William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act V, Scene ii.

Rim of the Shield Wall.


STIL: Behold that citadel, which looks not like
A construct of inhabitants o’the world
And yet doth stand upon it.

GURN: His Majesty the Emperor’s own ship
As centerpiece of what appears to be
A brazen city, as they have in Hell
Attested by whom Virgil’s shade did lead
Thence to the blessed realms. Nine levels high
It stands, and filled with demon Sardaukar.

PAUL: Five legions arm themselves within its walls.

STIL: The sky grows grey: we like it not, Muad’Dib
That you expose yourself and may be seen.

PAUL: No harm can come to me upon these rocks.

GURN: That ship doth mount great weapons that could hurl
Destruction on us all, e’en from so far.

PAUL: They’ll think us shielded, e’en if they spy
Our spying, and waste no such shot at us.

GURN: Is’t aught to see below we have not seen?
The storm approacheth. We should get below.

PAUL: His Majesty hath brought along a house
All House Corrino, even to his court
Including ladies, lackeys, servants all.
That they may see his triumph and applaud.
O Padishah, how confident thou art
That thou so easily possess this world.

STIL: Our men return. They’re like to carry news.


PAUL: Hail, and well-met, my Fedaykin. Report.

OTHEYM: As you, O dread Muad’Dib, did order us
We have released our captured Sardaukar
And sent them running homewards to their lord.
The rocket launchers and the guns emplaced
To hurl their fire and take the field against
Them who would dare oppose us, and the folk
Are ordered and deployed as you did wish.

PAUL: Our Sardaukar will need some time afoot
Ere they can summon carriers to them.
Are they watched, that we may know they’re found?

STIL: Aye, they are watched. We’ll not lose sight of them.

GURN: Had we not best seek safety then, my lord?

PAUL: Seek that which is in no wise to be found
Upon this globe entire? What purpose that?

STIL: A great grandmother of a storm is come
Can you not feel it, Muad’Dib, i’th’air?

PAUL: Reports are certainer than feelings are.
We’ve poled the sand and all is favorable?

STIL: Within the hour the storm doth come, and they
Within their palaces do know it well
From all their friends in space: their ‘thopters all
Be grounded and of no more use to them.
They know that we are here and think to choose
Their time to hurl their strength against our blades.

PAUL: Their fleet will stay a-space, they have no choice:
We can destroy the spice, the which the Guild
Cannot endure, and will not take that risk.

GURN: But desperate men are oft most dangerous.

STIL: Are we not desperate, we who’d free our world?

PAUL: O Gurney, you’ve not lived the Fremen dream.
Stil thinks upon the water we have spent
To bribe the Guild, the which hath added years
To our long wait to make Arrakis bloom

GURN: O out upon this prattle ere we fight!

STIL: What makes thy friend so gloomy?

PAUL:                                                             T’is his way
Before a battle. T’is the only form
Of humor he alloweth to his soul.

GURN: It glooms me much to think upon the souls
If souls they yet retain, we shall dispatch
Unshriven from Harkonnen arms to hell.

STIL: He speaketh like a Fedaykin.

PAUL:                                                 O aye.
A death commando Gurney was i’the’womb.
Worry saps the strength, you told me once.

GURN: My Duke, I worry chiefly what t’will mean
If you should use th’atomics as you plan
To blast a passage in the Shield Wall.

PAUL: They cannot rain atomic fire upon us
Lest they destroy the spice in killing us.

GURN: Th’Injunction ‘gainst the use of nuclear fire..!

PAUL: Injunction? Out upon the damn’d Injunction.
T’is fear, and no Injunction that doth keep
The Houses of the Landsraad from the urge
To hurl atomic fire from world to world!
The language of the Great Convention’s plain:
“Whoso shall use atomics upon man,
His planet shall obliterated be.”
We use them ‘pon the Shield Wall, not man.

GURN: Too fine a point is that to rest upon.

PAUL: They build their lives upon such points, and shall
Split hairs before they risk one at their throats.
The city folk. Are they prepared to fight?

STIL: Ayah,

PAUL:            What troubles thee?

STIL:                                                 I never knew
A city man whose word was worth a drop.

PAUL: I was a city man for fifteen years.

STIL: Muad’Dib doth know I did not mean…

PAUL: I know. The metal in a man is shown
In what he doth, and not in what men think
That he shall do. The city folk do share
The Fremen blood, but have not learnt to ‘scape
The chains that lie upon them: this we’ll teach.

STIL: The habits of a life are hard to break.
Upon the Funeral Plain, we learned despite
For men who lived their lives in village walls.

PAUL: Now Gurney, tell us why the Sardaukar
Did drive the city people from their homes?

GURN: A trick as old as time: they thought to weigh
Us down with refugees, and sap our strength.

PAUL: It hath been long since such guerilla troops
Could sting the mighty through their shields and knives.
The mighty have forgotten how to fight them.
The Sardaukar have played into our hands
By hurting those they had no cause to hurt
And killing those who wanted but to live
They have unleashed a breaking storm of rage
In those who would have liefer watched than fought.
And now would liefer die than live one day
More choking on their unexpended hate.
And they shall be our vanguard on this day.

GURN: The slaughter ‘mongst them shall be terrible.

PAUL: They know their odds of life, and meet their deaths
As man might meet to trade for things of worth.
They know that every Sardaukar they kill
Is one less Sardaukar to do us hurt.
And having these discovered, they now know
They are a people, strong upon the earth.
But look, a messenger who comes with news.


FRE: Muad’Dib! A great commotion at the tent
Or metal city, whatsoe’er it be.
A car arrived from Rimwall West and t’was
As though a bomb had burst, so did men run
And cry to one another as if struck.

PAUL: Our captive Sardaukar are now arrived.

FRE: About the landing field a shield they’ve raised:
A cube of force like amber in the air!

GURN: And now they know for true whom they do fight.
Harkonnen quakes before th’Atreides vengeance.

PAUL: But watch the flagpole of the Emperor’s ship.
If my flag be raised to the pinnacle…

GURN: That it shall not: he’ll not endure the shame.

STIL: What then is this?

PAUL:                              It is the way of things
That if the Emperor do grant my claim
To rule upon Arrakis as its lord
By right of law, he’ll raise Atreides’ flag.
Then strike we only at Harkonnen blood
And know the Sardaukar will stand aside.

STIL: It seemeth too unlikely to be borne.

FRE: I see a flag upon the tallest ship!
A circle gules and of sable too
Upon a field d’or. What doth it mean?

PAUL: A subtle piece of work: the flag of CHOAM.

GURN: A subtle piece of work indeed: to raise
Atreides banner would have bought him peace
And all the laws that would have bound him then.
To raise Harkonnen’s flag would mean flat war.
But now His Majesty doth say he stands
Where profit is, and careth not a whit
Who ruleth here, so long he profits it.


PAUL: How long until the storm doth strike the Wall?

STIL: Quite soon. A great-great-granddam of a storm
E’en more than you had wished, I’ll warrant me.

PAUL: My storm it is, it cannot be too great,
Nay, though it shook the world, to serve my purpose.
Command th’artillery to lay their guns
Before the sand occults their sighting scopes.
For they must have the nose off every ship
The moment that the storm takes down their shields.
Now, Stilgar, send the men unto the sand.

STIL: Wilt thou not come with is, to join the fight?

PAUL: Presently: I’ll with the Fedaykin.


PAUL: The family atomics that shall blast
The Shield Wall aside, I leave with thee
True Gurney. Wilt thou use them as I bid?

GURN: Aye, that I shall, though it misliketh me.
Ware the wall to south: until we light
Atomic fire upon it, t’will be bare.

FRE: The foe hath armored cars dispatched, and they
Do shoot at us with mounted guns. Our men
Beneath their body shields, as ordered shelter.

PAUL: Pull out the wall observers to the south.

FRE: A great-great-great grandmother of a storm.
We get no messages, the static’s strong!

PAUL: Unleash th’ atomics, and God send the right!

GURNEY presses the trigger. A great blast.


OTH: The Shield Wall is breached! Our gunners fire!

GURN: We should, my Duke take cover, lest the foe
Retaliate with gunners of their own.

PAUL: They cannot so retaliate. E’en now
They have discovered they’ve no shields nor can
Arrakis flee to hide themselves in space.

GURN: The way unto the basin now is clear
The new command post ready to your needs.

PAUL: Yet they’ve no need of me, they know the plan.

FRE: We have a message, Muad’Dib. Much static:

VOICE FROM RADIO: Raid on Sietch Tabr… captives… Alia
Families of dead… son of Muad’Dib.

GURN: The message is but half-received, thou canst
Know not of what was meant to say about

PAUL: My son is dead. My son is dead and she
Who is my sister they have ta’en hostage.
That they who seek my death should me compel.
I am the very Midas of the grave
That all I touch should turn to grief and death.
But they have cut the heart of him who holds
The vial of plague that spreads across the stars.
How little doth the universe acquaint
Itself with real pain or cruelty.
Yet they shall know it when I bring it them.