William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act IV, Scene viii

Cave of Birds.
Paul’s outer quarters


JESS: My son brings Gurney Halleck. Back from death
Our troubadour returns, but one of all
Those whom we loved that never shall return.
Shall I rejoice or weep? My soul knows not.
His music wakens thoughts of Caladan:
Lost world that I shall never see again
Excepting it be in a song. Belike
It is as Caladan were but a dream
From which I woke to nightmare, or a tale
Told of a happier life I never lived,
A life of castles and of luxury
Unthinkable, or in a mirror marred
As in the silver of this coffee urn
Inherited from Jamis, won in blood:
The richest thing almost a man could own
Upon this desert world, beside his woman,
Which also Paul did win, and spurning her
Hath chose another, no more suitable.
What can she do but serve him with her hands
Upon its silver surface? She hath naught
To bring to him save her body and her soul.
No wealth, no family, no power of state,
And such alliance is Paul’s only chance
To place his claim past contestation, e’en
Alliance with the House Imperial
For that hath princesses that must be wed,
And every one a Bene Gesserit.
But Paul, as long as Chani lives is blind
Unto his marriage duty. She hath borne
A son to him, and that shall be enough.

GURNEY coughs without

JESS: Enter.

Enter GURNEY. He takes JESSICA prisoner.

JESS: What, Gurney? Art thou mad? Play not the fool!

GURN: Thought you that you’d ‘scaped my vengeance, witch?

Enter PAUL

PAUL: Good Mother, here… what in the name of God?

GURN: My Lord, you will not move from where you stand.
And thou, O witch, shall speak but when I bid
And what I bid. One phrase I’ll have from thee
But that thy son may hear it. I am set
To loose this knife by reflex through thy heart
Shouldst thou the slightest sign give of thy will
To counter me. Thou shalt speak monotone
And keep thy fighting muscles slack and still.
Thou shalt buy with the utmost carefulness
The few and final seconds of thy life
Which do remain to thee, and by the rood
I swear to thee that these are all thou hast.

PAUL: Gurney, man, what is this fever-dream?

GURN: Stand! Take another step and she shall die!

PAUL: Explain thyself, and make thy reason good. He draws his knife.

GURN: I swore to slay that traitor who thy sire
Did send unto his death. Shall I forget
The man who freed a poor Harkonnen slave?
Who gave me freedom, life and honor. More
A father than my father could have been?
A friend, that blessing prized above all else.
And now she who betrayed him stands before
My thirsting edge: I’ll have her blood for his.

PAUL: Thou couldst not be more wrong, old friend, than this.

GURN: Be wrong? Nay, wrong incarnate stands before
Your face, in likeness of a mother’s love
And that may be the cruelest disguise
That ever treason bore: but let her speak!
And as she speaketh, let her know that I
Have spent both gold and honor for the tale
As if they were but sand, to verify
This charge, the which I hoped to find untrue.
I even sold semuta to the chief
Of Old Harkonnen’s guard for what he knew.

PAUL: T’was Yueh who betrayed us. I shall tell
You once: the evidence is quite beyond
All contestation. I care not for how
You came by this suspicion: there can be
No substance to it greater than mirage.
But if you harm my mother, I shall have
Thy blood to answer for thy folly here.

GURN: Yueh was conditioned and could not
Betray his House, nor harm a human soul!

PAUL: I know, and also how it was removed.

GURN: What evidence can there be of this tale?

PAUL: It lies in Tabr Sietch, far to the south.

GURN: This is some trick, Harkonnen-sown and grown.

PAUL: No trick. Harkonnen’s seed grows in thy mind.

GURN: I saw the message, from Harkonnen’s spy.
It pointed beyond doubting to this witch!

PAUL: I saw it too. My father showed it me
And knew it for Harkonnen trickery
To make him doubt the woman that he loved.

GURN: You cannot know

PAUL:                                     Be silent, Gurney Halleck.
You cannot know, cannot have heard her weep
For memory of him whom she hath lost:
Her man, her Duke, her cornerstone of life,
Nor seen her eyes stab flame when she doth speak
Of killing all Harkonnen life that breathes.
What you have not remembered are your own
Hard lessons you once learned on Geidi Prime
In Old Harkonnen’s slavery. You speak
Of pride in friendship with my father! How
Could you now not the difference between
Harkonnen and Atreides comprehend?
Can you not smell this vile Harkonnen trick?
Do you not know Atreides loyalty
Is bought with love, Harkonnen’s ‘changed for hate?
Can you not see betrayal for itself?

GURN: But Yueh? How could he betray a man?

PAUL: The evidence is written in his hand.
I swear to you upon mine own heart’s blood,
The heart that shall with love yet swell for you
E’en if I must your blood shed on this floor.
My father had an instinct for his friends
And never erred in giving out his love.
He erred in that he understood not hate,
And thought that those who did Harkonnen hate
Could ne’er betray him. She knows this for truth:
That never did my father doubt her love.
T’is terrible to be a boy and know,
To wake unto the comprehension that
Between a man and woman flows a love
Between his mother and his father, aye
A love that he can never touch nor grasp.
Because it means that he doth stand alone
Within the world, and must his own love find.
I heard that love upon my father’s lips
When he did speak of her. She is no traitor.

JESS: Release me, Gurney, I do beg of thee.

He does

JESS: Paul, I am awakened as thou wast
And as if in a nightmare see my sin
In using thee, and twisting thee as if
Thou wast a tiller in a pilot’s hand
To bring us power: power for revenge
And for Atreides’ safety and its life.
Thus was I trained for – yet I cannot hide
Behind that cold excuse and human be.
But now I ask thee this, and openly:
Choose now the course of thine own happiness
And if thy wish, then marry thy great love,
Thy desert woman, and defy the stars
To chart thy course, so long it is thine own.

GURN: Your knife sheathe in my breast, have done with me,
For I have stained my name, betrayed my Duke.

PAUL: Be still! Close up thy robe, play not the fool
On foolishness I’ve surfeited this day.
How many kinds of fool must I then be?
Must I demur to kill each loyal man?

GURN: Then you, milady, kill me and erase
In mine own blood the wrong I have you done.

JESS: Why should you force Atreides’ hand to such
An awful pass, to kill the men they love?
You thought you did this thing for Leto’s shade,
To ease his rest: for this I honor thee.
Let us believe this were as but a dream,
From which it were so glad to be awaked
That we did joy to see the morning light
And greet each other in its lambent rays.

GURN: My lady,

JESS:                          Gurney Halleck, whom I knew
A man adept at blade and baliset
Both was, and I admired the troubadour
More than the fighting man. Does he recall
How he did by the hour play for me
While I did listen to Olympian strains.
Have you a baliset, dear Gurney Halleck?

GURN: I have a baliset new-made, and from
Chusuk she is, and plays like a Varota
Though there be no signature upon her
I do think some student of her school
Hath made my baliset… but how can I
In mindless prattle stand before you now?

PAUL: Say never prattle, Gurney, but a thing
That bringeth joy between old friends and times
Long gone to memory that lives again.
I’d take it for a kindness an’ you’d play
That baliset for her. Our battle plans
Can wait an hour and give a space to song
Or why do we win battles, after all?

GURN: My baliset is in the passageway
I go anon to fetch it.

JESS:                          I’ll with thee
That we may in my chambers take respite.


PAUL: O what offense, rank in the eyes of God
Have I committed, so accurst to be?
To see the future, as if in a lens
Of oil, and yet to be so fumbling blind!
Betrayal from a friend I never hoped
To see alive again, who nearly took
My mother’s life with loyalty misplaced!
No shadow of that vision came to me
And I unblinking walked into th’event.
The spice that brought me visions once now hides
That future it revealed, as wine reneges
Its promise of nepenthe to the drunkard
When he insensible to it becomes
Through usage, and doth leave of him a husk.
But I must see, or this world drowns in blood.
Then I must drown the Maker, and distill
From out its flesh the Water of the Life
That I may have a Reverend Mother’s eyes
And see if I the Kwisatz Haderach
Indeed shall be. Or meet my death, which shall
If I am none, be much the greater boon.