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ESTHER   9'2m1f Esther stops Haman from wiping out the Hebrews

(all characters wear elegant, loose-fitting robes, gold
slippers, stage bare except large book lying on a couch DC)

XERXES -- (back onto stage, pauses, yawns loudy, pauses, clears
throat, pauses, clears throat, pauses, paces floor, each time he
returns to exit yawns, coughs, or sneezes loudly toward exit)

ESTHER -- (enters, yawning)

XERXES -- (approaches fondly) Esther, my love, my queen.

ESTHER -- Xerxes, it's the middle of the night. What are you
doing up?

XERXES -- I can't sleep. I've been tossing and turning all
night. My darling, Esther, you are so incredibly beautiful. I
think I know what will make me get to sleep... (slides his arm
around her shoulders)

ESTHER -- (points to couch, slides out of his grasp, crosses to
couch) Yes. I'll read to you. Come lie down.

XERXES -- (follows) Well, that wasn't quite what I had in mind,
but...

ESTHER -- ... I've noticed that you get drowsy whenever the
court scribe reads the daily entries from the royal archives.

XERXES -- That's because it's so boring. The same old
who-gave-what-to-whom, the same old who-got-married-to-whom, the
same old who-came-to-the-party. (slides his arm around her
shoulder) You know, Esther, you're so incredibly beautiful. I'd
much rather...

ESTHER -- (peels his hand off her shoulder) Xerxes, my king, the
ruler of the entire civilized world can't rule his kingdom
without sleeping. (makes him sit on couch) You just lay back and
close your eyes...

XERXES -- ...But, darling, I really would rather...

ESTHER -- Now, Xerxes, do you want my help or not?

XERXES -- Well, yes, but...

ESTHER -- (lays him down) Then, lay back and close your eyes.
(opens book)

XERXES -- Oh, alright, but if this doesn't work...

ESTHER -- (reads) Oh, here's an entry in the archives I'll bet
you haven't heard.

XERXES -- Let's hear it.

ESTHER -- Hmmmm. It says here that cousin Mordecai discovered a
conspiracy to kill you and take over your throne. When did this
happen?

XERXES -- Oh, that was a few weeks ago, while they were
preparing you for the wedding. I didn't tell you because I
didn't want to ruin the wedding. This Mordecai was an old guy
who parked himself outside the palace gate. He overheard two of
the palace guards talking about the plot and reported it to me.
We caught the culprits just as they were about to spring into
action. We were so busy with the trial and with our wedding we
completely forgot to publicly acknowledge fellow...
what's-his-name.

ESTHER -- Mordecai.

XERXES -- Yes, but I would have sworn I heard you call him Cousin
Mordecai.

ESTHER -- Oh, ah, I, ah,... yes, I did, didn't I? Well, I guess
he's been hanging around the palace gate for so long that the
women in the harem are beginning to call him cousin Mordecai.

XERXES -- Yes, now that you mention it, I can picture the old
guy in my mind. He started hanging around the palace gate
several weeks ago... right around the time that you came to live
in the palace. Isn't that a coincidence?

ESTHER -- Coincidence? Yes, oh, ah, yes, ah, of course. So, tell
me, Xerxes, shouldn't you publicly acknowledge this Mordecai for
saving your life?

XERXES -- Yes. Yes, I suppose I should. Yes, I shall do
something nice for him first thing in the morning. Yes, that's a
good idea. I'll do something nice for him. I'll have my
administrator Haman give him a hero's welcome to the palace.
Yes, first thing in the morning. (sits up) But right now, I'm
still not sleepy. (stands, circles the couch, vainly pursuing
Esther) Did I ever tell you how incredibly beautiful you are?

ESTHER -- (circles couch, avoiding Xerxes) Speaking of Haman,
Xerxes, did you know that Haman had a gallows built near his
house?

XERXES -- A gallows? What, you mean as in hanging? (stops)

ESTHER -- (stops) Yes. But he apparently wants to make a
spectacle of the hanging. He built the gallows 75 feet high.

XERXES -- Well, who is he hanging? I wasn't aware of anyone in
my kingdom who deserved hanging.

ESTHER -- I'm sure he'll explain it to us all at our little
banquet tomorrow.

XERXES -- Oh, yes, I guess that's why I was tossing and turning
all night. When you came to the throne room I promised that you
could have anything in my kingdom that you want. But you're
being so mysterious about it. I was wondering why you wouldn't
tell me what you want from me.

ESTHER -- Please have patience, Xerxes, I realize that your
offer of up to half your kingdom is a generous one. And keeping
my king waiting for an answer is rude, but please have
patience. I will tell you what I want at the banquet tomorrow.

XERXES -- (circles the couch) Do you think you have to get me
all softened up with wine before you ask me. I already told you 
you can have anything you want. Just tell me so I can get some 
sleep.

ESTHER -- (circles the couch, avoiding him) Xerxes, what do you
think of Haman?

XERXES -- You're not going to tell me, are you? You're going to
make me lie awake all night wondering what you could possibly
want from me.

ESTHER -- Can you trust Haman? (stops)

XERXES -- (stops) My chief administrator? Well, I hope so. I
gave him my signet ring. He can use it to order anything he
wants done in my whole kingdom. But let's not talk about him. If
you're not going to tell me what you want from me, let's talk
about you and me. (circles the couch) Did I tell you how
incredibly beautiful you are and how much I'd like to...

ESTHER -- (circles the couch, avoiding him) Did you know that
Haman ordered the deaths of thousands of people in your kingdom?

XERXES -- (stops) Alright, if you want to talk about Haman.
We'll talk about Haman. Yes, I knew. He told me that we needed
to get rid of some trouble makers in the kingdom. So, I gave him
my signet ring so he could seal the orders too get rid of them.
(circles the couch) Now, where were we? Oh, yes, did I ever tell
you how incredibly beautiful you are?

ESTHER -- (puts down book, exits)

XERXES -- Esther, where are you going?

ESTHER -- (pauses at exit) I have to prepare for the banquet.
(exits)

XERXES -- Esther! (sits, picks up book) Oh, well, I guess I'll
read a few more entries in the royal archives. (opens book) That
usually works. (yawns, reads) Weddings. Funerals. (yawns) Births
(yawns) Roy... (yawns) visiting dignitar... (yawns) visiting
digni... (lays head back, snores)

ESTHER -- (enters) Xerxes. Xerxes, my king, wake up.

XERXES -- (snort) Huh? Oh, you mean I finally fell asleep?

ESTHER -- You slept like a baby.

XERXES -- It must have been the archives. You were right, my
darling. (yawns, stretches) What time is it?

ESTHER -- It's after noon. It's time for the banquet.

XERXES -- The banquet! I have to get dressed! (stands moves
toward bedroom exit)

ESTHER -- No, no, my king. Stay right where you are. The banquet
is just for the three of us. I've summoned Haman to come here.
(clap, clap, shouts) And ask Haman to come in.

XERXES -- Ah, yes, Haman.

ESTHER -- I don't mean to disparage your choice of a chief
administrator, Xerxes, but I think Haman is a snake.

XERXES -- Esther!

HAMAN --- (Enters, mumbles furiously) Of all the nerve asking me
to lead a horse through the city. Me, the chief administrator.

XERXES -- Haman, are you upset about something?

HAMAN --- (pastes on a phony smile) King Xerxes, how nice to
see you again. (bows)

XERXES -- (aside to Esther) Now that you mention it, Esther,
I've never noticed that Haman seems a little patronizing to me.
(aloud) Haman, did I notice that you were upset about something?

HAMAN --- Who me? Noooo. I just had to lead Mordecai's horse
through the city streets shouting at the top of my lungs what a
great hero he is. Now, he looks like a hero and I look like a
footman.

XERXES -- What are you talking about?

HAMAN --- She tricked me! (points at Esther)

ESTHER -- I did not.

HAMAN --- You did too. You asked me what I would do to
acknowledge a national hero and I told you. But, you said...

XERXES -- What's going on here, darling?

ESTHER -- Well, you were asleep dear, so I, knowing how badly
you wanted to recognize Mordecai as a national hero, I just
asked Haman to go ahead and do what he said he would do to honor
a national hero. He put a purple robe on Mordecai and lead his
horse through the streets shouting to all what a great deed he
had done. I'm sorry you missed it, Xerxes.

HAMAN --- She tricked me! She didn't tell me who the national
hero was until I had already committed to doing it.

ESTHER -- Mordecai saved Xerxes' life. Didn't he, sweetie. (runs
her finger down Xerxes' face and neck)

XERXES -- Well, yes, he did, but... did I miss something?

HAMAN --- Yes, as a matter of fact, Mordecai was one of the
trouble makers that I was going to hang on my brand new gallows.
Now, we have to go to all the trouble to discredit him in order
to hang him. I may even have to delay the hanging. And it's all
HER fault!

ESTHER -- Cousin Mordecai is not a trouble maker!

XERXES -- There, you said it again.

ESTHER -- Said what?

XERXES -- You called him Cousin Mordecai.

HAMAN --- Yes, why did you call him Cousin Mordecai.

ESTHER -- I'll tell you about that later. Right now, I want to
announce what I have decided that I want as a gift from my dear
sweet husband, King Xerxes.

XERXES -- Anything you ask, my darling, up to half my kingdom.

ESTHER -- I want you to spare all those who Haman calls
troublemakers.

HAMAN --- You can't do that! And I've already sent out the order
to have them hanged on my new gallows.

XERXES -- Esther, darling, why would you have me cancel an order
that has already been sent out?

ESTHER -- They're not trouble makers at all. Haman is just angry
because Cousin Mordecai would not bow down to him, as he does to
you. He wants to hang Mordecai to show everyone that they should
bow down to him also.

XERXES -- Is that so, Haman?

HAMAN --- They're troublemakers, I tell you.

XERXES -- Why would he bow down to you? You're just an
administrator.

HAMAN --- Everyone else bows down to me. They know what's good
for them. They know I have the power of life and death over
them. But these Hebrews, they only bow down to their king and
their God. They're not afraid of death. They're all trouble
makers I tell you. They must be put to death.

ESTHER -- Just because they won't bow down to you?

HAMAN --- Yes. Yes. If you must know. Yes.

XERXES -- How do you know all this, Esther?

ESTHER -- Well, that was the other thing I wanted to announce
today, my king. Mordecai is my cousin. I am a Hebrew too. So, if
you want to hang him, hang me too.

HAMAN --- You what?!

XERXES -- You're a Hebrew? I had no idea!

HAMAN --- (tries to exit) Curses, foiled again.

XERXES -- (follows, grabs him at exit) Just a minute, Haman.
You're not going anywhere. You were going to hang innocent
people. (shouts to exit) Guards, take Haman to the gallows he
just built and hang him. And tell everyone in the country that
he who exalts himself will be humbled.

HAMAN --- This is all her fault. That little Hebrew....

XERXES -- (shouts, pushes Haman out exit) Get him out of here.
Oh, and bring me Mordecai. He's probably sitting near the palace
gate.

ESTHER -- (crosses to Xerxes) Surely, you won't harm the man who
saved your life, my king.

XERXES -- Certainly not. With Haman gone, I will need a new
chief administrator. What better choice than one who saved my
life?

ESTHER -- Oh, Xerxes, how can I ever thank you.

XERXES -- (escorts her to opposite exit) Now that you mention
it, my dear, there was just one thing that we've been putting
off for much too long...


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