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Matilda's Love of King and Pope

A play in one act with eight scenes

by Alfred de Grazia

Copyright © 2001 by Alfred de Grazia

The Submission at Castle Canossa of King Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire to Pope Gregory VII in 1077 A.D. became a landmark of the Second Millennium. My version of it is heavily fictional in order to make it more educational. Also to me it is "virtual fiction" battling against false history - the mythos of the meeting and its effects. Dramatists are allowed more honesty than are historians. My Matilda bears more relation to reality than the Matilda of historiography.

Dramatis Personae:

Countess Matilda of Tuscany

King Henry IV of the Germanies

Pope Gregory VII

Queen Bertha of Turin, Wife of Henry

Conrad, Son of Henry

Lady in Waiting of Matilda

Chamberlain of Gregory

Chamberlain of Henry

Schlomo the herald and soothsayer


(Standing before the Curtain, a Herald with a fanfara and wearing a medieval gown, announces the following.)

(Forza) Hear ye one and all!

Prelates, priests. Nobles, Knights. Freemen, Jews. Serfs and Villeins. Laborers and Women. I give you news and rumor!

Matilda of Tuscany, Countess of rich realms of Christendom, is hosting at her Castle of Canossa, in Northern Italy, during these wintry days, the two greatest magnates of Europe, King Henry IV of the Germanies and the Holy Roman Empire, and Hildebrand, Gregory, Vicar of Christ and Head of the Roman Catholic Church.

(Moderato, confidenzialmente) The three are well acquainted. Matilda is a sturdy attractive young widow, Henry is a young married man, and Gregory is a handsome and imposing personage of 52 years.

(Stridente) The two giants have clashed on the issue of State (if I may coin a term) versus Church. Should the Church govern more strictly its clergy, the monasteries, and all holders of religious office, and moreover determine the legitimacy of secular rulers? Yes, says Gregory, the great reformer. No, says Henry. Maybe, believes Matilda.

Each man has pronounced the other man sinful and declares him deposed from his office. Further, Henry stands excommunicated by Gregory from the Church, hence destined for Hell.

The Time is January, 1077 Anno Domini. Snow is on the ground.

(Tormentato da incertezza) Why are they here? What kind of woman is the Countess Matilda? Who will win in this titanic contest to determine the fate of Christendom?

(Molto accentato, largo) I bring you to the Castello di Canossa and the crisis itself, to watch its resolution live!

Bows and draws open the Curtain

Scene One: Matilda's Boudoir

Matilda sets a hooded tall cap on her red tresses. Her Lady in Waiting, a strapping woman in pants, appears. Matilda has an up-scale mood that is maintained throughout the play, that is, she never loses her controlled presence.

Matilda is putting on articles of jewelry -- crosses, beads, pins, bracelets -- and popping over to the window to watch King Henry and his wife and child.

Matilda: Just look at the fat blonde beast that he's attached himself to. And the poor skinny child - he does look a bit like Henry when he was that age. I suppose that catskin coat she is wearing is a way of exhibiting her humility before the Pope, but why put such a thin jacket on the boy? He's shivering and it could be the death of him.

Giuseppina, tell the steward to have more firewood brought to their room. I should not have put them in the North rooms but I wanted them as far apart from Gregory and his gang as possible. Priests are such snoopers. They probably have an ear to the door there even though the rooms are empty.

Giuseppina: The Pope has informed me that he awaits you.

Matilda: Let him cool his hot heels -- and any other hots he has. (Giuseppina Exits)

How in the world did Henry manage to cross the Alps at this time of year? That fancy equipment he fusses about with his blacksmiths must have helped. (She laughs) Imagine bringing me as a present a pair of -- come si chiamano? Giuseppina? Where is she? Oh, I recall, si. Stirrups. A new invention. To let me stand fast when I want to strike somebody down from my horse.

Me, who have the talents of Esther! What need have I for a sword when I wield the scimitar of Venus.

Yet Gregory must not be too certain that Henry and I are still so fucking close.

But really, this is getting to be too much. I must get onto Gregory and persuade him to call a halt to these winter games.

Giuseppina: (returning agitated) Signora Contessa! His Eminence is fidgity and threatens to come to get you.

Matilda: Fa bene, yah wohl, O.K. She leaves the room to greet him.

Scene Two: Below the Pope's Window

On left stage foreground, King Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire, with his wife (Bertha of Turin) and child (Conrad). There is snow on the ground, an occasional flake falls. They are barefooted.

Conrad: Why can't I ever wear my shoes on this spot, mama?

You just took them off again. Off, on, off, on. Is it holy?

Bertha: The pope likes people without shoes to stand by his window.

Conrad: What a pervert!

Bertha: Hush, darling, tomorrow maybe we can wear shoes. It will be the third day and everything happens by threes in our illuminated manuscripts.

They look to see who might be watching from the little windows of the castle.

Henry: I promise that I will give you the chateau of Habsheim, dear one, if you stick this out with me.

Bertha: But you don't own it.

Henry: But I will own it once I get this verdammt business out of the way.

Bertha: But Habsheim is hardly chic. Can't you throw in Kaisersburg as well?

Henry: Yes, yes, Kaisersburg too. Good wine, good cheese.

Bertha: What about Junior? What's in for him? Look at the poor tot, freezing his toes, and he doesn't even know what it's all about.

Conrad: Oh yes, I do. The Pope wants Papa to promise to be a good boy, and papa wants the pope to go to hell. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Henry: That kid is bright. He'll make a good Emperor.

Bertha: That's well and good, but what will you give him for his little frozen tootsies. This is the third day, you know. If I had only known it would be like this, I..

Henry: Yes, yes, I know you would never have agreed to come. Please shut up about that... As for Junior, let me see, ...of course,... he will inherit practically all of my possessions, a hundred thousand square miles of land, 244 villages, 16,000 unreliable soldiers, unfaithful allies by the dozens... and, well, a dozen princes yearning to assassinate him.

Bertha: That's only ordinary stuff. Can't you think of something special for this occasion?

Henry: I suppose I could promise him a great woman to marry.. there are some well-doweried duchesses and princesses, ugly most of them. I knew a superb girl, daughter of the King of Puglia, wonderful climate, quaint Romano-Byzantine culture, had my eye on her, but bloody Normans sailed up in their bloody long boats and took over their castles, raped everything that moved, and you can be sure that by now she's married to one of those Viking barbarians.

Bertha: How romantic!

Henry: Wait! I have the answer. Here we are standing right in front of her castle. She's terrific. Matilda! has some of the finest territories of Europe, and her husband just died! - Godfrey the Hunchback. (Maybe she poisoned him; he was my close supporter after all.) She's attractive, only 31 years old, and is a pedophile.

Bertha: Sometimes you are less than a complete fool, Henry. You are right. It's a match made in Heaven, and even the Pope might like it, because it would tie us more closely to him, he being so close to Matilda and all of that.

Henry: Yes, too close maybe.

Bertha: You men expect us women to forgive a lot, don't you, for the sake of your dynastic tomfoolery. (Actually she is now twitching with anger; an old jealous wounding has welled up in her bosom.) Suppose you start fooling around with her again, that'll make for a pleasant family situation, typically royal, or I should say, peasant-like, sparing the growing well-behaved middle class.

(Reconsidering) Oh, actually the solution would be easy. I would not stand for your conduct. Junior would agree that it is intolerable. We would prevail upon my Uncle Otto to assassinate you, and there you'd have it, My Junior would be King Henry V.

Henry: Exactly, my dear, and that is why I would not embroil myself with Matilda.

Bertha: OK, it's agreed.

Do you think you could broach the subject while we're here? I can't and won't do it.

The sooner the better. Junior makes me nervous the way he is already beginning to prolong his being dressed by those peasant girls.

Henry: Don't look now, but I just saw Gregory sticking his big nose out the cannon hole. That means that he is going back in to guzzle and eat and go to bed. I think we can now sneak off penitently to our rooms and eat some fat capon, a couple of pigeon pies, barley soup, hot baked breads et cetera, Matilda's Chianti is marvelous, a little piquant - I wish someone would discover potatoes from America or spaghetti from China. They would be prima.

The threesome trudges off stage to the left.

Scene Three: Pope's Chambers

Pope Gregory is withdrawing his nose from the cannon hole and addressing his Chamberlain who is a doppelganger for the Pope, but is covered with crosses, stars, ancient symbol, keys, in short is a jewelry trunk shadowing Gregory, so that Gregory can appear publicly as a simple priest. Whatever else is contained in the room, there must be a thick large prayer rug.

Gregory: Look at the fool. Why did he bring his wife and kiddie along? To touch my leathery heart? More likely to make me believe that he no longer is trying to waltz with Matilda.

It's getting too dark to gloat over him. I cannot see much. Let him freeze out there, the bastard. It's time to put on the feed-bag. Have the horses been fed? What about Black Maria -- drooping a bit, I noticed, she needs the attention of a veterinarian, tell my barber to get out there and tend to her.

He addresses his Chamberlain, "My, don't we look brilliant and stupendous, today!" The Chamberlain says nary a word, as if a mobile statue.,

Tell me who I am, Monsignore!

The Chamberlian puffs up and booms out: I am the difference between Heaven and Hell for the Catholic Church and its infinite flocks. No one in all of Christendom has worked so hard, so long, and so effectively as I to fashion the Roman Catholic religion into a great striking force for world conquest. First after Canossa, all Italy, and then all Germany and then all Europe. Then our crusades must recover the Holy Land and thereupon crush Islam. Then the Eastern Orthodox Church will readily give itself into our eager hands to the farthest steppes of Russia, and, yes, we shall line the great Silk route to China with crosses of the crucifixion. And then off to new worlds will go the intrepid ever-faithful Celts and converted Moors and Blacks, recalling all tribes and civilizations to Christ and the legitimate authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus Christ, Monarch of the World, with a bureaucratic apparatus that would make the Romans drool with envy.

Gregory: Now hear my speech upon my return to Rome and the Convocation of Cardinals:

(Chamberlain speaks again.)

Primus: First, there was the Word of God, and again the Word of Jesus God, a second time, and from the wayward Muslim, whose ways we shall soon change, yet the word a third time- no doubt of the word: God is God and there is no other God besides God.

Secundus: The Church of Rome is God's appointed authority on Earth. The Pope alone will appoint the Cardinals and the College of Cardinals will choose the next Pope.

Tertius: The Church stretches into Heaven like a giant tree sending its branches to convey its blessed souls into the sacred realms among the stars. The Church sends its roots throughout the world, gathering everyone and everything needed for its nutrition, and forwarding them upwards.

Quartius: The soil of the earth is the populace and this is what nourishes the most humble and grandest servants of God. These servants drawing upon these people are strictly pointed towards the development and expansion of the Roman Church. The people will breed, but the clergy must not seed.

Quintus: No one no matter what his social class or royal status can interrupt and disorder and contradict the natural growth and expansion of the Church. He and

all like him get their authority from the Church, and therefore from the voice of the Church, St. Peter and his successors in Rome. No one will be able to buy an office of the Church lest he be damned and with him the ecclesiastical seller of offices.

Sextus: When the Church with its magnificent hierarchical structure and ironclad components determines that the laws of God are being violated by anyone, especially those men of power and presumptive superiority, it will call upon them to submit to the religious authority and correct their behavior so as to conform to the Divine Norms.

Septimus: Kings belong to the sheep which the Son of God committed to St. Peter, and which St. Peter committed to his successors, the Popes.

Gregory: Basta! Here comes la Contessa. Get lost.

Scene Four: Matilda and Gregory

Matilda enters, kisses his hand.

Matilda: I kiss your fine Italian hand.

Gregory: And I kiss yours.

Matilda: She evades his enveloping embrace, and begins talking straightaway. Your biggest mistake, sweetheart, is to believe that you have saved the church by making it supreme whereas you have given a great impetus to the state to nationalize itself and build an integrated structure internally and one that can be successful in its foreign aggressions - divorced from worry about morals and having every excuse to dismiss Church attempts to bring about Christian brotherhood.

Gregory: Wha..wha..what?

Matilda: In simple language, you are creating a monster, the State, which will need no moral justification and can ignore the Church. And even attack it, at will. How can I make it more clear? By divorcing the sacred from the profane, you will be making the profane more powerful in the end.

Gregory: (admiringly) I need you, sublime counselor. I would probably have been taken prisoner by the German nobles if I had continued on my way to them. Instead, luckily, I was intercepted by your messenger. Then came my brilliant idea to ask you to send for Henry to come to Italy to your castle.

Excuse me, please. He goes behind a curtain and pisses audibly in a pot.

Matilda (aside). He is ecstatic with my formulations, but never follows my advice. What dopes these men are.

I was delighted with Gregory's visit, and overjoyed with his idea of bringing Henry here, because dumb Henry had already in fact gotten here with his wife and kid, without asking, and was well ensconced by the time Gregory showed up.

Then of course I had to get Henry out into the snow and pleading on his bloody knees.

But it is worth the trouble, aside from saving the world. Two great lovers in my house and at my bosom simultaneously. And all under the eyes of the wife and the prelates of the Church. Love conquers all. Or is it my uncontrollable lust for sex and games?

(Addressing the Pope, now returned) The fact that Henry loves me will bring him to his knees before you, whenever I should ask him for the favor.

Gregory: I didn't know that you and Henry had been lovers.

Matilda: You did know that we were children together and my Mother and I were hostages of his father at his home and castle for a long time. And that I am older than he is by several years. Never trust a handsome boy with an older girl.

Gregory: Knowing this, do you think for a moment that I will accept his repentance and give him absolution? Let him roast in Hell.

Matilda: Don't be so jealous. That was ages ago. You are still a magnificent animal. I still love you. Base your judgement on the future of the Empire and the Church, not on my cunt.

Gregory: Still... but you know, I would probably refuse and condemn him anyway. It would not be for my jealous love of you.

Matilda: That's for me to say. A woman can tell when a man is acting out of jealousy; there is a certain glitter in his eye, a special kind of hatefulness exuding from his lips. If I see that you are making your mind up dispassionately, with the good and greatness of the Church in mind, I will recognize that fact and, what shall I say, I will offer myself to your arms again and again - especially amorous will you discover me to be after you have made me a virgin again by absolving me from my past sins.

Gregory: Your arguments are damnably reasonable. They always are. We shall see what kind of a demeaning show this young goof puts on.

Scene Five: Matilda's Boudoir

Matilda is alone praying, bareheaded, long red tresses hanging down. Enter King Henry swiftly behind her, grasps her waist and lifts her up. She knows it is he. They kiss fondly, as old lovers would.

Henry: Did you talk with him?

Matilda: Yes, I did. It's all arranged. If you are really serious about obtaining absolution, you will have to go on posing outside below his window, until he is good and ready to have mercy upon you.

Henry: What a bore!

Matilda: You dashing barons! Mere brutish cynics! You cannot understand why your swords melt on the holy cross, why your naked power cannot make you a priest. You beat your people but do not notice the look behind their wincing eyes, "Go ahead, my Lord, but soon I will be in Heaven while you will burn forever in Hell."

How could you ever have been so rash as to try to excommunicate the Pope himself?

Henry: Oh, well, the idea was novel at least. That you must admit. The surprising thing is that a third of the princes and bishops supported me.

(Crestfallen) All right, so the rest took me in custody.

But I wasn't going to wait for Gregory to turn up to join with them against me. So I escaped, crossed the Alps - Christ, what a exhausting trip! - and headed straight for your castle.

Matilda: Your wife must have been surprised when you dropped in on her at Torino.

Henry: Oh, she's used to my antics. She was irritated, though, when I asked her to come along to your place. She knows - who doesn't? - that you took me in hand literally when I was a boy.

Matilda: (Smiling) Ah how well I remember even now the warm little mouse that I played with. You learned that it was not only for making pee-pee'.

Henry: Need I tell you that I cherish every time we've made love since then.

Matilda: You are a ravishing but vanishing lover. I see you once in a blue moon.

Henry: The Alps are between us, dearest Matilda. But just wait until I settle matters with the Romans. I may even become Pope and then there will be no nonsense about who confesses to whom about bedtime habits.

Pope and Emperor -Gad!

Matilda: Henry, you're such a fool. There is no such nonsense even now and I do mean Gregory. When he confesses me he goes straight through to my absolution.

He has other means of knowing what I am up to. But love holds him as would an iron maiden.

Henry: I am not shocked. The old boy had his observers around every time we got together. I wonder wether he did not get some of his radical ideas out of sheer jealousy of us. And his hatred of me - it is not all a matter of principle.

Matilda: What you say is true. But don't think for a moment that his love for me has gone unreciprocated. The old bull could teach you some tricks.

Anyhow, Gregory doesn't know that I plotted to get you here where I might control the both of you great men. As soon as you have received his benediction, you will receive mine. Arise early in the morning. I'll see to it that he calls for you then in a spirit of forgiveness.

Then you will have me where you want me and where I crave to be. But tomorrow evening is another matter. After you're gone. Gregory will get his desserts. He loves me dearly. You know how immensely egocentric he is, and he is right, too, to want me physically as well as a world empire. I am a first rate consultant on such matters, and the hours of a consultant in bed are long. He is a great man with a plan; you are great, too, darling, but feckless and without plan.

Henry: Don't lecture me.

Matilda: Simple bravado will get you nowhere in the end. Now get out here and, for God's sake, look penitential, you silly man. They embrace. She pushes him toward the doorway.

Exit Henry.

Scene Six: Anteroom to Henry's Apartment

Henry, plainly dressed in a woolen gown and cape and high shoes, speaks with his Chamberlain, who is a robotic marvel of swords, daggers, medals, ribbons and batons.

Chamberlain: If he has to kill a thousand to rule, a king must do so. Moses and David slaughtered their own people as if they were mad cows. To get onto one's knees to receive a great psychological power over men is easy.

Henry: The Great Lawyer Guarnerius is here visiting Matilda, teaching her the imperial law code of Rome. He came to my rooms two nights ago, after I had frozen my feet all the day and lectured me on the principles of organization and conduct of the Roman Imperial Law.

That is what I will apply to Europe. I will build the Holy Roman Empire on the monolith of Rome. I will put an end to these squabbling barons of Germany and Italy. I will swallow the Church. It is halfway down my throat now.

But I must find somewhere in my domains a people worthy of me, who want for themselves a nation, and will fight for it.

Chamberlain: The same Signor Guarnerius is counseling the Pope, Your Highness. He makes a pot of gold from what he calls mere consultation, and never takes sides. Pure secularism. Perhaps that is why the Pope is so determined to have religious supremacy. It is a dream of the Roman Empire come to life. A theory can spit out a dogma; and the dogma can then put great energy into lazy words and feelings.

Henry: Enough of this argument. I am off to see the Pope. His Chamberlain informs us that my three days of tortured penitence in the bitter snow has demonstrated to His Holiness that my heart is now in the right place.

Scene Seven: The Great Hall of the Castello di Canossa

( A lot of swords and daggers hang on the left wall of stage, whereas a mass of crucifixions elaborate the right wall.)

Enter Matilda from center stage entrance, Henry from left , and Gregory from right stage entrance. The Chamberlains place the Papal Cone on Gregory's head and a Crown upon Henry's. Matilda's Lady in Waiting places a diamond tiara of visibly large, five-pointed stars on her head. Each pauses part way to center stage to let themselves be crowned and to utter a few words meant only for the ears of the audience and their attendants.

Henry: What a fool Gregory is to accept my word of honor.

Gregory: What a fool Henry is to think that I am so foolish as to believe in his word of honor. Even now he is being displaced as Emperor by a King whom I favor - King Rudolph.

Matilda: What fools men are to believe one another; no wonder they are such suckers for a woman's protestations of love. I like these guys of course, but only on my own terms. And I admit that I am attracted sexually to both of them.

Meanwhile, between their utterances, the Pope's Chamberlain wheels in a walker wrapped in purple for the Pope to stand behind, facing front stage. Henry's Chamberlain brings in a small red cushion for Henry to kneel upon. And the Lady in Waiting brings in and places alongside but two meters diagonally a thick cushion of white.

All other members of the cast enter and stand alongside. They are witnesses.

Pope's Chamberlain to Henry's Chamberlain in a loud aside: The ceremony will be brief. His Holiness always gets things in writing. It's the New Order. (He waves a sheaf of three large parchment pages.)

(All in place and silent)

Gregory: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Guest, amen, (all say amen) and away we go.

Do you Henry, swear that you have committed all the sins that are included on the list that you are about to sign and that we discussed privately earlier?

Henry: I so swear. Is it alright if I just scribble my royal emblem? You know how I hate to write.

Gregory: (Contemptuously) As you please. (Henry marks the first parchment that has been given to him on a tablet by the Pope's Chamberlain and it is taken from him.) Do you, Henry, swear that you are overflowing with contrition for having committed all such sins, as you have duly signified on document secundus?.

Henry: I so swear. (Repeat the signing procedure)

Gregory: Do you, Henry, swear and affirm that the authority and power to chastise and excommunicate all persons, whether of the highest or the lowest rank outside of the Holy Catholic Church resides in the plenipotentiaries of that Church, proceeding duly according to the laws of the Church? If so, make your mark on Document Tertius.

Henry: I so swear and affirm. (Repeat the signing procedure.)

Gregory: Now, therefore, you are absolved of all sin and restored to the sanctified and innocent condition of a true son of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and King of the Germanies. Ego te absolvo.

All make the sign of the cross, speaking aloud, "In nomine patris, filiis, et spiritui sanctis. Amen."

The Pope arises, and all arise. He turns to his Chamberlain and declares: Let this accord and proclamation be delivered with all speed to all of Christendom and the world beyond, who shall now appreciate full well the newly affirmed order of the centuries. He leaves the Hall.

Henry lets out a loud war whoop, hollering "I am King. I am Emperor," and strides over to Matilda, embracing her, then to Bertha, then Conrad. Conrad rushes over to the fireplace.

Henry takes the occasion to draw M aside. A word with you, dear Countess, if you so please.

Will I, as I dearly hope, see you later for the promised rendezvous?

Matilda: Unfortunately no, and for the best of reasons. Nature, to whom no King is peer, has begun her monthly visit and I am only to live now in anticipation of a near occasion of your royal presence.

Henry: Ah, remembering my childhood together with you, how I wish that it could have lasted forever. And, do you know, Matilda, I have been wishing and wondering, and doing so with the full agreement of my dear Bertha, whether my son might have the same experience?

Matilda: Do you mean that you would like him to come and live with me?

Henry: In a word, yes. I think that he will be a stouter, braver and handsomer young man than I ever was.

Matilda bursts into laughter, then, giggling as she speaks, says: Why not? Why not? Who is to say no, if you say yes? (She addresses Conrad.)

Conrad, would you like to stay here with me in a beautiful little chamber right next to mine, and eat rabbits and chickens at every dinner at my table?

Conrad gives a sidewise glance for an approving look from his Mother, which, being received, prompts him to say: You are so kind and beautiful, I would love to do so, dear Countess Matilda. Does the room have a fireplace?

Matilda: Two fireplaces, dear boy.

Conrad: And I will not have to cross the Alps now?

Matilda: No, you will not have to cross the Alps.

Conrad: Then certainly, my dear Countess, and he kneels and kisses her hand.

Matilda: (to Henry) You can be so clever at times. Making me an offer I cannot refuse. So now let us all go to your new room, Conrad, and to say our good-byes to our loved ones.

Scene Eight: Pope's Chambers

There is a large thick prayer rug a few steps to the rear of the actors.

Gregory: As Matilda enters. Ah, there you are, my dear. I have news for you. It came just as Henry was leaving. I wanted Henry to be gone before I spoke of it. He will receive a nasty surprise upon his return. Henry's Council of Kings has deposed him. There will now be war and more war - as usual, I should add.

Matilda: How shocking! And he was so pleased with himself when he left.

But German princes are as thick as bedbugs. He will find plenty of them to lend him support. And apropos, I have news for you. You aren't finished with him yet.

Gregory: Come, come. What now?

Matilda: Let me explain: I have the most remarkable Herald. He predicts the future. He is an astrologer and prophet.

Gregory: Is he a Christian?

Matilda: No, a Jew whom I have licensed to deal in gems and prophecy. He also blows the trumpet. He will be following me here in a moment. Actually here he is.

I hope that you can tolerate the future - I mean the part of it that goes before you reach Limbo.

Herald: I am Schlomo, son of Levi, son of Abraham, son of Moses, son of Mickey Mouse, one hundred generations removed from Solomon, Schlomo the Great.. And here is what I see ahead:

(Gregory and Matilda make appropriate faces and gestures of disbelief, pain, pleasure, despair, anger, protest, shock, confirmation of expectation, etc., with the pause that ends each sentence, and may even exclaim.)

Henry will return and find many princes against him, despite his absolution.

These princes will turn to King Rudolph.

Pope Gregory will support Rudolph.

But Rudolph will soon die.

Henry IV will therefore be unchallenged King and Emperor.

King Henry will appoint an anti-Pope.

King Henry will descend upon the South and ravage Italy.

Henry will force Gregory into refuge in San Angelo Castle at Rome.

Gregory will be forced to call for help from the Norman kingdoms of the South.

Appealing to the Normans of Southern Italy, Gregory will be returned to Rome.

But Rome will be looted and vandalized by the Vikings, worse than the Vandals.

Gregory dies in exile at Salerno.

Henry is overthrown by his sons.

Henry dies while recruiting allies to regain his throne.

Matilda has her realms confiscated by the second son of Henry.

Matilda marries a young prince of a powerful kingdom.

Matilda gets back most of her estates from the Holy Roman Emperor, promising to leave them to him, although she has already willed them to the Church.

Matilda dies peaceably as the Church and Empire begin to engage in a prolonged controversy over her estates.

These events I must foretell. (Shrugs sullenly.) Sorry if I hurt anybody's feelings..

Gregory: Why, that's terrible.

Matilda: It could be much worse. That's just for the next few years.

Gregory: I repeat: That's terrible, worse than terrible.

Matilda: But no. For just imagine what will happen to your reforms in the farther future.

There will be warrior nations, crueler than those we know today.

They will use exploding machines that will kill the serfs, citizens, and lords without distinction.

The Crusades that you are promoting so enthusiastically will flare up and be extinguished, again and again, until finally you will be lucky to have permission for a few Christian churches in the Holy Land.

Revolting sects of Christians will win the support of powerful regimes, and war against other Christians and amongst themselves. Protestants and Catholics will fight each other all over the world.

And Islam will spread inexorably. And there will be positivism, atheism, communism, and materialistic science to combat all religion.

Gregory, my sweet and holy Lord, you don't know how lucky you are, having the consolation of your religion, and a preferred seat in Heaven. You will be getting out of this hell on Earth while the going is good.

Gregory: I can stand the truth. Will I not repeat over and over to my flock and the world at large, "I am ready to be a martyr in the cause of the Good Lord," or some such expression -- you'll recognize it when you hear it. And I can never be gainsaid the foresight of my own rationalism, for I will insist repeatedly "Christ did not say "I am a tradition, but "I am truth."

(A worried frown crosses his face.) No, that's not going to help much, is it?

Matilda: No. The truth will get you nowhere.

Gregory: But I fear that your prophet will hasten my pitiable destiny by retelling this story all over Tuscany and will earn a pretty penny doing so. He is a menace. I want him tried by the Inquisition and burned.

Matilda: Is this fair compensation for my enlightening you about the past and the present and the future. Dear Gregory, my Love. Don't be rash.

Gregory: True, I cannot do so, anyhow, The Court of Inquisition that I have set up in Rome is too just and incorruptible. It is lawful -- a radical invention of mine.

I shall have him assassinated. I can't have him running around reciting this story.

Matilda: My dear, dear friend. I have done you this and many other favors. Schlomo is indispensable. Futurologists are as scarce as hen's teeth. And I so love to hear of the future.

When I ask him to do so, he gives a dishonest prophecy. But only I have this bond with him, and can prevail upon him rarely to dishonor his ancestors.

Rest assured that no one in the world will ever hear the recital of this story, and I shall ask him to recite a much more favorable one, although covering the same ground, in a manner favoring you and most consoling. It won't be true; it will be a campaign speech for your Holy Roman Catholic Church. After that, it will become history.

Gregory: You are a sweetheart and I know I can count on you.

(To Shlomo the Prophetic Herald) Leave now, and forever hold your tongue. (Herald shuffles off)

Gregory. Now come to me, my sweet one, and let us resolve in the corpus unicus the absurdity of the past days. I feel so much better with the future off my back.

Matilda: (coyly) I felt that you would be sated with my succulent body, once you were so firmly bent upon the celibacy of your priests.

Gregory: By celibacy I mean, not continence and abstinence from sex, but denial of marriage and legitimate progeny. Without progeny the priest will naturally focus more intensely upon his God and Church.

Matilda: Sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. Suppose the Church, in its zeal to prevent contraception, because the serfs are not procreating, whether because of a plague or pessimism from the wretchedness of existence, and the brutalities of feudal lords, finds that priests are conceiving more children out of wedlock. Won't they do everything in their power to promote their offspring? Even perhaps making a Pope out a Pope's son one day?

Gregory: Nobody is perfect.

Matilda: Why do you think that you do not have a son by me?

Gregory. I dunno.

Matilda: Why do you imagine that Henry has no son by me?

Gregory: I dunno.

Matilda: You relied upon me to practice birth control. And I, being wise, wanted no offspring to disturb my carefree life.

You are so dumb, Gregory, even though you wish to rule the whole world - and you might still, if you handle Henry right. Then your Catholic religion might truly rule all the nations of the world.

Everybody knows that priests are the best kind of fathers to have - always around when you need them, always with food in the cupboard, plenty of firewood, learning to read and write, knowing through a string of confessions who might hurt their children, knowing through penances how to stop them. Avoiding fights and battles most of the time, without being accused of cowardice or being a mere serf.

Gregory: Ah, Matilda, Matilda, you are so right, so always right. You beat the coup d'etat by the sword. Yes, and you put the cross in its rightful place.

Matilda: Yes, indeed, and why not end with the ancient saying, "Love conquers all!" no matter in which niche of its labyrinth.

Gregory: (panting) Yes, yes, that, too.

Oh, my darling, I beg of you now to let me end this great day in human history by demonstrating how a celibate can act when off duty and in the presence of overwhelming beauty.

Matilda: That is the language of the man I love.

Gregory throws his cloak open, Matilda enters upon him, pulls down his hood, and both bend, weave, and squirm inside, moving blindly like two copulating snails toward the rear as lights dim and the curtain closes. There is a heavy thud, as of falling bodies on a thick prayer rug, out of the darkness.


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