The Palace of the Bugbear.
Discovered, The Bugbear as a rhinoceros; A Poor Peasant is standing in front of him.
May it please your grace—
Justice must be done, my friend.
But I can't pay you now.
But you lost the case; the law demands your money and your punishment; your estates must be sold off; you have no alternative under the law.
who has turned back into an ordinary bugbear
These people would lose all respect for me if I did not force them to fear me like this.
A Bailiff enters, bowing profusely.
May it please you — my lord — I —
What's the matter, my friend?
With your kindest permission, your grace, I tremble in your formidable presence.
Oh, this is not nearly my most terrifying form.
I came in fact — in the matter of — to beg you to take my part against my neighbor — I also brought this purse with me — but the sight of the Grand Inquisitor is too horrifying.
The Bugbear suddenly turns himself into a mouse and sits in a corner.
Hey, where has the Bugbear gone?
in a delicate voice
Just put the money down there on the table; I will sit here to avoid frightening you.
He puts the money down.
Oh, this justice is a wonderful thing. — How can one be afraid of such a mouse!
assuming his natural form
Not a bad purse — one must also take pity on human frailty.
With your permission—
Courage, Hinze, courage—
Your Excellency —
What do you want?
I am a traveling scholar who wishes to take the liberty of making your acquaintance, your excellency.
Very well, then, make my acquaintance.
You are a mighty prince; your love of justice is known all over the world.
Yes, I don't doubt it. — Do sit down.
I have heard many wonderful things about Your Highness—
Yes, people are always looking for something to talk about, and it is only natural that the reigning monarch should take pride of place in their discussions.
But there is one thing I just cannot believe: that Your Excellency can transform himself into an elephant or a tiger.
I can give you an example of my powers right now.
He turns himself into a lion.
trembling, he pulls out a notebook
Permit me to make a note of this curiosity. — But now could you please resume your own charming form? Otherwise I shall die of fright.
in his natural form
That's some trick, eh, my dear fellow?
Amazing! But one more thing: they also say you can transform yourself into very small animals; with all due respect, I find that even more inconceivable; for, pray tell, what becomes then of your not inconsiderable bulk?
Let me show you.
He transforms himself into a mouse; Hinze leaps after him on all fours; the Bugbear flees terrified into another room, with Hinze in hot pursuit.
Freedom and Equality! — The Law has been devoured! Now surely the Tiers État Gottlieb will take office.
Everyone in the pit stamps and hisses.
Wait! This is a revolutionary play after all! I suspect there's an allegorical and mystical meaning behind every word. Stop! Stop! Now I wish I could reflect on everything and experience it all again in order to spot all the hints and hidden suggestions, and to plumb the work's religious depths. Stop! Don't stamp! They should perform the play again from the beginning. Stop this infernal racket!
The stamping continues; Wiesener and several others applaud; Hinze is totally perplexed.
I — must —
Must — must —
He's really struggling! Look how he's inflating himself!
I'd be afraid he might burst with the effort.
Must — must —
For heaven's sake, you'll kill yourself!
The gag flies out of his mouth, across the orchestra, onto the stage, and lands on Hinze's head.
Ow! Arggh! They're throwing stones at me! I've been mortally wounded in the head!
He runs away.
Must praise, extol, apotheosize and interpret the heavenly, nay unique, talent of this peerless man, to which nothing comparable is to be found in this or any other country. Oh, for shame! Now he must think that in my attempt to extol him I was actually trying to harm him, and all because that infernal gag landed on his sacred laurel-crowned head.
It was like a cannon shot.
Leave him, he's only prattling on and praising his precious actor, but grab a hold of Schlosser, who's now become rabid.
Oh, the profundity, the profundity of mystical opinions! Oh, surely now in the final scene the so-called cat will kneel down on the mountaintops before the rising Sun, whose rosy-fingered rays will shine through his transparent body! But, alas, now we are going to be deprived of this glorious scene! Listen! Will this stamping never cease! No, you wretches, let me go — Get away!
Here, Fischer, luckily I found a piece of strong twine in the orchestra pit; there, tie his hands.
And his feet, he's thrashing about like a madman.
Ah, that's better. How free I feel, now that my gag has flown far away into the wide world! Now my eulogies can overflow once more like a raging torrent that has burst its banks, copious and prolix. I can display my learning with allusions and quotations, and reel off purple passages from the ancients. Oh, what grace this man has! How ingeniously he expressed his weariness by slightly bending and cracking his knees when he was obliged to stand still, and not by wiping the sweat from his brow, as a common artiste would have done; no, he had no time for such nonsense, not he — the foremost, the unique, the superhuman, the colossal, the Titanic!
Now that the barrage has been removed, he starts up with the hymns right on cue.
Leave him; Schlosser is much worse.
Ah! Now the secret society that is working for the good of humanity should appear; now freedom is to be proclaimed, and I am in chains!
The tumult increases, as does the clamor in the pit and in the gallery.
Now, this is one hell of a spectacle! It's as if the whole theater were about to collapse.
in the wings
Madness! Leave me alone — But where can I flee?
He rushes distraught onto the stage.
What am I to do, most miserable of wretches? — The play will be over presently — everything might have run smoothly — and to think I was expecting this moral scene to win me so much acclaim. — If only it weren't so far from here — to the king's palace — I could fetch the pacifier — at the end of the second act — he made all the fables of Orpheus seem credible to me. — But what a fool I am! — I'm totally confused; — Here I am standing on the stage — while the pacifier must be somewhere — behind the scenes. — I will look for him — I must find him — he will save me!
The Playwright leaves the stage; he returns promptly.
He is not there. — Pacifier! — An empty echo mocks me. — Hurry, your honor! — Just a little mediating criticism — and the whole country — which is now in uproar — will be pacified. — We liked the whole of the play — we only failed to understand the middle section — audience and me alike! — Mediator! Pacifier! — Slightly better criticism to end this anarchy! — Alas! He has deserted me. — Ha!! — There he is — he must come onstage!
The pauses are filled by stamping from the pit; the playwright delivers this monologue in recitative, so that the effect is one of melodrama.
behind the scenes
No, I shan't go on.
Come on, show some courage, man! I'm sure you'll be a great success.
The uproar is too terrifying.
forcing him onto the stage
The whole world is waiting for you! Get out there! Mediate! Pacify!
coming onstage with his glockenspiel
Well, I'll have a go.
He sounds the bells and sings.
Within these hallowed halls
Revenge is quite unknown,
For if a man has fallen
Love leads him back to duty.
Then is he led by friendly hand,
Content and glad, to a better land.
Wherefore this wild uproar,
All must be silent now
When criticism speaks;
Then we'll know just where we stand,
Every child can sense the ideal.
The pit begins to applaud, while the scene is changed; the fire-and-water music from The Magic Flute begins to play, above appears the open temple of the Sun, the sky is clear and Jupiter is sitting in it; below is Hell with Tarkaleon; goblins and witches onstage, many lights. Unrestrained applause from the audience, everything is in turmoil.
Now the cat only has to pass through fire and water, and the play will be over.
Enter The King, The Princess, Gottlieb, Hinze, with bandaged head, Servants.
This is the palace of the Count of Carabas. — What the dickens! This place has certainly undergone some transformation!
A beautiful palace!
Since things have gone this far,
taking Gottlieb by the hand
you must first pass through the fire here, and then through the water.
Gottlieb walks through fire and water to the sound of flute and timpani.
You have survived the ordeal; now, my prince, you have been found worthy to govern.
Governing, Hinze, is a peculiar thing. I'm beginning to feel a little luke-warm about it now.
And now accept my daughter's hand.
How happy I am!
Me too. — But, my lord, I wish I could also reward my servant.
By all means; I hereby raise him to the peerage.
He presents the cat with a medal.
What exactly is his name?
Hinze; he was born into a humble family, but his virtues exalt him.
Leander quickly steps forward.
Make way! Make way!
He pushes his way through the crowd.
I have ridden posthaste in order to offer my adorable princess and her husband-to-be my heartiest congratulations.
He steps forward and bows to the audience
Our play is done, despite the busy claws
Of spite, our tale shall ring throughout the world
For aeons judged according to its merits:
If then forgotten are those braggart antics
Which oft break out, as 'twere, from pride and conceit;
Then still shall songs and still sweet poems sing
From pretty lips the praise of cats,
So sleek, and coaxing, silent, and forbearing.
Great Hinze has his humble race ennobled,
He little recks of broken limbs or head,
Nor monstrous bogeymen that sneer at him.
If Insult now dare call these felines stupid,
Insanely giving precedence to dogs,
Refute her not — oh no! — just mention ... Hinze!
Loud and universal rapping. The curtain falls.
- Tiers État: (French) Third Estate, an expression used during the French Revolution for the Commons, which comprised the third chamber of the French Parliament (the clergy and nobility being respectively the First and Second Estates).