The entire stage could be a coffin. Or there could be a coffin on the stage. It depends on the scenic designer’s concept. In any case, there is a woman in a white dress with a flower in the sash, and she is in a coffin. That she is in a coffin is certain regardless of whether the entire stage is a coffin or there is a single coffin onstage. There could be an ironing board and a steam iron, as well — or, if the intention is to employ anachronism for purposes of deconstruction or whatever, an electric iron. Other anachronisms will certainly be present in the text.
The woman is speaking. To us. And the woman occasionally gets out of the coffin and irons a shirt, or several of them, which might be bloody, but not necessarily, and then she gets back into the coffin.
SOPHIE VON CHOTEK, DUCHESS OF HOHENBERG:
After the fashion of the time, I too was raised to look as healthy and plump as a stuffed partridge, and he hunted partridges. He would tell me, in the middle of the night, in bed — I am now going hunting for wild and bristly boars, I am going hunting for forest snipes, I am going hunting for quail and pheasants, I am now going hunting for partridges and wood-grouse, and hares and rabbits, and bears and deer, I am now going hunting. He would say it and then he would no longer be around for several days. And in the house I would sit and in front of the mirror I would practice looking as much like a partridge, as much like a quail, as much like a pheasant, and as much like a wood-grouse as I could, so that I would have him with me in bed again.
I was born the fifth child and I was expected to have at least five.
The first child they pulled out of me was a girl. Her name was the same as mine.
The second child that escaped from me was a boy. His name was not the same as mine and he lived long.
The third child that they ripped out of my hole was also a boy. His name was also not the same as mine and he lived somewhat shorter.
The fourth child they squeezed out of me was a stillborn and was a boy. The fourth child was scraped, grated, cleaned, chopped, mashed out of me. The fourth child was pulled out, then measured and weighed and it had some height or other, and some weight or other, all of that was established and then the child was taken away from me.
The fourth child was a boy and his name was not the same as mine, but actually he had no name at all.
When I died, I was pregnant for the fifth time, or at least some have said so.
When I died, I was not pregnant for the fifth time, or at least some have said so.
When I was murdered, I was pregnant.
When I was murdered, I was not pregnant.
When he killed me, I was pregnant.
When he killed me, I was not pregnant.
When they laid me in the coffin with its white, prickly, odorless satin, they laid something else with me, something that was supposed to be pulled out of me six, seven months later, something to which I should have given a name, not my own name, but another.
When they laid me in the coffin with its white, prickly, odorless satin, they laid nothing else with me, nothing that could have been pulled from me six, seven months later or to which I could have given a name, not my own name, but another.
Jessica Simpson demanded that an oven be brought to her room at the Ritz-Carlton in New York’s Central Park because she wanted to prepare a vegan Thanksgiving dinner for her boyfriend and his parents.
The water from the shower in Gwyneth Paltrow’s room at the Plaza Hotel in Boston had to be completely drained away because she didn’t want water from another person’s shower to touch her body.
Jennifer Lopez resides exclusively in hotel rooms with completely white walls in which only white wine is served.
A room of the hotel in Ilidza, the one next to ours, that morning when we woke up was turned into a chapel where a mass was held because I had to, like every day, I had to, I really had to confess, receive holy communion and attend the mass and pray for the holy cross to deliver me from evil, and it did deliver me.
After the mass, in the City Hall, and after a drive by the river bank when some adjutant was injured by some bomb, so at the reception at City Hall, he got a little mad so he said — this is bestiality, I come to pay you all a visit and you’re throwing bombs at me. It’s outrageous. I quietly said something to him, nobody knows what it is that I said, I quietly whispered something, so he became calm.
And he said all right, all right, you may proceed.
And me, before I died — some four years and more, four years and several months before I died — I was a bit afraid, I am afraid when he says something and when he doesn’t say it, when he is there and when he isn’t there and when he stares at the topographical maps and stares into the eyes of the beasts he kills and those he doesn’t kill, and I start being a bit afraid of him when he stares into the eyes of our children, afraid of what he might say next, and even longer, since then, since six years ago when what they pull out of me isn’t given a name, I am a bit afraid he might be a bit insane. He loved death and I loved death, and the Kaiser, his uncle, loved death and our children loved death and all the generals loved death and the kid who killed us loved death and also an organization in Serbia which took its name from its adoration of death and generally everyone in Serbia loved death and everyone in Bosnia especially, they loved death and my son was stillborn for the same reason, because he loved death, and that something inside of me died when I died, because, although it was not born yet, it loved death.
And then he, in that car he said — Sophie, Sophie, live for our children, but I could no longer do it.
And then they brought us by train to the Vienna West Station, then by train to Pochlarn, then by ferry over the Danube to Artstetten Castle and on the ferry a horse kicked and we almost fell, in our coffins, into the water.
And before that, we had been undressed and several men saw my tits, then they bathed us, then dressed us in a clean shirt and pants and in a clean dress, then they laid us in these coffins, my coffin was placed eighteen inches lower than his in the chapel, because that was the way it was supposed to be, because even in death I wasn’t as crazy as he was and I didn’t love death as much as he did, but a bit less. His bloody shirt was later put into a big and important museum; my dress and my sash and my hat and my flower were not, later, put into a big and important museum.
That thing I said in the City Hall that calmed him down could have been a big secret, it could have been both beautiful and ugly, it could have been I love you, it could have been don’t get hysterical, don’t make a fool of yourself, you’re making yourself look like a peacock, it could have been it will all be over soon, it could have been there are other people in the room with us, it could have been you are not in Belvedere now, it could have been some of these barbarian women also have nice silk dresses but still, I would never wear them, it could have been we’re in the middle of fucking nowhere, shut up, it could have been both obscene and unspeakable, it could have also been very polite and according to protocol, it could have been unimportant or highly important, or it could have been that I said to him: don’t get mad, your shirt collar will get wrinkled and I took the time to iron it this morning before the mass. He then said: all right, all right, you may proceed. And from the City Hall we went where we went and I was stillborn anyway.
During all this time, two men with moustaches could have also been present on stage.
One would be saying: I am now going hunting. And: I killed two thousand six hundred and fifty three wild boars. And: Sophie, Sophie, live for our children.
The other one would be saying: Do you think I’m poultry? And: a Yugoslav must get his freedom. And: I feel sorry for the Duchess, I didn’t mean to kill her.
Some of these sentences could also be projected on a screen that is placed on the coffin-stage. These two men are not wearing dresses and flowers in their sashes. They are wearing ironed shirts. They needn’t have been on the stage for the entire time, they could have entered just now.
There could also have been around ten million men onstage who, in the four years after Sophie’s death, were also killed. In shirts. Either that or this one woman with a flower in the sash of her dress, in a coffin, talking to us and ironing shirts for two men.