William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act I, Scene iii

The Baron Harkonnen’s study, Geidi Prime.
The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen with globe. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, the Beast Rabban, and Piter DeVries sitting at a table.

HAR: On Earth, a planet gave a plant its name:
The Venus fly-trap. What is that beside
The trap that I, the Vladimir Harkonnen
Do set, and dare to use a very world
To lure the Duke Atreides to his death?

PIT: Assuredly, my dread and sapient Lord.

HAR: Lo, gaze upon it Piter, and dear Feyd.
The ripples of the caramel-colored sand.
From shrunken ice-cap to th’antipodes
There durst no sea nor serpent riverine
To stain with their cerulean calumny.
Arrakis! Not a man beholds this orb
And fails to mark its singularity.
More singular to mark my victory.

PIT: The Emperor imagines he has won.
And given House Atreides all that’s thine.
Poor royal fool.

HAR:                          Thou speakest this to set
A camouflage before Feyd-Rautha’s mind.
Fret not. I’ll hide me not from him.

A knock without. Piter receives a message scroll

What, then?

PIT: The fool hath answered us, my Lord!

HAR: Whenever did Atreides fail to keen
A hawk-cry to the incorporeal wind?
What croaks he then?

PIT: Most rude and lacking style of thine he writes,
“Harkonnen.” Naught of ‘Sire et Cher Cousin…”

HAR: The name’s a good one. What’s dear Leto say?

PIT: “Thine offer of a meeting is refused.
“Ofttimes I’ve met your treachery and this
“Is known of men on each Imperial star.
“The art of kanly has admirers still.
“Duke Leto of Arrakis, by his will.”
Arrakis! ‘Tis a jest too rich for words!

HAR: Be silent! So, vendetta is his choice,
With ancient verbiage spoken, so I’ll know
He writes in earnest, and makes no mere show.

PIT: The forms have been obeyed; you offered peace.

HAR: You talk too much for Bene Tleilax’s spawn.
(aside) And soon enough, I’ll see that he is gone.

PIT: But, Baron, such a vengeance you have wrought:
A most exquisite treachery, to make
The proud Caladanin Duke to change his world
For Dune, by an Imperial order sealed.

HAR: Thy mouth’s in flux, and should as well be sealed.

PIT: Your jealousy’s an unbecoming shade
And I am happy…

HAR:                          Piter!

PIT:                                         What a shame
You could not by yourself this scheme devise

HAR: Some night I’ll have thee strangled in thy sleep.

PIT: Of course, my Baron. Kindness never fails.

HAR: Is verite or semuta in thy cheek?

PIT: My cheek surprises you? I know your mind
Mentat am I, I see when you will send
The strangler with the garrote in his hand.
You will not waste. The wastes of Dune have taught
You better far than that. Is it not so?

FEYD (aside): Have I no better use for ears than this?

HAR: Thine eyes and ears I summoned thee to use
Dear nephew, art thou learning?

FEYD:                                                Aye, my lord.

HAR: The pain I cause of grim necessity
Good Piter tastes like honey on the tongue.
Myself, I pity Leto, for the vines
Of Ecaz grasp his bootstraps even now,
And he does feel their first and feathery touch.
Faint hints of strangulation haunt his dreams
Without the faintest hint of what’s to come
Or whence. Good Doctor Yueh’s surgery
Shall with his excise cure my injury.

PIT: You could command the doctor end his life
Upon the tender mercy of his knife.

HAR: The Duke must know that I have wrought his doom
And all the Landsraad tremble at his fall.
I need them frighted, ready to make way.
I need not like the price I have to pay.

PIT: ‘Make way,” Before the Emperor, that cry
Goes forth, for he has ways, and means to make
The planets tremble underneath his gaze.
That gaze is fixed on you. One day the Corps
of Sardaukar will land on Geidi Prime.
Perhaps they’ll weigh your soul, and there’s an end.

HAR: That sight wouldst thou enjoy, thy stained lips
Upturn to see my fastnesses thrown down.

PIT: Such questions my lord does not need to ask.

HAR: A Bashar of the Corps thou shouldst have been
And wallowed in the blood to hip and thigh.
Perhaps too rash a promise was my word
To share with thee our spoils Arrakeen.

PIT: Toy not with me, O Baron, rash or not,
I have thy word. Dame Jessica is mine.

HAR: For pain? Or if not, Piter, what’s thy purpose?

FEYD: My Uncle, must I hear this? You said…

HAR:                                                                          Patience!
What of Paul Atreides, Leto’s heir?

PIT: The trap already has him its jaws.

HAR: Indeed, ‘twas not the matter of my query.
Thou didst predict all issue of the Duke
Would be of womankind. And thou wert wrong.

PIT: Not often am I wrong. You’ll give me that!
The Emperor himself got only girls
Upon his consort Bene Gesserit.

FEYD: Uncle, what’s the matter in this talk?

HAR: My nephew speaks. He pines to rule, and yet
He cannot be the master of his tongue.
Speak, then, Harkonne! Have you observed our Mentat?
Express your wisdom. Show us what you’ve gleaned.

FEYD: Uncle…

HAR:              Is he not an asset?

FEYD:                                                Yes, but…

HAR: But! The spice he eats. See thou his eyes!
He might have been engendered on Arrakis
Efficient, but his gut o’errules his mind.
Efficient, but the Mentat still can err.

PIT: Dost thou seek to mine my confidence
With critic words ill-thought of as a jest?

HAR: Not so. You know me better, but this boy
Must know the limits of thee and thy kind.

PIT: My kind? Is my successor in the wings?

HAR: Successor? Where could I find like to thee?

PIT: In just the place you did discover me.

HAR: Perhaps there’s wisdom in thy words: thou art
Touched with a madness. And the spice you eat!

PIT: And are my appetites too much for you?

HAR: They tie thee to me; how could I object?
My nephew must witness thine intellect.

PIT: O shall I dance? Am I then on display?

HAR: Thou art. Be silent. This is a Mentat.
Conditioned, trained in mind, but human still.
A serious flaw. How would the ancients laugh
If they could see the folly that replaced
The pure and bloodless calculus they wrought
In circuitry and wire, all gone to naught.

PIT: You speak of naught but toys compared to me
Yourself could outperform a mere machine!

HAR: Perhaps. Now Piter, set the matter forth
Outline the plans by which we shall have means
To fling the proud Atreides in the dust.

PIT: I’ve warned you not to trust to one so young…

HAR: I’ll be the judge. Perform the order given.

PIT: As you wish. Ignore my calculation.
Duke Leto and his household shall embark
In but a few days Standard on a ship
A liner of the Spacing Guild that flies
Them to Arrakis, and in Arrakeen
The Duke shall ‘stablish his whole armory
Upon th’advice of Hawat, Mentat keen
And cunning; he’s a deadly enemy.

HAR: Plans within plans you hear, and now attend:

PIT: Not often wrong am I, and yet ‘tis true
Duke Leto may yet ‘scape the quicksand seas
Of Dune, and make a cryptic contract sealed
Up in the Guild’s high vaults, and in their holds
With family, atomics, shields and vanish
Like shadow of a dream, go renegade,
And like a hawk, he’d cheat our Baron’s hopes.

HAR: Too proud is he for that.

PIT:                                                     T’would be the same.

HAR: T’would not! I’ll see him dead with all his line.

PIT: There is no indication he’ll so fly.
At Arrakeen, the ducal family
The Count and Lady Fenring shall displace.

HAR: The Envoy to the Smugglers gives way, too.

FEYD: Envoy to what?

PIT:                                         Your uncle makes a joke.
The Count’s His Majesty’s own boyhood friend
And guards with skill his gates through secret holds
Concealed in secret ships.

FEYD:                                                But why?

HAR: Awake, thou sloth! How could he move his spies
Without the means to skirt the Guild’s sharp eyes?

PIT: We’ll occupy the Ducal interest
With all the subtle engines of our war
Assassinate young Paul we might indeed…

HAR: You said…

PIT:                             That chance must also play its part
The try must seem in earnest, or ‘tis vain.

HAR: So sad to lose that sweet young flesh… Go on.
He’s dangerous as well, trained by that witch.

PIT:  No man of Hawat’s mettle could but guess
That we our levers have devised, unseen
To move a trusted hand within his ranks
And strike a death-blow with subtility.
And thus good Hawat’s penetrating gaze
Hath passed quite through our agent, thought him safe:
Dr. Yueh, Master of the Suk
Pyretic-conscienced, diamond-browed and yet
By our long levers primed and cocked to kill.

FEYD: ‘Tis true? God’s Blood! The man must rather die
Imperial conditioning cannot
By any means be broken or removed!

HAR: The means to end our foe we’ve found. Go on!

PIT: And as he knows that Yueh cannot turn
We’ll lure him with a wolf-enclothed sheep
Who cannot help but draw him by her wiles.

FEYD: Her?

HAR:              The Lady Jessica herself.

PIT: ‘Tis not sublime? He may attempt her life,
But I misdoubt me he could vanquish her.

HAR: So dost thou hope.

PIT:                                         Do not distract me. While
Good Hawat is so cozened we shall move,
And grant him some few victories to prove
He’s won the day, and once he’s quite in thrall
We’ll move with force…

HAR:                                      Go on. Yea, tell him all.

PIT: We’ll land two legions of the Sardaukar
In our own livery, the Emperor’s Own
To seal our sure and certain victory.

FEYD: The Sardaukar?

HAR:                                      See how I trust thee, Feyd?
The merest hint of this must never reach
The least of the Great Houses, else the whole
Of all the Landsraad might dare to unite
And tear the yoke Imperial from their necks.

PIT: A dangerous advantage do we gain
By doing work His Majesty cannot
Himself be seen to do without the taint
Of villainy. Because he does not dare
To leave the thing undone. And so we’ll gain
A wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

HAR: A key to all the coffers of the CHOAM.

PIT: Duke Leto may attempt to shelter with
The Fremen, that half-ruined band that skulk
In seas of sand. And yet that path is blocked
By Dr. Kynes, an Emperor’s man in truth.
If matters go as planned, Harkonnen’s brood
Shall have Arrakis for his vassalage.

FEYD: We profit by more profits there, indeed.

PIT: And all the Landsraad’s Houses shall with fear
Behold Atreides fall before our Lord.

HAR: They all shall know. Duke Leto knows as well.
He feels the trap. And yet must step within.
I hunger now. Feyd, send for food. At least
A morsel shall we eat before we rest.