The Seventh Seal
The night had brought little relief from the heat, and at dawn a hot gust of
wind blows across the colorless sea. The KNIGHT, Antonius Block, lies
prostrate on some spruce branches spread over the fine sand. His eyes are
wide-open and bloodshot from lack of sleep.
Nearby his squire JONS is snoring loudly. He has fallen asleep where he
collapsed, at the edge of the forest among the wind-gnarled fir trees. His
open mouth gapes towards the dawn, and unearthly sounds come from his throat.
At the sudden gust of wind, the horses stir, stretching their parched muzzles
towards the sea. They are as thin and worn as their masters.
The KNIGHT has risen and waded into the shallow water, where he rinses his
sunburned face and blistered lips. JONS rolls over to face the forest and the
darkness. He moans in his sleep and vigorously scratches the stubbled hair on
his head. A scar stretches diagonally across his scalp, as white as lightning
against the grime.
The KNIGHT returns to the beach and falls on his knees. With his eyes closed
and brow furrowed, he says his morning prayers. His hands are clenched
together and his lips form the words silently. His face is sad and bitter. He
opens his eyes and stares directly into the morning sun which wallows up from
the misty sea like some bloated, dying fish. The sky is gray and immobile, a
dome of lead. A cloud hangs mute and dark over the western horizon. High up,
barely visible, a seagull floats on motionless wings. Its cry is weird and
restless. The KNIGHT'S large gray horse lifts its head and whinnies. Antonius
Block turns around.
Behind him stands a man in black. His face is very pale and he keeps his
hands hidden in the wide folds of his cloak.
Who are you?
I am Death.
Have you come for me?
I have been walking by your side for a long
That I know.
Are you prepared?
My body is frightened, but I am not.
Well, there is no shame in that.
The KNIGHT has risen to his feet. He shivers. DEATH opens his cloak to place
it around the KNIGHT'S shoulders.
Wait a moment.
That's what they all say. I grant no reprieves.
You play chess, don't you?
A gleam of interest kindles in DEATH'S eyes.
How did you know that?
I have seen it in paintings and heard it sung
Yes, in fact I'm quite a good chess player.
But you can't be better than I am.
The KNIGHT rummages in the big black bag which he keeps beside him and takes
out a small chessboard. He places it carefully on the ground and begins
setting up the pieces.
Why do you want to play chess with me?
I have my reasons.
That is your privilege.
The condition is that I may live as long as I
hold out against you. If I win, you will
release me. Is it agreed?
The KNIGHT holds out his two fists to DEATH, who smiles at him suddenly.
DEATH points to one of the KNIGHT'S hands; it contains a black pawn.
You drew black!
Very appropriate. Don't you think so?
The KNIGHT and DEATH bend over the chessboard. After a moment of hesitation,
Antonius Block opens with his king's pawn. DEATH moves, also using his king's
The morning breeze has died down. The restless movement of the sea has
ceased, the water is silent. The sun rises from the haze and its glow
whitens. The sea gull floats under the dark cloud, frozen in space. The day
is already scorchingly hot.
The squire JONS is awakened by a kick in the rear. Opening his eyes, he
grunts like a pig and yawns broadly. He scrambles to his feet, saddles his
horse and picks up the heavy pack.
The KNIGHT slowly rides away from the sea, into the forest near the beach and
up towards the road. He pretends not to hear the morning prayers of his
squire. JONS soon overtakes him.
Between a strumpet's legs to lie
Is the life for which I sigh.
He stops and looks at his master, but the KNIGHT hasn't heard JON'S song, or
he pretends that he hasn't. To give further vent to his irritation, JONS
sings even louder.
Up above is God Almighty
So very far away,
But your brother the Devil
You will meet on every level.
JONS finally gets the KNIGHT'S attention. He stops singing. The KNIGHT, his
horse, JONS'S own horse and JONS himself know all the songs by heart. The
long, dusty journey from the Holy Land hasn't made them any cleaner. They
ride across a mossy heath which stretches towards the horizon. Beyond it, the
sea lies shimmering in the white glitter of the sun.
In F‰rjestad everyone was talking about evil
omens and other horrible things. Two horses had
eaten each other in the night, and, in the
churchyard, graves had been opened and the
remains of corpses scattered all over the
place. Yesterday afternoon there were as many
as four suns in the heavens.
The KNIGHT doesn't answer. Close by, a scrawny dog is whining, crawling
towards its master, who is sleeping in a sitting position in the blazing hot
sun. A black cloud of flies clusters around his head and shoulders. The
miserable-looking dog whines incessantly as it lies flat on its stomach,
wagging its tail.
JONS dismounts and approaches the sleeping man. JONS addresses him politely.
When he doesn't receive an answer, he walks up to the man in order to shake
him awake. He bends over the sleeping man's shoulder, but quickly pulls back
his hand. The man falls backward on the heath, his face turned towards JONS.
It is a corpse, staring at JONS with empty eye sockets and white teeth.
JONS remounts and overtakes his master. He takes a drink from his waterskin
and hands the bag to the knight.
Well, did he show you the way?
What did he say?
Was he a mute?
No, sir, I wouldn't say that. As a matter of
fact, he was quite eloquent.
He was eloquent, all right. The trouble is that
what he had to say was most depressing.
One moment you're bright and lively,
The next you're crawling with worms.
Fate is a terrible villain
And you, my friend, its poor victim.
Must you sing?
The KNIGHT hands his squire a piece of bread, which keeps him quiet for a
while. The sun burns down on them cruelly, and beads of perspiration trickle
down their faces. There is a cloud of dust around the horses' hooves. They
ride past an inlet and along verdant groves. In the shade of some large trees
stands a bulging wagon covered with a mottled canvas. A horse whinnies nearby
and is answered by the KNIGHT'S horse. The two travelers do not stop to rest
under the shade of the trees but continue riding until they disappear at the
bend of the road.
In his sleep, JOF the juggler hears the neighing of his horse and the answer
from a distance. He tries to go on sleeping, but it is stifling inside the
wagon. The rays of the sun filtering through the canvas cast streaks of light
across the face of JOF'S wife, MIA, and their one-year-old son, MIKAEL, who
are sleeping deeply and peacefully. Near them, JONAS SKAT, an older man,
JOF crawls out of the wagon. There is still a spot of shade under the big
trees. He takes a drink of water, gargles, stretches and talks to his scrawny
Good morning. Have you had breakfast? I can't
eat grass, worse luck. Can't you teach me how?
We're a little hard up. People aren't very
interested in juggling in this part of the
He has picked up the juggling balls and slowly begins to toss them. Then he
stands on his head and cackles like a hen. Suddenly he stops and sits down
with a look of utter astonishment on his face. The wind causes the trees to
sway slightly. The leaves stir and there is a soft murmur. The flowers and
the grass bend gracefully, and somewhere a bird raises its voice in a long
JOF'S face breaks into a smile and his eyes fill with tears. With a dazed
expression he sits flat on his behind while the grass rustles softly, and
bees and butterflies hum around his head. The unseen bird continues to sing.
Suddenly the breeze stops blowing, the bird stops singing, JOF'S smile fades,
the flowers and grass wilt in the heat. The old horse is still walking around
grazing and swishing its tail to ward off the flies.
JOF comes to life. He rushes into the wagon and shakes MIA awake.
Mia, wake up. Wake up! Mia, I've just seen
something. I've got to tell you about it!
(sits up, terrified)
What is it? What's happened?
Listen, I've had a vision. No, it wasn't a
vision. It was real, absolutely real.
Oh, so you've had a vision again!
MIA's voice is filled with gentle irony. JOF shakes his head and grabs her by
But I did see her!
Whom did you see?
The Virgin Mary.
MIA can't help being impressed by her husband's fervor. She lowers her voice.
Did you really see her?
She was so close to me that I could have
touched her. She had a golden crown on her head
and wore a blue gown with flowers of gold. She
was barefoot and had small brown hands with
which she was holding the Child and teaching
Him to walk. And then she saw me watching her
and she smiled at me. My eyes filled with tears
and when I wiped them away, she had disappeared.
And everything became so still in the sky and
on the earth. Can you understand ...
What an imagination you have.
You don't believe me! But it was real, I tell
you, not the kind of reality you see every day,
but a different kind.
Perhaps it was the kind of reality you told us
about when you saw the Devil painting our wagon
wheels red, using his tail as a brush.
Why must you keep bringing that up?
And then you discovered that you had red paint
under your nails.
Well, perhaps that time I made it up.
I did it just so that you would believe in my
other visions. The real ones. The ones that I
didn't make up.
You have to keep your visions under control.
Otherwise people will think that you're a
half-wit, which you're not. At least not yet --
as far as I know. But, come to think of it, I'm
not so sure about that.
I didn't ask to have visions. I can't help it
if voices speak to me, if the Holy Virgin
appears before me and angels and devils like my
Haven't I told you once and for all that I need
my morning's sleep! I have asked you politely,
pleaded with you, but nothing works. So now I'm
telling you to shut up!
His eyes are popping with rage. He turns over and continues snoring where he
left off. MIA and JOF decide that it would be wisest to leave the wagon. They
sit down on a crate. MIA has MIKAEL on her knees. He is naked and squirms
vigorously. JOF sits close to his wife. Slumped over, he still looks dazed
and astonished. A dry, hot wind blows from the sea.
If we would only get some rain. Everything is
burned to cinders. We won't have anything to
eat this winter.
We'll get by.
He says this smilingly, with a casual air. He stretches and laughs
I want Mikael to have a better life than ours.
Mikael will grow up to be a great acrobat -- or
a juggler who can do the one impossible trick.
To make one of the balls stand absolutely still
in the air.
But that's impossible.
Impossible for us -- but not for him.
You're dreaming again.
She yawns. The sun, has made her a bit drowsy and she lies down on the grass.
JOF does likewise and puts one arm around his wife's shoulders.
I've composed a song. I made it up during the
night when I couldn't sleep. Do you want to
Sing it. I'm very curious.
I have to sit up first.
He sits with his legs crossed, makes a dramatic gesture with his arms and
sings in a loud voice.
On a lily branch a dove is perched
Against the summer sky,
She sings a wondrous song of Christ
And there's great joy on high.
He interrupts his singing in order to be complimented by his wife.
Mia! Are you asleep?
It's a lovely song.
I haven't finished yet.
I heard it, but I think I'll sleep a little
longer. You can sing the rest to me afterwards.
All you do is sleep.
JOF is a bit offended and glances over at his son, MIKAEL, but he is also
sleeping soundly in the high grass. JONAS SKAT comes out from the wagon. He
yawns; he is very tired and in a bad humor. In his hands he holds a crudely
made death mask.
Is this supposed to be a mask for an actor? If
the priests didn't pay us so well, I'd say no
Are you going to play Death?
Just think, scaring decent folk out of their
wits with this kind of nonsense.
When are we supposed to do this play?
At the saints' feast in Elsinore. We're going
to perform right on the church steps, believe
it or not.
Wouldn't it be better to play something bawdy?
People like it better, and, besides, it's more
Idiot. There's a rumor going around that
there's a terrible pestilence in the land, and
now the priests are prophesying sudden death
and all sorts of spiritual agonies.
MIA is awake now and lies contentedly on her back, sucking on a blade of
grass and looking smilingly at her husband.
And what part am I to play?
You're such a damn fool, so you're going to be
the Soul of Man.
That's a bad part, of course.
Who makes the decisions around here? Who is the
director of this company anyhow?
SKAT, grinning, holds the mask in front of his face and recites dramatically.
Bear this in mind, you fool. Your life hangs by
a thread. Your time is short.
(in his usual voice)
Are the women going to like me in this getup?
Will I make a hit? No! I feel as if I were dead
He stumbles into the wagon muttering furiously. JOF sits, leaning forward.
MIA lies beside him on the grass.
What is it?
Sit still. Don't move.
What do you mean?
Don't say anything.
I'm as silent as a grave.
Shh! I love you.
Waves of heat envelop the gray stone church in a strange white mist. The
KNIGHT dismounts and enters. After tying up the horses, JONS slowly follows
him in. When he comes onto the church porch he stops in surprise. To the
right of the entrance there is a large fresco on the wall, not quite
finished. Perched on a crude scaffolding is a PAINTER wearing a red cap and
paint-stained clothes. He has one brush in his mouth, while with another in
his hand he outlines a small, terrified human face amidst a sea of other
What is this supposed to represent?
The Dance of Death.
And that one is Death?
Yes, he dances off with all of them.
Why do you paint such nonsense?
I thought it would serve to remind people that
they must die.
Well, it's not going to make them feel any
Why should one always make people happy? It
might not be a bad idea to scare them a little
once in a while.
Then they'll close their eyes and refuse to
look at your painting.
Oh, they'll look. A skull is almost more
interesting than a naked woman.
If you do scare them ...
And if they think ...
They'll become still more scared.
And then they'll run right into the arms of the
That's not my business.
You're only painting your Dance of Death.
I'm only painting things as they are. Everyone
else can do as he likes.
Just think how some people will curse you.
Maybe. But then I'll paint something amusing
for them to look at. I have to make a living
-- at least until the plague takes me.
The plague. That sounds horrible.
You should see the boils on a diseased man's
throat. You should see how his body shrivels up
so that his legs look like knotted strings --
like the man I've painted over there.
The PAINTER points with his brush. JONS sees a small human form writhing in
the grass, its eyes turned upwards in a frenzied look of horror and pain.
That looks terrible.
It certainly does. He tries to rip out the
boil, he bites his hands, tears his veins open
with his fingernails and his screams can be
heard everywhere. Does that scare you?
Scare? Me? You don't know me. What are the
horrors you've painted over there?
The remarkable thing is that the poor creatures
think the pestilence is the Lord's punishment.
Mobs of people who call themselves Slaves of
Sin are swarming over the country, flagellating
themselves and others, all for the glory of God.
Do they really whip themselves?
Yes, it's a terrible sight. I crawl into a
ditch and hide when they pass by.
Do you have any brandy? I've been drinking
water all day and it's made me as thirsty as a
camel in the desert.
I think I frightened you after all.
JONS sits down with the PAINTER, who produces a jug of brandy.
The KNIGHT is kneeling before a small altar. It is dark and quiet around him.
The air is cool and musty. Pictures of saints look down on him with stony
eyes. Christ's face is turned upwards, His mouth open as if in a cry of
anguish. On the ceiling beam there is a representation of a hideous devil
spying on a miserable human being. The KNIGHT hears a sound from the
confession booth and approaches it. The face of DEATH appears behind the
grille for an instant, but the KNIGHT doesn't see him.
I want to talk to you as openly as I can, but
my heart is empty.
DEATH doesn't answer.
The emptiness is a mirror turned towards my
own face. I see myself in it, and I am filled
with fear and disgust.
DEATH doesn't answer.
Through my indifference to my fellow men, I
have isolated myself from their company. Now I
live in a world of phantoms. I am imprisoned in
my dreams and fantasies.
And yet you don't want to die.
Yes, I do.
What are you waiting for?
I want knowledge.
You want guarantees?
Call it whatever you like. Is it so cruelly
inconceivable to grasp God with the senses? Why
should He hide himself in a mist of half-spoken
promises and unseen miracles?
DEATH doesn't answer.
How can we have faith in those who believe when
we can't have faith in ourselves? What is going
to happen to those of us who want to believe
but aren't able to? And what is to become of
those who neither want to nor are capable of
The KNIGHT stops and waits for a reply, but no one speaks or answers him.
There is complete silence.
Why can't I kill God within me? Why does He
live on in this painful and humiliating way
even though I curse Him and want to tear Him
out of my heart? Why, in spite of everything,
is He a baffling reality that I can't shake
off? Do you hear me?
Yes, I hear you.
I want knowledge, not faith, not suppositions,
but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His
hand towards me, reveal Himself and speak to
But He remains silent.
I call out to Him in the dark but no one seems
to be there.
Perhaps no one is there.
Then life is an outrageous horror. No one can
live in the face of death, knowing that all is
Most people never reflect about either death or
the futility of life.
But one day they will have to stand at that
last moment of life and look towards the
When that day comes ...
In our fear, we make an image, and that image
we call God.
You are worrying ...
Death visited me this morning. We are playing
chess together. This reprieve gives me the
chance to arrange an urgent matter.
What matter is that?
My life has been a futile pursuit, a wandering,
a great deal of talk without meaning. I feel no
bitterness or self-reproach because the lives
of most people are very much like this. But I
will use my reprieve for one meaningful deed.
Is that why you are playing chess with Death?
He is a clever opponent, but up to now I
haven't lost a single man.
How will you outwit Death in your game?
I use a combination of the bishop and the
knight which he hasn't yet discovered. In the
next move I'll shatter one of his flanks.
I'll remember that.
DEATH shows his face at the grill of the confession booth for a moment but
You've tricked and cheated me! But we'll meet
again, and I'll find a way.
We'll meet at the inn, and there we'll continue
The KNIGHT raises his hand and looks at it in the sunlight which comes
through the tiny window.
This is my hand. I can move it, feel the blood
pulsing through it. The sun is still high in
the sky and I, Antonius Block, am playing
chess with Death.
He makes a fist of his hand and lifts it to his temple.
Meanwhile, JONS and the PAINTER have got drunk and are talking animatedly
Me and my master have been abroad and have just
come home. Do you understand, you little
Precisely. For ten years we sat in the Holy
Land and let snakes bite us, flies sting us,
wild animals eat us, heathens butcher us, the
wine poison us, the women give us lice, the
lice devour us, the fevers rot us, all for the
Glory of God. Our crusade was such madness that
only a real idealist could have thought it up.
But what you said about the plague was
It's worse than that.
Ah, me. No matter which way you turn, you have
your rump behind you. That's the truth.
The rump behind you, the rump behind you
there's a profound truth.
JONS paints a small figure which is supposed to represent himself.
This is squire Jˆns. He grins at Death, mocks
the Lord, laughs at himself and leers at the
girls. His world is a Jˆnsworld, believable
only to himself, ridiculous to all including
himself, meaningless to Heaven and of no
interest to Hell.
The KNIGHT walks by, calls to his squire and goes out into the bright
sunshine. JONS manages to set himself down from the scaffolding.
Outside the church, four soldiers and a monk are in the process of putting a
woman in the stocks. Her face is pale and child-like, her head has been
shaved, and her knuckles are bloody and broken. Her eyes are wide open, yet
she doesn't appear to be fully conscious.
JONS and the KNIGHT stop and watch in silence. The soldiers are working
quickly and skillfully, but they seem frightened and dejected. The monk
mumbles from a small book. One of the soldiers picks up a wooden bucket and
with his hand begins to smear a bloody paste on the wall of the church and
around the woman. JONS holds his nose.
That soup of yours has a hell of a stink. What
is it good for?
She has had carnal intercourse with the Evil
He whispers this with a horrified face and continues to splash the sticky
mess on the wall.
And now she's in the stocks.
She will be burned tomorrow morning at the
parish boundary. But we have to keep the Devil
away from the rest of us.
(holding his nose)
And you do that with this stinking mess?
It's the best remedy: blood mixed with the bile
of a big black dog. The Devil can't stand the
Neither can I.
JONS walks over towards the horses. The KNIGHT stands for a few, moments
looking at the young girl. She is almost a child. Slowly she turns her eyes
Have you seen the Devil?
The MONK stops reading and raises his head.
You must not talk to her.
Can that be so dangerous?
I don't know, but she is believed to have
caused the pestilence with which we are
He nods resignedly and walks away. The young woman starts to moan as though
she were having a horrible nightmare. The sound of her cries follows the two
riders for a considerable distance down the road.
The sun stands high in the sky, like a red ball of fire. The waterskin is
empty and JONS looks for a well where he can fill it.
They approach a group of peasant cottages at the edge of the forest. JONS
ties up the horses, slings the skin over his shoulder and walks along the
path towards the nearest cottage. As always, his movements are light and
almost soundless. The door to the cottage is open. He stops outside, but when
no one appears he enters. It is very dark inside and his foot touches a soft
object. He looks down. Beside the whitewashed fireplace, a woman is lying
with her face to the ground.
At the sound of approaching steps, JONS quickly hides behind the door. A man
comes down a ladder from the loft. He is broad and thick-set. His eyes are
black and his face is pale and puffy. His clothes are well cut but dirty and
in rags. He carries a cloth sack. Looking around, he goes into the inner
room, bends over the bed, tucks something into the bag, slinks along the
walls, looking on the shelves, finds something else which he tucks in his
Slowly he re-enters the outer room, bends over the dead woman and carefully
slips a ring from her finger. At that moment a young woman comes through the
door. She stops and stares at the stranger.
Why do you look so surprised? I steal from the
dead. These days it's quite a lucrative
The GIRL makes a movement as if to run away.
You're thinking of running to the village and
telling. That wouldn't serve any purpose. Each
of us has to save his own skin. It's as simple
Don't touch me.
Don't try to scream. There's no one around to
hear you, neither God nor man.
Slowly he closes the door behind the GIRL. The stuffy room is now in almost
total darkness. But JONS becomes clearly visible.
I recognize you, although it's a long time
since we met. Your name is Raval, from the
theological college at Roskilde. You are Dr.
Mirabilis, Coelestis et Diabilis.
RAVAL smiles uneasily and looks around.
Am I not right?
The GIRL stands immobile.
You were the one who, ten years ago, convinced
my master of the necessity to join a better-
class crusade to the Holy Land.
RAVAL looks around.
You look uncomfortable. Do you have a stomach-
RAVAL smiles anxiously.
When I see you, I suddenly understand the
meaning of these ten years, which previously
seemed to me such a waste. Our life was too
good and we were too satisfied with ourselves.
The Lord wanted to punish us for our
complacency. That is why He sent you to spew
out your holy venom and poison the knight.
I acted in good faith.
But now you know better, don't you? Because
now you have turned into a thief. A more
fitting and rewarding occupation for
scoundrels. Isn't that so?
With a quick movement he knocks the knife out of RAVAL'S hand, gives him a
kick so that he falls on the floor and is about to finish him off. Suddenly
the GIRL screams. JONS stops and makes a gesture of generosity with his hand.
By all means. I'm not bloodthirsty.
He bends over RAVAL.
Don't beat me.
I don't have the heart to touch you, Doctor.
But remember this: the next time we meet, I'll
brand your face the way one does with thieves.
What I really came for is to get my waterskin
We have a deep well with cool, fresh water.
Come, I'll show you.
They walk out of the house. RAVAL lies still for a few moments, then he rises
slowly and looks around. When no one is in sight, he takes his bag and steals
away. JONS quenches his thirst and fills his bag with water. The GIRL helps
Jˆns is my name. I am a pleasant and talkative
young man who has never had anything but kind
thoughts and has only done beautiful and noble
deeds. I'm kindest of all to young women. With
them, there is no limit to my kindness.
He embraces her and tries to kiss her, but she holds herself back. Almost
immediately he loses interest, hoists the waterbag on his shoulder and pats
the GIRL on the cheek.
Goodbye, my girl. I could very well have raped
you, but between you and me, I'm tired of that
kind of love. It runs a little dry in the end.
He laughs kindly and walks away from her. When he has walked a short distance
he turns; the GIRL is still there.
Now that I think of it, I will need a
housekeeper. Can you prepare good food?
(the GIRL nods)
As far as I know, I'm still a married man, but
I have high hopes that my wife is dead by now.
That's why I need a housekeeper.
(the GIRL doesn't
answer but gets up)
The devil with it! Come along and don't stand
there staring. I've saved your life, so you owe
me a great deal.
She begins walking towards him, her head bent. He doesn't wait for her but
walks towards the KNIGHT, who patiently awaits his squire.
The Embarrassment Inn lies in the eastern section of the province. The plague
has not yet reached this area on its way along the coast.
The actors have placed their wagon under a tree in the yard of the inn.
Dressed in colorful costumes, they perform a farce.
The spectators watch the performance, commenting on it noisily. There are
merchants with fat, beer-sweaty faces, apprentices and journeymen, farmhands
and milkmaids. A whole flock of children perch in the trees around the wagon.
The KNIGHT and his squire have sat down in the shadow of a wall. They drink
beer and doze in the midday heat. The GIRL from the deserted village sleeps
at JONS'S side. SKAT beats the drums, JOF blows the flute, MIA performs a gay
and lively dance. They perspire under the hot white sun. When they have
finished SKAT comes forward and bows.
Noble ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for
your interest. Please remain standing for a
little longer, or sit on the ground, because
we are now going to perform a tragedia about
an unfaithful wife, her jealous husband, and
the handsome lover -- that's me.
MIA and JOF have quickly changed costumes and again step out on the stage.
They bow, to the public.
Here is the husband. Here is the wife. If
you'll shut up over there, you'll see something
splendid. As I said, I play the lover and I
haven't entered yet. That's why I'm going to
hide behind the curtain for the time being.
(he wipes the sweat
from his forehead)
It's damned hot. I think we'll have a
He places his leg in front of JOF as if to trip him, raises MIA's skirt,
makes a face as if he could see all the wonders of the world underneath it,
and disappears behind the gaudily patched curtains.
SKAT is very handsome, now that he can see himself in the reflection of a tin
washbowl. His hair is tightly curled, his eyebrows are beautifully bushy,
glittering earrings vie for equal attention with his teeth, and his cheeks
are flushed rose red.
He sits out in back on the tailboard of the wagon, dangling his legs and
whistling to himself.
In the meantime JOF and MIA play their tragedy; it is not, however, received
with great acclaim. SKAT suddenly discovers that someone is watching him as
he gazes contentedly into the tin bowl. A woman stands there, stately in both
height and volume.
SKAT frowns, toys with his small dagger and occasionally throws a roguish but
fiery glance at the beautiful visitor. She suddenly discovers that one of her
shoes doesn't quite fit. She leans down to fix it and in doing so allows her
generous bosom to burst out of its prison -- no more than honor and chastity
allow, but still enough so that the actor with his experienced eye
immediately sees that there are ample rewards to be had here.
Now she comes a little closer, kneels down and opens a bundle containing
several dainty morsels and a skin filled with red wine. JONAS SKAT manages
not to fall off the wagon in his excitement. Standing on the steps of the
wagon, he supports himself against a nearby tree, crosses his legs and bows.
The woman quietly bites into a chicken leg dripping with fat. At this moment
the actor is stricken by a radiant glance full of lustful appetites.
When he sees this look, SKAT makes an instantaneous decision, jumps down from
the wagon and kneels in front of the blushing damsel.
She becomes weak and faint from his nearness, looks at him with a glassy
glance and breathes heavily. SKAT doesn't neglect to press kisses on her
small, chubby hands. The sun shines brightly and small birds make noises in
Now she is forced to sit back; her legs seem unwilling to support her any
longer. Bewildered, she singles out another chicken leg from the large sack
of food and holds it up in front of SKAT with an appealing and triumphant
expression, as if it were her maidenhood being offered as a prize.
SKAT hesitates momentarily, but he is still the strategist. He lets the
chicken leg fall to the grass, and murmurs in the woman's rosy ear.
His words seem to please her. She puts her arms around the actor's neck and
pulls him to her with such fierceness that both of them lose their balance
and tumble down on the soft grass. The small birds take to their wings with
JOF stands in the hot sun with a flickering lantern in his hand. MIA pretends
to be asleep on a bench which has been pulled forward on the stage.
Night and moonlight now prevail
Here sleeps my wife so frail ...
VOICE FROM THE PUBLIC
Does she snore?
May I point out that this is a tragedy, and in
tragedies one doesn't snore.
VOICE FROM THE PUBLIC
I think she should snore anyhow.
This opinion causes mirth in the audience. JOF becomes slightly confused and
goes out of character, but MIA keeps her head and begins snoring.
Night and moonlight now prevail.
There snores -- I mean sleeps -- my wife so frail.
Jealous I am, as never before,
I hide myself behind this door.
Faithful is she
To her lover -- not me.
He soon comes a-stealing
To awaken her lusty feeling.
I shall now kill him dead
For cuckolding me in my bed.
There he comes in the moonlight,
His white legs shining bright.
Quiet as a mouse, here I'll lie,
Tell him not that he's about to die.
JOF hides himself. MIA immediately ends her snoring and sits up, looking to
Look, there he comes in the night
My lover, my heart's delight.
She becomes silent and looks wide-eyed in front of her. The mood in the yard
in front of the inn has, up to now, been rather lighthearted despite the
Now a rapid change occurs. People who had been laughing and chattering fall
silent. Their faces seem to pale under their sunbrowned skins, the children
stop their games and stand with gaping mouths and frightened eyes.
JOF steps out in front of the curtain. His painted face bears an expression
of horror. MIA has risen with MIKAEL in her arms. Some of the women in the
yard have fallen on their knees, others hide their faces, many begin to
mutter half-forgotten prayers.
All have turned their faces towards the white road. Now a shrill song is
heard. It is frenzied, almost a scream. A crucified Christ sways above the
The cross-bearers soon come into sight. They are Dominican monks, their hoods
pulled down over their faces. More and more of them follow, carrying litters
with heavy coffins or clutching holy relics, their hands stretched out
spasmodically. The dust wells up around their black hoods; the censers sway
and emit a thick, ashen smoke which smells of rancid herbs.
After the line of monks comes another procession. It is a column of men,
boys, old men, women, girls, children. All of them have steel-edged scourges
in their hands with which they whip themselves and each other, howling
ecstatically. They twist in pain; their eyes bulge wildly; their lips are
gnawed to shreds and dripping with foam. They have been seized by madness.
They bite their own hands and arms, whip each other in violent, almost
rhythmic outbursts. Throughout it all the shrill song howls from their
bursting throats. Many sway and fall, lift themselves up again, support each
other and help each other to intensify the scourging.
Now the procession pauses at the crossroads in front of the inn. The monks
fall on their knees, hiding their faces with clenched hands, arms pressed
tightly together. Their song never stops. The Christ figure on its timbered
cross is raised above the heads of the crowd. It is not Christ triumphant,
but the suffering Jesus with the sores, the blood, the hammered nails and the
face in convulsive pain. The Son of God, nailed on the wood of the cross,
suffering scorn and shame.
The penitents have now sunk down in the dirt of the road. They collapse where
they stood like slaughtered cattle. Their screams rise with the song of the
monks, through misty clouds of incense, towards the white fire of the sun.
A large square monk rises from his knees and reveals his face, which is red-
brown from the sun. His eyes glitter; his voice is thick with impotent scorn.
God has sentenced us to punishment. We shall
all perish in the black death. You, standing
there like gaping cattle, you who sit there in
your glutted complacency, do you know that this
may be your last hour? Death stands right
behind you. I can see how his crown gleams in
the sun. His scythe flashes as he raises it
above your heads. Which one of you shall he
strike first? You there, who stand staring like
a goat, will your mouth be twisted into the
last unfinished gasp before nightfall? And you,
woman, who bloom with life and self-
satisfaction, will you pale and become
extinguished before the morning dawns? You back
there, with your swollen nose and stupid grin,
do you have another year left to dirty the
earth with your refuse? Do you know, you
insensible fools, that you shall die today or
tomorrow, or the next day, because all of you
have been sentenced? Do you hear what I say? Do
you hear the word? You have been sentenced,
The MONK falls silent, looking around with a bitter face and a cold, scornful
glance. Now, he clenches his hands, straddles the ground and turns his face
Lord have mercy on us in our humiliation! Don't
turn your face from us in loathing and
contempt, but be merciful to us for the sake of
your son, Jesus Christ.
He makes the sign of the cross over the crowd and then begins a new song in a
strong voice. The monks rise and join in the song. As if driven by some
superhuman force, the penitents begin to whip themselves again, still wailing
The procession continues. New members have joined the rear of the column;
others who were unable to go on lie weeping in the dust of the road. JONS the
squire drinks his beer.
This damned ranting about doom. Is that food
for the minds of modern people? Do they really
expect us to take them seriously?
The KNIGHT grins tiredly.
Yes, now you grin at me, my lord. But allow me
to point out that I've either read, heard or
experienced most of the tales which we people
tell each other.
Even the ghost stories about God the Father,
the angels, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost --
all these I've accepted without too much
He leans down over the GIRL as she crouches at his feet and pats her on the
head. The KNIGHT drinks his beer silently.
My little stomach is my world, my head is my
eternity, and my hands, two wonderful suns. My
legs are time's damned pendulums, and my dirty
feet are two splendid starting points for my
philosophy. Everything is worth precisely as
much as a belch, the only difference being that
a belch is more satisfying.
The beer mug is empty. Sighing, JONS gets to his feet. The GIRL follows him
like a shadow.
In the yard he meets a large man with a sooty face and a dark expression. He
stops JONS with a roar.
What are you screaming about?
I am Plog, the smith, and you are the squire
Have you seen my wife?
No, I haven't. But if I had seen her and she
looked like you, I'd quickly forget that I'd
Well, in that case you haven't seen her.
Maybe she's run off.
Do you know anything?
I know quite a lot, but not about your wife. Go
to the inn. Maybe they can help you.
The smith sighs sadly and goes inside.
The inn is very small and full of people eating and drinking to forget their
newly aroused fears of eternity. In the open fireplace a roasting pig turns
on an iron spit. The sun shines outside the casement window, its sharp rays
piercing the darkness of the room, which is thick with fumes and
Yes, it's true! The plague is spreading along
the west coast. People are dying like flies.
Usually business would be good at this time of
year, but, damn it, I've still got my whole
They speak of the judgment day. And all these
omens are terrible. Worms, chopped-off hands
and other monstrosities began pouring out of
an old woman, and down in the village another
woman gave birth to a calf's head.
The day of judgment. Imagine.
It hasn't rained here for a month. We'll surely
lose our crops.
And people are acting crazy, I'd say. They flee
the country and carry the plague with them
wherever they go.
The day of judgment. Just think, just think!
If it's as they say, I suppose a person should
look after his house and try to enjoy life as
long as he can.
But there have been other things too, such
things that can't even be spoken of.
Things that mustn't be named -- but the priests
say that the woman carries it between her legs
and that's why she must cleanse herself.
Judgment day. And the Riders of the Apocalypse
stand at the bend in the village road. I
imagine they'll come on judgment night, at
There are many who have purged themselves with
fire and died from it, but the priests say that
it's better to die pure than to live for hell.
This is the end, yes, it is. No one says it out
loud, but all of us know that it's the end. And
people are going mad from fear.
So you're afraid too.
Of course I'm afraid.
The judgment day becomes night, and the angels
descend and the graves open. It will be
terrible to see.
They whisper in low tones and sit close to each other.
PLOG, the smith, shoves his way into a place next to JOF, who is still
dressed in his costume. Opposite him sits RAVAL, leaning slightly forward,
his face perspiring heavily. RAVAL rolls an armlet out on the table.
Do you want this armlet? You can have it
I can't afford it.
It's real silver.
It's nice. But it's surely too expensive for
Excuse me, but has anyone here seen my wife?
Has she disappeared?
They say she's run away.
Has she deserted you?
With an actor.
An actor! If she's got such bad taste, then I
think you should let her go.
You're right. My first thought, of course, was
to kill her.
Oh. But to murder her, that's a terrible thing
I'm also going to kill the actor.
Of course, the one she eloped with.
What has he done to deserve that?
Are you stupid?
The actor! Now I understand. There are too many
of them, so even if he hasn't done anything in
particular you ought to kill him merely because
he's an actor.
You see, my wife has always been interested in
the tricks of the theatre.
And that turned out to be her misfortune.
Her misfortune, but not mine, because a person
who's born unfortunate can hardly suffer from
any further misfortune. Isn't that true?
Now RAVAL enters the discussion. He is slightly drunk and his voice is shrill
Listen, you! You sit there and lie to the
I! A liar!
You're an actor too and it's probably your
partner who's run off with Plog's old lady.
Are you an actor too?
An actor! Me! I wouldn't quite call myself that!
We ought to kill you; it's only logical.
You're really funny.
How strange -- you've turned pale. Have you
anything on your conscience?
You're funny. Don't you think he's funny?
Oh, you don't.
Maybe we should mark you up a little with a
knife, like they do petty scoundrels of your
PLOG bangs his hands down on the table so that the dishes jump. He gets up.
What have you done with my wife?
The room becomes silent. JOF looks around, but there is no exit, no way to
escape. He puts his hands on the table. Suddenly a knife flashes through the
air and sinks into the table top between his fingers.
JOF snatches away his hands and raises his head. He looks half surprised, as
if the truth had just become apparent to him.
Do you want to hurt me? Why? Have I provoked
someone, or got in the way? I'll leave right
now and never come back.
JOF looks from one face to another, but no one seems ready to help him or
come to his defense.
Get up so everyone can hear you. Talk louder.
Trembling, JOF rises. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but not a
word comes out.
Stand on your head so that we can see how good
an actor you are.
JOF gets up on the table and stands on his head. A hand pushes him forward so
that he collapses on the floor. PLOG rises, pulls him to his feet with one
What have you done with my wife?
PLOG beats him so furiously that JOF flies across the table. RAVAL leans over
Don't lie there moaning. Get up and dance.
I don't want to. I can't.
Show us how you imitate a bear.
I can't play a bear.
Let's see if you can't after all.
RAVAL prods JOF lightly with the knife point. JOF gets up with cold sweat on
his cheeks and forehead, frightened half to death. He begins to jump and hop
on top of the tables, swinging his arms and legs and making grotesque faces.
Some laugh, but most of the people sit silently. JOF gasps as if his lungs
were about to burst. He sinks to his knees, and someone pours beer over him.
Up again! Be a good bear.
I haven't done any harm. I haven't got the
strength to play a bear any more.
At that moment the door opens and JONS enters. JOF sees his chance and steals
out. RAVAL intends to follow him, but suddenly stops. JONS and RAVAL look at
Do you remember what I was going to do to you
if we met again?
RAVAL steps back without speaking.
I'm a man who keeps his word.
JONS raises his knife and cuts RAVAL from forehead to cheek. RAVAL staggers
towards the wall.
The hot day has become night. Singing and howling can be heard from the inn.
In a hollow near the forest, the light still lingers. Hidden in the grass and
the shrubbery, nightingales sing and their voices echo through the stillness.
The players' wagon stands in a small ravine, and not far away the horse
grazes on the dry grass. MIA has sat down in front of the wagon with her son
in her arms. They play together and laugh happily.
Now, a soft gleam of light strokes the hilltops, a last reflection from the
red clouds over the sea.
Not far from the wagon, the KNIGHT sits crouched over his chess game. He
lifts his head.
The evening light moves across the heavy wagon wheels, across the woman and
the child. The KNIGHT gets up.
MIA sees him and smiles. She holds up her struggling son, as if to amuse the
What's his name?
How old is he?
Oh, he'll soon be two.
He's big for his age.
Do you think so? Yes, I guess he's rather big.
She puts the child down on the ground and half rises to shake out her red
skirt. When she sits down again, the KNIGHT steps closer.
You played some kind of show this afternoon.
Did you think it was bad?
You are more beautiful now without your face
painted, and this gown is more becoming.
You see, Jonas Skat has run off and left us,
so we're in real trouble now.
Is that your husband?
Jonas! The other man is my husband. His name is
Oh, that one.
And now there's only him and me. We'll have to
start doing tricks again and that's more
trouble than it's worth.
Do you do tricks also?
We certainly do. And Jof is a very skillful
Is Mikael going to be an acrobat?
Jof wants him to be.
But you don't.
I don't know.
Perhaps he'll become a knight.
Let me assure you, that's no pleasure either.
No, you don't look so happy.
Are you tired?
I have dull company.
Do you mean your squire?
No, not him.
Who do you mean, then?
Do you, really?
Yes, I understand rather well. I have often
wondered why people torture themselves as often
as they can. Isn't that so?
She nods energetically and the KNIGHT smiles seriously. Now the shrieks and
the noise from the inn become louder. Black figures flicker across the grass
mound. Someone collapses, gets up and runs. It is JOF. MIA stretches out her
arms and receives him. He holds his hands in front of his face, moaning like
a child, and his body sways. He kneels. MIA holds him close to her and
sprinkles him with small, anxious questions: What have you done? How are you?
What is it? Does it hurt? What can I do? Have they been cruel to you? She
runs for a rag, which she dips in water, and carefully bathes her husband's
dirty, bloody face.
Eventually a rather sorrowful visage emerges. Blood runs from a bruise on his
forehead and his nose, and a tooth has been loosened, but otherwise JOF seems
Ouch, it hurts.
Why did you have to go there? And of course you
MIA's anxiety has been replaced by a mild anger. She pats him a little harder
Ouch! I didn't drink anything.
Then I suppose you were boasting about the
angels and devils you consort with. People
don't like someone who has too many ideas and
I swear to you that I didn't say a word about
You were, of course, busy singing and dancing.
You can never stop being an actor. People also
become angry at that, and you know it.
JOF doesn't answer but searches for the armlet. He holds it up in front of
MIA with an injured expression.
Look what I bought for you.
You couldn't afford it.
But I got it anyhow.
The armlet glitters faintly in the twilight. MIA now pulls it across her
wrist. They look at it in silence, and their faces soften. They look at each
other, touch each other's hands. JOF puts his head against MIA'S shoulder and
Oh, how they beat me.
Why didn't you beat them back?
I only become frightened and angry. I never get
a chance to hit back. I can get angry, you know
that. I roared like a lion.
Were they frightened?
No, they just laughed.
Their son MIKAEL crawls over to them. JOF lies down on the ground and pulls
his son on top of him. MIA gets down on her hands and knees and playfully
sniffs at MIKAEL.
Do you notice how good he smells?
And he is so compact to hold. You're a sturdy
one. A real acrobat's body.
He lifts MIKAEL up and holds him by the legs. MIA looks up suddenly,
remembering the knight's presence.
Yes, this is my husband, Jof.
JOF becomes a little embarrassed and rises. All three of them look at one
I have just told your wife that you have a
splendid son. He'll bring great joy to you.
Yes, he's fine.
They become silent again.
Have we nothing to offer the knight, Mia?
Thank you, I don't want anything.
I picked a basket of wild strawberries this
afternoon. And we have a drop of milk fresh
from a cow ...
... that we were allowed to milk. So, if you
would like to partake of this humble fare, it
would be a great honor.
Please be seated and I'll bring the food.
They sit down. MIA disappears with MIKAEL.
Where are you going next?
Up to the saints' feast at Elsinore.
I wouldn't advise you to go there.
Why not, if I may ask?
The plague has spread in that direction,
following the coast line south. It's said that
people are dying by the tens of thousands.
Really! Well, sometimes life is a little hard.
May I suggest ...
(JOF looks at him, surprised)
... that you follow me through the forest
tonight and stay at my home if you like. Or go
along the east coast. You'll probably be safer
MIA has returned with a bowl of wild strawberries and the milk, places it
between them and gives each of them a spoon.
I wish you good appetite.
I humbly thank you.
These are wild strawberries from the forest. I
have never seen such large ones. They grow up
there on the hillside. Notice how they smell!
She points with a spoon and smiles. The KNIGHT nods, as if he were pondering
some profound thought. JOF eats heartily.
Your suggestion is good, but I must think it
It might be wise to have company going through
the forest. It's said to be full of trolls and
ghosts and bandits. That's what I've heard.
Yes, I'd say that it's not a bad idea, but I
have to think about it. Now that Skat has left,
I am responsible for the troupe. After all, I
have become director of the whole company.
After all, I have become director of the whole
JONS comes walking slowly down the hill, closely followed by the GIRL. MIA
points with her spoon.
Do you want some strawberries?
This man saved my life. Sit down, my friend,
and let us be together.
Oh, how nice this is.
For a short while.
Nearly always. One day is like another. There
is nothing strange about that. The summer, of
course, is better than the winter, because in
summer you don't have to be cold. But spring is
best of all.
I have written a poem about the spring. Perhaps
you'd like to hear it. I'll run and get my lyre.
He sprints towards the wagon.
Not now, Jof. Our guests may not be amused by
By all means. I write little songs myself. For
example, I know a very funny song about a
wanton fish which I doubt that you've heard yet.
The KNIGHT looks at him.
You'll not get to hear it either. There are
persons here who don't appreciate my art and I
don't want to upset anyone. I'm a sensitive
JOF has come out with his lyre, sits on a small, gaudy box and plucks at the
instrument, humming quietly, searching for his melody. JONS yawns and lies
People are troubled by so much.
It's always better when one is two. Have you no
one of your own?
Yes, I think I had someone.
And what is she doing now?
I don't know.
You look so solemn. Was she your beloved?
We were newly married and we played together.
We laughed a great deal. I wrote songs to her
eyes, to her nose, to her beautiful little
ears. We went hunting together and at night we
danced. The house was full of life ...
Do you want some more strawberries?
(shakes his head)
Faith is a torment, did you know that? It is
like loving someone who is out there in the
darkness but never appears, no matter how
loudly you call.
I don't understand what you mean.
Everything I've said seems meaningless and
unreal while I sit here with you and your
husband. How unimportant it all becomes
He takes the bowl of milk in his hand and drinks deeply from it several
times. Then he carefully puts it down and looks up, smiling.
Now you don't look so solemn.
I shall remember this moment. The silence, the
twilight, the bowls of strawberries and milk,
your faces in the evening light. Mikael
sleeping, Jof with his lyre. I'll try to
remember what we have talked about. I'll carry
this memory between my hands as carefully as
if it were a bowl filled to the brim with fresh
He turns his face away and looks out towards the sea and the colorless gray
And it will be an adequate sign -- it will be
enough for me.
He rises, nods to the others and walks down towards the forest. JOF continues
to play on his lyre. MIA stretches out on the grass.
The KNIGHT picks up his chess game and carries it towards the beach. It is
quiet and deserted; the sea is still.
I have been waiting for you.
Pardon me. I was detained for a few moments.
Because I revealed my tactics to you, I'm in
retreat. It's your move.
Why do you look so satisfied?
That's my secret.
Of course. Now I take your knight.
You did the right thing.
Have you tricked me?
Of course. You fell right in the trap. Check!
What are you laughing at?
Don't worry about my laughter; save your king
You're rather arrogant.
Our game amuses me.
It's your move. Hurry up. I'm a little pressed
I understand that you've a lot to do, but you
can't get out of our game. It takes time.
DEATH is about to answer him but stops and leans over the board. The KNIGHT
Are you going to escort the juggler and his
wife through the forest? Those whose names are
Jof and Mia and who have a small son?
Why do you ask?
Oh, no reason at all.
The KNIGHT suddenly stops smiling. DEATH looks at him scornfully.
Immediately after sundown, the little company gathers in the yard of the inn.
There is the KNIGHT, JONS and the GIRL, JOF and MIA in their wagon. Their
son, MIKAEL, is already asleep. JONAS SKAT is still missing.
JONS goes into the inn to get provisions for the night journey and to have a
last mug of beer. The inn is now empty and quiet except for a few farmhands
and maidens who are eating their evening meal in a corner. At one of the
small windows sits a lonely, hunched-over fellow, with a jug of brandy in his
hands. His expression is very sad. Once in a while he is shaken by a gigantic
sob. It is PLOG, the smith, who sits there and whimpers.
God in heaven, isn't this Plog, the smith?
Are you sitting here sniveling in loneliness?
Yes, yes, look at the smith. He moans like a
If I were in your boots, I'd be happy to get
rid of a wife in such an easy way.
JONS pats the smith on the back, quenches his thirst with beer, and sits down
by his side.
Are you married?
I! A hundred times and more. I can't keep count
of all my wives any longer. But it's often that
way when you're a traveling man.
I can assure you that one wife is worse than a
hundred, or else I've had worse luck than any
poor wretch in this miserable world, which
Yes, it's hell with women and hell without
them. So, however you look at it, it's still
best to kill them off while it's most amusing.
Women's nagging, the shrieking of children and
wet diapers, sharp nails and sharp words, blows
and pokes, and the devil's aunt for a
mother-in-law. And then, when one wants to
sleep after a long day, there's a new song --
tears, whining and moans loud enough to wake
JONS nods delightedly. He has drunk deeply and talks with an old woman's
Why don't you kiss me good night?
(in the same way)
Why don't you sing a song for me?
Why don't you love me the way you did when we
Why don't you look at my new slip?
You only turn your back and snore.
Oh hell. And now she's gone. Rejoice!
I'll snip their noses with pliers, I'll bash in
their chests with a small hammer, I'll tap
their heads ever so lightly with a sledge.
PLOG begins to cry loudly and his whole body sways in an enormous attack of
sorrow. JONS looks at him with interest.
Look how he howls again.
Maybe I love her.
So, maybe you love her! Then, you poor
misguided ham shank, I'll tell you that love is
another word for lust, plus lust, plus lust
and a damn lot of cheating, falseness, lies and
all kinds of other fooling around.
Yes, but it hurts anyway.
Of course. Love is the blackest of all plagues,
and if one could die of it, there would be
some pleasure in love. But you almost always
get over it.
No, no, not me.
Yes, you too. There are only a couple of poor
wretches who die of love once in a while. Love
is as contagious as a cold in the nose. It eats
away at your strength, your independence, your
morale, if you have any. If everything is
imperfect in this imperfect world, love is most
perfect in its perfect imperfection.
You're happy, you with your oily words, and,
besides, you believe your own drivel.
Believe! Who said that I believed it? But I
love to give good advice. If you ask me for
advice you'll get two pieces for the price of
one, because after all I really am an educated
JONS gets up from the table and strokes his face with his hands. PLOG becomes
very unhappy and grabs his belt.
Listen, Jˆns. May I go with you through the
forest? I'm so lonely and don't want to go home
because everyone will laugh at me.
Only if you don't whimper all the time, because
in that case we'll all have to avoid you.
PLOG gets up and embraces JONS. Slightly drunk, the two new friends walk
towards the door.
When they come out in the yard, JOF immediately catches sight of them,
becomes angry and yells a warning to JONS.
Jˆns! Watch out. That one wants to fight all
the time. He's not quite sane.
Yes, but now he's just sniveling.
PLOG steps up to JOF, who blanches with fear. PLOG offers his hand.
I'm really sorry if I hurt you. But I have
such a hell of a temper, you know. Shake hands.
JOF gingerly proffers a frightened hand and gets it thoroughly shaken and
squeezed. While JOF tries to straighten out his fingers, PLOG is seized by
great good will and opens his arms.
Come in my arms, little brother.
Thank you, thank you, perhaps later. But now
we're really in a hurry.
JOF climbs up on the wagon seat quickly and clucks at the horse.
The small company is on its way towards the forest and the night.
It is dark in the forest.
First comes the KNIGHT on his large horse. Then JOF and MIA follow, sitting
close to each other in the juggler's wagon. MIA holds her son in her arms.
JONS follows them with his heavily laden horse. He has the smith in tow. The
GIRL sits on top of the load on the horse's back, hunched over as if asleep.
The footsteps, the horses' heavy tramp on the soft path, the human breathing
-- yet it is quiet.
Then the moon sails out of the clouds. The forest suddenly becomes alive with
the night's unreality. The dazzling light pours through the thick foliage of
the beech trees, a moving, quivering world of light and shadow.
The wanderers stop. Their eyes are dark with anxiety and foreboding. Their
faces are pale and unreal in the floating light. It is very quiet.
Now the moon has come out of the clouds.
That's good. Now we can see the road better.
I don't like the moon tonight.
The trees stand so still.
That's because there's no wind.
I guess he means that they stand very still.
It's completely quiet.
If one could hear a fox at least.
Or an owl.
Or a human voice besides one's own.
They say it's dangerous to remain standing in
Suddenly, out of the silence and the dim light falling across the forest
road, a ghostlike cart emerges. It is the WITCH being taken to the place
where she will be burned. Next to her eight soldiers shuffle along tiredly,
carrying their lances on their backs. The girl sits in the cart, bound with
iron chains around her throat and arms. She stares fixedly into the
A black figure sits next to her, a monk with his hood pulled down over his
Where are you going?
To the place of execution.
Yes, now I can see. It's the girl who has done
it with the Black One. The witch?
The SOLDIER nods sourly. Hesitantly, the travelers follow. The KNIGHT guides
his horse over to the side of the cart. The WITCH seems to be half-conscious,
but her eyes are wide open.
I see that they have hurt your hands.
The WITCH'S pale, childish face turns towards the KNIGHT and she shakes her
I have a potion that will stop your pain.
She shakes her head again.
Why do you burn her at this time of night?
People have so few diversions these days.
Saints preserve us, be quiet! It's said that
she brings the Devil with her wherever she
You are eight brave men, then.
Well, we've been paid. And this is a volunteer
The SOLDIER speaks in whispers while glancing anxiously at the WITCH.
(to the WITCH)
What's your name?
My name is Tyan, my lord.
How old are you?
Fourteen, my lord.
And is it true that you have been in league
with the Devil?
TYAN nods quietly and looks away. Now they arrive at the parish border. At
the foot of the nearby hills lies a crossroads. The pyre has already been
stacked in the center of the forest clearing. The travelers remain there,
hesitant and curious.
The soldiers have tied up the cart horse and bring out two long wooden beams.
They nail rungs across the beams so that it looks like a ladder. TYAN will be
bound to this like an eelskin stretched out to dry.
The sound of the hammering echoes through the forest. The KNIGHT has
dismounted and walks closer to the cart. Again he tries to catch TYAN'S eyes,
touches her very lightly as if to waken her. Slowly she turns her face
They say that you have been in league with the
Why do you ask?
Not out of curiosity, but for very personal
reasons. I too want to meet him.
I want to ask him about God. He, if anyone,
You can see him anytime.
You must do as I tell you.
The KNIGHT grips the wooden rail of the cart so tightly that his knuckles
whiten. TYAN leans forward and joins her gaze with his.
Look into my eyes.
The KNIGHT meets her gaze. They stare at each other for a long time.
What do you see? Do you see him?
I see fear in your eyes, an empty, numb fear.
But nothing else.
He falls silent. The soldiers work at the stakes; their hammering echoes in
No one, nothing, no one?
(shakes his head)
Can't you see him behind your back?
No, there is no one there.
But he is with me everywhere. I only have to
stretch out my hand and I can feel his hand. He
is with me now too. The fire won't hurt me. He
will protect me from everything evil.
Has he told you this?
I know it.
Has he said it?
I know it, I know it. You must see him
somewhere, you must. The priests had no
difficulty seeing him, nor did the soldiers.
They are so afraid of him that they don't even
dare touch me.
The sounds of the hammers stops. The soldiers stand like black shadows rooted
in the moss. They fumble with the chains and pull at the neck iron. TYAN
moans weakly, as if she were far away.
Why have you crushed her hands?
We didn't do it.
Ask the monk.
The soldiers pull the iron and the chains. TYAN'S shaven head sways, gleaming
in the moonlight. Her blackened mouth opens as if to scream, but no sound
emerges. They take her down from the cart and lead her towards the ladder and
the stake. The KNIGHT turns to the MONK, who remains seated in the cart.
What have you done with the child?
DEATH turns around and looks at him.
Don't you ever stop asking questions?
No, I'll never stop.
The soldiers chain TYAN to the rungs of the ladder. She submits resignedly,
moans weakly like an animal and tries to ease her body into position.
When they have fastened her, they walk over to light the pyre. The KNIGHT
steps up and leans over her.
For a moment I thought of killing the soldiers,
but it would do no good. She's nearly dead
One of the soldiers approaches. Thick smoke wells down from the pyre and
sweeps over the quiet shadows near the crossroads and the hill.
I've told you to be careful. Don't go too close
The KNIGHT doesn't heed this warning. He cups his hand, fills it with water
from the skin and gives it to TYAN. Then he gives her a potion.
Take this and it will stop the pain.
Smoke billows down over them and they begin to cough. The soldiers step
forward and raise the ladder against a nearby fir tree. TYAN hangs there
motionlessly, her eyes wide open.
The KNIGHT straightens up and stands immobile. JONS is behind him, his voice
nearly choked with rage.
What does she see? Can you tell me?
(shakes his head)
She feels no more pain.
You don't answer my question. Who watches over
that child? Is it the angels, or God, or the
Devil, or only the emptiness? Emptiness, my
This cannot be.
Look at her eyes, my lord. Her poor brain has
just made a discovery. Emptiness under the
We stand powerless, our arms hanging at our
sides, because we see what she sees, and our
terror and hers are the same.
That poor little child. I can't stand it, I
can't stand it ...
His voice sticks in his throat and he suddenly walks away. The KNIGHT mounts
his horse. The travelers depart from the crossroads. TYAN finally closes her
The forest is now very dark. The road winds between the trees. The wagon
squeaks and rattles over stones and roots. A bird suddenly shrieks.
JOF lifts his head and wakes up. He has been asleep with his arms around
MIA's shoulders. The KNIGHT is sharply silhouetted against the tree trunks.
His silence makes him seem almost unreal. JONS and PLOG are slightly drunk
and support each other. Suddenly PLOG has to sit down. He puts his hands over
his face and howls piteously.
Oh, now it came over me again!
Don't scream. What came over you?
My wife, damn it. She is so beautiful. She is
so beautiful that she can't be described
without the accompaniment of a lyre.
Now it starts again.
Her smile is like brandy. Her eyes like
PLOG searches for beautiful words. He gestures gropingly with his large
Get up, you tear-drenched pig. We'll lose the
Yes, of course, of course. Her nose is like a
little pink potato; her behind is like a juicy
pear -- yes, the whole woman is like a
strawberry patch. I can see her in front of me,
with arms like wonderful cucumbers.
Saints almighty, stop! You're a very bad poet,
despite the fact that you're drunk. And your
vegetable garden bores me.
They walk across an open meadow. Here it is a little brighter and the moon
shimmers behind a thin sky. Suddenly PLOG points a large finger towards the
edge of the forest.
Do you see something?
There, over there!
I don't see anything.
Hang on to something, my friends. The hour is
near! Who is that at the edge of the forest if
not my own dearly beloved, with actor attached?
The two lovers discover PLOG and it's too late. They cannot retreat. SKAT
immediately takes to his heels. PLOG chases him, swinging his sledge and
bellowing like a wild boar.
For a few confusing moments the two rivals stumble among the stones and
bushes in the gray gloom of the forest. The duel begins to look senseless,
because both of them are equally frightened.
The travelers silently observe this confused performance. LISA screams once
in a while, more out of duty than out of impulse.
You miserable stubbleheaded bastard of seven
scurvy bitches, if I were in your lousy rags I
would be stricken with such eternal shame about
my breath, my voice, my arms and legs -- in
short, about my whole body -- that I would
immediately rid nature of my own embarrassing
Watch out, you perfumed slob, that I don't fart
on you and immediately blow you down to the
actor's own red-hot hell, where you can sit and
recite monologues to each other until the dust
comes out of the Devil's ears.
Then LISA throws herself around her husband's neck.
Forgive me, dear little husband, I'll never do
it again. I am so sorry and you can't imagine
how terribly that man over there betrayed me.
I'll kill him anyway.
Yes, do that, just kill him. He isn't even a
Hell, he's an actor.
He is only a false beard, false teeth, false
smiles, rehearsed lines, and he's as empty as a
jug. Just kill him.
LISA sobs with excitement and sorrow. PLOG looks around, a little confused.
SKAT uses this opportunity. He pulls out a dagger and places the point
against his breast.
She's right. Just kill me. If you thought that
I was going to apologize for being what I am,
you are mistaken.
Look how sickening he is. How he makes a fool
of himself, how he puts on an act. Dear Plog,
My friends, you have only to push, and my
unreality will soon be transformed into a new,
solid reality. An absolutely tangible corpse.
Do something then. Kill him.
He has to fight me, otherwise I can't kill him.
Your life's thread now hangs by a very ragged
shred. Idiot, your day is short.
You'll have to irritate me a little more to get
me as angry as before.
SKAT looks at the travelers with a pained expression and then lifts his eyes
towards the night sky.
I forgive all of you. Pray for me sometimes.
SKAT sinks the dagger into his breast and slowly falls to the ground. The
travelers stand confused. PLOG rushes forward and begins to pull at SKAT'S hands.
Oh dear, dear, I didn't mean it that way! Look,
there's no life left in him. I was beginning to
like him, and in my opinion Lisa was much too
JOF leans over his colleague.
He's dead, totally, enormously dead. In fact,
I've never seen such a dead actor.
Come on, let's go. This is nothing to mourn
over. He has only himself to blame.
And I have to be married to her.
We must go on.
SKAT lies in the grass and keeps the dagger pressed tightly to his breast.
The travelers depart and soon they have disappeared into the dark forest on
the other side of the meadow. When SKAT is sure that no one can see him, he
sits up and lifts the dagger from his breast. It is a stage dagger with a
blade that pushes into the handle. SKAT laughs to himself.
Now that was a good scene. I'm really a good
actor. After all, why shouldn't I be a little
pleased with myself? But where shall I go? I'll
wait until it becomes light and then I'll find
the easiest way out of the forest. I'll climb
up a tree for the time being so that no bears,
wolves or ghosts can get at me.
He soon finds a likely tree and climbs up into its thick foliage. He sits
down as comfortably as possible and reaches for his food pouch.
Tomorrow I'll find Jof and Mia and then we'll
go to the saints' feast in Elsinore. We'll make
lots of money there.
Now, I'll sing a little song to myself:
I am a little bird
Who sings whate'er he will,
And when I am in danger
I fling out a pissing trill
As in the carnal thrill.
It's boring to be alone in the forest tonight.
The terrible night doesn't frighten me ...
He interrupts himself and listens. The sound of industrious sawing is heard
through the silence.
Workmen in the forest. Oh, well!
The terrible night doesn't frighten me ...
Hey, what the devil ... it's my tree they're
He peers through the foliage. Below him stands a dark figure diligently
sawing away at the base of the tree. SKAT becomes frightened and angry.
Hey, you! Do you hear me, you tricky bastard?
What are you doing with my tree?
The sawing continues without a pause. SKAT becomes more frightened.
Can't you at least answer me? Politeness costs
so little. Who are you?
DEATH straightens his back and squints up at him. SKAT cries out in terror.
I'm sawing down your tree because your time is
It won't do. I haven't got time.
So you haven't got time.
No, I have my performance.
Then it's canceled because of death.
Your contract is terminated.
My children, my family.
Shame on you, Skat!
Yes, I'm ashamed.
DEATH begins to saw again. The tree creaks.
Isn't there any way to get off? Aren't there
any special rules for actors?
No, not in this case.
No loopholes, no exceptions?
Perhaps you'll take a bribe.
The tree falls. The forest becomes silent again.
Night and then dawn.
The travelers have come to a sort of clearing and have collapsed on the moss.
They lie quietly and listen to their own breathing, their heartbeats, and the
wind in the tree tops. Here the forest is wild and impenetrable. Huge
boulders stick up out of the ground like the heads of black giants. A fallen
tree lies like a mighty barrier between light and shadow.
MIA, JOF and their child have sat down apart from the others. They look at
the light of the moon, which is no longer full and dead but mysterious and
unstable. The KNIGHT sits bent over his chess game. LISA cries quietly behind
PLOG'S back. JONS lies on the ground and looks up at the heavens.
Soon dawn will come, but the heat continues to
hang over us like a smothering blanket.
I'm so frightened.
We feel that something is going to happen to
us, but we don't know what.
Maybe it's the day of judgment.
The day of judgment ...
Now, something moves behind the fallen tree. There is a rustling sound and a
moaning cry that seems to come from a wounded animal. Everyone listens
intently, all faces turned towards the sound. A voice comes out of the
Do you have some water?
RAVAL'S perspiring face soon becomes visible. He disappears in the darkness,
but his voice is heard again.
Can't you give me a little water?
I have the plague.
Don't come here. If you do I'll slit your
throat. Keep to the other side of the tree.
I'm afraid of death.
No one answers. There is complete silence. RAVAL gasps heavily for air. The
dry leaves rustle with his movements.
I don't want to die! I don't want to!
No one answers. RAVAL'S face appears suddenly at the base of the tree. His
eyes bulge wildly and his mouth is ringed with foam.
Can't you have pity on me? Help me! At least
talk to me.
No one answers. The trees sigh. RAVAL begins to cry.
I am going to die. I. I. I! What will happen to
me! Can no one console me? Haven't you any
compassion? Can't you see that I ...
His words are choked off by a gurgling sound. He disappears in the darkness
behind the fallen tree. It becomes quiet for a few moments.
Can't anyone ... only a little water.
Suddenly the GIRL gets up with a quick movement, snatches JONS'S water bag
and runs a few steps. JONS grabs her and holds her fast.
It's no use. It's no use. I know that it's no
use. It's meaningless. It's totally
meaningless. I tell you that it's meaningless.
Can't you hear that I'm consoling you?
Help me, help me!
No one answers, no one moves. RAVAL'S sobs are dry and convulsive, like a
frightened child's. His sudden scream is cut off in the middle. Then it
The GIRL sinks down and hides her face in her hands. JONS places his hand on
The KNIGHT is no longer alone. DEATH has come to him and he raises his hand.
Shall we play our game to the end?
DEATH raises his hand and strikes the KNIGHT'S queen. Antonius Block looks at
Now I take your queen.
I didn't notice that.
The KNIGHT leans over the game. The moonlight moves over the chess pieces,
which seem to have a life of their own.
JOF has dozed off for a few moments, but suddenly he wakens. Then he sees the
KNIGHT and DEATH together. He becomes very frightened and awakens MIA.
Yes, what is it?
I see something terrible. Something I almost
can't talk about.
What do you see?
The knight is sitting over there playing chess.
Yes, I can see that too and I don't think it's
But do you see who he's playing with?
He is alone. You mustn't frighten me this way.
No, no, he isn't alone.
Who is it, then?
Death. He is sitting there playing chess with
You mustn't say that.
We must try to escape.
One can't do that.
We must try. They are so occupied with their
game that if we move very quietly, they won't
JOF gets up carefully and disappears into the darkness behind the trees. MIA
remains standing, as if paralyzed by fear. She stares fixedly at the KNIGHT
and the chess game. She holds her son in her arms. Now JOF returns.
I have harnessed the horse. The wagon is
standing near the big tree. You go first and
I'll follow you with the packs. See that Mikael
doesn't wake up.
MIA does what JOF has told her. At the same moment, the KNIGHT looks up from
It is your move, Antonius Block.
The KNIGHT remains silent. He sees MIA go through the moonlight towards the
wagon. JOF bends down to pick up the pack and follows at a distance.
Have you lost interest in our game?
The KNIGHT'S eyes become alarmed. DEATH looks at him intently.
Lost interest? On the contrary.
You seem anxious. Are you hiding anything?
Nothing escapes you -- or does it?
Nothing escapes me. No one escapes from me.
It's true that I'm worried.
He pretends to be clumsy and knocks the chess pieces over with the hem of his
coat. He looks up at DEATH.
I've forgotten how the pieces stood.
But I have not forgotten. You can't get away
DEATH leans over the board and rearranges the pieces. The KNIGHT looks past
him towards the road. MIA has just climbed up on the wagon. JOF takes the
horse by the bridle and leads it down the road. DEATH notices nothing; he is
completely occupied with reconstructing the game.
Now I see something interesting.
What do you see?
You are mated on the next move, Antonius Block.
Did you enjoy your reprieve?
Yes, I did.
I'm happy to hear that. Now I'll be leaving you.
When we meet again, you and your companions'
time will be up.
And you will divulge your secrets.
I have no secrets.
So you know nothing.
I have nothing to tell.
The KNIGHT wants to answer, but DEATH is already gone.
A murmur is heard in the tree tops. Dawn comes, a flickering light without
life, making the forest seem threatening and evil. JOF drives over the
twisting road. MIA sits beside him.
What a strange light.
I guess it's the thunderstorm which comes with
No, it's something else. Something terrible. Do
you hear the roar in the forest?
It's probably rain.
No, it isn't rain. He has seen us and he's
following us. He has overtaken us; he's coming
Not yet, Mia. In any case, not yet.
I'm so afraid. I'm so afraid.
The wagon rattles over roots and stones; it sways and creaks. Now the horse
stops with his ears flat against his head. The forest sighs and stirs
Get into the wagon, Mia. Crawl in quickly.
We'll lie down, Mia, with Mikael between us.
They crawl into the wagon and crouch around the sleeping child.
It is the Angel of Death that's passing over
us, Mia. It's the Angel of Death. The Angel of
Death, and he's very big.
Do you feel how cold it is? I'm freezing. I'm
She shivers as if she had a fever. They pull the blankets over them and lie
closely together. The wagon canvas flutters and beats in the wind. The roar
outside is like a giant bellowing.
The castle is silhouetted like a black boulder against the heavy dawn. Now
the storm moves there, throwing itself powerfully against walls and
abutments. The sky darkens; it is almost like night.
Antonius Block has brought his companions with him to the castle. But it
seems deserted. They walk from room to room. There is only emptiness and
quiet echoes. Outside, the rain is heard roaring noisily.
Suddenly the KNIGHT stands face to face with his wife. They look at each
I heard from people who came from the crusade
that you were on your way home. I've been
waiting for you here. All the others have fled
from the plague.
The KNIGHT is silent. He looks at her.
Don't you recognize me any more?
The KNIGHT nods, silent.
You also have changed.
She walks closer and looks searchingly into his face. The smile lingers in
her eyes and she touches his hand lightly.
Now I can see that it's you. Somewhere in your
eyes, somewhere in your face, but hidden and
frightened, is that boy who went away so many
It's over now and I'm a little tired.
I see that you're tired.
Over there stand my friends.
Ask them in. They will break the fast with us.
They all sit down at the table in the room, which is lit by torches on the
walls. Silently they eat the hard bread and the salt-darkened meat. KARIN
sits at the head of the table and reads aloud from a thick book.
"And when the Lamb broke the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven for about the space
of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels
which stood before God; and to them were given
seven trumpets. And another ..."
Three mighty knocks sound on the large portal. KARIN interrupts her reading
and looks up from the book. JONS rises quickly and goes to open the door.
"The first angel sounded, and there followed
hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were
cast upon the earth; and the third part of the
trees was burnt up and all the green grass was
Now the rain becomes quiet. There is suddenly an immense, frightening silence
in the large, murky room where the burning torches throw uneasy shadows over
the ceiling and the walls. Everyone listens tensely to the stillness.
"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a
great mountain burning with fire was cast into
the sea; and a third part of the sea became
Steps are heard on the stairs. JONS returns and sits down silently at his
place but does not continue to eat.
Was someone there?
No, my lord. I saw no one.
KARIN lifts her head for a moment but once again leans over the large book.
"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a
great star from heaven, burning as it were a
torch, and it fell upon the third part of the
rivers and upon the fountains of waters; and
the name of the star is called Wormwood ..."
They all lift their heads, and when they see who is coming towards them
through the twilight of the large room, they rise from the table and stand
Good morning, noble lord.
I am Karin, the knight's wife, and welcome you
courteously to my house.
I am a smith by profession and rather good at
my trade, if I say so myself. My wife Lisa --
curtsy for the great lord, Lisa. She's a little
difficult to handle once in a while and we had
a little spat, so to speak, but no worse than
The KNIGHT hides his face in his hands.
From our darkness, we call out to Thee, Lord.
Have mercy on us because we are small and
frightened and ignorant.
In the darkness where You are supposed to be,
where all of us probably are.... In the
darkness You will find no one to listen to Your
cries or be touched by Your sufferings. Wash
Your tears and mirror Yourself in Your
God, You who are somewhere, who must be
somewhere, have mercy upon us.
I could have given you an herb to purge you of
your worries about eternity. Now it seems to be
too late. But in any case, feel the immense
triumph of this last minute when you can still
roll your eyes and move your toes.
I shall be silent, but under protest.
(on her knees)
It is the end.
JOF and MIA sit close together and listen to the rain tapping lightly on the
wagon canvas, a sound which diminishes until finally there are only single
They crawl out of their hiding place. The wagon stands on a height above a
slope, protected by an enormous tree. They look across ridges, forests, the
wide plains, and the sea, which glistens in the sunlight breaking through the
JOF stretches his arms and legs. MIA dries the wagon seat and sits down next
to her husband. MIKAEL crawls between JOF'S knees.
A lone bird tests its voice after the storm. The trees and bushes drip. From
the sea comes a strong and fragrant wind.
JOF points to the dark, retreating sky where summer lightning glitters like
silver needles over the horizon.
I see them, Mia! I see them! Over there against
the dark, stormy sky. They are all there. The
smith and Lisa and the knight and Raval and
Jˆns and Skat. And Death, the severe master,
invites them to dance. He tells them to hold
each other's hands and then they must tread the
dance in a long row. And first goes the master
with his scythe and hourglass, but Skat dangles
at the end with his lyre. They dance away from
the dawn and it's a solemn dance towards the
dark lands, while the rain washes their faces
and cleans the salt of the tears from their
He is silent. He lowers his hand. His son, MIKAEL, has listened to his words.
Now, he crawls up to MIA and sits down in her lap.
You with your visions and dreams.
Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman
Seventh Seal, The
Writers : Ingmar Bergman
Genres : Drama Fantasy