The Hungarian Countess

Dance Your Belly Off!

Act Two Scene 1

Act Two Scene 1 Countess and Mumkin are standing in front of curtain as lights come up. Countess is fully veiled with her face covered with Sheer White cloth, her hair with Blue Satin and a Red damask robe covering her body. Mumkin is in a black Abaya but not veiled due to her age but her arms and hair are covered. They are awaiting the time to go into the auction house for the sale of the countess. Sounds of ďRhubarb, RhubarbĒ from behind the curtain to indicate the auction that has just begun.
Mumkin: [adjusting the Countessís veil] You are so beautiful Countess. Your selection of cloths have made you a rainbow of colors to dazzle the buyers.
Countess: I have borne two children and have never been beautiful. My husband, may he rest in peace for what has happened to me, always called me handsome. Beauty is so temporary, why do men value it so?
Mumkin: It is the first sight men have of a woman. Her beauty says Allah has blest her and a beautiful slave blesses her master.
Countess: If beauty is such a blessing why do the Moslems hide it so. I am covered from face and crown to my toes and all women I have seen have been so covered. In Hungary, as in Russia, beauty is neither flaunted nor hidden.
Mumkin: It is to avoid the evil eye. Your beauty is for your master, it is a blessing for him in private, a delight made greater for being private. Displaying that blessing is against Allah and will act against the master who does not protect his woman from the eyes of strangers.
Countess: The men who captured me did not know I existed. They had not seen me but they killed my husband, made me a prisoner. Beauty had nothing to do with it. I would not have be a prisoner for it wasnít for the booty. It was booty they wanted, not beauty.
Mumkin: Allah gave you as a gift, a gift more precious than jewels. The Binbashi will sell you for enough money to increase his power, perhaps become a Pasha. The man who buys you will be a happy man to have such a beautiful slave.
Countess: I am not a slave
Mumkin: You are a slave and you will be sold today. You have promised your master, the Binbashi who killed your husband in fair battle thereby capturing you. He offered your children to ransom you by paying 15,000 drachmas and they refused. Under our law, a non-believer captured by a Moslem manís Strong Right Arm is a slave! You are a slave. You must reject this foolishness and do the best you can in your situation. Your situation is as a slave and your beauty will allow you to make much of it.
Countess: I donít want to be a slave. Why wouldnít the Binbashi make the offer of ransom to my parents who I know would have that money for ransom. My children are not so rich as to have the ransom he asked. The Binbashi did not want to ransom me or he would have contacted my parents.
Mumkin: There is no law in the Holy Koran to offer to accept ransom for a slave so that offer was a kindness by the Binbashi. You are a slave and you made a promise to him to be sold. Your husband is dead so you are now unmarried. Were your husband alive you would still be a slave but of less value for to use you would be adultery and that is against the Koran. As just a slave a ransom would be more likely.

He could share you with his troops [Countess shudders at mention of being shared by troops] but he wants the money you will bring. This is all legal and moral. It is the will of Allah for you to be a slave.

Countess: I donít want to be a slave
Mumkin: I am a slave and I am happy with my lot. I have told you, I was sold by my parents in Russia. They were terribly poor and now I am better off than I would have been at home. As a translator I am really just a companion of those like you who need to understand what is happening to them. I share your room and your meals that are both so much better than anything I would have in Russia. The work is not hard and I am paid well. Slavery is not unhappy for me. You beauty will bring delights you cannot imagine and your master will make you happy.
Countess: I donít see how I will be better off at all. But that is not the point. I do not want to be a slave, I do not want to be at the whim of some man, especially if I did not agree.
Mumkin: You have to accept what has happened to you. You must accept the will of God and realize he has a purpose for you.
Countess: You Moslems are so accepting of everything you cannot see there is a better way and that you of your own free will can attain that.
Mumkin: You will understand after you become a Moslem yourself and learn of the love and compassion of God who has led you to the right way to live. You will find this is worth slavery.
Countess: I will never become a Moslem. I can be carried away, starved, beaten and raped but no one can force me to believe what is unbelievable.
Mumkin: You are a Turkish slave. Any power you may have from your beauty will be dissipated if you continue as an infidel. Turkey is Moslem. The Sultan is the Moslem Caliph, so holy he is Allahís shadow on Earth. You must accept your fate in al ways. Seize all opportunities. To do this you must convert.
Countess: As a Christian I cannot seek death but that is preferable to the fate Your favor for me. I must accept bonds on my throat, my wrists and my feet for I am only a weak woman and cannot break them. I can reject bonds on my soul. If that means death, I am ready to meet my savior.
  Binbashi enters and approaches the two women.
Binbashi: You are a beautiful slave. I am confident you will bring a good price. In addition to your beauty, you have the best buyers today. The Chief Eunuch of the Sultan is in the audience and his presence attracts the best buyers from throughout Turkey. I expect 20,000 Drachmas to be paid for you.
Countess: Will the Sultan pay so much?
Binbashi: Yes, with ease. He can pay a womanís weight in jewels and then, if she pleases him, give her own weight in jewels to her. Of course he will not bid on you. The Sultan only buys virgins but he would pay more for you were you still in that state. The most he has ever paid for a virgin has been 35,000 drachmas.
Countess: I cannot do anything to have men bid on me.
Binbashi: Remember your promises. If you are obedient you will bring a good price. You remember what awaits you should you fail in your promise!
Countess: I have kept my promise. I have been obedient and have willing come to the auction block.
Binbashi: Yes, you have been obedient, but of course, you remember the threat should you not keep your promise. You are not yet on the auction block and when you go freely to the block remember you have promised to allow yourself to be displayed naked.
Countess: I will keep my promise. To the letter.
Binbashi: See that you do. I want that money. 20,000 is two ships equipped and manned. [he pauses to listen to sounds from behind curtain]
Binbashi: They will soon finish the sale of men. I will go to speak to the auctioneer. [exits]
Countess: What matter to me is my price?
Mumkin: Men value things the most that are the most difficult to buy. The higher a slaveís price the better the slave will be treated. If you pay a great deal for a plate you will take care not to break it. If you find a plate on the ground you may play with it as a toy until it breaks. It is best to have the best price.
Countess: I do not want to be treated well as a possession. I want to be treated with respect for myself as a creature of God.
Mumkin: You belonged to your husband.
Countess: My parents paid my husband a dowry after the marriage was consummated. I was not his possession.
Mumkin: [silence behind curtain] the bidding has stopped. The men have been sold.
Countess: Why do they sell the men first.
Mumkin: Men sell for the least. A man of the same skill and age as myself will sell for less than what I will sell for. A woman such as you will sell for ten times any man.
Countess: They treasure beauty and satisfaction of desire more than the honest work of a slave. What type of people are these? This is debauchery, not civilization.
Mumkin: Turkey is the greatest empire in the world, the greatest civilization in the world. What is wrong with loving beauty? Isnít happiness the purpose of life and doesnít beauty bring happiness? I speak several languages, Russian, Turkish and Hungarian plus dialects. But I am useful but not beautiful. My life has not been what yours has or will be. Iíve said, men value things the most that are the most difficult to buy.
Countess: You only describe the foolishness of Turkish men. There are other ways and in those your skills would be treasured.
Mumkin: There are other ways here but in Turkey the way is Islam and you are a slave of Islam.
  [The Binbashi returns]
Binbashi: The sale of the men is over and it went very well. This crowd is in a mood to pay for the best. Now they will sell some Eunuchs and then begin the sale of the women. [to Mumkin] Bring the Slave in when you hear the next silence.
Countess: What is a Eunuch?
Mumkin: A Eunuch is a boy whoís manhood is removed before he takes on the nature of a man so soon there after.
Countess: They remove all?
Mumkin: They do usually for that protects women from loss of innocence as well as from bearing children. Your master will want to be certain he is the father of your children. Removing only the part essential for fatherhood would be sufficient. To protect virgins requires all be removed. Of course, men do not want their wives or slaves to be overexcited so full Eunuchs are also used to guard even non-virgins.
Countess: That is terrible. Why?
Mumkin: To protect you.
Countess: To protect a manís property you mean. Why do Moslems ruin men as well as women?
Mumkin: Your Pope also creates Eunuchs for his own pleasure. Young boys are castrated before their young voice changes so it remains pure and sweet as no other. That is just to use for ceremonies of worship to your God.
Countess: That is terrible but perhaps that is sufficient benefit for the child. Like you it may take the boy from poverty plus make him happy to be serving God. No doubt though, the Pope likely uses persuasion of holy benefits in addition to money. Still, they are not slaves, just mutilated.
  [both exit]

Act 2 Scene 2  
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Last Updated 5/1/02

© HWS, 2002