The Bourgeois Nobleman by Molière
Go to the other acts: Act 2 | Act 3


Scene 1

(The Scene is the main drawing room in Monsieur Jordan's house.

Overture. Then the MUSIC MASTER'S PUPIL is seen seated at the harpsichord; he is annotating and putting the finishing touches to a score - his own composition. Enter the MUSIC MASTER and DANCING MASTER, with SINGERS and DANCERS.)

DANCING MASTER (to the singers and dancers) Go and wait in the side room until he arrives.(Exit SINGERS and DANCERS)
MUSIC MASTER (to the Pupil) Have you finished your piece?
PUPIL (handing it to him) Yes
MUSIC MASTER (reading) I say. This is really very good.
DANCING MASTER Something new, maestro?
MUSIC MASTER Yes. A little something I've had my pupil compose here, while we wait for Matey to descend from his bedchamber. An exquisite little serenade, actually.
DANCING MASTER Let's have a look.
MUSIC MASTER Certainly not! You'll hear it, sung properly, when our friend puts in an appearance. I presume there's a danger he'll be up and dressed by lunchtime.
DANCING MASTER Don't complain. This one's a nice little earner.
MUSIC MASTER Indeed. Was there ever such a perfect employer? It seems he can only achieve his dreams of social rank by spending vast sums on music and dance If only there were more like our Monsieur Jordan. Both our professions would be booming, and society would be the better for it.
DANCING MASTER Yes, I suppose. Although, it would be nice if he actually showed even a minimal appreciation of our work.
MUSIC MASTER Well, obviously, that would help. On the other hand, he may not be able to handle musical notes too well, but he does handle banknotes to such attractive effect!. And serious art does need seriously rich patrons, above all.
DANCING MASTER True, but I do so yearn for an occasional glimmer of glory. There's nothing like a ripple of well-placed applause to warm the cockles; and no worse torture than performing for barbarians incapable of responding to the subtleties of an artistic creation. Furthermore, if I may just finish, thank you, you must agree that our greatest pleasure, as practitioners of the fine arts, is to play to a cultured and refined audience who reward our efforts with enlightened applause.
MUSIC MASTER Of course, I enjoy a spot of applause as well as the next man. But unfortunately one cannot eat applause. Praise puts no meat on the table, whereas cash has the canniest knack of doing just that. And, I must hand it to Matey - he does hand the cash out most expertly. Who cares whether his critical faculties are well-honed or not, or indeed whether they even exist? It shouldn't be our concern that he's incapable of stringing three words together. Indeed, we should perhaps be grateful, since, when he does open his mouth , it discharges only drivel. What matters is that he has the most discerning wallet it has ever been my pleasure to know. This ignorant bourgeois, by the way, if I may just finish, thank you, is worth a whole lot more to us than the enlightened young aristocrat who introduced us to this household.
DANCING MASTER What you say is largely true, but I frankly find all this emphasis on money very distasteful. Really, it ill becomes a true artist to be too preoccupied with financial gain.
MUSIC MASTER Indeed? I haven't noticed you refusing the financial gain offered by our friend.
DANCING MASTER No, but it always pains me deeply to accept it. I just wish he offered a modicum of good taste along with it.
MUSIC MASTER Well, so do I. But, look at it this way, his money enables us to show off our work to all of Paris society . He funds it, they applaud it, and we..…..
DANCING MASTER Shhh, here he comes!
  (Enter MONSIEUR JORDAN, wearing a flamboyant oriental dressing gown, and attended by two PAGES.
M. JORDAN How goes it, gents? Ready with your song and dance routine?
DANCING MASTER I beg your pardon!
M. JORDAN Er…What was it you called it? A prologue…er, monologue ….duet…minuet, or some such? Anyway, a show.
DANCING MASTER (aside) Good grief!
MUSIC MASTER We're all ready for you.
M. JORDAN I'm afraid I've had to keep you waiting a bit. But I'm having myself dressed today like a person of noble birth, and my tailor sent me a pair of silk stockings that are so tight I thought I'd never squeeze myself into them.
MUSIC MASTER We are here exclusively to wait on your pleasure.
M. JORDAN Eh? Oh yes. Anyway, I want both of you to stay until they bring my new suit, so you can see me in it.
M. JORDAN I think you'll be impressed. I'll be kitted out in all the latest stuff, from top to toe.
MUSIC MASTER Without a doubt.
M. JORDAN I had this oriental dressing gown made for myself. What do you think?
DANCING MASTER It's…quite remarkable.
M. JORDAN Yes, isn't it. My tailor says this is what people of noble birth wear in the morning, when they first get up.
MUSIC MASTER It's absolutely…you!
M. JORDAN Oy! Pages! Where are my two pages?
1st PAGE What can I do for you, sir?
M. JORDAN Nothing. I just wanted to check you were in attendance and hanging on my every word. (to the two Masters) Great, aren't they? What do you think of the livery?
  M. Jordan opens his dressing gown to reveal a garish jacket and pair of breeches underneath)
M. JORDAN And I had this little outfit run up for my morning constitutionals.
MUSIC MASTER How…fitting!
1st PAGE Sir?
M. JORDAN No, the other page!
2nd PAGE Sir?
M. JORDAN Here, take my dressing gown. How do I look now?
DANCING MASTER Sheer perfection.
M. JORDAN Right. Well, I'm ready to watch your little entertainment now.
MUSIC MASTER First, I'd like this young man to play you a most charming tune I had him compose for the new serenade that you ordered. He is one of my most talented students.
M. JORDAN You had a mere student do the work? The cheek of it! I'm paying for the organ-grinder, you know, not the monkey!
MUSIC MASTER Please, monsieur, don't be fooled by the word 'student'. Any student of mine is naturally superior to the most noted musicians of our age. Please, just listen.
M. JORDAN Oh, alright. Let's begin. (He sits down, expectantly, and the Pupil plays the opening of the piece. M. Jordan jumps up) Wait, give me my dressing gown so that I can listen better. (The Pages put it on him. He sits, the Pupil resumes playing. M. Jordan jumps up again) No, hang on, I think I'll be better without it.(The Pages remove it. He sits. Same business). No. No, I was definitely better able to listen with it on. (Same business. He settles down waving the PAGES off. They exit).
  • (Sings)
  • I languish night and day, and my pain is extreme,

    As I await a look of love from your cruel eyes.

    But from their beauteous depths, O dearest, it would seem,

    Comes forth no gentle passion, and so my soul dies.

  • M. JORDAN What a miserable song! It's sending me to sleep. Couldn't you liven it up a bit, here and there?
    MUSIC MASTER Monsieur, the key and tempo must fit the sentiment expressed by the words.
    M. JORDAN I learnt a good song once. Very jolly, it was. Let me see…how did it go?
    DANCING MASTER Good grief! How should I know?
    M. JORDAN There was definitely a sheep in it.
    M. JORDAN Yes. How did it go, now…? (he looks across at the Pupil, who helpfully plays the opening of 'Baa baa black sheep') No. That wasn't it….Ah, I remember (sings, to the tune of 'Liliburlero')
  • Janey, my love, when you lie asleep

    Your cute little hooves remind me of sheep.

    When you awake, and they start to dance

    There's no better hoofer in all of France.

    Baaaa ba, baaaa ba,

    Baa baa baa baa baa!

    My love for you is so true and so deep.

    Oh, Janey, my Janey

    My heart-throb, my zany,

    Come, let us frolic as if we were sheep

  •   There. Isn't that pretty?
    MUSIC MASTER Quite sublime.
    DANCING MASTER And you sing it so well.
    M. JORDAN And, do you know, I've never taken a single music lesson in my whole life. Isn't that amazing?
    DANCING MASTER Incredible!
    MUSIC MASTER You should study it, monsieur, along with your dance. The two are so closely linked.
    M. JORDAN Do people of noble birth study both?
    MUSIC MASTER Absolutely.
    M. JORDAN Then I shall do so. Although I can't think where I'll find the time. In addition to my fencing master, I've now employed a philosopher who's due to start this very morning.
    MUSIC MASTER Philosophy's all very well, of course, but music….ahhh music, monsieur…
    DANCING MASTER And dance! Music and dance, music and dance. There is nothing else.
    MUSIC MASTER There is nothing so useful to society as music.
    DANCING MASTER Without dance, mankind would be quite lost.
    MUSIC MASTER All the riots and wars in the world could be avoided, if only people would study music.
    DANCING MASTER All of men's misery, all the fatal setbacks inflicted by history, the politicians' blunders and the generals' failures, all, all stem from the want of knowing how to dance.
    M. JORDAN Really? How is that?
    MUSIC MASTER Is not war caused by a certain discord between men?
    M. JORDAN That's true.
    MUSIC MASTER So, if all men studied music, wouldn't that teach them harmony, leading to universal peace?
    M. JORDAN You're absolutely right!
    DANCING MASTER And, when someone has made a mistake in his public or private duties, do we not say 'he's out of step'?
    M. JORDAN So we do!
    DANCING MASTER Well, being out of step must result from not knowing how to dance!
    M. JORDAN You're absolutely right! You're both absolutely right!
    DANCING MASTER We simply wish you to understand the essential ways in which music and dance contribute to the world.
    M. JORDAN Oh, I do understand that now!
    MUSIC MASTER So. Are we ready to watch the two pieces now?
    M. JORDAN Yes.
    MUSIC MASTER As I told you, the first is an attempt to demonstrate the ways in which music can express the emotions.
    M. JORDAN Excellent.
    MUSIC MASTER (To the singers) Come in here please. You must imagine them dressed as shepherds.
    M. JORDAN Oh, not shepherds again! Why must we always have shepherds?
    MUSIC MASTER Because it is most natural for shepherds to sing about their passions. It would hardly be realistic to have princes, or even the bourgeoisie, expressing their true feelings in song. In fact it would be most embarrassing.
    M. JORDAN Fine. Whatever. Proceed.
      (The SINGERS perform their duet)
    M. JORDAN Is that it?
    M. JORDAN Well, that was a pleasant enough little trifle. And there were some quite nice …words…here and there.
    DANCING MASTER Now, for my offering, a little demonstration of the most beautiful steps and movements in the dance repertoire.
    M. JORDAN Must they be shepherds again?
    DANCING MASTER They can be whatever you wish them to be.
      (The DANCING MASTER claps his hands and the DANCERS perform their dance)
    M. JORDAN Well, that wasn't bad at all. And those chaps wiggle around very well.
    MUSIC MASTER When the whole thing is put together, it should be stunning. You won't be disappointed by the little spectacle we are preparing for you.
    M. JORDAN Good, it needs to be ready by this evening. It's to entertain a lady who will honour me with her presence here for dinner later.
    DANCING MASTER Everything is ready.
    MUSIC MASTER There is one other thing, monsieur. A person such as yourself, of such high social standing and discernment, should be holding a musical recital at home at least once or twice a week.
    M. JORDAN Really? Is that what people of noble birth do?
    MUSIC MASTER Yes, it is.
    M. JORDAN Then I'll do it. Can we make it wonderful?
    MUSIC MASTER Of course. We shall need three voices, one soprano, one counter-tenor and one bass. These to be accompanied by a cello, a lute , a harpsichord for the basso continuo and two violins for the ritornello.
    M. JORDAN And an accordion. The old squeeze-box is my favourite instrument.
    MUSIC MASTER Leave everything to us.
    M. JORDAN Just so long as you remember to send the musicians in later, to play at the dinner table.
    DANCING MASTER It's all arranged. You will not be disappointed. I am particularly proud of the minuet.
    M. JORDAN Ah, the minuet! That's my dance! You must watch me do it. Come on, maestro!
    DANCING MASTER A hat, please, monsieur!
      (M. JORDAN puts on a hat, and he and the DANCING MASTER do a minuet)
    DANCING MASTER La, la, la (etc) keep in time, please la la…right leg…la la…don't shake your shoulders about so much…la, la… both your arms are wrongly positioned…la, la,…Head up…la, la…point your toes outwards…la, la…hold your back straight.
    M. JORDAN Ugh!
    M. JORDAN By the way, I need to know, for this evening's dinner, how to bow properly to a countess.
    DANCING MASTER How to bow to a countess?
    M. JORDAN Yes. A countess called Dorimene.
    DANCING MASTER Give me your hand.
    M. JORDAN No, just show me. I'll remember perfectly.
    DANCING MASTER To show maximum respect, first bow stepping backwards. Then three steps forward, bowing on each. The final bow should reach down to her knee-level.
    M. JORDAN Show me, then. Good. Fine.
      ( Enter a PAGE)
    1st PAGE Sir, your Fencing Master has arrived.
    M. JORDAN Show him in for the lesson. I want you both to see this.

    Scene 2

      (Enter the FENCING MASTER. He throws M. JORDAN a foil, which the latter just catches as the Fencing Master salutes him.)
    FENCING MASTER Your salute, monsieur! Stand up straight. Weight over the left thigh. Legs not so wide apart. Line up your feet. Wrist in line with your hip. The tip of your foil at shoulder level. Arm slightly less extended. Left hand at eye level. Open up your shoulders. Head up. Look me in the eye. Lunge! Hold the body steady. Parry in quarte, and now riposte. One, two, and again! Feet steady. When you thrust, monsieur, you must disengage the foil first, and your body must present sideways on. One, two. Now, parry in tierce and riposte again. Lunge. Body steady. Lunge. Now go from there. One, two. Recover. And again. One, two, and take a leap backwards. En garde, sir, en garde!
      (The FENCING MASTER scores a number of direct hits on the bewildered M. JORDAN)
    M. JORDAN Ugh!
    MUSIC MASTER You're doing wonderfully well!
    FENCING MASTER How many times must I repeat this? The secret of successful swordplay is to give and not to receive. As I proved to you at the last lesson, by a process of demonstrable logic, it is impossible for you to be hit so long as you know how to deflect your opponent's weapon from the line of your body. This you achieve with the smallest flick of the wrist, either inside or outside. See?
    M. JORDAN So, using this technique, a man can be sure of killing his opponent without risk of getting killed himself, and without needing to be in possession of even an ounce of courage?
    FENCING MASTER Absolutely! Do you need any further demonstration?
    M. JORDAN Oh, no!
    FENCING MASTER All of which underlines the status that fencing should have in society, and the vital importance of the science of weaponry compared to the useless so-called sciences of dancing, music,…
    DANCING MASTER Just hold it right there, Mr Flashy Swordsman, I must ask you to show a bit more respect to the art of dance.
    MUSIC MASTER And kindly keep a civil tongue in your head on the subject of music.
    FENCING MASTER You cannot be serious if you believe your sciences are worthy of comparison to mine!
    MUSIC MASTER Oooh! Look at him with his airs and graces!
    DANCING MASTER Strutting around like a cock in a breastplate!
      (The FENCING MASTER places his foil point under the MUSIC MASTER'S crotch and walks him around the stage)
    FENCING MASTER My dear little music master, allow me to teach you a new song, reaching notes you have never even dreamt of attempting before.
      (The FENCING MASTER shifts his attention to the DANCING MASTER, and makes him dance around the stage by thrusting and swiping at his feet with the foil)
    FENCING MASTER And you, little dancing master, I can teach you to dance with a virtuosity and a rhythm that you never knew you had.
    DANCING MASTER You great hopper-arsed, skinny-dicked fart-catcher. I'll teach you a lesson…..
    M. JORDAN Are you mad? You can't pick a fight with a man who knows his tierce from his quarte, and knows how to kill a man using demonstrable logic
    DANCING MASTER I gob on his demonstrable logic, and on his tierce, and on his quarte!
    M. JORDAN Please, both of you….
    FENCING MASTER You impertinent pile of goat droppings!
    M. JORDAN Really, my dear fencing master…
    DANCING MASTER You barnacle-brained mullet-mouth!
    M. JORDAN Whoa, Mr dancing master….
    FENCING MASTER I'll stuff fermented toenail-clippings up your nostrils!
    M. JORDAN Calm down!
    DANCING MASTER I'll insert your mother's giblets into your every orifice!
    M. JORDAN Gentlemen, please…
    FENCING MASTER Let me swing from his nose-hairs!
    M. JORDAN For God's sake….
    DANCING MASTER Let me slap his buttocks with a wet haddock!
    M. JORDAN I beg you….
    MUSIC MASTER Come on, let's teach this great eunuch's bloomers a lesson!
    M. JORDAN You stay out of this!
    2nd PAGE Monsieur, your philosophy teacher has arrived.
      (Enter the PHILOSOPHER)
    M. JORDAN Thank goodness, Monsieur! You're here just in time to save the day with some philosophy. See if you can restore some peace here.
    PHILOSOPHER What is the problem, gentlemen? Define its precise nature, if you please.
    M. JORDAN By each trying to prove that his is the top science, they've worked themselves up into such a rage that they've come to blows.
    PHILOSOPHER Really, gentlemen! Is there any need for these fisticuffs? You have surely all read Seneca's treatise on anger? Is there any spectacle more base or shameful to contemplate than an uncontrolled passion? It transforms us into wild beasts, when reason should be guiding our every action.
    DANCING MASTER What? This dick-witted flaybottomist has dared to insult the fine arts of dance and music.
    PHILOSOPHER A wise man rises above such injury, and responds magnanimously to insult with moderation and patience.
    FENCING MASTER These two dung-kickers have had the audacity to compare their low arts with my sublime profession!
    PHILOSOPHER So what? It is demeaning for men to squabble over status and glory, when what distinguishes us from our fellows is wisdom and virtue.
    DANCING MASTER I maintain that dance is an art form deserving the highest respect.
    MUSIC MASTER And I that music has been revered by men since time immemorial.
    FENCING MASTER And I wish to assert that fencing is the noblest and most useful of all the arts.
    PHILOSOPHER And what of philosophy? How dare any of you, in my presence, refer to your…your petty leisure pursuits as arts. You are nothing better than a hoofer, a crooner and a gladiator!
    FENCING MASTER You pustulent pedant of a philosopher!
    MUSIC MASTER You cabbage-eared carbuncle!
    DANCING MASTER You bran-faced bumbailiff!
    PHILOSOPHER What? You bunch of goose-piss-lickers! Just let me…
      (He hurls himself at the trio, and all four fall to fighting)
    M. JORDAN Mr Philosopher!
    PHILOSOPHER Take that, insolent little jerks!
    M. JORDAN Mr Philosopher!
    FENCING MASTER Bubonic bird-brain!
    M. JORDAN Gentlemen!
    PHILOSOPHER Impudent flat-cocks!
    M. JORDAN Mr. Philosopher!
    DANCING MASTER Spank him with a bull's pizzle!
    M. JORDAN Gentlemen!
    PHILOSOPHER Whore-maggotty twiddle-poops!
    M. JORDAN Mr. Philosopher!
    MUSIC MASTER Smear him with piss-marinated dilberries!
    M. JORDAN Gentlemen!
    PHILOSOPHER Scabby jackasses! Snivelling toss-pots! Turnip-pated tallywags!
    M. JORDAN Mr. Philosopher! Gentlemen! Mr. Philosopher! Gentlemen! Mr. Philosopher! (The four of them exit, fighting) Oh. Alright! Go ahead and fight to your heart's content. I'm certainly not going to spoil my nice new dressing-gown trying to separate you. I'd be mad to mess with that lot - I'd be bound to get a black eye for my pains.

    Scene 3

      (Enter the PHILOSOPHER, straightening his collar)
    PHILOSOPHER So, then, shall we get on with our lesson?
    M. JORDAN Oh, monsieur! I'm sorry you've been given such a beating!
    PHILOSOPHER It was nothing. It's the business of a philosopher to bear such travails with equanimity. And, anyway, I shall write a satire against them in the style of Juvenal. That will destroy them with just the right vindictiveness. Enough of them. What would you like to learn today?
    M. JORDAN As much as possible. I have such a thirst for knowledge. I blame my parents for neglecting my education when I was a young boy.
    PHILOSOPHER A very reasonable reaction on your part. Nam sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago. You understand what I'm getting at, of course, since I presume you know latin.
    M. JORDAN Of course. But let's pretend that I don't. And tell me what it means.
    PHILOSOPHER It means: 'without knowledge, life is almost the same as death'.
    M. JORDAN Damned clever, those latins!
    PHILOSOPHER Were you not even given the basic principles of science?
    M. JORDAN Oh, Lord, yes! I know how to read and write.
    PHILOSOPHER Excellent! Where would you like to start, monsieur? Would you like me to teach you logic?
    M. JORDAN What is it, exactly?
    PHILOSOPHER It is through logic that we learn the Three Methods of Thinking.
    M. JORDAN And what are these Three Methods of Thinking?
    PHILOSOPHER They are: the First Method of Thinking, the Second Method of Thinking and the Third Method of Thinking.
    M. JORDAN I see. Yes.
    PHILOSOPHER The First Method is mastery of techniques of conceptual thinking by universal analogy; the Second Method is to arrive at efficient judgements through the use of categorisation conventions; and the Third Method involves a deductive methodology for drawing analogous conclusions via mathematical models and figurative use of language We refer to the theories of Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferio, Baralipton, etc.
    M. JORDAN That all sounds a bit off-putting. I'm not sure that logic is quite my thing. Can we learn something a bit more jolly?
    PHILOSOPHER Would you like to study ethics?
    M. JORDAN Ethics? What's that?
    PHILOSOPHER It deals with the pursuit of happiness. And teaches you how to control your emotions.
    M. JORDAN No. No. I think not. I do suffer from uncontrollable grumpiness from time to time, and I doubt whether ethics would help that. And, anyway, I want to be able to lose my temper whenever I please.
    PHILOSOPHER How about learning physics, then?
    M. JORDAN Physics? What's that?
    PHILOSOPHER Physics is the study of the natural world. It describes the principles and the properties of matter. It explores the nature of elements, metals, minerals, rocks, plants and animals, and explains the cause of meteors, rainbows, shooting stars, comets, lightning, thunder, rain, snow, hail, hurricanes and tornadoes.
    M. JORDAN That all sounds like a terrible racket. Far too noisy for me.
    PHILOSOPHER Well, what would you like me to teach you?
    M. JORDAN Teach me to spell.
    PHILOSOPHER Willingly.
    M. JORDAN And afterwards, you can teach me the almanac, so that I'll know when there's a moon and when there isn't.
    PHILOSOPHER Whatever. Now, to approach the subject according to true philosophical principles, we need to begin at the beginning, with a detailed examination of the exact nature of the letters of the alphabet, starting with how they are pronounced. First, you should know that the letters are divided into vowels - so called because the sound is produced by the vibration of the vocal cords - and consonants, which make up the sounds which come in between the vowels. There are five vowel sounds, pronounced thus: A,E,I,O,U (use short vowel sounds)
    M. JORDAN I understand this. This is easy!
    PHILOSOPHER The vowel A is created by opening the mouth fully - A.
    M. JORDAN A, A. Yes.
    PHILOSOPHER To make the vowel E, bring the lower jaw up to meet the upper one : A, E.
    M. JORDAN A,E; A,E; A,E. Goodness, yes! That's terrific!
    PHILOSOPHER And to make an I, you simply bring the two jaws even closer together, and stretch the corners of the mouth out towards the ears: A, E, I.
    M. JORDAN A, E, I, I, I, I. So you do! Isn't science wonderful!
    PHILOSOPHER The O vowel is made by re-opening the jaws and pursing the lips together, so: O.
    M. JORDAN O, O. Spot on! A, E, I, O, I, O. Brilliant! I, O, I, O.
    PHILOSOPHER In fact, the mouth opens to create a little circle, just like an O!
    M. JORDAN O, O, O. Oh you're so right! O. It's wonderful to know so many things!
    PHILOSOPHER And, finally, U is made by opening the mouth wide in a grin: U.
    M. JORDAN U, U. That's absolutely correct! U, U. If only I'd studied all this earlier, I would have been so knowledgeable!
    PHILOSOPHER Well, you have made such rapid progress today that, tomorrow, I think we could move on to the consonants.
    M. JORDAN That will be excellent. I do need to maintain progress. I've lost so much time already, thanks to my parents' negligence. I hope that the new letters will be as rewarding as today's.
    PHILOSOPHER Never fear, monsieur, I shall reveal all the secrets of the alphabet to you. In depth.
    M. JORDAN Good. Now, I need your help in a confidential matter. I am in love with a lady of noble birth. And I would like you to help me write her a little note expressing my feelings for her.
    PHILOSOPHER Certainly, monsieur. With pleasure!
    M. JORDAN That would be the gallant thing to do, eh?
    PHILOSOPHER It would indeed. Did you want to write her some poetry?
    M. JORDAN No. Definitely not poetry.
    PHILOSOPHER Right. So, a piece of prose, then.
    M. JORDAN Ugh, no! can't stand prose either!
    PHILOSOPHER I'm afraid it will have to be one or the other.
    M. JORDAN Why?
    PHILOSOPHER Because, monsieur, there are regrettably only two forms in which you may express yourself: poetry and prose.
    M. JORDAN What? Nothing else?
    PHILOSOPHER No, monsieur. All that is not poetry is prose and all that is not prose, sadly, is poetry.
    M. JORDAN What about the stuff we talk all day? What do you call that?
    M. JORDAN What? You mean to tell me that when I say 'Nicole, bring me my slippers and nightcap', that's prose?
    PHILOSOPHER Yes, monsieur.
    M. JORDAN Stap me! Here I am speaking prose for over forty years without ever realising it! I am very grateful to you for teaching me that! Anyway, what I want to write in the note is this: 'Beautiful Countess, your lovely eyes make me die for love'. But I want it expressed in a more gallant style. You know, a bit smoother.
    PHILOSOPHER So, you'd want to say something along the lines that her eyes reduce your heart to cinders, and that you are suffering day and night from a surfeit of ardent and violent…..
    M. JORDAN No, no, no! I don't want any of that flowery stuff. I just want what I told you - 'Beautiful Countess, your lovely eyes make me die for love'.
    PHILOSOPHER Surely you want to stretch it a bit further…
    M. JORDAN Absolutely not! I want to use only the words that I gave you. Only arranged more fashionably. Could you give me some examples, please, of different ways in which they might be ordered?
    PHILOSOPHER Well, in the first place, of course, you could use exactly the order that you started with: 'Beautiful Countess, your lovely eyes make me die for love'. Then you could do: 'For love, beautiful Countess, your lovely eyes make me die'. Or: 'Your lovely eyes for love make me, beautiful Countess, die'. Or then again: 'Make me die your eyes, beautiful Countess, for love'.
    M. JORDAN Right. So which of those is the best?
    PHILOSOPHER The one that you said. 'Beautiful Countess, your lovely eyes make me die for love'.
    M. JORDAN It's astounding! Even though I've never studied, I just hit on exactly the right words first time! Thank you so much for the lesson, and please come again tomorrow at the same time.
      (Exit the PHILOSOPHER. M. JORDAN summons his PAGE)
      Hasn't my new suit come yet?
    2nd PAGE No sir.

    Scene 4

    M. JORDAN That poxy clod of a tailor deserves a kick up the arse for keeping me waiting on such an important day! How dare he! I've a good mind to box his cloth ears for him when he gets here! God, I'm seething! This is too much! When I get hold of the snivelling molly, I'll see his testicles are placed in his ironing press! Who the hell does he think he is treating me this way? The little bastard's going to get……..
      (Enter the TAILOR, escorted by the 1st PAGE, and carrying M. Jordan's new suit.)
      Ah, there you are! Good to see you! I was close to getting a little impatient.
    TAILOR I was unable to get here any earlier. I have had twenty apprentices working non-stop on your suit.
    M. JORDAN These silk stockings you sent me are so tight it took me hours to struggle into them this morning, and there are already two ladders in them.
    TAILOR They'll stretch soon enough.
    M. JORDAN Yes, when there are enough ladders in them. You've also had a pair of shoes made for me that pinch like mad. They're agony!
    TAILOR No, they're not.
    M. JORDAN What do you mean, they're not?
    TAILOR They don't pinch you at all.
    M. JORDAN Dammit! I'm telling you that those shoes pinch my feet!
    TAILOR You're just imagining it.
    M. JORDAN I'm imagining it because I'm feeling it. How's that for logic?
    TAILOR Here. This will put all the suits at court in the shade. By a stroke of sheer genius, I have succeeded in making a serious and sober outfit that isn't black. I've had it made up in sections by six of my best apprentices.
    M. JORDAN What's this? You've made it with the pattern upside down?
    TAILOR You never said you wanted it the right way up.
    M. JORDAN Is it necessary to specify that?
    TAILOR Of course. People of noble birth are wearing their patterns this way up this season.
    M. JORDAN People of noble birth wear their fabric upside down?
    TAILOR Yes, sir.
    M. JORDAN Ah, well, that'll do nicely then!
    TAILOR If you prefer, I can put it the right way up…
    M. JORDAN No, no.
    TAILOR You have only to say.
    M. JORDAN No, I tell you, it's fine as it is, thank you. Do you think it suits me?
    TAILOR What a question! An artist could not paint you a more…fitting picture, no matter how skilled his brush. Though I say so myself, my apprentices are little short of geniuses and amongst the greatest heroes of our age!
    M. JORDAN Are the wig and feathers alright?
    TAILOR Everything is perfect
    M. JORDAN (Examining the tailor's suit) Ah ha, my fine tailor, I recognise this material. Isn't this some of the stuff from which you made my last suit?
    TAILOR The fabric's beauty enchanted me so much that I simply had to have a suit in it myself.
    M. JORDAN All very well, so long as this isn't made out of material I paid for.
    TAILOR Shall we try on your new suit now?
    M. JORDAN Yes, give it here.
    TAILOR Wait! It must be put on with due ceremony! I have brought along some of my assistants to dress you in a manner fitting to such a suit. Ho there, come in here (Enter the four APPRENTICES) Dress Monsieur in this suit, and mind you do it in the manner you normally reserve for people of noble birth.
      (Music. The four Apprentices perform a ridiculous and demeaning dance around the unsuspecting M. Jordan, who willingly participates. First two of them remove his breeches, then two his tunic, before all four of them fit his new suit. M. Jordan struts amongst them, showing off his new outfit.)
    1ST APPRENTICE Will your honour give the apprentices a little something for their trouble, please?
    M. JORDAN What did you call me?
    1ST APPRENTICE Your honour.
    M. JORDAN Your honour! So, that's what comes of dressing like a person of noble birth? If I had remained all my life dressed as nothing more than a bourgeois, no-one would ever have thought to address me as 'Your honour'! (He tips the Apprentice) There, that's for 'your honour'.
    1ST APPRENTICE Thank you very much, my lord.
    M. JORDAN 'My lord'! Oh, oh! 'My lord'! Now there's a name to conjure with! That must be worth a bit extra. (Tipping him) Take this from your lord.
    1ST APPRENTICE My lord, we shall drink to your grace's health.
    M. JORDAN 'Your grace'! Oh, oh, oh! 'Your grace'! Wait, don't go away. Oh, my! 'Your grace' (Aside) If he gets up to Highness, he'll clean me out! (to the Apprentice) Here, take more from your grace.
    1st APPRENTICE My lord, we thank you most humbly for your generosity.
    M. JORDAN Well, just as well he stopped there. My purse is almost empty.
      (Music. The four Apprentices perform a joyful little dance)

    Click to e-mail Sue Rippon