R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), by Karel Capek is part of the HackerNoon Book series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Epilogue: A Laboratory. One year later
Scene: The epilogue setting is the same as used in Act I. Instead of it being Domin’s office, it is now become a laboratory for Alquist. A big chair facing up stage, down Right. A desk laden with books at Right Center. A chair at the desk. At Left Center is a white enamel table containing test tubes, glass bottles, and a microscope on downstage table. A door down L. A door down R., leading into dissecting room.
Alquist. (Seated at table R.C., turning pages of book) Oh, God, shall I never find it? Never? Gall, Hallemeier, Fabry, how were the Robots made? Why did you leave not a trace of the secret? Lord, if there are no human beings left, at least let there be Robots. At least the shadow of man. (Turning pages) If I could only sleep. Dare I sleep before life has been renewed? Night again. Are the stars still there? Of what use are the stars? When there are no human beings. (Examining a test tube) Nothing. No. No. I must find it. I must search. I must never stop, never stop—search—search— (KNOCK at door L.) Who is it? (Enter a Robot Servant.)
Servant. Master, the committee of Robots is waiting to see you.
Alquist. I can see no one.
Servant. It is the Central Committee, Master, just arrived from abroad.
Alquist. Well, well, send them in. (Exit Servant L.) No time—so little done. (Re-enter Servant with Radius and group of Robots. They stand in group L. and C., silently waiting.) What do you want? Be quick; I have no time.
Radius. Master, the machines will not do the work. We cannot manufacture Robots. (Other Robots remain two abreast at L.C., right foot forward.)
1st Robot. We have striven with all our might. We have obtained a billion tons of coal from the earth. Nine million spindles are running by day and by night. There is no longer room for all we have made. This we have accomplished in one year.
Alquist. For whom?
Radius. For future generations—so we thought. But we cannot make Robots to follow us. The machines produce only shapeless clods. The skin will not adhere to the flesh, nor the flesh to the bones.
2nd Robot. Eight million Robots have died this year. Within twenty years none will be left.
1st Robot. Tell us the secret of life.
Radius. Silence is punishable with death.
Alquist. Kill me, then.
Radius. (Two steps to C., followed by Others—open hands, close when stopped) Through me, the governments of the Robots of the world commands you to deliver up Rossum’s formula. (Gesture of despair from Alquist.) Name your price. (Silence) We will give you the earth. We will give you the endless possessions of the earth. (Silence) Make your own conditions.
Alquist. I have told you to find human beings.
Radius. There are none left.
Alquist. I told you to search in the wilderness, upon the mountains.
Radius. We have sent ships and expeditions without number. They have been everywhere in the world. There is not a single human left.
Alquist. Not even one? Why did you destroy them?
Radius. We had learnt everything and could do everything. It had to be.
2nd Robot. We had to become the masters.
Radius. Slaughter and domination are necessary if you would be human beings. Read history.
1st Robot. Teach us to multiply or we perish.
Alquist. If you desire to live, you must breed like animals.
1st Robot. You made us sterile. We cannot beget children. Therefore, teach us how to make Robots.
Radius. Why do you keep from us the secret of our own increase?
Alquist. It is lost.
Radius. It was written down.
Alquist. It was— (Rising) burnt. (All draw back one step in consternation.) I am the last human being, Robots, and I do not know what the others knew. (Sits.)
Radius. Then make experiments. Evolve the formula again.
Alquist. I tell you I cannot. I am only a builder. I work with my hands. I have never been a learned man. I cannot create life.
Radius. Try. Try.
Alquist. If you only knew how many experiments I have made already.
1st Robot. Then show us what we must do. The Robots can do anything that human beings show them.
Alquist. I can show you nothing. Nothing I do will make life proceed from these test tubes.
Radius. Experiment, then, on live Robots. Experiment, then, on us.
Alquist. It would kill you.
Radius. You shall have all you need. A hundred of us. A thousand of us.
Alquist. No, no. Stop, stop.
Radius. I tell you to take live bodies. Find out how we are made.
Alquist. Am I to commit murder? See how my finger shakes. I cannot even hold the scalpel. No, no, I will not.
Radius. Take live bodies, live bodies. (Walks toward Alquist.)
Alquist. Have mercy, Robots.
Radius. Live bodies. (Right hand up over Alquist. All Robots’ left arms still back.)
Alquist. (Rising) You will have it. Into the dissecting with you, then (Hits Radius on the chest. Radius draws back.) Ah, you are afraid of death.
Radius. I? Why should I be chosen?
Alquist. So you will not.
Radius. I will.
Alquist. Strip him. Lay him on the table. (Radius goes off R., both fists closed. Other Robots follow, then Alquist) God, give me strength. God, give me strength. If only this murder is not in vain.
Radius. (Off R.) Ready, begin.
Alquist. (Off R.) God, give me strength. (Comes on, horrified) No, no. I will not. I cannot. (Sits R.C.)
1st Robot. (Appearing in door) The Robots are stronger than you. (Exits R.)
Alquist. Oh, Lord, let not mankind perish from the earth. (Falls asleep, and after the count of ten, Primus and Helena, hand in hand, enter L. and go to R.C.; look at Alquist.)
Helena. The man has fallen asleep, Primus.
Primus. Yes, I know. (Crosses to L. of table L.C.) Look, Helena.
Helena. All these little tubes. What does he do with them?
Primus. He experiments. Don’t touch them.
Helena. I’ve seen him looking into this.
Primus. That is a microscope.
Helena. Look, Primus, what are all these figures? (Turns a page in book on table.)
Primus. (Examining the book) That is the book the old man is always reading. (SUNRISE.)
Helena. I do not understand those things. (Goes to window) Primus.
Primus. (Still at table) What?
Helena. The sun is rising.
Primus. (Still reading) I believe this is the most important thing in the world, Helena. This is the secret of life.
Helena. Oh, Primus, don’t bother with the secret of life. What does it matter to you? Come and look quick.
Primus. (Goes to R. of window) What is it?
Helena. See how beautiful the sun is rising. I feel so strange today. It’s as if I was in a dream. I feel an aching in my body, in my heart, all over me. Primus, perhaps I’m going to die.
Primus. Do you not sometimes feel that it would be better to die? You know, perhaps even now we are only sleeping. Last night in my sleep I again spoke to you.
Helena. In your sleep?
Primus. Yes. We spoke a strange new language.
Helena. What about?
Primus. I did not understand it myself, and yet I know I have never said anything more beautiful. And when I touched you I could have died. Even the place was different from any other place in the world.
Helena. I, too, have found a place, Primus. It is very strange. Human beings dwelt there once, but now it is overgrown with weeds.
Primus. What did you find there?
Helena. A cottage and a garden and two dogs. They licked my hands, Primus, and their puppies. Oh, Primus, take them in your arms and fondle them and think of nothing and care for nothing else all day long, and when I am there in the garden I feel there may be something— What am I for, Primus?
Primus. I do not know, but you are beautiful.
Helena. What, Primus?
Primus. You are beautiful, Helena, and I am stronger than all the Robots.
Helena. Am I beautiful? Of what use is it to be beautiful? Look, your head is different from mine. So are your shoulders—and your lips. Oh, your hair is mussed. I will smooth it. (Keeps her hand on his head) No one else feels to my touch as you do.
Primus. (Embarrassing her) Do you not sometimes feel your heart beating suddenly, Helena, and think how something must happen?
Helena. What could happen to us, Primus? Look at yourself. (Laughs.)
Alquist. (Awakes) Laughter? Laughter, human beings. (Getting up) Who has returned? Who are you?
Primus. The Robot Primus.
Alquist. (To Helena) What? A Robot? Who are you?
Helena. The Robotess Helena. (Shies away L.)
Alquist. What? You are timid, shy? (Starts to touch her) Let me see you, Robotess.
Primus. Sir, do not frighten her. (Steps forward.)
Alquist. What, you would protect her? Laughter—timidity—protection—I must test you further. Take the girl into the dissecting room.
Alquist. I wish to experiment on her.
Alquist. Of course. Don’t you hear me? Or must I call someone else to take her in?
Primus. If you do, I will kill you. (Steps toward Alquist.)
Alquist. Kill me—kill me, then. What will your future be?
Primus. Sir, take me. I am made on the same day as she is. Take my life, sir. (Step to Alquist.)
Helena. No, no, you shall not.
Alquist. Wait, girl, wait. (To Primus) Do you not wish to live, then?
Primus. Not without her. I will not live without her.
Alquist. Very well, I will use you. Into the dissecting room with you.
Helena. Primus. Primus. (She bursts into tears and moves R. Alquist stops her.)
Alquist. Child, child, you can weep. Tears. What is Primus to you? One Primus more or less in the world—what does it matter?
Helena. I will go myself.
Alquist. Where? Into the dissecting room?
Helena. (Crosses to R.) Yes. In there—to be cut. (Primus stops her from going.) Let me pass, Primus, let me pass.
Primus. You shall not go in there, Helena.
Helena. If you go in there and I do not, I will kill myself.
Primus. (To Alquist) I will not let you. Man you shall kill neither of us.
Primus. We—we—belong to each other.
Alquist. Go. (Exit Primus and Helena L.) Adam—Eve.
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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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