Alexander - Son of the Gods / by Damian Brant
WIFE OF DARIUS
WOMEN OF PERSIA - AT LEAST THREE
The cast size is 12 men, 9 women with extra soldiers, if desired, for the physical theatre sections.
The play lasts approx. one hour.
Sample Pages from the script
Here, my good lord!
Take the right wing. Hold on the rising ground
Above the enemy's exposed left flank.
Aye, my lord.
At your command.
Take the left wing, Craterus. Hold it fast
With your archers. Hold it safe, Craterus.
Your will is done, my lord, or else Craterus
Shall no longer be of Macedon, lord.
Well said, young soldier. Parmenion?
Aye, at your service, my lord. What's your will?
Say, how has Darius displaced his troops?
A scout reports that thirty thousand men,
Cavalry all with fresh horse, and twenty
Thousand light infantry await to cross
The river Pindarus. In the van are
Thirty thousand false Greeks, mercenaries,
Heavy infantry against our troops.
Their treachery for silver shall be met
With true Greek mettle. Parmenion, you
And your battalion shall lend support
To Craterus on the left. We cannot
Afford for the Persians to sever
The ground between our left and the rough sea.
If they outflank us the day is lost.
Aye, it shall be so. Who has the centre?
Your son, Philotas - he commands that ground.
I am honoured at his commission.
The honour is his. He has proved his worth.
My lord, the enemy is within range
Of our missiles. Shall we loose them now?
You are keen, young soldier. Tell me,
What is your name and who is your father?
I am Cleitus, the son of Dropides.
Cleitus, son of Dropides, I like your
Hunger. You shall fight at my side today.
I am honoured my lord, but who shall lead
My squadron troops into the hot battle?
Niccinas shall command them.
No, my lord.
Respecting your majestic self, I must
Command my own troops. I cannot desert
Them at this time of glory and of war.
Niccinas will command them. By serving
Me you do not desert but transfer them.
If you command me to stay by your side,
I shall do so, for as you are my king
And general, it is my duty.
But as a soldier you must know that
My place, like a wolf with a hunting pack,
Is with my troops, in bloodthirsty battle.
Indeed, I do, Cleitus. So, like the beast,
Run to the hounds which await their leader.
You are a Macedon and I respect
You for it. Go to your troops, keen Cleitus.
I go, my lord.
That is why we shall be victorious.
Men like Cleitus, Hephaestion.
The enemy is at hand. Give the order to attack.
Battle speed! Advance! Attack speed! Advance!
Engagement speed! Advance! Phalanx, engage!
Drums quicken. A movement. A battle.
See here the bloody battle of Issus,
Alexander defeats King Darius.
See thousands of troops, maimed, wounded and dead.
Blood flows like water as rivers run red.
They smile - the kites - lovers of dread war,
Come to kiss the dead flesh, to feed on the gore.
And what a feast: two hundred thousand dead.
Whilst King Darius? Darius is fled.
Greek pursuit is keen to run him to ground,
But Darius is gone, cannot be found.
His mantle, his shield and only his bow,
Are all that the chase's efforts do show.
Mother, tell me, why did my father flee?
Is he a coward that he should run so?
WIFE OF DARIUS
When the leopard rules he is most mighty
, But when against the lion, he must flee.
But mother, does not a leopard have teeth
With which to bite? And claws with which to scratch?
And a throat with which to roar defiance?
WIFE OF DARIUS
You understand not the ways of the world.
I understand that a leopard can bite,
Scratch and roar. What else should I understand?
WIFE OF DARIUS
The leopard cannot defeat the lion.
Ay, mother, but it can fight, can it not?
WIFE OF DARIUS
Child, you are too young to understand this.
You cannot know, nor do not know, what is.
And what is? My father fled from battle!
He left his wife and he left his children
At the mercy of Alexander Greek!
You are right, mother, I am very young
And I know very little of the world, for sure,
Yet all there is to know, mother, I know.
Stateria, my sister, is not false.
If our father cared for any of us,
He could not have run so chastised away.
Tell us, how could he have lost the battle?
Our strong Persian soldiers were five
To every Macedonian trooper.
Did his cowardice keep him so far from
The action that our numbers mean nought?
WIFE OF DARIUS
The gods were against us. At any odds
We could not have won this battle, never.
Then the gods favoured Alexander.
Could it be the gods hate Persia so?
WIFE OF DARIUS
Such a deed as Alexander has done,
Such a deed as this today, makes gods.
Father left us to this?
WIFE OF DARIUS
He had no choice.
He had a choice. Our father is no god.
WIFE OF DARIUS
We are far safer alone, with him gone.
Safer? Mother, how can you defend him?
How can you see your children left, alone,
And at the mercy of a bloodthirsty
Barbarian, and not curse him for it?
How can you, mother?
WIFE OF DARIUS
Because I love him.
I love him in my heart, in all my heart.
And you stand there and you talk about choice.
You had no choice in who your father was.
He was your father because nature's gods
Deemed it so. But he was my husband
Because I chose him. Do you not think that I
Ache in my bones to know he has now gone?
Do you not think I should want to vomit
The love I bear him from my body and
Never feel what I feel now? Do you not?
I suffer more at this moment than all
The thousands of widows who mourn their loss -
Loss of their dead, brave, warrior husbands.
Do not condemn your father. When you do
You condemn me and my unbearable
Grief, already too much, is then trebled.
We are sorry, mother. Please forgive us.
WIFE OF DARIUS
Come, children, let me hold you in my arms.
The lion approaches. Hear, my children,
We must look to the future. Barsine?
Yes, mother, I am here. What is your will?
WIFE OF DARIUS
As you know, you are of marrying age.
Alexander has yet no wife, Barsine.
Offer yourself to him that Persia
May yet survive through your royal joining.
But what if I cannot love him, mother?
What if his looks are not well-favoured?
If his manner and his habits are rude?
WIFE OF DARIUS
Survival has a way of making the
Unlovely beauteous. Your life, Barsine,
Is not yours to give or even decide.
Besides, you will soon learn, as women do,
It is a short step from marriage to rule.
As woman, you will persuade him to change,
Adopt Persian ways, Persian life.
Now my children, lament for the last time
The souls of all the dead that make graves here.
They are gone and they can feel no more shame,
Nor know the burdens that cause us such pain.
Here, my lord.
Go seek Cleitus out and bring him to me.
Hephaestion, Cleitus did such a deed
Today as makes me think the gods did then
Command his actions in care of me.
Tell me, what deed was this that earns such praise?
I fought amongst the throngs of Persian
Soldiers, hand to hand, bloody struggle.
I spied a scimitar raised high above
My head, poised to strike in deadly sever.
But at the point when the arm that would have
Stopped my royal blood began its descent,
Then to decapitate the head of Greece,
A Macedon sword flashed quick and bright
In vision of my eye, and thus was
The offending Persian arm cut off.
He who removed the Persian limb
I saw was that young keen hero, Cleitus.
And well he deserves your praise, my lord.
'Tis true, indeed he does, Hephaestion.
Craterus enters with Cleitus.
Cleitus awaits your patience, my lord.
Thanks, good Craterus. Cleitus, let me wrap
My arms about you. Thanks, Cleitus. Forever,
Always thanks. The great gods have favoured you.
Such a deed as you did today warrants
A second royal embrace. Henceforth you will,
Be Companion of Alexander.
I humbly thank you for the honour, lord.
Retire now. Tend to your wounds, then come
To my quarters at the set of the sun.
There we will recount the hard-fought battle
And, if you are true Greek, drink some strong wine.
Callisthenes here will write an account
Of all your deeds today. Hephaestion,
We are victorious - look not so glum.
Let's celebrate with wine and drink. Now, come.
Hephaestion, Alexander and all others but Callisthenes and Cleitus exit.
You have done extremely well, young Cleitus.
I merely did what a soldier does.
Aye, and earned the praise of Alexander
And a place as a Companion.
It is an honour to serve Macedon
Under Alexander, the General.
And such unsought honours breed enemies.
Watch Hephaestion, for he always was
Alexander's favourite. He is not,
As you and I with sense may truly be,
Fixed in his temper. This will make him shake.
Know you, where the stones are dangerous loose,
A wise man treads carefully. Do you so.
I do not understand his words of care.
I did save the life of Alexander
But did so as a soldier, and not
For any favour thought of nor reward.
The honour Alexander grants to me
Comes from his desire to thank a comrade.
There is no debt to be paid nor favour
To return. I shall never use such deed
In favour of myself nor as a tool
In argument, better to serve my cause,
Or persuade the will of Alexander.
Why then would Hephaestion feel such threat
At my new-found Companion status?
So in thought I go to consider still.
My wounds do cry for a surgeon's skill.
Alexander, with Barsine
as his wife, enters with Anaxarchus
Remember, Anaxarchus, when the council
Of Persians and Greeks are assembled
Begin your argument. I then will feign
Ignorance and protest - but press your case.
The council assembles. These include Cleitus, Hephaestion, Craterus, Ptolemy and others
Persian and Greek friends of the council,
Can it be right, being the son of Zeus,
Our lord's subjects treat him as they do?
We subjects should prostrate ourselves to him.
Why, we did no less to Persian kings.
She is right, my friends. Is he not divine?
And now he wears the two-horned diadem,
Egyptlans call him son of Ammon.
And thus it pleases them to call me so
But I do not think it nor would have you.
I'll hear no more of this; I am no god.
But, my lord, you have better claim to be
Considered divine than did Herakles.
And a better claim than Dionysus.
Look at what you have done. Did they do this?
Did they ever rule all of Asia?
Besides this, Herakles was from Argos,
And Dionysus from hated Athens.
But you, you are from Macedonia.
Is it not right then that the Macedons
Should respect you more than Athenians?
And respect you more thah Argonauts, too?
Sure, it is true people will worship
You as a god when you are dead. Why not now?
You are a god and we should, as to gods,
Prostrate ourselves before your divine feet.
Anaxarchus, father Zeus speaks through you. Y
ou talk most wisely and with good council.
The people will prostrate themselves to me.
Friends, as was foretold by the oracle
At Siwah, I am the son of god Zeus.
I wish for greater praise than mortal men.
Greater now than reckless Dionysus,
Greater too than Herakles of Argos.
Thus you all will, by my divine command,
Prostrate your mortal bodies at my feet.
Alexander, do you hear yourself speak?
Do you forget so easily all that
Your tutor, Aristotle, did teach you?
Alexander, I hold you more than fit
For any honour that man can give man -
But that only, man unto man, not god!
Always there has been the very clearest
Distinction between worshipping men
And the worship of holy, divine gods.
We build temples for gods, bless sacred ground
And make sacrifices to please their souls,
But the most important worship for gods
Is prostration before their images.
Men greet kings with a gentle, royal kiss.
A god cannot be touched, so we prostrate,
Bend our bowing bodies to their will.
We cannot ignore these distinctions,
Or make a man bigger than he is,
Laying on him extravagant honours.
This would degrade the worship of our gods.
Now, Alexander, you warrant all praise
You receive as a most worthy leader,
Most kingly of kings, but you are not a god.
And you, Anaxarchus, you who were brought here
To the presence of our king to speak truth,
You of all men should have been first to speak
As I am speaking to Alexander,
And not encourage these wild fantasies.
You should have silenced any talk of this.
Why, even Herakles was not given
Divine rights while he lived. Why then our king?
Alexander, pray you listen to me.
I know that we are in a foreign land,
We must think foreign thoughts, but I tell you,
Remember it was for glory of Greece
That you conquered Asia. Think this too:
What when you return home? Do you intend
To force Greeks, who love their liberty,
To prostrate in this Persian manner?
Or will this shameful duty be laid on
The unfortunate Macedons alone?
You are a man, Alexander, not god.
Sample Pages from Production Notes
INTRODUCTION: THEMES, THE PLAYS INTENTIONS
The play is like a Greek tragedy in its intention. It shows the rise and fall of Alexander, focusing on the difference between the great leader of men that he was at first to his fall into a kind of madness as he comes to believe himself a god. Written in blank verse, it is not difficult despite this to find a fluidity to the speeches. Like Greek tragedy, the play lends itself to a physical theatre approach and there is room for plenty of this.
ALEXANDER is first seen as an inspirational leader, the kind that
men will follow to the death. His orders in battle are decisive and clearly
excellent - he shows an understanding of the game of war and of
people and their strengths. Much needs to be made of the excellent qualities
of Alexander in the beginning, to emphasise his fall. His entry to receive
the captive Persian women is indicative of the cameraderie all the war-leaders
feel for each other. Alexander does not see himself at this point as any greater
than any of his soldiers; it is this attitude that inspires loyalty - even
love - amongst his followers. As he says to Dariuss wife when she mistakes
Hephaestion for him, Hephaestion is Alexander in other words,
they are equals - and are of one mind. He is gentle with the women, but to
him women are not important - Alexander is first and foremost a soldier, and
this is clear: the cameraderie of his generals are of far more importance
Scene 2 shows that he is beginning to be changed by his success. The change seems quite harmless, even amusing here - cockiness rather than arrogance. I am very good he says, though no genius. Quickly this new arrogance turns to tyranny. His monologue in this scene shows that he considers himself the favoured son of the gods, only one step away from seeing himself as a god. The hardest part of his character for an actor to play is this change from being likeable to being unlikeable. Some sympathy is engendered I feel by the fact that his mind is being poisoned by the jealous Hephaestion but, as Hephaestion himself keeps saying the buck stops with him. Hephaestion may be the trigger but it is Alexander who makes the decisions and with him ultimately must lie the blame.
One way to emphasise the change in him in Scene 2 is through the placing of Alexander on stage and his entry onto it. In Scene 1 there is a casual cameraderie between him and his war-leaders. Even ordinary soldiers are treated with respect and brotherly love by him. He is approachable. This is emphasised by the fact that the Wife of Darius mistakes someone else for him when he first comes in. In Scene 2, there is distance. His one-time brothers-in-arms are reduced to flattering him and telling of his exploits. They are physically further from him. The cameraderie has gone and the cleanness of war, where honour and openness has ruled the day, has become the subtle politics of a court, with its flattery and self-seeking. Against this all the upright honest soldiers, who have not a subtle thought in their bodies, are open to the barbs of the backstabbers. Hence Parmenion falls, and eventually Cleitus, the favourite. Alexander, too, is a victim. The qualities that made him a great warlord do not necessarily make for a good ruler. He loses his way and is easily worked on by Hephaestion first and then by his Persian wife and her cronies. But more, he is worked on by his growing arrogance that has responded to the glory he has achieved in the field and the praises sung to him by all.
In Greek terms, it is this overweening pride that is his hubris: the fatal flaw that will bring him down as a tragic hero.
HEPHAESTION - Alexanders right-hand man, a trusted general. He is used to being Alexanders favourite and is jealous of favour shown to Cleitus. From the second scene onwards, we see Hephaestion beginning to undermine Alexander. Balked of his position as sole favourite, he sets about clearing the way of trusted friends of Alexander by telling tales about them. He is the Iago to Alexanders Othello. A hooded look, a voice that drops poison like honey, a secret smile, a brooding presence in the background at other times, this is Hephaestion.
PTOLEMY a trusted war-leader in middle-age.
CRATERUS a keen young up-and-coming war leader - an archer.
PARMENION an older general, father to that Philotas who is later condemned for plotting against Alexander, on Hephaestions say-so. At the beginning of Scene 11, he sounds sincere when admiring Alexanders genius. Though accused of being a traitor, through Hephaestions poisonous words, it is clear that he is completely upright and honest. He becomes therefore the yardstick by which we can judge how far Alexander is tipping into tyranny.
CLEITUS - a young enthusiastic soldier. He is very loyal and close to the troops he leads and it is this which brings him to Alexanders attention. The leader admires this loyalty as well as his hunger for battle. It takes some courage to defend what he thinks is right - leading his own men - rather than to take the offer of fighting by Alexanders side - and shows that Cleitus is impervious to flattery and is not self-seeking. His upright nature makes him a bit of an innocent, impervious to court politics. He sees everything and everyone at their face value. Though intensely loyal to Alexander he cannot accept that he is a god and for this he is killed - the only one to be actually killed by Alexander himself. Cleitus is the one who is most loved by Alexander; killing him drives the ruler to despair.
CALLISTHENES - the historian who accompanies Alexander, to chronicle his deeds and record them for posterity. As such, his role is often as narrator. An actor with a versatile voice needed, capable of building the frenzy of a battle, becoming lyrical and laden with pity when describing the aftermath. Professional bards would be used to entertaining their audiences [often the same people who are immortalised in his verse] with action-packed tales of their exploits. He sees everything, so could be played as a bit of a gossip, when he warns Cleitus against Hephaestion, for instance. On the other hand, he could just be being kind to the naive young man. He should be older, I feel. He remembers Alexanders tutelage as a boy, under Aristotle. As Alexander overreaches himself into excess, Callisthenes shows courage in speaking out against him, and is punished for it. There is obvious affection between ruler and historian, as shown by the fact that Alexander shows more qualms of conscience about punishing him than usual, and doesnt actually kill him.
NICANOR says so little as to scarcely figure as a character. Another soldier - really one of the chorus.
ANAXARCHUS - a Persian who becomes high in Alexanders favour. In league with Alexanders Persian wife, Barsine, they together put Alexander up to proclaiming publicly that he is a god. Perhaps, to distinguish him from the Greeks, he should be played with a slight accent. He is wily and subtle and has a way with words.
NICCINAS First impression is of a sniggering rather dirty-minded [sexual innuendos] courtier. But he has so little to say that he is essentially just another member of the Chorus of soldiers.
ANTIPATER another trusted soldier-general of Alexanders. Doesnt figure as a character. Essentially part of the Chorus.
OXYARTES the ruler of Sogdiana, spared by Alexanders generosity.
WIFE OF DARIUS proud but realistic. She knows the score - captive women have to accept conquerors as husbands. She also knows that Alexander is unbeatable; loyalty to her husband Darius does not prevent her realisation that Darius is no match for Alexander. Given the shabby way that Darius has treated his womenfolk, this ladys loyalty to him is irrational - but the explanation for it comes in her speech on Page 6. She loves him; in an age when royalty had little choice in who they married, she did have choice and had chosen him out of love. This whole fact gives the character, strangely unnamed, a depth and pathos that will win the audience to her. She must speak with dignity and sincerity at all times. Love is her motivating force: first for her defecting husband and second for her daughters for whom she will strike the best deal so as to ensure their survival in captivity. Much must be made of this speech, so that the audience can see what lengths she will go to to save her children - even to denying any love for Darius, publicly, to their captors. Though tricked by Hephaestion into exposing her lie, she seems unfazed and then throws herself onto the mercy of the Greeks, flattering their sense of honour and magnaminity to ensure they are treated as royal captives. In those days, this would be important. The usual fate of women captives in war is to be treated as little better than concubines.
STATERIA Daughter of Darius.Young and outspoken. She could be played as about twelve or thirteen.Ferociously proud and hurt that her father has so shamed himself and his family as to run away. Alexander would recognise and applaud her honourable spirit, if he had heard her words.
DRYPETIS Daughter of Darius. Her calmer manner seems to indicate that she is a little older than Stateria, perhaps fourteen.
BARSINE The eldest of the daughters of Darius, sixteen years old. She is nervous of the future, understandably, but compliant. She will do what her mother tells her.
N.B. When talking to Alexander, perhaps all the Persians should have a slight foreign accent, though when they talk to each other they shouldnt.
AMASTRINE an unspeaking role. Apart from being a member of the chorus throughout, she could be a servant to the Wife of Darius and also swell out the numbers on the rock of Sogdiana. I dont know why the writer has given her a name; it may be that she figures in the story of Alexander as another character entirely and if so I apologise!
ROXANE daughter to Oxyartes, the Sogdian, whose land is subdued by Alexander in the last scene. Her role is to be another wife to Alexander, but she does not speak. She must however be a good dancer.
WOMEN OF PERSIA to marry the Greek soldiers in the second scene.
Basically, many of the above characters will double as soldiers in battle scenes and to swell out the numbers at court. Those who are girls can take part in battles with helmets and leather armour as indicated in the production notes. They become Persian women in the later scenes, for the dances and to adorn the stage. In the last scene they return to being soldiers, either on the Sogdian rock or with Alexander, though some can be Sogdian women for the feast.
This needs to be a basic quite bare place, suitable for a number of locations. The Battle of Issus is Scene 1. There needs to be plenty of performance space for the movement sequences. Perhaps you could give the impression of a large army camping by having cloths hung towards the back and sides of the area, like the flaps of tents, banners, and so on. This will add depth, interest, give a war-like feel, and give a variety of entrances. It would be nice if these flaps could be adjusted, so at times they can form a flat background for variety, as i have outlined in the following scenes. Butter muslin is a good cheap material to use for this, and it absorbs coloured light like a sponge.
PAGE 11, Scene 2: The Palace at Susa. For variety, if you have adopted the above idea, the buttermuslin flaps could be stretched taut here, to make a single back wall. This can be coloured with any light you like: blue or a not too deep purple would suggest godhead. The war banners from the earlier scene could be placed in a more formal fashion, perhaps lining each side of the stage. Consider trucking on a platform to give Alexander height, with a seat - a stone [looking like stone] throne - on it.
PAGE 15, Scene 3. The setting for this could be similar to the last with a raised dais and a throne. But a nice touch would be to make the dais higher with the throne in gold and encrusted with jewels. Next to Alexanders throne would be a lower one for Barsine. Benches could be angled on one side of the stage for the Council to sit on, leaving the central area and the other side of the stage open. Other signs of glorification could be shown if desired, such as golden images of Alexanders head placed on pedestals at the sides.
PAGE 19 Scene 4. The rock of Sorbiana. The simplest way would be to use the back of the auditorium as the rock, rather than attempting to build anything on stage. Ropes could be attached to the back wall, which will just lie in the aisleways until picked up by the Greeks for climbing. In addition, you could have built from the beginning a rock shape that will show through the backlit stretched cloths, which can be climbed similarly with chorus members doing this and acting as Oxyartes. The stage otherwise is bare.
The second part of this scene involves the bringing on of a table, benches again, laid out for a feast.
PAGE 2. The opening of the play. For Scene 1, The Battle of Issus, have the stage washed in a warm reddish-orange glow - not too deep - save this for later. Here the Greeks are triumphing and hopeful. Oranges, dark warm yellows and a touch of reds should help the atmosphere. If the setting is created by white billowing cloths, arranged like tents, this will take colour very well too.
PAGE 4 Three-quarters of way down page. Cue: Hephaestion - battle speed! Advance!.... Deepen the red light on the whole area, gradually, so that it is full deep red for Callistheness speech.
PAGE 5 Top of page. Cue - the entry of the Persian women. Retain some of the redness, but the lights for this section need to be bleaker, underlining their sorrow. Make the lights dimmer - or pools of light and shadow would look effective, making sure that the main pools of light will fall on the women and on where the three main soldiers enter, with the others shadowy behind them. This will also help the movement of the dead to become characters in the play again.
PAGE 7 Half way down, the entrance of the Greeks. Start to lighten the stage gradually. It should be bright and light by the time Alexander declares himself halfway down Page 8.