William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act IV, Scene i

Giedi Prime. The antechamber of the Baron’s personal quarters.


HAR: Nefud! Come! The devil take thy soul!


NEF: O dread my lord.

HAR:                           How long hast thou as chief
Of all my guards me served, Nefud? How long?

NEF: Even since Arrakis, lord. Two years.

HAR: And hast thou always every sort of risk
To me and to my flesh sought to prevent?

NEF: Such alone my dearest wish hath been.

HAR: Then where’s Feyd-Rautha? Where that upstart boy
That seeks to be a man before his time?

NEF: Feyd-Rautha, lord?

HAR:                                       Then you do not believe
Feyd-Rautha any risk toward myself?

NEF: Feyd-Rautha’s in the quarters of the slaves.

HAR: With women once again he wasteth time?

NEF: Sire, it could be that he…

HAR:                                                   Keep silence, worm!
Have I not commanded thee, thou stone,
To know precisely where Feyd-Rautha is
And what he sayeth, and withal to whom?
Have I not, thou grinning mannikin,
Thou frail tin-soldier, told thee I should know
Upon the instant when he went into
The harem-slaves. Did I not say these things?
Am I a mute or art thou deaf and blind?
Thou rock-brained, addlepated paper man!

NEFUD nods

HAR: Did I not say that with thy very eyes
Thou wast to check all slave-boys sent to me?

NEFUD nods

HAR: Didst thou not see the blemish on his thigh
Of that boy sent to me this e’en, perchance?


FEYD: Great Mother save thee, uncle. What’s the matter?

HAR: There is a corpse I wish to see removed
From out my chamber where it grins with death.

FEYD signals. Exit two GUARDS.

HAR: And hast thou left our woman-slaves in peace
As good Harkonnens leave all dalliances?

FEYD: I did but play at cheops with their warden.

HAR: The chess-per-pyramid! And didst thou win?

FEYD: Aye, uncle.

HAR:                           Very good. Nefud, attend.
You wish to be restored unto my grace?
Go to that warden of the slaves who hath
At chess so lately and so meanly lost
With three good men ye can rely upon.
Garrote and bring his corpse to me, that I
May see it was done rightly. We cannot
Incompetence in such great games permit.
And when that he is dead, give him a guard
To escort him to hell of those two dregs
Who lately carried off that other corpse
So sloppily. I’ll not abide a mess.

NEF: Milord, if aught I’ve done hath angered ye…

FEYD: Obey thy master’s orders, villain. Go!


HAR: Hast thou heard Arrakis’ latest news?
They have a prophet, called of them Muad’Dib,
Which meaneth, being translated, ‘The Mouse.’
I’ve told Rabban to let them have their rat
As fit to pray to, for such worms as they.

FEYD: How very interesting, milord and kin.

HAR: Is it not so? A clever plan it was.
But not enough. Why did you not yourself
My life exsanguinate upon the floor?
You’ve had the chance as often as the day.

FEYD: You taught me that no blood must stain my hands.

HAR: Aye, when you face the Emperor, thou must
Say truly that thou didst not do the deed.
The witch upon his elbow shall thy words
Both hear and measure for the truth in them.
This I did teach thee, and this hast thou learned.

FEYD: Why have you ne’er a Bene Gesserit bought?

HAR: Think not to change this subject as if I
A dotard thus to be distracted were!

FEYD: Milord, you at your pleasure have my ear.

HAR: I mind me of the time some years ago
When it appeared a slave had been prepared
To kill thee i’th’arena, so to strike
Against our line through basest treachery.
Now tell me true: was all then as it seemed?

FEYD: So many years ago, what tongue can tell?

HAR: Add insult not to treachery. Speak plain.

FEYD: It was a seeming treachery, milord,
To doom your master of the slaves to death.
As paint concealed his undrugged flesh, so I
Did hide my plot, and yet did fight in truth.

HAR: A brave and clever machination, that,
To risk your life upon that razor’s edge.

FEYD: I’d liefer not so close have shaved, milord.

HAR: Hadst thou subtility with courage matched
A formidable baron thou wouldst make.
You wonder how I dodged your poisoned prick?
I’ll keep that staff to lean on in my age
As any man a blade within a cane
Might keep to guard himself on darkened streets
Should nighttime bargains fail of honoring
Such as we now must strike betwixt ourselves.

FEYD: What bargain must we strike then, my good lord?

HAR: As good material, I’ll waste thee not.
But neither shall I foolishness reward.
And this was foolishness, to so refuse
My value unto thee, like any child
Who stops his ears with fists, and cries aloud
That he might never hear instruction’s voice.
Thou thinkest me a fool, and yet this fool
Espied the shielded needle thou didst plant
Within that slave-boy’s thigh. Just near enough
The other prick, you thought I’d see not thine.
‘Twas nearly small enough to miss entire.
The bargain shall be thus: You’ll cease to plot
My death, and I shall make you baron ‘ere
It comes to pass. I’ll stand aside, retire.
When you and I agree that you are fit
To rule Harkonnen’s world of Giedi Prime.

FEYD: You speak of bargaining; what surety
Can we give each the other, when we know
What men unlike ourselves fondly deny:
That strength and cunning are the highest laws
And treachery the highest tool of state.
How shall we promise then to bind ourselves
To lesser laws that rule the lesser men?

HAR: I’ll take thy pledge for now and seal it with
Old Hawat’s eye upon thee, for I’ll trust
His Mentat age to bind thy willful youth.

FEYD: You’ll take my pledge and in return what give?

HAR: Thy blood the right to run yet through thy veins
Unspilled. Thy lungs free access to the air.

FEYD (aside) He’ll Hawat set to watch me. How if I
Confessed that Hawat was the architect
Of that remembered duel years ago?
Nay, he would say that I but vainly hoped
To tarnish Hawat’s name to scape his gaze.
For Hawat is a Mentat of the best
And hath anticipated this event.

HAR: I’ll have thy answer.

FEYD:                                     I accept, of course.

HAR: And not protest good Hawat’s overwatch?

FEYD: He is a toy most dangerous to keep.

HAR: A toy you say! Be not a fool! I know
Quite well what I in Hawat do possess.
And hold the handle of that deadly blade.
For Hawat hath deep feelings. He who hath
No feeling is the man to fear. But him
Who hath emotions running like the seas
In tides can like those tides be harnessed
And power weapons subtle and direct.

FEYD: I understand you not.

HAR:                                       That’s plain enough
Nor do you Hawat understand in this.

FEYD (aside): Nor do you understand him, aged fool.

HAR: Who doth Hawat hate? Who doth he blame
For such a hateful circumstance as he
Is fallen in? Myself? But certainly.
But at Atreides’ side he bested me
For years until the Emperor’s dread hand
Did cheat him of his game. His hate for me
Is as the hate he holdeth for his age:
A thing to be accepted and endured
Inevitable as the passing time.
He knows that he can best me at his will
And thinking this, is bested, all the while
He uses both my time and resources
Toward the source of that he hates the most:
The Emperor, the author of the fall
Of House Atreides that he so did love.
And as the throne is where I wish his mind,
That subtle weapon to be targeted,
We’ve both a common purpose and a foe.

FEYD: You use him to attack the Emperor?

HAR: As he believes he useth me to wreak
Revenge upon the throne that slew his lord.
And when that throne is vacant, who might fill
That golden chair? Canst think who that might be?

FEYD: He’d even place me on that throne to spite
The Emperor who slew his erstwhile lord?

HAR: His pupil whom he loves not better than
The man who slew his pupil that he loved.

FEYD: I’ve learned from Hawat, learned his deadliness.
He’s knife without a hilt, and we should sheathe
Him in a plot of ground without delay.

HAR: You like it not that he should watch you, eh?

FEYD: Hawat watches every living soul.

HAR: For this sharp blade we hold the sheath. Indeed
Reversing natural geometry
The sheath’s in him. I’ll not the antidote
Withdraw just yet. Not when this knife may cut
Harkonnen’s path toward the Empire’s throne.

FEYD: ‘Tis very like th’arena, seeming feint
Within a feint, to trick th’incautious foe.

HAR: And now you see you need me yet to arm yourself.

FEYD: Aye, Uncle.

HAR:                          Now, we’ll back to whence thou wert.
And I shall watch as you kill every girl
Within the harem with your own two hands.

FEYD: Uncle, why?

HAR:                           You’ll not so casually
Mistake yourself with me. We’ll buy some more.
But you will bear your punishment, and will
More wisdom gain than with my life to play.
You’ll not refuse. No, this you’ll not refuse.


FEYD: I’ll not refuse. And like the sword you are
I’ll use and not refuse thee til you’re blunt.
And on that day I’ll melt thee down for scrap.

Exit FEYD.