The Tale of Sir Launcelot

As Sir Launcelot, the bold­est and most ex­pen­sive of the knights, lost his way in the For­est of Ew­ing, at near­by Swamp Cas­tle, a cel­e­bra­tion was un­der­way.

[Set­ting: A small gar­ret room in the Tall Tow­er of Swamp Cas­tle. The King and his son the Prince.]

King. [ges­tur­ing ex­pan­sive­ly out the win­dow] One day, lad, all this will be yours.

Son. What, the cur­tains?

King. No, not the cur­tains, lad! All that you can see, stretched out over the ’ills and val­leys of this land. That’ll be your king­dom, lad.

Son. But, Moth­er . . .

King. Fa­ther, lad, Fa­ther.

Son. But, Fa­ther, I don’t want any of that.

King. Lis­ten, lad: I built this king­dom up from nuthin’. When I start­ed here, all of this was swamp! Oth­er kings said it was daft to build a cas­tle in a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em! It sank in­to the swamp. so, I built a sec­ond one! That sank in­to the swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank in­to the swamp. But the fourth one . . . stayed up. And that’s what you’re gonna get, lad: the strongest cas­tle in these is­lands.

Son. But I don’t want any of that! I’d rather . . .

King. Rather what?

Son. I’d rather . . . just . . . sing! . . .
[mu­sic up]

King. Stop that! Stop that! You’re not go­ing in­to a song while I’m here!
[mu­sic dies away]
Now, lis­ten, lad. In twen­ty min­utes you’re get­tin’ mar­ried to a girl whose fa­ther owns the biggest tracts of open land in Eng­land.

Son. But I don’t want land!

King. Lis­ten, Alex . . .

Son. ’Er­bert . . .

King. ’Er­bert. We live in a bloody swamp! We need all the land we can get!!

Son. But . . . but I don’t like ’er!

King. Don’t like ’er?!? What’s wrong with ’er? She’s . . . beau­ti­ful, she’s . . . rich, she’s got . . . huge . . . . . tracts o’ land . . .

Son. Ah . . . ah know. But I want the girl that I mar­ry to have . . . a cer­tain . . . spe­cial . . . some­thing . . .
[mu­sic up]

King. Cut that out!! Cut that out . . . [grabs the prince]
[mu­sic dies away]
You’re mar­ryin’ Princess Lucky, so you’d bet­ter get used to the idea!
[slaps the prince] guards!!! [two guards come in]
Make sure the prince doesn’t leave this room un­til I come and get ’im.
[starts to go]

Guard 1. [re­peat­ing] Not to leave the room, even if you come and get ’im.

Guard 2.Hic

King. Nono . . . Un­til I come and get him.

Guard 1. Un­til you come and get him, we’re not to en­ter the room.

King. [stops] Nono, no . . . You stay in the room, and make sure he doesn’t leave.

Guard 1. And you’ll come and get him.

Guard 2.Hic

King. Right.

Guard 1. We don’t need to do any­thing, apart from just stop him, en­ter­ing the room.

King. Nono. Leav­ing the room.

Guard 1. Leav­ing the room, yes.

King. All right?

Guard 1. ’Right.

King. Right. [goes out the door]

Guard 1. Oh! If if if uh­h­hh . . . if if uh­h­h­hh . . . If if if we . . .

King. [com­ing back in] Yes, what is it?

Guard 1. Oh. I‐​if . . . Oh . . .

King. Look, it’s quite sim­ple.

Guard 1. Uh . . .

King. You just stay here, and make sure ’e doesn’t leave the room.
All right?

Guard 2.hic

Guard 1. Oh, I re­mem­ber! Uh­h­hh, can he leave the room with us?

King. No . . . nono, no. You just keep him in ’ere, and make sure⁠—​

Guard 1. Oh yes, we’ll keep him in here, ob­vi­ous­ly, but if he had to leave, and we were with him⁠—​

King. Nononono just keep him in here!

Guard 1. Un­til you or any­one else⁠—​

King. No, not any­one else, just me!

Guard 1. Just you . . .

Guard 2.hic

King. Get back.

Guard 1. Get back.

King. All right?

Guard 1. Right, we’ll stay here un­til you get back.

Guard 2.hic

King. [pause] And, uh . . . make sure ’e doesn’t leave.

Guard 1. What?

King. [pause] Make sure ’e doesn’t leave!

Guard 1. The prince??????

King. Yes, make sure ’e doesn’t leave!

Guard 2.hic

Guard 1. Oh, yes, of course!! I thought you meant him! [mo­tions to­wards the sec­ond guard] You know, it seemed a bit daft me hav­ing to guard him when ’e’s a guard . . .

King. [pause] Is that clear?

Guard 1. Oh, quite clear, no prob­lems!

Guard 2.hic

King. Right. [starts to leave. The guards fol­low him.] Where are you go­ing?

Guard 1. We’re com­ing with you!

King. Nono, I want you to stay here and make sure ’e doesn’t leave!

Guard 1. Oh, I see, right!

Son. [plain­tive­ly] but fa­ther⁠—​

King. Shut your noise, you! And get that suit on. [leaves]

[mu­sic up]
[king re‐​en­ters] and no singing!
Guard 2.hic
King. Oh, go and get a glass of wa­ter. [leaves]

[The Prince looks at the guards. They look at him. He smiles. They smile back. He gets a pen a pa­per out. He smiles at them. They smile back. He scrib­bles some­thing on it very fast, not look­ing at it. He smiles at the guards. They smile back. The Prince gets a bow and ar­row from the wall. He sticks the note on the ar­row. He smiles at the guards. They smile back. He side‐​steps to the win­dow. He smiles at the guards. They smile back. He shoots the ar­row with the note out the win­dow. He puts down the bow. He smiles at the guards. They smile back.]

Guard 2.Hic

[Mean­while, at a near­by stream, Sir Launcelot ap­proach­es. We hear horse’s hooves in the dis­tance. Sir Launcelot ap­pears, be­hind Con­corde, who is bang­ing two co­conut halves to­geth­er to make the noise of a horse.]

Launcelot. Ho! [they jump over the stream] Well tak­en, Con­corde! Steady there, boy!
[an ar­row whizzes through the air and em­beds it­self in Con­corde]

Con­corde. [as he falls] Mes­sage for you, sir. [he falls]

Launcelot. Con­corde!! [spy­ing the ar­row] A note! [reads] “To whomev­er finds this note. Help. I am be­ing held pris­on­er by my fa­ther who wish­es me to mar­ry against my will!! Please please please please res­cue me. I am in the Tall Tow­er of Swamp Cas­tle.”
[aloud] A quest! Adamsel in dis­tress! Oh, Con­corde, no­ble Con­corde, you shall not have died in vain!
[starts to draw sword]

Con­corde. I’m not quite dead yet, sir!

Launcelot. [a bit put off] Well . . . you shall not have been . . . mor­tal­ly wound­ed in vain! [draws sword]

Con­corde. I think I could pull through, sir.

Launcelot. [a bit more put off] Con­corde, maybe you’d bet­ter stay here and rest a bit, eh?

Con­corde. Oh, I think I could come with you, sir . . .

Launcelot. No, no, Con­corde, brave soul, you shall stay here, and I . . . I shall un­der­take a per­ilous quest to win free­dom for a maid­en and eter­nal fame for my­self. Farewell, Con­corde!! [runs off, leav­ing Con­corde look­ing af­ter him per­plexed­ly]

[Scene: The draw­bridge of Swamp Cas­tle. Two guards stand­ing here look­ing very bored. Off in the dis­tance, they see Launcelot run­ning to­wards them wav­ing his sword in the air. They look at each oth­er, then back at Launcelot. They seem con­fused. He does not get any clos­er, though he keeps run­ning. The guards look at each oth­er again. One taps his fore­head. They lean on their pikes and idly watch Sir Launcelot still run­ning to­wards them and get­ting nowhere. They look at each oth­er. Sud­den­ly Launcelot ap­pears right next to them and runs them both through. They die, con­sid­er­ably sur­prised.]

[Launcelot runs through the cas­tle, slic­ing, dic­ing, grat­ing, minc­ing, and oth­er­wise gen­er­al­ly killing the en­tire pop­u­lace. He fights his way up to the Tow­er through the throngs of be­wil­dered wed­ding guests. He reach­es the Tow­er and throws open the door.]

Guard 1. Hel­lo! Urggh. [dies, run through]

Guard 2.Hic [al­so run through]

Launcelot. [kneel­ing be­fore the white‐​garbed fig­ure in the room] Mi­la­dy, here kneels the hum­ble Sir Launcelot of Camelot, Knight of the Round Ta­ble, and I stand ready to de­liv­er you from⁠—​ [sees it’s a man, gets up im­me­di­ate­ly] Oh, I’m ter­ri­bly sor­ry.

Son. [claps hands de­light­ed­ly] You got my note!

Launcelot. Well, I got a note . . . let’s not jump to con­clu­sions . . .

Son. I knew some one would read it and res­cue me! I’ve got a rope all ready! [dis­plays shred­ded blan­ket made in­to rope] Let’s climb down!

King. [barg­ing in, quite up­set] What’s all this!?! [sees Launcelot]
Are you the one who killed all my guests?

Son. He’s come to res­cue me!

King. Shut your noise, you. Well, what about it?

Launcelot. [high­ly em­bar­rassed] Well, I sup­pose I may have got . . . a bit . . . car­ried away with the mo­ment . . .

King. Car­ried away?!? Look, who­ev­er you are, you not on­ly ru­ined my wed­ding re­cep­tion, and caused me great men­tal an­guish, but you killed the bride’s fa­ther and kicked the bride in the chest! Now what sort of be­hav­ior is that??? Who are you, any­way?

Launcelot. Well, I am Sir Launcelot of King Arthur’s Court, and I⁠—​

King. King Arthur?? King‐​of‐​Eng­land Arthur? And you’re one of his Knights of the Round Ta­ble?

Son. I’m ready, Sir Launcelot! [ties rope to ta­ble]

Launcelot. Well . . . yes . . . and I’m aw­ful­ly sor­ry about the fuss . . .

King. Fuss? Non­sense!! Why, Sir Launcelot, con­sid­er your­self my hon­ored guest, please! [qui­et­ly] Lots of land up by Camelot, eh?

Launcelot. Well, I’m ter­ri­bly sor­ry about killing all those peo­ple . . . and kick­ing the bride . . .

Son. Hur­ry, Sir Launcelot! [goes out the win­dow]

King. Don’t wor­ry about a thing, sir. Just come down­stairs with me, will you? I want to in­tro­duce you to every­one.

Launcelot. Well, thank you . . . Thank you very much . . . [leaves]

King. I won’t be a minute, Sir Launcelot . . . [goes to win­dow, draws dag­ger]

Son. [from out­side] Are you com­ing, Sir Launcelot?
[The King cuts the blan­ket‐​rope, which slith­ers out the win­dow]
Aaaaaaaah­h­h­h­h­hh!!!!! [thump]

King. [lilt­ing­ly] Com­ing, Sir Launcelot . . .

[Sir Launcelot goes down the stairs. Up­on rec­og­niz­ing him as the one who caused all the dam­age, the re­main­ing guests shout such things as, “There he is!” and, “He’s the one!” and, “Get him!” Launcelot draws his sword and goes be­serk again.]

King. Oh, bloody hell.

[Launcelot is at last sub­dued be­fore caus­ing too much dam­age, save on­ly kick­ing the bride again, and the King pre­pares to make a speech.]

King. Ladies and gen­tle­men. This man whom you see be­side me is my own hon­ored friend, Sir Launcelot of Camelot. He has come all this way just to see my son mar­ried to Princess Lucky. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, my son Her­bert has just fall­en to his death from the Tall Tow­er. [gasps] But, I like to think of my­self, not as hav­ing lost a son, but as hav­ing gained a daugh­ter. For, since the fa­ther of the bride per­ished in most un­time­ly cir­cum­stances . . .

Voice. He’s not quite dead yet . . .

King. [thrown] Er . . . since her fa­ther has come so close to death as to be con­sid­ered dead . . .

Voice. I think he’s com­ing ’round!

King. [whis­pers to a guard, who cir­cles to­wards the back of the room, where the fa­ther lies] Since her fa­ther, who, when it seemed he was just on the verge of re­cov­ery, sud­den­ly felt the icy hand of death up­on him . . .

[thump]

Voice. He’s kicked off!

King. Right . . . I should like the Princess to think of me as her own Dad. In the firm and legal­ly bind­ing sense. And, as this is meant to be a wed­ding day, I would like to wel­come Sir Launcelot in­to my fam­i­ly, and give him the hand of my new daugh­ter in earnest to­ken of my es­teem for him and his ti­tle. [pause, some fee­ble ap­plause from the guards]

Launcelot. [tak­en aback] Well, re­al­ly, I must be go­ing, I don’t think⁠—​

King. Go­ing? Non­sense! Why, how could you leave me at a time like this, so re­cent­ly bereft of my on­ly son?

Con­corde. [en­ter­ing with Son] He’s not quite dead yet! [gen­er­al re­ac­tion]

King. Oh, bloody hell.

Voice. But, how on earth did you sur­vive the fall from the Tall Tow­er?

Son. Well, I’ll tell you . . .
[mu­sic starts]

King. No! Wait! Stop that! [but it is too late]

Guests. He’s go­ing to tell,
he’s go­ing to tell,
he’s go­ing to tell,
he’s go­ing to tell!

He’s go­ing to tell,
he’s go­ing to tell,
he’s go­ing to tell,
he’s go­ing to tell!

Con­corde. Quick, sir, let’s get out of here. This way.

Launcelot. No, no. I need some­thing more . . . more . . .

Con­corde. Dra­mat­ic, sir?

Launcelot. Dra­mat­ic! Right! This bell pull will do . . . [grabs bell pull. Runs up stairs. Jumps in the air. Swings down to­wards the win­dow. Falls about twelve feet short, hav­ing not giv­en him­self a very good start. Swings back and forth for a short time.]

Launcelot. Err . . . could some­one give me a push?