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Rembrandts Wife An Opera

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Rembrandts Wife An Opera

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									Rembrandt's Wife
An Opera



Libretto: Sue Smith

Composer: Andrew Ford

Final: Feb. 1, 2008
Prologue. Rembrandt's House, Amsterdam. 1662

                                  TORQUINIUS
              In the name of the Chamber of Desolate
              Boedels of the city of Amsterdam,
              under the auspices of the High Court of
              the Netherlands,
              I solemnly catalogue the worldly
              possessions of the bankrupt
              Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
              to wit:

As Torquinius enumerates the items, he loads them onto a large trolley.

                                 TORQUINIUS (CONT'D)
              One small Adriaen Brouwer
              two porcelain cassowaries
              four chairs of Russian leather
              two naked children
              one walnut table
              seven Spanish chairs green velvet seats
              one marble wine cooler
              one Carpathian saddle
              six antique women
              heads only
              one elephant tusk
              one giant's helmet
              two Indian costumes male and female
              four longbows twenty arrows forty seven darts three
              wooden javelins
              five shadow puppets
              one Turkish powder horn

Rembrandt strolls onto the stage during this.

                                   TORQUINIUS (CONT'D)
              Aristotle one
              Socrates one
              Seneca one
              nose flutes three
              zithers five
              gongs two

                                 REMBRANDT
              Partridge in pear tree
              one
                                   TORQUINIUS
               I don't see this partridge. Nor its pear tree.

                                 REMBRANDT
               Perhaps they're hiding

                                 TORQUINIUS
               Do you hinder the work, sir? A dim view is taken -

                                    REMBRANDT
               It is but a small collection,
               barely fits a man of note.
               It will take no time at all.

                                   TORQUINIUS
               Stuffed bird of paradise
               chinese ceramic twenty eight
               a little child by Michelangelo
               horned head-dress
               Japanese costume
               Persian carpet four
               Ovid Horace Bible Pliny
               Tacitus one apiece
               Rubens Goltzius Leyden Bruegel
               Raphael Titian Michelangelo
               Murghal miniatures
               one hundred and two no three no five -

He continues listing as he begins to wheel the trolley off stage. Leaving
Rembrandt alone with the only two remaining objects on the stage: a painter's
easel. And a large marble headstone.

                                 REMBRANDT
               Don't forget handguns. Two.
               (AFTER TORQUINIUS)
               I may have cause to use them.

Rembrandt is left alone beside Saskia's grave.
Scene One. 1642.

                               REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
             No epitaph.
             What shall I say of you, Saskia?
             A careless wife
             who took no heed
             and lost her life.
             So what shall I call you, Saskia?
             Whose job it was to stay
             breathing young alive.
             But you:
             rancid heat inflamed your breast.
             Upon your goosedown pillow
             a gush of blood.
             Bad wife.
             Faithless, fickle, traitor, liar
             wife.
             Tell me your name
             because I know it not.
             I know only a nameless girl
             in a summer hat
             with milk upon her breath
             and a flower in her hand

                             SASKIA
             An honour, Mr van Rijn.

                                 REMBRANDT
             An honour, Miss van Uylenburgh.
             and what brings you to our fair
             Venice of the north?
             My fingers itch,
             silverpoint on vellum
             girl in a summer hat
             flower in her hand
             kiss curl on her brow
             tender crease at her wrist.
             How I shall picture you
             my golden meadow nymph?
             The swell of your bosom
             the dimple of your thigh
             the textured fold of puppy fat
             beneath your chin -
             I will know you
                                   SASKIA
               You will know me

                                   REMBRANDT
               I will know you
               as you have never been known

                                  SASKIA
               You will know me
               as I have never been known

                                REMBRANDT/SASKIA
               As you/I have never been known

                                   REMBRANDT
               But in all the days of my life
               Miss van Uylenburgh
               adore you though I must
               I cannot forgive you

                                   SASKIA
               Nor I Mr van Rijn
               in all the days of my death
               can I forgive myself

Geertje has entered without being noticed by Rembrandt.

                                   GEERTJE
               Mr van Rijn sir

Rembrandt leaps into action, pretending to be hard at work at his easel.

                                   REMBRANDT
               What? I'm busy.

                                    GEERTJE
               Titus is abed, sir, for your goodnight.

                                 REMBRANDT
               Soon, soon. Let him finish his prayers.

                                   GEERTJE
               Sir.

                                REMBRANDT
               Have him pray for his mother.

Geertje goes to leave and turns.
                                  GEERTJE
              Might I have leave, good sir
              to tell you of the market?

                             REMBRANDT
              The market? What is the market to me?

Rembrandt continues preparing his brushes.

                                GEERTJE
              The nanny of the Hoogeven clan
              reported thus to me:

                                 REMBRANDT
              Alert the papers

                               GEERTJE
              Involving you, my lord.

                                 REMBRANDT
              Involving me -

                               GEERTJE
              Involving you, my lord.

                               REMBRANDT
              You have leave, Geertje.

                                  GEERTJE
              There was discussion in the parlour
              - after Church - of course -

                                 REMBRANDT
              Yes yes -

                                 GEERTJE
              Upon a topic most pertinent, my lord.
              Our netherlandish painters.
              The patriarch considers you -
              he has a small collection, mind -
              the patriarch considers you

                                 REMBRANDT
              Yes -

                              GEERTJE
              Our coming man. His very words,
              "Mark me: young Rembrandt,
               miller's son though he be,
               is son and heir to only one,
               the one they call the Prince " -

                                    REMBRANDT
               Son and heir?

                                    GEERTJE
               Son and heir.

                                    REMBRANDT
               To Rubens.

                                    GEERTJE
               Hair of his head
               spit of his cheek

                                REMBRANDT
               To Rubens. Desist at once.
               You mock a lonely man

                                    GEERTJE
               My lord

She goes to leave

                                    REMBRANDT
               What did he say?
               Exactly.

                                   GEERTJE
               That the majesty, passion, the drama
               of the great Peter Paul

                               REMBRANDT
               Paragon of Antwerp

                                 GEERTJE
               arousal and voluptuousness

                                    REMBRANDT
               Prince of painters

                                 GEERTJE
               pulchritude and torment

                                    REMBRANDT
               Painter of princes
                  GEERTJE
crashing and dazzling

                  REMBRANDT
Yes?

                   GEERTJE
is borne anew in the paintbrush of van
Rijn.

                 REMBRANDT
An honorary doctorate
Oxford, no less

                  GEERTJE
Knight of the Garter

                  REMBRANDT
I heard King Charles did slip
the diamond from his own finger
upon the hand of Peter Paul

                   GEERTJE
I heard his Antwerp house is wreathed in gold, from
cellar hold to chimney pot

                  REMBRANDT
I heard -

                  GEERTJE
I heard -

                  REMBRANDT
I heard -

                  GEERTJE
I heard -

                  REMBRANDT
I heard -

                   GEERTJE
I heard a whisper weave and spin
from where we stood
to market's rim, through milk and meat
and flowerbloom
and fly aloft upon the wind.
The whisper was - I tell you true -
                  no breath of lie from me to you
                  the light of genius lies within
                  the humble palette of van Rijn

By now, an entirely different dynamic hangs between them.

                                      REMBRANDT
                  Perhaps I'll work no more tonight.
                  Inspiration strikes - elsewhere -
                  tonight.
                  See to my chamber, Geertje, if you will.

                                        GEERTJE
                  Sir.

                                      REMBRANDT
                  I'll pray with Titus then to bed.

Geertje leaves.

                                      REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
                  Inspiration strikes elsewhere
                  this night

Saskia's voice, as though floating through time

                                        SASKIA
                  You will know me
                  as I have never been known

Rembrandt hears her voice, hesitates and then rushes to his bedchamber to
search for Saskia's jewelled necklace, which he finds.



Scene Two. Rembrandt's Chamber.

                                        SASKIA (CONT'D)
                  You will know me
                  as I have never ...

                                        REMBRANDT
                  My love,
                  you stand unchallenged in my dreams.
                  but a man has needs -
Titus enters. Rembrandt conceals the necklace. They kneel, side by side, and
bow their heads in prayer.

                                 SASKIA
              Upon these tender heads
              long known, and loved, and yearned for
              one prayer: be safe, be just,
              and don't forget a girl in a summer hat.

Suddenly Geertje enters.

                                  GEERTJE
              Forgive me, sir, I interrupt -
              I must prepare your chamber.

Titus goes.

                                    REMBRANDT
              It occurs to me
              - has occurred -
              for some time
              in fact
              my dear late wife
              beloved though she was ... is
              would not wish -

Rembrandt is so nervous that he manages to drop a jewelled necklace on the
floor.

                                    GEERTJE
              Oh sir, good sir
              the mistress's jewels -

                                   REMBRANDT
              My dear late wife would not wish
              her jewels to lie unwarmed
              by the pulse of life

Both Rembrandt and Geertje reach down to lift the fallen jewels. Their hands
meet.

                                    REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
              Why, Geertje
              your tiny hand is -

                                    GEERTJE
              Sir?
                                    REMBRANDT
              Nothing.
              Damn.
              Saskia, help me.
              Remind me how to, what to,
              say think do -

Geertje moves to fold down the counterpane on his bed. Silence. Rembrandt is
bursting with irritation at his own inability to act.

                                   GEERTJE
              Will that be all, sir?

                                    REMBRANDT
              Yes. No.
              Damn.
              For the sake of the kingdom, woman, put this about your
              throat and don't argue

                                GEERTJE
              My lord. I could not.

                                    REMBRANDT
              Nay, Geertje.
              Nay, foolish girl.
              The mistress would want it -
              a shame to leave them unworn
              unwarmed

                                    GEERTJE
              My lord -

                                  REMBRANDT
              As it is wasteful - wrong indeed -
              to leave your own beauty uncelebrated
              unadorned
              Unwarmed
              it is a crime

                                    GEERTJE
              I am no beauty, sir
              I am no prize

                                    REMBRANDT
              Silence girl,
              raise your eyes
Despite her protests, Geertje allows him to place the necklace around her neck.
Now she turns to face him.

                                  GEERTJE
               My best years are long spent
               on a bugler from Edam
               but I am loyal
               and I'm discreet

                                  REMBRANDT
               I am a fractious man
               alone, heedless of all
               save brush and canvas.
               I make no pledge but this:
               inside this chamber
               these jewels are yours

                               GEERTJE/REMBRANDT
               No longer unworn
               unwarmed
               unadorned

Rembrandt leads Gertje towards his bed. As they climb in and draw the
curtains:

                                   SASKIA
               Oh sorry night
               Warmed, adorned
               and too soon
               scorned



Scene Three. Rembrandt's Household

A busy scurrying scene. Rembrandt in his studio, crushing and mixing paints.

                                   REMBRANDT
               I need lampblack
               I need leadwhite
               I need lapis lapis lapis
               blue

                                   GEERTJE
               Can't you hear
               the master's voice?
               Black white blue
                                REMBRANDT
              And crush those lice
              from Mexico
              to give me red

                                  GEERTJE
              Can't you hear?
              And give him red

                                HENDRICKJE
              The master's bought up big
              there's no more room

                                  GEERTJE
              And yellow too

                                 HENDRICKJE
              There's paintings, sculptures, antiquities.
              We'll need to build another house

                                GEERTJE/HENDRICKJE/REMBRANDT
              For Rubens' son and heir

Govert Flinck, Rembrandt's former student, has entered.

                               FLINCK
              Who's son and heir?

                               GEERTJE/HENDRICKJE/REMBRANDT
              Rubens' son and heir

                                 HENDRICKJE
              - of course.
              We'll need to build another house
              for Rubens' son and heir

                                  REMBRANDT
              Flinck, my boy.

                              FLINCK
              How are you, my old teacher?

                              REMBRANDT
              No cheek young man. I'm in my prime.

                                 FLINCK
              I've purchased in these parts myself.
              A good district.
               I thought I'll see van Rijn at church.
               But no such luck
               as yet.

Rembrandt continues with his work. Flinck inspects the painting on
Rembrandt's easel, takes in the art, sculpture and antiquities around the house.
He glances through some completed canvasses. He is clearly spying.

                                    REMBRANDT
               Your wife is well?

                                    FLINCK
               Quite well.

                                    REMBRANDT
               Your work?

                                    FLINCK
               Of course.

Hendrickje enters with a drinks tray and proceeds to serve both men
refreshments. Flinck eyes her with some interest. The obsequious song of
flattery he now sings is designed to impress, not Rembrandt, but Hendrickje.
They raise their glasses.

                               FLINCK (CONT'D)
               To Karel van Mander, our inspiration.

                                    REMBRANDT
               To van Mander.

                                    FLINCK
               Good sir, I'd like to humbly say,
               I hold you in esteem,
               You are the breathing benchmark
               standard bearer of my dream.
               No breath of scandal stalks abroad
               about Rembrandt van Rijn.
               His heart is pure, he knows within
               the price one pays for sin

Both men let their eyes wander to where an embarrassed looking Gertje is
quietly tutoring the child Titus. She glances quickly away.

                                    FLINCK (CONT'D)
               For it was you who taught me
               of every painter's need:
               not palette, oil nor maulstick.
                  Simply
                  great van Mander's creed:

                                      FLINCK/REMBRANDT
                  An artist great is only born
                  within a godly man
                  of temperance
                  and discipline
                  and morals diamond hard.
                  No drink, no gaming,
                  most of all
                  no softness for a glance
                  from wench or whore,
                  no wandering eye
                  from wife and home and hearth.

Flinck's eyes are again following Hendrickje. Rembrandt's too.

                                         FLINCK
                  And when my time draws near
                  and I look into heaven's glass
                  I'll pray that I have learned my fill
                  from Rembrandt's master class.
                  If I can emulate van Rijn
                  in painting and in life,
                  stay clean of flesh and pure of heart
                  disciple to my art
                  I'll live a life of saintly worth
                  and pledge myself to heed
                  the catechism Rembrandt taught
                  from good van Mander's creed

Flinck, Geertje and Titus exit.

Scene Four. Rembrandt's Studio. 1648.

Rembrandt is at his easel working with renewed vigour. Hendrickje goes about
her housekeeping labours, humming and whistling the melody of "Van
Mander's Creed" as she does. Rembrandt tries to stop himself watching her,
but he cannot. He is beguiled by her. She is not unaware of his attention.

Geertje enters.

                                   GEERTJE
                  Hendrickje! Go! Do not disturb the
                  master –
                                  REMBRANDT
               For pity's sake, woman. Can't you see
               I'm busy?

Hendrickje curtsies rapidly and goes.

Geertje crumples, and turns to go.

                                     REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               Geertje. Come.

                                     GEERTJE
               My lord.

                                 REMBRANDT
               Release your bodice.

                                     GEERTJE
               Here? My lord?

                                REMBRANDT
               Come come, don't be coy. Release your
               throat.

Geertje undoes her bodice. There, glittering at her throat, is Saskia's necklace.

                                  REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               I find myself troubled -

                                  GEERTJE
               It is under my shirt, sir. No one can see.
               Our secret
               as we pledged.

                                   REMBRANDT
               I find myself troubled
               for Titus, my son.
               This plague is the devil.
               It spares sinner nor saint.
               If you should succumb
               - god's angels forbid -
               will my son ever look upon
               his mother's jewels?

                                     GEERTJE
               My lord?
                                    REMBRANDT
               You are mine
               I am yours
               I care only for the birthright
               of my child.
               Is it wrong?

                               GEERTJE
               What would you have me do, sir?

Rembrandt withdraws a document from his pocket.

                                    REMBRANDT
               Sign this, is all

                                 GEERTJE
               My lord. I cannot read.

                                   REMBRANDT
               It's nothing, dear girl.
               Pledges the boy's rights
               in the event of your tragic, premature,
               can't-even-be-contemplated
               demise.

Geertje is hesitant.

                                    REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               You are mine
               I am yours

                                    GEERTJE
               I am yours
               you are mine

                               REMBRANDT
               Adorned and warmed
               unharmed, adored

                                    GEERTJE
               I am yours

She takes the feather from his hand, dips it in the inkwell, and makes her mark
on the contract. Then she returns it to him. He clasps it in his hands with
immense satisfaction.
Scene Five.

Hendrickje is bathing - washing her face and arms and breast over a basin,
luxuriating in the water.

Rembrandt appears, watching her.

                                    REMBRANDT
               Bathsheba.

Hendrickje starts, and instantly drops into a curtsy.

                                    REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               Don't be afraid, little bird.

She settles.

                                     REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               In God's great book
               Bathsheba set afire
               the loins of great King David.
               He watched her bathe,
               and wrote her:
               "come to me, my beauty,
               come to me".
               And made her his Queen.
               How should my palette worship,
               my brush caress.
               Where shall I find her, Bathsheba?
               Dare I seek, 'neath plain Dutch roof,
               this fragile little bird,
               whose humble labours year by year
               I 've charmlessly ignored?
               Is this she -
               this little bird -
               is she for whom I search?
               Bathsheba
               Let the saints forgive such blindness,
               for I - yes I - am great King David.
               And you are Bathsheba,
               my queen.

                                    HENDRICKJE
               Is it I -
               the little bird -
               is it I for whom you search?
               For you are my King David
               and ever more have been
                                REMBRANDT/HENDRICKJE
                And you are my/I am your Bathsheba
                Bathsheba
                my/your queen

They embrace.



Scene Six. Rembrandt's Studio/Courtroom.

Geertje wails like a banshee. She races around the studio, overturning
canvasses, hurling smaller works across the stage. Finally, she wrenches the
necklace from her neck and throws it down. Its jewels scatter on the floor.

                                    GEERTJE
                How could I not see it!
                I'm only there for you to quell
                your lust, spill your secretions
                you never thought to paint me
                save that for sweet Hendrickje

                                    REMBRANDT
                Hysteric dispositions
                do not titillate my muse

                                     GEERTJE
                What titillates your muse, van Rijn?
                self portrait in a hat
                self portrait in a chain
                self portrait in an armour plate

                                   REMBRANDT
                Desist.

                                      GEERTJE
                Self portrait as a beggar
                self portrait as a burgher
                self portrait at thirty four and twenty
                three and forty eight

                                   REMBRANDT
                Enough.

As Geertje continues this litany of spite, a kind of courtroom forms around her.
Hendrickje appears, and the blackclad judge. And, if possible, several local
blackclad burghers.
                                   GEERTJE
              Self portrait with a smile
              self portrait with a frown
              self portrait as St Paul
              self portrait upside down

                                 REMBRANDT
              I said enough. Bile is unbecoming.

                                    GEERTJE
              Self portrait as a traitor
              self portrait as a friar
              self portrait as a sinner
              Self portrait as a liar
              self portrait of a man of ice

The judge bangs his gavel. Bang bang bang.

                               JUDGE
              Madam, what is your charge?

                                GEERTJE
              Breach of marriage contract.

                                 REMBRANDT
              I never did.

                               GEERTJE
              You gave me jewels
              took me to bed

                                 REMBRANDT
              No I never

                              GEERTJE
              You know you did

                                 REMBRANDT
              I never said it
              I never did it
              She can't prove it.
              She destroys my reputation
              here
              before the burghers of my city

                                 JUDGE
              Witness?
              Your oath?
                  HENDRICKJE
I am a godfearing woman
I do no harm
I swear to tell
the whole truth
so help me God.
I saw no proof
she wore no jewels
she was never near
the master's chamber

                   GEERTJE
So help you God.

                   HENDRICKJE
So help me God.

                   JUDGE
Before God
and the sanctity of the laws
of earth and heaven
we strive in all things to honour
our Calvinist
family values

                  HENDRICKJE/REMBRANDT/GEERTJE
Before God, we strive in all things to
honour
our Calvinist
family values

                   JUDGE
Geertje Dircx. You and your effects
will forthwith be removed
from the house of
Master Rembrandt van Rijn

                   GEERTJE
So help me God.

                  JUDGE
Master Rembrandt van Rijn.
You will pay Geertje Dircx
two hundred guilders.

                REMBRANDT
Two hundred guilders?
                                   JUDGE
              Per annum

                                   REMBRANDT
              Per annum?

                                 JUDGE
              For the term of her natural life.

The gavel. Bang bang bang.

The courtroom freezes, remaining on stage, as Rembrandt alone moves to his
easel.



Scene Seven. Rembrandt's studio.

Rembrandt paints - furiously. Splashing paint around.

                                REMBRANDT
              The term of a natural life
              can be brief.
              The term of a natural life
              can be truncated.
              The term of a natural life
              can be deleted,
              be pulped,
              extinguished,
              aborted,
              sputtered, expunged
              like a dream

His attention slowly focuses on his painting. A kitchen maid.

                                   REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
              dream little maid, dream
              the turnips washed
              the meat a-roasting
              cold coarse fingers warming now
              in liquid sun, dream
              lips soft, dream
              dreaming now
              precious moments
              life is passing
              dream
              for in an instant it is gone
              and I will have revenge
The courtroom reanimates around him.



Scene Eight. Courtroom.

Rembrandt brandishes written statements in the courtroom.

                                  REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
              You see, my lords, proof.
              Statements from neighbours.
              Even her brother
              fears for her welfare.
              Good sirs, I must beg you
              Calvinists all:
              the wretch needs protection.
              And blessed Dutch children
              need protection from her.
              And to think, my dear son,
              only child,
              at her breast ...
              I am wracked with remorse.

                                   JUDGE
              Unstable?

                                   REMBRANDT
              Immoral.

                                   JUDGE
              Hysteric?

                                 REMBRANDT
              And worse. My Lords I fear greatly
              the word that I seek
              is one I must whisper ...

                                   JUDGE
              Not
              nymphomaniac?

Rembrandt nods gravely.

                                   GEERTJE
              Van Rijn
              you are the devil.

The gavel bangs the table. Bang bang bang.
Scene Nine.

Rembrandt at Saskia's Grave.

                                 SASKIA
              We walked hand in hand
              in the grand cobbled Dam
              We talked of the light -

                                     REMBRANDT
              I wish I'd listened.

                                SASKIA
              We talked of kindness -

                                     REMBRANDT
              I wish I'd heard.

                                 SASKIA
              We talked of love -

                                     REMBRANDT
              Dammit woman.
              How I yearned to be good -
              how I tried.

                                SASKIA
              We talked of knowing.
              Your eyes saw me fragile
              and naked and flawed.
              With your eyes
              you would know me
              through your eyes
              I would know myself

                                  REMBRANDT
              We walked hand in hand
              in the grand cobbled Dam
              we talked of the light
              we talked of kindness
              we talked of love

                               SASKIA
              We talked of knowing.

                               REMBRANDT
              Your eyes saw me fragile
              and naked and flawed.
                                    REMBRANDT/SASKIA
              With your eyes
              you would know me
              through your eyes
              I would know myself

                                SASKIA
              as I had never been known

                                    REMBRANDT
              I have known you
              as you have never been known

                                 SASKIA
              You have known me
              as I have never been known

                                  REMBRANDT
              I have known you.
              My love
              only love.
              How I yearned to be good -
              how I tried.
              But all that was good in me died
              with a girl in a summer hat.
              Girl in a summer hat.



Scene Ten. Rembrandt's House/Spinhuis.

Hendrickje spins in a smart new dress.

Geertje hunches in rags over a wooden spinning wheel.

                                    HENDRICKJE
              Is it too much?
              Is it? It is.
              Is it indigo
              or verdigris?
              It's retail therapy
              the master says
              after all of this
              unpleasantness.

                                    GEERTJE
              Is it indigo
              or verdigris?
The light's so poor
I can barely see.
I daren't look up
I daren't complain
must do the work
must bear the pain
in the Spinhuis

                    HENDRICKJE
On the Breestraat

                    GEERTJE
In the Spinhuis

                   HENDRICKJE
On the Breestraat of Amsterdam

                    GEERTJE
Of Gouda.
With the bad and the mad
and the vagabonds
the bores and the whores
and the filthy tramps
the lord's prayer and lye
and the saints and the sighs
and my fingers spun till they're bloody.
And I will have my revenge.

                    HENDRICKJE
The lord's been kind to a servant girl
mistress of the house
of the finest painter in Amsterdam
But in bed at night when the master
sleeps
I pray that I not be damned
For the strumpet or fool or sinning thief
that dear Jesus knows I am.
On the Breestraat.

                    GEERTJE
In the Spinhuis.

                   HENDRICKJE
On the Breestraat of Amsterdam.
                                   GEERTJE
              In the Spinhuis
              of Gouda
              there's time to plan
              and time to curse
              and may fate take my revenge.
              Let him lose his health.
              Let him lose his house.
              Let him lose his wealth.
              Let him lose the ones he loves.
              And if there's justice on this earth,
              let him lose mind and soul and self.
              And every day I pray for this,
              is one more day that's dead
              until the day my broken frame
              limps free
              from the Spinhuis.
              of Gouda.



Scene Eleven. Rembrandt's House.

There's the sound of renovations from nearby. Banging and crashing. Govert
Flinck, handsomely attired, strolls into Rembrandt's studio and looks around.

Rembrandt, stressed and harried, hurries in.

                                REMBRANDT
              Flinck. Forgive me.
              This noise wakes the dead.
              Do you prosper?

                                FLINCK
              In my humble way, sir, yes
              though I cannot compare with the
              master.
              I have a new commission:
              the Peace of Munster.

                                REMBRANDT
              You?!
              They gave you
              the Peace of Munster?
                                   FLINCK
               Surprising though it seems.
               Fifteen hundred guilders
               I tried for more, but -

                                REMBRANDT
               Fifteen hundred guilders!

                                   FLINCK
               But talk of finance is so vulgar.
               Are you well?

                                 REMBRANDT
               This noise.
               This noise could wake the dead.

There's a shriek.

                                   HENDRICKJE
               Rats. More rats. The building sets them
               free.
               It's not the vermin, vile though they be.
               The fleas.
               The plague.
               Three more today.

                                  FLINCK
               Your work is fine -

                                REMBRANDT
               My painting doesn't sell. This noise -

                                REMBRANDT
                                /FLINCK/HENDRICKJE
               This noise would wake the dead.

                                  FLINCK
               Permit me, sir:
               Your faces have wrinkles
               and dogs do their business
               and monks fornicate in the fields.
               Your darks are too light
               and your lights are too dark
               and your women are ladled with lard.
               Quite frankly, it's ugly
               impious by half,
               and shows hardly a speck of respect
               for the grandeur of history
               the Dutch bit, at least.
               We are, you and I,
               simply puppets of fashion, and
               when it's all over it's thus:
               the tastes of our masters are calling the
               shots
               so conform to their wishes, or die.
               Conform to their wishes, or die.

                                    REMBRANDT
               I will not.
               Fashion is a canker
               upon the face of art

Each character is isolated on the stage.

                                    HENDRICKJE
               Death is walking
               in my shadow.
               Every day I search
               for his tattoo
               the purple smudge
               the tumour of the plague

                                  GEERTJE
               Death is walking
               in my shadow
               eating at my soul
               for hate's a tumour
               growing feeding
               cauterising hope

                                    REMBRANDT
               Death is walking
               in my shadow.
               Shall I say its name?
               Fashion is the knife
               that slays me
               makes me to submit

                                    FLINCK
               Death is walking
               in my shadow
               sooner than I know.
               One of us
              will be immortal.
              Let it be me

                                  ALL
              This winter cold brings talk
              of death
              and each man has his plague.
              The pestilence of debt or fashion
              sleepless nights or hate.
              And neither
              dreams to be immortal
              nor Calvin's godly ways
              will soothe a struggling conscience.
              So tell us, you who've gone before us,
              how are we to live?

                                   REMBRANDT
              Tell me, girl in the summer hat.
              How are we to live?



Scene Twelve. Calvinist Church Council.

Hendrickje walks forward, dressed in white. To face the members of the church
council - all black clad men.

                               COUNCILLOR
              You are Hendrickje Stoffels?

                                  HENDRICKJE
              I am.

                                 COUNCILLOR
              You are accused of living in whoredom
              with the painter Rembrandt van Rijn.
              What is your answer?

                                  HENDRICKJE
              I have no answer.

                                  COUNCILLOR
              Admit your guilt.

Hendrickje hangs her head.
                                  COUNCILLOR (CONT'D)
               You come before us
               virgin white
               with tumbling locks of sin.
               Your shame
               will damn your soul to torment.
               Fall upon your knees
               in penance for your crimes
               and his:
               your shared depravities.
               Your own indulgences
               have thrust you
               far from heavens' care.
               You will no longer
               share communion
               with the pure of heart,
               and in the supper of Our Lord
               you henceforth have no part.

Hendrickje remains standing, head bowed. But now she raises her head,
removes the outer white layer of her clothing and reveals: the red dress of the
scarlet woman and, more shocking, her advanced pregnancy.

                                     HENDRICKJE
               You have done your worst, good sirs,
               and still I stand with pride.
               For all of Holland's hypocrites,
               I'll not forsake
               the man and child I serve.
               And though my soul may fall from grace,
               and burn in Satan's fires,
               I have a comfort you'll not share,
               for all your kind's desires.
               My name, my frame, my flesh, my prime,
               will be remembered yet.
               On walls in houses not yet built
               around the spinning globe,
               will hang the work of great van Rijn.
               And eyes of children not yet born will
               gaze at me in awe,
               that once a man could look upon
               a woman
               and bring her forth so tender.
               And though you spite and smite,
               and clad yourselves in ash and sackcloth,
               it's I who'll live as long as time.
               For I am Queen Bathsheba,
              and what they look upon is mine.


Scene Thirteen.

Rembrandt's studio. An auction of artworks.

                                 AUCTIONEER
              Roll up roll up!
              The collection of a connoisseur to go.
              Handpicked by Rembrandt
              out the door today.
              Lucas van Leyden,
              I'd buy it myself.
              What am I bid, gents and ladies?
              Can I let it go?

Rembrandt and Hendrickje approach each other. She carries a baby. Titus
walks beside her.

                                  REMBRANDT
              I fear this won't save us.

                                 HENDRICKJE
              We're alive and together,
              the plague is at bay.

                                 REMBRANDT
              My Bathsheba -

                                 AUCTIONEER
              Going once, gents and ladies,
              I'm giving it away -

                                   REMBRANDT
              My life's up for sale
              all that I cared for -

                                HENDRICKJE
              Alive and together

                                 AUCTIONEER
              Going twice.

                                 REMBRANDT
              Everything lost
                                    AUCTIONEER
               Going three times.
               All out all done.
               Sold -

                                   REMBRANDT
               For half its worth -

                                  AUCTIONEER
               To the man in the seventh row.

A slaughtered ox is lowered or carried onto the stage.

All except Rembrandt himself vacate the stage, leaving him with the ox carcass,
his easel. And Saskia's headstone.

                                    REMBRANDT
               A man's life
               eleven thousand
               three hundred twenty two guilders
               and
               a slaughtered ox.
               Geertje is dead
               with a curse on her lips.
               And I?
               Slaughtered ox.
               The plague stalks Bathsheba
               and Titus my lovely
               and I will die lonely
               just like my friend here
               a most finely sinewed and muscled and
               fleshed
               slaughtered ox.

He's painting now. With increasing excitement.

                                   REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               See in the lamplight
               the seam of fat gleams
               and the ribs lie so even
               and the viscera steams
               and the arms hang so tender,
               and the legs open too.
               I am dead but triumphant
               my murderers: you.
               You'll never know
               how I lived.
               How I frolicked and farted
               and feasted on pasture
               and fathered more oxen
               than you men can dream of.
               And I loved and I joyed
               and I rolled in the mud
               and my ox life was big as the sky.
               My ox life was big as the sky.

He grabs the slaughtered ox, embraces it like a partner and dances with it
around the stage.

                                REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
               And my ox life was big as the sky.

Finally, the ox flies away, leaving Rembrandt alone with Saskia's grave.


Scene Fourteen. Saskia's Grave.

Rembrandt lifts the headstone, moves it aside, and begins to lift a pile of dusty
human bones into a hessian sack.

A gravedigger with a shovel comes in.

                                  REMBRANDT
               A good price for the grave?
               You'll give me a good price?
               She was my wife, you see.

                                 GRAVEDIGGER
               The going rate. No more no less.
               Hillegondt Willems will lodge here now.
               One more to the plague.

He hands Rembrandt a small fold of guilder notes.

                                    GRAVEDIGGER (CONT'D)
               God keep you.

                                REMBRANDT
               And you, sir. And you.

The gravedigger goes, leaving Rembrandt to continue clearing Saskia's remains
from the grave.
                    REMBRANDT (CONT'D)
Girl in a summer hat
with a flower in your hand.
Did you die to make me cruel?
Did you die to make me wise?
Soon I'll be with you
and you shall know me
as I have never been known

                   SASKIA
I shall know you
as you have never been known

                  REMBRANDT
As I have never been known.

                   SASKIA
I will know you.

                    REMBRANDT
And I will come to that place
with my weapon in hand.
Not sword nor musket nor cannon ball.
But weapon made of squirrel hair
and sable fur and badger wool.
Its scent of linseed oil and vinegar and
lead.
And I will take as true an aim
as mortal man can do
at God and man and fakery
at fashion and conformity
transcendence and mortality
and simple innocence.
And when I lay my weapon down
to join you in that place,
I'll raise my arms and proudly cry
Rembrandt van Rijn is coming home.
And his ox life was big as the sky.

								
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