faction remains to be dealt with.


Now this one is the exact opposite of the first. The arguments of this one are in favor of weakness, its war cry is "Mercy." The idea is to  strip  the  people  of  its  weapons, and of the power of weapons, and then hand  it  over  bare  and  defenseless  to  the  pleasure  of  the monarchy.


The weapon of the people is fear, and the strength of the Republic is morality— morality, because fear is poisonous without it; fear, because morality is powerless without it. Fear, you know, is a part of virtue— it is simply the swift, and severe, and inflexible force of righteousness. You may argue that fear is the weapon of a despotic rule— you may say, in fact, that ours is as good as despotism. All right then! The sword in the hand of a hero of freedom can be said to resemble the sabre of a tyrant's minion. If the despot rules his brutish subjects by fear, very well, he is exercising his right as a despot; and if you use fear to smash the enemies of freedom, so are you exercising your privileges as founders of the Republic. The Revolutionary Council is the despotism of freedom against tyranny.




Certain people are saying, "Pardon the Royalists."  Pardon for evil spirits?  No!  Pardon for innocence,  for weakness, for misfortune, pardon for humanity! Only a peace-loving citizen has a right to the protection of society. And only republicans can be citizens of a republic— Royalists and foreigners are enemies.


Punishing the oppressors of mankind— that is mercy. To pardon them is barbarous. When I come across these signs of misguided tenderness, I say to myself, "Oh yes, there goes someone who would rather be in England, or Austria."


But not content with disarming the people, they are trying to infect the purest sources of our strength with their filthy habits. This is the most cunning, and dangerous, and horrible assault upon  liberty.  These  filthy vices  are  the  mark of  Cain  laid  on  the  aristocracy.  In  a  republic  it  isn't  just a question of a moral crime— it's a political one  too— the libertine is the political opponent of true liberty, and the greater his reputation  as a servant  of  the  state, the  more  of a menace he is. The most dangerous citizen is the sort of man who wears out red caps by the dozen  but  never  actually  has  a single decent action  to his name.


You'll soon see what I mean if you think of the sort of man that used to live in a poky little attic somewhere and is now driving around in a coach and taking former marchionesses and baronesses to bed with him. We may well ask ourselves if the people havn't been betrayed, and if we haven't been playing the monarchists' game, when we who are supposed to legislate for the people go making a parade of all the vices and luxuries of the departed court— when we see these counts and marquises of the Revolution marrying rich wives, and giving fabulous feasts, gaming, and having servants, and dressing in fancy clothes. We may well rub our eyes to see them playing at being wits and connoisseurs and gentlemen! There was a shameless parody of Tacitus a little while ago; I might parry that with Sallust and suggest you a likely Catiline— but I don't think I need elaborate any further, you know these people as well as I do.




We will have no treaties and no truces with them. Their idea is to bankrupt the people and get away with  it. As far as they are concerned, the Republic is a kind of speculation, the Revolution is a profitable trade! They were so alarmed at what was happening to hundreds of their own sort that they tried to damp down the fire of justice. They would have had us believe their thoughts ran like this: "Only the virtuous can be trusted with the weapon of fear, Have pity on our weakness, Oh, legislators, as you are philosophers too! We would not go so far as to say that we have vices; but we must  own  ourselves unworthy  to be cruel."


Good people and patriots! you may  rest  assured.  You  can tell your comrades in Lyons that  the  sword  of  the  law  is not rusting in the  hands  you  vouchsafed  it  to.  We will  give the  Republic  a  great  example.


General applause.


SEVERAL VOICES. Long live the Republic! Long live Robespierre!


PRESIDENT   The assembly is adjourned!








S C E N E  4


A street.


LACROIX.  Now  look what  you've started, Legendre! You and your confounded busts— you don't know whose head  you may have struck off now.


LEGENDRE.   A few parasites  and  fashionable  whores,  that's  all.


LACROIX. You're a suicide, that's your trouble; you're like a shadow that can't resist stabbing its substance, and dies with it.


LEGENDRE.  I'm afraid I don't follow you.


LACROIX.  I thought Collot had made himself pretty  clear.


LEGENDRE.  Oh, him! He was drunk as usual.


LACROIX. Fools and babes, and now, it seems, drunkards, tell the truth. Anyway, who do you think Robespierre meant by Catiline?


LEGENDRE.  Well, who?


LACROIX. Look, it couldn't be much simpler. The atheists and extremists got wiped up, didn't they; and a fat lot of good that did the people, because they're· still running around barefoot in the streets, shouting for aristos' skin to make shoes with. The guillotine's their barometer, and they  don't like it dropping; a few degrees more, and the Committee of Safety can lay down their weary heads in Revolution Square.


LEGENDRE.   What  have  my  busts  got  to  do  with  all  this, though?




LACROIX.  Don't you  see? You've gone and made the   counter-revolution  official,  you've  stung the  Decemvirs  into action and showed them where to strike. The people’s a  minotaur— you've got to give it a decent supply of corpses if you don't want to get eaten yourself.


LEGENDRE.  Where's Danton?


LACROIX.  How the devil should I know? He's trying to build up the Venus de Medici one piece at a time, with the cooperation of the Palais-Royale whores; he calls it jigsaw puzzling. God alone knows which limb he's on at the moment. It's awfully tiresome of Mother Nature, isn't it, to have chopped up the ideal body and dished it out in little bits, like Medea's brother? Oh well, shall we look in the Palais-Royale?









S C E N E  5


MARION. No, leave me alone. I'm all right down here. I'm going to tell you a story.


DANTON.  You could put your lips to better use.


MARION. No, shut up, stop it. — My mother was a very wise woman, she always used to say how important it was to be pure. When visitors came and started talking about certain things, she used to tell me to leave  the  room;  and  if I asked her what they'd meant, she'd say I ought to be ashamed of myself. When she gave me a book to read, there were always some bits I wasn't to look at. I was allowed to read the Bible anywhere I liked, because it was all supposed to be holy, you see; but I came across things there that I didn't understand, and I couldn't ask anyone about them, so I kept it to myself, and it worried me. And then one day the spring came round again, and something seemed to be going on all round me, and I wasn't any part of it. I was in an atmosphere all of my own, and it seemed to be stilling me. I looked  at my body  and  sometimes  it was as if there were two of me, and then I'd melt back into one again.


There was a young man who used to come to the house sometimes. He was very nice-looking and he used to say some crazy things; I never really knew what he was getting at, but you couldn't help  laughing.  Mother often used to ask him in, it suited both of us. Well,  anyhow,  in the end,  we didn't see why we mightn't just as well  lie  down  together  between  a  pair  of  sheets  as  sit  together  on  chairs. I liked  it better than his talking, and  I couldn't understand why talking was to be encouraged and the nicer thing avoided. We did it secretly, and so it went on.




But I got to be like a sea that swallows up everything and gets rougher and rougher all the time. He was just my opposite half, all the men in the world poured into one. It was how I was made, that's all, there wasn't anything I could do about it.


He realized it in the end. One morning he came round, and he kissed me as if he wanted to choke me, he had his arms round my neck, squeezing— I was so scared, I can't tell you. Then he let me go and laughed and said he'd nearly done something silly. And he said I ought to keep my dress and wear it, because it would wear out by itself soon enough; he said he didn't want to spoil my fun while it lasted, because it was all I had. Then he went away. I didn't know what he was getting at, as usual.


That evening I was sitting by the window. I feel things a lot, you know, and that's the only way I seem to connect with everything round me. The sunset was coming over me, great red waves of it. Then I saw a crowd of people coming down the street, with all the children running in front, and women looking out of the windows. I looked down, and they were carrying him past in a great basket; his forehead was pale, with the moonlight on it, his hair was streaming; he'd drowned himself.  I couldn't help crying.


That was the only time in my life when everything stopped. Other people have Sundays and weekdays, they work six days and pray on the seventh; they get sentimental every time a birthday comes round, and every twelve months they start thinking about the New Year.  That's nonsense to me. I don't ever have a day off, and I don't ever change,   I stay as I am, wanting things and getting them;  I'm like a sort of fire, or a river.


Mother died from the shock of it, and people started pointing to me. That's silly. It all comes to the same thing, whatever you happen to like— bodies, or stained glass, or flowers, or toys— it's the same feeling, isn't it? Enjoying things is the best way of praying.





DANTON. Why can't I take all your beauty in my arms, Marion, why can't I embrace every bit of it?


MARION.  Your lips have eyes, Danton.


DANTON. I wish I was a part of the air— you should bathe in me like water, I'd break all over you, your headlands and your bays.




LACROIX, standing in the doorway.  You can't help laughing, you know, you can't help laughing.


DANTON, angrily. Well?


LACROIX.  It's just like the street, that's all.


DANTON.  Is it?


LACROIX. Dogs, you know. There were a couple out the, a huge mastiff and an incredibly small lap-dog, carrying on alarming.


DANTON. Indeed?


LACROIX. I couldn't help laughing, it just struck me.  It was most edifying. All the young ladies having a good  look out of the windows. People ought to be more careful not to let them sit in the sun, because flies will start doing it on their hands and that'll give them ideas.— Legendre and  I have made a tour of most of the cloisters, with the wee nuns of the Revelation through the Flesh hanging to our coat-tails and wanting a blessing. Legendre is just taking one of them through the Responses at the moment, but he may have to fast for a month afterwards. I have brought two of the vestals along in person.


MARION.  Good afternoon, Miss Adelaide!  Good afternoon, Miss Rosalie!


ROSALIE.  A long time since we've had the pleasure!


MARION.  I know, dreadful!


ADELAIDE. Working, you know, working every hour of the day or night!




DANTON, to ROSALIE.  You're getting more supple about the hips, Rosalie, my pet.


ROSALIE.  Oh yes, darling— practice makes perfect.


LACROIX. Do you know the difference between the classical Adonis and the present-day one?


DANTON. And Adelaide's got quite well-behaved and interesting, which adds a certain spice. Her face gives the impression of being a huge fig leaf which she's trying to hide behind. That sort of fig tree gives a refreshing bit of shade on such a busy little thoroughfare.


ADELAIDE. I was the merest bridle path before this gentleman  . . .


DANTON. Well, all right, we know. Let's not be bitchy, my girl.


LACROIX. I'll tell you then, since you press me. Your modem Adonis doesn't get ripped up by a boar—it's sows; and not in the flank, but a bit farther in, you know; and it's not so much roses sprouting from his blood as flowers of quicksilver.


DANTON. Miss Rosalie is a reconstructed torso, of course; only the hips and the feet are genuine antique. She's a magnetic needle, swinging between the poles of head and toes; the middle's the equator, and you have to take a dip when you're crossing the line.


LACROIX. Two sisters of mercy, both serving in hospitals— I refer to their own bodies naturally.


ROSALIE. You should be ashamed of yourself, making us blush!


ADELAIDE.   Really, you ought to have better manners!




DANTON.  Good night, sweethearts.


LACROIX. Good night, you little mercury mines!


DANTON. Poor kids, they only came for their supper.


LACROIX. Listen, Danton, I've been at the Jacobins'.




DANTON.  Is that all?


LACROIX. The blokes from Lyons read a proclamation:  they said the only thing left was to wrap up in togas.  They were all making faces like a man saying to his neighbor, "Look, old chap, it doesn't hurt really." Legendre started shouting about somebody wanting to smash up Chalier's and Marat's busts. He wants to beat the big drum, doesn't he? He's got through the Terror safe and  sound, and kids in  the street catch hold  of his coat as he  goes by.


DANTON.  And what about Robespierre?


LACROIX. A lot of drumming on the table, and then he started talking about virtue ruling by fear. I felt for my neck when he said that.


DANTON.  Looks like a new blade for the chopper.


LACROIX. And Collot was yelling like a lunatic, how we've got to tear off the masks.


DANTON.  I'm afraid the faces will come away too.




LACROIX.  What's happening, Fabricius?


FABRICIUS. I went to see Robespierre after we'd finished at the Jacobins', and demanded an  explanation.  He  tried  to  make a face like Brutus sacrificing his son, and he  carried  on  about duty in a  pretty  general  way,  and  said  there  could be no personal considerations where freedom was  at stake, and  he  would  sacrifice  everything,  himself,  his  brothers, or his  friends.


DANTON. That's clear enough, only it would be the other way round, with him at the bottom holding the ladder for his friends. I think we ought to be grateful to Legendre for getting it out of him.


LACROIX. We've not done with Hebert yet— the people's so wretchedly off still, it's a terrible weapon. If the blood- bubble goes up,  I don't  give  much  for  the Committee's chances; they've got to find some ballast in the shape of a good weighty head.





DANTON.  Don't I know it  the Revolution's like Saturn for eating its own children.


He stops and thinks.


Oh no, they wouldn't have the nerve!


LACROIX.  You're an embalmed saint, Danton; but the Revolution doesn't go much on relics— the bones of kings are lying around in the street, and all the statues have come down in the churches. You're an impressive monument, but do you honestly think they'd leave you standing?


DANTON.  But my name! The people!


LACROIX.  Your name! You're a moderate, aren't you? So am I, so's Camille and Philippeau and Herault. As far as the people's concerned, moderation and weakness are the same thing... He who hesitates.... These little men stitching red caps together, they'd feel the whole history of Rome pricking in their needles if they thought the hero of September had gone moderate on them.


DANTON.  True enough: besides, the people's like a child— always breaking things to see what they're like inside.


LACROIX.  And of course, Danton, we're decadent, according to Robespierre, that's to say we enjoy ourselves; and the people's moral, that's to say it can't enjoy itself, because it works, and work blunts the finer senses— it doesn't get tight because it can't afford to, and it doesn't go whoring because its breath smells of cheese and herrings and the girlies don't like it.


DANTON.  Therefore, it loathes people who enjoy themselves, as a eunuch loathes men.


LACROIX.  They call us profiteers, and—




DANTON.  You're dreaming. They had no courage without me, so how could they against me? The Revolution's not through yet— They may easily need me again, they'll keep me to fall back on.


LACROIX.  Well, something's got to be done.


DANTON.  That remains to be seen.


Returns to MARION.


LACROIX.  It will be seen when it is too late.


MARION, to DANTON.  Your lips have got cold. All this talk's spoiled your kissing.


DANTON, to MARION.  But look how much time we've got through! It was worth it!




I shall go see Robespierre tomorrow. I shall get at him till he has to talk. Till tomorrow, then! Good night, my friends, good night! And thank you both!


LACROIX.  Off we go, friends. Good night, Danton! You are guillotined with a lady's thighs, and the mount of Venus is your Tarpeian rock.


Exit with FABRICUS






S C E N E  6


A room.


ROBEPIERRE   I tell you that anyone who stops my hand when I draw my sword is my enemy. I don't mind what his intentions are— if he gets in my way with the best intentions, he injures me just as much as if he'd attacked me.


DANTON. There's a definite point where killing stops being self-defense and becomes simply murder. I don't see any good reason now why we should continue to kill.


ROBESPIERRE. The social revolution is still incomplete, as you well know. If you leave a thing like that half-finished, you're digging your own grave. We've yet to see the last of the old nobility. The people ought to be growing strong and healthy to take the place of that effete class with its fiddling little pleasures. Vice must receive its punishment, morality must rule by fear.


DANTON.  What I don't understand is this word  punishment. All this morality of yours, Robespierre! You've never taken money, never done anything you shouldn't,  never slept with a woman, always worn a decent coat, and never got drunk. Robespierre, you are so repulsively moral.  Honestly, I should be ashamed to have  scuttled  around  between heaven and earth for thirty years with that  awful righteous face on just for the wretched satisfaction of finding other people naughtier than yourself. Isn't there anything, miles down in you, that does occasionally suggest  very  quietly that  you  lie, Robespierre,  you lie?


ROBESPIERRE.    My  conscience  is  clean.




DANTON. Conscience is a mirror that fools torture themselves in front of. Why not just smarten yourself up as best you can and then push off to enjoy yourself after your own fashion? That, now, is something worth fighting for! We ought to fight anyone tooth and nail who tries to stop our fun. But do you think you've the right to make the guillotine a sort of washtub for other people's private filth, and scrub their dirty clothes with their own heads, just because your coat's always nicely  brushed?  I could understand  it if they were spitting on you or tearing holes-but what on earth have you got to get worked up about, as long as they leave you in peace? If they're not ashamed to go on being what they are, do you honestly think you've got the right to hound them into their graves? What do you think you are, God's own Special Constable? And if you can't command quite  the  over-all  view  that  your  beloved  Lord  God can, you  might  have the grace  to  cover  your eyes.


ROBESPIERRE.   Have you no respect for morality?


DANTON. No! Or immorality. We are all epicureans, in varying degrees of clumsiness  or refinement— Christ was the finest) — that's the only way  of  distinguishing  between  men  that I can see. Everyone behaves according to his nature, that's to say, he does what's good for him. It's cruelty, isn't it, my old Incorruptible, treading the heels off your shoes like that?


ROBESPIERRE. Danton, there are some circumstances in which immorality is high treason.


DANTON. You can't outlaw it, for heaven's sake, it would be ludicrous; you need it for contrast, don't you? In any case, according to your notions, every act must benefit the state, so you can't condemn the innocent with the guilty.


ROBESPIERRE. Who said anyone innocent was going to be condemned?


DANTON.   Hear that, Fabricius? Innocent people don't die!


Exit with FABRICIUS, saying.


We mustn't lose a minute, we've got to declare ourselves.




ROBESPIERRE, alone. Go away, He thinks he can leave the wild horses of the Revolution standing outside the brothel like patient hacks; but they'll be strong enough to drag him to the guillotine.


Wearing the heels off my shoes! According to my notions! Just a moment; could it be that? They say he was a great figure that put me in the shade, so I had to get him out of the light. What if they were right, too? Is it actually necessary? Yes, of course it is, for the safety of the Republic! He's got to go. It's rather ridiculous the way my thoughts keep spying on each other. Of course he must go. Someone standing still in a crowd that's moving forward might just as well be moving against them. He gets trodden down— naturally.


I'm not going to let the ship of Revolution get stranded on the shallow plots and mudbanks of these people. I shall cut their hands from the wheel. Their teeth if necessary! We've had quite enough of this class that has put on the dead aristocracy's clothes and inherited its diseases.


No morality! The heel of my shoe! My notions! It keeps coming back. Why can't I get clear of it? His poisonous finger, pointing into me, right inside! I wind the bandages thicker and thicker, but the blood keeps on coming through.


After a pause.


I don't know what this thing is that goes on contradicting.


He goes  to  the window.


Night snoring over the earth, turning and turning with ugly dreams. All those things taking shape now, and crawling into the house of sleep— unconscious thoughts and desires, which were vague and confused and fled from the light of day. Now they are opening the doors, they are looking out of all the windows, they are halfway to being flesh and blood— bodies are stretching in their sleep, lips are mumbling. Isn't it much the same dream when we're awake, only brighter? Aren't we just walking in our sleep? What we do is like what we do in the dream, only more clear and definite and complete, and who's to blame us?  


The mind gets through more work in an hour than our miserable bodies will be able to carry out in years. Sin is in the mind too. Whether it turns into fact and the body actually does it is purely a matter  of chance.


Enter ST.  JUST.


Who's there in the shadow? Hi! Bring a light!





ST. JUST. You should know my voice.


ROBESPIERRE.   Ah, it's you, St. Just!


A servant brings a light.


ST. JUST.  Were you alone?


ROBESPIERRE.  Danton has just been here.


ST. JUST. I bumped into him at the Palais-Royal as I was coming. He'd got his revolutionary frown on and he was throwing a lot of epigrams around; being chummy with sans-culottes, you know, and the whores trotting along behind him, and everybody standing around telling each other what he'd said. We're going to lose the advantage and let him strike first, if we're not careful. How much longer are you going to wait? Well, go ahead without you if we must: we've made up our minds.


ROBESPIERRE.   What exactly  are your plans?


ST. JUST. We shall call a meeting of the Legislative Assembly, the Committee of Safety, and the Council of Public  Guidance.


ROBESPIERRE.  Quite a to-do.


ST. JUST.  Oh, we shall carve him as a dish fit for the gods, you know. There is to be no secret burial. And every limb must perish.


ROBESPIERRE. Would you mind speaking so that I can understand?


ST. JUST. We have got to trap him with all his organization. His horses and his slaves must be laid on the pyre. Lacroix!





ROBESPIERRE.   That  upstart he was  a lawyer's clerk, now  he is a  lieutenant-general  of  France.  Go on!


ST.  JUST.   Herault-Sechelles.    


ROBESPIERRE.   A pretty fellow.


ST.   JUST.    The handsome  capital  letter   at  the  head   of  the Constitution. We don't need that sort of decoration anymore,   so  he  is  to  go. Philippeau— Camille—




ST. JUST, giving him a paper. That's what I thought. Just read this.


ROBESPIERRE. Oh, "the old Franciscan"! Is that all?  He's a child, he's laughing at you.


ST.  JUST.  Will you just look here?


ROBESPIERRE. "Our bloody Messiah Robespierre stands on his private Calvary, between the two murderers Cauthon and Collot; he is, of course,  going  to  do  the  sacrificing,  not  be sacrificed himself. The pious ladies  of the  guillotine stand below like so many Maries. St. Just is John the Be-loved Disciple; he hangs round the Master's heart, and will acquaint the Assembly with the revelation of His rising;  he carries his head as carefully as if it were the Holy Sacrament."


ST.  JUST.  I’ll make him carry his under his arm, like St. Denis.


ROBESPIERRE, continuing. "Ought we to call the Messiah's quiet coat the shroud of France, and his thin fingers drumming on the Tribune blades for the guillotine? And, you, Barere, you said money should be coined in Revolution Square; but I shan't rake up all that again. This fellow is like a widow who has had six husbands and buried them all. It can't be helped; he has a gift for it. He puts on his Hippocratic face for people six months before they actually die. Anyway, who is going to sit with corpses and enjoy the smell?"


You too, Camille? They must be cleared up. And quickly! Only the dead stay away. Have you got charges ready against them?




ST. JUST. That's easy. You gave full notice in the Jacobins.


ROBESPIERRE.  I wanted to frighten them.


ST. JUST. All I have to do is carry out the warning.  Golden eggs from the forgers, poison apples from the foreigners— the meal will be the death of them, I promise you.


ROBESPIERRE. At once, then— well, tomorrow morning! And I don't want a long death agony, either. I seem to be getting squeamish. Make it quick, that's all.


Exit ST. JUST.


So, the bloody Messiah does the sacrificing, and isn't sacrificed himself. Christ absolved them with His blood.  I shall use their own. He made them sinners, and I take the sin upon myself. He had the ecstasy of pain, and I have the torment of the executioner. Who denied himself the more, He or I? These are rather stupid speculations, really. Why do we always look at the one example? Because the truth is that the son of man is crucified in every one of us, we all wrestle in Gethsemane with the bloody sweat on us, but no one absolves his neighbor through his wounds.


Camille! They are all going from me. Everything is empty and waste.  I am quite alone.









S C E N E 1



A room.


CAMILLE   Come on, Danton, we haven't got any time to waste.


DANTON, dressing.  But now doth Time waste us. It's remarkably boring, isn't it, always putting your shirt on first and then pulling your breeches up, crawling into bed at night and out again next morning, and placing one foot neatly in front of the other; no one dreams of trying a different way. God, it's depressing; millions having done so, and millions more going to do so— and all being divided into two halves of horrid similarity, so that we  do everything in   duplicate—  God,   it's  sad.


CAMILLE.  You talk like a child.


DANTON.   The dying frequently do.


LACROIX. You're asking for trouble, hanging around like this; it's not just cooking your own goose, there's your friends as well. If anyone's scared, tell them to mass themselves round you, call on the valleys and the mountains! Roar against the tyranny of the Decemvirs, speak daggers to them, invoke Brutus— that way you’ll shake the Tribunes and have the support of all the poor blighters that they're calling Hebertists! For God's sake get angry, won't you? Don't let's die like the wretched Hebert, helpless and humiliated.


DANTON. Your memory's not very good. You called me a mummified saint or something, didn't you? You don't know how right you were. I've been to the sections: they showed every respect, rather like undertakers, I thought. I'm a relic, and relics get chucked into the street, you're dead right.




LACROIX.   Why ever did you let it get to this?


DANTON. This? Well, I suppose I got bored. Always tooling around wearing the same coat and the same dreary expression. It makes you sick. Just being a miserable instrument with only one note to every string! It's insufferable. I wanted to relax. I have, too. The Revolution will leave me in peace, even if it's not quite the kind I bargained for.  And anyway, who can you rely on? Our whores may have it out with the guillotine sisters, but beyond  that  I can't think of anyone. You can work it out on your fingers. The Jacobins have declared morality as the order of the day: the Cordeliers say I murdered Hebert; the people's council's in disgrace. The Convention— possibly, but it wouldn't be easy, and we couldn't hope for a second thirty-first of May. Robespierre is the dogma of the Revolution, a clause I'm afraid we can't strike out. We'd never manage it, We didn't make the Revolution— it made us.


And supposing we could— I'd rather be guillotined myself than have it done to others. I'm sick of it. We're human beings, why must we be fighting all the time? We ought to sit down together and have a bit of peace.  Whoever made us did a botchy job— somethings missing, I can't exactly give it a name— but you can't rip it out of people's guts, so why go tearing limb from limb? A miserable sort of alchemists we are.


CAMILLE. You might put it a bit stronger, and say: How long must this everlasting hunger of mankind last, in which we devour our own flesh? Or: how long must we remain shipwrecked, sucking the blood from  each  other's  veins  in  our unquenchable  thirst?  Or:  How long must we persist  in this mad algebra of the flesh, hunting for the unknown fugitive X, scrawling our calculations with mangled limbs?


DANTON.   You are a powerful echo.


CAMILLE. A pistol shot makes as much din as a thunderclap, doesn't it? Well, all the better for you; you never ought to be without me.


PHILIPPEAU.   So we  leave  France  to  her executioners?




DANTON. Suppose we do? Nobody's any worse off. They aren't happy, of course, but they surely don't expect to be sensitive, or noble, or moral, or clever, do they?  They don't really think they aren't going to be bored? It's all  one, whether you die on the guillotine or from a fever or old age. The thing is to  keep  the  show  going,  to  get off  into the wings with a spring  in  your  step  and  a  fine  gesture, and listen to the applause. It's a handsome end,  and  we might  do  a  lot  worse.  We're  just  actors  all  the  time, anyway,  even  if  we  do finally  get  stabbed in real  earnest. It's not a bad thing to have your life span cut down a bit. The coat was too long, we couldn’t fill it properly. Life's an epigram, and that makes it bearable. We haven't the breath or the mind for epics in fifty or sixty cantos. It's time we took to drinking the elixir in liqueur glasses instead of barrels; that way you can at least taste it, otherwise it's swilled round and you can hardly get two drops together. Finally— do you mind if I shout? — it's too much bloody trouble; life isn't worth the sweat of clinging on to.


FABRICUS.  Escape, then, Danton!


DANTON. With the dust of France still on my shoes? Look, in the end-and, seriously, this is the point— they wouldn't have the nerve.




Come on, young fellow. Take it from me, they wouldn't have the nerve. Good-by, my friends, good-by!




PHILIPPEAU. And there he goes.


LACROIX. And doesn't really believe a word he says. Sheer laziness. He'd rather be guillotined than have the bother of arguing about it.








SC E N E 2



A street.


A CITIZEN.  My  beloved  Jacqueline— that is, I mean  Cor Whoops, I mean Corn—


SIMON. Cornelia, brother, Cornelia.


CITIZEN. My beloved Cornelia has blessed me with a son.


SIMON.  Blessed the Republic with a son.


CITIZEN.  The Republic's  too  general;  what  about-?


SIMON. That's just the point-the individual's got to contribute—


CITIZEN. Oh yes, that's what my wife says.




What’s it all, what's it then,

Joy and desire of helpless men?


CITIZEN. Trouble is, I can't think what to christen him.


SIMON.  What about  Pike  Marat,  mon vieux?




Wrapped in sorrow and dismay

Sweating from the break of day

Till the evening comes again.


CITIZEN. I'd like three, really— there's something about the number 3— something, you know, useful,  and decent too. I think I've got it; Plough, Robespierre— now what for number 3?


SIMON. Pike.


CITIZEN. Thanks, neighbor. Pike, Plough, Robespierre— that sounds good; I like that.





SIMON  I tell you, your Cornelia's breast shall be like the Roman she-wolf's dugs— oh no, sorry, that won't do, Romulus was a tyrant, sorry.


They move on.


A BEGGAR, singing.


A handful of earth and a sprinkle of moss...

My honored sirs and sweet ladies!


SECOND   GENTLEMAN.   There you are!


Gives him money.


Oh, his hand's as soft  as anything.  Disgraceful.


BEGGAR.  Where did you get your coat, kind sir?


SECOND GENTLEMAN. Honest work, my dear fellow! You could earn one too; I'll give you work, if you like; come along, I  live—


BEGGAR.  Why did you work, kind sir?


SECOND GENTLEMAN.  To buy a coat, you ass!


BEGGAR. You tortured yourself to afford a luxury. A coat  like that is a luxury when rags  do just  as   well.


SECOND GENTLEMAN. Of course it's a luxury, that's why people pay for it.


BEGGAR. I wish I was a fool. It turns your head. There's a nice warm sunny comer, and that's all you want.


A handful  of  earth and  a sprinkle  of  moss  . . .


ROSALIE, to ADELAIDE.  Hey, love, here's some soldiers coming! We've had nothing warm in us since yesterday.




All that is left of your profit  and loss.


My kind sirs, my sweet ladies!


SOLDIER.  Halt! Where are you  girls off  to?


To ROSALIE. How old are you?


ROSALIE. Same as my little finger.


SOLDIER.   You're  a sharp one





ROSALIE.  You're blunt enough.


SOLDIER.  Might whet myself on you.


He sings.


Oh, Christina, what'll the neighbors say?

Can you face the shame, love, come what may?


ROSALIE, singing.


Oh no, soldier  boy, don't you  fret:

Here's a thing between us that I won’t regret.




DANTON. Good stuff, eh? My God,  there's something  in  the air here all right. I think the sun's drawing out this splendid indecency. Doesn't it make you want to get down there, eh? And hurl your breeches off and go piggyback like dogs in the street?


They move on.


YOUNG GENTLEMAN. Ah, dear lady, the chiming of a bell, dusk among the trees, a star winking  . . .


LADY. The scent of flowers! These natural delights, the pure enjoyment of Nature!


To her daughter.


You see, Eugenie,  you  must  be pure  to  see these things.


EUGENIE, kissing her mother's hand. Oh, Mama, I see only you.


LADY.   Sweet child.


YOUNG GENTLEMAN, whispers in EUGENIE'S ear. See that  fine lady  over  there with  the  old fellow.


EUGENIE.  Yes, I know her.


YOUNG    GENTLEMAN.     They   say   her   hairdresser   did   her  a la enfant.


EUGENIE.  Oh, they are awful!


YOUNG GENTLEMAN. And the old man trots along by her side. He can see the bud swelling, and he takes it walking in the sunshine, and really thinks he was the thundershower that  did  the  trick.




EUGENIE.  You are dreadful!  I feel like blushing.


YOUNG GENTLEMAN.  I should go pale if you did.




DANTON, to CAMILLE. Oh, stop being so damned solemn.  I can't understand why people don't just stand in the street and laugh in each other's faces. They ought to be laughing out of every window, and laughing in their graves; heaven should be splitting itself, and the earth convulsed.




FIRST GENTLEMAN. You know, it is the most extraordinary discovery! I mean, it makes all the branches of science look entirely different. Mankind really is striding towards its high destiny.


SECOND GENTLEMAN. Have you seen that new play?  There's   a great Babylonian tower, a mass of arches and steps and passages, and then, do you know, they blow the whole thing up, right into the air, just like that! It makes you dizzy.  Quite extraordinary.


He stops, perplexed.


FIRST GENTLEMAN.  Why, whatever's the matter?


SECOND GENTLEMAN. Oh, nothing, really! But— would you just give me a hand— over this puddle— there! Thank you very much. I only just got over it. That could be extremely dangerous!


FIRST GENTLEMAN.  You weren't afraid of it, were you?


SECOND GENTLEMAN. Well, yes— the earth's only a very thin crust, you know. I always think I might fall through where there's a hole like that. You have to walk very gently or you may easily go through. But do go and see that play— I thoroughly recommend it!









S C E N E  3


A room.


CAMILLE. I tell you they won't look— unless you just copy things, and hawk them around in theatres and concerts and art exhibitions. Somebody makes a marionette— you can see all the strings pulling it, and the poor little thing rattling out pentameters at every step! "Isn't it a character¬ isn't it dignified!" Somebody has a pretty thought, a maxim, a notion— he gives it a coat and trousers, some hands and feet and any sort of face, and gets it to totter through three agonizing acts until it finally marries, or blows its brains out. "Oh, but it's marvelous!" Somebody scrapes up a whole opera, to float and fall like the spirit of man— like a water whistle doing a nightingale. "Art!" And then take these people out of the theatre into the street, into the awful reality— they can't see Almighty God for all the bad copies. And the whole universe, which shines and thunders and lightens and reproduces itself all the time in and around them— they just can't see it, for God's sake! All they do is go to the theatre and read poetry and novels, and say to God's creatures, "Oo, you are common." The Greeks knew what they were talking about— you know, Pygmalion's statue came to life, but it never had any children.


DANTON. Artists treat Nature like that fellow David, in September— d'you remember, he was  calmly making  sketches of those poor dying blighters they'd chucked out into the street; all he said was he was getting the last jerks of life out of the brutes.


DANTON is called out of the room.




CAMILLE,   What  do  you  think,  Lucile?


LUCILE.   Nothing; I just  like watching  you talk.


CAMILLE.   Do you listen  to me?


LUCILE,   Of course  I  do!


CAMILLE. Well, am I right? Do you know what I've been talking about?


LUCILE.  Heavens, no.


DANTON comes back.


CAMILLE.   What is it?


DANTON. The Committee's going to arrest me. I've just been warned and offered a getaway. They want my  head; well all right. I'm fed up with the bungling.  They  can have  it. It doesn't matter. I shall die quite respectably. It's far simpler than living.


CAMILLE.    Danton, there's  still   time!


DANTON.  Certainly not. I must say, I never thought…


CAMILLE.   Just  your  damned laziness!


DANTON.  I'm not lazy, I'm tired. My feet are killing   me.


CAMILLE.  Where  are you going?


DANTON. Ah, if one knew that. . . !


CAMILLE.   No, seriously, where?


DANTON.    For a  walk,  young  fellow,  for  a walk.




LUCILE.   Oh, Camille!


CAMILLE.  Don't worry, my love.


LUCILE. If I thought your head . . . No, that's ridiculous, I'm mad, aren't I? Aren't I, Camille?


CAMILLE.   Don't you worry.  Danton can do what he likes.


LUCILE. The world's so wide, so full of things, why should it be this very one? Who'd take him away from me? It'd be wicked.  What would they want with him, anyway?




CAMILLE. How many times do I have to tell you, you needn't worry. I spoke to Robespierre yesterday, and he was perfectly friendly. Things are a bit strained at the moment, certainly; just a slight difference of opinion, that's all it is.


LUCILE.   Go  and  see  him now.


CAMILLE. We were at school together. He  always was  serious, and kept to himself. I was the only  one  who  took  the  trouble to talk to him, and made  him  laugh  occasionally. He's  always  stuck to  me  since then.  All right,  I’ll go.


LUCILE. So quickly, my friend?  Good,  but  come  here— take this with you, and  this.


Kissing  him.


now,  go  on,  be  off  with  you.




It's bad days now. That's how it goes. Nothing you can do. Just  got to make up your mind to   it.


She sings.


Saying good-by, saying good-by,

Whoever invented saying good-by?


I wonder why that should come into my head? I don't like the way it just turns up, without so much as a by-your-leave. I felt, when he went out just now, somehow he wasn't ever going to be able to turn back, and he'll always be going away from me now, always further away,  It's got so empty; all the windows are open, as if we had a corpse in  the house.  I can't bear it.













Open Fields


DANTON   I'm not going any farther. I don't like crashing about, puffing and panting in the middle of all this  stillness.


He sits down; pause.


They say there's some sort of a disease where you lose your memory. Death must be a bit like that.  My God, if I could! Then, of course, I'd be a real Christian and dash off and save my enemy— I mean  my memory.


Well, memory might be safe here, but I'm certainly not. The grave's safer, it offers forgetfulness at least. It kills my memory. Back there memory lives and kills me. Well, it's between me and it. Not a difficult   choice.


He  gets  up  and  turns back.


I even flirt with Death. It's rather pleasant to be quizzing her and making eyes  at a safe distance.

Really, it's all terribly funny. I've still got this permanent feeling about me. I think tomorrow will be just the same  as today, and the day after tomorrow,  and  so  on. It's just a lot of fuss; trying to frighten me. Go on! They'll never have the nerve!











A room--  night


DANTON, at the window. Won't it ever stop? Won't the light go out for good and the noise rot away? Won't it be quiet and dark, so we can stop seeing and hearing each other's wretched little sins? September!


JULIE, calling. Danton! Danton!


DANTON.  Eh?   . . .


JULIE, coming in. What were you shouting for?


DANTON.  Was I shouting?


JULIE. You were saying something about sins, and then you cried  out "September."


DANTON. Did I? No, I don't think I said anything; I'd hardly even thought it, it was only just coming in quietly at the back of my mind.


JULIE.  You're shivering, Danton.


DANTON. I should think I am, with the walls chattering  like this. I've gone to bits pretty badly  when  my  thoughts start wandering about and speaking through the lips of stones. It's a very  queer  thing.


JULIE.  Georges, Georges.


DANTON, Yes, Julie, it is queer. I ought to stop thinking,  if that's going to happen. Some thoughts shouldn't be heard, Julie. They shouldn't be crying like babies the moment they're born; it isn't good.


JULIE. Oh, God, don't let him go mad.  Georges,  Georges,  do you  know  me,  do  you  know  who  I am?





DANTON. I should do. You're a human being and you're a woman and you're also my wife, and the earth has five continents, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia, twice two is four, I'm in my right mind, you see. September, the shout  was?  Is that  what  you said?


JULIE,  Yes,  Danton,  I heard  it  through  all  those  rooms.


DANTON.   I came to the  window-


He looks out again.


— the  town's  quiet,  all the  lights  are out  . . .


JULIE.  I can hear  a child  crying  out there.


DANTON. I came to the window— and I could hear this howling and crying in all the streets: September!


JULIE. You were dreaming, Danton. You must get a grip on yourself.


DANTON. Dreaming? Yes, I was dreaming, but it was something else. I'll tell you in just a moment, only my head's so numb— just a moment— ah yes, I've got it now: the globe of the earth was under me like a wild horse, it was snorting, pounding along; I'd got hold of it, I was clutching its mane with these huge hands, and clinging on to its ribs, with my head turned aside and my hair streaming, and there was the great abyss beneath us, and I was hurtling over it. So I yelled out in terror, and I woke up. I went over to the window-and then I heard it, Julie.  September!


What does it want, that word— why is it that? How does it concern me? It holds out these bloody hands towards me— but I never hurt it Oh, Julie, help me, my brain's gone to sleep. September, what was it, Julie?


JULIE.  The Royal Army  was  forty hours  away  from  Paris  . . .


DANTON. Our outposts had fallen, the aristocrats were in the city  . . .


JULIE.  The Republic was lost.





DANTON. It was lost. We couldn't leave them there at our backs, that would have been madness. Two enemies on one plank, them or us, the stronger shoves the weaker    off— that's  fair  enough,  isn't  it?


JULIE.  Yes, of  course.


DANTON. Well, that's what we did— it was civil war, it wasn't murder.


JULIE.  You  saved the country.


DANTON. Yes, I did save it. It was self-defense, we had to. The Man on the Cross made it all comfortable for Himself, of course. He said: "It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." They will, they must: always this must. Why should a hand be cursed which already bears the curse of a must? Who put the must there, eh? Who is it inside us doing the lying, whoring,  stealing, and killing?


We're a lot of puppets, and  the  unknown  powers  have  us on strings. Ourselves, we're nothing! Just the swords that spirits fight with— like a fairy story, you can't see the hands. Well, I'm  better  now.


JULIE.   Really  better,  my  love?


DANTON.  Yes, Julie. Come on— bed!









SCE N E  6



The street in front of DANTON's house.


SIMON. How far into the night is it, my friends?


FIRST CITIZEN. What in the night?


SIMON. How far?


FIRST CITIZEN. From sunset to sunrise.


SIMON. What  o'the clock, you  wretch?


FIRST CITIZEN. Oh, look at yer dial. I should say it's about when the perpendiculars are sitting up under the bed- clothes, most likely.


SIMON. We must proceed! Forward, citizens! Our own heads are at stake. Dead or alive! He is powerfully built, you  know. I shall go ahead, citizens. One more  street  for  liberty! Have a care for my  wife!  I bequeath  her  a  crown  of  oak leaves.


FIRST CITIZEN. A crown of acorns? Plenty of them fall in her lap  every  day  without  that.


SIMON. Forward, citizens! We shall place the country in our debt!


SECOND CITIZEN. I wish we could be in the country's debt. We make lots of  holes  in  other  people's  bodies,  but  the  ones in  our  breeches  stay  as  wide  as ever.


FIRST CITIZEN.  Don't want yer flap sewn up,  do yer,  mate? Ho, ho, ho.


ALL. Ho, ho, ho.


SIMON. On, on, citizens!


They force their way into DANTON'S house.






S C E N E  7


The National Convention. Group of Deputies.


LEGENDRE. But we can't go on killing off Deputies like this, can we? I mean,  if  Danton  isn't  safe,  I'd  like  to  know who  is.


A DEPUTY. What on earth can one   do?


ANOTHER. He'll have to have a hearing at the bar of the Convention. Surely that means he's safe. They can't contradict  his  evidence.


ANOTHER.  But there's a  decree  forbidding it.


THE PRESIDENT. I declare the session open.


LEGENDRE, moving up to the Tribune. During last night four members of the National Convention were arrested. I know for certain that one of them was Danton; I don't yet know the names of the others. It doesn't matter who they turn out to be— I demand that they must be given a hearing here in the presence of all of us. Citizens, I declare to you here and now my absolute certainty that Danton is as free from corruption as I am myself; and I don't imagine that anyone is going to start bringing charges against me. I have no intention now of attacking any members of the Welfare or Security Councils, but I have got very real reasons for fearing that private malice and personal interests may be in danger of robbing liberty of the very men that have done most for her. I must repeat that the man who saved France in the year 1792 by his own energy and initiative deserves a hearin— it is the very least we can do. We can hardly refuse to allow him to speak in his own defense if he is to be faced with a charge of high treason.








SEVERAL VOICES.  I support Legendre's request. I second that.


A DEPUTY. We hold our place here by the will of the people, and as long as that will remains we cannot be put down like this.


ANOTHER. You talk like corpses. You smell of the Girondists.  Do you want to bring back privileges? The ax of the law hangs over every head.


ANOTHER. We can't have our committee sending lawgivers to the scaffold without the safeguards of  the law.


ANOTHER. There should be no safeguards for crime— only royal criminals have asylum— on the throne.


ANOTHER.   Only scoundrels ask for asylum.


ANOTHER.  Only murderers forbid it.


ROBESPIERRE. It is a long time since there has been such an uproar in this assembly; clearly we have come up against an issue of some magnitude. What is going to be decided today, one way or the other, is whether certain people are going to score a victory over their own country. I am at a loss to understand how you can contradict your own principles to the extent of countenancing in these men today precisely what you refused to tolerate in Chabot, Delaunai, and Fabre. I don't follow the distinction in favor of these men. And I am not much impressed by people making speeches in praise of themselves and their friends. Far too many examples should have taught us what store to set by these. We are really not concerned about a man having this or that patriotic action to his credit. What we are concerned with are his political tendencies seen as a whole. It seems that Legendre doesn't know the names of the arrested men; I was under the impression that the entire assembly knew quite well who they were. His friend Lacroix is among them. I can't think why Legendre doesn't seem to know that. Except that he knows very well that only utter shamelessness can make excuses for Lacroix. He only mentioned Danton by name, imagining, I suppose, that it was a name to conjure with, a name with a privilege. However, we are not much in favor of privilege, or of brazen images.






I should very much like to know what distinguishes Danton from Lafayette, or Dumouriez, or Brissot, or Fabre, or Chabot, or Hebert?  I  should  be  extraordinarily  interested  to hear what  could be  said of  them  that  could not  be  said of him. I don't remember your being inclined to spare them. How has he deserved this advantage over his fellow citizens? Is it because certain misguided individuals, and certain others who know very well what they  are  about,  have grouped themselves with him, hoping, I imagine, to sweep to fortune and power in  the  wind  of  his  success? The more he has betrayed  the trust  of  those  patriots  who  did trust him,  the  more  severe  the  sentence  of  all  lovers of  freedom  must  be  upon   him.


Universal applause.


I don't doubt that you will hear a lot of distressing talk about the misuse of a power which you yourselves have been exercising. There is a lot of whimpering about the despotism of the committees-as if the public confidence which brought these committees into being were not a sufficient guarantee of their loyalty. It really looks as if some people are rather alarmed. Well, I tell you this: the people who are alarmed now are the guilty ones. Nobody who is innocent is afraid of public scrutiny.


I don't mind telling you they had a shot at frightening me.   I was given to understand that the danger approaching Danton might go further and not leave me untouched. I received letters to the effect that Danton's friends had me surrounded-they really thought  that  our  old  association, or some blind trust in their sham virtues, might make me tone down my determination and my belief  in freedom.  My answer to that is that nothing is going to hold  me back,  and I don't care if the danger to Danton is a danger to me as well, I am not interested. None of us can get along without a bit of guts,  a bit of  moral courage.  It is only criminals, only base people, who get scared when they see men like themselves going down on every side- they realize clearly enough that once the safety of guilty numbers is taken from them, they will be left naked in the light of truth.




There may be spirits like that in this assembly, but I know for a fact that there are also heroic ones. There is not a large number of scoundrels, and very few heads need fall for the country to be saved.




I therefore ask you to reject Legendre's motion.


The Deputies rise as one man to intimate the general agreement.


ST. JUST. I have noticed that some people in this assembly have remarkably sensitive ears. They don't like any mention of the word "blood." I think a few general observations should be enough to convince them that we are no more cruel in our methods than Nature herself; or, indeed, Time. Nature proceeds in accordance with her own laws, quietly and irresistibly; and every time Man comes into conflict with her, he loses, just like that, he is annihilated. There only needs a very slight change in the atmospheric conditions, a flare-up of volcanic heat, or a shift in the equilibrium of a mass of water, to result in an epidemic, or an eruption, or a flood, that will be the death of thou¬ sands. And the consequence is-what? Seen in perspective, it is a quite insignificant, almost imperceptible change in the physical disposition of Nature— which would, in fact, pass unnoticed, only that it leaves a few little corpses in its wake.


I ask you therefore whether you think the moral universe ought to be more considerate about its revolutions than the physical universe? Do you really suppose an idea has any less right than a law of Nature to destroy  the  things that stand in its way? Can anyone, in fact, imagine that an event which has changed the whole history of ethics, of mankind, and of the world should  stop  short  of  letting blood,  should  that  be  necessary?  The  forces  that  rule  the universe  make  use  of  us  in the  world  of  the  spirit just  as they use floods and volcanoes in the world of Nature. Whatever difference can it make whether men die of an epidemic or a revolution?





Mankind advances so slowly its steps can be counted by centuries, and behind every step piles up the graves of whole generations. The most simple discoveries and the most basic principles cost millions of lives on the way before they could be arrived at. So isn't it natural enough that now, at a time when history has been gathering speed, more people should find themselves... out of breath?


Our conclusion therefore is  this:  We  were  all  born under the same circumstances, and we are all equal, apart from those differences which Nature herself designed; what benefits we have belong to all; but privilege belongs to nobody, not to an individual, not to a class, great or small. Now, every single practical application of this principle has cost its lives, stage by stage. July the fourteenth, August the tenth, May the thirty-first— remember?— these  are its punctuation marks. It took just four years — four years — to tum the conception, the idea, into a physical fact-which would have needed, under normal circumstances, a whole century to achieve, punctuated, of course, with generations. Is it surprising, then, that our great flood of revolution should need to cast out its dead bodies at every bend and halt? We have still got propositions which remain to be tried; are we to be held back by a few hundred more corpses? Moses led his people through the Red Sea and into the wilderness, until the old corrupt generation had completely died out and been replaced-and then, and then only, he founded his new city. Citizens and lawgivers! We have not got the Red Sea or the wilderness at our disposal, but we have got knives and  we have  got the guillotine.


The Revolution is like the daughter of Pelias: she dismembers mankind so that it shall be rejuvenated. The human race is going to rise from  the cauldron  of  blood, as the earth did once from the waters of sin, rise with mighty strength in its limbs, as strong as if it were  created new.


Long and sustained applause. Several members rise to their feet with enthusiasm.




We invite all secret enemies of tyranny, wherever  they may be, in Europe or anywhere on the face of  the  earth, all secret men that carry Brutus'  dagger, we ask them  to be  with us now, and share this moment with us.


The audience and the deputies strike up with the "Marseillaise."






SC E N E  1


A room in the Luxembourg, with prisoners.


CHAUMETTE, pulling at Payne's sleeve. Look, Payne, I think you're right, I was pretty sure a little while back; but I've got an awful headache today-give us a few of your conclusions, will you, there's a nice fellow, I feel so miserable.


PAYNE. Come on then, Anaxagoras, I'll take you through your catechism.


God does not exist, because: either God did or did not create the world. If He did not, then the world is its own first principle, and God does not exist, because God can only be God if He is the principle of all existence. Now we can proceed to prove that God did not create the world, because the creation must either be eternal like God or have a definite point of beginning. In the latter case, God must have created it at one definite moment, in fact, after an eternity of doing nothing, He must have suddenly sprung into activity, that is to say, undergone a change in His own nature, which in itself would make Him subject to the concept of Time-and of course both these things are directly in opposition to the idea of a God. So God cannot have created the world. Now, we have already agreed that God would have to be the principle of all existence.  And as we know perfectly well that the world does exist, or our own ego at any rate, and as we are also agreed that this (like everything else) must have its basic principle either in itself or in some other thing which is not God, we there¬ fore know that there cannot be a God. Quod erat demonstrandum.





CHAUMETTE. Oh yes, my goodness, that's it: I see light again now:  thank you very, very  much indeed.


MERCIER.   Hold on a minute,  Payne! Supposing the creation is eternal?


PAYNE. In that case it would not be  a creation,  it would  be  one with God, or His attribute, as Spinoza says:  and in  that  case God is in everything,  in you, my  dear  fellow, in Anaxagoras here, and in my humble self. Well, nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but you must surely agree  that it doesn't leave much divine majesty if the good Lord God is busy having a toothache with us, or catching V.D., or getting buried alive, or at least being uncomfortably aware that He is going to be.


MERCIER.  But there must be a reason for it all   somewhere.


PAYNE. Nobody doubts that for a moment. But what makes you think that reason is going to be anything like what we think of God as-I mean something complete and perfect? Does the world strike you as being complete and perfect?


MERCIER.   No, it doesn't.


PAYNE. Then why do you think  an  imperfect  result  should come from a perfect cause? Voltaire was just as scared of quarreling with God as with the monarchy, that's  why  he did  it.  If  intelligence  is  the  only  thing  you're  blessed with, and you haven't got the wit or the guts to use it  properly,  then  I  say you're  a pretty  poor fish.


MERCIER. I'll come back at you on that. Do you think a perfect cause can have a perfect effect? I mean, can something perfect create something else perfect? I don't believe that's possible, because anything that's created can't contain the principle of its own existence-I agree with you, anything perfect  must do.


CHAUMETTE.   Don't say that!  Shut up, stop it!


PAYNE. Calm down, philosopher! You're quite right. But why should God create? If He can only produce imperfections, won't the sensible thing be for Him to leave it alone? It's just this human weakness for always imagining a God doing things-simply because we spend all the time hopping and dithering about to prove we exist! We needn't suppose God has to do that, need we? There are times when our spirits find rest in a sort of blessed state which is quite timeless and at harmony with itself; and why on earth should we imagine that they ought to be pulling themselves together and making things? We tell each other mysteriously and rather smugly that we have this inexhaustible need to love. Why invent all this just so that we can be the Sons of God? I'd much prefer a father of humbler origin: at least I shouldn't have to say that he had me brought  up below  my  station, in a pigsty  or the   galleys.


Do away with the imperfections, then you've got a chance of proving the existence of God; well, Spinoza tried it. Deny evil if you like, but you can't deny pain. You can demonstrate God with the intellect, but your feeling rebels against it. Pain, my dear Anaxagoras, pain! That is the rock and foundation of atheism. The least little Bicker of pain, if it only involves an atom, is enough to split the creation wide open from  top  to bottom.


MERCIER.   And what  about  morality?


PAYNE. First you deduce God from morality, now it's morality from God! What use is morality, for goodness' sake? I haven't got the vaguest idea whether good or evil as such exists or not, but that needn't affect my approach to life. I behave in accordance with my nature: things I find pleasant are good for me, so I do them; things I don't like are bad for me, so I don't do them, and take damn good care whenever I come across them. You can remain what they call pure, and keep away from what they call vice, without having to despise your enemies — which is abysmal.


CHAUMETTE.   Oh,  how  very true.


HERAULT. Listen, Anaxagoras, you could easily argue like this: If God is everything, He must also be His own opposite, mustn't He? I mean, perfect and imperfect, evil and good,   happy   and   wretched:   and the result would be exactly nil, both sides would be quits, and we'd come to nothing. Well, cheer up, you do all right, you can go happily on worshiping Nature's crowning glory in Madam Momoro— she's left you a rosary in your groin, anyway.


CHAUMETTE. Thank you, thank you, my dear sirs, I am so extraordinarily grateful.




PAYNE. I doubt if he's really satisfied. He'll have the extreme unction thrown in yet for good measure, and set his feet towards Mecca, and be circumcised, thus leaving no avenue unexplored.


DANTON,   LACROIX,   CAMILLE,   and  PHILIPPEAU   are  led  in.


HERAULT, running to DANTON and embracing him. Good morning, Danton! I ought to say good night. I can't ask  how you slept — how are you  going to?


DANTON.  Oh, splendidly,  I shall go to bed   laughing.


MERCIER, to PAYNE. Doves' wings on a bulldog. He's the  evil genius of the Revolution;  turned  on  his  old  mother,  but  she  was  too  strong  for him.


PAYNE. His life and his death are equally unfortunate.


LACROIX, to DANTON. I didn't think they'd act so quickly.


DANTON.  Oh, I knew, I was  warned.


LACROIX.  Didn't you say  anything?


DANTON. What about? It's good to die of  a stroke; who wants  it to be  "after  a long  illness"? And,  as  a  matter  of  fact, I never  thought  they'd  have  the nerve.




It's better to lie underground than get sore feet running about on top; I'd rather have the earth as a pillow than a footstool.


HERAULT. And at least our hands will be soft to stroke  the sweet cheeks of my lady  Decay.


CAMILLE, to DANTON  I shouldn't worry any more now. Your tongue can hang out till it's flapping round your neck,  and you still won't be able to lick the sweat of death off your forehead.  Oh, Lucile! This is terrible.




The prisoners  crowd  round  the new arrivals.


DANTON, to PAYNE. I tried to do as much for my country as you did for yours. I wasn't so lucky, though, I'm finishing on the scaffold. All right, then, I shan't make a muck of  it.


MERCIER, to DANTON. You're drowning in the blood of the twenty-second.


A PRISONER, to HERAULT.  There's not much between  the power of the people and the power of reason, is there?


AN0THER. Well, General-Procurator of the Lampposts, I don't think your improvement of the street lighting's made France a much brighter place.


ANOTHER.  Leave him alone! He talked of mercy, didn't he?


Embraces CAMILLE, and others follow his example.


PHILIPPEAU. We are like priests who have prayed with dying men and caught their disease, and now are dying of it too.


SEVERAL VOICES.  Your death is ours!


CAMILLE. My friends, I am sorry our efforts were so useless. I am going to the scaffold because I saw some poor fellows suffer and my eyes watered.









S C E N E  2


A Room


FOUQUIER-TINVILLE.   Now is everything ready?


HERMAN. It won't be an easy job; it would be, if only Danton weren't involved.


FOUQUIER.  He's got to lead off.


HERMAN. The jury will be terrified; he's the scarecrow of the Revolution.


FOUQUIER.  They'd better  not be terrified.


HERMAN. I did think up a useful dodge, though it's not very constitutional.


FOUQUIER.  Well, let's have it!


HERMAN.  Pick our men, instead of  drawing  lots.


FOUQUIER. Not a bad idea — it would  give  a  decent  line  of  fire. Nineteen of them, and a nice mixed bag. The four swindlers, and a few bankers and foreigners. Rather a jolly session, I think. The mob will love it. Reliable types, eh? Who, for example?


HERMAN. Leroi. He's stone-deaf, so he won't hear a word of  the defense. Danton can shout himself   silly.

FOUQUIER.  Splendid. Go on!


HERMAN. Vilatte and Lumiere. One spends all the time drinking, and the other sleeping; both men of few words, mostly "Guilty." Girard makes it a point of honor that no one who once gets to the dock leaves it a free man. Then there's Renaudin.




HERMAN. Don't worry! He came to see me a few days ago and suggested that prisoners should be bled a bit before execution — to damp them down, you know, he couldn't bear them looking so proud.


FOUQUIER. He will do admirably. Right, then, I'll leave it to you!


HERMAN.  You can do that!








S C E N E  3


A corridor in the Conciergerie.


LACROIX, to a prisoner.  Is there no end to these poor wretches?


PRISONER. Paris is a slaughterhouse— can't you hear the carts rattling to the guillotine?


MERCIER. Of course you can, Lacroix. Equality's scythe whistles over all our heads, the lava of revolution races on, and the guillotine makes sound republicans. The galleries applaud, the Romans rub their hands-it doesn't sound to them like a death rattle. Follow your phrases up, you'll soon see them turn to the real thing. Take a good look-because this is what you promised, you know-it's your charade we're playing in. These poor devils, and the executioners, and the guillotine-your words made flesh. This was your system, and you were like Bajazet with his pyramid, built it up with human heads.

DANTON. You are right-flesh is the popular modem building material. That's the curse of our time. Now my body's being commandeered. Just a year ago I engendered the Revolutionary Tribunal.  God and men, I ask you to forgive me.  I wanted to stop any more September killings, I really hoped to save the innocent-but this slow formal murder is much more horrible and just as inevitable. Gentlemen, I thought I could deliver you from this place.


MERCIBR.   We shall certainly leave it.


DANTON. Well, I am in it with you. Heaven knows how it will end.








S C E N E  4


The Revolutionary Tribunal.


HERMAN, to DANTON.   Citizen, your name.


DANTON. The Revolution made it. My address will shortly be Limbo,  and  my  name  in  the  Pantheon  of  History.


HERMAN. Danton, you stand in this convention charged with conspiring with Mirabeau, Dumouriez, Orleans, the Girondists, foreign agents, and the faction  of  Louis  XVII.


DANTON. My voice has been raised often enough on the people's behalf, and it won't be hard put to it to refute this grotesque slander. If the wretches who have accused me, will be so kind as to show themselves here and now, I will undertake to make them blush. I wish the Committee would have the courtesy to put in an appearance, because I don't intend to answer to anyone else. I need them as accusers and witnesses. Will they just show their faces!


Anyway, do you think your sentence bothers me?  I've already told you my new address— my asylum, that is, Limbo. Life has become  merely  burdensome  to  me-any¬ one who wants it can have it, I'm  dying to be  relieved  of   it.


HERMAN.   Danton, a criminal is impertinent, an innocent man is calm.


DANTON. Oh, a nasty personal impudence, yes, I'm not defending that. But mine was cheek on a national scale, it's been my main weapon in fighting for liberty, and I don't mind saying it's the sharpest one I had, and the most serviceable. My cheek, my impudence; and now in the name of the Republic, I swing it again at my miserable accusers. I'm not going to sit down and let myself be slandered in this contemptible fashion. Well, I'm a revolutionary, aren't I? You needn't expect a nice cool defense from me. Men of my stamp are beyond that when it comes to revolutions— the spirit of freedom possesses us.





Signs of approval among the assembly.


I  am  accused  of  conspiring  with  Mirabeau,  Dumouriez, and Orleans, and licking the feet of wretched despots. I am required to answer  before  the  inescapable,  inflexible  face  of the Law-St. Just, you mangy dog, you are going to have some explaining to do when you answer  to  posterity  for these lies!


HERMAN. You are required to answer in  a reasonable  manner. You may like to remember Marat: he behaved with some respect  towards  his judges.


DANTON. They have wiped their dirty hands over my whole  life, so it may as well rise up and meet them halfway; I shall bury them under the weight of my achievement. But I'm not proud of it. Destiny calls us to arms, but only the mighty  are for her personal  use.


On the Field of Mars I declared war on the monarchy: on August the tenth I struck it, on January the twenty-first I killed it, and I threw down the royal head as my challenge to all the other kings in the  world.


Continuous signs of approval. He takes up the bill of impeachment.


When I look at this shameful scrap of paper  I feel  my blood boil. Who are these people who gave Danton notice to appear before them on this famous day of August the tenth? Who are these men of privilege that  allowed him  his power?


Let my accusers appear! You won't find me at a loss when it comes to it. I shall unmask these repulsive creatures, and bring them back into the oblivion out of which they would have been  well advised never to have  crept.


HERMAN, tinkling.  Can't  you  hear  the bell?


DANTON. The voice of a man defending his honor and life is obliged to drown your little tinkle.

In that September I fed the puppies of the Revolution on the finely chopped flesh of aristocrats. Out of the aristocracy's gold and treasures I forged arms for the people.  My voice was a hurricane, and buried the satellites of despotism under waves of bayonets.


Loud applause.




HERMAN. Your voice is broken, Danton, you have been overdoing it. You had better rest, and you can finish your defense at the next sitting— the meeting is adjourned.


DANTON.   You know Danton now— a few hours more, and he will be asleep in the arms of glory.








S C E N E  5


A dungeon in the  Luxembourg.


DILLON, pointing to the Jailer's nose. Hey, stop your moon shining in my face, will you? Ha, ha,  ha!

LAFLOTTE.  And shut its stinking halo, tool  Ha, ha,  ha!


JAILER. Hal Hal Hal Sir, do you think you could read by  it, sir?


Shows a note which he has in his  hand.


DILLON.  Give it here!


JAILER, Sir, my old moon's brought me to such an ebb, you know.


LAFLOTTE.   Your  trousers  show every  sign  of  high tide.


JAILER.  No,  sir, tide draws water.  I'm ebbing.




Oh, my moon's gone behind a cloud, sir, with your sun up; give me something to make it burn  again,  then  you'll  be able to read,  sir.


DILLON.   There you  are  then;  now,  off  with you.


Exit JAILER, having been given money. DILLON reads.


Danton has alarmed the Tribunal, shaken the jury, and the audience murmured. You never saw such a crowd. Outside the Palais de Justice they Hooded in. A handful of gold, a bit of  a push — and there  you are!


He walks up and  down, taking  nips from  a flask.


If I could get one foot in the street, then I-well, I'm not going to let myself be butchered like that. Oh, just one foot in the street!




LAFLOTTE.  And in the cart.


DILLON. D'you really think so? There's the difference of the odd step or two, the width of a couple of dead Decemvirs.  It's time decent people thought of raising their heads.


LAFLOTTE, aside. All the better to chop them off, my dear. Come on, old boy; a glass or two more and we'll be well away.


DILLON. The curs, the fools, they’ll end up guillotining themselves.


He storms up and down.


LAFLOTTE, aside. If you could save your own life, you'd love it like your own child. And it's not often you can commit incest with Fate and be your own father. Father and child— a cozy little Oedipus!           

DILLON.  You  can't feed the people  on corpses. Danton's wife and Camille's ought to throw francs to them, it would be better  than heads.


LAFLOTTE, aside. Still, I don't think I’ll go the whole hog and gouge my ruddy eyes out. I might need 'em for the old boy's funeral.


DILLON.  To lay their hands on Danton, though!  Then who is safe? You'd think fear would unite people.


LAFLOTTE, aside. He's a goner anyway. I don't see it matters treading on a corpse when you're climbing out of your grave.


DILLON. If I could just get a foot outside! I could get hold of plenty of people— old soldiers, Girondists, ex-nobles; we could seize the prisons and come to terms with the prisoners.


LAFLOTTE, aside. Mind you, it would stink a bit.  Well, so what? I'd like to give it a try; I don't feel I've ever really explored my personality. You pick things up as you go along, and it'd make a change. I don't suppose your own stink smells so bad.-The prospect of the guillotine's begun to pall  a bit;  I'm  bored  with  sitting in  the  waiting room. I've already been through the lot in my mind about twenty times.  It's sort of lost its kick.  It's just got rather commonplace.





DILLON.  I must get a message through to Danton's  wife.


LAFLOTTE, aside. And then, you know — I'm not afraid to die, but I don't like pain. It might be darned painful, nobody knows. Oh, they say it's only a split second; but pain's on a different scale, it might split 'em a damn sight finer than that. Oh hell, no. Pain's the only sin, and suffering's the only vice, and I'm going to be a good little boy.


DILLON. Listen, Laflotte, where's that fellow got to?  I've got  some money here, and I must use it. We must strike now while we can. I've got it all worked out.


LAFLOTTE. Oh, good, fine! I know the doorkeeper, I'll  have  a word with him. You can count on me,  General,  we'll  get  out  of   this hole —


Aside as he goes out.


and into another one — I'm for the big hole, the world, and he's for the little one, the  grave.











SC E N E  6


The Committee of Public Safety.


BARBRE.  What does Fouquier say?


ST. JUST.  They've finished the second hearing.  The  prisoners are demanding that  more  members  of  the  Convention  and the Committee must appear; and they've appealed to the  people  about  there  being  no  witnesses.  I must say it sounds chaotic. Danton did the full Jupiter act, flying hair,  and all.      


COLLOT.  Samson will take the lion by his   mane.


BARBRE. I don't think we'd better appear. The ragmen and fishwives might think us rather a come down.


BILLAUD. The fact is, the people like being  trodden  on,  even with looks; the cocky type goes down well with them. That sort of face is better than a coat of arms, and contempt for one's fellows becomes a sort  of  aristocracy.  If you  don't  like being looked down on, your only course is to smash  those  sort of  faces into pulp.



BARBRE. Danton's a kind of horny old Siegfried; the blood of the September made him invulnerable. Well, what has Robespierre got to say?


ST. JUST. He looks volumes. The jury must declare themselves satisfied and end the hearings.


BARBRE.  No, I'm afraid that's quite out of the  question.


ST. JUST. At all costs they've got to go, even if we have to strangle them with our own hands. We must just dare to! Danton shan't have taught us that for nothing. The Revolution won't trip over their bodies; but if he stays alive, you  mark my words,  he'll  grab hold  of  her,  and to look at his face I wouldn't be surprised if he raped her, either.





ST. JUST is called out. Enter a JANITOR.


JANITOR. Some of the prisoners in Ste. Pelagie are dying, and they keep  asking for a doctor.


BILLAUD. Quite unnecessary. All the less work for the executioner.


JANITOR.   Some of  them  are women  going to  have babies.


BILLAUD.   Splendid.  No need  for baby coffins.


BARERE. Every consumptive aristo spares the Tribunal  a  sitting. Physic I should say would be decidedly counter-revolutionary.


COLLOT, taking  a paper.  Here's a petition from  some woman.


BARERE. I know — one of those sweet creatures all keyed up to make the choice between the guillotine and a Jacobin's bed. They'll take Lucretia's example, of course, and die after the loss of their honor; only it may be a  rather longer e after-childbirth, possibly, or cancer, or just conceivably sheer bloody old age. You might do a lot worse than  drive  the  Tarquin  out  of  these  maidenly   virtuous



COLLOT. She's too old, you see. Madam wishes to die, and she writes it in great style:  Captivity hangs over her head  like  a coffin lid, and four weeks has she. groaned here on her ancient haunches. The answer is quite simple: "Madam Citizen, you have not yet been wishing to die long enough."




BARERE. Precisely. But you know, Collot, I don't like the way the guillotine's beginning to play for laughs; people aren't as scared of it as they  were.  Let's  not  get  too  familiar  about  it.


ST.  JUST returns.


ST. JUST. There's just been an informer. Some of the  prisoners were  hatching  a plot,  and a young  man  called  Laflotte has given  the  show  away.  He  was  in the same cell  as Dillon, and  Dillon  got  tight  and  talked  too  much.





BARERE. Oh dear, the old story; you take your bottle and you cut your throat.


ST. JUST. The idea was  for  Danton's  wife  and  Camille's  to throw a bit of money around  in  the  right  places,  and  Dillon was going to break out, and then they were going to free  the  prisoners  and  blow  up  the Convention.


BARERE.  Kid's stuff.


ST. JUST. We'll stuff them.  I've  got  all  the  details  here — not to mention the behavior of the accused, the people murmuring, the jury at sixes and sevens — in fact, I'm ready to make my report.


BARERE. Yes, on you go, St. Just! Some of your best rolling periods, with  slashing  commas, and plenty  of  heads  for the full stops.


ST. JUST. The Convention must give the court powers to continue the case without interruptions, so that any prisoner who fails to show due respect for the law, or creates a disturbance, loses the right to speak in his own defense.


BARERE. You have got a flair for revolution! That sounds so incredibly moderate, and yet it's just what the doctor ordered. They'll never manage to behave-Danton's bound  to let fly.


ST. JUST. I'm counting on your  help  in this. There are others in the Convention who are quite as sick as Danton, and thoroughly scared of the same medicine. But they've begun to feel better now, and I expect they'll be howling about unconstitutional  procedure  . . .


BARERE, interrupting. Unconstitutional! I shall tell them that's what some people said about the consul who unearthed Catiline's plot in Rome and had the guilty  men  executed on the spot; they called that unconstitutional. And we all know who they were.





COLLOT, theatrically. Well, go, St. Just— the  lava  of  revolution is flowing now. There are indeed those weak and unworthy men who would be lying with Liberty, but she will strangle them in her embrace, and never bear their children. The majesty of  the people will appear as Jupiter to Semele, in thunder and lightning, and leave them only ashes. Go then, St. Just, we are with you, and we will help to bring your bolt thundering down on the cowards' heads!


Exit  ST. JUST.


BARERE. Did you hear him say medicine? They'll be prescribing the guillotine soon as a cure for the  pox.  They're   not bothered about fighting the moderates-it's a morality campaign.


BILLAUD.  We've never disagreed yet.


BARERE. Robespierre sees the Revolution as a moral lecture hall; he wants the guillotine as a pulpit.


BILLAUD.  A prie-dieu, I think.


COLLOT.  He’ll be lying, not kneeling.


BARERE. I think he will. It would be a cockeyed  world  if all the so-called respectable people were to hang all the so-called rogues.


COLLOT, to BARERE. When are you coming over to Clichy again?


BARERE.  When the doctor leaves me alone.


COLLOT.  Is it true that a lovely comet hangs over the place, waiting to shrivel the marrow off your back?


BILLAUD. So that the sweet Demaly can peel it off with her pretty fingers and let it hang down behind you like a pigtail?


BARERE, shrugging his shoulders.  Hm! How  should  the  virtuous know?


BILLAUD.  Little innocent!







BARERE, alone. The fiends! "You have not yet been wishing to die long enough!"  His tongue should have burnt up. And what about me, then? I remember when the Septembrists were breaking into the prison, there was a prisoner who got his knife, and ran and joined the thugs, and killed a priest, and so he was saved! Well, who can blame him? Shall I join the thugs or sit on the Committee of Public Safety? Guillotine or penknife? The circumstances are different, but it's the same choice and the   same issues.


And if he murders one, will he dare to murder two, or three, or even more? Where would it end— it's barleycorns,  isn't it?— how  many  makes  a  heap-two,  three,  four,  or what? Come on, Conscience, my dear, come on, chicken, chuck-chuck-chuck, gobble up, gobble up!


Was I ever a prisoner, though? I was a suspect, certainly. . .  and that  could only mean  one  thing: death.








S C E N E  7


THE Conciergerie


LACROIX  You were in very good voice, Danton; I wish you could have got worked up like that a bit earlier: things might have been very different now. You can't feel quite the  same  when  Death's  at  your  elbow,  with  her stinking breath, plucking at your sleeve, and making the most disgusting suggestions.


CAMILLE. If only it were an assault and a rape, with fighting and struggling and hot furious bodies! But all these formalities — it's awful — it's like marrying an old, old woman: there are contracts to be signed, and witnesses called in, and amen to be said — and then up with the counterpane, and here she comes crawling in on you with her cold feet!


DANTON.   Oh, if only it were a fight, if only it were slashing and hitting!  But  I feel  as if I'd  got  caught  up in some machinery, and my arms and legs were being twisted off, slowly and surely, by sheer mechanical force. I won't be killed  by a machine!


CAMILLE. And then  to  lie  there  alone,  and  cold,  and  stiff,  in a sweating fog of corruption — perhaps Death  tortures you,  and  racks  life  out  of  your  body,  fibre  by fibre — or

perhaps you rot right away and you're conscious all the time!


PHILIPPEAU. Leave it, leave it alone, my friends! The meadow saffron bears no seed till the winter's past; nor shall we. The only difference between us and plants being uprooted is that we stink a bit in the process. Is that so terrible?


DANTON. A delightful prospect! Off one dunghill and onto another!  A sort of wonderful system of  classes,  isn't it?


Start in the first form, and move up to the second, and then the third, and so on? Well, I'm sick of school benches and sitting around all this time like a monkey with a sore backside.





PHILIPPEAU.   What do you want,  then?


DANTON. Peace.


PHILIPPEAU.  Peace is in God.


DANTON.  In oblivion. I defy you to find anything more peaceful than that, and if God is the ultimate peace, then oblivion is God. However, I'm an atheist. Something can't become nothing— blast it! And the pity of it is, I am something! The creation's spread too far, nothing's fallow any more, everything's teeming. This is the suicide of oblivion — creation is the fatal wound, we are the drops of blood, and it's now rotting in its grave, the world. It may sound mad, but there's a bit of truth in it.


CAMILLE. This world is the wandering Jew, and oblivion is death, but we can't have it. You know the song: "Alack, alas, I cannot die!"


DANTON. We've been buried alive, the lot of us. We're interred like dead kings inside three or four layers of coffin — the sky, our houses, our coats and our shirts. We've been fifty years scrabbling at the coffin lids. Annihilation would be a comfort indeed. I have no hopes of death:  it's a simple form of corruption, whereas life's a more complicated, highly organized kind — that's the only difference between them. But I've got terribly used to this kind of rotting, and the devil only knows how I shall adjust myself to the other.


Oh, Julie! What if I go alone! What if I'm left all by myself! And even if I went into little bits, and melted utterly, my handful of dust would still be in torment, and not an atom of me could find peace, except in her.


No, I can't die, I can't die! We must roar, and they11 have to tear every single drop of blood out of my   body.










FOUQUIER  I don't know what I'm going to say. They're asking for a commission to be appointed.


AMAR. Don't worry— we've got the brutes. There— I think that ought to fill the bill.


Handing him a paper.


VOULAND. It ought to satisfy them.


FOUQUIER. It couldn't be better.


AMAR.  Let's get it settled, then, for them and for us.









S C E N E  9


The Revolutionary Tribunal


DANTON. The Republic is in danger, of which it knows nothing! We appeal to the people; my voice is still strong enough to manage a funeral oration for the Decemnvirs— I say again, we demand,

we demand the setting up of a commission; we have some serious revelations to make. I shall withdraw into the citadel of Reason, let fly with the artillery of Truth, and blow my enemies to smithereens.


Signs of approval.




FOUQUIER.  Silence in the name of the Republic, in the name of the law! The Convention has decreed  the following:


In consideration of the fact that signs of mutiny have appeared in the prisons, of the fact that the wives  of  Danton  and Camille have been distributing  bribes  to  the  people,  that General Dillon has been plotting to escape and set  himself at the head of the rebels, with the avowed  intention of rescuing the accused;  in consideration,  finally, of the fact that the accused have gone out of their way to create disturbances in this court and insult the authority of the Tribunal— the Tribunal  is  hereby  empowered  to  continue the enquiry without further interruption, and to preclude any of the accused who fails  to  pay  due respect to the forms and procedure of the law from further part in the  debate.


DANTON. I ask all of you present whether we have at any time defied the Tribunal, the people, or the National Convention?




CAMILLE. They want to murder my Lucile, the swine! 


DANTON.  The truth will be out  one day.  I can see the misfortunes that are going to fall upon  France. Dictatorship! The veil is off now, it holds its grim head up and walks blindly over our broken bodies.





He points to AMAR  and VOULAND.


And there are the cowards, the murderers, there are the croaking ravens of the Committee!

I accuse Robespierre, St. Just, and their thugs of high treason. Their aim is to stifle the Republic in blood.  The tracks of tumbrels  are  growing  into  great  highways,  for the enemies  of  France  to sweep in  and  defile her!


How long must the footprints of Liberty be graves? You want bread, but they throw you  heads!  You are thirsty too, so they make you lick blood off the guillotine steps! 


Uproar  among the audience, shouts of  assent, voices crying:


"Long live DANTON, down with the Decemvirs!"


The prisoners are removed forcibly.







S C E N E  10


In front of the Palais  de Justice.


SEVERAL VOICES.   Down with the  Decemvirs!  Long live Danton!


FIRST CITIZEN. He's right, heads instead of bread,  blood  instead of wine!


SEVERAL WOMEN. The guillotine's no mill, and Samson's no baker.  We want bread, we  want bread!


SECOND CITIZEN. It was Danton who's been eating your bread. His  head’ll mean  bread  for you,  trust him.


FIRST CITIZEN. Danton was with us on the tenth of August, Danton was with us in September. Where were the dogs that are accusing him?


SECOND CITIZEN. Lafayette was with you in Versailles, and he was a traitor.


FIRST  CITIZEN.  Who says Danton's a traitor?


SECOND  CITIZEN.  Robespierre.


FIRST  CITIZEN.  Robespierre's a traitor!


SECOND  CITIZEN.  Who says he is?




SECOND CITIZEN. Danton's got nice clothes, Danton's got a nice house, Danton's got a nice wife; he has his bath in  Burgundy; he eats game off silver  dishes,  and  when  he's tight he sleeps with your wives and daughters.  He used  to  be  poor like you. How's he got all this then?  The Veto got  it him, for saving the crown. The Duke of Orleans  gave it  him for pinching the crown. The foreigners  have  given  it him for betraying the lot of you. Now what's Robespierre got? He's a good man! You all know Robespierre!


OMNES.  Long live Robespierre! Down with Danton!  Down  with the traitor!







SCE N E  1


A room


JULIE, to a boy.  It's all up now. They were terrified of him. That's why they'll kill him. Go and tell him I shan't see him again I couldn't see him like that.


Gives him a lock of hair.


Take this to him, and say he won't be going alone- he'll know what I mean. And then come back as quick as you can, so I can look at you and see how he looked.


Exit boy.








S C E N E  2


A street


CITIZEN. How can they do it? After a trial like that, how can they sentence all those innocent people to   death?


DUMAS. It does seem extraordinary, doesn't it; but these revolutionaries aren't like other people, you  know — they've got  an instinct  about  these  things,  and it's never  wrong.


CITIZEN.  Tiger's instinct, I call it. Haven't you  got a wife?


DUMAS.  Shall have had, very  soon.


CITIZEN. It's true, then?


DUMAS. The Revolutionary Tribunal will pronounce our separation,  the guillotine will  divorce us from table and bed.


CITIZEN.  But you're not human!


DUMAS.  You fool! You admire Brutus, don't you?


CITIZEN.  Oh, good gracious, yes.


DUMAS. Well, do you really think one should be the perfect Roman consul, and cover one's head with the toga, to sacrifice one's dearest thing to the fatherland? I can wipe my eyes on a red sleeve, can't I? That's the only difference.


CITIZEN.  But that's horrible!


DUMAS.  Oh, you don't understand these things.











S C E N E  3



The Conciergerie


LACROIX Your hair and nails get in such a state, you feel so filthy.


HERAULT. Do be a bit more careful, you sneezed right in my face!


LACROIX. And look, old boy, try not to tread on my feet— my corns resent it.


HERAULT. How are the bugs?


LACROIX. Not bad. The worms are in colossal form, worse luck.


HERAULT. Well, good night.  Not much  room,  is  there,  but we'll get comfortable somehow. You'll watch out with those nails of yours, won't you? There now. Hey, I want a bit of shroud, too,  you  know,  it's cold  down  here!


DANTON. Oh yes, Camille, tomorrow we'll be worn-out shoes— they'll chuck us to the old beggar woman Earth.


CAMILLE. Plato says the angels make slippers out of ox leather to pad about the world in. But I suppose even that wears out in the end. Oh God, Lucile!


DANTON.  Take it easy, boy.


CAMILLE. How can I? Do you really think I can,  Danton? They couldn't touch her, could they? All that beauty that's in her body, all round her, they couldn't put it out. Look, Earth wouldn't dare to bury her. It would rise up and  shelter her, and the mist of death would be like dew to make her eyelashes glitter, and there'd be crystals like flowers to grow round her body and springs to be bright and murmuring and sing her asleep.





DANTON.  You sleep, son, you sleep.


CAMILLE.  Oh, Danton, listen, between you and me, it's dreadful to have to die, isn't it? And it's so useless. I want to keep my eyes open. Life's beautiful and I dont' want to waste my last sight of her.


DANTON.  You'll keep them open anyway; Samson will be too busy with the next poor bastard to shut them for you. Sleep's kinder. You sleep, my son.


CAMILLE. Lucile— I can think your kisses onto my lips, and then they tum to dreams, and if I shut my eyes I think I can hold on to them. . . .


DANTON. Won't the clock ever go to sleep, though? Every tick draws the walls closer round me, till they're as close as a coffin. I read a story about that once when I was little; it made my hair stand on end.      


When I was little! And what a waste of time it's been, fattening me up to be a big boy and keeping me out of draughts.  More work for the gravedigger!


I feel as if I were stinking already. Poor old body, I'll hold my nose and pretend you're a nice woman that's got a bit sweaty dancing and be polite to you. My word, body, think of the times we've had together, you and I.


Tomorrow you'll be a broken fiddle with no more tunes to play. You'll be an empty bottle with the wine all gone, but it hasn't made me drunk and I'll go sober to bed— oh, the lucky people that can still get pissed! You'll be an old pair of torn trousers; they'll throw you in the wardrobe, the moths will enjoy you, and you can get as smelly as you like. Oh, it's no good. You bet it's dreadful to have to die. Death's just a bad imitation of birth; we die as helpless and naked as newborn babies. We've a winding sheet to be swaddled in. And what's the use? We may lie whimpering in the grave, as in the  cradle.


Camille! Oh, he's asleep at last.


Bends over him.


There's a dream caught in his lashes, the golden dew of sleep; why should I brush it from his eyes?




He gets up and goes to the window.


So I shan't be going alone: thank you for that, Julie! But I wish I could have died another way— without effort, like a falling star— or simply fading away, like a note of music, with its own lips kissing it to death— or a ray of light plunging into deep, clear water.


Those stars are like glistening tears scattered about the night; there must be a terrible grief behind the eye that dropped them.




He leaps up and gropes at the ceiling.


DANTON.  What is it, Camille?


CAMILLE.  Oh, oh!


DANTON, shaking him. Are you trying to scratch the ceiling down?


CAMILLE. Oh, it's you— oh, hold on to me, say something, please!


DANTON. You're shaking all over, your face is pouring with sweat.


CAMILLE. It's you— you're here, I'm here— there, that's my hand! Oh yes, I know where I am now. Oh, Danton, it was horrible!


DANTON.  What  was it, then?


CAMILLE. I was half asleep and half awake-and then, suddenly, there wasn't any ceiling, and the moon came floating down, right down to me, this awful fat thing came right into my arms. And the sky came driving down upon me with all its lights flashing, and I was struggling against these horrible stars, I was beating about like a drowning man, and the ice was coming down and down on me. Oh, Danton, it was ghastly.


DANTON. It's the shadow of the lamp on the ceiling, that's what you saw.


CAMILLE. It doesn't need much to scare you out of what wits you've got left. Madness had me by the hair.




He gets up and takes a book.


I daren't sleep again, I daren't risk going mad.


DANTON.  What are you reading?


CAMILLE. The Night Thoughts.


DANTON. Why on earth die twice? Chuck over La Pucelle. I'm not going to slide out of life on my knees; I shall roll out as if from some generous girl's bed. Because, you know, it is a whore; gives itself to everyone in the world.







S C E N E  4


Outside the Conciergerie.


JAILER.  Who  called you round?


FIRST  CARTER.  I'm not called Round, that's a soppy  name.


JAILER.  No, you  fool, who made the  appointment?


FIRST CARTER. I don't get no ointment, all I get's ten sous per head.


SECOND CARTER. He'd take the bread from my  ruddy  mouth, he would.


FIRST  CARTER.  What  d'you call your bread?


He points to the prisoners ' window.


Bread  for bloomin' worms.


SECOND CARTER. My kiddies are like worms, they wouldn't mind a bit. Trade's ruddy awful, straight  it is,  and we're the best carters in the  place.


FIRST CARTER.  How d'you mean?


SECOND CARTER. Well, who would you say was the best carters?


FIRST CARTER.  Whoever  goes farthest and quickest.


SECOND CARTER. Well,  you  old  fool,  you  can't  cart  a  man much further than out of this world,  can  you,  and  I'd  like to see anyone do it in less than a quarter of an hour. It's exactly  a quarter of  an hour  from here to Guillotine Square.


JAILER. Hurry up, you lazy slugs! Get in nearer the gate. Get back a bit, you girls.


FIRST CARTER. No, don't you budge! Never go round a girl, always go through.




SECOND CARTER.   I'm with  you  there. You  can  take  your horse and  cart  in  with  you,  the  roads  are  nice,  but  you'll  be in quarantine when you come out  again.


They move forward.


What are you  gawping at?


A  WOMAN.  Waiting  to see our old  customers,  dearie.


SECOND CARTER. My cart's not a brothel, you know. This is a decent cart, this is; the King went in this, and all the big nobs in Paris.


LUCILE, appears, sits down on a stone under the prisoners' window, and calls. Camille, Camille!


CAMILLE appears at the window.


Oh Camille darling, you do look funny in that long stone cot and that iron mask over your  face! Can't you bend down, my sweet? Where have your  arms  got  to?  Pretty Polly, shall I sing to you?


Two little stars are shining

Brighter than the moon,

One at my darling's window,

One at the chamber door.


Come on, come on, my love! Down the stairs, quietly, quietly now, they're all asleep. It's been nice waiting with the moon. Oh no, my sweet, you'll never get through the door in those silly clothes. No, it isn't funny, stop it! You don't move— well, why won't you say something? You're frightening me.

Listen, my darling, people are saying you've got to die, and they're making awful faces about it. You, die! I can't help laughing at the silly faces. Diel What sort of a word's that? Tell me, Camille, die! Well, I'll think about it. Oh, look, there it is! I'll run after it, shall I? Come on, my sweet, help me catch it, come on, come  on!


She runs away.


CAMILLE, shouting  after her. Lucile! Lucile!









S C E N E  5


The Conciergerie


DANTON,   standing  at a window  that gives  into the next room. You're very quiet now, Fabre.


FABBE,  within. As the  grave.


DANTON.   You  know  what  we'll  be soon?




DANTON.   What you  spent all your life making — des vers.


CAMILLE, to himself. She was mad, it was there behind her eyes. Many have gone mad before, that's what the world makes of you. Nothing we can do — we wash  our hands  of it. It's better that  way.


DANTON. I'm leaving it all in such a ghastly mess. None of them know how to govern. It might help if I left my whores to Robespierre,  and the calves of my legs to Cauthon.


LACROIX.  That would  be turning  Liberty  into  a whore.


DANTON. And what the hell do you think she is? Liberty and whores are the most easily had commodities under the sun. She will soon be appearing for a limited season in Robespierre's marriage bed; but I fancy she’ll turn Clytemnestra on him. I gave him rather less than six months before he comes down my way.


CAMILLE, to himself. God grant her some good comfortable delusion. The normal ones called Reason are a miserable bore. Now you could be really happy if you believed you were Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


LACROIX. The idiots will shout "Long live the Republic" when we go by.




DANTON. What does it matter? The  flood  of revolution can throw up our bodies where it pleases;  anyone  will be able to pick up our fossilized  bones  and beat  the brains  out of a king.


HERAULT. If there happens to be a Samson who fancies our jawbones


DANTON.   Robespierre is hardly  his brother's  keeper.


LACROIX. I always said he was like Nero. He was specially nice  to  Camille  just  before  he  arrested  him.  Wasn't he, Camille?


CAMILLE.  What does it matter?


To himself.


Her child of madness was so lovely. Why must I go now? We'd have been  happy  with  it, rocking  it, kissing  it.


DANTON. When history throws open her sepulchers,  the  stink  of our bodies will stifle any  dictator.


HERAULT.   We smelled bad enough in our lifetime, God   knows.— Oh, these are phrases for posterity, they're not much use to us.


CAMILLE. From  the  face  he  makes  you'd  think  it  was  turning to  stone,  for posterity  to dig up somewhere  as  an antique.    I suppose that makes it worth the bother of pulling little faces, and putting color on your cheeks  and  speaking with a nice accent, does it. If we'd only take the masks off, we'd think  we were in a room  full of  mirrors,  because  all over  it, here and here and here, we'd see the same, old, old, innumerable, imperishable sheep's head-nothing  more  nor less than that. The  distinguishing  marks  are  so tiny,  we're all blackguards and angels, nitwits and geniuses, all at the same time; the four things fit so easily into one body, and there's less to choose between  them  than  people think. Sleep, digestion, and procreation are every man's meat. Everything else is a variation in a  different  key  on  the same theme. And yet people have to get up on  tiptoe  and pull these wretched embarrassing faces! We've all eaten ourselves  sick  at  the  same  table,  and  got  a  mortal   belly- ache, so why hide your face behind your napkin?  Why not bleat or roar or howl just as it takes you? Only leave off these damned worthy, cheery, clever, heroic  faces,  and  drop your stiff  upper  lips, will you?  Nobody's deceived by it for a moment,  so why waste  your  energy!




HERAULT. Yes, Camille, I think we'd better all sit down together and roar. Nothing's sillier than gritting your teeth when things are hurting. It was Greeks and gods who roared — Romans  and Stoics kept their  faces straight!


DANTON. Oh, both lots were epicurean in their way.  Those Stoics gave themselves a good sort of feeling inside, you know. It's not bad fun to pull your toga on and  have  a quick look round to see what sort of a shadow you're throwing. Why make a thing about it? We can cover our shame with laurels or roses or vine leaves, or we can leave it bare and let the dogs lick it.


PHILIPPEAU.  My friends, you  don't  have to get far above the earth to lose sight of all the confusion  and glitter and see instead the few simple contours that God  intended. We're deafened by the shrieking and yelling,  but there is one ear that all this reaches  only as a stream of  harmonies.


DANTON. But we're the unfortunate musicians performing on our unhappy bodies. Do you mean to say that the nasty bungling noises they produce are only to float up and die away as a voluptuous breath  in these heavenly  ears?


HERAULT. Are we poor little suckling pigs for a lordly table, thrashed  to dleath to make us  tastier?


DANTON. Are we children, put into the world  to  be  roasted in the red-hot arms of Moloch, and tickled with beams of light to amuse the gods with our crowing?


CAMILLE. And is the ether with its gold eyes a dish of golden carp, laid on the roaring dinner table of Olympus, with the gods always merry, and we poor fish dying, and the gods getting an eternity of cheap thrills  out of  the brilliance of our death agony?




Enter the JAILER.


JAILER. We can be going now, gentlemen; the carts are waiting outside.


PHILIPPEAU. Good night, my friends! So now we pull  the great dark blanket over us, to put out our hearts and shut our eyes.


The prisoners embrace each other.


HERAULT, taking CAMILLE'S arm. Cheer up, Camille, we've got a lovely night for it. It's quite still, and look at the clouds— like a dying Olympus over France, with the shapes of gods fading and sinking  away.


They  go out.






SC E N E  6


A room.


JULIE. They were all running in the streets, but it's quiet now. I mustn't keep him waiting, even a moment.


She takes out a phial.


Come on, little priest, your amen will send me to bed.


She goes to the window.


It is lovely to say good-bye like this. I've only got to shut the  doors  behind me— so.


She drinks.


I could stay here forever. The sun's down now. The world had a very sharp, drawn look when it was still up, but now it looks all quiet and serious, like a dying woman. The evening light is beautiful on her brows and cheeks. Oh, she's paler and paler now, sliding away like a corpse into the sea of air. Won't anyone catch her by her golden hair and pull her out and give her decent burial?


I'm going now, I think. I won't kiss her; it would be wrong for a breath or a sigh to wake her. Sleep, then, sleep!


She dies.








S C E N E 7


Place de la Revolution.


The carts roll up and stop in front of the guillotine, and women are singing and dancing the carmagnole.


The Prisoners begin to sing the "Marseillaise."


WOMAN WITH CHILDREN. Here! Make a bit of room, will yer! My kids are hungry, but this'll stop 'em crying if they can get a look. Make room for us!


A WOMAN. Hi, Danton, you'll have a dirty time with them worms, won't yer?


ANOTHER. I like your hair, Herault! I'm going to have a wig made  out of  that.


HERAULT. I'm afraid my crop wouldn't quite cover that hummock, madam.


CAMILLE. Blasted witches! You'll soon be screaming for  the earth  to  swallow  you  up!


A WOMAN.  It'll swallow you soon enough, sonny boy!


DANTON, to CAMILLE. Leave them be, lad. You're shouting yourself hoarse.


CAMILLE, giving money to the carter. There you are, old Charon, your cart makes a fine salver. Gentlemen, may I take first helping? This is a classical supper; we lie down to eat and shed a little blood for a libation. Good-by, Danton!


He climbs onto the scaffold, followed by the other prisoners, one after the other, DANTON coming last.


LACROIX, addressing the crowd. You've gone out of your senses today, killing us. One day you'll come back to them, and you'll know who to kill then.




SOME VOICES. We've heard that one, try another.


LACROIX.  The tyrants will break  their necks over  our  graves.


HERAULT, to DANTON. He thinks his body will be the hotbed of freedom.


PHILIPPEAU. I forgive you all, and hope your dying hour is no bitterer than mine.


HERAULT. I knew it! He couldn't resist undoing a few buttons to show them his clean linen.


FABRE Good-by,  Danton! I am  dying twice  over.


DANTON.   Good-by, Fabre,  my  friend!


Pointing to the guillotine.


This doctor Guillotine  knows best.


HERAULT, going  to embrace  DANTON.  Oh, dear, Danton, I can't manage any more jokes now. This is it.


An executioner shoves him back.


DANTON, to the executioner. You'd be crueller than Death, would you? Can you stop our heads  kissing  down  there  in  the basket?






S C E N E  8


A street


LUCILE.  I'm sure it's got a serious meaning somewhere. If I just  think about it a bit. I think I'm beginning  to see.


Dying-dying— I But everything lives, everything's got to live, I mean, the little fly there, the bird. Why can't he? Surely the stream of life would stop if even a drop was spilled. It would make a wound in the earth.


Everything's moving on, the clocks are ticking, the  bells are ringing, people are running, water's flowing, and it's all going on to — no, it can't happen, no, I'll lie down on the ground and scream, so that everything's frightened, and stops, and  doesn't  go running  on  any more.


She lies down, covers her eyes, and screams. Then, after a pause, she gets up again.


It's no use, everything's just as it was — the houses, and streets, and the wind blowing the clouds along. I must bear it, that's all.


Some women come down the street.


FIRST  WOMAN.  That Herault was smashing, wasn't he!


SECOND WOMAN. I saw him standing in front of that Arc de Triomphe on Constitution Day, you know, and I said to myself then, Isaid, "Now there's one that would look nice on the guillotine," yes.


THIRD WOMAN. I always say you ought to see a man in different surroundings; I'm all for these public executions, aren't you, love?


They pass on.


LUCILE.  Oh, Camille! Where am I going to find you?











Place de la Revolution


FIRST EXECUTIONER,   standing on the scaffold   and   singing.


And as I trudge my homeward way I see the moon, as well

I may . . .


SECOND  EXECUTIONER.   Hey! You nearly ready?


FIRST  EXECUTIONER.  Aye, just a mo, boy.


My pa 's awake, I hear him shout: "How late the wenches keep  you out!"


'Ere, bung my coat over, will  yer?


Exeunt singing.


And as I trudge my homeward way I see the moon, as well I  may.


LUCILE, entering and sitting down on the steps  of  the  guillotine.


Oh, angel of  death,  can I sit here  on  your  lap?




There is a Reaper, who is Death,

Who from God his power hath.


Oh, you were the cradle that rocked my Camille t sleep, you smothered him under your roses. You were the death bell, and your sweet tongue sang him into his grave.




Hundreds, thousands such as I

Fall beneath his blade and die.


A patrol appears.


A  CITIZEN. Hi, who's there?


LUCILE, suddenly after some thought, as if coming to a decision.  Long  live  the King!


CITIZEN.  In  the  name  of  the Republic!


The watch surrounds her and leads her away.