William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act IV, Scene iv.

A southern sietch. JESSICA’S quarters


JESS: These ways of waiting weigh upon the soul
As dunes of sand upon a careless corse
That pays eternally a debt incurred
Within the flicker of an eyelid. Paul
Doth ride a thousand miles to northward now
To prove himself a rider of the sands
And after he’ll go on to prove again
In letters of Harkonnen blood our right
To claim our planet for our own, for years
Must pass ere we may write the final jot
Of that account, and so the weight of years
Doth settle like a cloak around my neck.

Enter HARAH and ALIA

HAR: Reverend Mother, may I have a word.

JESS: Subakh ul kuhar. Art thou well this night?

HAR: Subakh un nar. The night doth find me well.

ALIA: My brother’s ghanima is wroth with me.

HAR: Insult me not. My place is known to all,
And I am yet the mother of his sons
Of law if not of sons born of the flesh.
For them I stay, the prize of battle won.

JESS: Alia, what mischief hast thou made?

HAR: She did refuse to play with th’other babes.
And still unsatisfied by impudence…

ALIA: Behind an arras I concealed myself
To watch the birthing of Subiay’s child,
A son, who cried to burst his lungs, belike.

HAR: And then she touched him, silencing his cries
When every Fremen knows our babes must cry
At birth until they can no more, for they
Must never cry again lest they betray
The tribe upon the hajr and convert
Their promise of new life to death for all.

ALIA: He’d cried sufficient to his need and ours.
His spark of life called out to me, and when
I touched him, he did need no more to cry.

HAR: Among the people it has made more talk.

JESS: The child, the son of Subiay is well?

HAR: As any dam could ask. They know no harm
Was done by Alia. ‘Tis not the point.

JESS: ‘Tis Alia herself, and what she knows,
That which no child or man alive should know.

HAR: How could she know the face of children born”
On Bela Tegeuse worlds and lives ago?

ALIA: But true it is, the son of Subiay
Is as the child of Mitha, born before
The parting from that world to Rossak’s shores!

JESS: I’ve warned thee not to speak of things as these.

ALIA: But, Mother, I did see and speak the truth.

HAR: Truth and wisdom make not many friends.
Nor sitting as a stone and moving naught
But single muscles in her face. She doth
That and the other things no child should do.

JESS: This is the Bene Gesserit in her
And she doth train as any of them might.

HAR: These things are naught to me, but others speak
And whisper she’s a demon, that no child
Of theirs desires to play with, nor can love.

JESS: She hath so little of the child in her
But she is neither demon nor unclean.

HAR: O God forbid you think I think it so!

JESS: Say what thou thinkest, then, and freely speak.
I honor thee, a part of my son’s house.

HAR: Apart from thy son’s house I soon shall be;
And for my sons alone I lingered thus
That they as sons of Usul may receive
His training and the names of mighty men.
All that I have to give and small enough
As he shares neither bed nor seed with me.

JESS: Thou would a good companion for him made.

HAR: Dost think I know not of thy plans for him?

JESS: What plans?

HAR:                           You would unite the Fremen tribes
And place him at their head, so much is plain.

JESS: And you object to this?

HAR:                                       ‘Tis dangerous
For him and aye, for Alia as well.
And Alia is as my flesh, for though
Thy son is not my husband, yet he is
A brother to me, and his sister I
Have watched, and I have seen how from the first
She understood, and with a sharpened gaze
Beyond her years did listen to our speech.
What child hath known the water discipline
So young, or whose first words unto her nurse
“I love you, Harah,” were? Why think you that
I her contumely bear? I know there hides
No malice in it. Yea, I have two eyes
And more, a mind that reasons what they see.
I could have of the Sayyadina been
But that I loved a man yet more than this.

JESS: My mouth is dumb. I know not what to say.

ALIA: We have erred, and we need Harah’s voice.

HAR: It was the ceremony of the seed
That changed you, Reverend Mother, and the child
While she did lie within you, yet unborn.

ALIA: Who else can make the people understand?

JESS: What would you have her do?

ALIA:                                                  That, Harah knows.

HAR: I shall tell the truth: that Alia
Hath never been a child, that she must feign
A childhood she hath never had the joy
Of knowing. Never known its innocence.

ALIA: I know I am a freakish aberrance.

HAR: Who called thee freak of nature? Who hath dared?

ALIA: None.

HAR:               Then say it never of thyself!
Now tell me how it was, that I may tell
The others: How it was to wake to life
Before thy birth, within thy mother’s womb.

ALIA: I woke, but I had never been asleep,
In darkness and in warmth, and I was feared
With no way to escape that nameless fear.
But then I felt my mother as a spark
Of life, an ember bearing light and peace.
But in the midst of peace, a burning flame
The Elder Reverend Mother did appear
And set my mind afire with countless lives
That she did give my mother, and it was
Long time ere I did find myself again.

JESS: A cruel thing, to wake so to the world.
Astonishing that you are yet alive
And know yourself, my daughter, whom I love.

ALIA: I could do nothing else! I knew no way
To hide my consciousness, nor stop its flow.

HAR: We knew not you were there when she did change
The Water to become the Reverend Mother
We knew it not, nor she did know the cost
To you of doing what she did that day.

ALIA: Be not sad: I should not selfishly
Mourn for myself. The tribe is blessed with two
Good Reverend Mothers. Be we all content.

JESS: ‘Tis time to speak the rite. Let us prepare

Enter THARTHAR and FREMEN WOMEN, chanting

WOMEN: Ya! Ya! Yawm! Mu zein, Wallah! Ya! Ya! Yawm! Mu zein, Wallah!

They sit.

JESS: On Bela Tegeuse, Ramadhan had come.

HAR: My family sat at their courtyard pool
In air adorned with gentle fountain sprays.
A tree of portyguls stood near at hand.
A basket of mish mish and baklawa
Upon the table stood. Mugs of liban
To ease our thirst were there for us to drink.
In garden and in flock, the land had peace.

ALIA: Peace and joy, until the raiders came.

JESS: Blood ran cold when screams did rend the air
And we did know the voices for our friends.

HAR: La, la, la, the women cried in vain.

JESS: Through the mushtamal the raiders came
Their knives dripped red with lives of all our men.

HAR: We never shall forgive, nor e’er forget.


THA: Mother Reverend, there is a thing.

JESS: Approach, O wife of Stilgar, and say on.

THA: There is word from the sand, and from the dust
That blows i’the desert, I have news of him
Who is your son: that Usul meets his test
And rides the maker. All the young men say
That when he is a sandrider, they go
To raid Harkonnen in the north and then
When they do meet with Usul, raise the cry
And force him to call Stilgar out among
The tribes and lead them on to victory
Or they will name him coward. They will leave
One or the other dead upon the sand
So saith e’en my brother, help us God.

ALIA: I will go with Tharthar and the men
Who plot this thing and listen to their speech.
Perhaps I’ll find a way, and do a thing.

JESS: Go, daughter, and send word as soon you may.

THA: Mother Reverend, we want this not.

JESS: We want it not; the tribe needs all its strength.

THA: Then we must go, the young men leave e’en now.


HAR: For Paul Muad’Dib to slay Stilgar serves not
The tribe, though it the way of things hath been
Time out of mind, among our folk to choose
Our leaders in the dance of bloody strife.

JESS: The time hath changed us all. Yea, you as well.

HAR: You cannot think I doubt that Usul’s blade
Should conquer Stilgar, should they meet i’th’ring?

JESS: I know you know the truth, thou art not blind.

HAR: Except you think my feelings blind my reason.
You think that I regret he chose me not,
Perhaps that I of Chani jealous am?
I pity her. You think she is no wife
For him whom you would guide to led this world.

JESS: Perhaps. It is a thing with consequence.

HAR: If you are right, doubt not she may herself
Contend for you. She wants what’s best for him.

JESS: Chani is as daughter dear to me.

HAR: Your rugs are dirty, you should have them cleaned.
The soil of many feet hath passed them o’er.