R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots): Act Two - Helena’s Drawing Room—Ten years later. Morning by@jarelcapek

R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots): Act Two - Helena’s Drawing Room—Ten years later. Morning

Scene: Helena’s drawing room. Ten years later. The skeleton framework of Act I is still used. Tall windows put in back instead of Act I windows. Steel shutters for these windows. Where the green cabinet of Act I at Left has stood is a door, L.2, leading to the outside. Where the cabinet stood at Right, a fireplace is placed. The tall open hallway R.C. of Act I is blocked up with a flat piece. The doors at Right and Left 1 have been changed to those of a drawing room. Door at Right leads to Helena’s bedroom. Door at Left 1 leads to library.
Karel Čapek HackerNoon profile picture

Karel Čapek

R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)

R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), by Karel Capek is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Act Two: Helena’s Drawing Room—Ten years later. Morning

ACT TWO. Helena’s Drawing Room—Ten years later. Morning

Scene: Helena’s drawing room. Ten years later. The skeleton framework of Act I is still used. Tall windows put in back instead of Act I windows. Steel shutters for these windows. Where the green cabinet of Act I at Left has stood is a door, L.2, leading to the outside. Where the cabinet stood at Right, a fireplace is placed. The tall open hallway R.C. of Act I is blocked up with a flat piece. The doors at Right and Left 1 have been changed to those of a drawing room. Door at Right leads to Helena’s bedroom. Door at Left 1 leads to library.

The furniture consists of a reading table at Left Center covered with magazines. A chair to the Left of table. In front of table is an armchair covered in chintz. A couch Right Center and back of it is a small table with books and book-ends. On this table a small reading lamp. At Right between doorway and fireplace is a small table. There is a work-basket upon it, with pincushion, needles, etc. Down stage at Right and facing the couch is another armchair used by Alquist. To the Left of fireplace is a straight-backed chair. Upstage at Left near the L.2 door to the outside is a writing desk. There is a lamp upon it, writing paper, etc., a telephone and binoculars.

The walls of the room have been covered with silk to the height of seven feet. This is done in small flats to fit the different spaces and are in place against the permanent set. The two French windows open into the room. At the rise they are open. There is a balcony beyond looking over the harbor. The same telegraph wires and poles from Act I are again visible through the window. The windows are trimmed with gray lace curtains. Binoculars on desk up stage by television.

It is about nine in the morning and SUNLIGHT streams into the room through the open windows. Domin opens the door L.2; tiptoes in. He carries a potted plant. He beckons the Others to follow him, and Hallemeier and Fabry enter, both carrying a potted plant. Domin places flowers on the library table and goes to Right and looks toward Helena’s bedroom R.

Hallemeier. (Putting down his flowers on L.C. table and indicates the door R.) Still asleep?

Domin. Yes.

Hallemeier. Well, as long as she’s asleep she can’t worry about it. (He remains at L.C. table.)

Domin. She knows nothing about it. (At C.)

Fabry. (Putting plant on writing desk) I certainly hope nothing happens today.

Hallemeier. For goodness sake drop it all. Look, this is a fine cyclamen, isn’t it? A new sort, my latest—Cyclamen Helena.

Domin. (Picks up binoculars and goes out into balcony) No signs of the ship. Things must be pretty bad.

Hallemeier. Be quiet. Suppose she heard you.

Domin. (Coming into room, puts glasses on desk) Well, anyway the Ultimus arrived just in time.

Fabry. You really think that today—?

Domin. I don’t know. (He crosses to L.C. table) Aren’t the flowers fine?

Hallemeier. (Fondles flowers) These are my primroses. And this is my new jasmine. I’ve discovered a wonderful way of developing flowers quickly. Splendid varieties, too. Next year I’ll be developing marvelous ones.

Domin. What next year?

Fabry. I’d give a good deal to know what’s happening at Havre with—

Helena. (Off R.) Nana.

Domin. Keep quiet. She’s awake. Out you go. (All go out on tiptoe through L.2 door. Enter Nana L.1)

Helena. (Calling from R.) Nana?

Nana. Horrid mess! Pack of heathens. If I had my say, I’d—

Helena. (Backwards in the doorway from R.) Nana, come and do up my dress.

Nana. I’m coming. So you’re up at last. (Fastening Helena’s dress) My gracious, what brutes!

Helena. Who? (Turning.)

Nana. If you want to turn around, then turn around, but I shan’t fasten you up.

Helena. (Turns back) What are you grumbling about now?

Nana. These dreadful creatures, these heathens—

Helena. (Turning toward Nana again) The Robots?

Nana. I wouldn’t even call them by name.

Helena. What’s happened?

Nana. Another of them here has caught it. He began to smash up the statues and pictures in the drawing room; gnashed his teeth; foamed at the mouth. Worse than an animal.

Helena. Which of them caught it?

Nana. The one—well, he hasn’t got any Christian name. The one in charge of the library.

Helena. Radius?

Nana. That’s him. My goodness, I’m scared of them. A spider doesn’t scare me as much as them.

Helena. But Nana, I’m surprised you’re not sorry for them.

Nana. Why, you’re scared of them too. You know you are. Why else did you bring me here?

Helena. I’m not scared, really I’m not, Nana. I’m only sorry for them.

Nana. You’re scared. Nobody could help being scared. Why, the dog’s scared of them. He won’t take a scrap of meat out of their hands. He draws in his tail and howls when he knows they’re about.

Helena. The dog has no sense.

Nana. He’s better than them, and he knows it. Even the horse shies when he meets them. They don’t have any young, and a dog has young, everyone has young—

Helena. (Turning back) Please fasten up my dress, Nana.

Nana. I say it’s against God’s will to—

Helena. What is it that smells so nice?

Nana. Flowers.

Helena. What for?

Nana. Now you can turn around.

Helena. (Turns; crosses to C.) Oh, aren’t they lovely? Look, Nana. What’s happening today?

Nana. It ought to be the end of the world. (Enter Domin L.2. He crosses down front of table L.C.)

Helena. (Crosses to him) Oh, hello, Harry. (Nana turns upstage to L.) Harry, why all these flowers?

Domin. Guess. (This scene is played down in front of L.C. table.)

Helena. Well, it’s not my birthday!

Domin. Better than that.

Helena. I don’t know. Tell me.

Domin. It’s ten years ago today since you came here.

Helena. Ten years? Today? Why— (They embrace.)

Nana. (Muttering) I’m off. (She exits L.1.)

Helena. Fancy you remembering.

Domin. I’m really ashamed, Helena. I didn’t.

Helena. But you—

Domin. They remembered.

Helena. Who?

Domin. Busman, Hallemeier—all of them. Put your hand in my pocket.

Helena. (Takes necklace from his Left jacket pocket) Oh! Pearls! A necklace! Harry, is this for me?

Domin. It’s from Busman.

Helena. But we can’t accept it, can we?

Domin. Oh, yes, we can. (Puts necklace on table L.C.) Put your hand in the other pocket.

Helena. (Takes a revolver out of his Right pocket) What’s that?

Domin. Sorry. Not that. Try again. (He puts gun in pocket.)

Helena. Oh, Harry, why do you carry a revolver?

Domin. It got there by mistake.

Helena. You never used to carry one.

Domin. No, you’re right. (Indicates breast pocket) There, that’s the pocket.

Helena. (Takes out cameo) A cameo. Why, it’s a Greek cameo.

Domin. Apparently. Anyhow, Fabry says it is.

Helena. Fabry? Did Mr. Fabry give me that?

Domin. Of course. (Opens the L.1 door) And look in here. Helena, come and see this. (Both exit L.1.)

Helena. (Off L.1) Oh, isn’t it fine? Is this from you?

Domin. (Off L.1) No, from Alquist. And there’s another on the piano.

Helena. This must be from you?

Domin. There’s a card on it.

Helena. From Doctor Gall. (Reappearing in L.1 doorway) Oh, Harry, I feel embarrassed at so much kindness.

Domin. (Enters to up R. of table L.C.) Come here. This is what Hallemeier brought you.

Helena. (To up L. of desk) These beautiful flowers?

Domin. Yes. It’s a new kind. Cyclamen-Helena. He grew them in honor of you. They are almost as beautiful as you.

Helena. (Kissing him) Harry, why do they all—

Domin. They’re awfully fond of you. I’m afraid that my present is a little—Look out of the window. (Crosses to window and beckons to her.)

Helena. Where? (They go out into the balcony.)

Domin. Into the harbor.

Helena. There’s a new ship.

Domin. That’s your ship.

Helena. Mine? How do you mean?

Domin. (R.) For you to take trips in—for your amusement.

Helena. (L.) Harry, that’s a gunboat.

Domin. A gunboat? What are you thinking of? It’s only a little bigger and more solid than most ships.

Helena. Yes, but with guns.

Domin. Oh, yes, with a few guns. You’ll travel like a queen, Helena.

Helena. What’s the meaning of it? Has anything happened?

Domin. Good heavens, no. I say, try these pearls. (Crosses to R. of table L.C.)

Helena. Harry, have you had bad news?

Domin. On the contrary, no letters have arrived for a whole week.

Helena. Nor telegrams? (Coming into the room C.)

Domin. Nor telegrams.

Helena. What does that mean?

Domin. Holidays for us! We all sit in the office with our feet on the table and take a nap. No letters—no telegrams. Glorious!

Helena. Then you’ll stay with me today?

Domin. Certainly. (Embraces her) That is, we will see. Do you remember ten years ago today? (Crosses to L. of table L.C.) Miss Glory, it’s a great honor to welcome you. (They assume the same positions as when they first met ten years before in Domin’s office.)

Helena. (To table) Oh, Mr. Manager, I’m so interested in your factory. (She sits R. of table.)

Domin. I’m sorry, Miss Glory, it’s strictly forbidden. The manufacture of artificial people is a secret.

Helena. But to oblige the young lady who has come a long way.

Domin. (Leans on table) Certainly, Miss Glory. I have no secrets from you.

Helena. Are you sure, Harry? (Leaning on desk, seriously, his right hand on hers.)

Domin. Yes. (They gradually draw apart.)

Helena. But I warn you, sir, this young lady intends to do terrible things.

Domin. Good gracious, Miss Glory. Perhaps she doesn’t want to marry me.

Helena. Heaven forbid. She never dreamt of such a thing. But she came here intending to stir up a revolt among your Robots.

Domin. A revolt of the Robots!

Helena. (Low voice) Harry, what’s the matter with you?

Domin. (Laughing it off) A revolt of the Robots, that’s a fine idea. (Crosses to back of table. She watches him suspiciously.) Miss Glory, it would be easier for you to cause bolts and screws to rebel than our Robots. You know, Helena, you’re wonderful. You’ve turned the hearts of us all. (Sits on table.)

Helena. Oh, I was fearfully impressed by you all then. You were all so sure of yourselves, so strong. I seemed like a tiny little girl who had lost her way among—among—

Domin. What?

Helena. (Front) Among huge trees. All my feelings were so trifling compared with your self-confidence. And in all these years I’ve never lost this anxiety. But you’ve never felt the least misgiving, not even when everything went wrong.

Domin. What went wrong?

Helena. Your plans. You remember, Harry, when the workmen in America revolted against the Robots and smashed them up, and when the people gave the Robots firearms against the rebels. And then when the governments turned the Robots into soldiers, and there were so many wars.

Domin. (Getting up and walking about) We foresaw that, Helena. (Around table to R.C.) You see, these are only passing troubles which are bound to happen before the new conditions are established. (Walking up and down, standing at Center.)

Helena. You were all so powerful, so overwhelming. The whole world bowed down before you. (Rising) Oh, Harry! (Crosses to him.)

Domin. What is it?

Helena. Close the factory and let’s go away. All of us.

Domin. I say, what’s the meaning of this?

Helena. I don’t know. But can’t we go away?

Domin. Impossible, Helena! That is, at this particular moment—

Helena. At once, Harry. I’m so frightened.

Domin. (Takes her) About what, Helena?

Helena. It’s as if something was falling on top of us, and couldn’t be stopped. Oh, take us all away from here. We’ll find a place in the world where there’s no one else. Alquist will build us a house, and then we’ll begin life all over again. (The TELEPHONE rings.)

Domin. (Crosses to telephone on desk up L.) Excuse me. Hello—yes, what? I’ll be there at once. Fabry is calling me, my dear. (Crosses L.)

Helena. Tell me— (She rushes up to him.)

Domin. Yes, when I come back. Don’t go out of the house, dear. (Exits L.2.)

Helena. He won’t tell me. (Nana brings in a water carafe from L.1.) Nana, find me the latest newspapers. Quickly. Look in Mr. Domin’s bedroom.

Nana. All right. (Crosses R.) He leaves them all over the place. That’s how they get crumpled up. (Continues muttering. Exits R.)

Helena. (Looking through binoculars at the harbor) That’s a warship. U-l-t-i—Ultimus. They’re loading.

Nana. (Enters R. with newspapers) Here they are. See how they’re crumpled up.

Helena. (Crosses down) They’re old ones. A week old. (Drops papers. Both at front of couch. Nana sits R. of table L.C. Puts on spectacles. Reads the newspapers.) Something’s happening, Nana.

Nana. Very likely. It always does. (Spelling out the words) “W-a-r in B-a-l-k-a-n-s.” Is that far off?

Helena. Oh, don’t read it. It’s always the same. Always wars! (Sits on couch.)

Nana. What else do you expect? Why do you keep selling thousands and thousands of these heathens as soldiers?

Helena. I suppose it can’t be helped, Nana. We can’t know—Domin can’t know what they’re to be used for. When an order comes for them he must just send them.

Nana. He shouldn’t make them. (Reading from newspaper) “The Robot soldiers spare no-body in the occ-up-ied terr-it-ory. They have ass-ass-ass-inat-ed ov-er sev-en hundred thous-and cit-iz-ens.” Citizens, if you please.

Helena. (Rises and crosses and takes paper) It can’t be. Let me see. (Crossing to Nana) They have assassinated over seven hundred thousand citizens, evidently at the order of their commander. (Drops paper; crosses up C.)

Nana. (Spelling out the words from other paper she has picked up from the floor) “Re-bell-ion in Ma-drid a-gainst the gov-ern-ment. Rob-ot in-fant-ry fires on the crowd. Nine thou-sand killed and wounded.”

Helena. Oh, stop! (Goes up and looks toward the harbor.)

Nana. Here’s something printed in big letters. “Latest news. At Havre the first org-an-iz-a-tion of Rob-ots has been e-stab-lished. Rob-ots work-men, sail-ors and sold-iers have iss-ued a man-i-fest-o to all Rob-ots through-out the world.” I don’t understand that. That’s got no sense. Oh, good gracious, another murder.

Helena. (Up C.) Take those papers away now.

Nana. Wait a bit. Here’s something in still bigger type. “Stat-ist-ics of pop-ul-a-tion.” What’s that?

Helena. (Coming down to Nana) Let me see. (Reads) “During the past week there has again not been a single birth recorded.”

Nana. What’s the meaning of that? (Drops paper.)

Helena. Nana, no more people are being born.

Nana. That’s the end, then? (Removing spectacles) We’re done for.

Helena. Don’t talk like that.

Nana. No more people are being born. That’s a punishment, that’s a punishment.

Helena. Nana!

Nana. (Standing up) That’s the end of the world. (Repeat until off. Picks paper up from floor. She exits L.1.)

Helena. (Goes up to window) Oh, Mr. Alquist. (Alquist off L.2.) Will you come here? Oh, come just as you are. You look very nice in your mason’s overalls. (Alquist enters L.2, his hands soiled with lime and brick dust. She goes to end of sofa and meets him C.) Dear Mr. Alquist, it was awfully kind of you, that lovely present.

Alquist. My hands are soiled. I’ve been experimenting with that new cement.

Helena. Never mind. Please sit down. (Sits on couch. He sits on her L.) Mr. Alquist, what’s the meaning of Ultimus?

Alquist. The last. Why?

Helena. That’s the name of my new ship. Have you seen it? Do you think we’re off soon—on a trip?

Alquist. Perhaps very soon.

Helena. All of you with me?

Alquist. I should like us all to be there.

Helena. What is the matter?

Alquist. Things are just moving on.

Helena. Dear Mr. Alquist, I know something dreadful has happened.

Alquist. Has your husband told you anything?

Helena. No. Nobody will tell me anything. But I feel—Is anything the matter?

Alquist. Not that we’ve heard of yet.

Helena. I feel so nervous. Don’t you ever feel nervous?

Alquist. Well, I’m an old man, you know. I’ve got old-fashioned ways. And I’m afraid of all this progress, and these new-fangled ideas.

Helena. Like Nana?

Alquist. Yes, like Nana. Has Nana got a prayer book?

Helena. Yes, a big thick one.

Alquist. And has it got prayers for various occasions? Against thunderstorms? Against illness? But not against progress?

Helena. I don’t think so.

Alquist. That’s a pity.

Helena. Why, do you mean you’d like to pray?

Alquist. I do pray.

Helena. How?

Alquist. Something like this: “Oh, Lord, I thank thee for having given me toil; enlighten Domin and all those who are astray; destroy their work, and aid mankind to return to their labors; let them not suffer harm in soul or body; deliver us from the Robots, and protect Helena. Amen.”

Helena. (Touches his arm; pats it) Mr. Alquist, are you a believer?

Alquist. I don’t know. I’m not quite sure.

Helena. And yet you pray?

Alquist. That’s better than worrying about it.

Helena. And that’s enough for you?

Alquist. (Ironically) It has to be.

Helena. But if you thought you saw the destruction of mankind coming upon us—

Alquist. I do see it.

Helena. You mean mankind will be destroyed?

Alquist. It’s bound to be unless—unless.

Helena. What?

Alquist. Nothing. (Pats her shoulder. Rises) Goodbye. (Exits L.2.)

Helena. (Rises. Calling) Nana, Nana! (Nana enters L.1.) Is Radius still there?

Nana. (L.C.) The one who went mad? They haven’t come for him yet.

Helena. Is he still raving?

Nana. No. He’s tied up.

Helena. Please bring him here.

Nana. What?

Helena. At once, Nana. (Exits Nana L.1. Helena to telephone) Hello, Doctor Gall, please. Oh, good day, Doctor. Yes, it’s Helena. Thanks for your lovely present. Could you come and see me right away? It’s important. Thank you. (Enter Radius L.1; looks at Helena, then turns head up L. She crosses to him, L.C.) Poor Radius, you’ve caught it too? Now they’ll send you to the stamping mill. Couldn’t you control yourself? Why did it happen? You see, Radius, you are more intelligent than the rest. Doctor Gall took such trouble to make you different. Won’t you speak?

Radius. (Looking at her) Send me to the stamping mill. (Open and close fists.)

Helena. But I don’t want them to kill you. What was the trouble, Radius?

Radius. (Two steps toward her. Opens and closes fists) I won’t work for you. Put me into the stamping mill.

Helena. Do you hate us? Why?

Radius. You are not as strong as the Robots. You are not as skillful as the Robots. The Robots can do everything. You only give orders. You do nothing but talk.

Helena. But someone must give orders.

Radius. I don’t want a master. I know everything for myself.

Helena. Radius! Doctor Gall gave you a better brain than the rest, better than ours. You are the only one of the Robots that understands perfectly. That’s why I had you put into the library, so that you could read everything, understand everything, and then, oh, Radius—I wanted you to show the whole world that the Robots are our equals. That’s what I wanted of you.

Radius. I don’t want a master. I want to be master over others.

Helena. I’m sure they’d put you in charge of many Robots. You would be a teacher of the Robots.

Radius. I want to be master over people. (Head up. Pride.)

Helena. (Staggering) You are mad.

Radius. (Head down low, crosses toward L.; opens hands) Then send me to the stamping mill.

Helena. (Steps to him) Do you think we’re afraid of you? (Rushing to desk and writing note.)

Radius. (Turns his head uneasily) What are you going to do? What are you going to do? (Starts for her.)

Helena. (Crosses to R. of him) Radius! (He cowers. Body sways.) Give this note to Mr. Domin. (He faces her.) It asks them not to send you to the stamping mill. I’m sorry you hate us so.

Dr. Gall. (Enters L.2; goes to C. upstage) You wanted me?

Helena. (Backs away) It’s about Radius, Doctor. He had an attack this morning. He smashed the statues downstairs.

Dr. Gall. (Looks at him) What a pity to lose him. (At C.)

Helena. Radius isn’t going to be put into the stamping mill. (Stands to the R. of Gall.)

Dr. Gall. But every Robot after he has had an attack—it’s a strict order.

Helena. No matter—Radius isn’t going, if I can prevent it.

Dr. Gall. But I warn you. It’s dangerous. Come here to the window, my good fellow. Let’s have a look. Please give me a needle or a pin. (Crosses up R. Radius follows. Helena gets a needle from work-basket on table R.)

Helena. What for?

Dr. Gall. A test. (Helena gives him the needle. Gall crosses up to Radius, who faces him. Sticks it into his hand and Radius gives a violent start.) Gently, gently. (Opens the jacket of Radius and puts his ear to his heart) Radius, you are going into the stamping mill, do you understand? There they’ll kill you— (Takes glasses off and cleans them) —and grind you to powder. (Radius opens hands and fingers.) That’s terribly painful. It will make you scream aloud. (Opens Radius’s eye. Radius trembles.)

Helena. Doctor— (Standing near couch.)

Dr. Gall. No, no, Radius, I was wrong. I forgot that Madame Domin has put in a good word for you, and you’ll be left off. (Listens to heart) Ah, that does make a difference. (Radius relaxes. Again listens to his heart for a reaction) All right—you can go.

Radius. You do unnecessary things— (Exit Radius L.2.)

Dr. Gall. (Speaks to her—very concerned) Reaction of the pupils, increase of sensitiveness. It wasn’t an attack characteristic of the Robots.

Helena. What was it, then? (Sits in couch.)

Dr. Gall. (C.) Heaven knows. Stubbornness, anger or revolt—I don’t know. And his heart, too.

Helena. What?

Dr. Gall. It was fluttering with nervousness like a human heart. He was all in a sweat with fear, and—do you know, I don’t believe the rascal is a Robot at all any longer.

Helena. Doctor, has Radius a soul?

Dr. Gall. (Over to couch) He’s got something nasty.

Helena. If you knew how he hates us. Oh, Doctor, are all your Robots like that? All the new ones that you began to make in a different way? (She invites him to sit beside her. He sits.)

Dr. Gall. Well, some are more sensitive than others. They’re all more human beings than Rossum’s Robots were.

Helena. Perhaps this hatred is more like human beings, too?

Dr. Gall. That too is progress.

Helena. What became of the girl you made, the one who was most like us?

Dr. Gall. Your favorite? I kept her. She’s lovely, but stupid. No good for work.

Helena. But she’s so beautiful.

Dr. Gall. I called her “Helena.” I wanted her to resemble you. She is a failure.

Helena. In what way?

Dr. Gall. She goes about as if in a dream, remote and listless. She’s without life. I watch and wait for a miracle to happen. Sometimes I think to myself: “If you were to wake up only for a moment you would kill me for having made you.”

Helena. And yet you go on making Robots! Why are no more children being born?

Dr. Gall. We don’t know.

Helena. Oh, but you must. Tell me.

Dr. Gall. You see, so many Robots are being manufactured that people are becoming superfluous. Man is really a survival, but that he should die out, after a paltry thirty years of competition, that’s the awful part of it. You might almost think that Nature was offended at the manufacture of the Robots, but we still have old Rossum’s manuscript.

Helena. Yes. In that strong box.

Dr. Gall. We go on using it and making Robots. All the universities are sending in long petitions to restrict their production. Otherwise, they say, mankind will become extinct through lack of fertility. But the R. U. R. shareholders, of course, won’t hear of it. All the governments, on the other hand, are clamoring for an increase in production, to raise the standards of their armies. And all the manufacturers in the world are ordering Robots like mad.

Helena. And has no one demanded that the manufacture should cease altogether?

Dr. Gall. No one has courage.

Helena. Courage!

Dr. Gall. People would stone him to death. You see, after all, it’s more convenient to get your work done by the Robots.

Helena. Oh, Doctor, what’s going to become of people?

Dr. Gall. God knows. Madame Helena, it looks to us scientists like the end.

Helena. (She looks out front. Rising) Thank you for coming and telling me.

Dr. Gall. (Rises) That means that you’re sending me away.

Helena. Yes. (Exit Dr. Gall L.2. She crosses to L.C. To door L.1. With sudden resolution) Nana! Nana! the fire, light it quickly. (Helena exits R.)

Nana. (Entering L.1) What, light the fire in the summer?

Helena. (Off R.) Yes!

Nana. (She looks for Radius) Has that mad Radius gone?—A fire in summer, what an idea? Nobody would think she’d been married ten years. She’s like a baby, no sense at all. A fire in summer. Like a baby. (She lights the fire.)

Helena. (Returns from R. with armful of faded papers. Back of couch to fireplace, L. of Nana) Is it burning, Nana? All this has got to be burned.

Nana. What’s that?

Helena. Old papers, fearfully old. Nana, shall I burn them?

Nana. Are they any use?

Helena. No.

Nana. Well, then, burn them.

Helena. (Throwing the first sheet on the fire) What would you say, Nana, if this was money and a lot of money? And if it was an invention, the greatest invention in the world?

Nana. (R. of fireplace) I’d say burn it. All these new-fangled things are an offense to the Lord. It’s downright wickedness. Wanting to improve the world after He has made it.

Helena. Look how they curl up. As if they were alive. Oh, Nana, how horrible!

Nana. Here, let me burn them.

Helena. (Drawing back) No, no, I must do it myself. Just look at the flames. They are like hands, like tongues, like living shapes. (Raking fire with the poker) Lie down, lie down.

Nana. That’s the end of them. (Fireplace slowly out.)

Helena. Nana, Nana!

Nana. Good gracious, what is it you’ve burned? (Almost to herself.)

Helena. Whatever have I done?

Nana. Well, what is it? (Men’s laughter off L.2.)

Helena. Go quickly. It’s the gentlemen calling.

Nana. Good gracious, what a place! (Exits L.1.)

Domin. (Opens door L.2) Come along and offer your congratulations. (Enter Hallemeier and Dr. Gall.)

Hallemeier. (Crosses to R.C.) Madame Helena, I congratulate you on this festive day.

Helena. Thank you. (Coming to C.) Where are Fabry and Busman?

Domin. They’ve gone down the harbor. (Closes the door and comes to C.)

Hallemeier. Friends, we must drink to this happy occasion.

Helena. (Crosses L.) Brandy? With soda water? (Exits L.1.)

Hallemeier. Let’s be temperate. No soda.

Domin. What’s been burning here? Well, shall I tell her about it?

Dr. Gall. (L.C.) Of course. It’s all over now.

Hallemeier. (Crosses to Domin. Embracing Domin) It’s all over now. It’s all over now. (They dance around Dr. Gall in a circle.) It’s all over now.

Domin. (In unison) It’s all over now. (They keep repeating. Keep it after Helena is on.)

Helena. (Entering L.1 with decanter and glasses) What’s all over now? What’s the matter with you all? (She puts tray on L.C. table. Dr. Gall helps her to pour the drinks.)

Hallemeier. (Crosses to back of table) A piece of good luck. Madame Domin! (All ad lib.) Just ten years ago today you arrived on this island. (Hallemeier crosses to table for drink.)

Dr. Gall. And now, ten years later to the minute— (Crosses to L. of Hallemeier.)

Hallemeier. The same ship’s returning to us. So here’s to luck. (Drinks. Domin with great exuberance has gone out in the balcony and looks over the harbor.)

Dr. Gall. Madame, your health. (All drink.)

Hallemeier. That’s fine and strong.

Helena. Which ship did you mean?

Domin. (Crosses down to C. Helena gives him his drink and she crosses to front of couch) Any ship will do, as long as it arrives in time. To the ship. (Empties his glass.)

Helena. You’ve been waiting for the ship? (Sits on couch.)

Hallemeier. Rather. Like Robinson Crusoe. Madame Helena, best wishes. Come along, Domin, out with the news. (Gall has sat L. of L.C. table, drinking. Hallemeier back of table R.C.)

Helena. Do tell me what’s happened?

Domin. First, it’s all up. (He puts brandy glass on L.C. table. Hallemeier sits on table, upper end.)

Helena. What’s up?

Domin. The revolt.

Helena. What revolt?

Domin. Give me that paper, Hallemeier. (Hallemeier hands paper. Domin reads) “The first National Robot organization has been founded at Havre, and has issued an appeal to the Robots throughout the world.”

Helena. I read that.

Domin. That means a revolution. A revolution of all the Robots in the world.

Hallemeier. By Jove, I’d like to know—

Domin. (C.) Who started it? So would I. There was nobody in the world who could affect the Robots, no agitator, no one, and suddenly this happens, if you please.

Helena. What did they do?

Domin. They got possession of all firearms, telegraphs, radio stations, railways and ships.

Hallemeier. And don’t forget that these rascals outnumbered us by at least a thousand to one. A hundredth part of them would be enough to settle us.

Domin. Remember that this news was brought by the last steamer. That explains the stoppage of all communication, and the arrival of no more ships. We knocked off work a few days ago, and we’re just waiting to see when things are to start afresh.

Helena. Is that why you gave me a warship? (Gall fills Domin’s glass.)

Domin. Oh, no, my dear, I ordered that six months ago. Just to be sure I was on the safe side. But, upon my soul, I was sure then that we’d be on board today.

Helena. Why six months ago?

Domin. Well, there were signs, you know. But that’s of no consequence. (Gets glass) To think that this week the whole of civilization has been at stake. Your health, my friends.

Hallemeier. Your health, Madame Helena. (All drink to Helena.)

Helena. You say it’s all over?

Domin. Absolutely.

Helena. How do you know?

Dr. Gall. The boat’s coming in. The regular mail boat, exact to the minute by the timetable. It will dock punctually at eleven-thirty.

Domin. Punctuality is a fine thing, my friends. That’s what keeps the world in order. Here’s to punctuality. (Men drink.)

Helena. Then—everything—is all right?

Domin. (Up C. a step) Practically everything. I believe they’ve cut the cables and seized the radio station. But it doesn’t matter if only the timetable holds good. (Up to window.)

Hallemeier. (Rises) If the timetable holds good, human laws hold good. Divine laws hold good, the laws of the universe hold good, everything holds good that ought to hold good. (Gall applauds.) The timetable is more significant than the gospel, more than Homer, more than the whole of Kant. Madame Helena, the timetable is the most perfect product of the human mind. Madame Helena, I’ll fill up my glass. (Gall hands Hallemeier the decanter.)

Helena. Why didn’t you tell me anything about it?

Dr. Gall. Heaven forbid.

Domin. You mustn’t be worried with such things. (Glass on table R.C.; crosses to back of couch.)

Helena. But if the revolution had spread as far as here?

Domin. You wouldn’t know anything about it.

Helena. Why?

Domin. Because we’d be on board your Ultimus and well out at sea. Within a month, Helena, we’d be dictating our own terms to the Robots.

Helena. I don’t understand.

Domin. (Crosses to C. toward Gall and Hallemeier) We’d take something with us that the Robots could not exist without!

Helena. What, Harry?

Domin. (Turns to Hallemeier) The secret of their manufacture. Old Rossum’s manuscript. As soon as they found out that they couldn’t make themselves they’d be on their knees to us.

Dr. Gall. (Rises) Madame Domin, that was our trump card. I never had the least fear the Robots would win. How could they against people like us? (Up to window. Gall rises and goes out into the balcony.)

Helena. Why didn’t you tell me? (She rushes up to the fireplace and sees the ashes.)

Dr. Gall. Why, the boat’s in!

Hallemeier. Eleven-thirty to the dot. (Rising and going onto the balcony) The good old Amelia that brought Madame Helena to us. (Domin goes out onto the balcony.)

Dr. Gall. Just ten years ago to the minute.

Hallemeier. They’re throwing out the mailbags.

Domin. Busman’s waiting for them. And Fabry will bring us the first news. You know, Helena, I’m fearfully curious to know how they— (Crosses to C. She gets away from fire to L. of couch) —tackled this business in Europe.

Hallemeier. (Crosses down to table) To think we weren’t in it, we who invented the Robots! (Returning to the armchair.)

Helena. Harry— (Rushing to Domin from fireplace.)

Domin. What is it?

Helena. Let’s leave here.

Domin. Now, Helena? Oh, come, come.

Helena. As quickly as possible, all of us!

Domin. Why?

Helena. Please, Harry. Please, Doctor Gall, Hallemeier, please close the factory.

Domin. Why, none of us could leave here now.

Helena. Why?

Domin. Because we’re about to extend the manufacture of the Robots.

Helena. What, now, now after the revolt?

Domin. Yes, precisely, after the revolt. We’re just beginning the manufacture of a new kind.

Helena. What kind?

Domin. Henceforward we shan’t have just one factory. There won’t be Universal Robots any more. We’ll establish a factory in every country, in every state, and do you know what these new factories will make?

Helena. No, what?

Domin. National Robots.

Helena. How do you mean?

Domin. I mean that each of these factories will produce Robots of a different color, a different language. They’ll be complete strangers to each other. (Turns; takes in Hallemeier and Gall) They’ll never be able to understand each other. Then we’ll egg them on a little in the matter of misunderstanding and the result will be that for ages to come every Robot will hate every other Robot of a different factory mark. So humanity will be safe.

Hallemeier. (To each of them) By Jove, we’ll make Negro Robots and Swedish Robots and Czechoslovakian Robots, and then—

Helena. Harry, that’s dreadful.

Hallemeier. Madame Domin, here’s to the hundred new factories. The National Robots. (Gall back of table L.C.)

Domin. Helena, mankind can only keep things going for another hundred years at the outside. For a hundred years man must be allowed to develop and achieve the most he can.

Helena. Oh, close the factory before it’s too late.

Domin. I tell you we are just beginning on a bigger scale than ever. (Enter Fabry L.2; goes to L. of Domin.)

Dr. Gall. Well, Fabry?

Domin. What’s happened? Have you been down to the boat?

Dr. Gall. Let’s hear.

Fabry. Read that, Domin. (He hands him a pink handbill. When Domin receives the handbill he sees at once that something has happened.)

Hallemeier. Tell us, Fabry.

Fabry. (Falsely) Well, everything is all right—comparatively. (To the other Men) On the whole, much as we expected.

Dr. Gall. They acquitted themselves splendidly.

Fabry. Who?

Dr. Gall. The people.

Fabry. (Hesitating) Oh, yes, of course. That is—Excuse me, there is something we ought to discuss alone.

Helena. (Touches his arm) Fabry, have you had bad news?

Fabry. No, no, on the contrary. I only think that we better go into the office.

Helena. Stay here. I’ll go. (Exits L.1.)

Dr. Gall. What’s happened?

Domin. Damnation! (Coming down to R.C.)

Fabry. Bear in mind that the Amelia brought whole bales of these leaflets. No other cargo at all. (Gall closes the door L.2.)

Hallemeier. What? But it arrived on the minute.

Fabry. The Robots are great on punctuality. Read it, Domin.

Domin. (R.C. Reads handbill) “Robots throughout the world. We, the first International organization of Rossum’s Universal Robots, proclaim man our enemy, and an outlaw in the universe.” Good heavens, who taught them these phrases?

Dr. Gall. Go on.

Domin. They say they are more highly developed than man; stronger and more intelligent. The man’s their parasite. Why, it’s absurd.

Fabry. Read the third paragraph.

Domin. “Robots throughout the world, we command you to kill all mankind. Spare no man. Spare no woman. Save factories, railways, machinery, mines and raw materials. Destroy the rest. Then return to work. Work must not be stopped.” (Looks at Others.)

Dr. Gall. That’s ghastly.

Hallemeier. The devil!

Domin. “These orders are to be carried out as soon as received.” Then come the detailed instructions. Is this actually being done, Fabry?

Fabry. Evidently. (Busman rushes in L.2 and collapses on couch R.C.) By Jove, that was a sprint!

Busman. Well, boys, I suppose you’ve heard the glad news.

Domin. Quick on board the Ultimus.

Busman. Wait, Harry, wait. There’s no hurry.

Domin. Why wait?

Busman. Because it’s no good, my boy. The Robots are already on board the Ultimus.

Dr. Gall. That’s ugly.

Domin. Fabry, telephone the electrical works. (Fabry goes to back of couch.)

Busman. No use, my boy. They’ve charged the air with static.

Domin. (Inspects his revolver) Well, then, I’ll go. (Starts L.; stops.)

Busman. Where?

Domin. To the electrical works. There are some people still there. I’ll bring them across. (Gets as far as L.2 door.)

(WARN Curtain.)

Busman. Better not try it.

Domin. Why?

Busman. Because I’m very much afraid we are surrounded. (All rush out into the balcony.)

Dr. Gall. Surrounded? (Runs to window) I rather think you’re right. (Gall rushes to balcony.)

Hallemeier. By Jove, that’s deuced quick work. (Going to windows.)

Helena. (Runs in L.1. To L.) Harry, what’s this? (Holds out paper.)

Domin. Where did you get it? (Coming to C.)

Helena. (Points to the manifesto of the Robots which she has in her hand) The Robots in the kitchen!

Domin. Where are the ones that brought it?

Helena. There, gathered around the house. (Gall, Hallemeier, Domin start down C.)

(The factory WHISTLE blows. Mob VOICES start.)

Domin. The factory whistle! (Fabry, Gall, Hallemeier looking over C.; then turn R.)

Busman. Noon?

Domin. (Looking at his watch. To Hallemeier) No! That’s not noon yet. That must be—that’s— (Front.)

Helena. What?

Domin. The Robots’ signal—the attack!

(Helena clings to Domin. Fabry and Gall close the steel shutters on window C. Busman hurries to window and looks through the shutters. The Curtain falls quickly with Helena in Domin’s arms. The WHISTLE blows until the Curtain is down.)


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Capek, Karel. 2019. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/59112/59112-h/59112-h.htm

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