William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act I, scene v.


The Training Room of Castle Caladan
PAUL ATREIDES, seated at a desk. A fencing dummy and worktable are here.
Enter THUFIR HAWAT. He clears his throat.

PAUL: I know; I sit with back against the door.

THUFIR crosses to center

PAUL: I heard your footsteps, Thufir, down the hall
And how you entered at my chamber door.

THU: All sounds I make, a foe could imitate.

PAUL: I’d know the difference.

THU (aside):                              Aye, perhaps he would.
His mother, though she be a witch in sooth
Hath deeply trained him in her school’s lore
And more perhaps than they themselves do love.
Aye, that’s perhaps the reason they have sent
This Reverend Mother, bearing switch in hand
To scourge the Lady Jessica to heel.
Ah, fencing drone, sirrah, you I salute.
Dost thou not think I see me in thy mirrors
Not feel thy padded scars, the weight of swords
Thou bearest? I am even such as thee.
And stand as faithful.

PAUL:                                                Thufir, speak thy mind.

THU: That we anon shall leave this Caladan
And nevermore her face shall see again.

PAUL: I’ faith, and does that parting sadden thee?

THU: A place is but a place. To part with friends
Is sadness. Now Arrakis is our place.

PAUL: Hath my father sent thee then to test me?

THU: You’d rather he had come himself, I know,
But for the virtuous is there no rest.

PAUL: My studies I have focused for the nonce
Upon the stormwinds of Arrakis’ face.
They seem to reek of danger.

THU:                                       Danger, say you?
As well you might its sun accuse of warmth.
The storms of Dune are no tame hurricane,
But feed upon a thousand leagues of heat
Or any erg that’s hatched from any source —
The coriolis force itself can tap
And ravening across the deserts tear
At flesh with teeth of gravel, sands and dust
And flay a man to slivers in an hour.

PAUL: Why do they not with satellites enchain
This terrifying force and pull such teeth?

THU: The cost the Guild does charge would be too high
For our – perhaps for any – House to bear.

PAUL: Hast thou seen the Fremen of the sands?

THU: ‘Tis like as not I’ve seen them. Who could tell?
The Fremen and the city-folk alike
Do look and stink the same. The stillsuit reek
Doth cling to flesh as do the suits themselves
Cling to the body’s water and permits
The soul to cling to flesh in that dry hell.

PAUL: Water there more precious is than gold.

THU: A care for water you shall learn to have
Though you, a ducal heir may never thirst,
Your people shall seek water at your feet.
Lad, does your mind fold space without a ship?

PAUL: The Reverend Mother said a thing to me.
She said Arrakis would be lost to us,
And drown Atreides in its seas of sand.
I shook with pain to warn my father, yet
She said ye all had warned him, well enow.

THU: ‘Tis true enough, such warnings we have given.

PAUL: Then why do we Arrakis’ deserts dare?

THU: Because the Padishah hath ordered it.
And hope persists in spite of witchlike words.
What else did wisdom’s nightingale impart?

PAUL: She asked what it’s to rule. I said, command.
She said I had a falsehood to unlearn.
A ruler must persuade, and not compel
To seek men true and sharp of mind and blade.

THU: How else did Leto then attract the hearts
Of Gurney, and of Duncan Idaho?

PAUL: Is Dune as bad as that old crone did say?

THU: So bad as that no hell of space could be.
Consider but the Fremen. E’en across
The vasty gulfs of space I can deduce
The folly of Imperial censors proud
Who say the Fremen are too few to count.
Too few! Too many rather, and they hate
Harkonnen with a fire that chills the sun
Should any dare to make comparison.
This secret hold you close; ‘tis thine as heir.

PAUL: It sounds almost the equal of that world
Salusa Secundus, which we name in fear.

THU: We know but little of that world today.
Our knowledge is the echo of the past.
But of that echo you do have the right.

PAUL: Will Fremen aid us in our desperate fight?

THU: The possibility is there, I go
Today to tread Arrakis, and to forge
Perhaps our new alliance. Now do me
This courtesy, and seat thyself toward
This chamber’s door. And set my mind at ease.

PAUL: You do embark today?

THU:                                                   Today, it is.
So keep thy knife arm free. And shield full-charged.

PAUL: Good Thufir, sit not thy back to a door.

THU: That I will not. What, Gurney! Pass, good friend.


PAUL: One day more, another destiny
Awaits far from this planet, from these walls
An undiscovered world, as reticent
To my mind’s eye as ‘twere the very grave
And what’s a world? The men, the moons, the tides
The growing things? Look you, the very earth
A nature never knowing aught of now,
Timeless as the halls of space itself.

Enter GURNEY with baliset and assorted blades.

PAUL: Gurney Halleck! Many men make liars,
But to see a lyre make a man
By leaving him for such a load of steel
Is such a wonder I have not dreamt of.
Is thy play all given up for fight?

GURN: You’d rather I did play when you have heard
This steel sing in my hand. But say what dart
Thou didst sink in good Hawat? As a man
Who ran to see a shriven enemy
He ran me by. Hast thou no word to say?

PAUL: Where then’s Duncan Idaho, is not
He master of my skills with shield and sword?

GURN: Already ‘pon Arrakis Duncan stands
And only Gurney Halleck, spoiled for fight
And fresh for music stands to spar with thee.
And in the council was it thought that thou
So spoiled by thy doting father art
That thou canst do no hurt to any foe
Shouldst learn of music, and thus play some part

PAUL: Sing then, so’s I’ll know the notes to miss.

GURN: Oh-h-h the Galacian girls
Will do it for pearls
And the Arrakeen for water
But if you desire dames
Like consuming flames
Try a Caladanin daughter!

PAUL: Thy poor hand at that baliset would seem
The picture of good health next to thine ears
Hung from the battlements if Lady Jess
Should hear thee sing that bawd within these walls

GURN: Poor decoration, aye with all their scars
Gashed with thy keyhole when thou practiced worse.

PAUL: Hast thou forgotten what it is to sleep
With sandlice in thy bedding? So let’s fight!

GURN: Revenge for that I’ll have at least, young sir!
Now guard thyself with thy most wicked hand!

PAUL: What fool is this my father doth send hither
Who scarce does know his way around his tool?
His shield, I mean, where speed’s an asset false
To lure his partner with a fickle feint,
While wiser hands do slowly penetrate
A littler death to slip within the shield
And prick the foe’s life-blood with knife to hand.

(they fight)

GURN: Thy swashing blow would nothing have delayed
My sheathing in thy gut this very blade.
This blade in foemen’s hands could spill thy life
‘Tis not for play we practice with the knife.

PAUL: I’m in no humor for such work today.

GURN: Not in your humor? What is that to me?
Or thee? Must every man be in his humor
Before thou, boy, wilt deign to turn and fight?
Piss thy humor out or drink it up
Spill humor in some slattern’s belly, boy,
But fight me now and guard thyself for true
Or I’ll spill humor of a sanguine hue!

PAUL: I beg thy pardon, Gurney.

GURN:                                               Beg of this!

(they fight)

GURN: Thou hast a need for yet another blade,eh?

(Paul and Gurney end corps-a-corps, knives at each other’s vitals)

PAUL: Seekest thou then this?

GURN:                                               Now, lad, look down
And thou shalt see we would have died together.
But at the least, you fought a bit more fierce
When you saw your humor might be pricked.

PAUL: Wouldst thou have drawn my blood in very truth?

GURN: Hadst thou fought beneath the skills I know
Thou hast, I should have sketched on thee a scar.
Lest thou shouldst fall to some Harkonnen brave.

PAUL:  I am justly served, but you should be
For any hurt to me a-punished.
My noble father’s wrath should fall on thee,
And I would not have it thus.

GURN:                                   Well, as to that
A punishment’s a thing for him who fails
As I’d have failed did I not train thee out
Of fighting with thy moods and with thy humors.
‘Tis not in play we do this.

PAUL:                                    Ay, for play
I thirst for play to ‘scape solemnity.

GURN: So I sensed. And such I too would like.
But we fly to Arrakis on the morrow.
Arrakis, real as death and real as sorrow.
And Harkonnens, deadly as this knife.
And now to practice: scratch that manikin
With such a blow thou wouldst have given me.
And I from here shall be thine enemy.

Paul and Training Dummy fight.

GURN: What am I but a tree of skills and shadow
To feed and shade this boy, as dear to me
As any of my blood, were any left
By error of Harkonnen cruelty.
How cruel I must be, that he may live
And synthesize all that we teach of death
In manhood which does stink of sharp regret.
And if a wish were fish we’d all cast nets.