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Title: Master Olof : a Drama in Five Acts
Author: Strindberg, August, 1849-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Master Olof : a Drama in Five Acts" ***

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By August Strindberg


The original prose version of Master Olof, which is here presented for
the first time in English form, was written between June 8 and August
8, 1872, while Strindberg, then only twenty-three years old, was living
with two friends on one of the numerous little islands that lie between
Stockholm and the open sea.

Up to that time he had produced half-a-dozen plays, one of which had
been performed at the Royal Theatre of Stockholm and had won him the
good-will and financial support of King Carl XV. Thus he had been able
to return to the University of Upsala, whence he had been driven a year
earlier by poverty as well as by spiritual revolt. During his second
term of study at the old university Strindberg wrote some plays that
he subsequently destroyed. In the same period he not only conceived the
idea later developed in Master Olof, but he also acquired the historical
data underlying the play and actually began to put it into dialogue.

During that same winter of 1871-72 he read extensively, although his
reading probably had slight reference to the university curriculum. The
two works that seem to have taken the lion's share of his attention were
Goethe's youthful drama Goetz von Berlichingen and Buckle's History of
Civilization in England. Both impressed him deeply, and both became in
his mind logically connected with an external event which, perhaps, had
touched his supersensitive soul more keenly than anything else: an event
concerning which he says in the third volume of The Bondwoman's Son,
that "he had just discovered that the men of the Paris Commune merely
put into action what Buckle preached."

Such were the main influences at work on his mind when, early in
1872, his royal protector died, and Strindberg found himself once more
dependent on his own resources. To continue at the university was out
of the question, and he seems to have taken his final departure from it
without the least feeling of regret. Unwise as he may have been in other
respects, he was wise enough to realize that, whatever his goal, the
road to it must be of his own making. Returning to Stockholm, he groped
around for a while as he had done a year earlier, what he even tried to
eke out a living as the editor of a trade journal. Yet the seeds sown
within him during the previous winter were sprouting. An irresistible
impulse urged him to continue the work of Buckle. History and philosophy
were the ultimate ends tempting his mind, but first of all he was
impelled to express himself in terms of concrete life, and the way had
been shown him by Goethe. Moved by Goethe's example, he felt himself
obliged to break through the stifling forms of classical drama.
"No verse, no eloquence, no unity of place," was the resolution he
formulated straightway. [Note: See again The Bondwoman's Son, vol. iii:
In the Red Room.]

Having armed himself with a liberal supply of writing-paper, he joined
his two friends in the little island of Kymmendö. Of money he had so
little that, but for the generosity of one of his friends, he would have
had to leave the island in the autumn without settling the small debt
he owed for board and lodging. Yet those months were happy indeed--above
all because he felt himself moved by an inspiration more authentic than
he had ever before experienced. Thus page was added to page, and act to
act, until at last, in the surprisingly brief time of two months, the
whole play was ready--mighty in bulk and spirit, as became the true
firstling of a young Titan.

Strindberg had first meant to name his play "What Is Truth?" For a while
he did call it "The Renegade," but in the end he thought both titles
smacked too much of tendency and decided instead, with reasoned
conventionalism, to use the title of Master Olof after its central
figure, the Luther of Sweden.

From a dramatic point of view it would have been hard to pick a more
promising period than the one he had chosen as a setting for his play.
The early reign of Gustaf Vasa, the founder of modern Sweden, was marked
by three parallel conflicts of equal intensity and interest: between
Swedish and Danish nationalism; between Catholicism and Protestantism;
and, finally, between feudalism and a monarchism based more or less on
the consent of the governed. Its background was the long struggle for
independent national existence in which the country had become involved
by its voluntary federation with Denmark and Norway about the end of the
fourteenth century. That Struggle--made necessary by the insistence of
one sovereign after another on regarding Sweden as a Danish province
rather than as an autonomous part of a united Scandinavia--had reached a
sort of climax, a final moment of utter blackness just before the dawn,
when, at Stockholm in 1520, the Danish king, known ever afterward as
Christian the Tyrant, commanded the arbitrary execution of about eighty
of Sweden's most representative men.

Until within a few months of that event, named by the horror-stricken
people "the blood-bath of Stockholm," the young Gustaf Eriksson Vasa had
been a prisoner in Denmark, sent there as a hostage of Swedish loyalty.
Having obtained his freedom by flight, he made his way to the inland
province of Dalecarlia, where most of the previous movements on behalf
of national liberty had originated, and having cleared the country of
foreign invaders, chiefly by the help of an aroused peasantry that had
never known the yoke of serfdom, he was elected king at a Riksdag held
in the little city of Strängnäs, not far from Stockholm, in 1523.

Strängnäs was a cathedral city and had for several years previous been
notorious for the Lutheran leanings of its clergy. After the death of
its bishop as one of the victims of King; Christian, its temporary head
had been the archdeacon, the ambitious and learned Lars Andersson--or
Laurentius Andreae, as, in accordance with the Latinizing tendency
of the time, he was more frequently named. One of its canons was Olof
Pedersson--also known as Olaus Petri, and more commonly as Master Olof
(Master being the vernacular for Magister, which was the equivalent
of our modern Doctor)--who, during two years spent in studies at the
University of Wittenberg, had been in personal contact with Luther, and
who had become fired with an aspiration to carry the Reformation into
his native country. By recent historians Master Olof has been described
as of a "naively humble nature," rather melancholy in temperament,
but endowed with a gift for irony, and capable of fiery outbursts when
deeply stirred. At Strängnäs he had been preaching the new faith more
openly and more effectively than any one else, and he had found a pupil
as well as a protector in the temporary head of the diocese.

Immediately after his election, the new King called Lars Andersson from
Strängnäs to become his first chancellor. Later on, he pressed Olof,
too, into his service, making him Secretary to the City Corporation
of Stockholm--which meant that Olof practically became the chief
civil administrator of the capital, having to act as both clerk and
magistrate, while at the same time he was continuing his reformatory
propaganda as one of the preachers in the city's principal edifice,
officially named after St. Nicolaus, but commonly spoken of as
Greatchurch. As if this were not sufficient for one man, he plunged also
into a feverish literary activity, doing most of the work on the Swedish
translations of the New and Old Testaments, and paving the way for the
new faith by a series of vigorous polemical writings, the style of which
proclaims him the founder of modern Swedish prose. Centuries passed
before the effective simplicity and homely picturesqueness of his style
were surpassed. He became, furthermore, Sweden's first dramatist. The
Comedy of Tobit, from which Strindberg uses a few passages in slightly
modernized form at the beginning of his play, is now generally
recognized as an authentic product of Olof's pen, although it was not
written until a much later period.

Strindberg's drama starts at Strängnäs, at the very moment when Olof has
been goaded into open revolt against the abuses of the Church, and when
he is saved from the consequences of that revolt only by the unexpected
arrival of King Gustaf and his own appointment as City Secretary. From
the slightly strained, but not improbable, coincidence of that start
to the striking climax of the last act, the play follows, on the whole,
pretty closely the actual course of events recorded in history. To
understand this course, with its gradually intensified conflict between
the King and Olof, it is above all necessary to bear in mind that the
former regarded the Reformation principally as a means toward that
political reorganization and material upbuilding of the country which
formed his main task; while to Olof the religious reconstruction assumed
supreme importance. This fundamental divergence of purpose is clearly
indicated and effectively used by Strindberg, and we have reason to
believe that he has pictured not only Gustaf Vasa and Master Olof, but
also the other historical characters, in close accordance with what
history has to tell us about them. Among the chief figures there is only
one--Gert the Printer--who is not known to history, and one--the wife of
Olof--who is so little known that the playwright has been at liberty to
create it almost wholly out of his own imagination.

At the juncture represented by the initial scenes of the play, Olof was
in reality thirty-one years old, but he is made to appear still younger.
The King should be, and is, about twenty-seven, while Lars Andersson is
about fifty-four, and Bishop Brask about seventy. Gert must be thought a
man of about sixty, while Christine must be about twenty. The action
of the play lasts from 1524 to 1540, but Strindberg has contracted the
general perspective, so to speak, giving us the impression that the
entire action takes place within a couple of years. I have tried to work
out a complete chronology, and think it fairly safe to date the several
parts of the play as follows:

The first act takes place on Whitsun Eve, 1524, which means that the
exact date must fall between May 10 and June 13 of that year, and
probably about June 1.

The first scene of the second act occurs in the early evening of a
Saturday in the summer--probably in June--of 1524. The second scene is
fixed at midnight of the same day, and the third scene on the following
morning, which, in view of the fact that Olof is to preach, we may
assume to be a Sunday.

The first scene of the third act seems to take place four days later,
but Olof was not married until February, 1525,--to "Christine, a maiden
of good family,"--and it was only during the winter of 1526-27 that the
Church reformers were given free rein by the King, and Olof himself was
despatched to the University of Upsala for the purpose of challenging
Peder Galle, the noted Catholic theologian, to a joint discussion. This
was also the time when the first Swedish version of the New Testament
was completed by Olof and Lars Andersson--an event referred to in the
scene in question.

The exact date of the second scene of the third act is St. John's
Eve, or June 24, 1527, at which time occurred the important Riksdag at
Vesterås, where the King broke the final resistance of the nobility and
the Catholic clergy by threatening to abdicate. The debate between Olof
and Peder Galle took place at the Riksdag, Galle having evaded it as
long as he could.

The date of the fourth act is very uncertain, but it seems safe to place
it in the summer of 1539, when Stockholm was ravaged by an epidemic of a
virulent disease known as "the English sweat."

The first scene of the fifth act is laid on New Year's Eve, 1539, when
Olof and Lars Andersson were arrested and charged with high treason for
not having informed the proper authorities of a plot against the King's
life. This plot was an old story, having been exposed and punished
in 1536. Their defence was that they had learned of it through secret
confession, which they as ministers had no right to reveal. The trial
took only two days, and on January 2, 1540, both were sentenced to

The second scene of the final act must be laid in the spring of 1540, as
the ceremony of confirmation has generally taken place about Easter ever
since the Swedish church became Lutheran.

While, in the main, Strindberg made the events of his play accord
with what was accepted as historical fact when he wrote, there are
anachronisms and inaccuracies to be noted, although to none of them
can be attached much importance. When, in the first and second acts, he
represents the Anabaptist leaders, Rink and Knipperdollink, as then
in Stockholm and actually introduces one of them on the stage, he has
merely availed himself of a legend which had been accepted as truth
for centuries, and which has been exploded only by recent historical
research. We know now that Rink and Knipperdollink could never have been
in Sweden, but we know also that a German lay preacher named Melchior
Hofman appeared at Stockholm about the time indicated in the play, and
that, in 1529, another such preacher, named Tilemann, made Olof himself
the object of his fierce invectives. These instances serve, in fact, to
prove how skilfully Strindberg handled his historical material. He is
never rigid as to fact, but as a rule he is accurate in spirit. Another
instance of this kind is found in the references in the first act to the
use of Swedish for purposes of worship. It is recorded--and by himself,
I think--that Olof once asked his mother whether she really understood
the Latin prayers, since she was so very fond of them. She answered:
"No, I don't understand them, but when I hear them I pray devoutly to
God that they may please Him, which I don't doubt they do."

On the other hand, what maybe regarded as rather an awkward slip is
found in the first scene of the fifth act, where Gert cries exultantly
to Olof: "You don't know that Thomas Münster has established a new
spiritual kingdom at Mühlhausen." The name of the great Anabaptist
"prophet" was Thomas Münzer, and the place where he established his
brief reign was Münster. Strindberg's habit was to fill his head with
the facts to be used, and then to rely on his memory. Marvellous as his
memory was, it sometimes deceived him, and checking off names or dates
seems to have been utterly beyond him. Thus it is quite probable that
the passage in question represents an unconscious error. At the same
time it is barely possible that the mistake may have been purposely laid
in the mouth of a fanatic, from whom exactness of statement could hardly
be expected. Thus, in the first act, Gert remarks that "Luther is
dead." We understand, of course, that this expression is metaphorical,
signifying that Luther has done all that can be expected of him, but it
is nevertheless characteristically ambiguous.

The second scene of the third act is apparently laid in Olof's house
at Stockholm, although the location of the building is not definitely
indicated. We find him waiting for a messenger who is to announce the
results of the Riksdag then in session. But the Riksdag was held at
Vesterås, and we know that Olof was one of two delegates sent by the
burghers and the peasants to the King, whom they implored "on their
knees and with tears" to withdraw his abdication. The Courtier's
reference to Olof's debate with Galle renders it still more uncertain
whether we are in Stockholm or in Vesterås. The Courtier also informs
Olof of his appointment as pastor of Greatchurch, the facts being that
Olof was not ordained until 1539 and received his appointment a year
after the events described in the last act of the play. In the metrical
version, Strindberg makes his most radical departure from the historical
course of events by letting Luther's marriage precede and influence
that of Olof, although in reality Olof's anticipated that of Luther by
several months.

The complaints of the Man from Småland in the first scene of the second
act could scarcely have been warranted in 1524, when that act takes
place. The hold of the young King was far too precarious at that
early date to permit any regulations of the kind referred to. The
establishment of a maximum price on oxen does not seem to have occurred
until 1532, and a prohibition against the shooting of deer by the
peasants was actually issued in 1538, both measures helping to provoke
the widespread uprising that broke out in Småland in 1541. It was named
the "Dacke feud" after its principal leader, the peasant-chieftain
Nils Dacke, to whom the Sexton refers in the second scene of the last
act--also a little prematurely.

Whether these be conscious or unconscious anachronisms, they matter very
little when the general accuracy of the play is considered. From the
moment the Danes had been driven out of the country, one of the most
serious problems confronting the King was the financial chaos into which
the country had fallen, and his efforts, first of all to raise enough
means for ordinary administrative purposes, and secondly to reorganize
trade and agriculture, brought him almost immediately into conflict with
the peasants, who, during the long struggle for national independence,
had become accustomed to do pretty much as they pleased. The utterances
of the Man from Småland are typical of the sentiments that prevailed
among the peasants throughout the country, not least when he speaks of
the King's intention to "take away their priests and friars," for
the majority of the Swedish people were at that time still intensely
Catholic, and remained so to a large extent long after the Reformation
officially had placed Sweden among Protestant countries.

Much more serious than any liberties taken with dates or facts, I deem
certain linguistic anachronisms, of which Strindberg not rarely becomes
guilty. Thus, for instance, he makes the King ask Bishop Brask: "What
kind of phenomenon is this?" The phrase is palpably out of place, and
yet it has been used so deliberately that nothing was left for me to
do but to translate it literally. The truth is that Strindberg was not
striving to reproduce the actual language of the Period--a language of
which we get a glimpse in the quotations from The Comedy of Tobit. Here
and there he used archaic expressions (which I have sometimes reproduced
and sometimes disregarded, as the exigencies of the new medium happened
to require). At other times he did not hesitate to employ modern
colloquialisms (most of which have been "toned down"). He did not regard
local color or historical atmosphere as a supreme desideratum. He wanted
to express certain ideas, and he wanted to bring home the essential
humanity of historical figures which, through the operations of
legendary history, had assumed a strange, unhuman aspect. The methods
he employed for these purposes have since been made familiar to the
English-speaking public by the historical plays of Bernard Shaw and the
short stories and novels of Anatole France.

In his eagerness, however, to express what was burning for utterance in
his own breast, the second purpose was sometimes lost sight of; and at
such times Strindberg hesitated as little to pass the bounds imposed
by an historical period as to break through the much more important
limitations of class and personal antecedents. Thus, for example,
the remarks of Olof's mother are at one moment characterized by the
simplicity to be expected from the aged widow of a small city tradesman
in the early part of the sixteenth century, while in the next--under
the pressure of the author's passion for personal expression--they
grow improbably sophisticated. Yet each figure, when seen in proper
perspective, appears correctly drawn and strikingly consistent with
the part assigned to it in the play. In his very indifference to minor
accuracies, Strindberg sometimes approaches more closely to the larger
truth than men more scrupulous in regard to details. How true he can be
in his delineation of a given type is perhaps best shown by the figure
of Gert. The world's literature holds few portrayals of the anarchistic
temperament that can vie with it in psychological exactness, and it is
as true to-day as it was in 1524 or in 1872.

This verisimilitude on a universal rather than a specific plane assumes
still greater significance if we consider it in the light of what
Strindberg has told us about his purpose with the main characters of his
first great play. As I have already said, those characters were meant
to be both mouthpieces of the author and revived historical figures, but
they were also meant--and primarily, I suspect--to be something else:
embodiments of the contradictory phases of a single individual, namely
the author himself.

"The author meant to hide his own self behind the historical
characters," Strindberg tells us, apropos of this very play. [Note: In
one of his biographical novels, The Bondwoman's Son, vol. iii: In
the Red Room.] "As an idealist he was to be represented by Olof; as a
realist by Gustaf; and as a communist by Gert." Farther on in the same
work, he continues his revelation as follows: "The King and his shadow,
the shrewd Constable, represented himself [the author] as he wished to
be; Gert, as he was in moments of aroused passion; and Olof, as, after
years of self-scrutiny, he had come to know himself: ambitious and
weak-willed; unscrupulous when something was at stake, and yielding
at other times; possessed of great self-confidence, mixed with a deep
melancholy; balanced and irrational; hard and gentle."

Finally, he gives us this illuminating exposition of his own views on
the moral validity of the main characters, thus disposing once for all
of the one-sided interpretations made by persons anxious to use this
or that aspect of the play in support of their own political or social
idiosyncrasies: "All the chief characters are, relatively speaking, in
the right. The Constable, from the standpoint of his own day, is right
in asking Olof to keep calm and go on preaching; Olof is right in
admitting that he had gone too far; the scholar, Vilhelm, is right when,
in the name of youth, he demands the evolution of a new truth; and Gert
is right in calling Olof a renegade. The individual must always become
a renegade--forced by the necessity of natural laws; by fatigue; by
inability to develop indefinitely, as the brain ceases to grow about the
age of forty-five; and by the claims of actual life, which demand that
even a reformer must live as man, mate, head of a family, and
citizen. But those who crave that the individual continue his progress
indefinitely are the shortsighted--particularly those who think that the
cause must perish because the individual deserts it.... It is an open
question, for that matter, whether Olof did not have a better chance to
advance his cause from the pulpit of the reformed Greatchurch than he
would have had in low-class taverns."

These passages were written by Strindberg fourteen years after the
completion of the play to which they refer. We have other evidence,
however, that, while he might have seen things more clearly in
retrospect, he had not been lured by the lapse of time into placing his
characters in a light different from that in which they were conceived.
On the list of characters forming part of the original handwritten
manuscript of the first version of Master Olof, now preserved in the
Public Library of Gothenburg, Sweden, the author has jotted down certain
very significant notes opposite the more important names. Thus he has
written opposite the name of the King: "To accomplish something in this
world, one has to risk morality and conscience;" opposite the name
of Olof: "He who strives to realize an idea develops greatness of
personality--he accomplishes good by his personal example, but he is
doomed to perish;" opposite that of Bishop Brask: "There is movement in
whatever exists--whatever stands still must be crushed;" and opposite
that of Gert: "He who wills more than his reason can grasp must go mad."

Such was the play with which the young Strindberg returned to the
Swedish capital in the fall of 1872; and let us remember in this
connection, that up to the time in question no dramatic work of similar
importance had ever been produced in Sweden. Its completion was more
epoch-making for Sweden than that of Brand was for Norway in 1865--since
the coming of Ibsen's first really great play was heralded by earlier
works leading up to it, while Master Olof appeared where nobody had any
reason to expect it. This very fact militated against its success, of
course; it was too unexpected, and also too startlingly original, both
in spirit and in form.

At the time there was only one stage in Sweden where such a work could
be produced--the Royal Theatre at Stockholm. To the officials of this
state--supported institution Strindberg submitted his work--hopefully,
as we know from his own statement. It was scornfully and ignominiously
rejected, the main criticism being that a serious historical drama
in prose was unthinkable. I shall make no comment whatever on that
judgment, having in mind how several years later Edmund Gosse bewailed
the failure of Ibsen to give a metrical form to his Emperor and

Strindberg's next effort concerned publication. In this respect he
was equally unsuccessful, although as a rule it has never been very
difficult in Sweden to find a publisher for any work of reasonable
merit. But the play was not only too original, it was too dangerously
radical for a country where a truly modern form of representative
government had not been achieved until seven years earlier. Strindberg
was at first stunned by this failure. He seriously contemplated
giving up writing altogether. When he had recovered somewhat, he seems
reluctantly to have faced the possibility that the fault might be found
in the play and not in the public.

So he set about to re-write it--and he did so not only once but
repeatedly, producing in all six versions that differ more or less from
one another. At first he clung to the prose form. Gradually he began to
introduce verse, until finally, in 1877 or 1878, he completed an almost
new play, where the metrical form predominated without being used
exclusively. This version was actually published in 1878. Originally, an
epilogue was appended to it, but this was dropped from all but a small
part of the first edition. It is supposed to take place a number of
years later than the fifth act, and shows Olof with his two sons
outside the city walls of Stockholm, where they witness a miracle-play
introducing God as the principle of darkness and Lucifer as the
overthrown but never conquered principle of light. The bitter
generalizations of this afterthought explain Sufficiently why it
was excluded. To the later Strindberg--the man who wrote Advent, for
instance--it must have seemed one of his most unforgivable offences.

Although Strindberg's main object in working over his play undoubtedly
was to obtain its production, the metrical version was not put on the
stage until 1890, when, however, it was performed at the Royal Theatre,
toward which its author had looked so longingly and so vainly eighteen
years earlier. The prose version, on the other hand, was produced as
early as 1881, at the New Theatre in Stockholm, but was not published
until the same year, when it appeared in book form grouped with a number
of other writings from Strindberg's earliest period.

Of the five unprinted versions connecting the original prose drama
of 1872 with the final metrical form of 1878, more or less complete
manuscripts have been preserved, and these are now being examined in
detail by the Swedish literary historian, Professor Karl Warburg. A
summary analysis by Dr. John Landquist is appended to the second
volume of the definitive edition of Strindberg's complete works (Albert
Bonnier, Stockholm), where the epilogue to the metrical version is also
reprinted after so many years of oblivion.

"Of all the manuscripts preceding the final metrical version," says Dr.
Landquist, "the original one, written when Strindberg was twenty-three,
is the masterpiece. There everything is consistent; there the dialogue
has a power and an incisiveness to which it does not attain in any of
the unprinted manuscripts. On the contrary, these seem more youthful
than the original, producing at times an impression of immaturity and
uncertainty on the part of the author. Even when some isolated phrase
strikes one as fortunate, it does not tend to strengthen the drama as
a whole. The later versions lack that sense of inner unity and that
audacious touch which lend fascination and power to the original

"Not until we reach the first metrical version (of 1876) does the full
power of the playwright begin to reassert itself in such fashion that
out of his untiring labors at last springs a new work, the mood of which
differs essentially from that of the first prose version. These two
versions--the first and the final--are the results of diametrically
opposed methods of work. The first was written with a certainty and
swiftness of inspiration that raised the young poet far above the
productive powers generally characteristic of his years. The subsequent
modifications prove merely how futile are the efforts of reason to
improve what intuition has inspired. But gradually it seems to have
dawned on the poet that he was about to evolve a wholly new work--that
what he had come to aim at was quite distinct from what he had been
aiming at in the beginning, and from that moment his artistic reasoning
carried him onward until at last a new inspiration brought the work to
its completion."

Concerning the final metrical version, I can give only a few outstanding
and rather superficial facts, hoping that I may some time have the
opportunity of presenting it entire to the American public. Like the
prose version, it has five acts, but these are not subdivided into
scenes. It is briefer, more concentrated both in spirit and in form,
and may be said to display a greater unity of purpose. It is more human,
too, and less titanic. The change shows itself strikingly in a figure
like that of Mårten, who in the metrical version has become softened
into an unconscionable but rather lovable rapscallion. The last remark
but one made by Mårten when driven from Dame Christine's deathbed by
Olof is: "Talk to your mother, son--the two of you have so much to
forgive each other."

In strength and passion and daring, on the other hand, the final version
falls far short of the original one, and the very fact that it is more
logical, more carefully reasoned, tends at times to render it less
psychologically true. Each version has its own merits and its own
faults, and in their appeal they are so radically different that
a choice between them must always remain meaningless except on
temperamental grounds. At one point, however--and an important one at
that--the metrical version seems to me the happier by far.

That cry of "renegade," which, echoing from the dim recesses of the
church, makes the prose version end on a note of perplexing irony, may
be theatrically effective, but it can hardly be called logical. Gert has
been disposed of. His sudden return out of the clutches of the soldiers
is inexplicable and unwarranted. Worse still, he has only a short
while previous been urging Olof to live on for his work. If Olof be
a renegade, he is so upon the advice of Gert himself, and to call the
concession made by Olof for the saving of his own life far-reaching
enough to explain Gert's sudden change of attitude approaches
dangerously near to quibbling. In the metrical version, on the other
hand, the same cry of "renegade" is quite logically and suitably
wrung from the lips of Vilhelm, the scholar who is still dreaming of
uncompromised ideals. But it is not the final word. This comes from
Olof, and takes the form of a brief apostrophe to the fleeing Vilhelm,
which I think ranks with the finest passages produced by Strindberg.
Apologetically, I offer this English version of it as a fitting close to
my Introduction:

 Olof. Oh, what a word! But though it shook the air,
      These columns did not stir, nor fell the dome,
      And I stand calm upon this lonely shore,
      Where I was dropped by the receding waves--
      For, after all, I am ashore. And now
      A last "good luck upon the road" I send
      To speed the daring sailor who will give
      No ear to one that just has come to grief.
      With sails hauled close, steer for the open sea
      And for the far-off goal your soul desires!
      Ere long you must fall off like all the rest,
      Although a star your guiding landmark be
      For in due time the stars themselves must fall!




   OLOF PEDERSSON (Olaus Petri), generally known as MASTER OLOF.
   GUSTAF ERIKSSON VASA, King of Sweden.
   HANS BRASK, Bishop of Linköping.
   MÅNS SOMMAR, Bishop of Strängnäs.
   LARS SIGGESON, Lord High Constable.
   LARS ANDERSSON (Laurentius Andreae), Lord High Chancellor.
   LARS PEDERSSON (Laurentius Petri), brother of Master Olof.
   HANS WINDRANK, a Master Mariner.
   A Man from Småland.
   A German.
   A Dane.
   MÅRTEN and NILS, Black Friars.
   A Tavern-keeper.
   A Burier.
   First Scholar.
   Second Scholar.
   The Sexton at St. Nicolaus (or Greatchurch).
   A Servant of the Palace.
   An Overseer.
   A Townsman.
   A Courtier.
   DAME CHRISTINE, Olof's mother.
   CHRISTINE, daughter of Gert the Printer.
   A Harlot.
   A Woman.
   The Sexton's Wife.
   The Abbess of St. Clara.
   Headsman, Townsfolk, Laborers, etc.

ACT I: At Strängnäs.

ACTS II, III, IV, AND V: At Stockholm.


(A Cloister opening upon a Convent Close planted with groups of trees.
The convent church forms the right side of the quadrangle. A brick wall
runs along the rear. Fruit trees in blossom appear above the wall.
Olof is seated on a stone bench. Before him stand two scholars, who are
reading their respective parts out of "The Comedy of Tobit.")

First Scholar.

     Now have our enemies trapped us full well.
     Woe unto us, poor children of Israel!

Second Scholar.

     Yea, brother, good cause you have to make such plaint!
     Now certes we have come upon days of great lament--
     Our land is taken away, and so's our increase,
     And ne'er we may look for any help or surcease.
     It must be, as long I have both dreamt and said,
     That the promise to Abram has been long mislaid.

[Enter Lars Andersson.]

Lars Andersson. What are you doing?

Olof. I am playing.

Lars. Playing--you?

Olof. I am playing a little comedy about the children of Israel and the
Babylonian captivity.

Lars. Have you nothing better to do? Bigger work is waiting for you.

Olof. I am too young.

Lars. Do not say you are too young.

Olof. No, for there are plenty of others who say it.

Lars (takes out a roll of paper, which he opens; for a while he stands
looking at Olof; then he begins to read) "Then the word of the Lord
came unto Jeremiah: 'Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;
and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I
ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.'

"Then said Jeremiah: 'Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak, for I am a

"But the Lord said: 'Say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go to all
that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron
pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of
Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and
against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but
they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee,' saith the
Lord, 'to deliver thee.'"

Olof (leaping to his feet). Did the Lord say that?

Lars. "Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise, and speak unto them
all that I command thee."

Olof. Why do not you go?

Lars. I am too old.

Olof. You are afraid!

Lars. I am, for I have not the strength; but you have--and now may the
Lord give you the faith also.

Olof. Oh, once I did have the flame of faith, and it burned wondrously,
but the monkish gang smothered it with their holy water when they were
trying to read the devil out of my body.

Lars. That was a fire of straw which had to flicker out; but now
the Lord will light you a fire of logs by which the offspring of the
Philistines shall be consumed. Do you know your own will, Olof?

Olof. No, but I feel myself choking when I think of these poor
people who yearn for salvation. They are crying for water--for living
water--but there is no one who can give it to them.

Lars. Tear down the crumbling old house first, you can do that. Then the
Lord Himself will build them a new one.

Olof. Then they will be without a roof over their heads for a time.

Lars. They will at least get fresh air.

Olof. But to rob a whole nation of its faith--they will despair.

Lars. Yes, they will despair.

Olof. But they will decry me, and revile me, and drag me before the

Lars. Are you afraid?

Olof. No--but the offence--

Lars. You were born to give offence, Olof; you were born to smite. The
Lord will heal.

Olof. I can feel the pull of the current; I am still clinging to the
sluice-gate, but if I let go, I shall be swept away.

Lars. Let go! There are more than enough who hold back.

Olof. Reach out your hand to me, Lars, if I get too far into the

Lars. That is not in my power, and into the whirlpool you must go, even
if it be to perish.

Olof. What storms you have raised in my soul! A moment ago I sat here
and played in the shadow of the trees, and it was Whitsun Eve, and it
was spring, and all was peace. And now--how can the trees be still, and
why is there no darkness in the sky? Put your hand on my forehead,
feel the blood surging! Do not abandon me, Lars! I see an angel coming
towards me with a cup--she is walking across the evening sky--her path
is blood-red, and in her hand she is carrying a cross--No, it is more
than I avail! I will return to my peaceful valley. Let others fight; I
will look on--No, I will follow in their wake and heal the wounded and
whisper words of peace into the ears of the dying--Peace!--No, I want to
fight with the rest, but in the last ranks--Why should I lead?

Lars. Because you are the boldest.

Olof. Not the strongest?

Lars. The strong will come after you: and the strongest of all is by
your side; it is He who summons you to battle.

Olof. Help me, O Lord! I go.

Lars. Amen!

Olof. And will you come with me?

Lars. You must go alone--with God!

Olof. Why do you turn back?

Lars. I was not born to be a warrior: your armorer is all that I can
be. Your weapon is the pure Word of God, and with that you must arm
the people. For the doors to the popish armory have been broken open at
last, and hereafter every one calling himself a man must fight for the
freedom of his own spirit.

Olof. But where is the enemy? I am burning for battle, yet see no one to
fight against.

Lars. No need to summon them; they will come! Farewell! You may begin
whenever you are ready, and may God be with you!

Olof. Don't go. I have much more to talk with you about.

Lars. Here comes the vanguard now--to arms!

[Exit Lars.]

(A crowd of townsmen with their women and children pass across the stage
to the church door at the right. They stop in front of it, bare their
heads, and make the sign of the cross.)

Gert the Printer (disguised as a townsman). It's Whitsun Eve, and nobody
has rung the vesper bell--that's very strange.

A Townsman. The church door is closed. Maybe the priest is sick.

Gert. Or not yet out of bed.

Townsman. What do you mean?

Gert. Only that he might be sick abed.

Townsman. But there are a lot of acolytes, and one of them might be
saying a mass for us in his place.

Gert. They are probably too busy.

Townsman. With what?

Gert. That's hard to tell.

Townsman. Take care, my good man! You seem to have a leaning towards
Lutherism. Bishop Hans of Linköping is here, and so's the King.

Gert. Is Brask in town?

Townsman. Indeed he is. But I suppose we had better try the church door
to see if it be really closed.

Gert (runs up the steps and beats the church door with his fist).The
house of God is closed this Whitsun Eve. The reverend clergy will grant
no audience with the Lord to-day, and so the worshipful commonalty will
have to go home and go to bed without any mass. Look here, good folk!
Here you have a door--mere wood, of course, but that matters little, as
it is lined with copper. Just take a look at this door! If I say that
the Lord is living within--this being His house; and if I say that the
bishop's diaconus, or secretarius, or canonicus, or some other fellow
ending in 'us'--for it's only these clerical gentlemen that end in 'us';
and if I say that some fellow of that kind has the key hanging on a nail
in his bedroom: then I don't mean to say that he has locked up the Lord
and put the key on a nail in his bedroom: but all I mean to say is
that we can't get in, and that there will be no divine service for its
to-night--for us who have toiled six days making shoes and coats--who
have spent the whole week brewing and baking and butchering for the
reverend clergy in order that the said clergy might have strength enough
on the seventh day to celebrate divine service for its. Of course, I am
not at all saying this in reproach of the right reverend members of this
Chapter; for they, too, are nothing but human beings, you know, and it
was only the Lord who could stand working six days and be satisfied with
resting on the seventh.

Townsman. You're blaspheming God, master townsman!

Gert. Well, He can't hear it when the door is closed.

A Woman. Jesu Maria! He's an Antichrist!

Gert (beating at the door). Do you hear how hollow it sounds?--It is
writ in the Bible that once upon a time the veil before the Holiest of
Holies was rent in twain, and it must be true--but nothing is said in
the Bible about the clerical gentlemen having sewed the veil together
again, which, of course, is no reason why it shouldn't have been done.

(The crowd makes a rush at Gert; the children begin to cry.)

Townsman. Out on you, Luther! For that's what you are. We have sinned,
and for that reason the Lord has closed His house. Can't you hear that
the very children cry out at the sight of you, unclean spirit that you

Gert. Naturally, when you step on their toes, my dear friends--

Woman. Don't go near him! He has a devil!

Townsman. Down with him! Down with him!

Gert. Don't touch me, for here I am under the protection of the Lord.

Townsman. The Lord will not protect the angel that was cast out.

Gert. If the Lord won't, the Holy Church will, and I am now within her
consecrated walls.

Townsman. Get him away from the church wall!

Gert. If you don't fear God, you must at least fear the ban of the Holy

Woman. Drag him away from that door! It is his unclean spirit that has
cast a spell on the church.

Townsman. That's it! The Lord won't open His church to the Devil.

(The crowd is rushing at Gert again, when the Bishop's Secretary enters,
preceded by a verger, who calls upon the people to attend.)

Secretary (reading). "Whereas our cathedral city has failed in the
payment of its tithes to this See, and whereas it continues refractory
in regard to such payments, the Chapter has deemed it necessary, in
accordance with its vested rights and the sanction granted by the Holy
Curia, to close the doors of the church and to discontinue all masses
and sacrifices until the aforesaid dereliction shall have been
duly remedied; failure to observe which shall be at the risk of our
displeasure. Datum vigilia assumptionis Mariae. Chapter of Strängnäs."

Gert. What do you say to that, good folk?

Townsman. No mass on Whitsun Eve? That's a shame!

Gert. Take care! Say nothing evil of the priests; maybe they're not to

Townsman. Who is to blame, then?

Gert. The Church! That invisible and omnipotent something! It is the
Church, you see, that has closed the church. (The crowd gives evidence
of disapproval.)

Olof (who in the meantime has come forward, seizes a rope hanging
from the bell tower, and begins to ring vespers). If your worship be
seriously meant, I'll say mass for you.

Townsman. Many thanks, Master Olof, but are you aware of what that may
lead to?

Olof. Let us fear the Lord more than men! (The crowd kneels.) Dear
friends! Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus! As we are now come
together here--

Townsman. Master Olof--

Olof. What is it?

Townsman. We want a real mass, and not any new inventions of men.

Gert. It has to be in Latin, my dear Master Olof, or we can't understand
what you say.

Townsman. It has to be in the sacred tongue--or anybody might say mass.

Olof. And so you shall! Everyone for himself, with God!

Crowd. A Luther! A Luther! Antichrist!

Townsman. Well, well, Master Olof, have you, too, so young and zealous,
become tainted by the German devil? I am an old man, who has seen much
of the world, and I mean well by you--Turn back while you are still
young!--Do as we ask you and give us the old mass.

Olof. No, there must be an end to that mummery. Ye shall pray in spirit
and in truth, and not in words ye do not understand.

Townsman. Don't you think, my young friend, that the Lord understands

Gert. But Swedish He doesn't understand at all!

Townsman. Master Olof, are you going to let the people depart from you
without a word to edify them? Can't you see how they are yearning for
their God? Make a sacrifice of your own sinful will, and don't let the
people go from you like sheep that have no shepherd.

Olof. You call my will sinful?

Townsman. You are a hard man!

Olof. Say not so! Do you know what the ringing of this bell will cost

Townsman. Your vanity.

Gert. And your peace! For it was the alarum bell that rang in the
battle. Hey-ho, this is the start! Soon the bells of Stockholm will
respond, and then the blood of Hus, and of Ziska, and of all the
thousands of peasants will be on the heads of the princes and the

Woman. Woe unto us! What is he raving about?

Townsman. Do you know this man, Master Olof?

Olof. No.

Gert. Yes, Olof, you know me. Deny me not! Are you afraid of these
miserable creatures who do not want their own welfare--and who have
never heard the word "freedom"?

Olof. What is your name?

Gert. If I told, you would all tremble. Yet you must tremble in order
that you may wake out of your sleep. I am named the angel that was
cast out and that is to come again ten thousand times; I am named the
liberator that came too early; I am named Satan because I love you more
than my own life; I have been named Luther; I have been named Hus. Now I
am named Anabaptist!

Crowd (shrink back and begin to cross themselves). Anabaptist!

Gert (removing his disguise and revealing himself as much older than he
had seemed). Do you know me now, Olof?

Olof. Father Gert!

Townsman. He calls him father!

Crowd (drawing back from Olof and Gert). Anabaptist! Anabaptist!

Woman. Don't you see, it's he who was put under the ban--

Townsman. Gert the Printer--the bishop's printer--

Another Townsman. The man who printed Luther!

Woman. Woe unto us and to our city! Woe to our priests when they bear
company with Antichrist!

Townsman. He denies the holy baptism!

Woman. He denies God. (The crowd disperses.)

Olof. That was dangerous talk, Father Gert.

Gert. You really think it was dangerous, Olof? Bless you for those

Olof. Dangerous for you, I mean.

Gert. Not for any one else?

Olof. Let us hope not.

Gert. You have known Luther?

Olof. Indeed, I have! And now I want to carry out his work in my own

Gert. Is that all?

Olof. What do you mean?

Gert. It is not enough! Luther is dead. He made a beginning, we have to
go on.

Olof. Whither do you want to lead me?

Gert. Far, Olof, very far!

Olof. I am afraid of you, Father Gert.

Gert. Yes, and will be more so; for I shall take you up on a high
mountain, and from there you shall overlook the whole world. You see,
Olof, it is now Whitsuntide; it was at this time the Holy Ghost came
down and filled the Apostles--nay, all humanity. The spirit of the Lord
has descended upon me. I feel it, and for that reason they shut me up
like one demented. But now I am free again, and now I shall speak the
word; for now, Olof, we are standing on the mountain. Behold the people
crawling on their knees before those two men seated on their thrones.
The taller holds two keys in one hand and a thunderbolt in the other.
That is the Pope. Now he hurls his thunderbolt, and a thousand souls
pass into perdition, while the rest kiss his foot and sing Gloria
Deo--but he who is seated on the throne turns about and smiles. Now
behold his companion. He has a sword and at sceptre. Bow down before
the sceptre, lest the sword smite you. When he knits his brows all the
people tremble. (He turns toward the man on the other throne, and both
smile.) They are two pillars of Baal. Then is heard a sound out of
heaven as of a host muttering. "Who is grumbling?" exclaims the Pope,
shaking his thunderbolt. "Who is muttering?"--and the Emperor shakes
his sword. Nobody answers, but still there is grumbling in the air, and
roaring, and a cry of "Think!" The Pope cowers, and the Emperor, turning
pale, demands: "Who was it that cried 'Think'? Bring him here, and I
will take his life!" The Pope shouts: "Bring him here, and I will take
his soul!" The cry came out of heaven, and was uttered by no one. But
still the sound of it rises; a storm wind springs up; it sweeps over the
Alps and goes roaring across Fichtelgebirge; it stirs up the Baltic and
echoes from the shores, and the cry is repeated a thousand times all
over the world: "Freedom, freedom!" The Pope throws his keys into the
sea, and the Emperor sheathes his sword, for against that cry they
avail nothing.--Oh, Olof, you wish to smite the Pope, but you forget the
Emperor--the Emperor, who is killing his people without counting them
because they dare to sigh when he tramples on their chests. You want to
smite the Pope at Rome, but, like Luther, you want to give them a new
pope in Holy Writ. Listen! Listen! Bind not the spirits with any fetters
whatsoever! Forget not the great Whitsunday! Forget not your great goal:
spiritual life and spiritual freedom! Listen not to the cry of death:
"And behold, it is all good!" For then the millennium, the kingdom of
liberty, will never arrive--and it is that which is now beginning. (Olof
remains silent.) Does it make you dizzy?

Olof. You go too far, Gert.

Gert. The day shall come when they will call me papist. Aim at the sky,
and you will hit the forest line ahead of you.

Olof. Turn back, Gert! You'll bring disaster on yourself and on the
realm. Can't you see how the country is still shivering with the
wound-fever caused by the last war? And you wish to sow the seeds of
civil war. It is a godless deed!

Gert. No, the knife is in the flesh now. Cut away, and the body may be

Olof. I'll denounce you as a traitor to your country.

Gert. You had better not, seeing that to-day you have offended the
Church beyond repair. Besides--

Olof. Speak out, Gert. Just now you look like Satan himself!

Gert. You shall have my secret: deal with it to suit yourself. The
King leaves for Malmö to-day, and the day after to-morrow, perchance,
Stockholm may be in open revolt.

Olof. What are you talking about?

Gert. Do you know Rink and Knipperdollink?

Olof (alarmed). The Anabaptists!

Gert. Yes. What's so startling in that? They are nothing but a couple
of lubberly tradesmen. A furrier and a grocer, who deny the use of
baptizing unconscious children, and who are simple-minded enough to
oppose the forcing of irrational creatures into deliberate perjury.

Olof. That is not all.

Gert. What is it, then?

Olof. They are possessed.

Gert. Of the spirit, yes. It is the storm wind that is crying through
them. Beware, if you get into its path!

Olof. This must be stopped. I am going to the King.

Gert. We should be friends, Olof. Your mother is living in Stockholm,
isn't she?

Olof. You know it, then?

Gert. Do you know that my daughter Christine is with your mother?

Olof. Christine?

Gert. Yes, for the present. If we win, your mother will be protected
for my daughter's sake; and if the Catholics win, my daughter will
be protected for your mother's sake. You are a little concerned about
Christine, are you not?

Olof. Gert, Gert, what made you so wise?

Gert. The madhouse.

Olof. Go away from me! You'll lead me into disaster.

Gert. Yes, if you call it a disaster to be robbed of all earthly
happiness, to be dragged into prison, to suffer poverty, to be scorned
and reviled fur the sake of truth. If so, you are not worthy of such a
splendid disaster. I thought you would understand me, I counted on your
help, for in you the fire is still burning, but I see that the world is
tempting you. Well, follow the stream and be happy!

Olof. How could a man make over the age in which he is living?

Gert. That's what Luther has done.

Olof. How can one man check a stream?

Gert. Guide it, you fool--for we are the stream. The old are stagnant
mudpools, you don't need to check them, but don't let them rot away or
dry up; give them an outlet, and they'll flow with the stream, too.

Olof. Yes, I understand you! You have bred a thought in my soul, but
that thought must be strangled in its birth, or it will kill me.

Gert. Believe me, you will be a Daniel, and you will speak the truth
unto princes, and they will conspire to take your life; but the Lord
will protect you.--Now I can safely leave, for I see lightnings flash
from your eyes and tongues of fire flickering over your head. (As he is
leaving.) There comes the Lord of Flies: don't let him defile your pure
soul also.

Olof. Jesus help me!

[Enter Bishop Brask and Bishop Sommar. Sommar approaches Olof, while
Brask remains behind, studying the surroundings.]

Sommar. Who rang vespers, Canonicus?

Olof (calmly but firmly). I did.

Sommar. Didn't you know the order?

Olof. I was aware of the prohibition.

Sommar. And you dared to defy it?

Olof. Yes, when the people were let go like sheep without a shepherd, I
wanted to keep them together.

Sommar. You seem to be finding fault with our actions. That's impudence

Olof. Truth is always impudent.

Sommar. I believe, young man, that you want to play the part of an
apostle of truth. It will bring you no thanks.

Olof. All I ask is ingratitude.

Sommar. Save your truths. They don't retain their value in the market
very long.

Olof (impetuously). That's advice worthy of the Father of
Lies!--(Mildly.) I ask your pardon!

Sommar. Do you know to whom you are talking?

Olof (heatedly). To servus servi servorum Måns Sommar!

Brask (stepping forward). Who is this man?

Sommar. One of the attendants in the church.

Brask. What's his name?

Sommar. Olof Pedersson, alias Olaus Petri.

Brask (staring hard at Olof). So you are Master Olof? (Olof bows
and looks fixedly at Brask.) I like you. Would you care to become my

Olof. Many thanks, Your Grace, but I have no recommendations.

Brask. What have you to say, Bishop Måns?

Sommar. He is said to have found much favor with Dr. Luther.

Brask. So I've heard. Nothing but youthful spirits. We'll train him.

Olof. I fear it is too late!

Brask. A sapling can be bent.

Sommar. It is not wise to raise vipers, Your Grace. Our canonicus here
has strong leanings toward heresy, and to-day he has dared to defy our

Brask. Is that so?

Sommar. On fully legal grounds we have proclaimed an interdict, and this
man has ventured to say mass--worse than that, he has said a Lutheran
mass, and thus stirred up the people.

Brask. Take care, young man! Don't you know that the ban will fall on
anybody who proclaims Luther?

Olof. I know it, but I fear no other god than God.

Brask. Consider your words. I mean well by you, and you repel me.

Olof. You want to purchase my ability for the doctoring of your sick
cause, and I am shameless enough not to sell myself.

Brask. By Saint George, I think you are out of your senses!

Olof. If so, don't give me the same treatment as Gert the Printer. You
put him in a madhouse, and it made him too wise, I fear.

Brask (to Bishop Sommar). Do you know Gert?

Sommar. No, Your Grace.

Brask. He's a lunatic who used my press to print Lutheran writings in
place of the anti-Lutheran stuff I put into his hands. Moreover, he was
dreaming of the Apocalypse and the Millennium. (To Olof.) Have you seen

Olof. He was here awhile ago, and you can expect but little good of him.

Brask. Is he at large?

Olof. He'll be in Stockholm soon, and from there you'll hear of him, I
think. Take care, my Lord Bishop!

Brask. Ho, there is nothing to fear yet.

Olof. The Anabaptists are in Stockholm.

Brask. What do you say?

Olof. The Anabaptists are in Stockholm!

Brask. The Anabaptists?

[Enter Gustaf Vasa suddenly.]

Gustaf. What's up? The city is in a tumult, the people are marching
through the streets crying for the mass. What's the meaning of all this?

Brask. Mischief, Your Highness.

Gustaf. Bishop Måns!

Sommar. The city has failed to pay its tithes.

Gustaf. And for that reason you refuse to hold divine service? 'Sdeath!

Brask. Your Highness ought to remember--

Gustaf. Answer me, Bishop Malls!

Sommar. Your Highness ought to remember that matters like these, which
fall within the jurisdiction of the Church--

Gustaf. I command you to attend to your duties!

Brask. The Bishops of Sweden take no orders except from their superiors,
the Pope and the Canon Law.

Gustaf (checked). I know, but if the Pope cannot always keep an eye on

Brask. That's our concern.

Gustaf (flares up, but controls himself at once). Your Grace is right.
It will remain your concern.

Brask. To change the subject--Stockholm is about to rise in rebellion.

Gustaf. Who says so?

Sommar. Our canonicus here.

Gustaf. Your schoolmaster? Where is he? Oh, is it you? What's your name?

Olof. Olof Pedersson.

Gustaf. Master Olof! They tell the you are a heretic, and that you are
scheming against Holy Church! That's a perilous venture!

Brask. This very day he has dropped his mask by daring to show open
defiance of the Chapter's prohibition against services, and for that
reason we demand that Your Highness consent to have him duly punished.

Gustaf. That's a matter for the Chapter and does not concern me. (To
Olof.) But what was that you had to say about a rebellion at Stockholm?

Olof. The Anabaptists!

Gustaf. Is that all?

Brask. Does not Your Highness know how those madmen have been carrying
on in Germany? We suggest that Your Highness return to the city in
person with your armed force.

Gustaf. That's a matter in which I suit myself!

Brask. But civil war--

Gustaf. That's _my_ concern! (To Olof.) Olof, I appoint you to the
clerkship of our court-house at Stockholm. Get over there at once. Speak
to the people. I put my trust in you!

Brask. For the country's sake I ask Your Highness to consider the
futility of wasting speech on madmen.

Gustaf. Souls are not controlled by swords. Bear that in mind, Your

Brask. The Church has never--

Gustaf. Nor by keys! (To Olof.) Go to my chancellor, and he will give
you your appointment.

Brask. You had better wait a moment, canonicus.

Gustaf. Our secretary will not put your orders ahead of mine.

Brask. The rights of the Church must be assured first of all. Olof

Gustaf (correcting him). Secretary--

Brask. Secretary Olof Pedersson cannot leave this city until the Chapter
has pronounced its verdict.

Gustaf. The Chapter must try the case before it can pronounce a verdict.

Brask. That's our concern.

Gustaf. It is not your concern, Bishop Brask. The Bishop of Linköping
cannot sit in judgment on a canonicus at Strängnäs. Speak for yourself,
Bishop Sommar.

Sommar. After what has just occurred--h'm!

Brask. All further arguments would seem superfluous.

Gustaf. You had better be silent, Bishop Brask, or leave us, as I am
talking privately to Bishop Sommar--privately!--Well, speak up, Bishop

Sommar. I cannot see but--that--as His Grace, the Bishop of Linköping--

Gustaf. We are talking of Master Olof now. Your Lordships will have to
postpone the trial. Be kind enough to leave us.

[Exeunt Bishops.]

Gustaf (to Olof). Will you be my man?

Olof. Your Highness' secretary?

Gustaf. No, my right hand--on the condition that for the present the
left hand shall not know what the right is doing. Go to Stockholm.

Olof. The Chapter will demand my surrender and ban me.

Gustaf. Before they get to that point you may fall back on me, but until
then--stand on your own feet as far as you can.

Olof. What is Your Highness' will?

Gustaf. Talk to those fanatics in Stockholm.

Olof. And then?

Gustaf. Oh, that's a long way off. I don't dare to think so far
yet.--Let them preach. It can't hurt those sottish spirits to hear a
new word, even if it be not all true. But there must be no violence; for
then the sword will join in the game. Farewell, Olof! [Exit.]

Olof (alone). So the Emperor won't be friends with the Pope!

(The two scholars, who have been waiting among the trees in the
background, come forward.)

First Scholar. Shall we go on with the play, Master Olof?

Olof. No, children, there will be no more playing.

First Scholar. Are you going to leave us, Master Olof?

Olof. Yes, and probably forever.

First Scholar. Can't you stay over Whitsuntide, so that we can perform
our comedy?

Second Scholar. And so that I can play the Angel Gabriel?

First Scholar. Please do as we ask you, Master Olof! You are the only
one who has been nice to us and spared us those terrible fasts.

Second Scholar. Oh, don't go away from us, Master Olof!

Olof. You don't know what you are asking, children. The day will come
when you shall thank the Lord that I did go away from you.--Oh, no,
I hope such a day will never come!--But let us make our leave-taking
brief. Good-bye, Nils! Good-bye, Vilhelm!

(He embraces them, and they kiss his hand. In the meantime Lars
Andersson has entered and is watching the group closely.)

First Scholar. Won't you ever come back, Master Olof?

Lars (coming forward). Are you ready to start now?

Olof (to the scholars). No, I shall never come back.

Scholars (as they go out). Good-bye, Master Olof, and don't forget us!
(Olof stands looking after them.)

Lars. I have seen the King.

Olof (absent-mindedly). Have you?

Lars. Do you know what he said?

Olof. No.

Lars. "I have got a harrier to raise the game; now it remains to be seen
whether he will come back when I whistle for him!"

Olof. Look at them--playing there among the graves, and picking flowers,
and singing the songs of Whitsuntide.

Lars (taking hold of Olof's arm). Child!

Olof (with a start). What did you say?

Lars. I thought you had laid your hand so firmly on the plough handle
to-day that there could be no question of looking back. (Olof waves his
hand to the scholars.) Are you still dreaming?

Olof. It was the last bright morning dream that passed away from me.
Pardon me--I am awake now!

[Exeunt toward the right. Then they are nearly out, Olof turns for a
last look at the scholars. These have disappeared in the meantime, and
in their place appear the two Black Friars, Mårten and Nils. On seeing
them, Olof utters a startled cry and puts one hand to his forehead. Lars
drags him out.]



(A Room in the Foundation Wall of the Church of St. Nicolaus at
Stockholm (generally known as Greatchurch), used as a beer-shop. A bar
full of pots and mugs occupies the background. To the right of the bar
stands a table, back of which appears an iron door. Two disguised friars
(Mårten and Nils) are seated at this table drinking beer. The other
tables are surrounded by German mercenaries, peasants, and sailors.
The door to the street is at the right. A fiddler is seated on top of
a barrel. The soldiers are throwing dice. All are drunk and noisy. Hans
Windrank, a man from Småland, a German tradesman, and a Dane are seated
together at one of the tables.)

German (to the Dane). So you defend a bloodthirsty brute like Christian?

Dane. Oh, mercy, he's human, isn't he?

German. Not, he's a monster! A bloodthirsty brute! A treacherous,
cowardly Dane!

Dane. Zounds! But you'd better not talk of blood. Do you remember the
massacre on Käppling Island, when the Germans--

Windrank. Listen to me, good Sirs! Let's be friends now, and have some
fun, and I'll tell you about Americky.

German. Are you going to blame us of Lübeck for what the Germans did?

Dane. Oh, mercy, I was talking of the Germans only--

Windrank. Listen, good Sirs, what's the use of quarrelling? (To the
Tavern-keeper.) Four noggins of gin! Now let's be calm and agreeable,
and I'll tell you of Americky. (They are served.)

German (sipping). A noble drink! Think of it, good Sirs, how everything
is advancing. To-day the grain is growing in the field--

Windrank. And to-morrow it's made into wine. I wonder who first found
out how it's done?

German. Beg your pardon, but that's a German invention. I call it
invention, because you discover Americky.

Windrank. And the Germans never make any discoveries?

German. 'Sdeath!

Windrank. Now, now! You're no German, you said.

Dane (to the German). Can you tell the who invented the story that the
Swedes got their present king from the Germans? (General laughter.)

German. It was we of Lübeck what gave Sweden a liberator when she was on
the verge of ruin.

Windrank. Here's to the King!

Dane. Here's to Lübeck!

German (flattered). Really I don't know how to--

Windrank. Why, you aren't the King!

German. Beg your pardon, but it was my Danish brother's--

Dane. How can you be of Lübeck when you are a citizen of Stockholm?

Windrank (to the Man from Småland). Why won't our silent brother drink
at all?

Man from Småland. I'll drink your corn-juice, but when it comes to the
King's health, I do like this! (He crushes the tin cup and throws it on
the floor.)

Windrank (groping with one hand for his sheath knife.) You won't drink
the King's health?

Man from Småland. I've been drinking the cup he offered me so long that
I don't care to drink his health any longer.

Windrank. 'Sblood!

German (eagerly). Hush, hush! Let's hear what he's got to say.

Dane (in the same way). Mercy, yes!

A Man from Småland. The Lord help me when I get home again!

Windrank (sentimentally). What is it, my dear man? Why do you look so
sad? Do you need money? Look here, now! (He pulls out his purse.) I've
half my wages left. What's the matter with you?

Man from Småland. Don't let us talk about it. More gin! Gin here! I've
money, too. Do you see? Gold! (The liquor is served). It isn't mine, but
I'll spend it on drink to the last farthing, and you'll please help me.

Windrank. And yet it isn't your money--how can you do that?

German. Who's wronged you, my dear fellow? I can see that you have fared

A Man from Småland I am ruined! You see, I got two hundred oxen on
trust, and when I came to Stockholm the King's agent took charge of
the whole business, and he said I couldn't sell them for more than he
allowed. It's the King that fixes the price on oxen--it's the King that
has ruined me.

German. You don't say!

Man from Småland. Oh, I know a lot more. He means to take the
priests and the monks away from us in order to give everything to the

Dane. To the gentlefolk?

Man from Småland. Exactly! I wish King Christian--God bless him!--had
cut off a few more heads.

Windrank. Well, is the King like that? I thought he had those noble
fellows by the ear.

Man from Småland. He? No, he lets them be born with the right to cut
oak on my ground, if I had any. For I did have a patch of land once, you
see, but then came a lord who said that my great-grandmother had taken
it all in loan from his great-grandfather, and so there was an end to
that story.

German. Why, is the King like that? I would never have believed it.

Man from Småland. Indeed he is! Those high-born brats run around with
their guns in our woods and pick off the deer out of sheer mischief, but
if one of us peasants were dying from hunger and took a shot at one of
the beasts--well, then he wouldn't have to starve to death, for they'd
hang him--but not to an oak--Lord, no! That would be a shame for such
a royal tree. No, just to an ordinary pine. The pine, you see, has no
crown, and that's why it isn't royal--and that's why the old song says:

            The peasants we hanged in lines
            From the tops of the tallest pities.

It has nothing to say about crowns, mind you.

German. But the pine carries its head high just the same, and its back
is straight.

Man from Småland. Drink, good Sirs! You're right welcome to 't. It's a
blessed drink. If only I didn't have wife and children at home! Oh, my,
my, my! But that's all one! Oh, I know a lot more, but I know how to
keep it to myself, too.

Windrank. What do you know?

German. Maybe it's something diverting?

Man from Småland. You see--if you counted all the pines of Småland, I
think you'd find a whole lot more of them than of oaks.

German. You think so?

Windrank. I don't like you to talk badly of the King. I don't know what
he is doing or saying, and it isn't my business either, but I know he
takes good care of the shipping trade. Yes, it's he who has put ships
on the Spanish trade, and who has made me a skipper, and so I've got no
fault to find with him.

German. He has done it out of sheer deviltry, just to hurt the trade of
Lübeck--of Lübeck, to which he owes such a great debt!

Man from Småland. Well, he'll get what he deserves! A steer doesn't lose
his horns when you make an ox of him. Many thanks for your company. Now
I've got to go.

German. Oh, no! Just one more noggin--and then we can talk a little

Man from Småland. No, thanks, though I'm sure it's good of you, but
that's all I dare take, for otherwise I fear this will end badly. I've
wife and children at home, you see, and now I'm going home--to tell them
we're ruined--no--I don't dare to--I'm much obliged, Mr. German--let's
drink some more.

German. That's right! (They drink.)

Man from Småland (emptying his cup and jumping up). Oh, damn the bitter
stuff! [Exit, staggering.]

German (to the Dane). O Lord--when that fellow wakes up!

(The Dane nods assent. The noise has been steadily increasing. The
fiddler is playing. Then the organ begins to play in the church.)

Windrank. It's strange, I think, that the King lets them have a
drinkshop in the church wall.

German. Does it hurt your conscience, skipper? The King doesn't know it,
you see.

Windrank. But they don't go together, the organ music and the singing in
here. I've always been a God-fearing man, ever since I was at home.

German (ironically). Happy the man brought up in that way! You had a

Windrank (moved). Yes--yes!

German. Who tucked you up nights and taught you to say: "Now I lay me
down to sleep."

Windrank. That's it!

German. And a fine woman she was!

Windrank (on whom the drink is beginning to show its effect.) Oh, if you
only knew!

German. The Lord has heard her prayers. You're weeping. So you must be a
good man.

Dane. Dear me!

German. If your mother could only see you now--with those tears in your

Windrank. Oh, I know I'm a poor miserable sinner--I know it! But I tell
you--I've got a heart, damn it! Just let a poor wretch come and tell me
he is hungry, and I'll take off my own shirt and give it to him.

German. How about another drink?

Windrank. No, I don't think so.

(Several blows are struck on the iron door from the outside, causing
general excitement.)

Windrank. God-a-mercy!

German. Don't get scared. That's not the gate of heaven.

Windrank. I'll never drink another drop--I vow and swear!

German (to the Dane). What a blessed drink gin must be, seeing it can
move a rogue like that to sentimentality--nay, even to thoughts of

Dane. You're right. There is nothing like it.

German. It opens the heart wide and closes the head. Which means that it
makes good people of us, for those are called good, you know, who have
much heart and little head.

Dane. I'd go still farther. Gin makes us religious. For it kills reason,
and reason is the rock that keeps religion from entering our hearts.

German. Most holy is gin! Strange that--

Dane. You need say no more!

(More blows are struck on the iron door.)

Windrank (who has fallen asleep, is awakened by the blows). Help! I die!

German. What a pity to lose such a sweet soul!

(The door is pushed open so that the table at which Mårten and Nils are
seated is upset together with the mugs and cups on it. A woman wearing
a red and black skirt, with a nun's veil thrown over her head, comes
running into the room. For a moment Gert can be seen in the doorway
behind her, but the door is immediately closed again.)

Harlot (with a startled glance at her surroundings). Save me! The people
want to kill me!

A German Mercenary. A harlot under a nun's veil! Ha-ha-ha! (General

Mårten (making the sign of the cross). A harlot! Who dares to bring her
into this respectable company? Master taverner, take her out of here, or
she'll hurt the good name of the place and the sanctity of the church.

Harlot. Will nobody here save me? (In the meantime the tavern-keeper has
seized her by the arm to lead her into the street.) Don't give me into
the hands of that furious mob! I wanted to steal into the Lord's house
that I might share in His grace--I wanted to start a new life--but the
monks drove me out and set the people on me--until Father Gert came and
saved me.

Mårten. You can hear for yourselves. She has polluted the Lord's temple.
She wants to hide the garment of shame beneath the veil of sanctity.

German. And there isn't enough of the veil.

Mårten (approaching the woman to tear the veil from her face). Off with
the mask, and let your abomination be seen by all! (He draws back when
he catches sight of her face.)

Harlot. So it's you, Mårten--you murderer!

German. Old chums!

Mårten. That's a shameless lie! I never have seen her before. I am
Brother Mårten, of the Dominicans, and Brother Nils here can be my

Nils (intoxicated). I can testify--that Brother Mårten has never seen
this woman.

Harlot. And yet it was you, Nils, who showed me Mårten's letter of
absolution when I was driven out of the convent and he was permitted to

Nils. Yes--come to think of it!

Mårten (in a rage, pulling Nils by the sleeve). You're lying--you, too!
Can't you see he is drunk?

German. My dear folks, I can testify that the reverend brother is drunk,
and that's why he is lying!

Crowd (with signs of disgust). A drunken priest!

German. Well, booze is absolution for lying. Isn't that so, Father

Tavern-keeper. Really, I can't let my house be the meeting-place for
any kind of disturbance. If this goes on, I'll lose my customers and
get hauled before the Chapter. Won't you please take away that miserable
creature who's causing all this noise?

Mårten. Take her out, or I'll have you all banned! Don't you know that
we are now within the consecrated walls of the church, although the
Chapter allows this outhouse to be used for the material refreshment of

German. Surely this room is holy, good folk, and surely the Lord doth
dwell here.

(The crowd begins to drag the Harlot toward the street door.)

Harlot. Jesus Christ, help me!

[Enter Olof. He appears in the door, and pushes through the crowd until
he reaches the Harlot, whose hand he takes so that he can pull her away
from the drunken men about her.]

Olof. Answer me--who is this woman?

Mårten. She's no woman.

Olof. What do you mean?

Mårten. She is no man either, although she's disguised.

Olof. "She," you say--and yet not a woman?

Mårten. She's a harlot.

Olof (shocked, drops the woman's hand). A harlot!

German. Don't let go of her, Master Olof, or she'll run away.

Olof. Why are you laying hands on her? What is her crime?

German. Going to church.

Olof. I see! (He looks around.)

Mårten. What are you looking for?

Olof (catching sight of Mårten). A priest!

Mårten. I am a Black Friar.

Olof. Yes, I guessed that much. So it's you who have incited the people
against her?

Mårten. I am protecting the church from foulness and trying to keep it
free of vice. She is a banned woman, who has been trafficking with her
own body, which should be a temple of the Lord. (The woman kneels before

Olof (taking her by the hand). But I, Dominican, dare to take her hand
and match her against you. She has sold her body, you say--how many
souls have you bought?--I am also a priest--Nay, I am a man, for I
am not presumptuous enough to put a lock on God's own house, and as
a sinful human creature I hold out my hand to my fellow-creature, who
cannot be pure either. Let him who is without sin step forward and cast
the first stone.--Step forward, Brother Mårten, you angel of light, who
have donned the black garments of innocence and shaved your hair so
that no one may see how you have grown gray in sin! Or have you no stone
ready, perhaps? Alas for you, then! What have you done with those
you were to hand the people when they were crying for bread? Have you
already given them all away?--Step forward, you highly respectable
citizen. (To Windrank, who is asleep on the floor.) You, who are
sleeping the sleep of a brute, why don't you wake up and fling your
knife at her?--Do you see how he is blushing? Can it be from shame at
the bad company you have brought him into, or from carnal desire? (The
crowd mutters disapprovingly.) You are muttering! Is that because you
are ashamed of my words or of yourselves? Why don't you cast the stones?
Oh, you haven't any. Well, open that door. Summon the people outside and
hand this woman over to them. If you don't think fifty men have power
enough to tear her to pieces, you maybe sure that five hundred women
will avail. Well? You are silent?--Rise up, woman! You have been
acquitted. Go and sin no more. But don't show yourself to the priests,
for they will deliver you up to the women!

Mårten (who has tried to interrupt Olof several times, but has been held
back by the German, now displays a document). This man, to whom you have
been listening, is a heretic, as you may have heard from his talk,
and he has also been t excommunicated. Here you can see! Read for
yourselves! (He takes one of the candles from the nearest table and
throws it on the floor.) "As this candle, that we here cast out, is
extinguished, so shall be extinguished all his happiness and weal and
whatsoever good may come to him from God!"

Crowd (draws back, making the sign of the cross, so that Olof is left
alone with the Harlot in the middle of the room). Anathema!

Mårten (to the Harlot). There you can hear how much Master Olof's
absolution avails you.

Olof (who has been taken aback for a moment). Do you still dare to
trust my word, woman? Are you not afraid of me? Can you not hear the
lightnings of the ban hissing around our heads? Why don't you join
these twenty righteous ones who still remain within the refuge of Holy
Church?--Answer me! Do you think the Lord has cast me out as these have

Harlot. No!

Olof (seizing the letter of excommunication). Well, then! The great
bishop of the small city of Linköping has sold my soul to Satan for the
term of my life--for farther than that his power does not reach--and he
has done so because I bade the people seek their Lord when they had been
prohibited from doing so! Here is the contract! As the Church, by that
contract, has bound me to hell, so I set myself free from it (he tears
the letter to pieces)--and from the ban of the Church, too! So help me
God! Amen!

Crowd (howling). Anathema!

Mårten. Down with him! At him! He is banned!

Olof (placing himself in front of the Harlot). Do you hear the devils
yelling for their victim?--Dare not to touch me!

Mårten. At him! Down with him!

[Just as one of the mercenaries raises his weapon to strike, the
iron door in the rear is flung open, and the Anabaptists, headed by
Knipperdollink, come rushing in, uttering wild cries. They carry broken
crucifixes and images of saints as well as torn vestments. All those in
the room before are forced toward the street door.]

Knipperdollink (as he pushes back the iron door and enters ahead of
the rest). Come here, folk--here's another sanctum!--What's this? A
drinkshop in the temple!--Look ye! Look ye--the abomination has gone so
far that the tabernacle itself is being polluted. But I will cleanse it
with fire. Set fire to the church and prepare a stake for the saints!

Olof (stepping forward). Consider what you propose to do!

Knipperdollink. Are you afraid that the beer kegs will burst from the
heat, you Belial? Are you the popish tapster who thought it not robbery
to build vice a chapel in the very wall of the church?

Olof. I am the Secretary of the Court-House, and I command you in the
name of the King to keep order!

Knipperdollink. So you are the man whom the King has sent here to make
war on our sacred cause? Onward, onward, ye men of God, and seize him
first of all! Afterwards we'll cleanse the temple of the Lord from

Mårten. Go at him, good folk, for he's a heretic and under the ban!

Knipperdollink. A heretic? You are not one of the papists, then?

Olof. Since they have banned me, I can no longer be of the Church.

Knipperdollink. Then you are on our side? (Olof remains silent.) Answer:
are you with us or against us?

Mårten. He's Olof Pedersson, the man that was sent here by the King.

Knipperdollink. Are you Olof Pedersson?

Olof. I am.

Knipperdollink. But a heretic?

Olof. I pride myself on being one.

Knipperdollink. And yet take service with the King?

Olof. Yes!

(The Anabaptists raise an outcry and surround Olof.)

[Enter Gert quickly through the door in the rear.]

Gert. Hold! What are you doing?

Knipperdollink. Gert!--Who is this man?

Gert. One of our own. Let him go, friends! Over there you see the
emissaries of the Devil!

(He points to Mårten and Nils, who flee through the street door, closely
pursued by the Anabaptists. At the door Gert stops and turns toward
Olof. The Harlot is crouching in a corner of the room. Windrank is still
sleeping under one of the tables. Olof is standing in the middle of the
floor, sunk in deep thought.)

Gert (exhausted, throws himself on a bench). It's heavy work, Olof.

Olof. What have you been doing?

Gert. Oh, a little house-cleaning, to begin with.

Olof. For which you will pay dearly.

Gert. So far we have the upper hand. The whole city has been roused.
Rink is at work in St. George's Chapel. Tell me, has the King sent you
to oppose us?

Olof. He has.

Gert. That was a most sensible thing to do!

Olof. To-morrow I am to preach from the new pulpit.

Gert. Do you call this fulfilling your royal mission? Here you are,
still standing with your arms folded.

Olof. Come to church to-morrow with your brethren.

Gert. Is it going to be an archipapal sermon?

Olof. I have been put under the ban to-day.

Gert (jumps up and puts his arms around Olof). God bless you, Olof! That
is indeed the baptism of new birth!

Olof. I don't understand you yet. Why do you carry on like wild beasts?
You seem to be outraging all that is held sacred.

Gert (picking up the broken image of a saint). Do you call this fellow
holy? A St. Nicolaus, I think. Can it be possible, then, that Jesus
Christ has come down and lived among us to no purpose, as we are still
worshipping logs of wood? Can this be a god, which I can break to
pieces? See!

Olof. But he is sacred to the people.

Gert. So was the golden calf, and so was Zeus; so were Thor and Odin,
too. And yet they were struck down. (Catches sight of the Harlot.) Who's
that woman? Oh, the one I tried to save by sending her in here. Tell me
one thing, Olof. Have you been bought by the King?

Olof. Leave me, Gert! I hate you!

Gert. Who's that pig asleep over there?

Olof. When I face you, I seem to shrink. Leave me! I want to do my own
work, and not yours.

Gert. Listen!

Olof. You are trying to confuse my fate with your own.

Gert. Listen!

Olof. You have surrounded me with an invisible net. You have proclaimed
me an Anabaptist. How am I going to face the King?

Gert. Which king?

Olof. King Gustaf!

Gert. Oh, that one!--Well, good-bye, then, Olof.--So you're going to
preach to-morrow?--Why doesn't that woman go her way?--Good-bye! [Exit.]

Olof. Is that man running errands for God or for Satan?

Harlot (approaches Olof and kneels before him). Let me thank you!

Olof. Give thanks for God alone for having saved your soul, and don't
think that all your sins have been expiated to-day. Try to find strength
to live a life that will always be cursed. God has forgiven you--your
fellow-men will never do so! (He takes her by the hand and leads her to
the street door.)

[Enter Mårten through the doorway in the rear, followed by Olof's Mother
and Christine, the daughter of Gert.]

Mårten. We're in the wrong place, I fear.

Mother (outraged at seeing Olof and the Harlot together). Olof, Olof!

Christine. Who is that woman? She looks so unhappy.

Mårten. Let us get away from this den of iniquity!

Olof (turning and running toward the iron door, which is closed in his
face by Mårten). Mother! Mother!

                            [He runs out through the other door.]

     (The stage is darkened.)


(The Same Room. The door to the church is opened cautiously, and The
Sexton, who is also the organ-blower, enters warily. He carries a
lantern and is followed by his Wife.)

Sexton. Catherine dear, will you hold the lantern a moment while I put
on the padlock?

Wife. First we must have a look at all this wretchedness, Bengt dear.
Never could I have believed that the public-house was so near to us.
It's perfectly dreadful! Look--whole barrels full of beer!

Sexton. And gin, too. Don't you smell it? It will give me a headache if
I stay much longer.

Wife. Lord have mercy, what a sinful life they must have lived in here!

Sexton. Catherine dear!

Wife. Yes, dear.

Sexton. Do you know I am not feeling quite well. This place is so damp
and cold.

Wife. Perhaps we had better go home?

Sexton. Oh, I think I must sit down and rest on the bench here.

Wife. You shouldn't sit down in all this dampness and cold. Let us get
back into the church.

Sexton. No, I think it was still colder out there.

Wife. You haven't a fever, have you?

Sexton. I almost think I have--I'm so hot.

Wife. Maybe you want something to drink?

Sexton. That wouldn't be a bad thing, perhaps.

Wife. I'll see if there is any water around.

Sexton. Don't think you'll find any in this kind of a hole.

Wife. But you can't drink beer if you have a fever.

Sexton. Do you know, I think the fever has passed away. Now I'm feeling

Wife. I'll see if I can't find some small beer.

Sexton. It has to be pretty strong, I think, if it's to do any good.
There's a keg of Rostock No. 4 over there--marked A. W., don't you see?

Wife (searching). I can't find it. Here's an Amsterdam No. 3.

Sexton. Can't you see--up there on the fourth shelf at the right? (His
wife continues to look.) The tap is lying to the left of it, right by
the funnel.

Wife. I don't think it's there.

Sexton. Just as if I didn't know!

Wife. Yes, here it is.

(The Sexton gets up to help his wile and accidentally steps on

Windrank (waking up). Mercy! Jesu Christ! St. Peter and St. Paul!
Ferdinand and Isabella, and St. George and the Dragon, and all the rest!
And ires dire glories in excellence, and deuces tecum vademecum Christ
Jesu, and birds of a feather, and now I lay me down to sleep, and
a child is born for you to keep--Amen! Amen!--Who's stepping on my

Sexton (frightened). Will you please tell me whether you are a man or a

Windrank. Man most of the time, but just now I'm a beast.

Sexton. What kind of a man, if I may ask?

Windrank. A shipman--which is nor reason why you should blow all the
wind out of me.

Sexton. But that's my business, you know--I blow the bellows of the big

Windrank. So it was the organ-blower who honored me--

Sexton. The sexton, to put it right; but I also keep an old-clothes shop
in the church wall.

Windrank. So you're organ-blower, sexton, and shopkeeper--

Sexton. In one person--without confusion or transformation--

Windrank. That's a most respectable trinity.

Sexton. Such things should not be made fun of!

Windrank. Oh, my, my! I'm drowning! Help!

Sexton. Lord, what is it?

Windrank. There's a whole river coming--Ugh!

Sexton. Catherine dear! Where are you, my angel? (He runs to look for
her.) Jesu, but you must have scared my wife out of her wits. She has
run away from the keg--and taken the tap along! Get up--up with you, and
let us leave this godless hole!

Windrank. No, my dear fellow, I'm in my element now, so I think I'll

Sexton. Goodness, the clock is striking twelve, and the ghosts will be

Windrank (jumping to his feet). That's a different story! (The Sexton
guides Windrank toward the door.) Listen, sexton--I'm beginning to have
strong doubts about the trinity.

Sexton. Well, I declare!

Windrank. It's your trinity I'm thinking of.

Sexton. What do you mean, master skipper?

Windrank. I think there must be four of you, after all.

Sexton. Four--of whom?

Windrank. How about the tapster? Shouldn't he be counted, too?

Sexton. Hush, man! That's only nights.

(Both stumble over the broken image of St. Nicolaus and fall down.)

Windrank. Mercy! Ghosts! Jesu Maria, help!

Sexton (rising and picking up the image). Well, if that isn't enough to
make your hair stand on end! Here's St. Nicolaus broken all to pieces
and swimming in the beer. It has come to a fine pass when divine
things are defiled like that--I don't think the world will last much
longer--when such things can be done in the dry tree--

Windrank (having recovered). In the wet one, you mean.

Sexton. Keep still, blasphemer! St. Nicolaus is my patron saint. I was
born on his day.

Windrank. That's probably why both of you like beer.

Sexton. Yes, it's in the fashion now to be heretical!

Windrank. It's in the air, I think, for otherwise I'm a most God-fearing
man. But never mind, I'll have St. Nicolaus glued together for you.

Sexton (calling into the church). Catherine!

Windrank. Hush, hush, man! You'll make the ghosts appear!

Sexton. A plague on your tongue! [Exeunt.]


(The Sacristy of the Church of St. Nicolaus. There is a door leading to
the church, and another, smaller one, leading to the pulpit. The walls
are hung with chasubles and surplices. Priedieus and a few small chests
are standing about. The sunlight is pouring in through a window. The
church bells are heard ringing. Through the wall at the left can be
heard a constant murmuring. The Sexton and his Wife enter, stop near the
door, and pray silently.)

Sexton. That's enough! Now, Catherine dear, you'd better hurry up and do
some dusting.

Wife. Oh, there's no special occasion. It's nobody but that Master Olof
who's going to preach to-day. Really, I can't see why the Chapter allows

Sexton. Because he's got permission from the King, you see.

Wife. Well, well!

Sexton. And then he has had a sort of basket built out from the
wall--nothing but new-fangled tricks! It's all on account of that man

Wife. I suppose we'll have the same kind of trouble that we had
yesterday. I thought they were going to pull the whole church down.

Sexton (carrying a glass of water up to the pulpit). I'm sure the poor
fellow will need something to wet his whistle to-day.

Wife. Well, I shouldn't bother, if I were you.

Sexton (speaking from the pulpit). Catherine--here he comes!

Wife. Goodness gracious, and the sermon bell hasn't rung yet! Well, I
suppose they won't ring it for a fellow like him.

[Enter Olof, looking serious and solemn. He crosses to one of the
prie-dieus and kneels on it. The Sexton comes down from the pulpit and
takes from the wall a surplice which he holds out to Olof.]

Olof (rising). The peace of the Lord be with you!

[The Wife curtseys and leaves the room. The Sexton holds out the
vestment again.]

Olof. Leave it hanging!

Sexton. Don't you want any robe?

Olof. No.

Sexton. But it's always used. And the handkerchief?

Olof. Never mind.

Sexton. Well, I declare!

Olof. Will you please leave me alone, my friend?

Sexton. You want me to get out? But as a rule, I--

Olof. Do me the favor, please!

Sexton. Oh, well! Of course! But first I want to tell you that you'll
find the missal to the right of you as you get up, and I have put in
a stick so you'll know where to open it, and there is a glass of water
beside the book. And you mustn't forget to turn the hour-glass, or it
may chance you'll keep it up a little too long--

Olof. Don't worry! There will be plenty of people to tell me when to

Sexton. Mercy, yes--beg your pardon! But you see, we've got our own
customs here.

Olof. Tell me, what is that depressing murmur we hear?

Sexton. It's some pious brother saying prayers for a poor soul. [Exit.]

Olof. "Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise, and speak unto them
all that I command thee."--God help me! (He drops on his knees at a
prie-dieu; there he finds a note, which he reads.) "Don't preach to-day;
your life is in danger."--The Tempter himself wrote that! (He tears the
note to pieces.)

[Enter Olof's Mother.]

Mother. You are straying from the right path, my son.

Olof. Who knows?

Mother. I know! But as your mother I reach out my hand to you. Turn

Olof. Where would you lead me?

Mother. To godliness and virtue.

Olof. If godliness and virtue are vested in papal decrees, then I fear
it is too late.

Mother. It isn't only a question of what you teach, but of how you live.

Olof. I know you are thinking of my company last night, but I am too
proud to answer you. Nor do I think it would do any good.

Mother. Oh, that I should be thus rewarded for the sacrifice I made when
I let you go out into the world and study!

Olof. By heaven, your sacrifice shall not be wasted! It is you, mother,
I have to thank for this day when at last I can stand forth with a free
countenance and speak the words of truth.

Mother. How can _you_ talk of truth, you who have made yourself a
prophet of lies?

Olof. Those are hard words, mother!

Mother. Or perhaps I and my forbears have lived and worshipped and died
in a lie?

Olof. It wasn't a lie, but it has become one. When you were young,
mother, you were right, and when I grow old--well, perhaps I may find
myself in the wrong. One cannot keep apace with the times.

Mother. I don't understand!

Olof. This is my one sorrow--the greatest one of my life: that all I
do and say with the purest purpose must appear to you a crime and

Mother. I know what you mean to do, Olof--I know what error you have
fallen into--and I cannot hope to persuade you out of it, for you know
so much more than I do, and I am sure that the Lord will put you on the
right path again--but I ask you to take care of your own life, so that
you won't plunge headlong into perdition! Don't risk your life!

Olof. What do you mean? They won't kill me in the pulpit, will they?

Mother. Haven't you heard that Bishop Brask wants the Pope to introduce
the law that sends all heretics to the stake?

Olof. The inquisition?

Mother. Yes, that's what they call it.

Olof. Leave me, mother! To-day I must stand up and preach.

Mother. You shall not do it.

Olof. Nothing can prevent me.

Mother. I have prayed to God that He would touch your heart--I'll tell
you, but you mustn't speak of it to anybody. I am weak with age, and I
couldn't trust my own knees, so I went to see a servant of the Lord and
asked him, who is nearer to God, to say some prayers for your soul. He
refused because you are under the ban. Oh, it's dreadful! May the
Lord forgive me my sin! I bribed the pure conscience of that man with
gold--with the Devil's own gold--just to save you!

Olof. Mother, what do I hear? It can't be possible!

Mother (takes Olof by the hand and leads him over to the left, close to
the wall). Listen! Do you hear? He is praying for you now in the chapel
next to this room.

Olof. So that was the murmur I heard! Who is he?

Mother. You know him--Brother Mårten, of the Dominicans--

Olof. You get Satan to say prayers for me!--Forgive me, mother--I thank
you for your good intention, but--

Mother (on her knees, weeping). Olof! Olof!

Olof. Don't ask me! A mother's plea might tempt the angels of heaven to
recant!--Now the hymn is ended: I must go! The people are waiting.

Mother. You'll send me into my grave, Olof!

Olof (passionately). The Lord will resurrect you! (Kissing her hand.)
Don't talk to me any more--I don't know what I am saying!

Mother. Listen! Listen! The people are muttering!

Olof. I'm coming! I'm coming! He who protected Daniel in the lions' den
will also protect me!

(Olof ascends the stairs leading to the pulpit. Throughout the ensuing
scenes a man's voice can be heard speaking with great power, but no
words can be distinguished. After a while mutterings are heard, which
change into loud cries.)

[Enter Christine.]

Christine. Mother, did you see him?

Mother. Are you here, child? I asked you to stay at home!

Christine. Why shouldn't I visit the house of the Lord? There is
something you hide from me!

Mother. Go home, Christine!

Christine. May I not hear Olof preach? It's the word of God, isn't it,
mother? (The Mother remains silent.) You don't answer? What does it
mean? Hasn't Olof permission to preach? Why do the people out there look
so mysterious? They were muttering when I came.

Mother. Don't ask me! Go home and thank God for your ignorance!

Christine. Am I a child, then, since nobody dares to tell me--

Mother. Your soul is still pure, and nobody must defile it. What place
is there for you in the battle?

Christine. Battle? I thought so!

Mother. Yes, here the battle rages, and so you must get out of the way.
You know our lot when the men go to war.

Christine. But let me first know what it is all about. Not to know
anything at all makes me so unhappy. I see nothing but a dreadful
darkness, and shadows that are moving about--Give me light, so that I
may see clearly! Perhaps I know these ghostly shallows?

Mother. You will shudder when you see who they are.

Christine. It is better to shudder than to be tormented by this horrible

Mother. Don't pray for the cloud to flash forth lightning: it may
destroy you!

Christine. You frighten me! But tell me the truth--I must know--or I
shall ask some one else.

Mother. Are you firm in your decision to withdraw within the sacred
walls of the convent?

Christine. My father wishes it.

Mother. You hesitate? (Christine does not answer.) There is some tie
that holds you back.

Christine. You know?

Mother. I know, and tell you to break it!

Christine. It will soon be impossible.

Mother. I will save you, child, for you can still be saved. I will offer
the Lord the greatest sacrifice of all if a single soul can be saved
from perdition--my son!

Christine. Olof?

Mother. He's lost, I tell you, and I, his mother, have to tell you so!

Christine. Lost?

Mother. He is a prophet of lies. The Devil has taken possession of his

Christine (passionately). It isn't true!

Mother. God grant that you are right!

Christine. Why--why haven't you told me this before?--But, of course,
it's a lie! (She goes to the door leading into the church and pushes
it ajar.) Look at him, mother--there he is! Can that be an evil spirit
speaking out of his mouth? Can that be a hellish flame burning in
his eyes? Can lies be told with trembling lips? Does darkness shed
light--can't you see the halo about his head? You are wrong! I feel
it within me! I don't know what he preaches--I don't know what he
denies--but he is right! He is right, and the Lord is with him!

Mother. You don't know the world, my child. You don't know the tricks of
the Devil. Beware! (She pulls Christine away from the door.) You mustn't
listen to him. There is no strength in your soul, and he's the apostle
of Antichrist!

Christine. Who is Antichrist?

Mother. He is a Luther!

Christine. You have never told me who Luther is, but if Olof is his
apostle, then Luther must be a great man.

Mother. Luther is possessed of the Devil!

Christine. Why didn't you tell me before? Now I can't believe you!

Mother. I am telling you now--Alas, I wanted to save you from the
world's wickedness, and so I kept you in ignorance--

Christine. I don't believe you! Let me go! I must see him--I must listen
to him--for he doesn't talk like the rest.

Mother. Jesus, my Saviour! Are you, too, possessed by the unclean

Christine (at the door). "Bind not the souls," he said--did you hear?
"You are free, for the Lord has set you free." See how the people
shudder at his words--now they rise up--they mutter. "You want no
freedom--woe unto you! For that is the sin against the Holy Ghost!"

[Enter Sexton.]

Sexton. I don't think it's well for you to stay here any longer, my good
ladies. The people are getting restless. This will never end well for
Master Olof.

Mother. Jesu Maria! What are you saying?

Christine. Fear not! The spirit of the Lord is with him!

Sexton. Well, I don't know about that, but he's a wonder at preaching.
Old sinner that I am, I couldn't keep from crying where I was sitting in
the organ-loft. I don't understand how it can be possible for a heretic
and an Antichrist to talk like that. That man Luther, I must say,
I--(Cries are heard from the church.) There, there! Now something
dreadful is going to happen again! And to think that the King should be
gone just now!

Mother. Let us get away from here. If the Lord is with him, they can
do him no harm. If it be the Devil--then Thy will be done, O Lord--but
forgive him!

(Cries are heard outside. Exeunt the Mother, Christine, and the Sexton.
For a few moments the stage stands empty and Olof's voice is heard more
clearly than before. It is interrupted by cries and the rattling of
stones thrown at the pulpit. Christine returns alone, locks the door on
the inside, and falls on her knees at a prie-dieu. A number of violent
blows are directed against the door from without, while the tumult in
the church continues to increase. Then silence is restored, as Olof
descends from the pulpit. His forehead is bleeding and he wears a
haggard look.)

Olof (dropping into a chair without perceiving Christine). In vain! They
will not! I take the fetters from the prisoner, and he hits me. I tell
him he is free, and he doesn't believe me. Is that word "free" so big,
then, that it can't be contained in a human brain? Oh, that I had one at
least who believed--but to be alone--a fool whom no one understands--

Christine (coming forward). I believe in you, Olof!

Olof. Christine!

Christine. _You_ are right!

Olof. How do you know?

Christine. I can't tell, but I believe it. I have been listening to you.

Olof. And you do not curse me?

Christine. You are preaching the word of God, are you not?

Olof. I am!

Christine. Why have we not been told these things before? Or why have
they been told us in a language that we do not understand?

Olof. Who has put those words into your mouth, girl?

Christine. Who? I haven't thought of asking.

Olof. Your father?

Christine. He wants me to enter a convent.

Olof. Has it come to that? And what is your own wish?

Christine (catching sight of Olof's bleeding forehead). They have hurt
you, Olof! For heaven's sake, let me help you!

Olof (sitting down again). Have I unsettled your faith, Christine?

Christine (takes the handkerchief, tears it into strips, and begins
to dress Olof's wounds while speaking). My faith? I don't understand
you.--Tell me, who is Luther?

Olof. I mustn't tell you.

Christine. Always the same answer! From my father, from your mother, and
from yourself. Are you timid about telling me the truth, or is the truth
really dangerous?

Olof. Truth is dangerous. Can't you see? (He points to his forehead.)

Christine. So you want me to be shut up in a convent cell to live a
lifeless life in ignorance? (Olof does not reply.) You want me to weep
away my life and my youth, and to keep on saying those endlessly long
prayers until my soul is put to sleep? No--I won't do it, for now I am
awake. All around me they are fighting, and suffering, and despairing.
I have seen it, but I was to have no share in it. I was not even to look
on, or to know the purpose of the fighting. You wanted me to be sunk in
bestial slumber. But don't you believe me possessed of a soul, then--a
soul that cannot be satisfied by bread or by dry prayers put into my
mouth by others? "Bind not the spirits," you said. Oh, if you could only
know how that word pierced me! Daylight came, and those wild cries out
there sounded like the singing of birds in the morning--

Olof. You are a woman, Christine, and not born to fight!

Christine. But in the name of God, let me suffer, then! Only not be
asleep! Don't you see that the Lord has awakened me in spite of all? You
have never dared to tell me who Antichrist was. You have never dared
to tell me who Luther was, and when your mother called you a Luther, I
blessed Luther. If he be a heretic or a believer, I don't know, and
I don't care; for no one--whether it be Luther, or the Pope, or
Antichrist-can satisfy my immortal soul when I have no faith in the
eternal God.

Olof. Will you follow me into the battle, Christine? For you can sustain
me, and you only!

Christine. Now I am able to answer you with a frank "yes," for I know
my own will--and I can do so without asking father first, for I am free.
Oh, I am free!

Olof. And do you know what is in store for you?

Christine. I know! You will not have to shatter my mocking dreams--they
are already gone. But you may be sure that I, too, have been dreaming of
a knight who was to lay a kingdom at my feet and talk to me of flowers
and love--Olof, I want to be your wife! Here is my hand! But this much
I must tell you: that you never have been the knight of my dreams, and
that I thank God he never came. For then he had also gone--as a dream.

Olof. Christine, you want to be mine--and I will make you happy. For
when I suffered sorrow and temptation, you were always in my mind--and
now you shall be at my side! You were the maiden of my dreams, kept
captive in a tower by the stern castellan--and now you are mine!

Christine. Beware of dreams, Olof!

(Blows are heard on the door from outside.)

Olof. Who is that?

Voice (outside). Gert.

Olof. What will he say? My promise--

Christine. Are you afraid? Shall I open?

(Olof opens the door.)

[Enter Gert.]

Gert (starting at the sight of his daughter and Olof). Christine?--You
have broken your promise, Olof!

Olof. I have not.

Gert. You lie! You have stolen my child, my one solace.

Christine. Olof is not lying.

Gert. You have been to church, Christine?

Christine. I have heard what you didn't want me to hear.

Gert. O Lord, this only joy Thou hast begrudged me!

Olof. The stream that you wanted to set free takes its victims where it

Gert. You have robbed me of her, of my child!

Olof. Give her to me, Father Gert!

Gert. Never!

Olof. Is she not free?

Gert. She is my child.

Olof. Are you not preaching freedom? She is mine! The Lord has given her
to me, and you cannot take her away.

Gert. You are--thank God--a priest.

Olof and Christine. A priest!

Gert. And as such you cannot marry.

Olof. And if I do?

Gert. You would dare?

Olof. I would.

Gert. Do you want a man who is under the ban, Christine?

Christine. I don't know what that means.

Olof. There you see, Gert, there you see!

Gert. Thy punishment is harsh, O Lord!

Olof. The truth is for all.

Gert. Your love is greater than mine, which was nothing but selfishness.
God bless you! Now I stand alone! (He embraces them.) There, now! Go
home, Christine, and set their minds at rest. I want to speak to Olof.
(Exit Christine.) Now you belong to me.

Olof. What do you mean?

Gert. Kinsman!--You got my letter?

Olof. It was you who advised me not to preach?

Gert. Quite the contrary, although I expressed myself somewhat

Olof. I don't understand.

Gert. No--no! You are still too young, and so you need a providence. To
a man like you one says "Let be" when one wants him to do something.

Olof. Why were you and your followers not in church?

Gert. None but the sick need doctors. We were busy elsewhere. You have
done a good piece of work to-day, and I see that you have got your
reward for it. I have set you free to-day, Olof.

Olof. _You_ have?

Gert. The King commanded you to quiet the rebellious, and what have you
been doing?

Olof. Now I begin to understand you, Father Gert.

Gert. I am delighted! Yes, you have aroused even the calmest.

Olof. So I have.

Gert. What do you think the King will say to that?

Olof. I shall have to face it.

Gert. Good!

Olof. The King will approve my actions, for he wants a reformation,
although he does not yet dare to start one himself.

Gert. You idiot!

Olof. I see that you want to set me against my lawful sovereign.

Gert. Tell me, how many masters do you think you can serve? (Olof makes
no reply.) The King is here.

Olof. What do you say?

Gert. The King has just returned.

Olof. And the Anabaptists?

Gert. Locked up, of course.

Olof. And you stand here so calmly?

Gert. I am old now. Once I used to rage like you, but it only tired me
out. Rink and Knipperdollink have served as my outposts. They had to
fall, that's plain; now my work begins.

(Drum-beats are heard from the street.)

Olof. What is that?

Gert. The royal drums that keep the captives company to prison. Come
here and see!

Olof (mounting one of the benches and looking out of the window). What
do I see? Women and children are dragged along by the soldiers!

Gert. Well, they have been throwing stones at the King's guard. Do you
think such things can be allowed?

Olof. But are madmen and sick people to be put into prison?

Gert. There are two kinds of madmen. One kind is sent to the hospital
and treated with pills and cold baths. Those of the other kind have
their heads cut off. It is a radical treatment, but then, for a fact,
they are rather dangerous.

Olof. I'll go to the King. He cannot wish such dreadful things to

Gert. Take care of your head, Olof!

Olof. Take care of your own, Father Gert!

Gert. No danger in my case, for I have a warrant for the asylum.

Olof. I cannot bear to see these things. I am going to the King, even if
it cost my life. (He goes toward the door.)

Gert. This is a matter not to be settled by the King. You should appeal
to the law.

Olof. The King is the law!

Gert. Unfortunately!--If the horse knew his own strength, he would never
be mad enough, as he is now, to bear the yoke. But when once in a while
he gets his reason back and runs away from his oppressors, then they
call him mad--Let us pray the Lord to give these poor creatures their
reason back!



(A Hall in the Royal Palace at Stockholm. In the background is a gallery
which can be partitioned off by curtains. In elderly servant of the
palace is pacing back and forth in the gallery.)

Enter Olof.

Olof. Is the King receiving to-day?

Servant. Yes.

Olof. Can you tell me why I have been kept waiting here in vain four
days at a stretch?

Servant. No, heavens, I know nothing at all.

Olof. It seems strange that I have not been admitted.

Servant. What is it about?

Olof. That's none of your concern!

Servant. Of course not! I understand that, but I thought I might be able
to give some information, perhaps.

Olof. Have you charge of the King's audiences?

Servant. Oh, heavens, no! But you see, when a man hears as much as I do,
he knows a little of everything. (Pause.)

Olof. Do you think I shall have to wait long? (The servant pretends not
to hear.) Do you know if the King is coming soon?

Servant (with his back turned to Olof). What?

Olof. Do you know to whom you are talking?

Servant. No, I don't.

Olof. I am the King's Secretary.

Servant. Oh, mercy, are you Master Olof? I knew your father, Peter the
Smith, for I am also from Örebro.

Olof. Well, can't you be civil in spite of that?

Servant. Well, well! That's what happens when one gets on a little in
this world--then one's humble parents are forgotten.

Olof. It is possible that my father actually honored you with his
acquaintance, but I doubt that he put you in a parent's place to me when
he died.

Servant. Well, well! I declare! It must be hard on Dame Christine! [Exit
to the left.]

[Olof is left alone for a while. Then Lars Siggesson, the Lord High
Constable, enters from the right.]

Constable (throwing his cloak to Olof without looking at him). Will the
King be here soon?

Olof (catching the cloak and throwing it on the floor). I do not know!

Constable. Bring me a chair.

Olof. That's not my office.

Constable. I am not familiar with the instructions of the doorkeeper.

Olof. I am no doorkeeper!

Constable. I don't care what you are, and I don't carry with me a list
of the menials, but you will have to be civil! (Olof remains silent.)
Well, what about it? I think the Devil has got into you!

Olof. Pardon me, but it is no part of my duty as secretary to wait on

Constable. What? Oh, Master Olof! Why, first you sit at the door playing
lackey, and then you drop the mask and step forth as the Lord Himself!
And I took you to be a proud man. (He picks up his cloak and places it
on a bench.)

Olof. My Lord Constable!

Constable. But, no, you are only a vain upstart! Please step forward and
be seated, Mr. Secretary.

[He points Olof to a seat and goes out into one of the side-rooms.]

[Olof sits down. A young Courtier enters through the gallery and salutes

Courtier. Good morning, Secretary! Is nobody here yet? Well, how is
everything in Stockholm? I have just arrived from Malmö.

Olof. Oh, everything is going wrong here.

Courtier. So I have heard. The mob has been muttering as usual whenever
the King's back is turned. And then there are those fool priests!--I beg
your pardon, Secretary, but, of course, you are a freethinker?

Olof. I don't quite understand.

Courtier. Don't mind me, please. You see, I have been educated in Paris.
Francis the First--O Saint-Sauveur!--that's a man who has extreme views.
Do you know what he told me at a bal masqué during the last carnival?
(Olof remains silent.) "Monsieur," he said, "la religion est morte, est
morte," he said. Which didn't keep him from attending mass.

Olof. Is that so?

Courtier. Do you know what he replied when I asked him why he did
so?--"Poetry! Poetry!" he said. Oh, he is divine!

Olof. What did you answer?

Courtier. "Your Majesty," I said--in French, of course--"fortunate the
land that has a king who can look so far beyond the narrow horizon
of his own time that he perceives what the spirit of the age demands,
without trying to urge the masses to embrace that higher view of life
for which they will not be ready for many centuries to come!" Wasn't
that pretty clever?

Olof. Oh, yes, but I think it must have lost a great deal in being
translated. Things of that kind should be spoken in French.

Courtier (preoccupied). You are quite right.--Tell me--your _fortune_
ought to be assured--you are so far in advance of your time?

Olof. I fear I shall not get very far. My education was neglected,
unfortunately--I studied in Germany, as you may know--and the Germans
are not beyond religion yet.

Courtier. Indeed, indeed! Can you tell me why they are making such a
hubbub about that Reformation down there in Germany? Luther is a man of
enlightenment--I know it--I believe it--but why shouldn't he keep it to
himself, or at least not waste any sparks of light on the brutish herd
to which they can be nothing but so many pearls thrown to the swine.
If you let your eye survey the time we are living in--if you make some
effort to follow the great currents of thought--then you will easily
perceive the cause of that disturbed equilibrium which is now making
itself felt in all the great civilized countries; I am not talking of
Sweden, of course, which is not a civilized country. Can you name
the centre of gravity--that centre which cannot be disturbed without
everything going to pieces--the instability of which tends to upset
everything? The name of it is--the nobility. The nobility is the
thinking principle. The feudal system is falling--and that means the
world. Erudition is in decay. Civilization is dying. Yes, indeed--You
don't believe that? But if you have any historical outlook at all, you
can see that it is so. The nobility started the Crusades. The nobility
has done this and that and everything. Why is Germany being torn to
pieces? Because the peasantry has risen against the nobility, thus
cutting off its own head. Why is France safe--la France? Because France
is one with the nobility, and the nobility is one with France--because
those two ideas are identical, inseparable. And why, I ask again, is
Sweden at present shaken to its nethermost foundations? Because the
nobility has been crushed. Christian the Second was a man of genius. He
knew how to conquer a country. He didn't cut off a leg or an arm--nay,
he cut off the head. Well, then! Sweden must be saved, and the King
knows how. The nobility is to be restored, and the Church is to be
crushed. What do you say to that?

Olof (rising). Nothing! (Pause.) You are a freethinker?

Courtier. Of course!

Olof. You don't believe, then, that Balaam's ass could talk?

Courtier. Gracious, no!

Olof. But I do.

Courtier. Really?

[Enter Lars Andersson.]

Lars Andersson. The peace of the Lord be with you, Olof.

Olof (embracing him). Well met, Lars!

Courtier. Populace! [Exit.]

Lars. Well, how do you like living here?

Olof. It's so close!

Lars. Somewhat!

Olof. And no room overhead.

Lars. That's why they find it so hard to keep their backs straight.

Olof. In ten minutes I have become so much of a courtier that I know how
to be silent when an ass is talking.

Lars. There is no harm in that.

Olof. What does the King think?

Lars. He doesn't tell.

(A number of people have begun to gather in the hall.)

Olof. How does he look?

Lars. Like an interrogation point followed by several exclamation marks.

[Enter Bishop Brask. All give way before him. The Lord High Constable,
who has returned in the meantime, goes to meet him and exchanges
greetings with him. Olof salutes the Bishop, who looks surprised.]

Brask (to the Constable). Is this a place for the clerks?

Constable. It ought not to be, but our King is so very gracious.

Brask. Condescending, you mean?

Constable. Exactly.

Brask. The audience is well attended to-day.

Constable. Mostly formal calls occasioned by the happy return of His

Brask. It is a pleasure, my Lord Constable, to offer His Highness our
sincere felicitations on the happy solution of this question.

Constable. It is indeed courteous in Your Grace to incur the trouble of
such a long journey--especially at Your Grace's advanced age.

Brask. Unfortunately, my health is not always to be depended upon.

Constable. Is Your Grace not enjoying good health? It is hard to feel
one's strength failing, particularly for one who occupies such an
exalted and responsible position.

Brask. You look very well, my Lord Constable.

Constable. Yes, thank God! (Pause.)

Brask (seating himself). Don't you think there is a draught here, my

Constable. It seems so. Perhaps we might order the doors to be closed?

Brask. No, thank you, that will not be necessary. (Pause.)

Constable. The King is long in coming.

Brask. Yes.

Constable. Perhaps you won't find it worth your while to wait for him.

Brask. Perhaps not!

Constable. With your permission, I will send word to Your Grace's

Brask. As I have waited so long, I think I shall wait a little longer.

Servant. His Highness!

[Enter Gustaf.]

Gustaf. I bid you welcome, gentlemen. (He takes a seat at a table.) If
you will please step out into the antechamber, I will receive you one at
a time. (All retire except Bishop Brask.) Our Lord Constable will stay.

Brask. Your Highness!

Gustaf (raising his voice). Sir Lars! (Brask goes out, the Constable
remaining; pause.) Speak! What am I to do?

Constable. Your Highness, the State has lost its prop, and therefore it
is toppling over; the State has an enemy that has grown too strong for
it. Restore the prop, which is the nobility, and crush the enemy, which
is the Church!

Gustaf. I dare not!

Constable. You must, Your Highness!

Gustaf. What's that?

Constable. First of all: Brask is in correspondence with the Pope
to have the inquisition established here. Lübeck is insisting on her
shameless demands and threatens war. The treasury is empty. There is
rebellion in every nook and corner of the country--

Gustaf. That's enough! But I have the people with me.

Constable. I beg your pardon--you have not. There are the Dalecarlians,
for instance--a spoiled lot, always disputing with those of Lübeck about
the honor of having bestowed a king on Sweden. They are ready to rebel
on the slightest occasion, and they are coming forward with demands like
these: "There shall be no outlandish customs used, with slittered and
motley colored clothes, such as have of late been brought into the
King's court."

Gustaf. 'Sdeath!

Constable. "Whosoever eats meat on Fridays or Saturdays shall be burned
at the stake or otherwise made away with." And furthermore, "There
shall be no new faith or Lutheran teachings foisted upon us." What a
treacherous, impudent people!

Gustaf. And yet there was a time when they showed themselves to be men.

Constable. Well, what wonder if they carried water when their house was
afire? How many times have they broken troth and faith? But they have
so often heard themselves lauded that they have come to give the name of
"old Swedish honesty" to their own brute arrogance.

Gustaf. You belong to the nobility!

Constable. Yes, and it is my conviction that the peasant has played out
his part--the part of a crude force needed to drive away the enemy
by sheer strength of arm. Crush the Church, Your Highness, for it is
keeping the people in fetters. Seize the gold of the Church and pay the
country's debt--and give back to the reduced nobility what the Church
has obtained from it by dupery.

Gustaf. Call in Brask.

Constable. Your Highness!

Gustaf. Call Bishop Brask! [Exit the Constable.]

[Enter Bishop Brask.]

Gustaf. Speak, Your Grace!

Brask. I wish to offer our congratulations on--

Gustaf. I thank Your Grace! And what more?

Brask. There have been complaints from several districts, I am sorry
to say, about unpaid loans of silver exacted from the churches by Your

Gustaf. Which you now are trying to recover. Are all the chalices
actually needed for communion?

Brask. They are.

Gustaf Let them use pewter mugs, then.

Brask. Your Highness!

Gustaf. Anything more?

Brask. What is worse than anything else--all this heresy!

Gustaf. No concern of mine! I am not the Pope.

Brask. I have to warn Your Highness that the Church must look out for
her own rights, even if doing so should bring her into conflict--

Gustaf. With whom?

Brask. With the State.

Gustaf. Your Church can go to the devil! There, I have said it!

Brask. I knew it.

Gustaf. And you were only waiting for me to say so?

Brask. Exactly.

Gustaf. Take care! You travel with a following of two hundred men, and
you eat from silver, when the people are living on bark.

Brask. Your Highness takes too narrow a view of the matter.

Gustaf. Have you heard of Luther? You are a well-informed man. What kind
of a phenomenon is he? What have you to say of the movements that are
now spreading throughout Europe?

Brask. Progress backward! Luther is merely destined to serve as a
purging fire for what is ancient, descended from untold ages and well
tried, so that it may be cleansed and by the struggle urged on to
greater victories.

Gustaf. I care nothing for your learned arguments.

Brask. But Your Highness is extending protection to criminals and
interfering with the privileges of the Church; for the Church has been
grievously wronged by Master Olof.

Gustaf. Well, put him under the ban.

Brask. It has been done, and yet he remains in the service of Your

Gustaf. What more do you want done to him? Tell me? (Pause.)

Brask. Furthermore, he has gone so far as to marry secretly in violation
of the Canon Law.

Gustaf. Is that so? That's quick action.

Brask. It doesn't concern Your Highness? Good and well! But if he stirs
up the people?

Gustaf. Then I'll step in. Anything more?

Brask (after a pause). I ask you for heaven's sake not to plunge the
country into disaster again. It is not yet ripe for a new faith. We are
but reeds in the wind and can be bent--but when it comes to the faith,
or the Church--never!

Gustaf (holding out his hand to the Bishop). Maybe you are right! But
let us be enemies rather than false friends, Bishop Hans!

Brask. Be it so! But do not do what you will regret. Every stone you
tear out of the Church will be thrown at you by the people.

Gustaf. Don't force me to extremes, Your Grace, for then we shall have
the same horrible spectacle here as in Germany. For the last time: are
you willing to make concessions if the welfare of the country is at

Brask. The Church--

Gustaf. The Church comes first--very well! Good-bye!

[Exit Brask. Reënter the Constable.]

Gustaf. The Bishop has confirmed your statement, and that was what I
wanted him to do. Now we shall need stone-masons who know how to tear
down. The walls will be left, the cross may stay on the roof and the
bell in the tower, but I will clear out the vaults. One must begin at
the bottom!

Constable. The people will think you are taking away their faith. They
will have to be educated.

Gustaf. We'll send Master Olof to preach to them.

Constable. Master Olof is a dangerous man.

Gustaf. But needed just now.

Constable. He has carried on like the Anabaptists instead of opposing

Gustaf. I know. We'll get to that later on. Send him in.

Constable. Lars the Chancellor would be a better man.

Gustaf. Bring them both in.

Constable. Or Olof's brother, Lars Pedersson.

Gustaf. No good yet. He is too soft for fighting, but his time will
come, too. [Exit Constable.]

The Constable returns with Master Olof and Lars Andersson.

Gustaf (to the Chancellor). Do you want to help me, Lars?

Lars. You are thinking of the Church?

Gustaf. Yes, it will have to be torn down.

Lars. I am not the man for that. Your Majesty had better ask Master

Gustaf. You won't, then?

Lars. I can't! But I have a weapon for you. (He hands the new
translation of the Bible to the King.)

Gustaf. Holy Writ! A good weapon, indeed! Will you wield it, Olof?

Olof. With the help of God--yes!

Gustaf (to Olof, after having signalled to Lars to leave). Have you
calmed down yet, Olof? (Olof does not answer). I gave you four days to
think it over. How have you been carrying out your task?

Olof (impetuously). I have spoken to the people--

Gustaf. Still in a fever! And you mean to defend those madmen named

Olof (bravely). I do!

Gustaf. Steady!--You have married in a hurry?

Olof. I have.

Gustaf. You are under the ban?

Olof. I am.

Gustaf. And still as brave as ever! If you were sent to the gallows as a
rebel with the rest, what would you say then?

Olof. I should regret not being permitted to finish my task, but I
should thank the Lord for having been allowed to do what I have done.

Gustaf. That's good! Would you dare to go up to that old owl's-nest
Upsala and tell its learned men that the Pope is not God and that he has
nothing to do with Sweden?

Olof. Only that?

Gustaf. Will you tell them that the only word of God is the Bible?

Olof. Must that be all?

Gustaf. You are not to mention the name of Luther!

Olof (after some hesitation). Then I will not go.

Gustaf. Would you rather go to your death?

Olof. No, but I know that my sovereign needs me.

Gustaf. It isn't noble to take advantage of my misfortune, Olof. Well,
say anything; you please, but you will have to pardon me if I take back
a part of it afterwards.

Olof. Truth isn't sold by the yard.

Gustaf. 'Sdeath! (Changing tone.) Well, suit yourself!

Olof (kneeling). Then I may say all that is in my mind?

Gustaf. You may.

Olof. Then, if I can only throw a single spark of doubt into the soul of
this sleeping people, my life will not have been wasted.--It is to be a
reformation, then?

Gustaf (after a pause). Yes. (Pause.)

Olof (timidly). And what is to become of the Anabaptists?

Gustaf. Need you ask? They must die.

Olof. Will Your Highness permit me one more question?

Gustaf. Tell me: what do those madmen want?

Olof. The sad thing is that they do not know it themselves, and if I
were to tell you--

Gustaf. Speak out!

[Gert enters quickly, pretending to be insane.]

Gustaf. Who are you to dare intrude here?

Gert. I want most humbly to beseech Your Highness to attest the
correctness of this document.

Gustaf. Wait till you are called.

Gert. Of course, I should like to, but the guards won't wait for me. I
escaped from prison, you see, because my place wasn't there.

Gustaf. Are you one of those Anabaptists?

Gert. Yes, I happened to get mixed up with them, but here I have a
certificate proving that I belong to the asylum, the third department
for incurables, cell number seven.

Gustaf (to Olof). Send word to the guard.

Gert. That isn't necessary, for I want nothing but justice, and it's
something the guard doesn't handle.

Gustaf (looking hard at Gert). I suppose you have had a share in those
outrages in the city churches?

Gert. Of course, I have! No sane person could behave so madly. We wanted
only to make a few minor alterations in the style. They seemed too low
in the ceiling.

Gustaf. What do you really want?

Gert. Oh, we want a great deal, although we haven't got through with
one-half of it yet. Yes, we want so many things and we want them so
quickly, that our reason cannot keep pace with them, and that's why it
has been lagging behind a little. Yes, we wish among other things to
change the furnishings a little in the churches, and to remove the
windows because the air seems so musty. Yes, and there is a lot more we
want, but that will have to wait for a while.

Gustaf (to Olof). That's a perilous disease--for anything else it cannot

Olof. Who knows?

Gustaf. Now I am tired. You'll have a fortnight in which to get ready.
Your hand that you will help me!

Olof. I will do my part.

Gustaf. Give orders to have Rink and Knipperdollink sent to Malmö.

Olof. And then?

Gustaf. They'll have a chance to escape. That fool over there you can
send back to the asylum. Farewell! [Exit.]

Gert (shaking his clenched fist after Gustaf). Well, are we going?

Olof. Where?

Gert. Home. (Olof remains silent.) You don't wish to send your
father-in-law to the madhouse, do you, Olof?

Olof. You ask me what I wish--How about my duty?

Gert. Is there no duty above the royal command?

Olof. Are you beginning again?

Gert. What will Christine say if you put her father among madmen?

Olof. Tempt me not!

Gert. Do you see how difficult it is to serve the King? (Olof does not
answer.) I won't make you unhappy, my poor boy. Here's balm for your
conscience. (He takes out a document.)

Olof. What is it?

Gert. A certificate of health. You see, it is necessary to be a madman
among sane people, and sane among mad men.

Olof. How did you get it?

Gert. Don't you think I deserve it?

Olof. I can't tell.

Gert. True enough: you don't yet dare.

[Enter Servant.]

Servant. Will you please go your way. They 're about to sweep.

Gert. Perhaps the place has to be aired, too?

Servant. Yes, indeed!

Gert. Don't forget to open the windows.

Servant. No, you may be sure, and it's needed, too, for we are not
accustomed to this kind of company.

Gert. Look here, old man--I carry a greeting from your father.

Servant. Oh, you do?

Gert. Perhaps you never knew him?

Servant. Why, certainly!

Gert. Do you know what he said?

Servant. No.

Gert. Wet the broom, he said, or you'll get the dust all over yourself.

Servant. I don't understand.

Gert. Well, that's your only excuse.

[Exeunt Gert and Olof.]

Servant. Rabble!


(Olof's Study. There are windows in the background, through which the
sun is shining into the room. Trees are visible outside. Christine is
standing at one of the windows, watering her flowers. While doing so
she is prattling to some birds in a cage. Olof is seated at a table,
writing. With an impatient mien he looks up and across the room to
Christine as if he wished her to keep quiet. This happens several times,
until at last Christine knocks down one of the flower pots, when Olof
taps the floor lightly with his foot.)

Christine. Oh, my poor little flower! Look, Olof, four buds were broken

Olof. Yes, I see.

Christine. No, you don't. You must come over here.

Olof. My dear, I haven't time.

Christine. You haven't looked at the starlings which I bought for you
this morning. Don't you think they sing sweetly?

Olof. Rather.

Christine. Rather?

Olof. It's hard for me to work when they are screaming like that.

Christine. They are not screaming, Olof, but you seem to be more fond of
a night bird that does scream. Tell me, what is the meaning of the owl
that appears on your signet ring?

Olof. The owl is an ancient symbol of wisdom.

Christine. I think that's stupid! Wise people don't love the darkness.

Olof. The wise man hates the darkness and the night, but his keen eye
turns night into day.

Christine. Why are you always right, Olof? Can you tell me?

Olof. Because I know it pleases you, my dear, to let me be in the right.

Christine. Now, you are right again.--What is that you are writing?

Olof. I am translating.

Christine. Read a little of it to me.

Olof. I don't think you could understand it.

Christine. Why shouldn't I? Is it not in Swedish?

Olof. Yes, but it is too abstract for you.

Christine. Abstract? What does that mean?

Olof. You wouldn't understand if I told you, but if you don't understand
what I read to you, then you understand what is meant by "abstract."

Christine (picking up a piece of half-finished embroidery). Go on and
read while I work at this.

Olof. Listen carefully, then, and forgive me if you find it tedious.

Christine. I shall understand because I want to.

Olof (reading). "Matter when considered separate from form is something
wholly without predictability, indeterminable and indistinguishable.
For nothing can originate out of pure non-being, but only out of the
non-being of reality, which is synonymous with being as a possibility.
Being in its possibility is no more non-being than is reality. For that
reason every existence is a realized possibility. Thus matter is to
Aristotle a much more positive substratum than to Plato, who declares it
to be pure non-being. And thereby it becomes plain how Aristotle could
conceive of matter in its opposition to form as a positive negativity."

Christine (throwing aside her work). Stop! Why is it that I cannot
understand that? Have I not the same mental faculties as you? I am
ashamed, Olof, because you have such a poor creature of a wife that she
cannot understand what you say. No, I will stick to my embroidery,
I will clean and dust your study, I will at least learn to read your
wishes in your eyes. I may become your slave, but never, never shall I
be able to understand you. Oh, Olof, I am not worthy of you! Why did
you make me your wife? You must have over-valued me in a moment of
intoxication. Now you will regret it, and we shall both be unhappy.

Olof. Christine! Don't take it like that, dear! Come and sit here by me.
(He picks up the embroidery.) Will you believe me if I tell you that I
couldn't possibly do a thing like this? Never in my life could I do it.
Are you not then cleverer than I, and am I not the lesser of us two?

Christine. But why can't you do it?

Olof. For the same reason that you couldn't understand me a moment ago:
I haven't learned how. And perhaps you will feel happy once more if I
tell you that you can learn to understand this book--which, by the by,
is not identical with me--while on the other hand, I could never learn
to do your work.

Christine. Why couldn't you?

Olof. Because I am not built that way and don't want to do it.

Christine. But if you wanted to?

Olof. Well, there, my dear, you have my weak point. I could never want
to do it. Believe me, you are stronger than I, for you have power over
your own will, but I have not.

Christine. Do you think I could learn to understand that book of yours?

Olof. I am convinced of it. But you must not.

Christine. Am I still to be kept in ignorance?

Olof. No, no--understand me right! The moment you understood what I
understand, you would cease to think of me as--

Christine. A god--

Olof. Let it go at that! But believe me, you would lose what now puts
you above me--the power to control your own will--and then you would be
less than I, and I could not respect you. Do you see? It stakes us happy
to overvalue each other; let us keep that illusion.

Christine. Now I don't understand you at all, but I must trust you,
Olof. You are right!

Olof. Please leave me alone, Christine--I beg you!

Christine. Do I disturb you?

Olof. There are some very serious thoughts that occupy me. You know,
I expect something decisive to happen today. The King has abdicated
because the people would not do what he desired. To-day I shall either
reach my goal or have to start the fight all over again.

Christine. May I not be happy to-day, Olof--on Midsummer Eve?

Olof. Why should you be so very happy to-day?

Christine. Why should I not--since I have been set free from slavery and
have become your wife?

Olof. Can you forgive me that my happiness is a little more sober
because it has cost me--a mother?

Christine. I know, and I feel it very deeply. But when your mother
learns of our marriage, she will forgive you and put her curse on me.
Whose burden will then be the heavier? However, it doesn't matter,
because it's borne for your sake. And this much I know: that terrible
struggles are awaiting you; that daring thoughts are growing in your
mind; and that I can never share your struggle, never help you with
advice, never defend you against those that vilify you--but still I must
look on, and through it all I must go on living in my own little world,
employing myself with petty things which you do not appreciate, but
would miss if they were not attended to. Olof, I cannot weep with you,
so you must help me to make you smile with me. Come down from those
heights which I cannot attain. Leave your battles on the hilltops
and return some time to our home. As I cannot ascend to you, you must
descend to me for a moment. Forgive me, Olof, if I talk childishly! I
know that you are a man sent by the Lord, and I have felt the blessing
with which your words are fraught. But you are more than that--you are
a man, and you are my husband--or at least ought to be. You won't fall
from your exalted place if you put aside your solemn speech now and then
and let the clouds pass from your forehead. You are not too great, are
you, to look at a flower or listen to a bird? I put the flowers on your
table, Olof, in order that they might rest your eyes--and you ordered
the maid to take them out because they gave you a headache. I tried to
cheer the lonely silence of your work by bringing the birds--whose
song you call screaming. I asked you to come to dinner a while ago--you
hadn't time. I wanted to talk to you--you hadn't time. You despise this
little corner of reality--and yet that is what you have set aside for
me. You don't want to lift me up to you--but try at least not to push
me further down. I will take away everything that might disturb your
thoughts. You shall have peace from me--and from my rubbish! (She throws
the flowers out of the window, picks up the birdcage, and starts to

Olof. Christine, dear child, forgive me! You don't understand me!

Christine. Always the same: "You don't understand me!" Oh, I know now
what it means. In that moment in the sacristy I matured so completely
that I reached my second childhood at once!

Olof. I'll look at your birds and prattle with your flowers, dear heart.

Christine (putting aside the bird-cage). No, the time for prattle
is gone by--from now on we shall be serious. You need not fear my
boisterous happiness. It was only put on for your sake, and as it
doesn't suit your sombre calling, I'll--(She bursts into tears.)

Olof (putting his arms around her and kissing her.) Christine!
Christine! You are right! Please pardon me!

Christine. You gave me an unlucky gift, Olof, when you gave me freedom,
for I don't know what to do with it. I must have some one to obey!

Olof. And so you shall, but don't let us talk of it any more. Let us eat
now--in fact, I feel quite hungry.

Christine (pleased). Do you really know how to be hungry? (At that
moment she looks out of the window and makes a gesture of dismay.) Go
on, Olof, and I'll be with you in a moment. I only want to get things in
a little better order in here.

Olof (as he goes out). Don't let me wait so long for you as you have had
to wait for me.

(Christine folds her hands as if praying and takes up a position
indicating that she is waiting far somebody about to enter from the
street. Pause.)

[Enter Olof's Mother. She passes Christine without looking at her.]

Mother. Is Master Olof at home?

Christine (who has started to meet her in a friendly way, is taken aback
for a moment; then she answers in the same tone). No, but if you care to
be seated, he will be here soon.

Mother. Thank you! (She seats herself. Pause.) Bring me a glass of
water. (Christine waits on her.) Now you can leave me.

Christine. It is my housewifely duty to bear you company.

Mother. I didn't know that the housekeeper of a priest could call
herself a housewife.

Christine. I am the wife of Olof with the sanction of the Lord. Don't
you know that we are married?

Mother. You are a harlot--that's what I know!

Christine. That word I do not understand.

Mother. You are the same kind of woman as she with whom Master Olof was
talking that evening in the beer-shop.

Christine. The one that looked so unhappy? Yes, I don't feel very happy.

Mother. Of course not! Take yourself out of my sight! Your presence
shames me!

Christine (on her knees). For the sake of your son, don't heap abuse on

Mother. With a mother's authority I command you to leave my son's house,
the threshold of which you have defiled.

Christine. As a housewife I open my door to whom I may choose to
receive. I should have closed it to you, had I been able to guess what
language you would use.

Mother. Big words, indeed! I command you to leave!

Christine. With what right do you force yourself into this house in
order to drive me out of my own home? You have borne a son, and raised
him--that was your duty, your mission, and you may thank your God for
being permitted to fill that mission so well, which is a good fortune
not granted to everybody. Now you have reached the edge of the grave.
Why not resign yourself before the end comes? Or have you raised your
son so poorly that he is still a child and needs your guidance? If you
want gratitude, come and look for it, but not in this way. Or do you
think it is the destiny of a child to sacrifice its own life merely to
show you gratitude? His mission is calling: "Go!" And you cry to him:
"Come to me, you ingrate!" Is he to go astray--is he to waste his
powers, that belong to his country, to mankind--merely for the
satisfaction of your private little selfishness? Or do you imagine
that the fact of having borne and raised him does even entitle you to
gratitude? Did not your life's mission and destiny lie in that? Should
you not thank the Lord for being given such a high mission? Or did you
do it only that you might spend the rest of your life clamoring for
gratitude? Don't you see that by using that word "gratitude" you tear
down all that you have built up before? And what makes you presume that
you have rights over me? Is marriage to mean a mortgaging of my
free will to anybody whom nature has made the mother or father of my
husband--who unfortunately could not exist without either? You are not
_my_ mother. My troth was not pledged to you when I took Olof as my
husband. And I have sufficient respect for my husband not to permit
anybody to insult him, even if it be his own mother. That's why I have
spoken as I have!

Mother. Alas, such are the fruits borne by the teachings of my son!

Christine. If you choose to revile your son, it had better be in his
presence. (She goes to the door and calls.) Olof!

Mother. Such guile already!

Christine. Already? It's nothing new, I think, although I didn't know I
had it until it was needed.

[Enter Olof.]

Olof. Mother! I am right glad to see you!

Mother. Thanks, my son--and good-bye!

Olof. Are you going? What does that mean? I wish to talk to you.

Mother. No need! She has said all there is to say. You will not have to
show me the door.

Olof. In God's name, mother, what are you saying? Christine, what does
this mean?

Mother (about to leave). Good-bye, Olof! This is more than I can ever
forgive you!

Olof (trying to hold her back). Stay and explain, at least!

Mother. It was not worthy of you! To send her to tell me that you owe me
nothing and need me no more! Oh, that was cruel! [Exit.]

Olof. What did you say, Christine?

Christine. I don't remember, because there were so many things which I
had never dared to think, but which I must have dreamt while father kept
me still enslaved.

Olof. I don't know you any more, Christine.

Christine. No, I begin to feel a little lost myself.

Olof. Were you unkind to mother?

Christine. I suppose I was. Does it seem to you that I have grown hard,

Olof. Did you show her the door?

Christine. Forgive me, Olof! I was not kind to her.

Olof. For my sake you might have made your words a little milder. Why
didn't you call me at once?

Christine. I wished to see if I had the strength to take care of myself.
Olof, would you sacrifice me to your mother, if she demanded it?

Olof. I cannot answer such a question offhand.

Christine. I'll do it in your place. It pleases you to submit willingly
to your mother's will and wish because you are strong--and I, on the
other hand, feel hurt by doing so, for I am weak. I will never do it!

Olof. Not if I ask you?

Christine. That's more than you can ask. Or would you have me hate
her?--Tell me, Olof, what is meant by a "harlot"?

Olof. You ask such strange questions.

Christine. Will you please answer me?

Olof. Will you forgive me if I don't?

Christine. Always this unending silence! Do you not yet dare to tell me
all? Am I to be a child forever? Then you had better put me in a nursery
and talk baby-talk to me.

Olof. It means an unfortunate woman.

Christine. No, it means something more than that.

Olof. Has anybody dared to use that word to you?

Christine (after a pause). No.

Olof. Now you are not telling the truth, Christine.

Christine. I know I lie! Oh, since yesterday I have grown very wicked!

Olof. You are hiding something that happened yesterday!

Christine. I am--I thought that I could keep it to myself, but it has
grown too much for me.

Olof. Speak--I beg you!

Christine. But you mustn't call me silly! A crowd of people pursued me
all the way to our door and called after me that horrible word which I
don't understand. People do not laugh at an unfortunate woman--

Olof. Yes, dear, that's just what they do.

Christine. I didn't understand their words, but their actions were plain
enough to make me wicked!

Olof. And yet you were so kind to me! Forgive me if I have been hard to
you!--It is a name given by brute force to its own victims. Sooner
or later, you'll learn more about it, but never dare to defend an
"unfortunate woman"--for then they will throw mud at you! (A messenger
enters and hands him a letter.) At last! (After a glance at the letter.)
You read it to me, Christine! It is from your lips I want to hear the
glad tidings.

Christine (reading). "Young man, you have conquered! I, your enemy,
desire to be the first to tell you so, and I address myself to you
without any sense of humiliation because, in speaking for the new faith,
you have wielded no weapons but those of the spirit. Whether you be
right, I cannot tell, but I think you have deserved a piece of advice
from an older man: stop here, for your enemies are gone! Do not wage war
on creatures made of air, for that will lame your arm and you will die
of dry rot. Do not put your trust in princes--is another piece of advice
given you by a once powerful man who has now to step aside and leave to
the Lord to settle what is to become of his prostrated Church. Johannes
Brask." (Speaking.) You have conquered!

Olof (joyfully). I thank Thee, Lord, for this hour. (Pause.) No, it
scares me, Christine! This fortune is too great. I am too young to have
reached the goal already. To have no more to do--oh, what a frightful
thought! No further fighting--that would be death!

Christine. Oh, rest a moment, and be happy that it is over.

Olof. Can there be an end to anything? An end to such a beginning? No,
no!--Oh, that I could begin it all anew! It wasn't the victory I wanted,
but the fight!

Christine. Olof, do not tempt the Lord! I have a feeling that much
remains undone--very much, indeed!

[Enter Courtier.]

Courtier. Good-day to you, Secretary! And pleasant news! [Exit

Olof. Be welcome! Some of it I have heard already.

Courtier. Thanks for your splendid answering of that stupid Galle. You
went after him like a man. A little too fiercely, perhaps--not quite so
much fire, you know! And a little venom doesn't hurt.

Olof. You have news from the King?

Courtier. Yes, and you shall have a brief summary of the conditions
agreed on: First, mutual support for the resistance and punishment of
all rebellions.

Olof. Go on, if you please.

Courtier. Second, the King shall have the right to take possession of
the palaces and fortified places of the bishops, as well as to fix their

Olof. Third--

Courtier. Now comes the best of all--the principal point of the whole
undertaking: Third, the nobility shall have the right to claim whatever
of its properties and inheritances have fallen to churches and cloisters
since the revision by King Carl Knutsson in 1454--

Olof. And fourth?

Courtier. Provided the heir can get twelve men under oath to attest his
right of inheritance at the assizes. (He folds the document from which
he has been reading.)

Olof. Have you finished?

Courtier. Yes. Isn't that pretty good?

Olof. Nothing more?

Courtier. Oh, there are a few minor points of no special importance.

Olof. Let me hear them.

Courtier (reading again). There is a fifth point about the right of
preachers to preach the word of God, but, of course, they have had that
all the time.

Olof. Nothing more?

Courtier. Yes, then comes the ordinance: a register is to be established
showing the amount of tithes collected by all bishops, chapters, and
canons, and the King shall have the right to prescribe--

Olof. Oh, that's neither here nor there!

Courtier.--how much of those may be retained, and how much shall
be surrendered to him for the use of the Crown; furthermore, all
Appointments to spiritual offices--and this ought to interest you--to
spiritual offices, minor as well as major, can hereafter be made only
with the sanction of the King, so that--

Olof. Will you please read me the point dealing with the faith--

Courtier. The faith--there is nothing about it. Oh, yes, let me
see--from this day the Gospel is to be read in all schoolhouses.

Olof. Is that all?

Courtier. All? Oh, no, I remember! I have a special order from the King
to you--and a most sensible one--that, as the people are stirred up over
all these innovations, you must by no means disturb the old forms; must
not abolish masses, holy water, nor any other usage, nor furthermore
indulge in any reckless acts, for hereafter the King will not close his
eyes to your escapades as he has had to do in the past, when he lacked
power to do otherwise.

Olof. I see! And the new faith which he has permitted me to preach so

Courtier. It is to ripen slowly.--It will come! It will come!

Olof. Is there anything more?

Courtier (rising). No. If you will only keep calm now, you may go very
far. Oh, yes--I came near forgetting the best part of all. My dear
Pastor, permit me to congratulate you! Here is your appointment.
Pastor of the city church, with an income of three thousand, at your
age--indeed, you could now settle down in peace and enjoy life, even if
you were never to get any further. It is splendid to have reached one's
goal while still so young. I congratulate you! [Exit.]

Olof (flinging the appointment on the floor). So this is all that I have
fought and suffered for! An appointment! A royal appointment! I have
been serving Belial instead of God! Woe be to you, false King, who have
sold your Lord and God! Alas for me, who have sold my life and my labors
to mammon! O God in Heaven, forgive me! (He throws himself, weeping, on
a bench.)

[Enter Christine and Gert. Christine comes forward, while Gert remains
in the background.]

Christine (picks up the appointment and reads it; then she runs to Olof,
her face beaming). Now, Olof, I can wish you joy with a happy heart!
(She starts to caress him, but he leaps to his feet and pushes her

Olof. Leave me alone! You, too!

Gert (coming forward). Well, Olof, the faith--

Olof. The lack of faith, you mean!

Gert. The Pope is beaten, isn't he? Hadn't we better begin with the
Emperor soon?

Olof. We began at the wrong end.

Gert. At last!

Olof. You were right, Gert! I am with you now! It's war, but it must be
open and honest.

Gert. Until to-day you have been dreaming childish dreams.

Olof. I know it. Now the flood is coming! Let it come! Alas for them and
for us!

Christine. Olof, for Heaven's sake, stop!

Olof. Leave me, child! Here you will be drowned, or you will drag me

Gert. What made you venture out in the storm, my child?

[Exit Christine.]

(The ringing of bells, the joyful shouting of crowds, and the sounding
of drums and trumpets become audible.)

Olof (going to the window). What has set the people shouting?

Gert. The King is providing them with a maypole and music outside North

Olof. And are they not aware that he will chasten them with swords
instead of rods?

Gert. Aware? If they were!

Olof. Poor children! They dance to his piping and follow his drums to
their death! Must all die, then, in order that one may live?

Gert. No, one shall die that all may live!

(Olof makes a gesture dismay and repugnance.)


(A Room in the House of Olof's Mother. At the right stands a bedstead
with four posts, in which the Mother is lying sick. Christine is asleep
on a chair. Lars Pedersson is renewing the oil of the night-lamp and
turning the hour glass.)

Lars (speaking to himself). Midnight--Now comes the critical time.
(He goes to the bed and listens. At that moment Christine moans in her
sleep. He crosses the room and wakens her.) Christine! (She wakes with a
start.) Go to bed, child; I will watch.

Christine. No, I will wait. I must speak to her before she dies--I think
Olof should be here soon.

Lars. It is for his sake you are watching!

Christine. Yes, and you mustn't say that I have slept. Do you hear?

Lars. Poor girl!--You're not happy!

Christine. Who says one should be happy?

Lars. Does Olof know that you are here?

Christine. No, he would never permit it. He wants to keep me like the
carved image of some saint standing on a shelf. The smaller and weaker
he can make me, the greater is his pleasure in placing his strength at
my feet--

Mother (waking). Lars! (Christine holds back Lars and steps forward.)
Who is that?

Christine. The nurse.

Mother. Christine!

Christine. Do you want anything?

Mother. Nothing from you.

Christine. Dame Christine!

Mother. Don't make my last moments more bitter. Go away from here!

Lars (coming forward). What do you want, mother?

Mother. Take away that woman! And bring the father confessor--I shall
soon die.

Lars. Is not your own son worthy of receiving your last confidences?

Mother. No, he has done nothing to deserve them. Has Mårten come yet?

Lars. Mårten is a bad man.

Mother. O Lord, how terrible Thy punishment! My children standing
between myself and Thee! Am I then to be denied the consolations of
religion in my last moments? You have taken my life--do you want to
destroy my soul, too--the soul of your mother? (She falls into a faint.)

Lars. Do you hear that, Christine! What are we to do? Shall we let
her die in the deception practised on her by a miserable wretch like
Mårten--and perhaps get her thanks for it--or shall we turn her final
prayer into a curse? No, let them come, rather! Or what do you think,

Christine. I dare not think at all.

Lars (goes out for a moment, but returns quickly). Oh, it is horrible!
They have fallen asleep over their dice and their tumblers. And by such
as those my mother is to be prepared for her death!

Christine. But why not tell her the truth?

Lars. She won't believe it, and it is cast back on us as a lie.

Mother. My son, won't you listen to your mother's last request?

Lars (going out). May God forgive me!

Christine. Olof would never have done that!

(Lars returns with Mårten and Nils, whereupon he leads Christine out of
the room.)

Mårten (going up to the bed). She's sleeping.

Nils (places a box on the floor, opens it, and begins to take out
aspersorium, censer, chrismatory, palms, and candles). That means we
can't go to work yet.

Mårten. If we have waited all this time, we can afford to wait a little
longer--provided that damned priest doesn't show up.

Nils. Master Olof, you mean?--Do you think that fellow out there noticed

Mårten. What do I care? As soon as the old woman gives up the coin, I am

Nils. You 're a pretty thorough-paced rascal, you are!

Mårten. Yes, but I am getting tired of it. I am beginning to long for
peace. Do you know what life is?

Nils. No.

Mårten. Pleasure! "The flesh was God!" Isn't that the way it's written

Nils. "The Word became flesh," you mean?

Mårten. Oh, yes--of course!

Nils. You might have been it pretty big man, with your head!

Mårten. Yes, indeed! That's what they feared, and that's why they
whipped the soul out of my body in the convent--for after all I had a
soul once! But now there's nothing but body left, and now the body is
going to have its turn.

Nils. And I suppose they whipped all conscience out of you at the same

Mårten. Well, practically.--But now I want that recipe for spiced
Rochelle which you were talking of when we fell asleep out there.

Nils. Did I say Rochelle? I meant claret. That is, it can be either the
one or the other. Well, you take a gallon of wine and half a pound of
cardamom that has been well cleaned--

Mårten. Hush--damn you! She is moving. Out with the book!

Nils (keeps on reading in an undertone during the following scene).

            Aufer immensam, Deus aufer iram;
            Et cruentatum cohibe flagellum
            Nec scelus nostrum proferes ad aequam
               Pendere lancem.

Mother. Is that you, Mårten?

Mårten. It's Brother Nils praying to the Holy Virgin. (Nils lights the
censer without interrupting his reading.)

Mother. What a precious boon to hear the word of the Lord in the sacred

Mårten. No sweeter sacrifice is known to God than the prayers of pious

Mother. Like the incense, my heart is set on fire with holy devotion.

Mårten (sprinkling her with holy water). The stains of sin are by your
God washed off!

Mother. Amen!--Mårten, I am passing away--The godlessness of the King
makes it impossible for me by earthly gifts to strengthen the Holy
Church in her power of saving souls. You are a pious man--take my
property and pray for me and for my children. Pray that the Almighty
may turn their hearts away from all lies, so that some time we may meet
again in heaven.

Mårten (taking the bag of money she hands him). Goodwife, your sacrifice
is acceptable to the Lord, and for your sake my prayers will be heard by

Mother. I want to sleep awhile in order to be strong enough to receive
the last sacrament.

Mårten. No one shall disturb your final moments--not even those who were
your children once.

Mother. It seems cruel, Father Mårten, but it's the will of God. (She
falls asleep; Mårten and Nils withdraw from the bed.)

Mårten (opening the bag and kissing the gold coins). What stores of
pleasure lie hidden beneath the hardness of this gold--Ah!

Nils. Are we going now?

Mårten. Oh, we might, as our errand here is done, but I think it would
be a pity to let the old woman die unsaved.

Nils. Unsaved?

Mårten. Yes!

Nils. Do you believe in that?

Mårten. It's hard to know what one is to believe nowadays. One dies
happily in this faith, and another in that. All assert that they have
found the truth.

Nils. And if you were to die now, Mårten?

Mårten. That's out of the question!

Nils. But if?

Mårten. Then I suppose I should go to heaven like the rest. But I should
prefer to settle a small account with Master Olof first. You see, there
is one pleasure that surpasses all the rest, and that's the pleasure of

Nils. What has he done to you?

Mårten. He has dared to see through me; he has exposed me; he can read
what I am thinking--Oh!

Nils. And that's why you hate him?

Mårten. Isn't that enough? (Somebody is heard knocking on the door
leading to the street.) Somebody is coming! Read, damn you!

(Nils begins to drone out the same verse as before. The sound of a
key being inserted in the lock is heard. The door is opened from the

[Enter Olof, looking greatly agitated.]

Mother (waking up). Father Mårten!

Olof (goes to the bed). Here is your son, mother! Why didn't you let me
know that you were sick?

Mother. Farewell, Olof! I forgive you all the evil you have done to me,
if you will not disturb the few moments I need to prepare myself for
heaven. Father Mårten! Bring here the sacred ointment, so that I may die
in peace.

Olof. So that's why you didn't call me! (He catches sight of the money
bag which Mårten has forgotten to hide, and snatches it away from the
monk.) Oh, souls are being bartered here! And this was to be the price!
Leave this room and this death-bed! Here is my place, not yours!

Mårten. You mean to prevent us from fulfilling our office?

Olof. I am showing you the door!

Mårten. As long as we are not suspended, we are doing our duty here by
the King's authority, and not by the Pope's.

Olof. I shall cleanse the Church of the lord without regard to the will
of King or Pope.

Mother. Will you plunge my soul into perdition, Olof? Will you let me
die with a curse?

Olof. Calm yourself, mother! You are not going to die in a lie. Seek
your God in prayer, He is not so far away as you believe.

Mårten. A man who won't save his own mother from the pangs of purgatory
must be the Devil's prophet indeed.

Mother. Christ Jesu, help my soul!

Olof. Will you leave this room, or must I use force? Take away that
rubbish! (He kicks the ritual accessories across the floor.)

Mårten. I'll go if you'll let me have the money your mother has given to
the Church.

Mother. So that's why you came, Olof? You wanted my gold! Let him have
it, Mårten. I'll let you have all of it, Olof, if you will only leave me
in peace! I'll give you more than that! I'll let you have everything!

Olof (driven to despair). In God's name, take the money and go! I beg

Mårten (grabbing the bag and going out with Nils). Where the Devil is
abroad, there our power ends, Dame Christine! (To Olof.) As a heretic
you are lost for all eternity! As a law-breaker you will get your
punishment right here! Beware of the King! [Exeunt.]

Olof (kneeling beside his mother's bed). Mother, listen to me before
you die! (The Mother has lost consciousness.) Mother, mother, if you are
alive, speak to your son! Forgive me, but I could not act except as I
have done. I know you have been suffering all your life for my sake.
You have been praying to God that I should keep His paths. The Lord has
heard your prayer. Do you want me now to render your whole life futile?
Do you want me now, by obeying you, to destroy that structure which has
cost you so much in toil and tears? Forgive me!

Mother. Olof, my soul is no longer of this world--it's out of another
life I speak to you: turn back! Break that unclean bond which ties your
body only. Take back the faith you got from me, and I will forgive you!

Olof (weeping bitterly). Mother! Mother!

Mother. Swear that you will do it!

Olof (after long silence). No!

Mother. The curse of God is upon you--I see Him--I see His angry
look--Help me, Holy Virgin!

Olof. That is not the God of love!

Mother. It is the God of retribution!--It is you who have provoked His
ire--and it is you who now cast me into the flames of His wrath!--Cursed
be the hour when I bore you! (She dies.)

Olof. Mother! Mother! (He takes her hand.) She's dead! And she has not
forgiven me!--Oh, if your soul be still within this room, behold your
son: I will do your will, and what was sacred to you shall be sacred to
me! (He lights the tall wax candles left behind by the friars and places
them around the bed.) You shall have the consecrated candles that are to
light your road. (He puts a palm leaf in her hand.) And with this palm
of peace shall come forgetfulness of that last struggle with what was
earthly. Oh, mother, if you see me now, then you must forgive me! (In
the meantime the sun has risen, and the red glow of its first rays
lights up the curtains; at the sight of it, Olof leaps to his feet.) You
make my candles fade, O morning sun! You have more love than I! (He goes
to the window and opens it.)

Lars (entering softly and looking around surprised). Olof!

Olof (putting his arms around him). Brother, all is over! Lars (goes to
the bed and kneels for a moment; then he rises again). She is dead! (He
prays silently.) You were here alone?

Olof. It was you who let in the monks.

Lars. And you who drove them out.

Olof. That should have been your task.

Lars. She forgave you?

Olof. She died with a curse on her lips. (Pause.)

Lars (pointing to the candles). Who arranged these ceremonies? (Pause.)

Olof (irritated and humiliated). I weakened for a moment.

Lars. So you are human, after all? I thank you for it!

Olof. Are you mocking my weakness?

Lars. I am praising it.

Olof. And I am cursing it!--God in heaven, am I not right?

Lars. No, you are wrong.

[Enter Christine while Lars is still speaking.]

Christine. You are too much in the right!

Olof. Christine, what are you doing here?

Christine. It was so silent and lonesome at home.

Olof. I asked you not to come here.

Christine. I thought I might be of some use, but I see now--Another time
I shall stay at home.

Olof. You have been awake all night?

Christine. That is nothing! I will go now if you tell me to!

Olof. Go in there and rest a little while we talk. (Christine begins
absentmindedly to extinguish the candles.)

Olof. What are you doing, dear?

Christine. Why, it is full daylight.

(Lars gives Olof a significant glance.)

Olof. My mother is dead, Christine.

Christine (as she goes to Olof to let him kiss her on the forehead, the
look on her face is compassionate but cold). I am sorry for your loss.
[Exit Christine.]

(Pause. The brothers look for a moment in the direction where she
disappeared, then at each other.)

Lars. I beg you, Olof, as your friend and brother, don't go on as you
have been doing.

Olof. The old story! But he who has put his axe to the tree cannot draw
back until the tree is down. The King has betrayed our cause. Now I will
see what I can do for it.

Lars. The King is wise.

Olof. He is a miser, a traitor, and a protector of the nobility. First
he uses me to hunt his game, and then he wants to kick me out.

Lars. He sees farther than you do. If you were to go to three
million people, telling them: "Your faith is false; believe my words
instead"--do you think it possible that they would at once cast aside
their most intimate and most keenly experienced conviction, which until
then had been a support to them in sorrow as well as in joy? No, the
life of the soul would be in a bad condition, indeed, if all the old
things could be disposed of so quickly.

Olof. But it is not so. The whole people is full of doubt. Among the
priests there is hardly one who knows what to believe--if he cares to
believe anything at all. Everything is ready for the new, and it is only
you who are to blame--you weaklings whose consciences will not permit
you to sow doubt where nothing but a feeble faith remains.

Lars. Look out, Olof! You wish to play the part of God.

Olof. Well, that is what we must do, for I don't think that He Himself
intends to conic down to us any more.

Lars. You are tearing down and tearing down, Olof, so that soon there
will be nothing left, and when people ask, "What do we get instead?"
you always answer, "Not this," "Not that," but never once do you answer,

Olof. Presumptuous man! Do you think faith can be given by one to
another? Do you think that Luther has given us anything new? No! He has
merely torn away the screens that had been placed around the light. The
new that I want is doubt of the old, not because it is old, but because
it is decaying. (Lars points toward their mother's body.) I know what
you mean. She was too old, and I thank God that she is dead. Now I am
free--only now! God has willed it!

Lars. Either you have lost your senses, or you are a wicked man!

Olof. Don't reproach me! I have as much respect for our mother's memory
as you have, but if she had not died now, I don't know how far my
sacrifices might have gone. Have you noticed in the springtime, brother,
how the fallen leaves of yesteryear cover the ground as if to smother
all the young; things that are coming out? What do these do? They push
aside the withered leaves, or pass right through them, because they must
get up!

Lars. You are right to a certain extent.--Olof, you broke the laws
of the Church during a time of lawlessness and unrest. What could be
forgiven then must be punished now. Don't force the King to appear worse
than he is. Don't let your scorn for the law and your wilfulness force
him to punish a man to whom he acknowledges himself indebted.

Olof. Nothing is more wilful than his own rule, and he must learn to
tolerate the same thing in others. Tell me you have taken service with
the King--are you going to work against me?

Lars. I am.

Olof. Then we are enemies, and that is what I need, for the old ones
have disappeared.

Lars. But the tie of blood, Olof--

Olof. I know it only in its source, which is the heart.

Lars. Yet you wept for our mother.

Olof. Weakness, or perhaps a touch of old devotion and gratitude, but
not because of the tie of blood. What is it, anyhow?

Lars. You are tired out, Olof.

Olof. Yes, I feel exhausted; I have been awake all night.

Lars. You were so late in coming.

Olof. I was out.

Lars. Your doings seem to shun the daylight.

Olof. The daylight shuns my doings.

Lars. Beware of false apostles of freedom!

Olof (struggling with sleepiness and fatigue). That's a
self-contradictory term. Oh, don't talk to me--I can't stand any more.
I spoke so much at our meeting--But you don't know about our
society--Concordia res parvae crescunt--We mean to continue the
Reformation--Gert is a farsighted man--I seem so small beside
him--Good-night, Lars! (He falls asleep on a chair.)

Lars (stands looking at him with solicitude). Poor brother--may God
protect you! (Resounding blows on the street door are heard.) What's
that? (He goes to the window.)

Gert (outside). For God's sake, open!

Lars. Why, it isn't a matter of life and death, Father Gert. [Exit.]

Gert (outside). In God's name, let me in!

[Enter Christine with a blanket.]

Christine. Olof, why are they knocking like that? He's asleep! (She
wraps him up in the blanket.) Oh, that I were Sleep, so that you might
flee to me when tired out by your struggles!

(The rattle of a heavy cart is heard; then the cart comes to a stop
outside the house.).

Olof (waking up with a start). Is it five already?

Christine. No, it is only three.

Olof. Wasn't that a baker's cart I heard?

Christine. I don't know, but I don't think it would make such a noise.
(She goes to the window.) Look, Olof! What can this he?

Olof (going to the window). The headsman's cart!--No, it isn't that.

Christine. It is a hearse!

[Enter Lars and Gert.]

Lars. The plague!

All. The plague!

Gert. The plague is here! Christine, my child, leave this house! The
angel of death has put his mark upon the gate.

Olof. Who sent the cart?

Gert. The man who put the black cross on the door. No dead body must be
left a moment in the house.

Olof. Then Mårten was the angel of death--and all is nothing but a lie.

Gert. Look out of the window, and you'll see that the cart is loaded
full. (Blows are heard at the street door again.) You hear! They're

Olof. Without proper burial? That shall never be!

Lars. Without ceremonies, Olof!

Gert. Come away with me, Christine, from this dreadful place! I'll take
you out of the city to some healthier spot.

Christine. I will stay with Olof after this. If you, father, had loved
me a little less, you would not have done so much harm.

Gert. Olof, you who have the power, command her to follow me

Olof. I set her free from your tyranny once, you selfish man, and she
shall never return to it again.

Gert. Christine, get out of this house, at least!

Christine. Not a step until Olof orders me.

Olof. I will no longer order you at all, Christine--remember that!

[Enter several Buriers.]

Burier. I've come for a body. No time to spare!

Olof. Begone from here!

Burier. The King's order!

Lars. Consider what you do, Olof! The law demands it!

Gert. This is no time to hesitate! The crazy mob is aroused against you.
This house was the first one to be marked, and they are crying: "God's
punishment upon the heretic!"

Olof (kneeling beside the bed). Mother, forgive! (Rising.) Do your duty!

(The Buriers come forward and begin to get their ropes ready.)

Gert (aside to Olof). "God's punishment upon the King" is our cry!



(The Cemetery of the Convent of St. Clara. In the background appears
a partly demolished convent building, from which a gang of workmen are
carrying out timber and debris. At the left is a mortuary chapel. Its
windows are lighted from within, and whenever the door is opened, a
brilliantly illuminated crucifix on the chancel wall, with a sarcophagus
standing in front of it, becomes visible. A number of the graves have
been opened. The moon is just rising from behind the ruined convent.
Windrank is seated outside the chapel door. Singing is heard from within
the chapel.)

[Enter Nils.]

Nils (goes up to Windrank). Good evening, Windrank.

Windrank. Please don't talk to me.

Nils. What's the matter now?

Windrank. Didn't you hear what I told you?

Nils. Has your scurvy ending as a skipper affected you so badly that you
think of turning monk?

Windrank. 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57.

Nils. You haven't lost your reason, have you?

Windrank. 58, 59, 60--In the name of Jesu, get away from here!

Nils. You had better have a little nightcap with me.

Windrank. 64, 65--That's what I expected! Get you gone, tempter! I'll
never take a drink again--until the day after to-morrow.

Nils. But it's a fine remedy against the plague, and with all this
cadaverous stuff about, you had better be careful.

Windrank. 70--So you really think it's good for the plague?

Nils. Excellent!

Windrank. Only a drop, then! (He drinks from the bottle offered him by

Nils. Only a drop! But tell me, are you suffering from vertigo since you
are counting to a hundred?

Windrank. Hush! Hush! There's an epoch coming.

Nils. An epoch?

Windrank. Yes, the day after to-morrow.

Nils. And that's why you keep counting like that?

Windrank. No, it's only because I find it so hard to hold my tongue.
Now, for heaven's sake, keep quiet! Please go away, or you'll get me
into trouble!--71, 72, 73.

Nils. Who's inside?

Windrank. 74, 75.

Nils. Is it a funeral?

Windrank. 76, 77.--Go to hell, won't you!

Nils. Just another tiny drop, and the counting will be easier.

Windrank. Just a little one--I will! (He drinks. Singing is heard

Nils. Here come the nuns of St. Clara to celebrate the memory of their
saint for the last time.

Windrank. That's fine mummery in days like these when everybody is
getting educated.

Nils. They have obtained the King's permission. You see, the plague
broke out in the parish of St. Clara, and some believe it was because of
the godless destruction of St. Clara's convent.

Windrank. And now they mean to drive away the plague with singing--as
if that bugaboo were a hater of music. But, of course, it wouldn't be a
wonder if he did flee from their hoarse screeching.

Nils. Will you please tell me who has dared to invade this last
sanctuary--for it's here the bones of the Saint are to be deposited
before the place is torn down entirely.

Windrank. Then there'll be a fight, I fear.

[The singing has drawn nearer. A procession enters, made up of Dominican
friars and Franciscan nuns, headed by Mårten. They come to a halt and
continue singing, while the workmen are making a great deal of noise in
the background.]

Procession.           Cur super vermes luteos furorem
           Sunnis, O magni fabricator orbis!
           Quid sumus quam fex, putris, umbra, pulvis
              Glebaque terrae!

Mårten (to the Abbess). You can see, my sister, how the abode of the
Lord has been despoiled.

Abbess. The Lord who has delivered us into the hands of the Egyptians
will also set its free in due time.

Mårten (to the workmen). Cease working, and do not disturb our pious

Overseer. Our orders are to work day and night until this den has been
torn down.

Abbess. Alas, that unbelief has spread so far down among the people!

Mårten. We are celebrating this feast with the permission of the King.

Overseer. Well, I don't mind!

Mårten. And therefore I command you to cease your noise. I'll appeal
directly to your workmen, whom you have forced into this shameless
undertaking.--I'll ask them if they have any respect whatever left for

Overseer. You had better not, for I am in command here. Furthermore, I
can tell you that they are glad enough to have a chance of tearing down
these hornets' nests for which they themselves have had to pay--and
then, too, they are pretty thankful to earn something during a time of
famine. (He goes toward the background.)

Mårten. Let us forget the wickedness and tumult of this world. Let us
enter the sacred place and pray for them.

Abbess. Lord, Lord, the cities of Thy sanctuary are laid waste! Zion is
laid waste, and Jerusalem is lying desolate!

Windrank. 100.--Nobody can get in here!

The Conspirators (within the chapel). We swear!

Mårten. Who has dared to invade the chapel?

Windrank. It's no more a chapel since it has become a royal storehouse.

Abbess. That's why the godless one gave us his permission!

[The door of the chapel is thrown open and the conspirators appear;
among them Olof, Lars Andersson, Gert, the German, the Dane, the Man
from Smaland, and others.]

Olof (much excited). What kind of buffoonery is this?

Mårten. Make way for the handmaidens of St. Clara!

Olof. Do you think your idols can keep away the plague that God has sent
you as a punishment? Do you think the Lord will find those pieces of
bone you carry in the box there so pleasant that He forgives all your
dreadful sins? Take away that abomination! (He takes the reliquary from
the Abbess and throws it into one of the open graves.) From dust you
have come, and to dust you shall return, even if your name was Sancta
Clara da Spoleto and you ate only three ounces of bread a day and slept
among the swine at night! (The nuns scream.)

Mårten. If you fear not what is holy, fear at least your temporal ruler.
Look here! He has still so much respect left for divine things that he
dreads the wrath of the saint. (He shows a document to Olof.)

Olof. Do you know what the Lord did with the king of the Assyrians when
he permitted the worship of idols? He smote him and all his people. Thus
the righteous is made to suffer with the unrighteous. In the name of the
one omnipotent God, I declare this worship of Baal abolished, even if
all the kings of the earth give their permit. The Pope wanted to sell my
soul to Satan, but I tore the contract to pieces--you remember? Should
I then fear a King who wants to sell his people to the Baalim? (He tears
the document to pieces.)

Mårten (to his followers). You are my witnesses that he has defamed the

Olof (to his followers). And you are my witnesses before God that I have
led the people of a godless King away from him!

Mårten. Listen, ye faithful! It is because of this heretic that God has
smitten us with the plague--it is the punishment of God, and it fell
first of all on his mother.

Olof. Listen, ye faithless papists! It was the punishment of the Lord on
me because I had served Sennacherib against Judah. I will atone my crime
by leading Judah against the kings of the Assyrians and the Egyptians.

(The moon has risen in the meantime. It is very red, and a fiery glare
pervades the place. The crowd is frightened.)

Olof (mounting one of the graves). Heaven is weeping blood over your
sins and your idolatry. Punishment shall be meted out, for those in
authority have fallen into wrongdoing. Can't you see that the very
graves are yawning for prey--

(Gert seizes Olof by the arm, whispers to him, and leads him down from
the mound. The crowd is panic-stricken.)

Abbess. Give us back our reliquary, so that we may abandon this home of

Mårten. It is better to let the bones of the Saint remain in this
consecrated soil than to have them touched by the vile hands of

Olof. You are afraid of the plague, cowards that you are! Is your faith
in the sacred bones no stronger?

(Gert whispers to Olof again. The procession has in the meantime
scattered, so that only a part of it remains on the stage.)

Olof (to Mårten). Now you should be satisfied, you hypocrite! Go and
tell him whom you serve that a box of silver is about to be buried here,
and he'll dig it out of the earth with his own nails. Tell him that the
moon, which is usually made of silver, has turned into gold, merely to
make your master raise his eyes toward heaven for once. Tell him that
you, by your blasphemous buffooneries, have succeeded in provoking an
honest man's wrath--

[Exeunt Mårten and the members of the procession.]

Gert. Enough, Olof! (To all the conspirators except Olof and Lars.)
Leave us, please!

[Exeunt the conspirators, exchanging whispers.]

Gert (to Olof and Lars). It's too late to back down now!

Olof. What do you want, Gert--speak!

Gert (showing them a bound volume). Before you two, servants of God, a
people steps forth to make its confession. Do you acknowledge your oath?

Olof and Lars. We have sworn!

Gert. This book is the result of my silent labors. On every page you
will find a cry of distress, a sigh from thousands who have been blind
enough to think it God's will that they should suffer the tyranny of
one man--who have thought it their duty not even to hope for liberation.
(Olof takes the volume and begins to read.) You shall hear complaints
all the way from the primeval forests of Norrland down to the Sound. Out
of the wreckage from the churches the King is building new castles for
the nobility and new prisons for the people. You shall read how the
King is bartering away law and justice by letting murderers escape their
punishment if they seek refuge at the salt-works. You shall read how
he is taxing vice by letting harlots pay for the right to ply their
traffic. Yea, the very fishes of the rivers, the water of the sea
itself, have been usurped by him. But the end is in sight. The eyes
of the people have been opened. There is seething and fermenting
everywhere. Soon the tyranny will be crushed, and the people shall be

Olof. Who wrote the songs in this book?

Gert. The people! These are songs of the people--so they sing who feel
the yoke pressing. I have visited city and country, asking them: "Are
you happy?" These are the answers! I have held assizes. Here are the
verdicts entered. Do you believe that a million wills may conquer one?
Do you believe that God has bestowed this land with all its human souls
and all its property upon a single man, for him to deal with as it suits
his pleasure? Or do you not rather believe that he should do the will of
all?--You do not answer? You are awed, I see, by the thought that it may
come to an end! Listen to my confession! Tomorrow the oppressor dies,
and you shall all be free!

Olof and Lars. What are you saying?

Gert. You didn't understand what I was talking about at our meetings.

Olof. You have deceived us!

Gert. Not at all! You are perfectly free. Two voices less mean nothing.
Everything is prepared.

Lars. Have you considered the consequences?

Gert. Fool! Is it not for the sake of the consequences that I have done
all this?

Olof. Supposing Gert be right--what do you say, Lars?

Lars. I wasn't born to lead.

Olof. All are born to lead, but all are not willing to sacrifice the

Gert. Only he who has the courage to face scorn and ridicule can lead.
For hatred is as nothing compared with the laughter that kills.

Olof. And if it should miscarry?

Gert. Dare to face that, too! You don't know that Thomas Münster has
established a new spiritual kingdom at Muhlhausen. You don't know
that all Europe is in revolt. Who was Dacke, if not a defender of the
oppressed? What have the Dalecarlians meant by all their rebellions, if
not to defend their freedom against him who broke his plighted faith?
He does such things and goes unpunished, but when they want to defend
themselves, then he raises the cry of revolt and treason.

Olof. So this is the point to which you wanted to lead me, Gert?

Gert. Have you not been led here by the current? You will, but do not
dare! To-morrow, in the church, the mine will go off, and that will be a
signal for the people to rise and choose a ruler after their own heart.

Olof (turning over the leaves of the book). If it be the will of all,
then nobody can stop it. Gert, let me take this book to the King and
show him what is the will of his people, and he will grant them their

Gert. Oh, you child! For a moment he may be scared, and perhaps restore
a silver pitcher to some church. Then he'll point toward heaven and say:
"It is not by my own will that I sit here and do you wrong, but by the
will of God!"

Olof. Then the will of God be done!

Gert. But how?

Olof. He must die that all may live. Murderer, ingrate, traitor--those
will be my names, perchance. I am sacrificing everything, even my
honor, my conscience, and my faith--could I possibly give more for those
pitiable ones who are crying for salvation? Let us go ere I repent!

Gert. Even if you did, it would already be too late. Don't you know
that Mårten is a spy, and perhaps sentence has already been pronounced
against the rebel!

Olof. Well, I won't repent--and why should I repent of an act that
implies the carrying out of God's own judgment? Forward, then, in the
name of the Lord. [Exeunt.]

[Enter Harlot, who kneels at a grave which she has strewn with flowers.]

Harlot. Hast Thou punished me enough now, O Lord, to pardon me?

[Enter Christine quickly.]

Christine. Have you seen Master Olof, goodwife?

Harlot. Are you his friend or his enemy?

Christine. Do you mean to insult me?

Harlot. Pardon me! I haven't seen him since the last time I prayed.

Christine. You look so sorrowful! Oh, I know you now! It was you to whom
Olof was talking that night in Greatchurch.

Harlot. You mustn't let it be seen that you are talking to me. You don't
know who I am, do you?

Christine. Oh, yes, I know.

Harlot. You know--so they have told you?

Christine. Olof told me.

Harlot. O my God! And don't you despise me?

Christine. You are an unfortunate, down-trodden woman, Olof told me. Why
should I despise misfortune?

Harlot. Then you cannot be happy yourself?

Christine. No, we have shared the same fate.

Harlot. I am not the only one, then! Tell me, who was the worthless man
to whom you gave your love?

Christine. Worthless?

Harlot. Oh, pardon--to one who loves, no one seems worthless! To whom
did you give your love?

Christine. You know Master Olof, don't you?

Harlot. Oh, tell me that it is not true! Don't rob me of my faith in
him, too! It is the only thing I have left since God took my child!

Christine. You have had a child? Then you have been happy once.

Harlot. I thank God, who did not permit my son to find out the
unworthiness of his mother.

Christine. Have you been guilty of any crime, that you speak so?

Harlot. I have just buried it.

Christine. Your child? How can you! And I pray God every day to grant me
a little one--so that I may at least have one creature to love!

Harlot. Oh, poor child, pray to God that He preserve you from it!

Christine. I don't understand you, goodwife!

Harlot. Don't call me that! You know who I am, don't you?

Christine. Well, don't they offer prayers in the churches for those who
have hopes?

Harlot. Not for such as we!

Christine. Such as we?

Harlot. They pray for the others and curse us.

Christine. What do you mean by "the others"? I don't understand you at

Harlot. Do you know the wife of Master Olof?

Christine. Why, that is I!

Harlot. You? Oh, why didn't I guess at once? Can you forgive me a
moment's doubt? How could vice look like you and him? Alas! You must
leave me. You are a child, still ignorant of wickedness. You must not be
talking to me longer. God bless you! Good-bye! (She starts to leave.)

Christine. Don't leave me! Whoever you be, for God's sake, stay! They
have broken into our house, and my husband is not to be found. Take
me away from here--home to yourself--anywhere. You must be a good
woman--you cannot be wicked--

Harlot (interrupting her). If I tell you that the brutality of the crowd
wouldn't hurt you half so much as my company, then perhaps you will
forgive me for leaving--

Christine. Who are you?

Harlot. I am an outcast on whom has been fulfilled that curse which God
hurled at woman after the fall of our first parents. Ask me no more, for
if I told you more, your contempt would goad me to a self-defence that
would be still more contemptible.--Here comes somebody who perhaps will
be generous enough to escort you, if you promise to let him have your
honor and virtue and eternal peace for his trouble--for that is probably
the least he will accept for his protection at such a late hour as this!
Please forgive me--it is not at you that I am railing.

[Enter Windrank, intoxicated.]

Windrank. Why the devil can't a fellow be left alone, even here among
the corpses? See here, my good ladies, please don't ask me anything, for
now I can't guarantee that I won't answer. The day after to-morrow I'll
tell you all about it, for then it'll be too late. Perhaps you're some
of those nuns that have been made homeless? Well, although women are
nothing but women, I don't think I have any right to be impolite, for
all that the sun set long ago. Of course, there is an old law saying
that nobody can be arrested after sunset, but though the law is a
bugbear, I think it's too polite to insist on anything when it's a
question of ladies. Hush, hush, tongue! Why, the old thing is going like
a spinning-wheel, but that comes from that infernal gin! Why should I be
dragged into this kind of thing? Of course, I'll get well paid and be a
man of means, but don't believe that I am doing it for the sake of the
money! It's done now, but I don't want to--I don't want to! I want to
sleep in peace nights and have no ghosts to trouble me. Suppose I goo
and tell? No, then they'll arrest me. Suppose somebody else would go and
tell? Perhaps one of you nuns might be so kind as to do it?

Christine (who has been conferring with the Harlot). If you have
anything on your conscience that troubles you, please tell us.

Windrank. Am I to tell? That's just what I want to get out of, but this
is horrible, and I can't stand it any longer. I am forced to do it. Why
should I be the one? I don't want to.

Christine. My dear man, you mean to commit--

Windrank. A murder. Who told you? Well, thank God that you know! By all
means, go ahead and tell about it--at once--or I'll have no peace--no
peace in all eternity!

Christine (recovering from the first shock). Why should you murder him?

Windrank. Oh, there are such a lot of reasons. Just look at the way he
is tearing down your nunneries.

Christine. The King?

Windrank. Yes, of course! The father and liberator of his country!
Of course, he's an oppressor, but that's no reason why he should be

Christine. When is it going to happen?

Windrank. Why, to-morrow--in Greatchurch--right in church! [At a signal
from Christine, the Harlot leaves.]

Christine. How could they pick you for such a deed?

Windrank. Well, you see, I gave a connection or two among the church
attendants, and then I am poor, of course. What the devil does it matter
who puts the match to the powder, if only some shrewd fellow is pointing
the gun? And then we have several other little schemes in reserve,
although I'm to fire the first shot. But why don't you run off and tell
about it?

Christine. It has already been done.

Windrank. Well, God be thanked and praised! Goodbye, there goes all my

Christine. Tell me who you are, you conspirators.

Windrank. No, that I won't tell!

[Enter Nils. He crosses the stage followed by a troop of soldiers and a
crowd of people.]

Christine. Do you see that they are already looking for you?

Windrank. I wash my hands of it.

Nils (goes up to Windrank without noticing Christine). Have you seen
Olof Pedersson?

Windrank. Why?

Nils. Because he is wanted.

Windrank. No, I haven't seen him. Are there others wanted?

Nils. Yes, many.

Windrank. No, I haven't seen any of them.

Nils. Well, it will soon be your turn. [Exit.]

Christine. Are they looking for the conspirators?

Windrank. What a question! Now I'm going to clear out. Good-bye!

Christine. Tell me before you go--

Windrank. Haven't time!

Christine. Is Master Olof one of them?

Windrank. Of course! (Christine sinks down unconscious on one of the
graves. Windrank is suddenly sobered and genuinely moved.) Good Lord in
heaven, it must be his wife! (He goes to Christine.) I think I've killed
her! Oh, Hans, Hans, all you can do now is to get a rope for
yourself! What business did you have to get mixed up with the high and
mighty?--Come here, somebody, and help a poor woman!

[Enter Olof, led by soldiers carrying torches as he catches sight of
Christine, he tears himself loose and throws himself on his knees beside

Olof. Christine!

Christine. Olof! You're alive! Come away from here and let us go home!

Olof (overwhelmed). It's too late!


(Within Greatchurch. Olof and Gert, dressed as penitents, stand in
the pillory near the entrance. The organ is playing and the bells are
ringing. The service is just ended, and the people are leaving the
church. The Sexton and his wife are standing by themselves in a corner
near the footlights.)

Sexton. Lars the Chancellor, he was pardoned, but not Master Olof.

Wife. The Chancellor has always been a man of peace and has never
stirred up any trouble, so I can't understand how he could want to have
anything to do with such dreadful things.

Sexton. The Chancellor has always had a queer streak, although he has
never said much, and though he was pardoned, it cost him everything
he had. I can't help being sorry for Master Olof; I have always had a
liking for him, even though he has been a fire-brand.

Wife. Well, what's the use of making a young fellow like that pastor?

Sexton. Of course, he's rather young, and that has been his main fault,
but I'm sure time will cure it.

Wife. What nonsense you are talking, seeing that he's going to die

Sexton. Well, Lord, Lord, if I hadn't clean forgotten about it! But then
it doesn't seem quite right to me, either.

Wife. Do you know if he has repented?

Sexton. I doubt very much, for I am sure his neck is just as stiff as

Wife. But I suppose he'll thaw out a little now, when he sees his class
of children whom they wouldn't let him prepare for confirmation.

Sexton. Well, I must say that the King can be pretty mean when he turns
that side to. Now he is making the pastor do church penance the very
same day his children are being confirmed. It's almost as bad as when
he made the dean drink with the headsman, or when he sent those two
prelates riding through the city with crowns of birch bark on their

Wife. And his own brother Lars has been sent to shrive him.

Sexton. See, here come the children! How sad they're looking--well, I
don't wonder. I think I'll have to go in and have a cry myself--

(Enter the children about to be confirmed, boys and girls. They begin to
march past Olof, carrying bunches of flowers in their hands. They
look sad and keep their eyes on the ground. A number of older people
accompany the children. A few curious persons point out Olof and are
rebuked by others. Last of all the children in the procession comes
Vilhelm, one of the scholars with whom Olof was seen playing in the
First Act. He stops timidly in front of him, kneels, and drops his bunch
of flowers at the feet of Olof, who does not notice it because he has
pulled down the hood of his penitential robe so that it hides his face.
Some of the people mutter disapprovingly, while others show signs of
pleasure. Mårten comes forward to take away the flowers, but is pushed
back by the crowd. Soldiers clear a path for Lars Pedersson, who appears
in canonicals. The crowd disappears gradually, leaving Lars, Olof, and
Gert alone on the stage. The playing of the organ ceases, but the bells
continue to toll.)

Lars. Olof, the King has refused to listen to the petition for pardon
submitted by the City Corporation. Are you prepared to die?

Olof. I am not able to think so far.

Lars. I have been ordered to prepare you.

Olof. That will have to be done in haste, for my blood is still running
quickly through my veins.

Lars. Have you repented?

Olof. No!

Lars. Do you want to pass into eternity with an unforgiving mind?

Olof. Oh, put aside the formulas, if you want me to listen to you. I
can't think that I am going to die now--there 's far too much of life
and strength left in me.

Lars. I must tell you that I don't think so either, and that it is for a
new life in this world I am trying to prepare you.

Olof. Then I may live?

Lars. If you will admit that you were mistaken in the past, and if you
will take back what you have said about the King.

Olof. How could I? That would be to die indeed!

Lars. This was what I had to tell you. Now you must decide for yourself.

Olof. One doesn't parley about one's convictions.

Lars. Even a mistake may turn into conviction. I shall leave you to
think the matter over. [Exit.]

Gert. Our harvest wasn't ready. It takes a lot of snow to make the fall
crops ripen--nay, centuries must pass before you will even see the first
shoots. All the conspirators are under arrest, they say, and te deums
are sung on that account. But they are mistaken; conspirators are
abroad everywhere--in the royal apartments, in the churches, and in the
market-places--but they dare not do what we have dared. And yet they'll
reach that point some time. Good-bye, Olof! You must live a little
longer, for you are young. I shall die with the utmost pleasure. The
name of every new martyr becomes the rallying-cry for a new host. Don't
believe that a human soul was ever set on fire by a lie. Don't ever
distrust those feelings that shake you to your inmost soul when you
have seen some one suffer spiritual or physical oppression. If the
whole world tell you that you are wrong, believe your own heart just
the same--if you are brave enough to do so. The day when you deny your
self--then you are dead, and eternal perdition will seem a mercy to one
who, has been guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Olof. You speak of my release as though it were a certainty.

Gert. The Corporation has offered 500 ducats for your ransom, and if it
cost only 2000 to get Birgitta declared a saint, then 500 should suffice
to get you declared guiltless. The King doesn't dare to take your life!

[Enter the Lord High Constable, followed by the Headsman and soldiers.]

Constable. Take away Gert the Printer.

Gert (to Olof, as he is being led away). Good-bye, Olof! Take care of my
daughter, and don't ever forget the great Whitsunday!

Constable. Master Olof, you are a young man who has been led astray. The
King will pardon you for the sake of your youth, but as a safeguard he
demands a retraction wherein you take back whatever you have ventured
beyond and against his orders.

Olof. Then the King is still in need of me?

Constable. There are many more who need you, but don't rely on his mercy
until you have fulfilled his condition. Here is the King's warrant. In a
moment your fetters may be shed, if so be your will, but it will be just
as easy to tear up this sheet of paper.

Olof. One who contents himself with 500 ducats is not likely to care
very much for a retraction--

Constable. That is a lie! The headsman is waiting for you. But pray
listen to a few words from an old man. I, too, have been young, and
moved by strong passions. They belong to youth; but those passions are
meant to be killed. I did as you do. I went around telling the truth,
and all I got in return was ingratitude, or, at the best, a smile
of derision. I, too, wanted to build a little heaven here on
earth--(speaking with marked emphasis) of course, on other foundations
than yours--but soon I came to my senses, and the chimeras were
sent packing. I have no desire to make you out a man wishing to gain
notoriety by getting himself talked about--I don't believe anything of
the kind. You are moved by good intentions, but they are such as must
cause harm. Your blood is hot, and it blinds you because you exercise
no self-control. You preach freedom, and you are plunging thousands
into the slavery of license. Retrace your steps, young man, and make
atonement for your errors! Restore what you have torn down, and your
fellow-men will bless you!

Olof (agitated to a point of desperation). It is the truth you speak; I
hear it, but who taught you to speak like that?

Constable. Experience--that which you lack!

Olof. Can I have lived and fought for a lie? Must I now declare my whole
youth and the best part of my manhood lost, useless, wasted? Oh, let me
rather die together with my mistake!

Constable. You should have broken loose from your dreams earlier. But
calm yourself! Your life is still ahead of you. The past has been a
school--hard, to be sure, but all the more wholesome. Hitherto you have
given your life to whims and follies. Now you have some inkling of what
reality demands of you. Outside that door your creditors are waiting
with their claims. Here are their bills. The clergy of the young Church
demand that you live to finish what you have begun so splendidly. The
City Corporation demands its secretary for the Council. The congregation
demands its shepherd. The children of the confirmation class demand
their teacher. Those are your legal creditors. But there is one more
waiting outside, to whom perhaps you owe more than all the rest, and who
yet demands nothing at all--your young wife. You have torn her from her
father's side and set her adrift in the storm. You have broken down her
childhood faith and filled her mind with restlessness. Your reckless
deeds have goaded the brutal mob into driving her out of her own
home. Yet she does not even demand your love: all she asks of you is
permission to spend a life of suffering by your side.--Now you can see
that we, too, give a little consideration to other people, although you
call us selfish.--Let me open this door, which will lead you back into
the world. Discipline your heart before it hardens, and thank God for
granting you more time to work for mankind.

Olof (breaking into tears). I am lost!

(Constable gives a sign to the Headsman, who removes the fetters and the
garb of penitence from Olof; then the Constable opens the door to the
sacristy, and delegates from the lords, the clergy, and the city guilds

Constable. Olof Pedersson, formerly pastor of the city church at
Stockholm, do you hereby repent of your misdeeds and retract what you
have said beyond and against the King's order? Do you declare your
willingness to keep your oath to the sovereign of this realm, and to
serve him faithfully?

(Olof remains silent. Lars Pedersson and Christine approach him, while
many of those present make pleading gestures.)

Olof (in a cold and determined voice). Yes!

Constable. In the name of the King, I set you free!

(Olof and Christine embrace. A number of persons come forward to press
his hand and utter words of congratulation.)

Olof (in the same cold voice). Before I leave this room, let me be alone
a moment with my God. I need it! Once upon a time I struck the first
blow right here, and here--

Lars. Right here you have won your greatest victory this very day!

(All leave the room except Olof, who falls on his knees.)

[Enter Vilhelm cautiously. He looks very much surprised at seeing Olof
alone and free.]

Vilhelm. I come to bid you farewell, Master Olof, before you pass on to
another life.

Olof (rising). You have not deserted me, Vilhelm! Help me, then, to
mourn those happy moments of my youth that are now nothing but a memory!

Vilhelm. Before you die I want to thank you for all that you have
done for us. It was I who gave you those flowers, which you haven't
noticed.--They have been trampled on, I see. I wanted to bring you
a reminder of the days when we were playing under the lindens in the
convent close at Strängnäs. I thought it might do you good to hear that
we have never thanked God, as you said we would, because you didn't
return to us. We have never forgotten you, for it was you who relieved
us of those cruel penances, and it was you who flung open the heavy
convent doors and gave us back our freedom and the blue sky and the
happiness of living. Why you must die, we do not know, but _you_ could
never do anything wrong. And if you die because you have rendered help
to some of those that were oppressed, as they tell us, then you should
not be sorry, although it hurts very, very much. Once you told us how
Hus was burned because he had dared to tell the truth to those in power.
You told us how he went to the stake and joyfully commended himself into
the hands of God, and how he prophesied about the swan that should come
singing new songs in praise of awakened freedom. That's the way I have
thought that you would meet your death--with your head thrown back, and
your eyes toward the sky, and the people crying: "So dies a witness!"

(Olof leans against the pillory, his face showing how the words of
Vilhelm strike home to him.)

Gert (his voice heard from a distant part of the church.) Renegade!

(Olof sinks down overwhelmed at the foot of the pillory.)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Master Olof : a Drama in Five Acts" ***

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