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The Seventh Seal

The night had brought little relief from the heat, and at dawn a hot gust of wind blows across the colorless sea. The KNIGHT, Antonius Block, lies prostrate on some spruce branches spread over the fine sand. His eyes are wide-open and bloodshot from lack of sleep.

Nearby his squire JONS is snoring loudly. He has fallen asleep where he collapsed, at the edge of the forest among the wind-gnarled fir trees. His open mouth gapes towards the dawn, and unearthly sounds come from his throat. At the sudden gust of wind, the horses stir, stretching their parched muzzles towards the sea. They are as thin and worn as their masters.

The KNIGHT has risen and waded into the shallow water, where he rinses his sunburned face and blistered lips. JONS rolls over to face the forest and the darkness. He moans in his sleep and vigorously scratches the stubbled hair on his head. A scar stretches diagonally across his scalp, as white as lightning against the grime.

The KNIGHT returns to the beach and falls on his knees. With his eyes closed and brow furrowed, he says his morning prayers. His hands are clenched together and his lips form the words silently. His face is sad and bitter. He opens his eyes and stares directly into the morning sun which wallows up from the misty sea like some bloated, dying fish. The sky is gray and immobile, a dome of lead. A cloud hangs mute and dark over the western horizon. High up, barely visible, a seagull floats on motionless wings. Its cry is weird and restless. The KNIGHT'S large gray horse lifts its head and whinnies. Antonius Block turns around.

Behind him stands a man in black. His face is very pale and he keeps his hands hidden in the wide folds of his cloak.

		Who are you? 

		I am Death.

		Have you come for me?

		I have been walking by your side for a long 

		That I know. 

		Are you prepared?

		My body is frightened, but I am not. 

		Well, there is no shame in that.

The KNIGHT has risen to his feet. He shivers. DEATH opens his cloak to place 
it around the KNIGHT'S shoulders. 

		Wait a moment.

		That's what they all say. I grant no reprieves. 

		You play chess, don't you?

A gleam of interest kindles in DEATH'S eyes. 

		How did you know that?

		I have seen it in paintings and heard it sung 
		in ballads.

		Yes, in fact I'm quite a good chess player. 

		But you can't be better than I am.

The KNIGHT rummages in the big black bag which he keeps beside him and takes 
out a small chessboard. He places it carefully on the ground and begins 
setting up the pieces.

		Why do you want to play chess with me? 

		I have my reasons. 

		That is your privilege.

		The condition is that I may live as long as I 
		hold out against you. If I win, you will 
		release me. Is it agreed? 

The KNIGHT holds out his two fists to DEATH, who smiles at him suddenly. 
DEATH points to one of the KNIGHT'S hands; it contains a black pawn. 

		You drew black!

		Very appropriate. Don't you think so?

The KNIGHT and DEATH bend over the chessboard. After a moment of hesitation, 
Antonius Block opens with his king's pawn. DEATH moves, also using his king's 

The morning breeze has died down. The restless movement of the sea has 
ceased, the water is silent. The sun rises from the haze and its glow 
whitens. The sea gull floats under the dark cloud, frozen in space. The day 
is already scorchingly hot.

The squire JONS is awakened by a kick in the rear. Opening his eyes, he 
grunts like a pig and yawns broadly. He scrambles to his feet, saddles his 
horse and picks up the heavy pack.

The KNIGHT slowly rides away from the sea, into the forest near the beach and 
up towards the road. He pretends not to hear the morning prayers of his 
squire. JONS soon overtakes him.

	 	Between a strumpet's legs to lie 
		Is the life for which I sigh.

He stops and looks at his master, but the KNIGHT hasn't heard JON'S song, or 
he pretends that he hasn't. To give further vent to his irritation, JONS 
sings even louder. 

		Up above is God Almighty 
		So very far away, 
		But your brother the Devil 
		You will meet on every level.

JONS finally gets the KNIGHT'S attention. He stops singing. The KNIGHT, his 
horse, JONS'S own horse and JONS himself know all the songs by heart. The 
long, dusty journey from the Holy Land hasn't made them any cleaner. They 
ride across a mossy heath which stretches towards the horizon. Beyond it, the 
sea lies shimmering in the white glitter of the sun.

		In F‰rjestad everyone was talking about evil 
		omens and other horrible things. Two horses had 
		eaten each other in the night, and, in the 
		churchyard, graves had been opened and the 
		remains of corpses scattered all over the 
		place. Yesterday afternoon there were as many 
		as four suns in the heavens.
The KNIGHT doesn't answer. Close by, a scrawny dog is whining, crawling 
towards its master, who is sleeping in a sitting position in the blazing hot 
sun. A black cloud of flies clusters around his head and shoulders. The 
miserable-looking dog whines incessantly as it lies flat on its stomach, 
wagging its tail.

JONS dismounts and approaches the sleeping man. JONS addresses him politely. 
When he doesn't receive an answer, he walks up to the man in order to shake 
him awake. He bends over the sleeping man's shoulder, but quickly pulls back 
his hand. The man falls backward on the heath, his face turned towards JONS. 
It is a corpse, staring at JONS with empty eye sockets and white teeth. 

JONS remounts and overtakes his master. He takes a drink from his waterskin 
and hands the bag to the knight. 

		Well, did he show you the way? 

		Not exactly.

		What did he say? 


		Was he a mute?

		No, sir, I wouldn't say that. As a matter of 
		fact, he was quite eloquent. 


		He was eloquent, all right. The trouble is that 
		what he had to say was most depressing.
		One moment you're bright and lively, 
		The next you're crawling with worms. 
		Fate is a terrible villain 
		And you, my friend, its poor victim. 

		Must you sing? 


The KNIGHT hands his squire a piece of bread, which keeps him quiet for a 
while. The sun burns down on them cruelly, and beads of perspiration trickle 
down their faces. There is a cloud of dust around the horses' hooves. They 
ride past an inlet and along verdant groves. In the shade of some large trees 
stands a bulging wagon covered with a mottled canvas. A horse whinnies nearby 
and is answered by the KNIGHT'S horse. The two travelers do not stop to rest 
under the shade of the trees but continue riding until they disappear at the 
bend of the road.

In his sleep, JOF the juggler hears the neighing of his horse and the answer 
from a distance. He tries to go on sleeping, but it is stifling inside the 
wagon. The rays of the sun filtering through the canvas cast streaks of light 
across the face of JOF'S wife, MIA, and their one-year-old son, MIKAEL, who 
are sleeping deeply and peacefully. Near them, JONAS SKAT, an older man, 
snores loudly. 

JOF crawls out of the wagon. There is still a spot of shade under the big 
trees. He takes a drink of water, gargles, stretches and talks to his scrawny 
old horse. 

		Good morning. Have you had breakfast? I can't 
		eat grass, worse luck. Can't you teach me how? 
		We're a little hard up. People aren't very 
		interested in juggling in this part of the 

He has picked up the juggling balls and slowly begins to toss them. Then he 
stands on his head and cackles like a hen. Suddenly he stops and sits down 
with a look of utter astonishment on his face. The wind causes the trees to 
sway slightly. The leaves stir and there is a soft murmur. The flowers and 
the grass bend gracefully, and somewhere a bird raises its voice in a long 

JOF'S face breaks into a smile and his eyes fill with tears. With a dazed 
expression he sits flat on his behind while the grass rustles softly, and 
bees and butterflies hum around his head. The unseen bird continues to sing.

Suddenly the breeze stops blowing, the bird stops singing, JOF'S smile fades, 
the flowers and grass wilt in the heat. The old horse is still walking around 
grazing and swishing its tail to ward off the flies. 

JOF comes to life. He rushes into the wagon and shakes MIA awake.

		Mia, wake up. Wake up! Mia, I've just seen 
		something. I've got to tell you about it!

			(sits up, terrified)
		What is it? What's happened? 

		Listen, I've had a vision. No, it wasn't a 
		vision. It was real, absolutely real.

		Oh, so you've had a vision again!

MIA's voice is filled with gentle irony. JOF shakes his head and grabs her by 
the shoulders. 

		But I did see her! 

		Whom did you see? 

		The Virgin Mary.

MIA can't help being impressed by her husband's fervor. She lowers her voice.

		Did you really see her?

		She was so close to me that I could have 
		touched her. She had a golden crown on her head 
		and wore a blue gown with flowers of gold. She 
		was barefoot and had small brown hands with 
		which she was holding the Child and teaching 
		Him to walk. And then she saw me watching her 
		and she smiled at me. My eyes filled with tears 
		and when I wiped them away, she had disappeared. 
		And everything became so still in the sky and 
		on the earth. Can you understand ... 

		What an imagination you have.

		You don't believe me! But it was real, I tell 
		you, not the kind of reality you see every day, 
		but a different kind. 

		Perhaps it was the kind of reality you told us 
		about when you saw the Devil painting our wagon 
		wheels red, using his tail as a brush.

		Why must you keep bringing that up? 

		And then you discovered that you had red paint 
		under your nails.

		Well, perhaps that time I made it up. 
		I did it just so that you would believe in my 
		other visions. The real ones. The ones that I 
		didn't make up. 

		You have to keep your visions under control.
		Otherwise people will think that you're a 
		half-wit, which you're not. At least not yet -- 
		as far as I know. But, come to think of it, I'm 
		not so sure about that.

		I didn't ask to have visions. I can't help it 
		if voices speak to me, if the Holy Virgin 
		appears before me and angels and devils like my 

			(sits up)
		Haven't I told you once and for all that I need 
		my morning's sleep! I have asked you politely, 
		pleaded with you, but nothing works. So now I'm 
		telling you to shut up!

His eyes are popping with rage. He turns over and continues snoring where he 
left off. MIA and JOF decide that it would be wisest to leave the wagon. They 
sit down on a crate. MIA has MIKAEL on her knees. He is naked and squirms 
vigorously. JOF sits close to his wife. Slumped over, he still looks dazed 
and astonished. A dry, hot wind blows from the sea.

		If we would only get some rain. Everything is 
		burned to cinders. We won't have anything to 
		eat this winter. 

		We'll get by.

He says this smilingly, with a casual air. He stretches and laughs 

		I want Mikael to have a better life than ours. 

		Mikael will grow up to be a great acrobat -- or 
		a juggler who can do the one impossible trick. 

		What's that?

		To make one of the balls stand absolutely still
		in the air. 

		But that's impossible.

		Impossible for us -- but not for him. 

		You're dreaming again.

She yawns. The sun, has made her a bit drowsy and she lies down on the grass.
JOF does likewise and puts one arm around his wife's shoulders.

		I've composed a song. I made it up during the 
		night when I couldn't sleep. Do you want to 
		hear it? 

		Sing it. I'm very curious.
		I have to sit up first.

He sits with his legs crossed, makes a dramatic gesture with his arms and 
sings in a loud voice. 

		On a lily branch a dove is perched 
		Against the summer sky, 
		She sings a wondrous song of Christ 
		And there's great joy on high.

He interrupts his singing in order to be complimented by his wife.

		Mia! Are you asleep? 

		It's a lovely song. 

		I haven't finished yet.
		I heard it, but I think I'll sleep a little 
		longer. You can sing the rest to me afterwards. 

		All you do is sleep.

JOF is a bit offended and glances over at his son, MIKAEL, but he is also 
sleeping soundly in the high grass. JONAS SKAT comes out from the wagon. He 
yawns; he is very tired and in a bad humor. In his hands he holds a crudely 
made death mask.

		Is this supposed to be a mask for an actor? If 
		the priests didn't pay us so well, I'd say no 
		thank you. 

		Are you going to play Death?
		Just think, scaring decent folk out of their 
		wits with this kind of nonsense.

		When are we supposed to do this play?

		At the saints' feast in Elsinore. We're going 
		to perform right on the church steps, believe 
		it or not.
		Wouldn't it be better to play something bawdy? 
		People like it better, and, besides, it's more 

		Idiot. There's a rumor going around that 
		there's a terrible pestilence in the land, and 
		now the priests are prophesying sudden death 
		and all sorts of spiritual agonies. 

MIA is awake now and lies contentedly on her back, sucking on a blade of 
grass and looking smilingly at her husband.
		And what part am I to play?

		You're such a damn fool, so you're going to be 
		the Soul of Man.

		That's a bad part, of course.

		Who makes the decisions around here? Who is the
		director of this company anyhow?

SKAT, grinning, holds the mask in front of his face and recites dramatically.

		Bear this in mind, you fool. Your life hangs by 
		a thread. Your time is short. 
			(in his usual voice) 
		Are the women going to like me in this getup? 
		Will I make a hit? No! I feel as if I were dead 

He stumbles into the wagon muttering furiously. JOF sits, leaning forward. 
MIA lies beside him on the grass. 

		What is it?
		Sit still. Don't move. 

		What do you mean? 

		Don't say anything. 

		I'm as silent as a grave. 

		Shh! I love you.

Waves of heat envelop the gray stone church in a strange white mist. The 
KNIGHT dismounts and enters. After tying up the horses, JONS slowly follows 
him in. When he comes onto the church porch he stops in surprise. To the 
right of the entrance there is a large fresco on the wall, not quite 
finished. Perched on a crude scaffolding is a PAINTER wearing a red cap and 
paint-stained clothes. He has one brush in his mouth, while with another in 
his hand he outlines a small, terrified human face amidst a sea of other 

		What is this supposed to represent? 

		The Dance of Death. 

		And that one is Death?
		Yes, he dances off with all of them.
		Why do you paint such nonsense?

		I thought it would serve to remind people that 
		they must die.
		Well, it's not going to make them feel any 

		Why should one always make people happy? It 
		might not be a bad idea to scare them a little 
		once in a while.

		Then they'll close their eyes and refuse to 
		look at your painting.
		Oh, they'll look. A skull is almost more 
		interesting than a naked woman.
		If you do scare them ... 

		They'll think. 

		And if they think ...
		They'll become still more scared.
		And then they'll run right into the arms of the 

		That's not my business.
		You're only painting your Dance of Death. 

		I'm only painting things as they are. Everyone 
		else can do as he likes.

		Just think how some people will curse you. 

		Maybe. But then I'll paint something amusing 
		for them to look at. I have to make a living 
		-- at least until the plague takes me.
		The plague. That sounds horrible.

		You should see the boils on a diseased man's 
		throat. You should see how his body shrivels up 
		so that his legs look like knotted strings -- 
		like the man I've painted over there.

The PAINTER points with his brush. JONS sees a small human form writhing in 
the grass, its eyes turned upwards in a frenzied look of horror and pain. 

		That looks terrible.

		It certainly does. He tries to rip out the 
		boil, he bites his hands, tears his veins open 
		with his fingernails and his screams can be 
		heard everywhere. Does that scare you?
		Scare? Me? You don't know me. What are the 
		horrors you've painted over there?

		The remarkable thing is that the poor creatures
		think the pestilence is the Lord's punishment. 
		Mobs of people who call themselves Slaves of 
		Sin are swarming over the country, flagellating 
		themselves and others, all for the glory of God.

		Do they really whip themselves?

		Yes, it's a terrible sight. I crawl into a 
		ditch and hide when they pass by.

		Do you have any brandy? I've been drinking 
		water all day and it's made me as thirsty as a 
		camel in the desert. 

		I think I frightened you after all.

JONS sits down with the PAINTER, who produces a jug of brandy.

The KNIGHT is kneeling before a small altar. It is dark and quiet around him.
The air is cool and musty. Pictures of saints look down on him with stony 
eyes. Christ's face is turned upwards, His mouth open as if in a cry of 
anguish. On the ceiling beam there is a representation of a hideous devil 
spying on a miserable human being. The KNIGHT hears a sound from the 
confession booth and approaches it. The face of DEATH appears behind the 
grille for an instant, but the KNIGHT doesn't see him. 

		I want to talk to you as openly as I can, but 
		my heart is empty.

DEATH doesn't answer.
		The emptiness is a mirror turned towards my 
		own face. I see myself in it, and I am filled 
		with fear and disgust. 

DEATH doesn't answer.
		Through my indifference to my fellow men, I 
		have isolated myself from their company. Now I 
		live in a world of phantoms. I am imprisoned in 
		my dreams and fantasies. 

		And yet you don't want to die. 

		Yes, I do.
		What are you waiting for? 

		I want knowledge. 

		You want guarantees?

		Call it whatever you like. Is it so cruelly 
		inconceivable to grasp God with the senses? Why 
		should He hide himself in a mist of half-spoken 
		promises and unseen miracles? 

DEATH doesn't answer.
		How can we have faith in those who believe when 
		we can't have faith in ourselves? What is going 
		to happen to those of us who want to believe 
		but aren't able to? And what is to become of 
		those who neither want to nor are capable of 

The KNIGHT stops and waits for a reply, but no one speaks or answers him. 
There is complete silence. 

		Why can't I kill God within me? Why does He 
		live on in this painful and humiliating way 
		even though I curse Him and want to tear Him 
		out of my heart? Why, in spite of everything, 
		is He a baffling reality that I can't shake 
		off? Do you hear me? 

		Yes, I hear you.

		I want knowledge, not faith, not suppositions, 
		but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His 
		hand towards me, reveal Himself and speak to 

		But He remains silent.
		I call out to Him in the dark but no one seems 
		to be there.
		Perhaps no one is there.
		Then life is an outrageous horror. No one can 
		live in the face of death, knowing that all is 

		Most people never reflect about either death or 
		the futility of life.

		But one day they will have to stand at that 
		last moment of life and look towards the 

		When that day comes ...
		In our fear, we make an image, and that image 
		we call God.
		You are worrying ...

		Death visited me this morning. We are playing 
		chess together. This reprieve gives me the 
		chance to arrange an urgent matter.

		What matter is that?
		My life has been a futile pursuit, a wandering, 
		a great deal of talk without meaning. I feel no 
		bitterness or self-reproach because the lives 
		of most people are very much like this. But I 
		will use my reprieve for one meaningful deed. 

		Is that why you are playing chess with Death? 

		He is a clever opponent, but up to now I 
		haven't lost a single man.

		How will you outwit Death in your game? 

		I use a combination of the bishop and the 
		knight which he hasn't yet discovered. In the 
		next move I'll shatter one of his flanks.

		I'll remember that.

DEATH shows his face at the grill of the confession booth for a moment but 
disappears instantly.

		You've tricked and cheated me! But we'll meet 
		again, and I'll find a way.

		We'll meet at the inn, and there we'll continue 

The KNIGHT raises his hand and looks at it in the sunlight which comes 
through the tiny window. 

		This is my hand. I can move it, feel the blood 
		pulsing through it. The sun is still high in 
		the sky and I, Antonius Block, am playing 
		chess with Death. 

He makes a fist of his hand and lifts it to his temple.

Meanwhile, JONS and the PAINTER have got drunk and are talking animatedly 

		Me and my master have been abroad and have just 
		come home. Do you understand, you little 

		The Crusade.

		Precisely. For ten years we sat in the Holy 
		Land and let snakes bite us, flies sting us, 
		wild animals eat us, heathens butcher us, the 
		wine poison us, the women give us lice, the 
		lice devour us, the fevers rot us, all for the 
		Glory of God. Our crusade was such madness that 
		only a real idealist could have thought it up. 
		But what you said about the plague was 

		It's worse than that.

		Ah, me. No matter which way you turn, you have 
		your rump behind you. That's the truth.

		The rump behind you, the rump behind you 
		there's a profound truth.

JONS paints a small figure which is supposed to represent himself.

		This is squire Jˆns. He grins at Death, mocks 
		the Lord, laughs at himself and leers at the 
		girls. His world is a Jˆnsworld, believable 
		only to himself, ridiculous to all including 
		himself, meaningless to Heaven and of no 
		interest to Hell. 

The KNIGHT walks by, calls to his squire and goes out into the bright 
sunshine. JONS manages to set himself down from the scaffolding.

Outside the church, four soldiers and a monk are in the process of putting a 
woman in the stocks. Her face is pale and child-like, her head has been 
shaved, and her knuckles are bloody and broken. Her eyes are wide open, yet 
she doesn't appear to be fully conscious. 

JONS and the KNIGHT stop and watch in silence. The soldiers are working 
quickly and skillfully, but they seem frightened and dejected. The monk 
mumbles from a small book. One of the soldiers picks up a wooden bucket and 
with his hand begins to smear a bloody paste on the wall of the church and 
around the woman. JONS holds his nose.

		That soup of yours has a hell of a stink. What 
		is it good for?

		She has had carnal intercourse with the Evil 

He whispers this with a horrified face and continues to splash the sticky 
mess on the wall. 

		And now she's in the stocks.

		She will be burned tomorrow morning at the 
		parish boundary. But we have to keep the Devil 
		away from the rest of us.

			(holding his nose)
		And you do that with this stinking mess?

		It's the best remedy: blood mixed with the bile 
		of a big black dog. The Devil can't stand the 

		Neither can I.
JONS walks over towards the horses. The KNIGHT stands for a few, moments 
looking at the young girl. She is almost a child. Slowly she turns her eyes 
towards him. 

		Have you seen the Devil?

The MONK stops reading and raises his head. 

		You must not talk to her. 

		Can that be so dangerous?

		I don't know, but she is believed to have 
		caused the pestilence with which we are 

		I understand.

He nods resignedly and walks away. The young woman starts to moan as though 
she were having a horrible nightmare. The sound of her cries follows the two 
riders for a considerable distance down the road.

The sun stands high in the sky, like a red ball of fire. The waterskin is 
empty and JONS looks for a well where he can fill it.

They approach a group of peasant cottages at the edge of the forest. JONS 
ties up the horses, slings the skin over his shoulder and walks along the 
path towards the nearest cottage. As always, his movements are light and 
almost soundless. The door to the cottage is open. He stops outside, but when 
no one appears he enters. It is very dark inside and his foot touches a soft 
object. He looks down. Beside the whitewashed fireplace, a woman is lying 
with her face to the ground.

At the sound of approaching steps, JONS quickly hides behind the door. A man 
comes down a ladder from the loft. He is broad and thick-set. His eyes are 
black and his face is pale and puffy. His clothes are well cut but dirty and 
in rags. He carries a cloth sack. Looking around, he goes into the inner 
room, bends over the bed, tucks something into the bag, slinks along the 
walls, looking on the shelves, finds something else which he tucks in his 

Slowly he re-enters the outer room, bends over the dead woman and carefully 
slips a ring from her finger. At that moment a young woman comes through the 
door. She stops and stares at the stranger.

		Why do you look so surprised? I steal from the 
		dead. These days it's quite a lucrative 

The GIRL makes a movement as if to run away. 

		You're thinking of running to the village and 
		telling. That wouldn't serve any purpose. Each 
		of us has to save his own skin. It's as simple 
		as that. 

		Don't touch me.

		Don't try to scream. There's no one around to 
		hear you, neither God nor man.

Slowly he closes the door behind the GIRL. The stuffy room is now in almost 
total darkness. But JONS becomes clearly visible.

		I recognize you, although it's a long time 
		since we met. Your name is Raval, from the 
		theological college at Roskilde. You are Dr. 
		Mirabilis, Coelestis et Diabilis. 

RAVAL smiles uneasily and looks around. 

		Am I not right?

The GIRL stands immobile.

		You were the one who, ten years ago, convinced 
		my master of the necessity to join a better-
		class crusade to the Holy Land.

RAVAL looks around.
		You look uncomfortable. Do you have a stomach-

RAVAL smiles anxiously.

		When I see you, I suddenly understand the 
		meaning of these ten years, which previously 
		seemed to me such a waste. Our life was too 
		good and we were too satisfied with ourselves. 
		The Lord wanted to punish us for our 
		complacency. That is why He sent you to spew 
		out your holy venom and poison the knight.

		I acted in good faith.

		But now you know better, don't you? Because 
		now you have turned into a thief. A more 
		fitting and rewarding occupation for 
		scoundrels. Isn't that so?

With a quick movement he knocks the knife out of RAVAL'S hand, gives him a 
kick so that he falls on the floor and is about to finish him off. Suddenly 
the GIRL screams. JONS stops and makes a gesture of generosity with his hand.
		By all means. I'm not bloodthirsty. 

He bends over RAVAL. 

		Don't beat me.

		I don't have the heart to touch you, Doctor. 
		But remember this: the next time we meet, I'll 
		brand your face the way one does with thieves. 
			(he rises)
		What I really came for is to get my waterskin 

		We have a deep well with cool, fresh water. 
		Come, I'll show you.

They walk out of the house. RAVAL lies still for a few moments, then he rises 
slowly and looks around. When no one is in sight, he takes his bag and steals 
away. JONS quenches his thirst and fills his bag with water. The GIRL helps 

		Jˆns is my name. I am a pleasant and talkative 
		young man who has never had anything but kind 
		thoughts and has only done beautiful and noble 
		deeds. I'm kindest of all to young women. With 
		them, there is no limit to my kindness. 

He embraces her and tries to kiss her, but she holds herself back. Almost 
immediately he loses interest, hoists the waterbag on his shoulder and pats 
the GIRL on the cheek.

		Goodbye, my girl. I could very well have raped 
		you, but between you and me, I'm tired of that 
		kind of love. It runs a little dry in the end.

He laughs kindly and walks away from her. When he has walked a short distance 
he turns; the GIRL is still there.

		Now that I think of it, I will need a 
		housekeeper. Can you prepare good food? 
			(the GIRL nods)
		As far as I know, I'm still a married man, but
		I have high hopes that my wife is dead by now.
		That's why I need a housekeeper. 
			(the GIRL doesn't 
			answer but gets up)
		The devil with it! Come along and don't stand 
		there staring. I've saved your life, so you owe 
		me a great deal.

She begins walking towards him, her head bent. He doesn't wait for her but 
walks towards the KNIGHT, who patiently awaits his squire.

The Embarrassment Inn lies in the eastern section of the province. The plague 
has not yet reached this area on its way along the coast.

The actors have placed their wagon under a tree in the yard of the inn. 
Dressed in colorful costumes, they perform a farce.

The spectators watch the performance, commenting on it noisily. There are
merchants with fat, beer-sweaty faces, apprentices and journeymen, farmhands 
and milkmaids. A whole flock of children perch in the trees around the wagon.
The KNIGHT and his squire have sat down in the shadow of a wall. They drink 
beer and doze in the midday heat. The GIRL from the deserted village sleeps 
at JONS'S side. SKAT beats the drums, JOF blows the flute, MIA performs a gay 
and lively dance. They perspire under the hot white sun. When they have 
finished SKAT comes forward and bows.

		Noble ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for 
		your interest. Please remain standing for a
		little longer, or sit on the ground, because 
		we are now going to perform a tragedia about 
		an unfaithful wife, her jealous husband, and 
		the handsome lover -- that's me.

MIA and JOF have quickly changed costumes and again step out on the stage. 
They bow, to the public. 

		Here is the husband. Here is the wife. If 
		you'll shut up over there, you'll see something 
		splendid. As I said, I play the lover and I 
		haven't entered yet. That's why I'm going to 
		hide behind the curtain for the time being. 
			(he wipes the sweat 
			from his forehead)
		It's damned hot. I think we'll have a 

He places his leg in front of JOF as if to trip him, raises MIA's skirt, 
makes a face as if he could see all the wonders of the world underneath it, 
and disappears behind the gaudily patched curtains.

SKAT is very handsome, now that he can see himself in the reflection of a tin 
washbowl. His hair is tightly curled, his eyebrows are beautifully bushy, 
glittering earrings vie for equal attention with his teeth, and his cheeks 
are flushed rose red.
He sits out in back on the tailboard of the wagon, dangling his legs and 
whistling to himself.
In the meantime JOF and MIA play their tragedy; it is not, however, received 
with great acclaim. SKAT suddenly discovers that someone is watching him as 
he gazes contentedly into the tin bowl. A woman stands there, stately in both 
height and volume.
SKAT frowns, toys with his small dagger and occasionally throws a roguish but 
fiery glance at the beautiful visitor. She suddenly discovers that one of her 
shoes doesn't quite fit. She leans down to fix it and in doing so allows her 
generous bosom to burst out of its prison -- no more than honor and chastity 
allow, but still enough so that the actor with his experienced eye 
immediately sees that there are ample rewards to be had here.

Now she comes a little closer, kneels down and opens a bundle containing 
several dainty morsels and a skin filled with red wine. JONAS SKAT manages 
not to fall off the wagon in his excitement. Standing on the steps of the 
wagon, he supports himself against a nearby tree, crosses his legs and bows.
The woman quietly bites into a chicken leg dripping with fat. At this moment 
the actor is stricken by a radiant glance full of lustful appetites.

When he sees this look, SKAT makes an instantaneous decision, jumps down from 
the wagon and kneels in front of the blushing damsel.

She becomes weak and faint from his nearness, looks at him with a glassy 
glance and breathes heavily. SKAT doesn't neglect to press kisses on her 
small, chubby hands. The sun shines brightly and small birds make noises in 
the bushes.

Now she is forced to sit back; her legs seem unwilling to support her any 
longer. Bewildered, she singles out another chicken leg from the large sack 
of food and holds it up in front of SKAT with an appealing and triumphant 
expression, as if it were her maidenhood being offered as a prize.

SKAT hesitates momentarily, but he is still the strategist. He lets the 
chicken leg fall to the grass, and murmurs in the woman's rosy ear.

His words seem to please her. She puts her arms around the actor's neck and 
pulls him to her with such fierceness that both of them lose their balance 
and tumble down on the soft grass. The small birds take to their wings with 
frightened shrieks.

JOF stands in the hot sun with a flickering lantern in his hand. MIA pretends 
to be asleep on a bench which has been pulled forward on the stage. 

		Night and moonlight now prevail 
		Here sleeps my wife so frail ... 

		Does she snore?

		May I point out that this is a tragedy, and in 
		tragedies one doesn't snore.

		I think she should snore anyhow. 

This opinion causes mirth in the audience. JOF becomes slightly confused and 
goes out of character, but MIA keeps her head and begins snoring. 

		Night and moonlight now prevail.
		There snores -- I mean sleeps -- my wife so frail. 
		Jealous I am, as never before, 
		I hide myself behind this door. 
		Faithful is she 
		To her lover -- not me. 
		He soon comes a-stealing 
		To awaken her lusty feeling. 
		I shall now kill him dead 
		For cuckolding me in my bed. 
		There he comes in the moonlight, 
		His white legs shining bright. 
		Quiet as a mouse, here I'll lie, 
		Tell him not that he's about to die.

JOF hides himself. MIA immediately ends her snoring and sits up, looking to 
the left. 

		Look, there he comes in the night 
		My lover, my heart's delight.

She becomes silent and looks wide-eyed in front of her. The mood in the yard 
in front of the inn has, up to now, been rather lighthearted despite the 
Now a rapid change occurs. People who had been laughing and chattering fall 
silent. Their faces seem to pale under their sunbrowned skins, the children 
stop their games and stand with gaping mouths and frightened eyes.
JOF steps out in front of the curtain. His painted face bears an expression 
of horror. MIA has risen with MIKAEL in her arms. Some of the women in the 
yard have fallen on their knees, others hide their faces, many begin to 
mutter half-forgotten prayers.

All have turned their faces towards the white road. Now a shrill song is 
heard. It is frenzied, almost a scream. A crucified Christ sways above the 

The cross-bearers soon come into sight. They are Dominican monks, their hoods 
pulled down over their faces. More and more of them follow, carrying litters 
with heavy coffins or clutching holy relics, their hands stretched out 
spasmodically. The dust wells up around their black hoods; the censers sway 
and emit a thick, ashen smoke which smells of rancid herbs.

After the line of monks comes another procession. It is a column of men, 
boys, old men, women, girls, children. All of them have steel-edged scourges 
in their hands with which they whip themselves and each other, howling 
ecstatically. They twist in pain; their eyes bulge wildly; their lips are 
gnawed to shreds and dripping with foam. They have been seized by madness. 
They bite their own hands and arms, whip each other in violent, almost 
rhythmic outbursts. Throughout it all the shrill song howls from their 
bursting throats. Many sway and fall, lift themselves up again, support each
other and help each other to intensify the scourging.

Now the procession pauses at the crossroads in front of the inn. The monks 
fall on their knees, hiding their faces with clenched hands, arms pressed 
tightly together. Their song never stops. The Christ figure on its timbered 
cross is raised above the heads of the crowd. It is not Christ triumphant, 
but the suffering Jesus with the sores, the blood, the hammered nails and the 
face in convulsive pain. The Son of God, nailed on the wood of the cross, 
suffering scorn and shame.
The penitents have now sunk down in the dirt of the road. They collapse where 
they stood like slaughtered cattle. Their screams rise with the song of the 
monks, through misty clouds of incense, towards the white fire of the sun.
A large square monk rises from his knees and reveals his face, which is red-
brown from the sun. His eyes glitter; his voice is thick with impotent scorn.

		God has sentenced us to punishment. We shall 
		all perish in the black death. You, standing 
		there like gaping cattle, you who sit there in 
		your glutted complacency, do you know that this 
		may be your last hour? Death stands right 
		behind you. I can see how his crown gleams in 
		the sun. His scythe flashes as he raises it 
		above your heads. Which one of you shall he 
		strike first? You there, who stand staring like 
		a goat, will your mouth be twisted into the 
		last unfinished gasp before nightfall? And you, 
		woman, who bloom with life and self-
		satisfaction, will you pale and become 
		extinguished before the morning dawns? You back
		there, with your swollen nose and stupid grin, 
		do you have another year left to dirty the 
		earth with your refuse? Do you know, you 
		insensible fools, that you shall die today or 
		tomorrow, or the next day, because all of you 
		have been sentenced? Do you hear what I say? Do 
		you hear the word? You have been sentenced, 

The MONK falls silent, looking around with a bitter face and a cold, scornful
glance. Now, he clenches his hands, straddles the ground and turns his face

		Lord have mercy on us in our humiliation! Don't 
		turn your face from us in loathing and 
		contempt, but be merciful to us for the sake of 
		your son, Jesus Christ. 

He makes the sign of the cross over the crowd and then begins a new song in a
strong voice. The monks rise and join in the song. As if driven by some 
superhuman force, the penitents begin to whip themselves again, still wailing 
and moaning.

The procession continues. New members have joined the rear of the column; 
others who were unable to go on lie weeping in the dust of the road. JONS the 
squire drinks his beer.

		This damned ranting about doom. Is that food 
		for the minds of modern people? Do they really 
		expect us to take them seriously?

The KNIGHT grins tiredly.

		Yes, now you grin at me, my lord. But allow me 
		to point out that I've either read, heard or 
		experienced most of the tales which we people 
		tell each other. 

		Yes, yes.
		Even the ghost stories about God the Father, 
		the angels, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost --
		all these I've accepted without too much 

He leans down over the GIRL as she crouches at his feet and pats her on the 
head. The KNIGHT drinks his beer silently.

		My little stomach is my world, my head is my 
		eternity, and my hands, two wonderful suns. My 
		legs are time's damned pendulums, and my dirty 
		feet are two splendid starting points for my 
		philosophy. Everything is worth precisely as 
		much as a belch, the only difference being that 
		a belch is more satisfying.

The beer mug is empty. Sighing, JONS gets to his feet. The GIRL follows him 
like a shadow.

In the yard he meets a large man with a sooty face and a dark expression. He 
stops JONS with a roar. 

		What are you screaming about?

		I am Plog, the smith, and you are the squire 

		That's possible.

		Have you seen my wife?
		No, I haven't. But if I had seen her and she 
		looked like you, I'd quickly forget that I'd 
		seen her. 

		Well, in that case you haven't seen her. 

		Maybe she's run off. 

		Do you know anything?
		I know quite a lot, but not about your wife. Go 
		to the inn. Maybe they can help you.

The smith sighs sadly and goes inside.

The inn is very small and full of people eating and drinking to forget their 
newly aroused fears of eternity. In the open fireplace a roasting pig turns
on an iron spit. The sun shines outside the casement window, its sharp rays
piercing the darkness of the room, which is thick with fumes and
		Yes, it's true! The plague is spreading along 
		the west coast. People are dying like flies. 
		Usually business would be good at this time of 
		year, but, damn it, I've still got my whole 
		stock unsold.

		They speak of the judgment day. And all these 
		omens are terrible. Worms, chopped-off hands 
		and other monstrosities began pouring out of 
		an old woman, and down in the village another 
		woman gave birth to a calf's head. 

				OLD MAN 
		The day of judgment. Imagine.

		It hasn't rained here for a month. We'll surely 
		lose our crops.

		And people are acting crazy, I'd say. They flee 
		the country and carry the plague with them 
		wherever they go. 

				OLD MAN 
		The day of judgment. Just think, just think! 

		If it's as they say, I suppose a person should 
		look after his house and try to enjoy life as 
		long as he can. 

		But there have been other things too, such 
		things that can't even be spoken of. 
		Things that mustn't be named -- but the priests 
		say that the woman carries it between her legs 
		and that's why she must cleanse herself. 

				OLD MAN 
		Judgment day. And the Riders of the Apocalypse 
		stand at the bend in the village road. I 
		imagine they'll come on judgment night, at 

		There are many who have purged themselves with
	 	fire and died from it, but the priests say that 
		it's better to die pure than to live for hell.
		This is the end, yes, it is. No one says it out
		loud, but all of us know that it's the end. And 
		people are going mad from fear.

		So you're afraid too. 

		Of course I'm afraid.

				OLD MAN 
		The judgment day becomes night, and the angels 
		descend and the graves open. It will be 
		terrible to see. 

They whisper in low tones and sit close to each other.

PLOG, the smith, shoves his way into a place next to JOF, who is still 
dressed in his costume. Opposite him sits RAVAL, leaning slightly forward, 
his face perspiring heavily. RAVAL rolls an armlet out on the table. 

		Do you want this armlet? You can have it 

		I can't afford it. 

		It's real silver.

		It's nice. But it's surely too expensive for 

		Excuse me, but has anyone here seen my wife? 

		Has she disappeared? 

		They say she's run away. 

		Has she deserted you? 

		With an actor.

		An actor! If she's got such bad taste, then I 
		think you should let her go.

		You're right. My first thought, of course, was 
		to kill her.

		Oh. But to murder her, that's a terrible thing 
		to do. 

		I'm also going to kill the actor. 

		The actor?

		Of course, the one she eloped with. 

		What has he done to deserve that? 

		Are you stupid?
		The actor! Now I understand. There are too many 
		of them, so even if he hasn't done anything in 
		particular you ought to kill him merely because 
		he's an actor. 

		You see, my wife has always been interested in 
		the tricks of the theatre.

		And that turned out to be her misfortune. 

		Her misfortune, but not mine, because a person 
		who's born unfortunate can hardly suffer from 
		any further misfortune. Isn't that true?

Now RAVAL enters the discussion. He is slightly drunk and his voice is shrill 
and evil.
		Listen, you! You sit there and lie to the 

		I! A liar!
		You're an actor too and it's probably your 
		partner who's run off with Plog's old lady. 

		Are you an actor too?

		An actor! Me! I wouldn't quite call myself that! 

		We ought to kill you; it's only logical. 

		You're really funny.

		How strange -- you've turned pale. Have you 
		anything on your conscience?

		You're funny. Don't you think he's funny? 
			(to Plog)
		Oh, you don't.

		Maybe we should mark you up a little with a 
		knife, like they do petty scoundrels of your 

PLOG bangs his hands down on the table so that the dishes jump. He gets up.
		What have you done with my wife? 

The room becomes silent. JOF looks around, but there is no exit, no way to 
escape. He puts his hands on the table. Suddenly a knife flashes through the 
air and sinks into the table top between his fingers.

JOF snatches away his hands and raises his head. He looks half surprised, as 
if the truth had just become apparent to him.
		Do you want to hurt me? Why? Have I provoked 
		someone, or got in the way? I'll leave right 
		now and never come back.

JOF looks from one face to another, but no one seems ready to help him or 
come to his defense.
		Get up so everyone can hear you. Talk louder. 

Trembling, JOF rises. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but not a 
word comes out.
		Stand on your head so that we can see how good 
		an actor you are.

JOF gets up on the table and stands on his head. A hand pushes him forward so
that he collapses on the floor. PLOG rises, pulls him to his feet with one 

		What have you done with my wife? 

PLOG beats him so furiously that JOF flies across the table. RAVAL leans over
		Don't lie there moaning. Get up and dance. 

		I don't want to. I can't.

		Show us how you imitate a bear. 

		I can't play a bear.

		Let's see if you can't after all.

RAVAL prods JOF lightly with the knife point. JOF gets up with cold sweat on 
his cheeks and forehead, frightened half to death. He begins to jump and hop 
on top of the tables, swinging his arms and legs and making grotesque faces.
Some laugh, but most of the people sit silently. JOF gasps as if his lungs 
were about to burst. He sinks to his knees, and someone pours beer over him. 

		Up again! Be a good bear.

		I haven't done any harm. I haven't got the 
		strength to play a bear any more.

At that moment the door opens and JONS enters. JOF sees his chance and steals
out. RAVAL intends to follow him, but suddenly stops. JONS and RAVAL look at 
each other. 

		Do you remember what I was going to do to you 
		if we met again?

RAVAL steps back without speaking. 

		I'm a man who keeps his word.

JONS raises his knife and cuts RAVAL from forehead to cheek. RAVAL staggers 
towards the wall.

The hot day has become night. Singing and howling can be heard from the inn. 
In a hollow near the forest, the light still lingers. Hidden in the grass and
the shrubbery, nightingales sing and their voices echo through the stillness.
The players' wagon stands in a small ravine, and not far away the horse 
grazes on the dry grass. MIA has sat down in front of the wagon with her son 
in her arms. They play together and laugh happily.

Now, a soft gleam of light strokes the hilltops, a last reflection from the 
red clouds over the sea.

Not far from the wagon, the KNIGHT sits crouched over his chess game. He 
lifts his head.

The evening light moves across the heavy wagon wheels, across the woman and 
the child. The KNIGHT gets up.

MIA sees him and smiles. She holds up her struggling son, as if to amuse the 

		What's his name? 


		How old is he? 

		Oh, he'll soon be two. 

		He's big for his age.

		Do you think so? Yes, I guess he's rather big. 

She puts the child down on the ground and half rises to shake out her red 
skirt. When she sits down again, the KNIGHT steps closer.

		You played some kind of show this afternoon. 

		Did you think it was bad?

		You are more beautiful now without your face 
		painted, and this gown is more becoming.

		You see, Jonas Skat has run off and left us, 
		so we're in real trouble now.

		Is that your husband?

		Jonas! The other man is my husband. His name is 
		Oh, that one.

		And now there's only him and me. We'll have to 
		start doing tricks again and that's more 
		trouble than it's worth. 

		Do you do tricks also?

		We certainly do. And Jof is a very skillful 

		Is Mikael going to be an acrobat? 

		Jof wants him to be. 

		But you don't.

		I don't know.
		Perhaps he'll become a knight. 

		Let me assure you, that's no pleasure either. 

		No, you don't look so happy. 


		Are you tired? 


		I have dull company. 

		Do you mean your squire? 

		No, not him.

		Who do you mean, then? 


		I understand. 

		Do you, really?
		Yes, I understand rather well. I have often 
		wondered why people torture themselves as often 
		as they can. Isn't that so?

She nods energetically and the KNIGHT smiles seriously. Now the shrieks and 
the noise from the inn become louder. Black figures flicker across the grass 
mound. Someone collapses, gets up and runs. It is JOF. MIA stretches out her 
arms and receives him. He holds his hands in front of his face, moaning like 
a child, and his body sways. He kneels. MIA holds him close to her and 
sprinkles him with small, anxious questions: What have you done? How are you?
What is it? Does it hurt? What can I do? Have they been cruel to you? She 
runs for a rag, which she dips in water, and carefully bathes her husband's
dirty, bloody face.
Eventually a rather sorrowful visage emerges. Blood runs from a bruise on his 
forehead and his nose, and a tooth has been loosened, but otherwise JOF seems 

		Ouch, it hurts.

		Why did you have to go there? And of course you 

MIA's anxiety has been replaced by a mild anger. She pats him a little harder 
than necessary. 

		Ouch! I didn't drink anything.

		Then I suppose you were boasting about the 
		angels and devils you consort with. People 
		don't like someone who has too many ideas and 

		I swear to you that I didn't say a word about 

		You were, of course, busy singing and dancing. 
		You can never stop being an actor. People also 
		become angry at that, and you know it.

JOF doesn't answer but searches for the armlet. He holds it up in front of 
MIA with an injured expression. 

		Look what I bought for you. 

		You couldn't afford it. 

		But I got it anyhow.

The armlet glitters faintly in the twilight. MIA now pulls it across her 
wrist. They look at it in silence, and their faces soften. They look at each 
other, touch each other's hands. JOF puts his head against MIA'S shoulder and 

		Oh, how they beat me.

		Why didn't you beat them back?

		I only become frightened and angry. I never get 
		a chance to hit back. I can get angry, you know 
		that. I roared like a lion.

		Were they frightened? 

		No, they just laughed.

Their son MIKAEL crawls over to them. JOF lies down on the ground and pulls 
his son on top of him. MIA gets down on her hands and knees and playfully 
sniffs at MIKAEL.

		Do you notice how good he smells?

		And he is so compact to hold. You're a sturdy 
		one. A real acrobat's body.

He lifts MIKAEL up and holds him by the legs. MIA looks up suddenly, 
remembering the knight's presence. 

		Yes, this is my husband, Jof. 

		Good evening. 

		Good evening.
JOF becomes a little embarrassed and rises. All three of them look at one 
another silently.
		I have just told your wife that you have a 
		splendid son. He'll bring great joy to you. 

		Yes, he's fine.
They become silent again.
		Have we nothing to offer the knight, Mia? 

		Thank you, I don't want anything.

		I picked a basket of wild strawberries this 
		afternoon. And we have a drop of milk fresh 
		from a cow ... 

		... that we were allowed to milk. So, if you 
		would like to partake of this humble fare, it 
		would be a great honor. 

		Please be seated and I'll bring the food. 

They sit down. MIA disappears with MIKAEL. 

		Where are you going next? 

		Up to the saints' feast at Elsinore. 

		I wouldn't advise you to go there. 

		Why not, if I may ask?

		The plague has spread in that direction, 
		following the coast line south. It's said that 
		people are dying by the tens of thousands.

		Really! Well, sometimes life is a little hard. 

		May I suggest ... 
			(JOF looks at him, surprised)
 		... that you follow me through the forest 
		tonight and stay at my home if you like. Or go 
		along the east coast. You'll probably be safer 

MIA has returned with a bowl of wild strawberries and the milk, places it 
between them and gives each of them a spoon.

		I wish you good appetite. 

		I humbly thank you.

		These are wild strawberries from the forest. I 
		have never seen such large ones. They grow up 
		there on the hillside. Notice how they smell!

She points with a spoon and smiles. The KNIGHT nods, as if he were pondering 
some profound thought. JOF eats heartily.

		Your suggestion is good, but I must think it 

		It might be wise to have company going through 
		the forest. It's said to be full of trolls and 
		ghosts and bandits. That's what I've heard.

		Yes, I'd say that it's not a bad idea, but I 
		have to think about it. Now that Skat has left, 
		I am responsible for the troupe. After all, I 
		have become director of the whole company.

		After all, I have become director of the whole 

JONS comes walking slowly down the hill, closely followed by the GIRL. MIA 
points with her spoon. 

		Do you want some strawberries?

		This man saved my life. Sit down, my friend, 
		and let us be together.

			(stretches herself) 
		Oh, how nice this is. 

		For a short while.
		Nearly always. One day is like another. There 
		is nothing strange about that. The summer, of 
		course, is better than the winter, because in 
		summer you don't have to be cold. But spring is 
		best of all.

		I have written a poem about the spring. Perhaps 
		you'd like to hear it. I'll run and get my lyre. 

He sprints towards the wagon.
		Not now, Jof. Our guests may not be amused by 
		your songs.

		By all means. I write little songs myself. For 
		example, I know a very funny song about a 
		wanton fish which I doubt that you've heard yet. 

The KNIGHT looks at him.

		You'll not get to hear it either. There are 
		persons here who don't appreciate my art and I 
		don't want to upset anyone. I'm a sensitive 

JOF has come out with his lyre, sits on a small, gaudy box and plucks at the 
instrument, humming quietly, searching for his melody. JONS yawns and lies 

		People are troubled by so much.

		It's always better when one is two. Have you no 
		one of your own?

		Yes, I think I had someone. 

		And what is she doing now? 

		I don't know.

		You look so solemn. Was she your beloved? 

		We were newly married and we played together. 
		We laughed a great deal. I wrote songs to her 
		eyes, to her nose, to her beautiful little 
		ears. We went hunting together and at night we 
		danced. The house was full of life ... 

		Do you want some more strawberries?

			(shakes his head)
		Faith is a torment, did you know that? It is 
		like loving someone who is out there in the 
		darkness but never appears, no matter how 
		loudly you call. 

		I don't understand what you mean.

		Everything I've said seems meaningless and 
		unreal while I sit here with you and your 
		husband. How unimportant it all becomes 

He takes the bowl of milk in his hand and drinks deeply from it several 
times. Then he carefully puts it down and looks up, smiling.

		Now you don't look so solemn.

		I shall remember this moment. The silence, the 
		twilight, the bowls of strawberries and milk,
		your faces in the evening light. Mikael 
		sleeping, Jof with his lyre. I'll try to 
		remember what we have talked about. I'll carry 
		this memory between my hands as carefully as 
		if it were a bowl filled to the brim with fresh 

He turns his face away and looks out towards the sea and the colorless gray 

		And it will be an adequate sign -- it will be 
		enough for me.

He rises, nods to the others and walks down towards the forest. JOF continues 
to play on his lyre. MIA stretches out on the grass.

The KNIGHT picks up his chess game and carries it towards the beach. It is 
quiet and deserted; the sea is still. 

		I have been waiting for you.

		Pardon me. I was detained for a few moments. 
		Because I revealed my tactics to you, I'm in 
		retreat. It's your move.

		Why do you look so satisfied? 

		That's my secret.
		Of course. Now I take your knight. 

		You did the right thing. 

		Have you tricked me?
		Of course. You fell right in the trap. Check! 

		What are you laughing at?

		Don't worry about my laughter; save your king 

		You're rather arrogant. 

		Our game amuses me.

		It's your move. Hurry up. I'm a little pressed 
		for time.

		I understand that you've a lot to do, but you 
		can't get out of our game. It takes time.

DEATH is about to answer him but stops and leans over the board. The KNIGHT 

		Are you going to escort the juggler and his 
		wife through the forest? Those whose names are 
		Jof and Mia and who have a small son? 

		Why do you ask? 

		Oh, no reason at all.
The KNIGHT suddenly stops smiling. DEATH looks at him scornfully.

Immediately after sundown, the little company gathers in the yard of the inn.
There is the KNIGHT, JONS and the GIRL, JOF and MIA in their wagon. Their 
son, MIKAEL, is already asleep. JONAS SKAT is still missing. 

JONS goes into the inn to get provisions for the night journey and to have a 
last mug of beer. The inn is now empty and quiet except for a few farmhands 
and maidens who are eating their evening meal in a corner. At one of the 
small windows sits a lonely, hunched-over fellow, with a jug of brandy in his 
hands. His expression is very sad. Once in a while he is shaken by a gigantic 
sob. It is PLOG, the smith, who sits there and whimpers. 

		God in heaven, isn't this Plog, the smith? 

		Good evening.

		Are you sitting here sniveling in loneliness? 

		Yes, yes, look at the smith. He moans like a 

		If I were in your boots, I'd be happy to get 
		rid of a wife in such an easy way.

JONS pats the smith on the back, quenches his thirst with beer, and sits down 
by his side. 

		Are you married?
		I! A hundred times and more. I can't keep count 
		of all my wives any longer. But it's often that 
		way when you're a traveling man.

		I can assure you that one wife is worse than a 
		hundred, or else I've had worse luck than any 
		poor wretch in this miserable world, which 
		isn't impossible.

		Yes, it's hell with women and hell without 
		them. So, however you look at it, it's still 
		best to kill them off while it's most amusing.
		Women's nagging, the shrieking of children and 
		wet diapers, sharp nails and sharp words, blows 
		and pokes, and the devil's aunt for a 
		mother-in-law. And then, when one wants to 
		sleep after a long day, there's a new song -- 
		tears, whining and moans loud enough to wake 
		the dead. 

JONS nods delightedly. He has drunk deeply and talks with an old woman's 

		Why don't you kiss me good night?

			(in the same way)
		Why don't you sing a song for me? 

		Why don't you love me the way you did when we 
		first met?

		Why don't you look at my new slip? 

		You only turn your back and snore. 

		Oh hell!
		Oh hell. And now she's gone. Rejoice!
		I'll snip their noses with pliers, I'll bash in 
		their chests with a small hammer, I'll tap 
		their heads ever so lightly with a sledge.

PLOG begins to cry loudly and his whole body sways in an enormous attack of 
sorrow. JONS looks at him with interest.

		Look how he howls again. 

		Maybe I love her.

		So, maybe you love her! Then, you poor 
		misguided ham shank, I'll tell you that love is 
		another word for lust, plus lust, plus lust 
		and a damn lot of cheating, falseness, lies and 
		all kinds of other fooling around. 

		Yes, but it hurts anyway.

		Of course. Love is the blackest of all plagues, 
		and if one could die of it, there would be 
		some pleasure in love. But you almost always 
		get over it. 

		No, no, not me.

		Yes, you too. There are only a couple of poor 
		wretches who die of love once in a while. Love 
		is as contagious as a cold in the nose. It eats 
		away at your strength, your independence, your 
		morale, if you have any. If everything is 
		imperfect in this imperfect world, love is most 
		perfect in its perfect imperfection.

		You're happy, you with your oily words, and, 
		besides, you believe your own drivel.

		Believe! Who said that I believed it? But I 
		love to give good advice. If you ask me for 
		advice you'll get two pieces for the price of 
		one, because after all I really am an educated 

JONS gets up from the table and strokes his face with his hands. PLOG becomes 
very unhappy and grabs his belt. 

		Listen, Jˆns. May I go with you through the 
		forest? I'm so lonely and don't want to go home 
		because everyone will laugh at me.

		Only if you don't whimper all the time, because 
		in that case we'll all have to avoid you.

PLOG gets up and embraces JONS. Slightly drunk, the two new friends walk 
towards the door.
When they come out in the yard, JOF immediately catches sight of them, 
becomes angry and yells a warning to JONS.
		Jˆns! Watch out. That one wants to fight all 
		the time. He's not quite sane.

		Yes, but now he's just sniveling.

PLOG steps up to JOF, who blanches with fear. PLOG offers his hand.

		I'm really sorry if I hurt you. But I have 
		such a hell of a temper, you know. Shake hands.

JOF gingerly proffers a frightened hand and gets it thoroughly shaken and 
squeezed. While JOF tries to straighten out his fingers, PLOG is seized by 
great good will and opens his arms.

		Come in my arms, little brother.

		Thank you, thank you, perhaps later. But now 
		we're really in a hurry.

JOF climbs up on the wagon seat quickly and clucks at the horse.

The small company is on its way towards the forest and the night.

It is dark in the forest.
First comes the KNIGHT on his large horse. Then JOF and MIA follow, sitting 
close to each other in the juggler's wagon. MIA holds her son in her arms. 
JONS follows them with his heavily laden horse. He has the smith in tow. The 
GIRL sits on top of the load on the horse's back, hunched over as if asleep.

The footsteps, the horses' heavy tramp on the soft path, the human breathing 
-- yet it is quiet.
Then the moon sails out of the clouds. The forest suddenly becomes alive with 
the night's unreality. The dazzling light pours through the thick foliage of 
the beech trees, a moving, quivering world of light and shadow.

The wanderers stop. Their eyes are dark with anxiety and foreboding. Their 
faces are pale and unreal in the floating light. It is very quiet.

		Now the moon has come out of the clouds. 

		That's good. Now we can see the road better. 

		I don't like the moon tonight. 

		The trees stand so still.
		That's because there's no wind. 

		I guess he means that they stand very still. 

		It's completely quiet.

		If one could hear a fox at least. 

		Or an owl.

		Or a human voice besides one's own.

		They say it's dangerous to remain standing in 

Suddenly, out of the silence and the dim light falling across the forest 
road, a ghostlike cart emerges. It is the WITCH being taken to the place 
where she will be burned. Next to her eight soldiers shuffle along tiredly, 
carrying their lances on their backs. The girl sits in the cart, bound with 
iron chains around her throat and arms. She stares fixedly into the 
A black figure sits next to her, a monk with his hood pulled down over his 

		Where are you going? 

		To the place of execution.

		Yes, now I can see. It's the girl who has done 
		it with the Black One. The witch?

The SOLDIER nods sourly. Hesitantly, the travelers follow. The KNIGHT guides 
his horse over to the side of the cart. The WITCH seems to be half-conscious, 
but her eyes are wide open.

		I see that they have hurt your hands.

The WITCH'S pale, childish face turns towards the KNIGHT and she shakes her 

		I have a potion that will stop your pain.

She shakes her head again.
		Why do you burn her at this time of night? 
		People have so few diversions these days.
		Saints preserve us, be quiet! It's said that 
		she brings the Devil with her wherever she 

		You are eight brave men, then.

		Well, we've been paid. And this is a volunteer 

The SOLDIER speaks in whispers while glancing anxiously at the WITCH.

			(to the WITCH)
		What's your name? 

		My name is Tyan, my lord. 

		How old are you? 

		Fourteen, my lord.

		And is it true that you have been in league 
		with the Devil?

TYAN nods quietly and looks away. Now they arrive at the parish border. At 
the foot of the nearby hills lies a crossroads. The pyre has already been 
stacked in the center of the forest clearing. The travelers remain there, 
hesitant and curious.
The soldiers have tied up the cart horse and bring out two long wooden beams.
They nail rungs across the beams so that it looks like a ladder. TYAN will be 
bound to this like an eelskin stretched out to dry.

The sound of the hammering echoes through the forest. The KNIGHT has 
dismounted and walks closer to the cart. Again he tries to catch TYAN'S eyes, 
touches her very lightly as if to waken her. Slowly she turns her face 
towards him.
		They say that you have been in league with the 

		Why do you ask?

		Not out of curiosity, but for very personal 
		reasons. I too want to meet him. 


		I want to ask him about God. He, if anyone, 
		must know.

		You can see him anytime. 


		You must do as I tell you.

The KNIGHT grips the wooden rail of the cart so tightly that his knuckles 
whiten. TYAN leans forward and joins her gaze with his. 

		Look into my eyes.

The KNIGHT meets her gaze. They stare at each other for a long time.

		What do you see? Do you see him?

		I see fear in your eyes, an empty, numb fear. 
		But nothing else.

He falls silent. The soldiers work at the stakes; their hammering echoes in 
the forest. 

		No one, nothing, no one? 

			(shakes his head)

		Can't you see him behind your back? 

			(looks around) 
		No, there is no one there. 

		But he is with me everywhere. I only have to 
		stretch out my hand and I can feel his hand. He 
		is with me now too. The fire won't hurt me. He 
		will protect me from everything evil.

		Has he told you this? 

		I know it.

		Has he said it?

		I know it, I know it. You must see him 
		somewhere, you must. The priests had no 
		difficulty seeing him, nor did the soldiers. 
		They are so afraid of him that they don't even 
		dare touch me.

The sounds of the hammers stops. The soldiers stand like black shadows rooted 
in the moss. They fumble with the chains and pull at the neck iron. TYAN 
moans weakly, as if she were far away.

		Why have you crushed her hands? 

		We didn't do it. 

		Who did? 

		Ask the monk.

The soldiers pull the iron and the chains. TYAN'S shaven head sways, gleaming 
in the moonlight. Her blackened mouth opens as if to scream, but no sound 
emerges. They take her down from the cart and lead her towards the ladder and 
the stake. The KNIGHT turns to the MONK, who remains seated in the cart. 

		What have you done with the child? 

DEATH turns around and looks at him. 

		Don't you ever stop asking questions? 

		No, I'll never stop.

The soldiers chain TYAN to the rungs of the ladder. She submits resignedly, 
moans weakly like an animal and tries to ease her body into position.
When they have fastened her, they walk over to light the pyre. The KNIGHT 
steps up and leans over her. 

		For a moment I thought of killing the soldiers, 
		but it would do no good. She's nearly dead 

One of the soldiers approaches. Thick smoke wells down from the pyre and 
sweeps over the quiet shadows near the crossroads and the hill.

		I've told you to be careful. Don't go too close 
		to her.

The KNIGHT doesn't heed this warning. He cups his hand, fills it with water 
from the skin and gives it to TYAN. Then he gives her a potion.

		Take this and it will stop the pain.

Smoke billows down over them and they begin to cough. The soldiers step 
forward and raise the ladder against a nearby fir tree. TYAN hangs there 
motionlessly, her eyes wide open.

The KNIGHT straightens up and stands immobile. JONS is behind him, his voice 
nearly choked with rage. 

		What does she see? Can you tell me? 

			(shakes his head) 
		She feels no more pain. 

		You don't answer my question. Who watches over 
		that child? Is it the angels, or God, or the 
		Devil, or only the emptiness? Emptiness, my 

		This cannot be.

		Look at her eyes, my lord. Her poor brain has 
		just made a discovery. Emptiness under the 


		We stand powerless, our arms hanging at our 
		sides, because we see what she sees, and our 
		terror and hers are the same. 
			(an outburst) 
		That poor little child. I can't stand it, I 
		can't stand it ...

His voice sticks in his throat and he suddenly walks away. The KNIGHT mounts
his horse. The travelers depart from the crossroads. TYAN finally closes her 

The forest is now very dark. The road winds between the trees. The wagon 
squeaks and rattles over stones and roots. A bird suddenly shrieks.
JOF lifts his head and wakes up. He has been asleep with his arms around 
MIA's shoulders. The KNIGHT is sharply silhouetted against the tree trunks.

His silence makes him seem almost unreal. JONS and PLOG are slightly drunk 
and support each other. Suddenly PLOG has to sit down. He puts his hands over 
his face and howls piteously. 

		Oh, now it came over me again! 

		Don't scream. What came over you?

		My wife, damn it. She is so beautiful. She is 
		so beautiful that she can't be described 
		without the accompaniment of a lyre.

		Now it starts again.

		Her smile is like brandy. Her eyes like 
		blackberries ...

PLOG searches for beautiful words. He gestures gropingly with his large 

		Get up, you tear-drenched pig. We'll lose the 

		Yes, of course, of course. Her nose is like a 
		little pink potato; her behind is like a juicy 
		pear -- yes, the whole woman is like a 
		strawberry patch. I can see her in front of me, 
		with arms like wonderful cucumbers.

		Saints almighty, stop! You're a very bad poet, 
		despite the fact that you're drunk. And your 
		vegetable garden bores me.

They walk across an open meadow. Here it is a little brighter and the moon 
shimmers behind a thin sky. Suddenly PLOG points a large finger towards the 
edge of the forest. 

		Look there.

		Do you see something? 

		There, over there! 

		I don't see anything.

		Hang on to something, my friends. The hour is 
		near! Who is that at the edge of the forest if 
		not my own dearly beloved, with actor attached?

The two lovers discover PLOG and it's too late. They cannot retreat. SKAT 
immediately takes to his heels. PLOG chases him, swinging his sledge and 
bellowing like a wild boar.

For a few confusing moments the two rivals stumble among the stones and 
bushes in the gray gloom of the forest. The duel begins to look senseless, 
because both of them are equally frightened.

The travelers silently observe this confused performance. LISA screams once 
in a while, more out of duty than out of impulse.

		You miserable stubbleheaded bastard of seven 
		scurvy bitches, if I were in your lousy rags I 
		would be stricken with such eternal shame about 
		my breath, my voice, my arms and legs -- in 
		short, about my whole body -- that I would 
		immediately rid nature of my own embarrassing 

		Watch out, you perfumed slob, that I don't fart 
		on you and immediately blow you down to the 
		actor's own red-hot hell, where you can sit and 
		recite monologues to each other until the dust 
		comes out of the Devil's ears. 

Then LISA throws herself around her husband's neck. 

		Forgive me, dear little husband, I'll never do 
		it again. I am so sorry and you can't imagine 
		how terribly that man over there betrayed me. 

		I'll kill him anyway.

		Yes, do that, just kill him. He isn't even a 
		human being.

		Hell, he's an actor.

		He is only a false beard, false teeth, false 
		smiles, rehearsed lines, and he's as empty as a 
		jug. Just kill him. 

LISA sobs with excitement and sorrow. PLOG looks around, a little confused. 
SKAT uses this opportunity. He pulls out a dagger and places the point 
against his breast.

		She's right. Just kill me. If you thought that 
		I was going to apologize for being what I am, 
		you are mistaken. 

		Look how sickening he is. How he makes a fool 
		of himself, how he puts on an act. Dear Plog, 
		kill him. 

		My friends, you have only to push, and my 
		unreality will soon be transformed into a new, 
		solid reality. An absolutely tangible corpse.

		Do something then. Kill him.

		He has to fight me, otherwise I can't kill him.

		Your life's thread now hangs by a very ragged 
		shred. Idiot, your day is short.

		You'll have to irritate me a little more to get 
		me as angry as before.

SKAT looks at the travelers with a pained expression and then lifts his eyes 
towards the night sky. 

		I forgive all of you. Pray for me sometimes. 

SKAT sinks the dagger into his breast and slowly falls to the ground. The 
travelers stand confused. PLOG rushes forward and begins to pull at SKAT'S hands. 

		Oh dear, dear, I didn't mean it that way! Look, 
		there's no life left in him. I was beginning to 
		like him, and in my opinion Lisa was much too 

JOF leans over his colleague.

		He's dead, totally, enormously dead. In fact, 
		I've never seen such a dead actor.

		Come on, let's go. This is nothing to mourn 
		over. He has only himself to blame.

		And I have to be married to her. 

		We must go on.

SKAT lies in the grass and keeps the dagger pressed tightly to his breast. 
The travelers depart and soon they have disappeared into the dark forest on 
the other side of the meadow. When SKAT is sure that no one can see him, he 
sits up and lifts the dagger from his breast. It is a stage dagger with a 
blade that pushes into the handle. SKAT laughs to himself.

		Now that was a good scene. I'm really a good 
		actor. After all, why shouldn't I be a little 
		pleased with myself? But where shall I go? I'll 
		wait until it becomes light and then I'll find 
		the easiest way out of the forest. I'll climb 
		up a tree for the time being so that no bears, 
		wolves or ghosts can get at me.

He soon finds a likely tree and climbs up into its thick foliage. He sits 
down as comfortably as possible and reaches for his food pouch.

		Tomorrow I'll find Jof and Mia and then we'll 
		go to the saints' feast in Elsinore. We'll make 
		lots of money there. 
		Now, I'll sing a little song to myself: 
		I am a little bird 
		Who sings whate'er he will, 
		And when I am in danger 
		I fling out a pissing trill 
		As in the carnal thrill.
		It's boring to be alone in the forest tonight. 
		The terrible night doesn't frighten me ... 

He interrupts himself and listens. The sound of industrious sawing is heard 
through the silence.

		Workmen in the forest. Oh, well! 
		The terrible night doesn't frighten me ... 
		Hey, what the devil ... it's my tree they're 
		cutting down.

He peers through the foliage. Below him stands a dark figure diligently 
sawing away at the base of the tree. SKAT becomes frightened and angry.
		Hey, you! Do you hear me, you tricky bastard? 
		What are you doing with my tree?

The sawing continues without a pause. SKAT becomes more frightened.

		Can't you at least answer me? Politeness costs 
		so little. Who are you?

DEATH straightens his back and squints up at him. SKAT cries out in terror.

		I'm sawing down your tree because your time is
		It won't do. I haven't got time.

		So you haven't got time. 

		No, I have my performance. 

		Then it's canceled because of death. 

		My contract.
		Your contract is terminated. 

		My children, my family. 

		Shame on you, Skat! 

		Yes, I'm ashamed.

DEATH begins to saw again. The tree creaks. 

		Isn't there any way to get off? Aren't there 
		any special rules for actors?

		No, not in this case. 

		No loopholes, no exceptions? 

DEATH saws.

		Perhaps you'll take a bribe. 

DEATH saws.

DEATH saws.

		Help! Help!

The tree falls. The forest becomes silent again.

Night and then dawn.

The travelers have come to a sort of clearing and have collapsed on the moss.
They lie quietly and listen to their own breathing, their heartbeats, and the 
wind in the tree tops. Here the forest is wild and impenetrable. Huge 
boulders stick up out of the ground like the heads of black giants. A fallen 
tree lies like a mighty barrier between light and shadow.

MIA, JOF and their child have sat down apart from the others. They look at 
the light of the moon, which is no longer full and dead but mysterious and 
unstable. The KNIGHT sits bent over his chess game. LISA cries quietly behind 
PLOG'S back. JONS lies on the ground and looks up at the heavens.

		Soon dawn will come, but the heat continues to 
		hang over us like a smothering blanket.

		I'm so frightened.

		We feel that something is going to happen to 
		us, but we don't know what.

		Maybe it's the day of judgment. 

		The day of judgment ...

Now, something moves behind the fallen tree. There is a rustling sound and a 
moaning cry that seems to come from a wounded animal. Everyone listens
intently, all faces turned towards the sound. A voice comes out of the

		Do you have some water?

RAVAL'S perspiring face soon becomes visible. He disappears in the darkness, 
but his voice is heard again. 

		Can't you give me a little water? 
		I have the plague.

		Don't come here. If you do I'll slit your 
		throat. Keep to the other side of the tree. 

		I'm afraid of death.

No one answers. There is complete silence. RAVAL gasps heavily for air. The 
dry leaves rustle with his movements. 

		I don't want to die! I don't want to!
No one answers. RAVAL'S face appears suddenly at the base of the tree. His 
eyes bulge wildly and his mouth is ringed with foam.

		Can't you have pity on me? Help me! At least 
		talk to me.

No one answers. The trees sigh. RAVAL begins to cry. 

		I am going to die. I. I. I! What will happen to 
		me! Can no one console me? Haven't you any 
		compassion? Can't you see that I ...

His words are choked off by a gurgling sound. He disappears in the darkness 
behind the fallen tree. It becomes quiet for a few moments.

		Can't anyone ... only a little water. 

Suddenly the GIRL gets up with a quick movement, snatches JONS'S water bag 
and runs a few steps. JONS grabs her and holds her fast.

		It's no use. It's no use. I know that it's no 
		use. It's meaningless. It's totally 
		meaningless. I tell you that it's meaningless. 
		Can't you hear that I'm consoling you? 

		Help me, help me!

No one answers, no one moves. RAVAL'S sobs are dry and convulsive, like a 
frightened child's. His sudden scream is cut off in the middle. Then it 
becomes quiet.
The GIRL sinks down and hides her face in her hands. JONS places his hand on 
her shoulder.

The KNIGHT is no longer alone. DEATH has come to him and he raises his hand.

		Shall we play our game to the end? 

		Your move!

DEATH raises his hand and strikes the KNIGHT'S queen. Antonius Block looks at 

		Now I take your queen. 

		I didn't notice that.

The KNIGHT leans over the game. The moonlight moves over the chess pieces, 
which seem to have a life of their own.

JOF has dozed off for a few moments, but suddenly he wakens. Then he sees the 
KNIGHT and DEATH together. He becomes very frightened and awakens MIA. 

		Yes, what is it?
		I see something terrible. Something I almost 
		can't talk about.

		What do you see?

		The knight is sitting over there playing chess. 

		Yes, I can see that too and I don't think it's 
		so terrible. 

		But do you see who he's playing with? 

		He is alone. You mustn't frighten me this way.
		No, no, he isn't alone. 

		Who is it, then?
		Death. He is sitting there playing chess with 
		Death himself.

		You mustn't say that. 

		We must try to escape. 

		One can't do that.

		We must try. They are so occupied with their 
		game that if we move very quietly, they won't 
		notice us. 

JOF gets up carefully and disappears into the darkness behind the trees. MIA 
remains standing, as if paralyzed by fear. She stares fixedly at the KNIGHT 
and the chess game. She holds her son in her arms. Now JOF returns.

		I have harnessed the horse. The wagon is 
		standing near the big tree. You go first and 
		I'll follow you with the packs. See that Mikael 
		doesn't wake up.

MIA does what JOF has told her. At the same moment, the KNIGHT looks up from
his game. 

		It is your move, Antonius Block.

The KNIGHT remains silent. He sees MIA go through the moonlight towards the
wagon. JOF bends down to pick up the pack and follows at a distance. 

		Have you lost interest in our game?
The KNIGHT'S eyes become alarmed. DEATH looks at him intently.

		Lost interest? On the contrary.

		You seem anxious. Are you hiding anything? 

		Nothing escapes you -- or does it? 

		Nothing escapes me. No one escapes from me. 

		It's true that I'm worried.

He pretends to be clumsy and knocks the chess pieces over with the hem of his 
coat. He looks up at DEATH. 

		I've forgotten how the pieces stood.

			(laughs contentedly) 
		But I have not forgotten. You can't get away 
		that easily.
DEATH leans over the board and rearranges the pieces. The KNIGHT looks past 
him towards the road. MIA has just climbed up on the wagon. JOF takes the 
horse by the bridle and leads it down the road. DEATH notices nothing; he is 
completely occupied with reconstructing the game.

		Now I see something interesting. 

		What do you see?

		You are mated on the next move, Antonius Block. 

		That's true.

		Did you enjoy your reprieve? 

		Yes, I did.

		I'm happy to hear that. Now I'll be leaving you. 
		When we meet again, you and your companions' 
		time will be up.

		And you will divulge your secrets. 

		I have no secrets. 

		So you know nothing. 

		I have nothing to tell.

The KNIGHT wants to answer, but DEATH is already gone.

A murmur is heard in the tree tops. Dawn comes, a flickering light without 
life, making the forest seem threatening and evil. JOF drives over the 
twisting road. MIA sits beside him. 

		What a strange light.

		I guess it's the thunderstorm which comes with 

		No, it's something else. Something terrible. Do 
		you hear the roar in the forest? 

		It's probably rain.

		No, it isn't rain. He has seen us and he's 
		following us. He has overtaken us; he's coming 
		towards us. 

		Not yet, Mia. In any case, not yet. 

		I'm so afraid. I'm so afraid.

The wagon rattles over roots and stones; it sways and creaks. Now the horse 
stops with his ears flat against his head. The forest sighs and stirs 

		Get into the wagon, Mia. Crawl in quickly. 
		We'll lie down, Mia, with Mikael between us.

They crawl into the wagon and crouch around the sleeping child.

		It is the Angel of Death that's passing over 
		us, Mia. It's the Angel of Death. The Angel of 
		Death, and he's very big.

		Do you feel how cold it is? I'm freezing. I'm 
		terribly cold.

She shivers as if she had a fever. They pull the blankets over them and lie 
closely together. The wagon canvas flutters and beats in the wind. The roar 
outside is like a giant bellowing.

The castle is silhouetted like a black boulder against the heavy dawn. Now
the storm moves there, throwing itself powerfully against walls and
abutments.  The sky darkens; it is almost like night.

Antonius Block has brought his companions with him to the castle. But it
seems deserted. They walk from room to room. There is only emptiness and
quiet echoes. Outside, the rain is heard roaring noisily.

Suddenly the KNIGHT stands face to face with his wife. They look at each
other quietly.

		I heard from people who came from the crusade 
		that you were on your way home. I've been 
		waiting for you here. All the others have fled 
		from the plague. 

The KNIGHT is silent. He looks at her. 

		Don't you recognize me any more? 

The KNIGHT nods, silent. 

		You also have changed.

She walks closer and looks searchingly into his face. The smile lingers in 
her eyes and she touches his hand lightly.

		Now I can see that it's you. Somewhere in your 
		eyes, somewhere in your face, but hidden and 
		frightened, is that boy who went away so many 
		years ago. 

		It's over now and I'm a little tired. 

		I see that you're tired. 

		Over there stand my friends.

		Ask them in. They will break the fast with us. 

They all sit down at the table in the room, which is lit by torches on the 
walls. Silently they eat the hard bread and the salt-darkened meat. KARIN 
sits at the head of the table and reads aloud from a thick book. 

		"And when the Lamb broke the seventh seal, 
		there was silence in heaven for about the space 
		of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels 
		which stood before God; and to them were given 
		seven trumpets. And another ..." 

Three mighty knocks sound on the large portal. KARIN interrupts her reading 
and looks up from the book. JONS rises quickly and goes to open the door.

		"The first angel sounded, and there followed 
		hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were 
		cast upon the earth; and the third part of the 
		trees was burnt up and all the green grass was 
		burnt up."

Now the rain becomes quiet. There is suddenly an immense, frightening silence 
in the large, murky room where the burning torches throw uneasy shadows over 
the ceiling and the walls. Everyone listens tensely to the stillness.

		"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a 
		great mountain burning with fire was cast into 
		the sea; and a third part of the sea became 
		blood ..."

Steps are heard on the stairs. JONS returns and sits down silently at his 
place but does not continue to eat. 

		Was someone there? 

		No, my lord. I saw no one.

KARIN lifts her head for a moment but once again leans over the large book.

		"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a 
		great star from heaven, burning as it were a 
		torch, and it fell upon the third part of the 
		rivers and upon the fountains of waters; and 
		the name of the star is called Wormwood ..." 

They all lift their heads, and when they see who is coming towards them
through the twilight of the large room, they rise from the table and stand 
close together. 

		Good morning, noble lord.

		I am Karin, the knight's wife, and welcome you 
		courteously to my house.

		I am a smith by profession and rather good at 
		my trade, if I say so myself. My wife Lisa -- 
		curtsy for the great lord, Lisa. She's a little 
		difficult to handle once in a while and we had
		a little spat, so to speak, but no worse than 
		most people.

The KNIGHT hides his face in his hands.

		From our darkness, we call out to Thee, Lord. 
		Have mercy on us because we are small and 
		frightened and ignorant. 

		In the darkness where You are supposed to be, 
		where all of us probably are.... In the 
		darkness You will find no one to listen to Your 
		cries or be touched by Your sufferings. Wash 
		Your tears and mirror Yourself in Your 

 		God, You who are somewhere, who must be 
		somewhere, have mercy upon us.

		I could have given you an herb to purge you of 
		your worries about eternity. Now it seems to be 
		too late. But in any case, feel the immense 
		triumph of this last minute when you can still 
		roll your eyes and move your toes. 

		Quiet, quiet.

		I shall be silent, but under protest. 

			(on her knees)
		It is the end.

JOF and MIA sit close together and listen to the rain tapping lightly on the 
wagon canvas, a sound which diminishes until finally there are only single 

They crawl out of their hiding place. The wagon stands on a height above a 
slope, protected by an enormous tree. They look across ridges, forests, the 
wide plains, and the sea, which glistens in the sunlight breaking through the 
JOF stretches his arms and legs. MIA dries the wagon seat and sits down next
to her husband. MIKAEL crawls between JOF'S knees.

A lone bird tests its voice after the storm. The trees and bushes drip. From 
the sea comes a strong and fragrant wind.

JOF points to the dark, retreating sky where summer lightning glitters like 
silver needles over the horizon. 

		I see them, Mia! I see them! Over there against 
		the dark, stormy sky. They are all there. The 
		smith and Lisa and the knight and Raval and 
		Jˆns and Skat. And Death, the severe master, 
		invites them to dance. He tells them to hold 
		each other's hands and then they must tread the 
		dance in a long row. And first goes the master 
		with his scythe and hourglass, but Skat dangles 
		at the end with his lyre. They dance away from 
		the dawn and it's a solemn dance towards the 
		dark lands, while the rain washes their faces 
		and cleans the salt of the tears from their 

He is silent. He lowers his hand. His son, MIKAEL, has listened to his words.
Now, he crawls up to MIA and sits down in her lap. 

		You with your visions and dreams.
Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman
[ Bergman, , Dryer, Eisenstein, Silents + Plays ]
@2004 *
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