Volume 38, No.4 - Winter 1992
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1992 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Kostas Ostrauskas


Ideally there should be a clear differentiation in the actor's voices, especially in the men's: the women - soprano (I) and mezzosoprano or contralto (II), the men — tenor (III) and bass-baritone or bass (IV).

The curtain is open.

The stage back and sides are covered by black drapes. In the center are four chairs and music stands. There are sheets of music on the stands.


Carrying string instruments, QUARTET comes on stage: the men in coat tails, the women in concert dresses. QUARTET bows to the audience, takes its place and sets about tuning their instruments.


Finally QUARTET opens the score, raises their bows and begins "to play" Schubert's String Quartet No. 14 in d-minor — Der Tod und das Maedchen.

In the 59th bar II cries out "No!", and "the playing" suddenly breaks off.



II (setting her violin down). No.

(I, III, and IV turn to II in surprise. Pause.)

III. No?
II. No.
I. Is this a joke?
II. No.

(I and IV exchange looks. Ill stares perplexed at II.)

III. Do you realize what you're saying? 
II. I'm saying what I'm saying.
I. You'd better think it over.
II. I have and I say: No.


I. Why?
II. I can't do it
III. You can't?
II I just can't, that's all.
I. But it's already settled, isn't it?
III. Yes, you've agreed.
I. You've given your word.
II. I've changed my mind.
I. Fine time to change it.
III (to IV). What're you so quiet about? It concerns you, too, doesn't it?
IV. It does. (Pause. To II.) You serious? (II nods.) Are you sure?
II. As sure as death.
III. Hell! Who's talking about death? You have to keep your word!
II (getting up). There are many words in the dictionary: I've chosen another.
I. An interest in the dictionary now? How charming.
II (sarcastically). Isn't it?
III. What the hell are you talking about? The matter is quite simple...
II. If it's that simple, why are you getting so excited?
III. ... — it's settled, you agreed — and you have to do what you promised!
II. You going to force me?
I. (smiling). Oh, I'd love to see that!
II. (smiling back). You would? I'm surprised.
III. If it's necessary, — yes, even by force...
I. Bravo!
III. ... even with a gun at your noggin!
IV. Now, now, take it easy. You know quite well, force won't get you anywhere.
I. Don't be so sure.
IV (disregarding I). We'll clear this up quietly. I don't doubt: we'll come to an agreement.
III. I sure hope so!
II. You have no grounds to.
III. How's that again?
II. You have absolutely no grounds.
III. Are you out of your mind? Don't you understand what that means?
IV. Wait, wait a minute. She understands perfectly well, no need to yell.
III. I, for one, am beginning to doubt that. She seems quite mad.
III. You're right.
IV. That's nonsense. And you two know it.
I. I'm not so sure.
III. I'm not either.
I (to II). And what do you say to that?


II. Don't you know?
III. Really now! Either she's acting the fool or she's taking us for fools! I propose...
IV. Enough. You're driving nuts not only yourself but others as well.
III. Are you crazy? What do you want me to do? String my rosary?
I. It might help.
III. Keep religion out of this! (To IV.) As I said before...
IV. No one asked you.
III. Thanks. Here it is anyway: the bare facts are — we're in a desperate situation...
IV. I don't deny it.
III.... — the necessary steps have to be taken. Instead, you're running in circles...
IV. You want me to wet all over myself like you are?
I (smiling). It's better than doing nothing.
III. Insults again? Thank you once more. (Pause.) I don't understand, I don't understand at all, why you...
I. Oh, let's stop this fiddle-faddle and get down to business.
III. Exactly. As I've said...
IV. That's enough.
III.... the necessary steps have to be...
IV. I said enough!


IV. Let's sit down. (II remains standing.) Sit down.

(II hesitates.)

I. Ask her nicely — like you have asked her many times before.

(I and II exchange looks.)

IV (disregarding I). Sit down. Please.

(II sits down. Pause.)

IV. Let's talk as one human being to another.

I. That's impossible.
IV. You too now?
II. She's right: it is impossible.
III. What do you mean it's impossible? It's necessary: therefore, it is possible.

(IV looks at III who quiets down for a while.)

IV (to II). In spite of everything I believe that we'll reach an agreement.
II. It's not enough to believe in oneself; one must have faith in the others, too.
IV. That's what I mean.
II. But you still don't believe me. Why?
IV (uncomfortable). Why?
I. Exactly, why?

(IV glances at I and turns again to II.)

IV. My answer won't be of any use here.
II. But it would be of no use to me either.


IV. Are you and I talking about the same thing?
II. If we're not, that's even worse.

(III slaps himself nervously on the knee.)

I. It's worse than that.
III. Damn it.
IV. We seem to be just talking.
II. It seems that way.
IV. Why?
II. Now you're asking?


IV. In other words, we don't agree?
II. No.
IV. You don't want to.
II. I'd like to.
I (sarcastically). Really?
III. And what in hell is stopping you?
II. I've made up my mind: I can't. I won't go.


III. So that's how we agree.

IV gets up and walks around. III's attention wanders between IV and I.)

III. Now what? She says "no" and that's it?


I. I feel a chill.

(No one reacts.)

I. I'm cold.
II (smiling faintly). Are you?
IV (quickly). Yes, it's evening.


I. Do you remember, when you and I? ..
IV (abruptly). No!

(II smiles again.)

III. Sentimental slush. (Suddenly.) Ladies and gentlemen, let us not be naive...


II. I hear a bird flying away.
IV. Will it return?
II. I wonder.
I (clutching her head, cries out). My ears are ringing!

(IV goes over to the drapes, imperceptibly draws them open and looks out through the space.)

IV. The sun is going down.
III. Already? (Looks at his watch.)

(I goes off and looks out through the other drape.)

I. The sky is red.
II. Is it?

(The lights dim.
QUARTET freezes in its poses: I and IV by the drapes, III with his arms raised in protest and turned to IV, while II remains seated.)


The beginning of the second movement (Andante con motto) of the same Schubert quartet is heard: the theme is Der Tod und das Maedchen.

With the first chord QUARTET changes its pose to a slow dance-pantomime of the pavanne type.

The music and the dance both end.


III (looking around uneasily). Now what?

Finally IV sits down by II and takes her hand.)

I. Well, what do you know: a final romance.
IV. Hold your tongue: its sharpness jabs you more than others. A self-inflicted wound. (To II.) Do you agree that the situation is critical?
I. I do.
III. That's progress.
I. Don't be so hasty.
IV. Do you agree that the situation becomes hopeless, if you go back on your promise?
II. Hopeless?


IV. Do you agree that everything depends only on you?
III. That you're our only hope?
I. Not only ours — but also yours.
III. Most importantly — also yours.


II. No, I don't agree.

(III steps toward II, but IV stops him.)

IV. You don't?
II. No.
I. That's news.
IV. Why not?
III. Yes, why not?
II. I'm not sure.
III. She's not sure!
I. What aren't you sure about: that the situation is hopeless?..
IV. ...or that everything depends on you?
II. Are the two of you sure?


II. Mit dem Wissen waechst der Zweifel.
IV. Schiller?
II. Goethe.
III. What is this? A plot?
I. Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens.
IV. Goethe?
I. Schiller.
III. Speak English, will you! No foreigners here.
II. Kein Mensch muss muessen.
IV. Schiller?
II. No.
I. Goethe?
II. No.


III. Hindenburg. No. Ludendorff? Moltke? No, not Moltke. (Cautiously.) Frederick the Great? (Pause. Suddenly.) I know, Bismarck. Is it Bismarck? Yes, that's it! Bismarck!


II. Lessing. Kein Mensch muss muessen.


IV. That means you won't go?

(II shakes her head.)

IV. I don't understand you.
I. You don't understand her?

(Stung to the quick, IV wants to attack I, but is restrained by the look in II's eye.)

II (hurt). You really don't understand?
IV (about to get up from his chair). No.
III (suddenly). Wait! I've got it! (Turning to II.) If you're really not sure, then maybe in reality this is where our real salvation lies? Maybe we all really blew it? (With exaggerated significance.) Please think it over carefully and tell us: what is the real cause of your uncertainty?
II. The real cause of my uncertainty?
III. Yes, the real cause of your uncertainty. Think hard.

(A rather lengthy silence.)

II. I don't know.
III. You don't know?
II. Possibly intuition...
III. Jesus Christ! — Intuition! Possibly yet!
I. Even at a moment like this we women hang on to our intuition. By the skin of our teeth.
III (flabbergasted). Can you be serious?
I. And what is this feminine intuition? — Merely the experience of everlasting ignorance.

(Unable to keep from smiling, IV gets up from his chair, starts to laugh and finally to guffaw. I, too, is infected by it. II can't avoid smiling either.)

III. You're laughing? You find it amusing? (Pause.) You're mad. You're all mad! (Suddenly.) Enough! I'll take care of this! (Glancing at IV.) High time — if it's not too late — to take action! (IV doesn't react.) Immediately! Once and for all!

(III pulls out a revolver from his pocket and goes over to II. IV wants to stop him but hesitates.)

III (threatening II with the revolyer). Will you or won't you go?

(II remains silent)

III. I'm asking you: yes or no?
II. No.
III. No?
II (jumping up from her chair). No. No, no, no! Not under any circumstances — no!

(IV wants to intervene again, but I stops him.)

IV. He doesn't know how to use the gun, the blockhead.
I. That's all right with me.
III. Once more — for the last time: will you or won't you go?
II. Don't be so dumb. You don't want to bury your last hope, do you?

(IV roars with laughter, IIIis about to disintegrate.)

III. But you promised!
II. Why should I risk it, if I no longer believe that the risk will pay off? I'd rather stay with... you. (Pause.) We'll wait together.
III. Obligations. . . promises. . . oaths!. . Pathetically.) Is nothing sacred anymore? (Dejected.) Perversion. Perversion!

(Indignant III hurls the revolver into the comer and it goes off. They all jump up, especially III.)

III. What's that? Already?..
IV. Not yet.
III. No?
IV. No.
III. Thank God.
I. You make me sick — I'm about to throw up.
III. Go ahead — spit it out.

I goes over to II.)

I. You won't change your mind?
II. I have already changed it.
I. Why play on words? You know perfectly well what I mean.
II. I know. But you do, too.
I. I'm not sure. I doubt it.
II. Now you're not sure either? Of what?
I. I don't believe that you'd let all of us...
II. That's not my fault.
I.. Yes, but...
II. Why "but"?


I. Never mind. In essence, you're refusing what you've already promised.
II. Yes, that appears to be the essence.
I. And no persuasion will help?
II. None.
I. You'd rather stay together?
II. I'd rather.

(Short pause.)

I (suddenly). With whom?
III (glancing at his watch, to IV). Oh, for Christ's sake...
IV. Wait.
I. With whom?


II. With all of you.
I. All?
II. All of you.
I. With me too?
II. (unwillingly). And... with you.
I. Really?
II (pressed). Yes.


I. And I with you. Together. (Running her fingers over II's hair.) With you...

(I wants to embrace II, but II pushes her roughly away. I reels backwards.)

I (hissing). Bitch!

(IV glances at II, then at I and turns away. Ill looks wanly at IV's back.


IV again goes over and partly opens the drapes.)

IV. The sun has gone down already...

(III looks around. IV sits down. II takes a look through the drapes.)

II. .. .into the red pool...
I. blood.
III. Don't mention blood!
I. I'm just stating the fact...
III. Be quiet!
IV. ...the inescapable fact of catastrophe...
I. ...and terror.
III. Quiet!!
II. You think silence will help?
I. It will drive you insane first.
III (desperately). Quiet!!!


Suddenly the winds blow, the drapes rustle and the lights go out, leaving only a dim gleam on the music stands.


III (his teeth chattering). Already?
I (nestling up to IV). I'm afraid.
II (sarcastically). Is it only fear?
I (trying to smile). Fear? (Putting her arms around IV and looking into his eyes.) Answer for me, will you? Is it only fear?

(IV lets his gaze wander from I to II.

The drapes rustle again.)

III. Already? Has the time come?.. (He falls to his knees and puts his arms around IVs legs.) Hold me!.. Hold me tight!..

(I kicks at III, who falls over backwards, but gets up quickly and jumps on her like a panther. I lets out a squeal and sticks her head between IV's legs. IV jumps up and throws them off: I is lying curled up on the floor, while III appears to have had an apoplectic fit.)

II (roaring nervously with laughter). Only fear?

(The wind whistles.
One of the drapes falls of the wall and exposes a screen with part of a huge face on it which is difficult to identify.
The barrel of a rifle protrudes from below.*

As if bewitched QUARTET fixes its eyes on it.


Finally III can't stand it any longer and goes to the drape which hides the rest of the face.
The barrel of the rifle raises slightly...)

IV. Don't go!

(III stops.

The wind whistles again.

QUARTET freezes.)

* In the absence of technical means the screen can be replaced by a portrait li this method is chosen, the picture remains static here and in other similar instances.


Coming softly from now here, almost surrealistically, a cacophony of sound, conversation and music is heard: a ringing of dishes, goblets and glasses, a clang of knives, spoons and forks; laughter; disordered and unconnected but polite and mannerly conversation in many tongues like the tower of Babel — most often only fragments of scattered sentences or sometimes merely isolated words; the voice of a woman and especially that of a man can be distinguished — the latter, it appears, is telling some story; now and then listless clapping breaks out. At one extreme of this scale is a sporadic coloratura tittering and at the other an almost constant, basso continuo-like, low-voiced droning — "I see", "why yes", "of course", "obviously". In the background a supposedly sensuous soprano is almost tearfully singing Rusalka's aria "Mësíčku na nebi hlubokém" from Dvoák's opera Rusalka.

All this creates an impression of the "refined" drunkenness of a "stylish" circle and leaves an incredibly unreal, quite uncomfortable mood in one who is sober and listening to the confusion from a distance. Sometimes the cacophony is heard as if it were coming from underground, or it echoes as from a huge cistern; sometimes it is muffled as if coming in waves which draw near and recede, and sometimes it vanishes completely. *

* All this material should be prepared ahead of time and taped. It is important, however, that it appear natural and spontaneous. The fragments of foreign languages must sound authentic, without accent. For the aria the record made by Zinka Milanov is suggested.
The boldface ("essential") text and its sequence are not to be changed. The interspersed text can be regarded with some freedom, especially as to record it in full precisely would be rather difficult, since quite often several fragments are to be heard at the same time. So, in this case, the stage director must himself bring the tape to a final realization. However, it is to be taken into consideration that the essence of the tape's text is not logic and harmony, but the opposite - illogic and disharmony. Therefore, in looking for suitable additional ("non-essential") material, one should not choose it methodically, but collect it as randomly and haphazardly as possible. (For example, in tracking down the longer fragments of foreign language texts, the author used the following method: the first volume of any encyclopedia which came to hand was picked up, opened at random and the first line which caught the eye written down.)

..... .nuđok, voveraite, nuđok ... .in the beginning everything appeared very simple ..... pourquoi? ...... . . nothing unusual, nothing at all ..... clausola relativa all' adozione dei certificati d'origine ..... thank you, thank you ...... documenti rilasciati dalle camere di commercio . .... no one noticed the first signs ..... merci beaucoup . .... to tell the truth ............... sayonara, saynora .... they couldn't notice..... durch den Oberen und Unteren Spreewald ..... it's hard to imagine ..... dann durch den Schwielochsee an Beeskow und Fuerstenwalde vorbei ...... but suddenly ..... per qualita, per quantita ..... reality forces you against the wall...... hahaha .... please don't tickle ..... took you by the throat..... Schuschnigg, my dear Schuschnigg ...... by the 1960's bauxite and alumina ranked first in the list of exports .... only minutes remained ...... what time is it? ...... then one ...... avanti! ....... avanti! ..... the only question ..... mutatis mutandis .... NOW WHAT? ..... de curieuses lignes sombres paraissant relier entre elles ..... you're joking. Sir, you must be joking . . . . ces diverses configurations ont été reconnues en 1877 ..... . a meaningless ...... par Schiaparelli ...... a completely meaningless question ..... ach! du Herrgott! . .... rhetoric ..... elementami ksztatujŕcymi elewacji sŕ podziay pionowe ........ rhetoric ......... kolumny, pókolumny, pilastry, lizeny, supy, ryzality. .... this I shall never forgive General Ţeligowski ........ poziomegzymsy, fryzy ..... only one door ..... videte ne quis vos decipiat per philosophiam ...... leading nowhere . . . . . secundum traditionem hominum ..... the void ..... secundum elementa mundi ..... oh, no, please - no ..... hot er ir derschtikt ojfn bet un ojfgeschribn ojf a bret, vos? . . . . .you're very aggressive today ..... it's time ..... to obstoyatelstvo, chto nizzheye dvoryanstvo, biurgerstvo i dazhe chast svetskikh knyazei okazalis ..... it's time ..... v lagere ..... don't forget to take along what doesn't exist. ..... of course I'm for Mozart! ..... don't al-mutasalat ...... no, no one is calling ..... nomi shirami, uma no nyosuru makuramoto ....... oh! a frog splashed into the duckweed of the quagmire: and the water spoke out. .... furu ike ya! ..... even the sirens who tempted Ulysses are silent ..... poikkenslailla toimikanttan sotien aikana ...... if that's all, then why hasn't the moon gone out? ..... only a ringing in the ears ....... özöklött tulajdonságaik különbözok nem feltétlen egynemuek ..... they've already untied king Aeolus's bag with the unfavorable winds ....... I picked up a fan, flapped once ..... the crew were changed to swine .... you're drunk. Sir ..... and the youth has arched Ulysses's bow ..... âbhogaúceti paaňâmâdyânâm âbhidhâh krâmât himkârakârayostatra kalâ-pűrakatâ matâ ... .... the time has come .........................

Towards the end everything grows gradually louder, finally thundering as if through thousands of loudspeakers and suddenly breaks off — only the aria is heard. It too ends eventually, leaving only the grinding of the still revolving record.

The drunken voices of a man and woman come floating - - -

WOMAN. .. .I adore music ...
MAN. . . .night has fallen on the land of the lotuseaters. . .
WOMAN. . . .I adore it passionately.. .
MAN. . . .this time Ulysses won't return...

(The record can still be heard going around.

The wind whistles by, somewhere glass breaks with a loud crash.

QUARTET starts.)

MAN. . . .oh! how the ordinary can deceive us! . .
WOMAN (sensuously). . . yes, I'm in love with music. . . Chopin. . . Fryderyk Franciszek, that is. .. the nocturnes. . .
MAN (hiccuping). Music?


MAN. Did you say m u s i c?

(The record and the two voices fade away and disappear. Long pause.

QUARTET comes back to life.)

IV. De la musique avant toute chose . . .
III. Huh?
I. . . .de la musique...
II. .. .encore et toujours.
III. What?


I, II and IV exchange looks and begin to recite rhythmically ---)

(III falls to the floor and like a child begins to kick and pound the floor with his fists.)

III (through tears). Nonsense... nonsense.. . absurd. . .

(I looks at II and IV. They don't react. I goes over to III.)

I. Control yourself: music is but frozen architecture.
II (with a forced smile). Really?
I. Anyway, we were only joking.
II. Joking?
I. In despair.
II (to IV). Were you joking?
IV. I don't know. (Pause.) I don't know anything anymore.

(Off-stage someone begins to tune some creaky strings. Another drape falls from the wall, exposing another portrait: dressed to the hilt in a modern frock, smiles Schubert. Underneath is Mozart's signature:)

I. Schubert?
IV. Schubert.
II. Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden...
III (desperately). But this is Mozart's signature! . .
II. Johannes.
IV. Chrysostomus.
I. Wolfgangus.
II. Theophilus.
IV. Wolfgango in Germania . . .
II. . . .Amadeo in Italia.
MOZART'S VOICE. Achtung, Achtung. Mozart speaking. "Stranger, pause and look, from the dust of ages lift this little book, turn the tattered pages, listen to me, do not let me die!"

On November 8, 1777 I have, incidentally, written to my father:

Allerliebster Papa!
I do not know how to rhyme: I am no poet. I cannot so artfully arrange the subtleties of language that they would illuminate light and shadow: I am no painter. Even by gesture and sign I am unable to express my feelings and thoughts: I am no dancer. But I can work with tones: ich bin ein Musikus.

(As if to give official approval to his last words, the final jarring chords of Mozart's Ein musikalischer Spass resound "triumphantly".

QUARTET covers its ears.)

IV. Herrgott! . .
III (in panic, whispering). But Mozart was a pretty good pool player...

(Somewhere with a loud crash some pool balls roll away. Long pause.)

III. I can't. . . I can't stand it anymore.. .
I. You're not the only one.
II. Let's be afraid together - the fear will be greater.
III. You're joking again! . .
II. No. But even if I were, what else is left?
IV. Nothing. It's empty.. .
II. . . .only a white space. . . infinity. ..
I. ... - my eyes are burning. . .
IV. ... - you could go blind. . .
Ill (feeling about as if he were blind). ... .oh, no — I can see... I can see everything...

(Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a VOICE is heard through loudspeakers - muffled, commanding ---)

VOICE. Hora novissima. . .
II. . . .and now the appletrees burst into bloom — softly, soundlessly. . . on the paws of a cat. . .
I. . . .please, blindfold me -- I'm going to dance. . .
VOICE. . . .tempora pessima sunt. . .
IV. . . .is it smoke or fog? . .
III. ... the lights! . . turn on the lights! . .
I. . . .heaven or hell? . .
III. No, turn them off!
VOICE (as if chanting a litany). . . .vigilemus. . .
II. . . .mehr Licht! . . mehr Licht! . .
IV. . . .is it fog or smoke? . .
III. . . .fire! . . more fire! . .
I. . . .where's my tambourine? . .
II. . . .without a sound, without color. . .
IV. . . .evening or night? . .
VOICE. . . .vigilemus. . .
III. . . .the key! . . give me the key! . . .
I. . . .where's my tarantella? .. or is it a tarantula? . .
II. . . .only dampness. . . mold. . .
IV. . . .it's night. . . the dead of midnight. . .
VOICE. . . .vigilemus. . .
III. . . .I won't go! . . I won't go anywhere!
II. . . .oh! to return again.. . . to nowhere. . .
I. . . .the leaves are falling. . .
IV. .. .eto znachit nastupayet nastoyashchyaya vesna. ..
VOICE (whispering). . . .vigilemus. . . vigilemus. . . vigilemus. . .

(The tirade speeds up and gains in volume, QUARTET starts to shout, to drown out each other's voices.)

II. . . .no, it's not over yet. . .
III. . . .it is! . .
IV. . . .not yet? . .
I. . . .no? ..
III. . . .it is! . .
II. .. .all over? . . .
III. . . .the end! . .
I. . . .not yet! . .
III. . . .the end! . .
I. . . .I don't believe it! . .
in. . . .believe! . .
I. . . .I don't believe it! . .
III. . . .believe! . . believe! . .
II. . . .believe? . .
IV. . . .now? . .
I. . . .already? . .
III. . . .yes! . . the time has come! . .

(Complete chaos.

Suddenly QUARTET is cut off by a deafening blast. Another drape falls off the wall and uncovers on the screen the remaining part of the face exposed earlier: as though prepared for the hunt, — holding a gun on his knee, dresssed in Hungarian national costume, a feather in his cap, - solemnly sits Béla Bartók. Underneath are notes and the signature:)

(As the echo of the blast fades out, a man's resonant voice is heard:)

.......... özöklött tulajdunságaik különbözök nem feltétlen egynemuek, vercsoportjuk nem mingid azonos, és nem is hasonlítanak egymáshoz jobban, mint altalaban a testvérek. ..............


The same voice, sternly:)

-Monstrum hungaricum!

(QUAR ET freezes in place.

All the lights go out.

It is quiet and peaceful as in the eye of a hurricane.)


(The lights go on again.)

IV (jubilant). There! I've got it!
III. Got what?
IV. The monkey by the tail!
III. What monkey?
IV. The monkey. (As a matter of fact.) So that's where the secret is hidden.
II. You mean da liegt der Hund begraben?
IV. Exactly.
III. Where?
IV. There.
II. You're right!
I. Yes! Yes, indeed!
Ill (seizing IV by the lapels). Where? Tell me, where?
IV (pushing III away). Yes, that's where.


II. Amazing!
I. Unbelievable!
III (rushing desperately between I and II). Where? . . For God's sake.. . tell me, where?
IV. Why, everything is so clear. . .
III. What's clear?
II. . . .so simple.
III. What's simple?
I. Can't you see?
III. See what?
II. Can't you hear?
III. Hear what?
IV (amazed). You can't see and you can't hear?


I. You're deaf...
III. You're dreaming.
II.'re blind.
III. You're raving.
IV. You really don't see or hear anything?


II. Lend an eye and listen...
I. ...lend an ear and look.
III. Lend an eye and listen?
II. Yes.
III. Lend an ear and look?
I. Yes.

(Long pause.)

III (desperately). I don't see anything and I don't hear anything.
IV. Of course: nothing. Nothing.

(I, II and IV look at III attentively. He scrutinizes each of them in turn.


Suddenly III shrieks and slaps himself on the forehead.)

III. You're so right! (Laughing hysterically.) Of course! It is true!
IV. There now, you see.
II. Isn't it clear?
III. Crystal clear. Clear as crystal!
I. Isn't it simple?
III. Elementary, Dr. Watson, elementary.
IV. It's quite embarrassing, isn't it?
III. Quite! Where were our wits?
IV. Yes, where?
I. ...not to foresee it...
II. ...not to see it...
III. ...and not to hear it.
IV. Where were our eyes?..
I. ... — to be so deaf.
II. Where were our ears?..
III. ... - to be so blind.


I. It's astonishing . . .
II. ...incredible...
III. ...quite laughable.
IV. Laughable? - It's comic! Absurd!
III (merrily). Yes siree! That's the word: absurd!


QUARTET (together). O sancta simplicitas!

(They all burst out laughing, congratulating each other, slapping each other on the back. .. Finally I falls into III's embrace. II and IV, smiling, exchange looks.



IV. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, - we've got the monkey by the tail.
I, II and III. The monkey.

(Long pause.)

IV. Alright, back to our strings.

QUARTET rushes to its instruments and upright, almost squatting, temperamentally "plays" the last forty bars of the Coda (Allegro motto) of Bartók's Third String Quartet. Finished, chatting merrily, skipping lightly, QUARTET runs off-stage.

On the screen Bartók gets up, slings his rifle over the shoulder, turns around and, with his back to Schubert, aims nonchalantly at him. A shot rings out, Schubert's glasses fall off, and he fades out on the screen.*

Bartók blows along the barrel of his rifle, raises his cap, turns around and goes off, whistling.

QUARTET returns, bows and leaves single file. One by one the lights on the stage go out.

The curtain does not go down.



* In the absence of a screen, a shot rings out, smoke rises at the barrel of the rifle in Bartók's portrait, while the portrait of Schubert falls down — with a bang.