The Large and Mysterious Life of a Historian and his Companion
A One-Act Play by Frank Tavares
Stage right is lit up on a scene of a classroom. Students are at their seats. Most are writing attentively. Others are quietly whispering. A teacher is at the front of the class.
Teacher: Class, please pass your papers to the front of your row and be ready to receive your homework assignment. For homework tonight, you are to read this packet about the Greek historian Thucydides who wrote the ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’, which we will be reading later in the year. I want you to create a timeline of his life and be ready to compare your timelines with your classmates.
School Bell Rings, Students ready themselves for departure
Teacher: You are all dismissed, except for Nick, I want to talk to you.
Nick rolls his eyes and goes up to his teacher
Teacher: Nick, sit down.
Nick: I’m fine standing, thanks.
Teacher: Very well. Are you currently aware of your grade in Ancient History?
Nick: No. And, I really don’t care.
Teacher: Why is that? And by the way, it’s 21%.
Nick: I don’t care about the class. It’s stupid. Just like school.
Teacher: Oh, I see. So, you don’t care about this class?
Nick: Why should I care about it? It’s just about a bunch of dead people.
Teacher (sarcastically, almost mockingly): Okay, your right! Why should you care? Why should we care about anything? Why don’t we just sit around and watch TV, because in the end, we’re all just dead people! Let’s just give up all our ambitions in life and sleep because we all just don’t care.
A moment of silence. Nick is staring blankly at the teacher, as he always does.
Teacher: Nick, I challenge you to care. No, I dare you to care. And, I believe you can. At least try. Give yourself ambition. The will to be successful. These may be all dead people now, but what they did lives on. These ‘dead people’ are immortal. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Isn’t that something worth caring about? To be able to learn from the beliefs and accomplishments of these people, whose names have stood the test of time, has always been fascinating for me. Don’t you want to do something to be remembered by? Don’t you care about life?
Nick: Why should I care about life if life hasn’t ever given a darn about me?
Nick exits off stage right, taking his back-pack with him. Stage lights go off.
During the last scene, stagehands have set up a bedroom on stage left. The sounds of a mother and father arguing are heard in the background. Lights go up on stage right as Nick enters his room. He throws himself on to his twin sized bed, letting his unzipped back pack fall down stage. Nick sighs. He notices the packet about Thucydides sliding out of his back pack.
Nick grabs the packet and looks at its cover.
Nick: What the heck? (‘What the heck’ as in ‘why not’, not confusion)
Picks up the packet and begins to read.
Nick (reading with little interest): “Thucydides was a Greek Historian who is considered the founder of what is referred to as ‘scientific history.’” like anyone actually cares! “He was born in 460 B.C. and died around 395 B.C. He is the author of the “History of the Peloponnesian War”, a book accounting the war between Sparta and its empire and Athens with its empire which occurred in the 5th century B.C.” Like anyone cares about what happened in 5th century B.C.! “What we know of Thucydides life can only be pieced together from his writings. He was from the deme (a name for a sub-section of the area called Attica, which surrounded Athens) of Halimos. Through his writings we can guess that Thucydides was familiar with the beliefs of the Sophists, a group of lecturers who frequently visited Athens and the surrounding areas.”
Nick yawns, and as he progresses in his reading, grows more bored and tired
Nick: “Thucydides had great influence in the Thracian region, which is why he was chose to be a strategos (the modern day equivalent of a general) for Thasos.”
Thucydides enters and solutes, on stage right, now cleared of classroom materials. A small group of soldiers comes to report to Thucydides. Nick is unaware of this.
Nick: “In 424 B.C., Thucydides…” Nick makes one last yawn, and then falls asleep of boredom.
Thucydides (Strong, official voice): “In this year, 424 B.C., I Thucydides, have been called upon to— wait, why’s that soldier sleeping? Wake up! (Walks over to Nick and shakes him) WAKE UP!!
Nick: Wait, what!! Wow! Thucydides!
Thucydides: Get back in line, soldier!
Thucydides pulls Nick up, pushes him in line with the other soldiers, and gives him a spear, Nick still completely confused as to what is going on. Meanwhile, stage hands have removed Nick’s bedroom from the stage.
Nick: What? But, huh? I was reading and—
Nick: No, bu-
Thucydides: No buts!
Thucydides: Shh… Now, as I was saying I have been—
A messenger runs in with mounting urgency.
Messenger: Thucydides, sir, a message of great importance for you sir!
Thucydides: What now? Give it to me then!
Messenger hands Thucydides the letter
Thucydides (reading letter): “Thucydides, I write to you in the most urgent of times. Here in Amphipolis, we have been attacked by the Spartan general Brasidas and his forces. We are outnumbered and losing control of the city state. We know you are but a half day’s sail east from us. We need support from you and your soldiers. Please hurry. You are our only hope. – Eucles, Commander of Amphipolis”
A moments silence
Thucydides: Well, what are you all waiting for? Ready a ship! We are sailing to Amphipolis!
Stage right darkens as soldiers start preparations.
On stage left, lights go up on a battle. The Spartans and Athenians of Amphipolis are battling, but the Spartans are gaining. Up stage, the two parties are hurling spears at each other. Down stage the Spartan General Brasidas is fighting against Eucles, the commander of Amphipolis in a sword fight.
Eucles: Soon, Brasidas, you will be defeated! Soon!
Brasidas: No, Eucles, it shall be you that is defeated, or I am not a Spartan!
Fighting resumes, soon, Eucles and the other Athenians are under the control of the Spartans.
Brasidas: Do you surrender?
All Spartans: We are Sparta!!!
Brasidas: A very wise choice, Eucles... you and your people will live peacefully under the Spartan regime, not to worry!
Suddenly, Thucydides and his men, except Nick, rush in from stage right
Eucles (sarcastically): Oh, now’s a nice time for back up! It’s too late! We have lost!
Thucydides: No, the battle has but just begun! Attack!
Thucydides and his men attack, but soon are killed, with only Thucydides left, who, seeing the battle is over, retreats.
Suddenly, Nick comes in from stage right
Nick: Is it over?
Thucydides (running): Run, soldier, run! Escape while you can!
Nick turns and runs with Thucydides off stage right
A person holding a sign reading ‘Some Weeks Later’ crosses the stage. As the person is doing this, a semi-circle of chairs is placed center stage.
The ‘Council Members’ of the Coucil of Athens enter and take their seats. Nick and Thucydides are brought in and placed in the middle of the semi-circle. The council leader sits at the head of the semi-circle.
The Council leader stands up.
Council Leader: My fellow councilmen, we gather today to decide the fate of these two men, the sole survivors from Thucydides’ soldiers who let the city-state of Amphipolis fall into Spartan control. The punishment for this is exile. All who believe Thucydides should go into exile raise their hand now.
Majority raise their hand.
Council Leader: All who believe Thucydides should be allowed to stay in Athens should raise their hand now… and no voting twice.
Very few hands are raised
Council Leader: Well, then, Thucydides, if you are ever seen in Athens again after this day, you shall be captured and brought back before this council, and then, your punishment shall be death.
Thucydides looks calm and controlled, while Nick is petrified
Council Leader: Now, we have the fate of the young soldier to decide. What is your name?
Nick (still scared): N-n-n-ick
Council Leader: You look and sound like a foreigner. Are you Greek?
Nick: I-I don’t know.
Council Leader: Hmm… these are dangerous times… a large scale war is on the horizon. We can’t risk any spies within our ranks. Let us take a vote! Those who believe the boy should stay in Athens raise your hand now.
Very few hands are raised
Nick: M-Mr. Council Leader, there has been a mistake I don’t belong here!
Council Leader: Quiet, young man. Those who believe the boy should go into exile with Thucydides, raise your hand now.
Majority raise their hand
Council Leader: That settles it. You two are to be gone by sunrise tomorrow, or you shall meet the consequences. Fair well.
Lights go down down-center stage and go on up stage, where Thucydides and Nick proceed too.
Thucydides: I believe you are a spy… as much as I am guilty. In other words, I do not believe you are a spy.
Nick (looking down): I am not a spy.
Thucydides: Good. Where do you plan to go from here?
Nick: I do not know.
Thucydides: Come with me. I have plans.
Thucydides: Perhaps, if you care to join me on my journey, I may tell you of them as we travel.
Nick (looking up): Look, I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing here, okay! And, I don’t care about your grand plans!
Thucydides: If you don’t care about my plans, we could discuss another topic. One you do care about.
Nick: I don’t care about anything.
Thucydides: No hopes for the future? No dreams? No ambitions?
Nick: That’s right. None.
Thucydides: Come and travel with me. You have nowhere to go, and, if what you say is true, you have no where you wish to go. So, going with me cannot hinder you.
Nick is silent
Thucydides: I really don’t have time for this. Do what you will, but I’m on my way.
Thucydides walks off stage left. Nick turns in that direction, hesitates, but then decides to follow.
Lights go down.
Lights go up. A man holding a pile of newspapers in his hand is walking around. Some people are crossing the stage. The set is in a small town called Piraeus on the coast.
Newspaper Man: Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Athens sends a fleet to invade Sicily! But you heard it first in the Greek Gazette! More inside!
Thucydides and Nick enter
Thucydides: Well, here we are in the town of Piraeus!
Newspaper Man: Good day! Would one of you two like a copy of the Greek Gazette?
Thucydides: I would, thank you! Do you take drachma’s?
Newspaper Man: Yes, I do! One drachma please. Here you are!
Short exchange of money and newspaper
Nick: What’s a drachma?
Thucydides: Where are you from, not knowing what a drachma is? A drachma is the coin of Athens, of course! But, it is usually accepted all around Greece as well, these days. (A pause) So, in the end, it seems you do have some curiosity in you.
They walk through the town in silence. Thucydides sits down. So does Nick. Thucydides starts reading his paper, wide eyed with interest.
A spotlight hits Nick. Thucydides is completely frozen.
Nick: What is going on with me? Where am I? I must be dreaming, but I can’t wake up. But why do I even care. I don’t care! I don’t. So, since I don’t care, I’m fine here… and… I don’t know!
Normal lighting resumes. Thucydides folds the Greek Gazette and pulls out a journal of a sort. He begins writing. Nick attempts to look over Thucydides shoulder, but Thucydides turns.
Thucydides: Perhaps, if you asked, I could show you my writings.
Silence. Thucydides closes his journal.
Thucydides: Well, Nick, we’re going to need a boat, we’re traveling to Sicily!
A boat is brought out. The boat is made of a base (could be canvas, wood, ext.) painted and shaped to look like a boat with handles on the un-painted side for stagehands to move the boat with.
Then, projected onto the stage using a back wall, or if the technicality of that doesn’t work, a large map brought out up stage, having a map of the Mediterranean area with the journey of Nick and Thucydides (which is being ‘acted out’ on the stage) shown on a map. The overall image is similar to the scenes in the Indiana Jones films that show the path of Indiana’s travels on a map during transitions.
When the map shows they have reached Syracuse, Sicily, the map fades or is walked off.
Nick and Thucydides get off their ‘boat’ which is taken off by stagehands.
Thucydides: We had better get up to higher ground. I would have expected them to be here by now. But, a large fleet would go slower…
Nick: Who? Why would they be here? Oh, uh, I mean I don’t care.
Thucydides moves up stage, onto some kind of structure, if possible, to represent a mountain. Nick follows
Thucydides: Do not try and hide your questions. Asking questions will lead to answers, and finding answers will lead to truth. And, for the answer for your question, I read in the Greek Gazette that Athens dispatched a fleet of 20 ships to come and invade the city-state Syracuse, in Sicily, which is Spartan territory. We have come here to watch the battle that is soon ensue this area.
Silence. Thucydides looks at Nick
Thucydides: You are wondering why.
Nick: So what if I am?
Thucydides: This battle is to be just a part of the first stage of a very long war. A war that will define our world for centuries to come. I am following the main happenings of this war and recording my findings as to write a book about the happenings of this war. Look: here come the soldiers of Athens now.
Lights go up on the aisle in the middle of the audience and on the platforms near the exits. Some soldiers (Athenians) enter from the entrance hall to the theater and go to the areas in the audience with light. From the opposite side more soldiers (Spartan) enter in the same areas. Battles start, although not very large-scale. They represent the larger war.
The Athenians are being slaughtered, thought they have larger numbers.
Thucydides has been taking notes in his journal. Nick has been watching the scene awestruck and horrified at the same time. The battle scenes are very serious.
Thucydides: That is the way it always has been, and most likely the way it always will.
Nick: But, in my city, nobody killed people like this…
Thucydides: What city did you come from, Nick?
Nick: One as far away from here as you could possibly imagine.
Thucydides: You want to go back, don’t you?
Nick: No, I don’t! Remember, I don’t care!
Nick turns away.
Thucydides: War is a most violent teacher.
Thucydides continues writing. Nick is lying down, with his face shielded from the audience and from Thucydides. Lights go down as to make it appear the sun is setting and blue lights go up to represent light from the moon. All soldiers have exited the audience but can still be heard in the distance.
Nick looks up at the ‘sunset’.
Nick: Why did it start?
Thucydides looks up from his journal, unfocused on Nick
Thucydides: Hm, sorry? What was that?
Nick: Why did they start the war?
Thucydides: Oh, yes, the war. Well, that’s a very long story.
Nick: I’d like to hear it.
Thucydides: Very well. Quite a long time ago, Athens and Sparta, two city-states here in Greece, helped each other defeat an invasion from Persia, which threatened to destroy both city-states. But, after that, the differences between the two nations grew sharply. Sparta was more centered around military while Athens was more centered around art and intellectualism. Athens also had a democracy, but you and I both know how fairly that democracy treated us! Both city-states grew empires, one the Spartan Confederacy and the other called the Athenian League. You see, this war was inevitable. With these two powers that were growing so rapidly and with such different central ideas, conflict could not have been avoided. And neither could the grand scale of this war. For centuries, people will still talk about this, can’t you see? The school children of the future, reading about the book the ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’ by Thucydides. I was hoping to be in the front lines of the battle to better be able to understand the war, but now I see that I was foolish to think that. I, though I knew this was to be a defining moment in history, could never have been prepared for what I saw today.
Nick: But you were a general!
Thucydides: A general of a small, insignificant town. I have not known war. Not like this.
A thoughtful silence in the moonlight lingers for a few moments
Thucydides: Well, now you know how this all started. The unstoppable driving force in man to hate those that are different. Get some rest, tomorrow we will be traveling to Peloponnesus.
Both lay down. The lights fade into darkness.
Lights portray a ‘sunrise’. Thucydides awakens, and goes over to Nick
Thucydides (in a mock soldier voice): Wake up! WAKE UP!
Nick awakes suddenly, completely confused
Nick: Wait, what? But how?
Thucydides (laughing): As I remember, you acted similarly that day I caught you sleeping on your job!
Nick: Oh, right! Funny! (Though Nick looks more breath-taken than thinking that it was funny)
Thucydides: Well, we’ve got a long day ahead of us! I believe our boat is down there somewhere…
Nick and Thucydides go down stage. Stage hands creep out with the ‘boat’, holding it from behind.
Thucydides: Ah, well, here we are! Let’s just untie this rope… (unties an invisible rope from an invisible pier) … and off we go!
‘Indiana Jones-like Travel map’ goes up, showing the sea voyage from Sicily to Peloponnesus. They arrive at the town of Glytherion, in the region called Laconia.
They disembark and the ‘boat’ is taken back off stage. The newspaperman enters from the other side.
Newspaper Man: Greek Gazette! Get your Greek Gazette! All the people of the town of Glytherion, come and get your Greek Gazette!
Thucydides: Hello, have we met?
Newspaper Man: No sir, I believe I haven’t. (Grabs Thucydides hand) Nice to meet you, sir, my name is “Phillipas”, but you spell it just “P-H-I-L-I-P”. Odd, isn’t it? So, would you like a copy of the Greek Gazette?
Thucydides: Yes, please, I would.
Newspaper Man: But, oh, I bet you would also want the Extra section! It only costs half-a-drachma more! Or, for just a quarter of a drachma, you can get the special Olympics section, and get the full story on how Hercules really got those muscles!
Thucydides: No, no, just the regular paper will be fine, thank you.
Newspaper Man: Sure? Because for just one drachma more you—
Thucydides: Please, just the regular paper will do.
Newspaper Man: All right, well, then fine. It’s just, (fake crying) now days, most people aren’t interested in news… so my business hasn’t been doing so well, and my boss is saying that if I can’t bring in some more money, he’s gonna cut my salary… and it’s not that easy, you know, supporting a wife and two kids on 2 drachma’s a week… (fake sobbing) But fine! Here’s your newspaper! For the one measly drachma!
Hands over newspaper, Thucydides hands over one coin.
Newspaper man turns to walk away.
Nick: Wait! Thucydides, can I borrow 2 drachmas?
Thucydides: Of course.
Hands Nick two dachma’s and continues walking. Nick goes after the newspaper man who has turned back to him.
Nick: Wait! I would like to purchase a copy of the Greek Gazette with the Extra section.
Newspaper Man: Why thank you, thank you very much! That would be one and a half drachma’s, if you please.
Nick: Here’s two, keep the change.
Newspaper Man: Why, thank you! Have an excellent day!
Nick runs and catches up with Thucydides.
Newspaper Man addresses the audience
Newspaper Man: The newspaper business is doing just fine, and, I’m single! Poor little sucker. Works every time though!
Newspaper Man walks off stage right, opposite of Nick and Thucydides, who are still on stage. Thucydides sits down on a bench and Nick sits with him.
Both sit in silence for a moment.
Thucydides: Why did you do that?
Nick waits a few moments before he responds.
Nick: Because I cared.
Thucydides nods. He starts to read the paper and occasionally take notes in his journal. A spotlight goes on Nick and Thucydides is frozen.
Nick (very slowly, almost feeling the words): Because… I… cared…
Spotlight goes off, Thucydides puts the paper down and looks deep in thought.
Nick: What is it? Where are we going to next?
Thucydides: I believe… we are traveling very close to where I grew up. The Spartans will not let the Athenians go unpunished for their invasion of Sicily. They will most likely attack Attica, which, if conquered by Sparta, would destroy the naval superiority that Athens has had over Sparta.
Nick: Are we going there now?
Thucydides: Yes, I believe we shall.
Nick: By boat?
Thucydides: Well, unfortunately, I read that the Spartans have cut any non-military boating in fear someone may go and warn the Athenians. So, it seems, we must walk.
‘Indiana Jones-like Travel Map’ shows up again and shows them traveling from Laconia to the town of Argos, half way to Athens.
Thucydides and Nick stop walking at far stage right.
Thucydides: We’ll need to stop here for the night. I believe we are in the town of Argos. I’m sure we can find an inn to stay somewhere.
A few townspeople enter.
Nick: Look, is that an inn over there?
Nick points stage left where a man is standing next to a sign that reads ‘The Inn at Argos’
Thucydides: I believe you are right!
Thucydides walks to the innkeeper, Nick follows
Thucydides: Hello. My fellow companion and I would like to spend the night here at your inn.
Innkeeper: Of course I shall have a room prepared for the two of you at once! Come on in!
Thucydides and Nick exit stage left. Stage goes dark for a moment as two beds are placed on the stage. Lights go up as Nick and Thucydides enter their room.
Thucydides: I brought us some food.
Pulls two pieces of pita bread from the sack he uses to carry his journal.
Thucydides: It’s not much, but it’s enough.
Both sit on their bed and begin to eat.
Thucydides: I remember the time I went to the Festival of Dionysius! That, Nick, is something you do once, and only once, in your life. I ate so much that night, I got sick!
Nick: I remember Thanksgiving, with the turkey and mashed potatoes, with gravy, and for desert, pumpkin pie!
Thucydides: Sorry, but I don’t know about Thanksgiving.
Nick: Don’t know about— oh, I mean, it’s really not that well known around here, so it’s no surprise really...
Thucydides: Tell me of where you are from. I still don’t know.
Nick: That’s because, well, I really can’t tell you. And even if I did, you wouldn’t believe me.
Thucydides: Oh, I’m not so sure about that. This world is larger and more mysterious than either one of us could possibly imagine. Once that is understood, one may believe anything.
Nick: Okay, but, promise you won’t tell anyone.
Thucydides: For me, secrecy is never preferred, but if it is that important to you, I promise not to tell.
Nick: Well, I don’t exactly know how to say this… but… I’m from the future.
A long silence occurs.
Thucydides: Fascinating. What was it like?
Nick: You-you believe me?
Thucydides: Yes, yes, I do. Tell me more.
Nick: Well, what happened was I was reading a packet…
Thucydides: A what?
Nick: A packet… it’s a bunch of papers with words stapled together—
Thucydides: What’s a staple?
Nick: Oh gosh… It doesn’t really matter… anyways… I was… reading about you, Thucydides, for my school class in Ancient History.
Nick: And, I, well, let’s just say you’re a lot more interesting in real life than on paper, so, I fell asleep.
Thucydides: While reading about my life.
Nick: Yeah. I had just finished reading about how you became a general, and then, I fell asleep and next, found myself being waken up and looking straight at a man that was supposed to have died centuries ago!
Thucydides: Thus the confused face.
Nick: And, you know the story from then on…
Thucydides: Yes. Our many adventures together. But tell me more of then, the future!
Nick: I, well, don’t know if I can. It might mess up the time line or something.
Thucydides: Good point! So, I’ll just pretend I didn’t know this?
Nick: Just to be on the safe side.
Thucydides: Well, it’s been quite an evening!
Nick: Yes it has.
Thucydides: Let us get some rest and think of what the future holds… for both of us.
Both lay down and lights go out.
Lights go up on the town again. The Innkeeper is standing at his usual post outside the inn. Thucydides and Nick enter from stage left.
Thucydides: Thank you very much and here is the money for the rooms. Have a good day!
Innkeeper: Thank you!
Nick: And now?
Thucydides: And now we walk to Attica!
‘Indiana Jones-like Travel Map’ comes up again displaying the journey left to get to Attica.
Thucydides and Nick wander to stage right and stop. ‘Travel map’ goes down.
Thucydides: Here we are… but where is the war?
Faint marching sound is heard
Nick: Wait, what’s that sound? Listen…
Marching is heard louder
Thucydides: Yes, yes, I hear it!
Suddenly, from stage left, a small group of Spartans march out with a leader at the head of the group.
Spartan General: Halt! You, wanderers, what are you? Spartan? Athenian?
Thucydides: In blood or in heart?
Spartan General: Both.
Thucydides: I am Athenian by blood…
Soldiers tighten weapons
Thucydides: …and neither in heart. I was exiled unfairly from Athens.
Spartan General: And the boy?
Thucydides: He is not Athenian in blood, nor Spartan. He has no association with either Sparta or Athens.
Spartan General: What brings you so close to the land you are supposively exiled from?
Thucydides: A project, one might say. I am conducting research on the war as to write a book about it.
Spartan Soldier: Sir, it could be a trick!
Spartan General: I am well aware of that.
The Spartan General is deep in thought.
Spartan General: We will leave you here… tied to a post so you cannot you any sabotage to our campaign. When we have achieved victory, we will come back to this spot and cut the rope loose and you may go on your way.
Nick: But what if you forget?
Spartan General laughs
Spartan General: Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.
Thucydides: What if your campaign lasts weeks, or months?
Spartan General: Then you had better wish us a swift victory. You two, tie them up tight against that post!
Two Spartan soldiers follow orders and tie Thucydides and Nick up against a post.
Spartan General: Good day!
Spartans cross stage and exit.
Nick: I thought this stuff just happened in movies!
Thucydides: In what?
Nick: Never mind.
Nick pulls against the knot, with no success.
Nick: So, I guess we’re just going to sit here and hope they come back soon.
Thucydides: It seems the only course of action available to us.
They wait. The stage lights switch from normal to blue, representing the change of day to night.
A man enters from stage right. He is unidentifiable in the dark.
He takes out a small knife and begins cutting the rope restraining Thucydides and Nick.
Nick (whispering): Thucydides,
Thucydides (whispering back): Yes Nick,
Nick: There’s a man cutting our rope loose.
Thucydides: Better not interrupt him then, shall we?
Nick: No, I guess not.
Man finishes cutting the rope.
Thucydides: Thank you, good sir. How may I repay you for this deed?
Man: You will, in time.
Nick: Who are you?
Man: If may ask, who are you?
Man: Who I am doesn’t concern either of you. All that does is that I want you both alive… for now. Thucydides, finish your book. That is all I ask in return… for now.
Man exits stage left
Thucydides: Nick, come, we must hurry, before any Spartans see us.
Nick: Where will we go?
Thucydides: I have an estate in Thrace, we shall go there and I shall finish my book. Let us go.
Both exit stage right.
A person crosses the stage with a sign reading ‘one year later’
Lights go down.
When they go up, a Spartan General has a sword pointed at an Athenian General’s throat. The Athenian is surrounded by other Spartan soldiers as well.
Spartan General: Do you surrender your Athenian League, as you call yourselves, to the power of the Spartan Confederacy?
Athenian General: Yes, I do.
Spartan General: Then let it be heard that this day, in the year 404 B.C., Sparta has control of all of Greece!
All Spartans: We are Sparta!!!
Lights go down.
When they go up, Thucydides is seen busily at work looking at his Journal, writing on a piece of paper with a large pile of used paper on the other side and a pile of ‘Greek Gazette’s’.
Suddenly, Nick runs in, holding a copy of the Greek Gazette
Nick: Thucydides, the war is over! Athens has surrendered! This means you can finish your book!
Thucydides: It does indeed! So, Sparta has direct control over all of its territories and Athens territories?
Nick: I don’t know the details… I just brought the paper like you always ask me to and happened to see the headline.
Thucydides: I see… may I see the paper?
Nick: Of course!
Nick hands the paper over.
Thucydides continues his work.
Spotlight goes on Nick
Nick: He’s been like that ever since we got here about a year ago. Frantically working on that book. Just stops to eat. I’ve been waiting for the war to be over for months! I knew he’d be able to finish soon if he didn’t have anything more to write about. I miss the times when we used to talk. He was the most alive person I had ever met. Now, he’s just as dead and dull as that packet about him. He’s like my dad. He used to be alive too. I remember he taught me how to play baseball. But then, he got caught up in what he called ‘real life’. And then he and mom began to argue… and they always argued all the time…
Nick is silent for a moment in his memories of the past
Nick: But now it doesn’t matter because I’ll never see them again anyways. All that there is left is the memories, of people who won’t be alive for centuries to come.
Normal lighting is brought back and Thucydides continues writing.
Lights fade out completely.
Lights go up and two men enter from stage left. One is the leader of the Spartans, one is Oenobius.
Spartan Leader: And why do you think, Oenobius, that Thucydides should be let back into Athens?
Oenobius: Well, my noble ruler of all of Sparta and all of Greece, because he is not our enemy, he was only a disgraced Athenian. He will accept our rule, I am sure.
Spartan Leader: And, if he doesn’t, you will not, then, protest to exile or execution.
Oenobius: Well, of course not!
Spartan Leader: Very well. I will send a messenger to his estate in Thrace, where he was last heard to be staying. Now, if you excuse me, I must go.
Oenobius: Of course!
Spartan leader exits.
A spotlight goes up on Oenobius.
Oenobius: Good. The first step in the plan has been set in motion. If all goes well, Thucydides will have tragically died in an accident on his way to Athens. And, Oenobius shall go down in history as the famous author of the ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’.
Lights go out abruptly
Lights go up back on Thucydides estate in Thrace.
Nick is sitting reading a book while Thucydides is working.
Thucydides looks frustrated. He keeps mumbling to himself and confused on what to write.
Nick looks over and notices the odd behavior.
Nick: What’s wrong?
Thucydides: I can’t… I don’t know!
Thucydides: I don’t know what is going on now that the war is over! I don’t know what the Spartan’s are doing to Athenians! And, I can’t go back to Athens because I’m still in exile!
Nick: Are you still in exile with the Spartan government?
Thucydides: I am until someone in the Spartan Confederacy happens to remember I still exist and re-call me from exile!
Nick: Oh… but what about the Greek Gazette?
Thucydides: The Spartan’s have taken control of that as well. All we’re hearing from there is what they want us to hear.
Both are thinking for a solution when a Messenger comes in.
Messenger: Thucydides, a message for you from Athens, sir.
Thucydides: Oh, good.
Messenger gives Thucydides the letter
Thucydides: “Dear Thucydides, It is the belief of the Spartan Confederacy that you are to be exempted from exile and be allowed to return to Athens. This messenger shall be your escort. Sincerely, The Spartan Confederacy”
Thucydides: We shall leave at once! Nick, get some bread for the road. (Nick exits) And, messenger, would you mind carrying my materials?
Messenger: Not at all, sir.
Thucydides hands over his bag which includes his book, journal, and other notes.
Thucydides: Thank you!
Nick enters with a package of food.
Thucydides: Off we go!
All exit stage left.
Lights go down.
When lights go up again, Oenobius and the mysterious man that freed Thucydides and Nick earlier in the play are on stage. Again, the man’s face is unidentifiable in the lighting of the stage.
Oenobius: … and he is not to make it to Athens, understood?
Man: Yes. Kill the messenger. Take Thucydides book, and then take back what we gave him but a year ago.
Oenobius: Exactly. Take his life.
Lights go out abruptly again.
They go up again.
The messenger, Nick, and Thucydides come out on stage from stage right.
Thucydides: Let’s stop here for a lunch break, shall we?
All sit down
Thucydides: Nick, I believe you have the food?
Nick: Yes I do!
As Nick is pulling out the food, the mysterious man is creeping up behind them.
Nick distributes the pita bread.
Nick: Here you all are. Let’s dig in!
Man creeps up behind Thucydides. He pulls out a small knife. As he brings it above Thucydides, Nick turns his head and sees him.
Nick: Thucydides, no!
The Man lunges the knife over Thucydides head and straight into his chest. Thucydides lets out a groan of pain and falls to his knees. Man kneels next to him.
Nick attempts to run to Thucydides aid, but is held back by the messenger.
Nick (frantic and sobbing): No!No. No, it can’t be.
Man: Thucydides, tell me where the book is.
Thucydides: What book?
Man: Don’t play games with me, the book your writing, on the history of the Peloponnesian war!
Thucydides (yelling, though it hurts): Messenger! And Nick, run and don’t let the book be lost.
Messenger runs around the stage, followed by the Man. The Messenger runs off stage left with Thucydides materials. The Man follows. Nick runs straight to Thucydides as soon as the Messenger lets him go.
Nick: No, Thucydides, no!
Thucydides (speaking through great pain): Nick… I have been a fool.
Nick: No, no!
Thucydides: I have been selfish. I put the work I loved before the ones I loved. I have neglected you.
Nick: No, Thucydides, don’t die please don’t die! You… you gave me life… you gave me love… you gave me will… you gave me everything!
Thucydides: No, you gave that to yourself.
Thucydides: Find your family. I’m sure they’re missing you.
Nick: No, I… I want to stay with you.
Thucydides: Go. For me, find them. Give them the love I helped you find.
Nick: I-I will.
Thucydides: Nick, I—
Thucydides reaches for Nick’s hand, and is looking at him. Nick is holding his breath. Suddenly, Thucydides goes limp. He is dead.
Nick sobs and cries like he never has before, curled up in a ball next to Thucydides’ body. A spotlight goes on him and the rest of the stage is completely dark.
This lighting goes on for a short period of time, and normal lighting resumes. Nick is still crying, but his surroundings are different. He is back in his room, in front of his bed. His packet is lying on his bed, turned to one of the later pages.
He continues sobbing, but looks up for a moment and suddenly is quiet. He slowly turns his head around, looking at his old room. He sees the packet, and picks it up. He sits on his bed.
Nick: “A little after the Peloponnesian War had come to an end, a Greek named Oenobius passed a decree allowing Thucydides to return to Athens. He never reached Athens.”
Nick pauses in his reading.
Nick: “Some say he was murdered on his passage to Athens. Others say he died in an accident. And others still say he never embarked to Athens and lived for many years after. The abrupt ending of his book suggests he died in the process of writing it. In any case, his book lives on.”
Another pause. Nick closes the packet.
Nick: So, it seems the messenger managed to escape.
The sound of Nick’s parents arguing starts in the background.
Nick: Give them the love I helped you find.
Nick stands and walks toward stage right. Nick’s Mom and Dad enter from Stage right, still arguing.
Mom (very loud, angry and frustrated): You said that the car was fixed. You said!
Dad (irritated and defensive): I did not say that, I did not say that!
Mom: Yes you did! Not only did you say the car was fixed, you said you gave it an oil change which is still a year over-do!
Dad: Okay, I did say I got an oil change!
Mom: So you say you had the car towed all the way over to the mechanic, gave it an oil change, and had the tow truck haul it all the way back here only half together!
Dad: Yes! I mean, no… no. Uh, hey Nick, me and Mom are having a conversation here, don’t you have some computer-generated alien to blow up?
Nick: No, I actually have some homework to do. But, first, I think I should spend time with the ones I love than with the work I love.
Both Mom and Dad look confused.
Dad: What the?
Nick (speaking slowly, with meaning): Mom, Dad, I love you.
Nick embraces his parents. Nick’s Dad looks utterly flabbergasted.
Lights go down on the family.
A school bell rings in the dark and lights go up on the classroom of the first scene. Nick comes in with the rest of the students and takes a seat.
Teacher: Good morning! I hope you all had a good evening! I am passing out copies of the book the ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’ by… who can tell me?
As books are being passed out, a girl in the front row of the class shoots her hand into the air. Others raise theirs as well. Nick raises his, slowly and tentatively, keeping it as low as possible.
Teacher: Nick, could you tell us please?
Nick: It was Thucydides, right?
Teacher: Yes, Nick, that is correct. Very good.
The girl in the front looks almost offended.
Teacher: Now I would like you all to read the first paragraph of Thucydides book.
There is a moment of silence as everyone quietly reads.
Girl from the front row (named Veronica): Yes.
Teacher: Now could someone please tell me what the general idea of that was?
The girl in the front row shoots her hand into the air once again.
Teacher: Yes, Veronica?
Veronica: It was a kind of Introduction, I think. But, I feel he’s very stuck up about himself and his ideas. He talks about how he always knew, even before the war started, it would be the most famous war in history!
Nick: Maybe someone went back in time and told him.
Veronica: Yeah right, Nick! That’ll only happen the day you do your homework.
Teacher: Oh, that reminds me, would you all please pass your timelines in to me, please? The ones you were assigned for homework?
Class passes their papers forward, including Nick, who has the largest assignment.
Veronica: Here you are professor!
Nick (semi-mocking; loud enough for everyone to hear): Here you are professor!
Class looks shocked, especially Veronica.
Teacher: Thank you, Nick. Thank you very much.
Teacher: Well, well! Break time already. You’re all dismissed, except Nick, I want to talk to you.
Nick stays behind.
Teacher: Sit down Nick.
Nick: Well, thank you, professor!
Teacher: Nick, you did your homework!
Nick: Isn’t that what you would expect from any student?
Teacher: Nick, you have gone from a boy to a man… in an evening. I don’t believe it!
Nick: This world is larger and more mysterious than either one of us could possibly imagine. Once that is understood, one may believe anything.
Teacher: Now you didn’t think of that yourself.
Nick: No. A friend told me that. A friend I knew from a long, long time ago.
Teacher: I see.
Nick: Well, maybe the answers to some of your questions are on the back of my homework assignment. I hope you can find some truth from it.
Teacher: Thucydides spoke much of truth…
Nick: And so did my friend.
A short silence
Teacher: Well, I’m sorry to keep you from your break. You can go now.
Nick: No, thank you. It was a good talk.
Nick exits stage left, the way the other kids went.
The teacher picks up Nick’s large homework assignment, and picks up Nick’s large homework assignment in a way that we cannot see the back. The teacher looks at the back of the paper or a few moments, nods, and turns it around to examine the front. The audience can now clearly see the words ‘I CARE’ written on the back of the assignment. After a few moments, the teacher sets the paper down.
The teacher smiles.
Lights fade out.
© Copyright 2016 Frank Tavares. All rights reserved.