A Play In One Act
The Throne Room of the Emperor Equus Gluteus Maximus Caesar, one in a long, diluted (and deluded) line of Caesars. His Advisor, Obsequious the Elder, bursts through the courtiers and stops, panting, in front of the Emperor.
OBSEQUIOUS-Pardon, me Caesar, Beloved of the Gods.
CAESAR-What the…? Ah, Obsequious. That’s fine, come right on in. Why stand on ceremony? We’re all equals around here.
OBSEQUIOUS-It pleases my Emperor to jest. But this is serious and of the highest import. The Gladiators are revolting.
CAESAR-You’re telling me. They don’t use the baths, they belch, they break wind—and that’s their better qualities.”
OBSEQUIOUS-Good one, Wearer of the Kingly Crown. But really they are demanding some changes be made.
CAESAR-It’s not that rabble rouser, again, is it? Is it that fellow, um Benji? Big Ben?—you know, the one who looks like those paintings of Moses.
OBSEQUIOUS-Judah Ben Hur, Your Superfluousness. No, he retired from the Arena undefeated.
CAESAR-Most gladiators retire from the Arena dead.”
OBSEQUIOUS-That is precisely what the gladiators’ grievances are about—safety issues.”
CAESAR-“Grievances? Safety issues,” eh? Bunch of namby pambys.
OBSEQUIOUS-Would you deign to speak with their representatives, oh Supreme End Result of Inbreeding?
CAESAR-They speak Latin? Can’t understand a word those Thracians say. Well drag the wretches in. But gently—safety first, I suppose.
TWO GLADIATORS ENTER. ONE IS IN CHAINS, ACCOMPANIED BY GUARDS
CAESAR-Oh, that must be one of them, the huge one in chains.
OBSEQUIOUS-Nothing escapes the trained eye, Majesty. And the man next to him is Sergeant Pepperonius, Roman Army-Retired, who voluntarily joined the Gladiator League.
CAESAR-You’ll never find an unbeliever in the gods in a trench, eh Sarge?
SERGEANT PEPPERONIUS-Er…As you say, Supreme Commander.
CAESAR-Okay, Obsequious, let’s hear from the heavyweight first.
OBSEQUIOUS-Yes sire, the Prisoner of War from Norse country.
CAESAR-What’s your name, valiant warrior?”
P.O.W. Ludefisk-Ufda Ludefisk, Mighty Caesar.
CAESAR-Let me hear one of your taunts.
LUDEFISK-“Die, you Roman dog!”
CAESAR-Well shouted. The last taunt I heard from a foreign gladiator sounded something like, “Eye, ooh Ohman ogg.” Pathetic. Anyway what’s your beef?
LUDEFISK-Well, Sire, we come not to bury the noble sport of the Gladiator Combats, but to improve it and preserve it by making it safer.
CAESAR-How? Have you knock each other around with wooden swords? My subjects wouldn’t stand for it.
LUDEFISK-Nothing as watered down as that. The fighting would remain fierce, but a medicus standing by would be nice. We want stronger helmets, impenetrable shields, better padded eye guards, a ban on spearing, a shorter season, no more ensnaring in nets, perhaps duller swords, and…well…
CAESAR-Speak up, lad.
LUDESFISK-Um, do away with the Imperial Prerogative of signaling thumbs down for death to the vanquished?
CAESAR-Why, that’s what the crowd comes for. That’s half the fun.
LUEDFISK-Not for the one lying in the sand.
PEPPERONIUS-May I speak?
CAESAR: Always willing to listen to our Roman Army vets. Backbone of the Empire.
SERGEANT PEPPERONIUS-The non POWs and non felons—those of us who are proud Citizens only want our share of the Roman Dream. That includes saving us from plume splitting concussions.
CAESAR-Easy, my man. Carthage wasn’t destroyed in a day, you know. This will take study, forming a bunch of committees, ordering in snacks….
PEPPERONIUS-Or we strike and force you to cancel the bouts.
CAESAR-You can’t strike—you’re Empire employees.
PEPPERONIUS-Anyway the fans want a good fight, but it’s tough to keep staging competitive matches when the losers don’t live to fight another day. Or when they’ve been disarmed—literally. We want to please the crowd with bloody combat, but there should be some safeguards.
CAESAR-Well, I have to weigh the financial savings accrued due to less gladiators being maimed or killed against any crowd disappointment affecting my popularity. But what else did you have in mind?
PEPPERONIUS-It’s mainly protecting vital parts, so the Gladiators can live to…
CAESAR-Yes, yes, “…fight another day.” I heard your mantra. As to the crowd-pleasing bloodshed, I suppose if you just chop of a chap’s ear rather than the whole head, he’ll bleed like a stuck pig, but he’ll still survive.
PEPPERONIUS-Exactly, Oh Rome County Executive and Chairman of the Float
CAESAR-Well, we’ll see. That about do it?
PEPPERONIUS: Not quite. There’s also the non-negotiable demand of granting every member of The Gladiator League full dental insur….”
CAESAR-Centurion, take this man over to the Arena, and if he’s vanquished, and the crowd loses its head, see that he does too.