William Shakespeare’s Dune. Act III, Scene xi.


The Arena of Giedi Prime
A private entrance left, and a grand entrance center.
Below, the arena floor.

Enter COUNT FENRING and MARGOT LADY FENRING left

FEN: Unless I miss my guess, here is the wealth
The Baron hath from all his people’s backs
(Whom we did witness on our sojourn here
With longing naked as their children stare)
Stripped off. He comes but now to see the price
He paid Duke Leto to eliminate.

MAR: I must recount a legend unto thee
Of ancientry:’The phoenix’ is its name.

FEN: The baron comes.

Enter BARON HARKONNEN and FEYD-RAUTHA HARKONNEN, left

HAR: Hail, guests well-met. This is
My nephew, the na-Baron. Feyd, these are
The Count and Countess Fenring I’ve described.

FEN: Ha-hem. You have described us to this, ah
Precise young man? What, hmm, have you, ah, said?

HAR: I told him of the great esteem our lord
The Emperor doth hold thee in, my Count.
(aside) Ah, nephew, I do hope you mark him well
A killer with the manners of a rabbit
More dangerous because he looketh weak.

FEN: Ha-hum. One sees so rarely such, ahem
Preciseness. I congratulate you, ah
Upon the – hmm – perfection of your heir
In light of the – hmmm – elder, one might say.

HAR: You are too kind, to compliment me so.

FEN: When one speaks irony, it, ah, suggests
That one is thinking thoughts of deepest depth.

MAR: We take too much of this young man’s, ah, time.
I think he in th’arena must appear.

FEYD: I shall this morning kill a man for thee
And with thy leave, the dedication make
In the arena, to thy loveliness.

MAR: Thou hast no leave of me for that, nor shalt.

HAR: Feyd! You must be ready for your fight.
And rested, taking naught of foolish risk.

FEYD: In this and all things, lord and Uncle, may
Your will be done, exactly as you wish.
Sir and my Lady, I shall take my leave.

Exit FEYD. Enter LORDS and LADIES of the HOUSES MINOR, Center.

HAR: A lengthy hour and more is yet to run
Afore th’arena comes alive with death
Perhaps now is the time we should confer
About our progress on Arrakis made.
(aside) And then we’ll see this lackey of the throne
Deliver in his finest courtly talk
His orders without ordering, withal.

FEN: Might you, ahem, excuse us, uh, my dear?

MAR: Each day and hour brings change, ahem. O la.

She joins the Houses Minor.

FEN: We much mislike your orders to our men
The Sardaukar to leave Arrakis’ sands.

HAR: The Sardaukar could not stay longer, lest
Some eyes should spy, or ears should hear the tale
Of how the Emperor did aid my cause.

FEN: Rabban, thy nephew, seems to lack resolve
In solving Fremen problems on his world.

HAR: What doth His Majesty desire of me?
To chase a handful of this desert trash
To southern deserts uninhabitable?
The north is made secure by our patrols.

FEN: Who says the south is uninhabitable?

HAR: Your planetologist, my worthy Count.

FEN: Yet Dr. Kynes is dead, by tragic chance.
We’ve word from one who overflew the sands
Reporting living plants as growing there.

HAR: The Guild, then, hath allowed a watch from space?

FEN: Good Baron, you know better than to ask.
The Emperor cannot legally so do.

HAR: And I cannot afford their ruinous price.
Who made this overflight, and risked such cost?

FEN: A smuggler, in the proper time and place.

HAR: You have believed a lie, dear Count. Such men
No better than Rabban’s can navigate
The southern reaches filled with static-storms.

FEN: We’ll broach your static at another time.

HAR: Have you found some mistake in my accounts?

FEN: Do you defend yourself against mistake
That you yourself imagine? Curious choice.

HAR: The Emperor cannot be wroth about
The death of boy and concubine. They fled
Into the desert, perished in a storm.

FEN: There were so many accidents, withal.

HAR: I do mislike your manner, Count or no.

FEN: Mislike and rage at will, but should an act
Of violence or of accident befall
Me here on Giedi Prime, the Houses Great
And Minor all would learn what you did wreak
Upon Arrakis: they have long surmised
Your ways of doing business in their midst.

HAR: The only recent business I recall
Was transport of some legions several
Of Sardaukar to rich Arrakis’ climes.

FEN: Think you to hold that o’er the Emp’ror’s head
As t’were a threat to move him from his course?

HAR: O God forfend! What base, unworthy thought.

FEN: Some Sardaukar commanders might be found
Who would confess that, void of any charge
Or order from His Majesty they fought
Your Fremen scum to slake their battle-lust.

HAR: Confessions such as these make many doubts.
(aside) Are Sardaukar in truth so disciplined?

FEN: His Majesty shall audit your accounts

HAR: At any time His Majesty desires.

FEN: You make no protestation or demur?

HAR: As CHOAM director, my accounts are true
And will the closest scrutiny withstand.
(aside) O let him slander me and be exposed
And I shall stand promethean and cry
“Behold me, I am wronged.” Thenceforward I
Shall be immune. The Landsraad will discount
All further accusations from a source
Once proven false, howe’er it then be true.

FEN: No doubt you’ll stand the closest scrutiny.

HAR: Why doth the Emperor wish Fremen killed?

FEN: You wish to change the subject of our talk?
The Sardaukar would see the Fremen killed.
And not His Majesty. They need to hone
Their skill in killing and do hate to see
A task begun undone. Such is their way.

HAR: Judicious killing maketh profits grow.
But someone must be left to work the spice.

FEN: You think to harness Fremen to your work?

HAR: There never were enough of them for that.
But such hath been our slaughter that the rest
Of poor Arrakis’ populace that lives
In pan and graben is uneasy grown
So that I contemplate another wise
To solve Arrakis’ problems, and confess
The Emperor inspires me thereto.

FEN: Go on.

HAR: I have Salusa Secundus
To point the way t’the future of my world.

FEN: What possible connection could there be
Between these two forsaken, wretched worlds?

HAR: None yet?

FEN: None yet?

HAR: But one could see anon
How that a prison planet could produce
A work force sizable to mine the spice.

FEN: You do anticipate more prisoners.

HAR: Unrest is always with us, and to pay
The Guild fees damnable for our transport
I’ve had to be severer than my wont
And reap rebellion with more golden crops.

FEN: Without permission of the Emperor
You’ll not Arrakis to such uses put
Without the risk of his severest wrath.

HAR: By no means would I so his Grace offend.

FEN: Another matter: we have learned that he
Who was Duke Leto’s Mentat is not dead
But Thufir Hawat lives to serve thy needs.

HAR: I could not bring myself to waste his mind.

FEN: You lied to our commander, saying he
Had died amidst the combat on that day.

HAR: A white lie only; he did argue so.

FEN: Was Hawat then the traitor to his lord?

HAR: Not he. The Doctor Yueh who was false
Betrayed Atreides. But with Piter killed
I had no Mentat, and so seized my chance.

FEN: How then did Hawat shift allegiance?

HAR: There’s naught to fear from Hawat, good my Count.
He bears a latent poison in his flesh
And we the antidote administer.
Without that balm, supplied within his meals
The man would die in days and be no more.

FEN: Withdraw the antidote.

HAR: And lose such wit?

FEN: He knows too much no living man should know.

HAR: The Emperor, you said, feared not to see
That knowledge made available to all.

FEN: Play not these games with me, Harkonnen lord!

HAR: When I above the seal Imperial
Do see that order written, I obey.
I bow not to your lightly-spoken whim.

FEN: You think it whim?

HAR: What else then, can it be?
The Emperor to me hath debts as well
Good Fenring. I did rid him of the Duke.

FEN: With only Saradaukar to help you to’t.

HAR: What other House could th’Emperor have found
To furnish cloaking weeds for Sardaukar
And hide his bloodied hand in such an act?

FEN: The Emperor hath asked himself the same,
But with a slightly different emphasis.

HAR: O Count, I hope he doth not then believe
That he could ‘gainst Harkonnen so proceed
And keep concealed again his shadowed hand.

FEN: He hopes that need shall never show its face.

HAR: His Majesty cannot believe that I
His loyal servant threaten his puissance!

FEN: The Emperor believes his eyes and ears.

HAR: Does the Emp’ror dare to lay a charge
Before the Houses of the Landsraad moot?

FEN: The Emperor need nothing dare, withal.

HAR (aside): I must not show my hope of this, that I
Might in my life ascend th’Imperial throne,
Made possible by such a foolish case!
If he do falsify a treason charge
The Houses Great would to my banner flock
To ‘scape their greatest fear: the Sardaukar
Loosed ‘pon them one by one. Now must I put
A disposition sad upon my face.
And act the part of frighted vassalage.

FEN: The Emperor hopes to avoid the need
Of charging you with treason ‘gainst his throne.

HAR: These words hurt more than any tongue can tell.
I am my Emperor’s most loyal man.

FEN: Ahem. Oh, quite. No doubt. Hm-ah. Ha-hem.

HAR: Th’arena calls us. Let’s to watch the games.

FEN: The Houses Minor wait your leadership.

They join the Houses Minor and MARGOT.

FEN: Mankind hath but, ah, one science, ha-hem.

HAR: What science would that be, my sapient Count.

FEN: The science, one might say, of discontent.

HAR: I hope you’ll study no such science here
In watching the performance of my heir.

FEN: I do, haw-haw, but, ah, anticipate

They sit in their boxes.

FEN: You know the Emperor hath not confirmed
Your choice of heir. Thus am I here today.

HAR: The Emperor did promise my free choice!

FEN: What we shall see, we’ll see. He doth his will.

Enter FEYD left in the arena with HANDLERS and BARB-MEN
a, long knife in his black-gloved hand, short knife in his white-gloved hand.

MAR: For poison white, for purity the black
A custom curious, is’t not, my love?

FEN: Oh, quite. Ha-hem. Most curious indeed.

FEYD leads his men center. They bow to BARON HARKONNEN, who throws FEYD a key.

FEYD: I this day do dedicate this truth
To one who hath unlocked mt future hopes
My patron and mine uncle, our dread lord
Harkonnen’s Baron Vladimir the first!

Applause. Enter ATREIDES GLADIATOR with knife and semishield, painted orange with hawk cut into his arm.

BARB: I do mislike the look of him, m’Lord
Hath he been given the elacca drug?

FEYD: He hath the color, what more wouldst thou have?

BARB: He beareth him as would a fighting man
And what’s he scratched upon the flesh o’his arm?

FEYD (aside): Atreides’ hawk. What game doth Hawat play?
When we did plot to change the drugs for paint
In this unequal contest, that the blame
Might fall upon the master of the slaves
And glorify myself, we never said
That I should face a warrior for true!
But he hath been prepared in other wise.
If I should speak but “Scum,” he’ll stumble. Time
Enough and more to end him on my blades.

CHIEF HANDLER: I like it not. Let me a barb or two
Set in his weapon arm to try his strength.

FEYD: I’ll set my barbs, and rather try my own.

GLA: Hai, Harkonnen. Art thou come to die?

FEN: Do slaves give challenges?

They fight. FEYD sets a barb in GLADIATOR’S right forearm.

MAR: A noble blow.

GLA: I feel thy needle not, nor fear thy blades!

He lashes the barb to his arm with its pennon.

FEN: A hit! A most palpable hit!

HAR: That slave’s not drugged!

They fight. FEYD sets a barb in GLADIATOR’S right shoulder. He lashes it tight again.

GLA: I fear thee not Harkonnen get of swine.
Thy tortures cannot hurt a corpse, and I
Can slay myself e’er thou canst touch my flesh
And have thee as my graven catamite.

FEYD: Then with this blade I’ll give thee a steely kiss.

They fight. GLADIATOR grapples FEYD’s short knife, and forces it inward.

GLA: Die, serpent, on the venom that’s thine own!

FEYD strikes with his long knife, but is tangled on GLADIATOR’S barbs.

FEYD: Scum!

GLADIATOR stumbles. FEYD wounds him with the long blade.

GLA: I feel the poison coursing through my veins!
O villain, who doth lie as thou dost stand
Envenoming the blade that should be pure.
One day, a better man than I shall take
Revenge for me, who can my word but keep.

With his last strength, he falls upon his blade. Dies.
Crowd cheers.

FEN: A young man most resourceful, eh, say what?

MAR: O la, his synapses are very swift.

HAR (aside): To plot my nephew’s murther in my keep!
I’ll have the master of the slaves above
A fire roasting till he plead for death!

CROWD: Head! Head! Head! Head!

FEYD: A head, say you? Nay, lay this man to rest
Unmarked, and with his weapon in his hand.
The man hath earned it by his conduct here.

FEN: A gesture of bravura, that. Well done.

MAR: The crowd admireth what thy nephew did.

Exeunt all but COUNT and MARGOT LADY FENRING, triumphantly.

FEN: You saw the plot, of course.

MAR: How could I not?
He knew his man would not be drugged and felt
Of fear a measure, of surprise no whit.

FEN: T’was planned, and not by Baron Vlad the Fat.

MAR: Without a doubt.

FEN: And reeks of Hawat’s touch.
I did demand the Baron have him slain.

MAR: That was imprudence, dear.

FEN: So now I see.

MAR: Another Baron may Harkonnen soon
Acquire, if I read the signs aright.

FEN: If that is Hawat’s plan, assuredly.
And youth is more controllable for us.

MAR: A night with him, and I shall have him bound.

FEN: Thou canst with all thy wiles seduce him, then?

MAR: Hast thou not seen his eye upon me fall?
He took me for an angel come to bless
His waxing manhood, which when waxen full
Shall soften at the merest touch of heat.

FEN: I saw, and also why we need his blood.
There’s courage and intelligence therein.
What tragedy that such a fruitful seed
Should grow to manhood in this poisoned glen.
Had he Atreides’ code to guide his steps
Or any other creed of righteousness
He might have been a hero of our age.

MAR: But as things are, we’ll need to leash this beast.
Tonight I’ll plant within his deepest self
The prana-bindu phrases that shall bind
Him to the will of wiser heads than his.

FEN: And leave as soon as thou conceive his child.
The things we do to serve humanity.

MAR: “We do” you say? Yours is the lighter part.

FEN: I do my ancientest primordial rage
With utmost concentration overcome.

MAR: Poor husband. Yet no other way is there
To save that bloodline with a certainty.

FEN: I would we might Atreides son have saved
As well out of the wreckage of this feud.
But nothing boots it ‘gainst the hand of fate
To keen and cry o’er future paths foreclosed.

MAR: A proverb Bene Gesserit there is.

FEN: What happenstance hath Bene Gesserit
Then not a proverb for, i’th’name of God?

MAR: This proverb you’ll appreciate. It runs:
“Count no man dead ere ye have seen his corse.
And even then, ye may in error lie.”