A Merry Interlude at Camelot is a medieval comedy. Unable to settle on what dramatic genre they should enjoy, the members of King Arthur’s court eventually decide on a hybrid of farce and allegory. The plot of the ensuing play is as follows: Henpecked by his fiancée and future mother-in-law, Johan goes to fetch some new cloth, for which he cannot pay. The clothier graciously extends credit, but when he comes to collect, the two women play a trick on him. When the clothier discovers the trick, he gets revenge with a trick of his own. All the while, personified vices and virtues persuade the four main characters toward either good or evil.
This hilarious play also includes added materials including improvisation and acting exercises, a project for students and questions for discussion and research. You can find these other fantastic plays by August Mergelman in our Script Library: Spider Besider, Fancy Nancy & the Ants, Persephone, The Magpies, By Jove, Mum’s the Word, The Vixen, Couth, Pantalone’s New Pantalones, The Honest Impostor, The Weaver Girl & the Cowherd, The Dragon & the Pearl, Polly Peachum & the Pirates, Lady Scottish Play, Penny from Heaven, The Cat Noir, Trade Trade Secrets, Jackie & the Beans Talk, North Paws.
As a playwright, August Mergelman has one simple goal: to bring classical works to the modern audience. It seems that so many of the world’s great dramas are obscured by their own magnitude. August does not believe that any of history’s great playwrights would truly want their works to be intimidating or bewildering. First and foremost, they were showman; they crafted their works to be engaging, challenging, and most importantly, entertaining. As a fourth-generation Colorado native, August is proud of his western heritage, which is manifest in several of his western settings. His works have been featured in the Playwrights’ Showcase of the Western Region and the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association’s Playwrighting Competition.
Excerpt from the play:
CAST OF CHARACTERS
King Arthur — a kind ruler
Guinevere — his queen
Marlene — a magician
Doctor — a narrator
Johan — a simpleton
Jill — his fiancée
Mother — her Mother
Pierre — a clothier
Charity — a virtue
Greed — a vice
Pride — a vice
Diligence — a virtue
Deception — a vice
Revenge — a vice
Harmony — a virtue
(The action begins in the banquet hall of King Arthur. The play-within-the-play has three pre-set locations, all in a row, left to right—Jill’s cottage, Pierre’s shop, and the dreaded Heck Mouth, which might only become visible toward the end of the play.)
(King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are seated on thrones, discussing the evening’s entertainment with Marlene.)
Hmmm… Poetic recitation?
No. Too lyrical.
Hmmm… Pyrotechnic acrobatics?
No. Too much carnage… and cleanup.
Hmmm… I know! How about a piece of drama?
You mean like the ancient Greeks enjoyed, centuries ago?
And the Romans after them. It’s making a comeback, you know.
Yes. I’m intrigued. Marlene, could such a thing be done?
Easily, but the question is, what manner of drama should I conjure—tragedy or comedy?
The nobler of the two, of course—tragedy.
(Guinevere sighs. As Arthur imagines his play, Charity enters right and Greed enters left, each wearing a sign with their name on it. As a virtue, Charity moves with angelic grace. As a vice, Greed sneaks around like a demon.)
Then again, it needn’t be a tragedy in order to edify the soul. It might be one of those allegorical pieces that are so popular in other courts now days. What if…? I daresay, what if there were such a play that Charity herself were a character, that we might fully appreciate her virtue? Or Greed himself, that we might learn to recognize him by his roguish nature? Gwen, would you find yourself amenable to such a drama?
Quite so, for I am a queen, and therefore adept at the art of sleeping with my eyes open.
(Turns toward Guinevere.) Tell me then, darling, what variety of drama would you prefer?
Something humorous, and human. Something that exposes the foibles of the common folk. A comedy!
Very well. You know I can’t tell you no, Gwen. I suppose my allegorical drama can wait for another evening.
(Disappointed, Charity exits right and Greed exits left.)
Now, let’s not be hasty. I am a sorceress, after all, and it’s entirely possible that I might weave both threads into one drama, thereby satisfying the tastes of both your majesties.
Do you really think you can manage such a feat?
I dare you.
Very well. (Gestures magically.) Enter the Doctor.
Oh, there’s always a doctor in these allegorical pieces. They know next to nothing of science, or of reality, for that matter, but they do lend an air of respectability to the whole affair.
(Enters left and remains onstage throughout.) A maiden frets, her mother at her side. Is there a proper groom to wed this bride?
(Mother sits at a table in the cottage, right, paper, an inkwell, and a quill pen before her. Jill enters right, weary and hopeless. Sits and rests her head on Mother’s shoulder.)
Oh, Mother, it’s no use. I’ll never make Johan into a husband who’s fit to marry, for all men are such lazy, demanding brutes. I may as well make up my mind to die an old maid.
No more of that talk, Jill. I won’t have it. The thing we need to do is compose a list of his obligations as a husband. In fact, let’s draw up a contract, and we’ll have him sign it.
Mother, that’s a splendid idea!
(As they think of items, they trade the pen back and forth, writing. Greed enters left.)
(Notices the empty inkwell.) Hmmm… Item Number One—filling the ink well.
A husband must do more than feed his family bread and mead. Obedience is what you need, and I should know, for I am Greed.
Before a woman goes to market, goodness knows, she must have proper clothes.
Oh, give to me that pen again. (Writes.) What else must women ask of men?
(Johan enters down right, approaches, and enters the cottage. For simplicity, door to the cottage may be pantomimed. Greed exits left.)
I hear his footsteps now.
I finished milking your cow, feeding your chickens, and mending your roof.
It certainly took you long enough!
And for that I do apologize, but would it be too much for to ask for a cup of water before I continue with my afternoon chores?
(To Jill.) You see? You give a mouse a crumb, and soon he must have the entire cup of water.
How can you think of water at a time like this, when your beloved bride-to-be has nothing but rags and tatters to wear?
But, my lamb, your beauty is so great that it radiates through whatever you wear.
That’s not the point. The point is that you need to provide my daughter with the cloth she needs for a new dress.
And a matching hat. It’s only decent. Not to mention, it’s in your contract.
Contract? I’m not aware of any contract.
Because we haven’t yet shown it to you. We drew it up this morning, with no help from you, I might add.
Would it be too much for me to ask to see this document?
Once you’ve fetched the cloth, perhaps.
I’m on my way.
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