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The Enchanted Shirt

(A dramatisation of J. Hay's poem)

Scene I. The king's chamber

King: Shut all the windows and leave me alone, my minister.

Minis: Why, my lord?

King: I am sick.

Minis: Sick?

King: (angrily) Yes!

(The minister shuts the windows)

Minis: I shall bring the court physician, my lord.

King: Okay.

(The minister goes and returns with the physician)

Phy: What is wrong with thee, my lord?

King: Wrong with me? How dare you say something is wrong with me! I am only sick.

Phy: Forgive me, your majesty. (He feels the king's pulse) You are not sick, my lord.

King: Am I, then, a liar?

Phy: (Frightened) No, no, my lord.

King: I am sick. I am a king and I should know!

Phy: But, my lord, your cheeks are red, and your eyes are clear and bright. Sickness cannot touch you, my lord.

King: Off with his head! (Enter two guards. They take him away) Minister, get the best physicians in the kingdom.

Minis: I shall, your majesty.

Scene II. Enter two messengers beating drums. A crowd gathers.

1Mes: People, listen to what we have to say.

2Mes: The king says he is sick.

1Mes: We want the ablest physician to cure him.

2Mes: They shall be paid well.

Scene III. The minister is alone.

Minis: What a useless king we have! He is not sick, but he thinks he is sick. What will happen to the kingdom if he does not rule it well? O fie, fie, fie!

(Enter two physicians)

1Phy: Sir, we are here to cure the king.

Minis: (sadly) Come this way.

Scene IV. The king's chamber. Enter minister and physicians.

1Phy: Lie down, my lord. Now gently breathe and relax. (The physician thumps the king's chest and feels his heart beat and pulse. He then looks puzzled) You are sound as a nut.

King: Hang him!

(Enter guards. They lead the physician away. The other physician becomes pale)

Minis: Now it is your turn to treat the king.

King: Physician, what have you to say? (The physician rubs his nose) Am I sick or not?

2Phy: (scratches his head) You are, my lord.

Minis: What is the remedy?

2Phy: The king will be well if he sleeps one night in the shirt of a happy man.

King: Here is your reward.

(Hands him a bag of gold coins)

2Phy: Thanks, my lord.

(Exit physician)

King: Minister, send our spies to get the shirt of a happy man.

Minis: I shall, my lord.

Scene V. Two persons are seated by the roadside. Enter spies.

1Spy: We have not found a single man who is happy.

2.Spy: Unfortunately it is so. But let us try those two men.

(They approach them)

1Spy: Hello, you look happy.

1Man: Happy? O, no we are sad.

2Spy: (sadly) Why?

2Man: I buried my wife when she died.

1Spy: But why are you sad?

2Man: I should have burnt her up for all the trouble she gave me!

2Spy: (to 1Man) Why are you sad?

1Man: I did not bury my wife.

1Spy: Why?

1Man: Because she is alive.

Scene VI. A beggar is found laughing, whistling and rolling on the ground. Enter the spies.

1Spy: Look at the beggar. He seems to be happy.

2Spy: Let us approach him.

(They approach him)

1Spy: Heaven save you, friend. You seem to be happy today.

Begg: O yes, fair sirs, an idle man has so much to do that he never has time to be sad.

2Spy: Would you be kind enough to lend us your shirt tonight?

Begg: I gladly would, but I haven't a shirt to my back.

(He rolls in laughter)

Scene VII. The king's chamber.

King: So many weeks are gone, and yet our spies have not been able to get the shirt of a happy man.

Minis: Yes, my lord.-- Excuse me, lord, the people are suffering since you are sick.

King: Open all the windows.

Minis: I shall, my lord.

(He opens all the windows)

King: How pleasant the breeze is!

Minis: Very pleasant, my lord.

King: I feel well. I must take a look at the kingdom.

(Exit king)

Minis: Now all will be well. The people shall be happy, and the kingdom shall be prosperous. And, in the words of Thiruvalluvar, the king who rules his people well shall be deemed a God. May God bless us all.


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