.          all rights belong to Tanis Harms, © 2014
.             refer to
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A QUEEN OF COURAGE - written by Tanis Harms

PREMISE:     Becoming a queen, Esther realizes
.            her purpose in this position –
.            to save her people from annihilation.
.            Requesting all Israelites in the area
.            to join her for three days of fasting
.            and prayer, she gathers her courage from God
.            to approach the king with her petition.
STYLE:       drama
TOPIC:       courage, relying on God
SCRIPTURE:   Esther
NOTES:       for CAST, SET, PROPS

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SCRIPT:                      ACT 1
.                       MORDECAI’S HOUSE

(“ESTHER”, a young woman who is still named Hadassah,
paces the floor nervously, muttering to herself
as if to prepare a speech.  MORDECAI enters and
stops to observe her with father-like amusement.)

MORDECAI     Hadassah, which world problem
.            are you trying to solve?

(Gasping, ESTHER turns to face MORDECAI.)

ESTHER       Uncle Mordeai!  Well – ah – it is nothing.

MORDECAI     Nothing?  Your mutterings sounded like
.            it was a little more than nothing.
.            Now, child, speak your mind.

(ESTHER inhales, bracing herself – then exhales.)

ESTHER       Well firstly, I am no longer – a child-

MORDECAI     You are still very young.

ESTHER       I am getting older.

MORDECAI     As we all do.

ESTHER       Uncle Mordecai, I love you as a father,    2
.            and I am most grateful for all
.            that you have done for me...
.            especially under the circumstances.
.            I know things would be a lot simpler
.            if our people were back in Israel
.            instead of living in exile
.            in this strange and godless land-

MORDECAI     So you ARE trying to solve world problems!

ESTHER       No, Uncle Mordecai.  I am trying to say
.            that compared to the big scary problems–
.            Well – I have a simple problem –
.            Actually – it is not really a problem.
.            I am TRYING to ask about something
.            fairly simple – but –
.            it means the world to me...

(ESTHER pauses, as if to wait for MORDECAI to interject,
but instead he waves her on to continue.)

ESTHER       I feel... that it is time to consider – ah,
.            for you to find me a husband – I mean –
.            to consider someone – as a husband- for me-

MORDECAI     But Hadassah, marriage!
.            You are still far too young.
.            Why, it seems like it was only yesterday...
.            Well, your parents would have been
.            so very proud of you, that you,
.            even while still just a child,
.            live in such a way as to honor God.

ESTHER       And now as a YOUNG WOMAN, I wish to still
.            honor God – alongside a young man
.            who also honors God -

MORDECAI     But what is the rush?

ESTHER       I worry that I will be alone-
.            I fear that I will miss my opportunity-

MORDECAI     We should not worry or fear anything.
.            God wants us to be strong and courageous-

ESTHER       It would help to be married to someone
.            who was a strong spiritual leader-
.            who would encourage me to do so-

MORDECAI     A believer SHOULD marry a believer.        3
.            But do not depend on another person
.            when it comes to your trusting God.
.            No matter the circumstances,
.            that is only between you and God.

ESTHER       I realize I need to work on that.  By why
.            should that stop me from getting married?
.            In the same way as you encourage me-
.            I know that he will also encourage me-

MORDECAI     It sounds as if you have someone in mind,
.            already.  Now, if he feels the same way, and
.            is ready to commit himself to you for life,
.            he will surely wait while his parents and I
.            make the proper arrangements.

ESTHER       So you will go speak to his father?

MORDECAI     I will start inquiring-

(ESTHER lights up with hope, but then sighs
with submissive resignation at the next statement.)

MORDECAI     As soon as I have given this a lot
.            of prayerful consideration!...
.            Now, who is this young man?

ESTHER       (getting excited again)  Abiyah!
.            He is considerate, responsible, and kind-
.            And comes from a good Israelite family-
.            In fact, you know his father!

(ESTHER talks as she follows MORDECAI out.)

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES sits on throne, while OFFICIALS 1-4,
HAMAN, BIGTHAN and TERESH surround him.
ALL holding golden cups, OFFICIAL 1 raises his glass
to XERXES.  In this section, the men are inebriated.
Be careful to make this family and church friendly.)

OFFICIAL 1   To King Xerxes the Great!

OFFICIAL 2   (raising glass)  The King of Nations!

ALL          (raising glasses)  To the King of Nations!

(ALL drink to the toast.)
.                                                       4
XERXES       (to OFFICIALS 1-2, expecting an answer)
.            Because I control a tiny portion of land?

OFFICIAL 2   Tiny?!  You control 127 provinces.
.            You reign over all the land -
.            from India to Ethiopia.
.            You are the Great King of Persia and Media.

OFFICIAL 1   And very soon you will add Greece
.            to your collection – the country
.            which eluded your father’s grasp.

(HAMAN motions to OFFICIAL 1 to tread more cautiously,
then smoothly takes over to cover the slight.)

HAMAN        This is only your third year in power,
.            and look at the riches of your royal glory!
.            And the splendor of your great majesty-
.            shall only increase.  We pay homage to you,
.            and only to you, oh Great King.

XERXES       And I thank my noblemen and officials
.            in their dutiful service to me.
.            I just hope I have done enough
.            to demonstrate my appreciation.

OFFICIAL 1   (toasting)  To the Great King!

OFFICIAL 2   The most GENEROUS Great King!

ALL          The most generous Great King!

XERXES       (addresses OFFICIAL 3, expecting an answer)
.            Because I arranged for a little party?

OFFICIAL 2   Little?!  You invited all noblemen
.            and officials in your land to celebrate.
.            And after 180 days of feasting and drinking,
.            you throw a seven day banquet
.            which includes all the people
.            in your royal city.  Not many kings
.            would include the common man
.            in such courtesies and grand pleasures.
.            You are most benevolent to share
.            ANTHING from your plentiful bounty.

OFFICIAL 1   Although, King Xerxes the Great
.            would never dream of sharing anything
.            from his plethora of beautiful women.
.                                                       5
(HAMAN throws another look at OFFICIAL 1 to watch
his tongue.)

HAMAN        Your tastes are world renowned.
.            Your reputation deems you –
.            the most fortunate of kings.

OFFICIAL 1   To the King of Kings!

OFFICIAL 2   To the most fortunate King of Kings!

ALL          The most fortunate King of Kings!

XERXES       I am, aren’t I.

OFFICAL 1    To behold the Queen – is like –
.            no other vision.

(HAMAN shows a frustrated expression.)

XERXES       My Queen Vashti is the fairest of all women.
.            Would you not agree – Haman?

HAMAN        (carefully)  She is most breathtaking.

OFFICIAL 3   Sadly, we have only the rumors to go by.
.            But I will take you at your word.

XERXES       I feel saddened that you are not able
.            to realize what you do not have.

(OFFICIALS laugh heartily at this joke, while
XERXES, getting an idea, looks around.)

XERXES       Please, allow my benevolent indulgence.

(Seeing ZETHAR, and while taking a long drink,
XERXES points his scepter at ZETHAR with little jabs
to the air for him to approach, as if he cannot remember
the name at the moment.  ZETHAR jumps to and touches
the end of the scepter, unsure, because this is
not the usual procedure.  XERXES leans toward ZETHAR.)

XERXES       Ah, Zethar, bring me Queen Vashti –
.            (getting an idea, waves ZETHAR in closer)
.            Dressed in – my preference –
.            fit for a party.  (waves ZETHAR in again)
.            And – make sure she still wears her crown.
.            She is the queen after all.
.                                                       6
(OFFICIALS chuckle and nudge each other eagerly.)

ZETHAR       (to XERXES)  She entertains the wives
.            of all the noblemen at the moment.

XERXES       Then make sure she has help to quickly
.            make the appropriate changes,
.            and come here.  At once!

ZETHAR       (bowing before exiting)  Yes, oh Great King.

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS

(VASHTI sits on the sofa, surrounded by the WIVES
of the OFFICIALS.  ZERESH is included in these.
They also are ALL enjoying drinks from golden cups.
The women have more decorum than the men.)

WIFE 1       Thank you, Queen Vashti, for your most
.            generous hospitality.

VASHTI       It was my privilege to have served you
.            as my guests.

ZERESH       You are most privileged amongst all women.

(VASHTI “hms” with a slight nod.)

WIFE 2       It seems that Queen Vashti may not
.            quite agree with that statement.

ZERESH       Oh come now, why would you ever say that?

VASHTI       (carefully)  I must remain tactful –
.            as well as dutiful.

WIFE 3       Indeed, we would expect nothing less of you.

ZERESH       But we cannot expect more?

VASHTI       You have no idea what is all expected.

WIFE 2       The queen remains cryptic.

ZERESH       Still, to live in the palace,
.            with all this grandeur-

(ZETHAR enters and bows.)

ZETHAR       I beg your pardon, Queen Vashti,           7
.            the Great King Xerxes has summoned you.

(VASHTI inhales and exhales very deeply and slowly.
WIVES all watch her, wondering.)

ZETHAR       Queen Vashti-

(VASHTI shakes her head, visibly upset.)

VASHTI       No-not - that.  Not again.

ZERESH       I’m sure the King of Kings only wishes
.            to show you off.

(VASHTI looks at ZERESH with a glare.)

VASHTI       Much more than I wish.

ZETHAR       Your majesty, this is an order
.            from the King of Kings.  Do not make me
.            return to him without your presence.

VASHTI       (thinking, then firmly but weakly)
.            No!  Tell him – no!...  I refuse.

(WIVES all look worried.  VASHTI sighs again with
deep resolve.  ZETHAR bows regretfully, then exits.)

ZERESH       A dutiful wife always humors her husband.

VASHTI       Nothing is humorous about what is expected
.            of me, when he summons me like this.  When
.            drinking to excess, the king loses any and
.            all reason – and humanitarian compassion.
.            No – no I cannot submit myself to that –
.            ever again.

(WIFE 1 puts a comforting hand onto VASHTI’S.)

WIFE 1       The last time she returned from such
.            a summoning – she was in tears –
.            and distraught for a month.

WIFE 3       But you forget that the Great King is a god.
.            What he says – must be obeyed.
.            And what he puts into motion –
.            can never be undone.

VASHTI       I am willing to bear the consequences.
.                                                       8
ZERESH       It cannot be that bad.

(VASHTI throws another glare at ZETHAR.)

WIFE 2       I just hope that this does not have
.            any repercussions for the rest of us.

VASHTI       Then I apologize NOW - for any
.            inconveniences you might suffer as a result.

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES notices that ZETHAR returns solemnly, alone.
OFFICIALS become quiet, knowing there is an issue.)

XERXES       Where is the woman?

ZETHAR       (quietly)  She refused to come,
.            oh Great King.

XERXES       She refused to obey my command?!

(XERXES gets up to pace and think.  XERXES finally
swings his attention to the OFFICIALS.)

XERXES       You men know the law.
.            What is to be done with Queen Vashti?

OFFICIAL 1   Queen Vashti has wronged not only
.            the King of Kings -
.            but everyone within your kingdom.
.            All women will hear of the Queen’s conduct
.            which will only cause them to defy
.            their husbands, whenever they so choose.

OFFICIAL 3   This is true.  All women
.            throughout Persia and Media
.            will begin to cause their husbands grief.
.            This will only result in contempt and anger.

OFFICIAL 1   So if it pleases the King of Kings,
.            issue a royal edict which cannot be changed,
.            that Queen Vashti may no longer
.            come into the presence
.            of King Xerxes the Great.
.            And let the Great King -
.            give her royal position to another -
.            one who is more worthy than she.

OFFICIAL 2   Yes... then in this way,                   9
.            when the Great King’s edict is heard
.            throughout all his kingdom, that
.            all men are to be master in his own house;
.            then ALL women will give honor
.            to their husbands, great and small.
.            That will make them think twice about
.            disobeying our commands.

XERXES       Yes...  Yes, this sounds good to me.
.            I will send out letters at once.
.            Women need to obey – no matter what.

HAMAN        (subtly)  Meanwhile, why not focus
.            your efforts elsewhere.

(OFFICIAL 1 nods knowingly at HAMAN as BIGTHAN and TERESH
jump into this conversation and speak very eagerly.)

BIGTHAN      Yes!  Forget the women.
.            Let us prepare for battle!

TERESH       Exactly, concentrate on
.            the impending attack on Greece.
.            We are here and ready to carry out
.            your desire to punish that territory
.            and add it to your kingdom.

BIGTHAN      AS your father had so greatly desired.
.            And we are just the men
.            to take the lead in these efforts.
.            Let us know when you are ready
.            to hear our strategy against the Greeks,
.            if that would please the Great King.

TERESH       Of course, these strategies
.            would only support the great plans
.            that you have already laid out
.            to build the bridges
.            across the Hellespont,
.            and dig a channel
.            through the peninsula of Mount Athos.

(As BIGTHAN and TERESH mime their discussion with XERXES,
OFFICIAL 2 pulls OFFICIAL 1 and HAMAN to the side
and speak to him with quiet anger.)

OFFICIAL 2   You are encouraging those two
.            to take the attention away of us.

HAMAN        Patience.  Do you need lessons in         10
.            politics?  It is most beneficial to have
.            men like them around, to act as scapegoats.
.            They come in quite handy.  Now come,
.            let us take note of exactly what they say
.            and how they dig their own graves.

(HAMAN and OFFICIALS 1-2 return to the group.)

.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI gathers with OFFICIALS 3-4, deep in discussion.
MORDECAI holds a ledger which he refers to at times.
WOMAN and ISRAELITE enter with trays of merchandize
to be sold.   TOWNSPEOPLE mill about doing business.
BIGTHAN and TERESH push their way through the crowds.
OFFICIAL 3 nods to MORDECAI, then turns to TERESH.)

OFFICIAL 3   Everyone is back from the war?

OFFICIAL 4   (joins in)  So, is Greece now part of
.            the kingdom of King Xerxes the Great?

TERESH       No!

(MORDECAI stands with the group, interested.)

OFFICIAL 4   What went wrong?

TERESH       We would have won that battle had someone
.            listened to us.  We had a good strategy.
.            They should have implemented our strategy.

BIGTHAN      It’s all King Xerxes’ fault for not making
.            Teresh, here, General, instead of Mardonius.

OFFICIAL 3   Careful with that kind of talk.
.            Something like that could get back
.            to the king.

BIGTHAN      We don’t have to worry about that.
.            We will seek an audience with the king
.            and tell him this ourselves.

TERESH       We need to be better prepared
.            for the next plan of attack.

OFFICIAL 3   Well, still, one always wants to be
.            astute in their political prowess.

BIGTHAN      We don’t have time to be astute!          11

MORDECAI     Nobody gets ahead with rash thinking.

BIGTHAN      What does an Israelite know about war?!

TERESH       Bigthan, calm yourself.  He’s right.
.            We need to think through how we will
.            approach King Xerxes.

BIGTHAN      All right-all right.  But I do not
.            wish to wait too long.

OFFICIAL 3   I’m sure King Xerxes the Great will also
.            require some time to calm himself.
.            This was quite the crushing blow.

OFFICIAL 4   Yes, he will definitely be very upset
.            with this loss.

OFFICIAL 3   As his father before him!
.            We realize just how much he wants
.            Greece as his trophy-

BIGTHAN      As do I.

OFFICIAL 4   As do the rest of us.

(While MORDECAI, BIGTHAN, TERESH and OFFICIALS 3-4 mime
a deep discussion, ESTHER enters with shopping basket.
A WOMAN sees ESTHER looking around and approaches her
with her basket of fruit to sell.)

WOMAN        Fresh fruit?  I have some lovely
.            pomegranates - picked fresh today.

ESTHER       Oh, ah, they look lovely but perhaps later.

(ESTHER looks around again, only to be approached by
ISRAELITE with their tray of trinkets.  Meanwhile,
seeing ESTHER, MORDECAI breaks away from the men.)

ISRAELITE    You could buy a trinket and wear it home.
.            It would surely benefit from your beauty-

ESTHER       So kind of you to say, but-

MORDECAI     But - her beauty needs no benefiting.
.            (with a nod of dismissal)  Thank you.

ISRAELITE    Your husband will not buy you a trinket?  12

ESTHER       (balking)  He’s not my husband.

MORDECAI     (shoos ISRAELITE, while looking at ESTHER)
.            Husband!  How could one think that!
.            As I so recently said,
.            you are not yet old enough to be married!
.            (studying ESTHER)  Ah, I suppose you are.

ESTHER       (playfully)  Time passes quickly?

MORDECAI     That it does.  Well, my dear Hadassah,
.            I suppose it is time to speak
.            with Abiyah’s father.

ESTHER       Right now?

MORDECAI     (chuckling)  Well, not at this very moment.
.            (noticing ESTHER’S beseeching look...)
.            But – the next time I see him...
.            I only pray this is a worthy match.

ESTHER       Thank you, Uncle Mordecai.  Now,
.            I will buy figs and honey so I can make
.            your favorite meal tonight.

HAMAN        I look forward to that, but it will not
.            make the process go any faster-

(While they have been speaking, HEGAI enters and walks
around the courtyard to look at all the woman with
a very discerning eye.  Seeing ESTHER, HEGAI walks
right up to her with a bow.)

HEGAI        You!

(ESTHER motions to herself questioningly.)

HEGAI        Yes.  You are hereby summoned to a life
.            of service to King Xerxes the Great.
.            I must insist that you come with me
.            immediately.

ESTHER       But – but-I do not wish to–

(MORDECAI quickly corrects ESTHER’S outburst to HEGAI.)

MORDECAI     -She does not wish to inconvenience
.            your sense of urgency–
.                                                      13
HEGAI        (to ESTHER)  What is your name?

ESTHER       Had-

MORDECAI     Esther!  Her name is Esther.

(HEGAI now looks at MORDECAI, questioningly.)

MORDECAI     I truly beg your pardon.  Could Esther
.            have a moment to speak with me?
.            I wish to impart some words of wisdom.

HEGAI        That request sounds satisfactory.

(MORDECAI pulls the stunned-ESTHER to the side
while HEGAI keeps a careful eye on his prize.)

ESTHER       I do not wish to go.  I hear the stories.

MORDECAI     I understand-

ESTHER       Please, Uncle Mordecai, I just want
.            to marry Abiyah, and have lots of children-

MORDECAI     I am sorry – that will not happen now...
.            There is nothing that can be done.
.            You must forget Abiyah.
.            You must never say his name - ever again.
.            When the king summons- you must obey-

ESTHER       Please-

MORDECAI     Listen to me.  Hadassah!  That is
.            the last time you should go by your
.            Jewish name.  Your Persian name is Esther.

ESTHER       But King Ahasuerus is very harsh- evil-

MORDECAI     Never speak ill of the king.  As well,
.            you must not refer to the Persian king
.            using the Hebrew term.  The king’s name
.            is Xerxes.  No one must know that
.            we are Israelites.  Do you understand?

ESTHER       I do NOT understand-

MORDECAI     There are those in the palace who
.            do not look on the Israelites with favor.
.            Do you understand now?
.                                                      14
ESTHER       But- well, then...  Well, what if...
.            they serve unclean food?
.            The scriptures forbid this.

(ESTHER watches as MORDECAI thinks, then shrugs with
a shake of his head.)

ESTHER       Mordecai, I’m afraid-

MORDECAI     Now more than ever, you must trust God.

ESTHER       Why?  If God has let this happen to me!

MORDECAI     Do not say such things.
.            You must be strong and courageous-
.            This is a message from the scriptures.
.            To be strong – and courageous.

ESTHER       (shaking her head)  I will never be that.

MORDECAI     You must!  Now listen, I will always be here
.            at the king’s gate.  I will always listen
.            for news as to how you are doing.  But
.            most importantly, know that God is with you.

(MORDECAI sees ESTHER’S doubtful, terrified expression.)

MORDECAI     You do believe that, don’t you?

HEGAI        (approaches)  I am sorry, it is time-

MORDECAI     (to HEGAI)  A word with you?

HEGAI        Be quick about it.

MORDECAI     Please keep me informed of Esther’s welfare.
.            I hold business here at the king’s gate.
.            That is all.  I thank you for your kind
.            and generous consideration.

(HEGAI nods curtly to MORDECAI and turns to ESTHER.)

HEGAI        You will be under my custody.
.            There is a year of preparation
.            which must begin as soon as possible.

ESTHER       (meekly)  I understand...  and apologize.
.            I will embrace any advice that you give me.

(HEGAI stops briefly to wonder at this humble display. 15
As HEGAI escorts ESTHER out, ESTHER sadly looks back
at MORDECAI, who then turns toward the gate
to mime doing business with OFFICIALS and TOWNSMEN.
HAMAN and ZERESH enter and ISRAELITE rushes over.
ZERESH carries a basket for shopping purposes.)

ISRAELITE    A trinket for your lady?

HAMAN        Huh!  These would not be good enough
.            for my wife.

ISRAELITE    Ah, but these come from the land of Is-

HAMAN        Be gone!

ISRAELITE    (with a tiny bow)  Yes, sir.

(ISRAELITE rushes away to another possible customer.)

ZERESH       That was ruder than usual.

HAMAN        That was another one of those Israelites.

ZERESH       Is that a problem?

HAMAN        You see how our land is overrun
.            with them.

ZERESH       Any more than any other foreigners?

HAMAN        The problem with the Israelites
.            is that they follow their Creator God.

ZERESH       Again, I fail to see the issue.

HAMAN        With that - they have their own laws –
.            which very often conflict with ours.
.            And their God seems to favor them
.            in ways that are - unimaginable.
.            And, as my forefather was Esau,
.            the birthright, blessings and privileges
.            should have rightfully gone to us.
.            Israel stole our family’s rich inheritance.

(ZERESH has stopped to examine fruit from WOMAN’S tray.)

ZERESH       Ah, I see.  Well, then I can certainly
.            understand your disdain.
.            Isn’t there anything that you can do?
.                                                      16
(ZERESH takes some fruit and pays WOMAN a few coins.)

HAMAN        Not yet.  My position is not high enough.

ZERESH       (turns to HAMAN and proudly flatters him)
.            Well, if I know my Haman, and I do,
.            you will find your way to the top.

HAMAN        A man cannot have a finer, more obedient
.            wife, than you.  You are wise to be so.

ZERESH       Obedient?  I am wiser than that.  I know
.            how to be supportive and understanding.

HAMAN        As long as you do not defy me,
.            you play your game, and I will play mine.

ZERESH       And we shall both win.

HAMAN        (smiling, but realizing)
.            Now, alas, I must go to work.

ZERESH       Aw.

HAMAN        The Great King Xerxes has summoned me.

ZERESH       Is he still pouting over his loss
.            at war?

HAMAN        I am hoping that it is for the purpose
.            of honoring me somehow.

ZERESH       Oh, that would delightful.  To which god
.            should I pay homage for this request?

HAMAN        Certainly not to the Babylonian god Bel.
.            If you remember, King Xerxes
.            just had their golden statue destroyed.
.            So...  I would suggest
.            any of the Zoroastrian gods.
.            Ahura Asha, the Amesha Spentas –
.            and – well, why not the entire host
.            of Yazatas, while you are at it.
.            And then perhaps soon,
.            I will be amongst THOSE and
.            you will pay homage to me.

(HAMAN exits while ZERESH looks around the market area.)

.                         THRONE ROOM                  17

(HAMAN and OFFICIAL 1 and 2 watch XERXES as he paces
the floor then slumps into the throne.
ZETHAR dashes in and bows low at the call of his name.)

XERXES       Zethar!  Bring me Queen Vashti.

(ZETHAR looks up confused.  OFFICIALS 1-2 hold out
their hands to ZETHAR and shake their heads as a warning.
OFFICIAL 1 then shoos ZETHAR away with a hand, but
ZETHAR doesn’t move.)

OFFICIAL 1   Great King, remember your edict.
.            Vashti is forbidden to be in your presence
.            ever again.

XERXES       But I need solace!

OFFICIAL 2   We realize that our military suffered
.            a great loss, but-

XERXES       I need comforting!  I need a diversion.

HAMAN        Oh King of Kings, please give us
.            a moment to confer.

(HAMAN and OFFICIALS 1-2 step aside to hold
a private conference.)

OFFICIAL 1   We cannot allow Vashti to be queen
.            ever again.  She would be sure
.            to seek vengeance against us
.            for putting that edict into motion.
.            Not only would we lose our positions,
.            but perhaps – even our lives.

OFFICIAL 2   Then what do we say to the Great King?
.            Obviously we cannot give this reason.

OFFICIAL 1   No!  That would be political suicide.

(HAMAN thinks then has an idea.

HAMAN        Leave it to me.

(HAMAN and OFFICIALS 1 and 2 return to XERXES.
HAMAN speaks firmly and with authority,
but without looking directly at XERXES.)

HAMAN        Great King of Persia and Media,           18
.            you must remember that your edicts
.            are irreversible.  If you changed
.            your mind on this edict, and reinstated
.            Vashti - you would be seen as a joke -
.            not only throughout your OWN kingdom -
.            but to all other kingdoms.
.            Especially because this is in reference
.            to only a woman.  Would you allow a woman
.            to control your power and reputation?

XERXES       You argue an excellent case, Haman.
.            Your logic is sound.

HAMAN        Thank you, oh Great King.  And so –
.            ever since the edict and that most
.            unfortunate incident – we have been
.            addressing the situation – searching
.            for the most suitable replacement
.            to bring you honor.

OFFICIAL 1   Yes, that is correct.  Throughout the lands,
.            we have sought out the most beautiful
.            young virgins, and have brought them
.            to your harem here in Susa.

XERXES       And when can I start to meet with
.            all of them?

OFFICIAL 1   Hegai was been put in charge of all these
.            young ladies, and is seeing to their
.            appropriate royal cosmetic preparations,
.            which - require a year to complete.

XERXES       It has been more than a year.

HAMAN        And that is why the process may begin
.            at any time now – as it pleases
.            the King of Kings.  Then –
.            let the young lady
.            who pleases the Great King -
.            be queen in place of Vashti.

XERXES       This would offer a delightful diversion,
.            and solace.  Yes, this will please me.
.            (to ZETHAR)  Zethar, let Hegai know
.            to begin the process tonight.

(ZETHAR bows and exits.)

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS               19

(ESTHER sits on the sofa.  MAID 1 holds a mirror
in front of ESTHER so congregation cannot see her yet.
MAID 2 stands behind ESTHER, touching up her hair, then
applies some perfume.  HEGAI enters and admires ESTHER.)

HEGAI        Esther, your beauty certainly outshines
.            all.

(HEGAI claps his hands and MAIDS 1-2 begin to exit,
thus revealing ESTHER completely adorned and regal.)

ESTHER       (to MAIDS)  Thank you.

(MAIDS 1-2 smile and curtsy to ESTHER, then exit.)

ESTHER       I suppose... after twelve months
.            of beauty treatments.  You have been
.            most kind.  I feel I do not deserve
.            your favoritism.

HEGAI        Nonsense.  You deserve even more
.            than what I have provided you.

ESTHER       What more could there be?
.            (motioning around the room)
.            You have given me
.            the best suite in the harem,
.            with seven highly trained maids,
.            and the most generous provisions
.            of makeup and food-

HEGAI        Which you hardly touch-

(ESTHER becomes afraid and slightly cowers.)

HEGAI        Sit up-straight.  I do see that your
.            appetite has improved a little.
.            You will need to feel nourished-

(ESTHER sits straighter and glances at HEGAI as
he sits next to her on the sofa.)

HEGAI        It is time to meet with Great King Xerxes.
.            Your days of beautification have been
.            completed, the six months with oil of myrrh,
.            and six months with spices and cosmetics.

ESTHER       I must confess to you, I am terrified.
.                                                      20
HEGAI        You will do fine.  You have not become
.            the favored candidate without reason.
.            I fully trust that you will please the king.
.            Now, there are a few things you should know.

ESTHER       What is expected?

HEGAI        You may take anything from this harem
.            that you desire and bring that to
.            the palace.  You will meet with the king
.            in the evening, and then in the morning,
.            you will return to the second harem
.            where you will live out your days-

ESTHER       Will you be there?

HEGAI        No.  You will be placed into the custody
.            of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch
.            who is in charge of the concubines.

ESTHER       But-

HEGAI        My time of serving you is over.
.            Once you are in the palace,
.            your fate lies with the king’s desires.
.            After meeting him tonight,
.            you will not see the king ever again -
.            unless the king is delighted by you –
.            and ONLY if the king summons you by name.

ESTHER       And then my life will be over- completely.

HEGAI        You shall always address the king
.            by one the following titles:
.            King of Persia and Media-

ESTHER       I thought he was the king of Babylon.

HEGAI        His father went by that title,
.            even though he built up both kingdoms.
.            One of the wives of King Darius the Great
.            was Queen Atossa – the daughter
.            of Cyrus the Great of Persia.
.            That is why King Xerxes was chosen
.            to replace his father King Darius,
.            even though he is not the eldest son.
.            The mother of his older brother, Artobazan,
.            was a commoner.  So you see, King Xerxes
.            is then the rightful King of Persia.
.                                                      21
ESTHER       Is his brother, Artobazan, not angered
.            by this oversight?

HEGAI        No, fortunately, Artobazan and his family
.            have never challenged the position.
.            They understand their place.  So,
.            again, King Xerxes wants to be known as:
.            King of Persia and Media...
.            Or you may also choose to address him
.            as:  King Xerxes the Great,
.            the King of Nations, the King of Kings,
.            or – the Great King.  Always.

ESTHER       This is so important?

HEGAI        It is crucial to understand:
.            whatever the King of Kings requests -
.            the King of Kings should get.
.            His commands are to be carried out
.            and obeyed – or it could spell death.

(ESTHER gasps at this last comment.  HEGAI stands.)

HEGAI        Now, do not worry – for worrying will
.            effect your beauty.

(ESTHER tries to look more positive.)

HEGAI        And if you do worry – please –
.            whatever you do – do not let that show.
.            That is all.

ESTHER       (shows fear again, tries to compose herself)
.            This is not what I imagined for my life.

HEGAI        Whatever that Mordecai person said to you
.            on that first day – think on those -
.            words of wisdom.  Perhaps that will help.

(ESTHER labors to breathe then lets her head fall.
Finally sighing, she looks up, then rushes over to HEGAI
to hug.  HEGAI pulls her away to chide lightly.)

HEGAI        The evening will go fine.
.            Think of it this way, it will be a change
.            from your last 365 days.

(ESTHER conjures up some solemn amusement.)

.                           ACT 2                      22
.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI paces back and forth at lower stage.
Seeing MAID 1, MORDECAI rushes up to her.)

MORDECAI     Do you have any news?

MAID 1       Esther will meet the king this evening.

MORDECAI     Has she been properly prepared?

MAID 1       She has completed all of the stages
.            for beautification-

MORDECAI     No-no – I mean – has she been prepared
.            about how to behave while meeting the king?

MAID 1       I am sure Hegai has done everything
.            to prepare her in every way.
.            Esther is Hegai’s favorite, you know.
.            He would only want to see her succeed.

MORDECAI     Why does this not bring me any comfort?

(MORDECAI wrings his hands in a half prayer.)

MAID 1       Esther is unlike all other young ladies.
.            She has won the hearts of everyone
.            who attends to her needs, and I am quite
.            sure she will win the heart of the king.
.            She will do well, Mordecai.  I do not
.            understand why you fret over her so.

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES meets with HAMAN, TERESH and BIGTHAN.)

HAMAN        You were very wise, King of Kings,
.            to place your brother, Achaemenes,
.            in the position of Governor of Satraps.
.            He is sure to serve you well
.            and keep the peace over in Egypt.

XERXES       I cannot emphasize it enough – but
.            civil peace is critical to maintain.
.            So now our next item of business:  besides
.            the rebellion with the satraps in Egypt,
.            which divided our efforts, what do you think
.            went wrong on that battlefield?
.                                                      23
BIGTHAN      You know, oh Great King, that the 2 bridges
.            we were building across the Hellespont
.            were destroyed by a storm.

TERESH       We carried out your orders and had
.            the Hellespont whipped three hundred times.
.            The rebuilding of the bridges is underway.

(BIGTHAN shakes his head and rolls his eyes.)

XERXES       Bigthan?  What is this reaction?

BIGTHAN      I just fail to see how whipping a river
.            would solve anything-

XERXES       You question my command?

BIGTHAN      Not at all, Great King-

TERESH       But we could have gone into battle
.            with a better strategy.

BIGTHAN      Mardonius is a shaky leader, to begin with.

XERXES       I trust Mardonius.  You now question
.            my delegation?

BIGTHAN      Not at all, Great King-

TERESH       We just question Mardonius’ abilities.

HAMAN        (seizes the opportunity to side with XERXES)
.            I spoke with Mardonius.  He gave me
.            the impression that there was not
.            full cooperation in following his orders.

XERXES       (to BIGTHAN and TERESH)  I’m starting
.            to believe that you two were involved
.            with this.  Your eagerness to serve
.            got in your OWN way, as well as mine.

BIGTHAN      Wha-

TERESH       We mean well!  We would never undermine
.            the orders of the general, oh Great King.
.            We consider those orders as if they came
.            directly from you.  You can ask anyone
.            who served with us – that we were fully
.            cooperative.
.                                                      24
XERXES       Nonetheless, here are my orders now,
.            you will be reassigned to guarding
.            the city gate, here where I can watch you.

(TERESH glares at BIGTHAN to keep his mouth shut.
BOTH bow to XERXES.  TERESH speaks reluctantly.)

TERESH       It will be an honor and a privilege
.            to guard the king’s gate,
.            long live – the King of Kings.

(TERESH and BIGTHAN bow and exit.  HAMAN bows to XERXES.)

HAMAN        Please give me the honor of fulfilling
.            any desire that the Great King may have.

XERXES       Haman, your faithful service
.            to me has not gone unnoticed.
.            Your advice up until now
.            has been very wise and trustworthy.
.            You will be rewarded with a promotion.

HAMAN        (bowing with controlled enthusiasm)
.            I humbly thank you.  However you see fit,
.            it will be an extreme honor and privilege.
.            King of Kings.

XERXES       As you leave, please send in ZETHAR.

(HAMAN bows again and exits as XERXES collapses into
the throne.  ZETHAR soon enters with a bow.)

ZETHAR       Yes, Great King.

XERXES       Please bring in the next young woman.

ZETHAR       Yes, Great King.

(ZETHAR exits then re-enters to announce ESTHER.)

ZETHAR       The young lady, Esther, to meet with you,
.            King of Kings.

XERXES       (dully)  Send her in.

(ZETHAR motions with his hand, then exits.
ESTHER enters and stands before him stoically.
XERXES sits up to take notice – now impressed.
ESTHER bows down low, forehead touching the ground.)
.                                                      25
XERXES       Please, sit up – so I can see your face
.            again.  I am already beginning to doubt
.            the vision that I just saw.

(ESTHER slowly sits up, then slowly looks up at XERXES.)

XERXES       Faith in my eyesight has been restored.

(ESTHER does not how to react to this.)

XERXES       It was not my imagination, but you are
.            certainly more than a vision.

ESTHER       Thank you... oh – Great – King...
.            I sincerely hope that I please you.

(ESTHER bows her head again and waits.)

XERXES       Now, tell me, because I am most curious,
.            as most women choose their wardrobes,
.            jewels and makeup to take with them
.            into my palace – what have you chosen
.            to bring with you?

ESTHER       If-  (now looking up sincerely)
.            If it please the King – of Kings,
.            I only request that Hegai accompany me.

XERXES       Hegai?  The eunuch who is in charge
.            of the women?  You choose to bring Hegai?

(ESTHER gives an earnest nod – just one.
XERXES has become amused as well as interested.)

XERXES       Interesting.  Why so?

ESTHER       I appreciate his service and advice.

XERXES       Of course, I will certainly grant you
.            that desire.

ESTHER       (smiling)  Thank you, King Xerxes –
.            the Great, you are most generous.

XERXES       And you are so easy to please.
.            I have never met such a woman.
.            (studies ESTHER with close scrutiny)
.            Are you not impressed with power and riches?

(ESTHER doesn’t answer, but merely holds               26
a steady gaze.)

XERXES       Well, I wish to show you something grand.
.            I have decided to continue my work here -
.            to expand my splendid palace.
.            My father, King Darius the Great, was great,
.            but when people see that MY palace
.            is twice the size of his, they will realize
.            that I - am - greater.  (standing up)
.            Come - let us take a walk in the gardens.
.            I need a change of scenery.  You inspire me!
.            I have for too long ignored the simpler
.            pleasures in life.

(ESTHER shyly takes XERXES’ hand to stand and exit.)

.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI confers with OFFICIAL 3 when ZETHAR steps out.
ZETHAR holds up a scroll and announces to the public.)

ZETHAR       Hear ye, hear ye, King Xerxes the Great
.            has chosen his new queen.

(MORDECAI stops and turns to listen attentively.)

ZETHAR       Queen Esther.  To introduce her
.            to the kingdom, King Xerxes the Great
.            is inviting all noblemen and officials
.            to attend Queen Esther’s banquet.
.            In honor of her, this will be a holiday
.            for everyone, throughout the kingdom,
.            with gifts to be given to all,
.            according to the king’s bounty.

(ALL PEOPLE in the courtyard cheers.
MORDECAI demonstrates more of a secretive elation.
While MORDECAI steps aside to smile with relief,
BIGTHAN and TERESH step into the area to hold a heated
but private conversation, which MORDECAI overhears.)

TERESH       We have served King Xerxes faithfully.
.            How dare he demote us!  And -
.            not only were we demoted, but ridiculed.
.            To assume that we were defiant in battle-

BIGTHAN      I am too angry for words.  But I am
.            very ready to take action.

TERESH       We will assassinate the king, yes?        27
.            With him out of the way, I know that
.            his predecessor would surely reinstate us.

BIGTHAN      Perhaps even offer us a promotion.

TERESH       First things first.  We must find
.            the most opportune time.

(MORDECAI hides deeper into the shadows until BIGTHAN
and TERESH walk away.  MORDECAI then comes out of hiding.
Looking around, MORDECAI sees MAID 1 and waves her over.
MAID 1 rushes up with excitement.)

MAID 1       As you just heard, Queen Esther does well.

MORDECAI     Yes-yes – is there any way you can
.            get me in to see her?

MAID 1       She is preparing herself for the banquet.

MORDECAI     It is most urgent...
.            It is a matter of life and death.
.            And I can say no more.

MAID 1       Oh!  Ah, let me think...  Ah, follow me.

(MAID 1 leads MORDECAI off stage.)

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS

(ESTHER sits on the sofa as MAID 2 sets the crown
onto her head carefully.  HEGAI paces the floor.)

HEGAI        Thank you, by the way, for requesting
.            that I keep charge over you.
.            It is indeed an honor.

ESTHER       I hold your service to me in
.            the highest regard.  I only wish-

(MAID 1 rushes in.)

MAID 1       Begging your pardon, Queen Esther,
.            the man called Mordecai
.            is here to speak with you.
.            He says it is most urgent.

HEGAI        The queen is preparing for her banquet.

ESTHER       If Mordecai says that it is urgent,       28
.            then it is so.  Please, send him in.

(MAID 1 exits, then ushers in MORDECAI.  ESTHER rushes
over to MORDECAI to hug.)

ESTHER       Mordecai.  It is so good to see you.

MORDECAI     Esther!  Are you being treated well?

ESTHER       Yes, of course.  Tell me, how is Abi–

MORDECAI     -Everyone is well -Everyone wishes you well.

ESTHER       (sadly) I am pleased. Now what is so urgent?
.            I, myself, have urgent need to prepare.

MORDECAI     I will get right to it.  I just
.            overheard a plot to assassin the king.

HEGAI        You did not misunderstand?

MORDECAI     It was all very clear.  Esther,
.            you must go to the king and warn him.
.            Immediately-

HEGAI        I must caution you, Queen Esther.
.            Please heed my warning.  You already know
.            that when the king summons you by name,
.            you must obey.  But you cannot simply
.            approach the king.  It could mean death
.            to you.

ESTHER       Death to me?  Why is it so?

HEGAI        There was an edict passed that no one can
.            approach the king without being summoned.

ESTHER       Ever?

HEGAI        For any man or woman who comes to the king
.            to the inner court who is not summoned,
.            he has but one law,
.            that he be put to death,
.            UNLESS the king holds out to him
.            the golden scepter so that he may live.

ESTHER       I see.  (thinks) Well, I HAVE been summoned.
.            I will be seeing the king at the banquet.
.            I will let him know then.
.                                                      29
MORDECAI     This sounds reasonable.  The two men were
.            Teresh and Bigthan.  The officials
.            in charge of guarding the king’s gate.

.                      NONSPECIFIC PLACE

(OFFICIALS and their WIVES walk across the stage
as if to enter the banquet area off stage.
There is music, laughter, dancing and chattering.
ESTHER soon leads XERXES “outside” and onto the stage.
ESTHER is apprehensive as to how to deliver the news.)

XERXES       What is the matter?  You pull me away
.            from our celebrations.  Are you already
.            unhappy as wife and queen?

ESTHER       I do not wish to dampen the mood,
.            but there is a most pressing matter.

XERXES       Your living quarters are too small?

ESTHER       If you would just listen – oh Great King...
.            Someone approached me today with news...
.            of an assassination plot against you.

XERXES       And where did this news come from?

ESTHER       A man named Mordecai.  He is
.            a commerce lawyer who holds business
.            at your gates.  He overheard two men
.            discussing their plans.

XERXES       And who were these two men?

ESTHER       Teresh and Bigthan, the officials
.            who are in charge of guarding your gate.

XERXES       (brushes ESTHER’S cheek softly)
.            I have chosen well... you as my queen,
.            and you have already served me well.
.            Now, stop worrying.  We are well guarded
.            tonight during your banquet – where you
.            are most deserving of being so honored.
.            I will deal with this after
.            the celebrations.  Come now –
.            back to the festivities.  I command you-
.            to have a good time.

(ESTHER smiles and laughs shyly as they exit.)
.                                                      30
.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES sits on his throne, with OFFICIALS 1-2
and HAMAN standing to the side.  GUARDS 1-2
usher in TERESH and BIGTHAN.)

XERXES       What do you have to say for yourselves?

BIGTHAN      We are innocent.

TERESH       There must have been some misunderstanding.

XERXES       I had my officials look into the matter,
.            and the plot was investigated thoroughly.
.            There has been no misunderstanding.
.            (turns to the GUARDS)
.            Take them - both are to hang on the gallows.

(GUARDS 1-2 escort TERESH and BIGTHAN out.
ZETHAR steps forward with a bow at hearing his name,
then exits quickly to follow orders.)

XERXES       Zethar!  Bring the Book of the Chronicles.
.            (to HAMAN)  How goes my building projects?

HAMAN        Excellently, King of Kings.
.            As requested, we have kept your father’s
.            Royal Road intact and refurbished.
.            And the work that your father began
.            on the Treasury and the Apadana Palace
.            is near completion.

XERXES       And the Gate of Nations and
.            the Hall of a Hundred Columns in Persepolis?

HAMAN        Word is - that the work is well underway.

(ZETHAR returns with a book and quill on a wood tray.
Entering, ZETHAR bows, then stands to the other side
of the throne, waiting and acting as the desk.)

XERXES       (to OFFICIAL 1)  The name of Mordecai
.            is to be written down for his heroic acts
.            of uncovering and bringing the word
.            of the assassination plot against me.

(OFFICIAL 1 quickly goes to the book and writes
in the information for XERXES to witness.)

XERXES       Very good.  Now, Haman, you will see      31
.            to it that this man, Mordecai, is well
.            rewarded and honored for saving my life.

HAMAN        Yes, Great King of Persia and Media.

XERXES       As well, I wish to reward and honor you.

HAMAN        Yes, Great King?...

XERXES       I am advancing you and establishing
.            your authority over all the noblemen
.            and officials in your charge.
.            As part of your reward and position,
.            you will live in the grand house
.            beside my palace.

(OFFICIAL 1 has finished writing in the book.
OFFICIALS 1-2 both turn to bow to HAMAN.)

XERXES       Yes-yes, and I hereby command
.            that all of those subordinate,
.            must bow and pay homage to Haman.

(ZETHAR quickly bows to HAMAN, and then to XERXES,
then exits with the book and quill on the tray.
HAMAN looks very pleased with himself, but quickly
thinks to bow to XERXES.  ALL turn and bow to XERXES.)

.                      NONSPECIFIC PLACE

(ESTHER enters on one side, VASHTI from another.
EACH noticing the OTHER, they slow down until
they meet face to face.)

VASHTI      You must be Esther.  My replacement.

(ESTHER doesn’t know what to do, so she bows slightly.)

VASHTI      How does it go?  Being queen –
.           does this suite you?

ESTHER      It is fine.

VASHTI      Most fortunate that he has been distracted
.           enough with all of his building projects
.           and conquests.  (hints)  Most UNFORTUNATE
.           when his distractions require diversions
.           of sadistic entertainment.

(Again, ESTHER does not know what to say.)             32

VASHTI      You are wise not to speak ill of your king.
.           But you should also pray to all the gods
.           in the heavens and on the earth – that-
.           you will never have to fulfill or endure
.           any sort of inebriated commands of a
.           degrading whim or fantasy.

ESTHER      I- I- wish you all the richest blessings.

VASHTI      You are so sweet to feel humiliation
.           and compassion for me.  But just wait.
.           It should soon be your turn.
.           Do not feel sorry for me.
.           Save some sorrow and regret for yourself.
.           And bide your time well –
.           it is only a matter of time
.           that you will bring disappointment
.           to the king...
.           It is such an easy thing to do.

(ESTHER bows again.  Then VASHTI bows very purposefully
to ESTHER.  ESTHER dashes off.  VASHTI smiles
then saunters off in the direction she was going.)

.                         KING’S GATE

(HAMAN enters the square and strikes a grand stance.
ALL turn to bow.  A FEW ISRAELITES bow with hesitancy.
MORDECAI stands firm and does not join the homage.)

ALL          Long live the great Haman.

(ALL sense that HAMAN is angered and remain bowed.
ALL look around and glare at MORDECAI to bow also.
Seeing that he does not bow, they stay low, waiting.
Nearby, while still bowing, ISRAELITE nudges MORDECAI.)

ISRAELITE    Bow, Mordecai.  Do you wish to die?

(ISRAELITE backs away, still while bowing,
as OFFICIAL 1-2 stand up and walk over to MORDECAI.
HAMAN remains standing where he is, with fierce anger.)

OFFICIAL 1   Why are you transgressing
.            the Great King’s command?

(MORDECAI does not answer.)

OFFICIAL 1   This was a command from                   33
.            King Xerxes the Great, himself.

OFFICIAL 2   Mordecai, we warned you of this every day.
.            Haman is now considered as being
.            part of the host of Yazatas.
.            He is one of your gods.

OFFICIAL 1   Haman’s position has divine powers.
.            Will you not bow?

MORDECAI     (bursts out in anger)  As an Israelite-!

(There is silence for a while.  HAMAN’S eyes light up
with more anger.  MORDECAI realizes that they now
all know he is a Jew.)

ISRAELITE    (whispers from the background)
.            Just bow.  We are all waiting for you.

MORDECAI     (still angry, but speaking with control)
.            As an Israelite, I only bow
.            to my Creator God.

(MORDECAI remains standing stoically.  
OFFICIAL 1 walks over to HAMAN.)

OFFICIAL 1   Perhaps it is time you make an inquiry
.            and see whether Mordecai’s reason
.            will stand.  He says he is a Jew.

HAMAN        So, Mordecai is an Israelite.

OFFICIAL 1   Will you deal with him?

(HAMAN sees ISRAELITE daring to stand up straight now,
while ALL remain bowed to him, waiting.)

HAMAN        (aside)  If I only deal with this one man,
.            it would not solve the problem.
.            No, the problem is widespread in the land.
.            These people, the Israelites are everywhere.
.            I will look for a solution to deal
.            with them all – ONCE and for all.

(HAMAN turns and exits.  ALL now slowly stand up.
OFFICIAL 1 glares at MORDECAI and exits also.
OFFICIAL 2 shakes his head at MORDECAI, then exits.
ISRAELITE carefully scolds MORDECAI.)

ISRAELITE    You may have started something here.      34

MORDECAI     I will not disobey my God.  The laws of God
.            come before the laws of men.

ISRAELITE    But still-

MORDECAI     Still – we should obey the scriptures.

ISRAELITE    Even if it means death?

MORDECAI     Yes.  God will be faithful to His people.

ISRAELITE    You are very faithful.

MORDECAI     And God is more faithful than
.            I could ever be.

.                      NONSPECIFIC PLACE

(HAMAN and ZERESH confide and conspire together.)

ZERESH       That man refused to bow to you again?
.            He needs to be put to death.
.            This Mordecai will surely cause
.            the rest of the Israelites to rebel
.            against you.

HAMAN        I realize this.

ZERESH       So what will you do?

HAMAN        I cannot just put Mordecai to death.
.            There will just be more of these men who
.            will come along and challenge my position.

ZERESH       This is something you cannot allow.

HAMAN        I need to figure out a way to have
.            all Israelites put to death.
.            But I must do this wisely – carefully.

ZERESH       Will you not act quickly?

HAMAN        This is a very important decision;
.            one that cannot be done hastily.
.            (realizing)  We must cast the lot.

ZERESH       That is most wise.  I will be right back.

(While ZERESH exits, HAMAN paces to think.             35
ZERESH returns with a sack of crude sticks/blocks.
HAMAN takes the sack from ZERESH and shakes it slightly,
then kneels down to let the pieces tumble to the ground.
ZERESH joins him, crouching on the ground to study
the pieces with great reverence.  HAMAN points out
to the pieces as if he can “read” them.)

HAMAN        And so it shall happen – in the first month,
.            which is the month Nisan,
.            in the twelfth year of King Xerxes, Pur,
.            that is the lot that is cast before me.

ZERESH       (pointing out)  From day to day
.            and from month to month, until
.            the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.

(ZERESH gathers the pieces and places them back
into the sack.)

HAMAN        (standing up)  So be it.  This gives us
.            plenty of time to plan wisely.

(ZERESH swivels her crouch over the pieces
into a bow, then stands up to clasp HAMAN’S hands,
as if something great has been established.)

ZERESH       Long live Haman the Great.

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS

(ESTHER speaks with HEGAI.  She is mildly worried.)

ESTHER       It has been a while since King Xerxes
.            has requested to see me.  Do you suppose
.            I have lost favor in his eyes?

HEGAI        Not at all.

ESTHER       How can you be so sure?  Hegai,
.            I want to speak with all confidentiality.
.            I trust you, and you should trust me.
.            So you know that you can speak your mind.

HEGAI        But do I trust these walls?

ESTHER       (gets up to look around)
.            I see no ears in these walls at this time.
.            So why are you so confident that
.            my husband still favors me?
.                                                      36
HEGAI        I believe that King Xerxes becomes
.            easily distracted with many things.
.            His building projects, as well as
.            war, and governing the land.

ESTHER       These are very important things, though.

HEGAI        People are important, as well.

ESTHER       It seems my husband does not share
.            that sentiment.  People exist only
.            to serve and carry out his wishes.

HEGAI        As well as to offer comfort and provide
.            a delightful diversion when those
.            important state of affairs go awry.

ESTHER       Ah, and that might be the time he values
.            my company.

HEGAI        (carefully)  You actually love him?

ESTHER       (thinking)  I - fear him.
.            (quickly looks around the room again)
.            I fear him greatly.  And –
.            love him as I ought to.
.            As his wife and queen,
.            I only hope to serve him well,
.            and carry out my duties as expected.

HEGAI        You find your position valuable.

ESTHER       (touches her neck)  For what it’s worth,
.            I value my neck.  I bide my time.
.            I think, it is only a matter of TIME
.            that I will disappoint the king,
.            and my time – my life – will just end.

HEGAI        But I have faith that you will never
.            disappoint the king.  And you are one
.            of the most beautiful women ever-

ESTHER       What is beauty?  I keep thinking
.            how different my life might have been
.            if I was ugly to look at.

HEGAI        But your beauty seems to come also
.            from within.  Something that is quite rare.

ESTHER       Hegai, I am only human. I make mistakes.  37
.            You know how easy it is to cross
.            my husband.  Tell me, how many people
.            have you witnessed being put to death for
.            small, simple errors?  For... not addressing
.            the GREAT King with the proper title?

HEGAI        I have surely lost count.

ESTHER       I hear someone coming.
.            (louder now)  So then, let us
.            take a walk through the gardens.
.            Let us discuss the beauty of the...
.            calla lily.  How I love calla lilies.
.            So simple, and yet so elegant.

(ESTHER and HEGAI exit.)

.                         THRONE ROOM

(HAMAN and OFFICIALS 1-4 stand before XERXES.)

OFFICIAL 3   A man named Ephialtes has come out
.            of Greece, with some valuable information
.            which would help us in our next attack.

XERXES       A Greek himself?  Can we trust him?

OFFICIAL 3   He has betrayed his country, and has
.            told us about another pass around
.            the mountains.  It would give us
.            the advantage of a surprise attack.

HAMAN        I suggest that you send out men
.            to scout this area.  Make sure
.            this pass actually exits, and if it does,
.            see that the Greeks are not waiting
.            for us with an ambush.

XERXES       Excellent advice, Haman.  So be it.
.            (looks around and addresses OFFICIAL 3)
.            You will see to that?

OFFICIAL 3   As it pleases the Great King.

(OFFICIAL 3 bows, backs away, then turns to exit.)

XERXES       This time around, it seems things are
.            going far more smoothly.  Are there
.            any other pressing matters to discuss?
.                                                      38
HAMAN        There is, Great King.

XERXES       Speak.

HAMAN        As we prepare for another attack against
.            Greece, we cannot afford to have any FURTHER
.            civil unrest which might divide our efforts.

XERXES       And are you aware of any such rumblings?

HAMAN        I am.  It has been brought to my attention
.            that the group called the Israelites -
.            do not observe or obey your commands –
.            and will always continue to do so because
.            they believe that their laws are different
.            from those of all other people.  And so
.            it is NOT in the king’s best interest
.            to let them remain.

XERXES       And just where are these people located?

HAMAN        That is just it.  They are scattered
.            throughout your entire kingdom.

XERXES       So if there would be an uprising,
.            it would require a great force.

HAMAN        Exactly, oh wise and Great King.
.            You see the problem.  Therefore,
.            if it is pleasing to the Great King,
.            let it be decreed that they be destroyed.

XERXES       And just how could this be carried out
.            without disrupting our war efforts?

HAMAN        I have prepared wisely and determined
.            a date with the casting of lots.
.            It should be carried out on
.            the twelfth month, the month Adar.
.            AND, I personally will pay
.            ten thousand talents of silver
.            into the hands of those
.            who carry on the king’s business,
.            to put into the king’s treasuries.

XERXES       A personal investment?  So the onus
.            falls completely on your shoulders.

(HAMAN bows to show his sincere intent.)
.                                                      39
XERXES       Never have I seen such committed
.            and faithful service.

HAMAN        Thank you, my King of Kings.
.            I know that you will be concentrating
.            all your efforts in conquering Greece.
.            I wish only to do what I can to see that
.            there is nothing to impede your progress.

(XERXES takes off his signet ring and holds it out
for HAMAN to take.)

XERXES       Take my signet ring then, to issue
.            whatever edict is necessary.
.            The silver is yours, and the people also,
.            to do with them as you please.

(HAMAN accepts the ring with great meaning, then
bows low to XERXES, then exits.)

.                        HAMAN’S HOUSE

(HAMAN marches in and calls out with a loud demand.
ZETHAR rushes in and bows to HAMAN as he calls out.)

HAMAN       Zethar!  I wish to summon every one
.           of the king’s scribes.
.           I will be sending out an edict,
.           with the seal of the king’s signet.
.           (motions to the ring now on his finger)
.           And I want these letters
.           sent out by couriers – quickly -
.           to all the king’s provinces
.           to all noblemen and officials.
.           The letters will command that they destroy,
.           kill, and annihilate all Israelites,
.           both young and old, women and children,
.           on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month,
.           which is the month Adar.
.           And the officials
.           are to seize all their possessions
.           and property as plunder.
.           A copy of this edict to be issued as law
.           in every province, so that all officials
.           are ready for this day.  Understood?

(ZETHAR nods, bows again and exits.
As HAMAN paces with great excitement, ZERESH enters.)

ZERESH      You look pleased, oh great Haman.          40

(ZERESH bows.)

HAMAN       My dear, supportive wife...
.           I have done it.

(HAMAN shows ZERESH the ring.  ZERESH ogles the ring,
then falls to her knees to kiss the ring.)

ZERESH      I am overwhelmed.

HAMAN       As am I.  Everything and anything that
.           I wish – is at my command.
.           It is as if the king himself commands it.

(ZERESH puts a hand to her mouth, thinking of all
the implications.)

ZERESH      So what comes first?

HAMAN       The destruction of all Israelites.

ZERESH      H-how did you ever get King Xerxes
.           to agree to this?

HAMAN       I implied that they were a civil threat.
.           And I offered to pay ten thousand talents
.           of silver.

ZERESH      Wait, are you mad?
.           From our own money?
.           That is a lot of money.

HAMAN       Do you not trust me, Zeresh?

ZERESH      I trust you.  Why?  What else?

HAMAN       I also gave the order to collect
.           all possessions and properties of all
.           Israelites.  The money that I will pay
.           for their deaths to be carried out –
.           will be more than made up for
.           by everything we will get from the plunder.

ZERESH      We will be extremely rich.
.           Absolutely brilliant.  I have
.           never been more proud of you.

(ZERESH jumps up to clasp HAMAN’S hands.)
.                                                      41
.                            ACT 3
.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI appears wearing a sack cloth, dirty with ash.
MORDECAI cries out loudly for everyone to hear
as he clutches tightly to a piece of paper.
Meanwhile, MAID 1 passes by to hear MORDECAI wailing.)

MORDECAI    People of Israel repent, and appeal
.           to our Lord God Most High!
.           Pray for our deliverance!!!

(OFFICIAL 3 marches up to MORDECAI with some concern,
as MAID 1 rushes off to exit.)

OFFICIAL 3  Mordecai?  Stop this at once!
.           What do you think you are doing?
.           This is not allowed inside the king’s gate.
.           And you cannot protest the king’s edict.

MORDECAI    I am demonstrating to my people
.           that I am humbling myself before
.           the Lord my God – in petition for His help.

OFFICIAL 3  Well, no matter what or why, do understand
.           that a sad countenance is not tolerated
.           in the royal presence.  You are not allowed
.           in the courtyard in such a state.

(OFFICIAL 3 pushes MORDECAI back.  MORDECAI moves, but
only so far then stops obstinately, remaining on
the outskirts of the square/gate.)

MORDECAI    I shall remain here then, just on
.           the outside of the gate.

(OFFICIAL 3 throws up his hands and walks away.
MORDECAI continues to cry out.)

MORDECAI    People of Israel repent, and appeal
.           to our Lord God Most High!
.           Pray for our deliverance!!!

(ISRAELITE hears and sees MORDECAI, then approaches.)

ISRAELITE   Why?  What is happening?

(MORDECAI motions to the paper in his hand.)

MORDECAI    An edict has been sent out                 42
.           commanding the officials to kill
.           all Israelites.

ISRAELITE   What?  Why?

MORDECAI    I have a message that you must pass on
.           to all our people.  You must spread the word.

ISRAELITE   We are to be killed?!

MORDECAI    Listen to me, you must pass this on
.           to all Israelites.  We must put our faith
.           in the Lord our God to deliver us.

ISRAELITE   But the entire land will be out
.           seeking to kill us.

MORDECAI    We do have a little time.  This is only
.           to happen in the month of Adar.

ISRAELITE   Still, they are out to kill us.

MORDECAI    Do you not remember when God
.           delivered our people from Egypt
.           and the hand of Pharaoh by separating
.           the Red Sea?  Our God can do anything.
.           But we must all fast, and be in prayer.
.           We must be obedient to God.

ISRAELITE   I- I will spread this word.

(ISRAELITE rushes out the gates.  Carrying some clothing,
HEGAI enters and rushes over to the wailing MORDECAI.)

MORDECAI    People of Israel repent, and appeal
.           to our Lord God Most High!
.           Please pray for our deliverance!!!

HEGAI       Mordecai.  These have been sent out for you
.           by Queen Esther.

MORDECAI    I cannot put those on.

HEGAI       Please, this is a request of the queen.
.           She asks that you clothe yourself
.           and stop this display at once.

MORDECAI    I simply cannot - and I refuse.

HEGAI       Then, she would like to know               43
.           what this is all about.

(MORDECAI holds out the paper in his hands to HEGAI.)

MORDECAI    You must show this to Queen Esther.
.           Inform her, and ORDER her to go
.           see the king - to implore his favor -
.           and to plead with him for her people.

(HEGAI quietly takes the paper, and continues to
stand there, as if the conversation is not over yet.)

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS

(ESTHER wrings her hands and paces the floor,
with both MAIDS 1-2 trying to console her,
when HEGAI enters with the paper and the clothes.)

ESTHER      How is Mordecai?  He did not accept
.           the clothes?  Is he still carrying on?

HEGAI       Tell me now, what exactly is Mordecai to you?

(ESTHER is unsure how to answer.)

HEGAI       You know that you can confide in me.
.           And I know NOW - that you are an Israelite.

(MAID 1-2 both become wide-eyed.)

ESTHER      Mordecai is my cousin.  And he became
.           my guardian after both my parents
.           passed away.

(HEGAI nods his understanding, then holds out the paper
for ESTHER to take.  HEGAI gives the clothes to MAID 2,
who carries them out.)

HEGAI       Mordecai insisted that you read this.

ESTHER      What is it?

HEGAI       It is an edict to kill and destroy
.           all Israelites.

(MAID 1 gasps.  MAID 2 re-enters and rushes over to
MAID 1 with concern.)

ESTHER      But, what can I do?
.                                                      44
HEGAI       You are the queen.
.           (thinks how the message went)
.           Mordecai ORDERS you to see the king,
.           to implore his favor, and -
.           to plead with him for your people.

ESTHER      But, queen or not, he knows that
.           for any man or woman who goes
.           to see the king, who is not summoned,
.           will be put to death-

HEGAI       Unless – the king holds out to him
.           the golden scepter so that he may live.

ESTHER      And I have not been summoned by the king
.           for thirty days now.

HEGAI       Mordecai relayed these words to me.

ESTHER      What words?  Does he wish me to be killed?

HEGAI       Mordecai said words that made sense.
.           Even though you are in the king’s palace,
.           this will not protect you from being killed
.           along with all other Israelites.
.           The king will never go against
.           any of his edicts.

ESTHER      So rather take that risk and approach
.           my husband?

HEGAI       Mordecai mentioned that perhaps -
.           you became queen for this very reason -
.           to help save your people.

(ESTHER breaks down, shaking and crying.
MAID 1 and 2 rush to ESTHER’S side to comfort her.)

MAID 1      There-there.  This is  -not an – easy
.           decision to make.  Will you do this thing?

MAID 2      Let us know how we may help.

ESTHER      (suddenly to MAID 2)
.           Yes, there is something.
.           Please go to Mordecai and tell him
.           to assemble all Israelites found in Susa,
.           to fast three days for me.
.           We will also fast in the same way.  Yes?
.                                                      45
MAID 1      We will do as you wish.

ESTHER      (to MAID 2)  Also tell Mordecai, that
.           after the three days of fasting and prayer,
.           then I will go see the king,
.           which is not according to the law;
.           and if I perish, I perish.

(MAID 2 nods in a bow, then exits.
ESTHER turns to MAID 1 and HEGAI.)

ESTHER      Beginning now, we will fast and pray.
.           (to MAID 1)  Please inform the cook
.           and the kitchen staff.

(MAID 1 nods in a bow, then exits.)

HEGAI       What exactly is your plan?

ESTHER      I do not know.  One of the prayers to God
.           will be for wisdom.  Courage –
.           as well as wisdom.

(ESTHER sinks to her knees in prayer.
HEGAI slowly sinks to his knees, unsure.)

ESTHER      Simply speak with God.  He will hear
.           your petitions and requests.

(HEGAI looks around, still unsure.)

ESTHER      God is everywhere.  And God is all-powerful.

HEGAI       You believe this?

ESTHER      Yes.  And I suppose, now more than ever.
.           I have no choice but to rest in God’s
.           mercy and power.

.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI and ISREALITES are on their knees, praying.)

ISREALITE   Has it been three days and nights yet?

MORDECAI    Keep praying!

ISREALITE   It is difficult when one is so hungry.

MORDECAI    Prayer takes the mind off of               46
.           the stomach.

ISREALITE   It is quite a struggle.

MORDECAI    This is for your life.  This is so that
.           God will hear our pleas and deliver us
.           from death.

ISREALITE   I fear I will die of starvation anyway.

MORDECAI    I fail to understand your complacency.

ISREALITE   I am not – complacent.  I just want to know
.           how much longer?

MORDECAI    I now understand, though, how God Himself
.           lost patience with us in the desert!

(MORDECAI sees ISREALITE’S looks of remorse.)

MORDECAI    (looking up at the sky)
.           Look, it is nightfall.  We are soon finished.

ISREALITE   (praying)  Thank you, Oh Lord our God,
.           thank you for Your mercies and
.           lovingkindess.  We thank you.

(MORDECAI chuckles secretly as he bows in prayer.)

.                      NONSPECIFIC PLACE

(ESTHER enters on one side, VASHTI from another.
ESTHER has a little more confidence this go round.
VASHTI notices and wonders.)

VASHTI      You are still here.

ESTHER      Does this surprise you?

VASHTI      Mildly.  Well, it is only a matter of time
.           for the king to lose interest.
.           Someday you too will be replaced.
.           But have no fear, it will probably be
.           no fault of your own.  It is just
.           the way it is with the king.

ESTHER      I have come to believe that I am here
.           because of a higher calling and power.

VASHTI      I also hear there is but one God           47
.           that you pray to.  (sincerely)
.           Does He hear your petitions?

ESTHER      We have fasted and prayed for three days now.

VASHTI      And you will approach the king?
.           How bold...  How very courageous of you.

ESTHER      There is an urgent matter.

VASHTI      And you hope that your husband will care?

(ESTHER wonders how to answer, but VASHTI makes it easy.)

VASHTI      Well, if your God can deliver you from
.           the occasional horrors of marital sport
.           from such a selfish and ruthless king,
.           then who knows – perhaps your God
.           can deliver a nation.

ESTHER      Thank you.  I think.

VASHTI      I shall let you get on with your
.           desperate plans, then.

(VASHTI bows to ESTHER, and steps aside for ESTHER
to pass and exit.  VASHTI looks back as she exits
in her direction.)

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES and HAMAN enjoy a drink.)

HAMAN       How are things along the borders?

XERXES      The information coming from Ephialtes
.           was trustworthy.  There IS another
.           mountain pass - which we will use
.           for a surprise attack against the Greeks.

HAMAN       How excellent.

XERXES      And your campaign for civil rest?
.           I CAN hear the city’s uproar.

(HAMAN catches XERXES querying look.)

HAMAN       Not to worry.  Everything is well
.           under control.  I – ah-
.                                                      48
(HAMAN sees ESTHER enter the room and stand to the side.
XERXES sees HAMAN’S gaze and follows it.
There is a moment of terror that XERXES might be angry.
Finally, XERXES smiles and extends his scepter to ESTHER.
ESTHER smiles with a sigh of relief and slowly
approaches to touch the end of the scepter.
ESTHER then stops to bow to XERXES and then HAMAN.
ESTHER now begins to tremble again even though
she tries to maintain a happy demeanor.)

XERXES      What is troubling you, Queen Esther?
.           And what is your request?
.           Even to half of the kingdom
.           it shall be given to you.

(HAMAN balks at this generous offer, but XERXES
only looks at ESTHER as she gathers up courage.)

ESTHER      If it pleases the king,
.           may the king - and Haman - come this day
.           to the banquet that I have prepared for him.

XERXES      (to ESTHER)  We would be delighted.
.           (to HAMAN)  As I have said before,
.           Queen Esther is so easy to please.
.           Haman, come quickly that we may do
.           as the Queen desires.

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS

(ESTHER, XERXES and HAMAN enter and sit down,
XERXES on the sofa next to ESTHER, while HAMAN
sits in a chair that has been brought out for him.
They all sip at their wine.)

ESTHER      We may have our after-dinner drinks
.           in here.

HAMAN       Wonderful banquet, Queen Esther.
.           I thank you so much for this great honor.

(ESTHER bows politely.  XERXES turns to ESTHER.)

XERXES      Esther, once again, what is your petition?
.           For it shall be granted to you...
.           (waits for a moment and wonders)
.           Now surely, you must have a request?
.           Even to half of the kingdom
.           it shall be done.
.                                                      49
ESTHER      My petition... and my request... is...
.           if I have found favor - in the sight
.           of the Great King, and if it pleases
.           the Great King - to grant my petition -
.           and do what I request...
.           may the - King of Kings - and Haman...
.           come to the banquet which I will prepare
.           for them, and tomorrow I will do
.           as the Great King says.

(ESTHER sighs heavily.  XERXES almost has to laugh,
but then plays along.)

XERXES      Now, how could one turn down such
.           an eloquent invitation to such
.           a delightful diversion.

(XERXES looks over at HAMAN, who nods.)

HAMAN       It would give me much pleasure, Queen Esther.
.           Again, I thank you so much for this honor.

XERXES      Until tomorrow, oh delight of my eyes.

(XERXES rises to kiss ESTHER’S hand.  HAMAN rises to bow.
As XERXES and HAMAN exit, ESTHER rises to bow to
both men.  After they have left HEGAI rushes in.
ESTHER collapses into the sofa.)

HEGAI       Well?

ESTHER      I lost all courage.

HEGAI       Well-what-then – we will have to pray
.           and fast for another three days?

ESTHER      No-no – well, prayer tonight and
.           tomorrow - will certainly not harm us.
.           I – I merely invited them
.           to another banquet – which I will
.           serve tomorrow.

HEGAI       I will let the cook and kitchen staff
.           know of this.

(Slightly relieved, HEGAI exits.  ESTHER lets her
face fall and her hands clasp in prayer, only to sink
to her knees with her hands covering her face.)

.                        HAMAN’S HOUSE                 50

(HAMAN enters, followed by OFFICIALS 1 and 2
and is met by ZERESH.)

ZERESH      Where have you been?  You missed dinner.
.           And – now you have invited friends over?-

HAMAN       Ah!  Yes, I just had the greatest honor
.           of being invited to a banquet –
.           by Queen Esther herself.

OFFICIAL 1  Only the two of you?

ZERESH      Who else was there?

HAMAN       Just King Xerxes.

ZERESH      How wonderful.

HAMAN       And tomorrow evening will be the same.

OFFICIAL 2  Such an honor.

ZERESH      Queen Esther has invited you to another
.           banquet?

HAMAN       With King Xerxes.  But you know,
.           (almost bitterly)  I am so privileged
.           with such an obedient wife, and ten sons.
.           I have obtained riches, glory and honor.
.           The king has magnified me with this
.           latest promotion, above all officials,
.           giving me untold power.  And now
.           Queen Esther plans a private banquet
.           meant just for the king, and I am
.           the only one who has been honored
.           to be invited as well.  (seething now)
.           Yet all of this does not satisfy me -
.           every time I see Mordecai the Jew
.           sitting at the king’s gate.

ZERESH      But you have arranged for the deaths of-

HAMAN       Which will not happen until the month
.           of Adar – so until then - I must suffer
.           to see this man – and his constant defiance.
.           I feel mocked every time I pass
.           by the king’s gate and I see him there-
.           standing tall – in defiance – every day-
.                                                      51
OFFICIAL 1  Why don’t you just have someone make
.           a gallows - fifty cubits high.
.           Then in the morning ask the king
.           to have Mordecai hanged on it.
.           That way, by tomorrow evening, you can go
.           with the king and enjoy the queen’s banquet.

HAMAN       Hm, yes, this advice pleases me.
.           Very much.  Thank you.

OFFICIAL 1  You are very welcome.  Your success
.           will be my success.

(OFFICIALS 1-2 bow to HAMAN and exit.  HAMAN speaks
to ZERESH as they exit in the other direction.)

HAMAN       Perhaps just knowing that Mordecai will
.           soon be wiped off the face of the earth,
.           I will sleep better tonight

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES enters while rubbing his eyes.)

XERXES      Zethar!  Zethar!

(ZETHAR rushes in and bows low.)

XERXES      I cannot sleep.  Bring the book of records,
.           the chronicles.  Now!

(ZETHAR rushes out.  While XERXES waits, he paces.
ZETHAR soon returns with the book and a quill.)

XERXES      Read it to me.  Start at the beginning
.           of last year.

ZETHAR      (finds the page, then reads)  The Great King
.           places Achaemenes in the position of
.           Governor of Satraps in Egypt.

XERXES      That was a good decision.  Continue.

ZETHAR      (reading)  Teresh and Bigthan challenges
.           the leadership abilities of Mardonius.

XERXES      Mardonius has proven himself worthy.
.           Make a notation that I will reward him
.           once we win the war - as General of Greece.
.                                                      52
(ZETHAR makes a notation then continues.)

ZETHAR      (reading)  The Great King demotes
.           Teresh and Bigthan to oversee the guards
.           of the city gate-

XERXES      Obviously that was the correct move.

ZETHAR      (reading)  The Great King begins to visit
.           with each candidate for the queen’s position.

XERXES      Ugh, that was so tedious.  You can skip over
.           any of those names.

ZETHAR      (reading)  The Great King meets with Esther.
.           She shows promising potential and gains favor
.           with the Great King.

XERXES      One of my finer choices.  She does please me.

ZETHAR      (reading)  The Great King marries
.           Queen Esther and gives a banquet
.           in her honor.

XERXES      Life is filled with wonderful moments,
.           is it not?  Continue.

ZETHAR      (reading)  Mordecai comes forward with news
.           regarding an assignation plot against
.           the Great King-

XERXES      And – how was Mordecai honored or rewarded
.           for this?

ZETHAR      (looking through the pages of the book)
.           I do not - see anything...
.           (looks up)  Nothing has been done for him.

(As XERXES thinks, there is a sound from off stage.)

XERXES      Who is in the court?

(ZETHAR looks out – off stage – then returns.)

ZETHAR      Haman awaits to be summoned.

(XERXES paces while thinking, then makes a decision.)

XERXES      Allow Haman to enter and approach.
.                                                      53
(ZETHAR bows and exits.  HAMAN then enters with a bow.
XERXES now sits on his throne and becomes introspective.)

XERXES      What is to be done for the man
.           whom the king desires to honor?

HAMAN       (smiles smugly thinking this meant himself)
.           Oh, well, for the man whom the king desires
.           to honor, let him wear a royal robe
.           which the king has worn, and...
.           place a royal crown on his head; and
.           sit him on a horse which the king has ridden.
.           Then have an official from the kingdom
.           lead this man on horseback
.           throughout the city,
.           and proclaim before him,
.           “Thus it shall be done to the man
.           whom the king desires to honor.”

XERXES      (nods with some thought)
.           Then take quickly the robes and the horse
.           just as you have said, and do so for Mordecai
.           who is sitting at the king’s gate.
.           Do not forget one detail of everything
.           you have just said.

(As XERXES has been speaking, HAMAN’S has gone through
an entire range of emotions, beginning with elation
to complete rage.)

HAMAN       (speaking with gritted teeth)
.           Yes, oh King of Kings.

.                        HAMAN’S HOUSE

(HAMAN rushes in while covering his head.
Once “in,” he dries his angry tears,
almost numb with extreme hatred and anger.
ZERESH enters from the other direction.)

ZERESH      What are you doing home so soon?

(HAMAN breaths deep and long, unable to speak
and covers his eyes with an arm.)

ZERESH      Speak, Haman.  You have me worried.

(OFFICIALS 1-2 enter, and bow.  HAMAN still
can hardly move or speak.)
.                                                      54
OFFICIAL 1  What has just happened?

ZERESH      Haman has been unable to speak.
.           Why, what do you know?

(HAMAN begins to slowly pace while groaning and
running his hands through his hair.
ALL stop to watch him with great anticipation.)

HAMAN       I have never suffered so much humiliation
.           as long as I have lived.

ZERESH      Did you speak with the king about Mordecai?

(HAMAN lets a big guffaw escape, which sounds almost
like a yell, then whimpers and groans.)

OFFICIAL 2  King Xerxes did not approve of the gallows
.           that you had built?

(The entire time, HAMAN has huge problems being
able to speak.)

HAMAN       I never got to say anything about that.
.           The king invited me in, and he asked me
.           what should be done for a man he wished
.           to honor.  I thought he wished to honor me,
.           so I described what I would have wanted.

ZERESH      But?

HAMAN       He meant - it – for – Mordecai.

ZERESH      What!

OFFICIAL 1  So you came up with the method of how
.           to reward Mordecai.

ZERESH      Well if that isn’t completely ironic.

HAMAN       That is not the worst of it.

OFFICIAL 2  How could it be worse?

HAMAN       King Xerxes asked me - to deliver...

ZERESH      (shakes her head with confusion and horror)
.           Now tell me what you had to do
.           for this man.
.                                                      55
HAMAN       I had to place a royal robe and crown
.           on the man.  Then set him on one
.           of the king’s horses...
.           then lead him on horseback
.           throughout the city,
.           and proclaimed before him,
.           “Thus it shall be done to the man
.            whom the king desires to honor.”
.           Once I returned Mordecai to
.           the king’s gate, I just hurried home.

OFFICIAL 1  (with dread)  Perhaps –

HAMAN       Perhaps what?!

OFFICIAL 1  Perhaps, because this Mordecai is an
.           Israelite, this will spell your doom.

HAMAN       Why do you say this now?

OFFICIAL 1  I have heard some stories recently.

ZERESH      Stories?

OFFICIAL 1  About the God of Israel.
.           How He delivers His people.

OFFICIAL 2  About how the Jews escaped from Egypt
.           and the hand of Pharaoh.

ZERESH      Ha!  Well, we will just see about that.
.           Those may just be old wives’ tales.

(GUARDS enter and stand at attention.)

GUARD       The escort for Haman has arrived to deliver
.           him to the banquet of Queen Esther.

HAMAN       (to ZERESH)  I must go now.  WithOUT joy.

(ZERESH and OFFICIALS 1-2 remain quiet.)

.                       QUEEN’S QUARTERS

(ESTHER leads the way to the sofa and sits down.
ESTHER motions for XERXES and HAMAN to sit also.
MAIDS 1 and 2 and HEGAI enter carrying wine glasses
and hands them out with a bow.  At ESTHER’S nod,
MAIDS and HEGAI exit.  HAMAN becomes nervous.)
.                                                      56
HAMAN        Another fine banquet, Queen Esther.
.            I thank you, once again, for this
.            extreme honor.  And, ah, my wife, Zeresh,
.            she sends best wishes to you.

XERXES       It was a lovely feast.

ESTHER       It was my pleasure to serve you,
.            King of Kings, and Haman.

XERXES       Now, I hope you are able to answer tonight.
.            Tell me, what is your petition,
.            Queen Esther?  This shall be granted you.

(ESTHER’S courage is about to fail again.)

XERXES       Come now, surely you have a request?
.            Even to half of the kingdom
.            it shall be done.

ESTHER       (nods)  If I have found favor in your sight,
.            oh Great King, and if it pleases
.            the King of Kings, let my life
.            be given me as my petition,
.            and my people as my request;
.            for we have been sold, I and my people,
.            to be destroyed, to be killed
.            and to be annihilated.
.            Now if we had only been sold as slaves,
.            men and women, I would have remained silent,
.            for the trouble would not be commensurate
.            with the annoyance to the king.

XERXES       Someone is out to destroy your people?
.            Who is he, and where is he?
.            Just who would presume to do this?

ESTHER       A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!

(As the conversation has continued, HAMAN becomes
terrified before XERXES and ESTHER.  XERXES glares
at HAMAN with extreme anger, then storms out.
HAMAN turns his attention over to ESTHER.
Falling to his knees from the chair, he crawls
toward ESTHER on the sofa.)

HAMAN        I did not realize you were an Israelite.
.            Please, I beg of you to overlook this.
.            You – you must believe me.
.                                                      57
(ESTHER looks away from HAMAN as he gets closer still.)

HAMAN        I was never out to harm the queen.
.            I would never think of harming the queen.
.            I have only sought out things
.            that would please the king...  As you do-
.            I only did this to protect the king-
.            You must believe me-

(Toward the end of HAMAN’S pleading, XERXES returns
and sees HAMAN clinging to ESTHER, who fearfully
leans away from him.)

XERXES       Will you even assault the queen
.            with me in the house?  Guards!

(GUARDS rush in and grab HAMAN.  HEGAI also enters.)

XERXES       What were you thinking?

HEGAI        There is something else!
.            There are some gallows
.            standing at Haman’s house which
.            Haman made for Mordecai, the very man
.            who saved the life of the Great King!

(XERXES goes to remove the ring from HAMAN’S finger.)

XERXES       Hang him on it!

ESTHER       (to HAMAN)  You were going to hang
.            Mordecai?

(GUARDS haul HAMAN out.)

XERXES       (to ESTHER)  What is this man to you?

(ESTHER decides to speak out.)

ESTHER       He is my cousin.  And he became my guardian
.            when both my parents passed away.

XERXES       (thinking)  Well then, in that case,
.            I give the house of Haman,
.            the enemy of the Israelites,
.            to Queen Esther and Mordecai.
.            Mordecai, will act as administrator.

ESTHER       Thank you, Great King.
.                                                      58
XERXES       Now, I will see to this hanging,
.            myself.

(XERXES exits.  ESTHER says a brief prayer then exits.)

.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI is meeting with OFFICIALS 3-4 when
ESTHER enters with HEGAI.)

ESTHER       Mordecai!

MORDECAI     (rushing to ESTHER)  Esther.
.            What are you doing out here?

ESTHER       The king gave us the grand house
.            by the palace.  Hegai is now helping
.            me move in and get established.
.            You are to move in also,
.            and act as the administrator.
.            It has been all worked out.

MORDECAI     Esther... there – is still more-

ESTHER       What do you mean?  Haman is dead.

MORDECAI     You must again approach King Xerxes.

ESTHER       But- I haven’t been summoned.

MORDECAI     The edict that Haman put into motion
.            in the king’s name – it cannot
.            be reversed.  The Israelites will
.            still be killed- you and me as well-

(ESTHER freezes with anger, then suddenly rushes out.)

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES sits on the throne when ESTHER rushes in
and falls to the floor near his feet and keeps
her head down as she weeps and begs.)

ESTHER       Oh Great King – please – I implore you
.            to listen and hear my petition-
.            Please – show mercy and compassion.
.            You must avert the evil scheme of Haman
.            and his plot which he had devised
.            against the Israelites.  Please-
.                                                      59
(ESTHER finally looks up.  XERXES then extends the
golden scepter, and ESTHER touches the end of it.
ESTHER struggles to her knees, but her posture is
wilting with grief and humility.  MORDECAI enters
and waits with a fair amount of courage.  XERXES sees
him and holds out the scepter for MORDECAI to touch.)

ESTHER       If it pleases the king
.            and if I have found favor before him
.            and the matter seems proper to the king
.            and I am pleasing in his sight,
.            let it be written to revoke the letters
.            devised by Haman, which he wrote
.            to destroy the Israelites
.            who are in all the king’s provinces.
.            For how can I endure to see the calamity
.            which will befall my people,
.            and how can I endure to see
.            the destruction of my kindred?

XERXES       I have given the house of Haman to you,
.            and I had Haman hanged on the gallows
.            as punishment.  But I cannot reverse
.            the decree that was made - because
.            it was sealed with my signet ring.

MORDECAI     Could there not be a counter-decree issued?

XERXES       (studies MORDECAI for a moment)
.            Yes, that could be done...  Approach.

(MORDECAI takes a step closer.)

XERXES       You may issue an edict with my approval,
.            permitting the Israelites to defend
.            themselves, kill their attackers
.            and take the spoils.

(XERXES takes off his signet ring and places it
onto MORDECAI’S finger.)

XERXES       Issue it immediately, which allows
.            eight months to prepare your defense.  Now,
.            you write to the Israelites as you see fit,
.            in my name, and seal it with my signet ring;
.            for a decree written in my name, and
.            sealed with my signet ring
.            may not be revoked.
.            (calling out)  Zethar!
.                                                      60
(ZETHAR enters and bows.)

XERXES       Zethar, take Mordecai to my scribes
.            in order to issue a most urgent decree.
.            This is to be sent out to all officials
.            as well as all Israelites
.            in the entire kingdom.

(MORDECAI nods very slightly.)

MORDECAI     Thank you, Great – King.

(ZETHAR gives a final bow and leads MORDECAI out.
ESTHER bows to XERXES.)

ESTHER       The prayers to my God have been answered
.            with your actions.

XERXES       I do not exactly understand that,
.            but you - are welcome.

.                         KING’S GATE

(MORDECAI enters with a royal robe of blue and white,
with a large crown of gold, and a garment of
fine linen and purple.  EVERYONE in the square, cheers.)

OFFICIAL 3   A word from our new First Minister
.            second only to King Xerxes the Great.

MORDECAI     King Xerxes the Great permitted
.            the Israelites to defend themselves
.            against the slaughter, and
.            the Israelites have won the victory,
.            for many dared not stand against us.
.            And those that did, have been struck down,
.            including the ten sons of Haman.

OFFICIAL 3   And it was deemed honorable
.            that the Israelites did not lay their hands
.            on any of the plunder.

MORDECAI     And as First Minister, I will continue
.            to seek the good of my people, as well as
.            the welfare of the entire nation.

(ALL cheer again.  On the far side of the stage,
ESTHER stands with HEGAI and MAIDS 1-2,
when ZETHAR approaches her with a bow.)
.                                                      61
ZETHAR       King Xerxes the Great has summoned you.

(ZETHAR leads the way.  As ESTHER and HEGAI follow,
they pass by VASHTI.)

VASHTI       (smugly)  He summoned you on a day
.            of celebration?  I wonder what he wants.

.                         THRONE ROOM

(XERXES paces the floor when ESTHER enters and bows.)

ESTHER       You summon me?

(XERXES turns and ESTHER bows.)

XERXES       Queen Esther, I have already heard
.            the report.  The Israelites have killed
.            and destroyed five hundred men
.            and the ten sons of Haman, here in Susa.
.            What then have they done
.            in the rest of my provinces!?
.            One can only wonder, but I am pleased
.            it has gone well for you and your people.
.            Now, as you have so highly honored me,
.            I wish to please and honor you in return.
.            Tell me - what is your desire?
.            It shall even be granted you.
.            And if you have any further requests -
.            it shall also be done.

ESTHER       You did not stipulate that it could
.            be up to half your kingdom.

XERXES       Whatever you want – I will give you.

(ESTHER thinks for a moment, then speaks very boldly.)

ESTHER       If it pleases the king, let tomorrow
.            also be granted to the Israelites
.            who are in Susa to do according
.            to the edict of today;  and let
.            Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.

XERXES       Interesting.  Again – completely unexpected.
.            You wish - to hang the sons of Haman?

ESTHER       Yes.  That is my petition.

XERXES       But Haman’s sons are already dead.        62

ESTHER       Putting their bodies on public display
.            should send a very strong message –
.            that people will not be so quick
.            as to make any other threats
.            against the Israelites.

(XERXES balks mildly at this, impressed with
ESTHER’S tenacity and unselfish request.)

XERXES       I am truly perplexed by your
.            unselfish requests.  But I will give
.            the command that it shall be done so.

.                      NONSPECIFIC PLACE

(ESTHER enters from one direction and meets
VASHTI walking in the other direction.)

VASHTI       You are on your way to the celebrations.

ESTHER       Indeed, it is a great day of feasting
.            and rejoicing for my people.
.            Over 75,000 enemies of ours were destroyed.

VASHTI       And I hear there will be an annual
.            Feast of Purim instituted in your honor.

ESTHER       As an ally, you may also partake.

VASHTI       From my private quarters.

ESTHER       (tenderly smiling)
.            It is my command that you do so.

VASHTI       You have accomplished much as queen.
.            Where my efforts have failed, it seems
.            your demeanor and courage
.            has granted you power.

ESTHER       This I must attribute all - to the power
.            of our Lord God.

VASHTI       Then, I have seen your God’s greatness.

(Bowing to ESTHER, VASHTI watches as ESTHER continues
on her path, then VASHTI exits in her direction.)