The Libertine

Transcript written by and used with the courtesey of Angela Sugden

Lord Rochester
Allow me to be frank at the commencement. You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled. You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on. Ladies, an announcement. I am up for it. All the time. That id not a boast or an opinion. It is bone-hard medical fact. I put it round, you know. And you will watch me putting it round and sigh for it. Don’t. It is a deal of trouble for you, and you are better off watching and drawing your conclusions from a distance, than you would be if I got my tarse up your petticoats. Gentlemen, do not despair. I am up for that as well. And the same warning applies. Still your cheesy erections till I’ve had my say, but later when you shag, and later you will shag, I shall expect it of you, and I will know if you have let me down. I wish you to shag with my homuncular image rattling in your gonads. Feel. . . how it was for me, how it is for me. And ponder. Was that shudder the same shudder he sensed? Did he know something more profound? Or is there some wall of wretchedness that we all batter with our heads at that shining live-long moment? That is it. That is my prologue. Nothing in rhyme. No protestations of modesty. You were not expecting that, I hope. I am John Wilmot. Second Earl of Rochester. And I do not want you to like me.


Man 1
Wrens’ upset. The clergy approved the most conventional design for the cathedral. Now he feels there’s no room for artistic manoeuvre.


King
Put a sub-clause in the warrant ‘Variations in the design are to be ornamental rather than essential’. Then he can do what he wants. Next.


Man 1
There are representations for you to be more careful in public.


Man 2
Perhaps a bodyguard.


King
Whose idea is that?


Man 2
Your brother.


King
Ha! No-one’s going to kill me if it means having him on the throne. Next.


Man 1
Danby says the army is costing too much. It’s Danby’s job to balance the books.


King
If he thinks it’s good economics to disband the army and be invaded by the French, he can look for another position. Anything else?


Man 2
You asked me to remind you about the Earl of Rochester.


King
When did I banish him?


Man 2
Three months ago.


King
For how long?


Man 2
A year.


King
Bring him back. Now.


J’s Mother
John. Be attentive to your wife. She’s not accustomed to London.


John
Mother, I shall in all things endeavour to serve her and you.


J’s Mother
Serve God.


John
You must not fear London.


Elizabeth
It is not London I fear. You abducted me in a coach like this when I was still a virgin heiress.


John
And did you like abduction?


Elizabeth
Passionately.


John
Speak of it.


Elizabeth
John! This is not the place.


John
Speak to me of abduction.


Elizabeth
I was eighteen. And worth two and a half thousand a year. You ambushed me, bundled me from my coach, and drove me away. The King thrust you in the Tower for it. And I dug in my heels and spurned and shunned the other men. I would only embrace my dear abductor.


George
Dryden’s new play. Here, Chas, grab a wodge.


Charles
Dryden couldn’t write a laundry list.


Man
Rochester!


Charles
Johnny!


George
Johnny. We were pining for you. Even now we’re pining.


John
When I wake in the country, I dream of being in London, and then when I get here, it’s full of people like you.


George
Johnny.


John
This reign’s a shambles, do you not think? My father risked life and limb hiding that thing Charles up an oak tree.


George
Has he forgiven you?


John
Oh, he’s forgiven me. I shan’t forgive him.


George
Why did he banish you this time?



John
Well, it is a fine morning, I’m walking through the galleries. The King is walking through the galleries. I’m splendidly alone. The King is surrounded by a slow-moving troop, of Mediterraneans.


Charles
The wife’s family.


John
And he must make show of me. ‘Behold, the Earl of Rochester, the wit. The poet. Pray, let us have some of your muse’. What am I to do? Then I recall in my pocket I have a sketch of something rustic with nymphs. I pull it out and deliver. “In the Isle of Britain, long since famous grown For breeding the best cunts in Christendom.” Rat me, thinks I, this is not the piece of paper I had supposed. The King’s eyes are more piercing than I can remember. The jaws of his entourage are decidedly earthbound. This piece of paper is not covered merely with the thump and slop of congress. This poem is an attack on the monarch itself. Culminating in depiction of the royal mistress striving to flog the flaccid royal member into a state of excitement. “This you’d believe had I but time to tell you, The pains it cost to poor laborious Nelly. Whilst she employs hands, fingers, mouth and thighs, Ere she can raise the member she enjoys. All monarchs I hate, and the thrones they sit on, From the hector of France to the cully of Britain.”


George
It’s damn good, though, Johnny.


John
Course it’s good. That’s not the point. The point is he couldn’t appreciate it. It took me nearly an hour to write it, just to please him. Three months in the fucking country at the height of the season. Missed all the good plays.


George
Boring old Rowley. We love you, Johnny. Give us a stanza and we’ll laugh in the King’s place.


John
To Etherege, I drink a pledge. His life has run the gamut. He’s penned nought good since She Would If She Could. He would if he could, but he cannot.


George
Well, Johnny, it is a damn well said thing, but it ain’t true, do you see?


John
Oh, but it is true, Georgie. You think you can still enjoy the town’s esteem for something you wrote seven years ago. You can’t be promising for ever, George. Sooner or later you must do something.


George
But that’s what I’m saying. I have written a new play.


John
Oh. Written a new play has he? All those afternoons he was pretending to slope off and roger his mistress like a decent chap, he was lurking in his rooms, poking away at a play. That is disgusting, George.


Charles
Disgusting and shameful.


John
What’s it about, your play? A satire on Dryden?


George
Pox o’ Dryden. It’s about you.


John
And in your play, do you tell the truth about me?


George
Well, I’ve attempted to show you. . .


John
Yes?


George
Well, I enjoy your company.


John
You’ve made me endearing.


George
Well, only the public can. . .


John
Don’t smarm around, George.


George
You’re an endearing sort of. . . chap.


John
So you haven’t told the truth. Good. We don’t want to go frightening people. Now, how about a real play?


Charles
The Duke’s have the new Otway.


John
Oh, I have high hopes of young Tom Otway. Let me finish him off, sir.


Master
This fellow is my servant. He has just filched two shillings from my coat pocket.


John
A thief and a rogue.


Master
My lord, you express it.


John
Haven’t quite got the hang of the reign yet, have you?


Master
I will not employ a thief.


John
Then I will. How much was your master paying you?


Alcock
Six shillings a week, sir.


John
Who talks of thieving? George, give him five pounds. Buy a brown livery and report to me at the Duke’s Theatre.


Master
He will steal your gold.


John
I hope so. If he turned honest after coming into my orbit, then I am not the malicious planet I had hoped. Now begone, sir.


Tailor
And er. . . how will your lordship be paying?


John
Credit. I only use coin vulgarised with the monarch’s head for transactions with servants.


Tailor
I am ever your humble servant.


John
No, Mr Ratcliffe, you are the very prince of drapery.


Tailor
The prince is always happy to see the King’s head.


John
But hot to carry it around in his pocket.


Tailor
Credit then.


George
Billy. Join us. Johnny. This is Billy Downs. Billy, this is the Earl of Rochester.


John
How old are you, Mr Downs?


Billy
Eighteen, my lord.


John
Young man, you will die of this company. Do not laugh. I’m serious. Mr Ratcliffe, this hangs very well.


Billy
My lord, I saw you just now with the gent’s servant.


John
Do you think I dispensed wisely in the matter?


Billy
If the fool run off with the gold, then you prove a point, but at your loss. If he return in your livery, then you’ve gained a servant who is a known cheat. So you prove a different point, but again at your own expense.


John
You summarise well, Mr Downs. And in such a manner, I deduce you were trained at one of the ‘count the angels on a pinhead’ Cambridge colleges. King’s, was it not?


Billy
It was, my lord.


John
King’s, yes. And yet you do not draw the moral of the incident.


Billy
Which is?


John
That any experiment of interest in life will be carried out at your own expense. Mark it well.


Alcock
My lord! My Lord Rochester.


John
You’ve come back.


Alcock
In your livery, my lord.


John
Then you are turned honest. I cannot support that.


Alcock
I regret the deed’s honesty. My Lord. But I considered that if I performed it and fell into your service, I would have more. . . enjoyment of life.


John
You see, this fellow has the hang of the reign. I like this fellow exceedingly. What is your name?


Alcock
Alcock.


George
Like master, like servant.


John
Well, Alcock, you shall drink and shag more than any serving man in the kingdom. Go at once and spend the rest of the money on a whore, a large, greasy one. Then when you are done, return here to me. Now begone.


Man 1
Rochester!


Woman 1
Disgrace!


Man 1
Rochester! Rochester! Missed you, Lord Rochester! He is risen! My Lord!


Woman 2
My Lord!


Man 2
Impertinent bastard!


Man 3
Johnny! My Lord Rochester!


Man 4
Rochester, you are a cunt, sir!


Woman 3

I smell a rotten odour.


Woman 4
I’ll suck it for you, Johnny, if you promise not to marry me!


Woman 5
Johnny said ‘cunt’ to the King!


Charles
I’m going to brazen my arse at them.


George
They’ve all seen it.


Charles
Well, they can bloody well put up with it again.


Woman 5
Johnny said ‘cunt’ to the King!


All
Johnny said ‘cunt’ to the King! Johnny said ‘cunt’ to the King! Johnny said ‘cunt’ to the King! Johnny said ‘cunt’ to the King!


Jane
My Lord.


John
Dear Jane.


Jane
Give you your first London spurt of the summer.


John
I brought the wife with me.


Jane
Bit of a waste. Shooting good jism up the lawful.


Mr Harris
Ladies and gallants all, the King!


John
Oh, freeze my piss, if the royal finger ain’t beckoning me. How exciting. Did you miss me?


Jane
I missed the money.


John
Good. Don’t like a whore with sentiment.


King
I could have ignored your poem, Johnny, but I made a fuss about it for a reason. I won’t hide anything from you. The country’s on the brink. People are still reeling from the fire, the plague. The Catholics are plotting, the Dutch are a bunch of bastards. And the French are ten times worse, and there’s no money. I can only get funds by crawling to parliament or plotting against them. And I don’t want to lock antlers with them head on in the way my father did.


John
‘Head on’. That’s quite good.


King
When you first came to court, Johnny, you were a boy of eighteen. A certain flippancy, a whiff of impertinence. This was acceptable. But we’re ten years down the road and the view is different. The tone has to change. I have to look responsible, sober. I want you with me. That’s why I brought you back. I want you to take on a new role.


John
Here? In the playhouse?


King
No, the House of Lords. Your father spirited me out of England when my life was at stake, so I looked after him and after you.


John
You put me in the Tower.


King And I let you out. The time has come for you to pay your dues. People listen to you, Johnny. If you took your seat in the Lords, you could make great speeches that would influence events. Anyone can oppose. It’s fun to be against things. But there comes a time when you have to start being for things as well.


John
Your Majesty.


Woman
Mr Etherege. Take a nibble?


George
I’ve had my dinner, thank you, madam.


Billy
George.


Lizzie
Is this thy plighted faith? Is this thy truth? Oh, too unkind! False and unconstant youth! Madam, believe not but my brother’s just.


John
Who’s she?


George
She’s Lizzie Barry. And she just won’t do.


Lizzie
You wrong his honour by this mean distrust.


Man
Louder!


John
Well.


Actress
That does alleviate my griefs and give my wearied soul a soft and kind reprieve. Which ever to forget would be as hard and as impossible as to reward.


Lizzie
Serving you my happiness secures. Since equally with yours my hopes are crossed.


Audience
Get off.


Lizzie
Of all but sorry and sad despair.


Molly
Lizzie. Lizzie! On stage. You must take your bow for the public. Why do you insist in doing the opposite of what you are told? If girls like you do not do what they are told, then it is all up with our sex on the stage. You cannot ignore the advice of them that know! Now, acknowledge your audience.


Lizzie
They can kiss my arse.


Charles
She’s a good fuck, but she costs. She gives a nice gobble, but she won’t do the full wibbly-wobbly.


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