SMITHERS [Tighten...

The Emperor Jones

Scene 1


Show Type
  • : 1
  • : 1
Age Ranges
  • Adult
  • Mature Adult
  • Elderly
West Indies, 1920s
Scene 1

Scene Context

Smithers has arrived at the emperor’s palace to discover that all the natives have escaped into the

Scene Text

SMITHERS [Tightening his grasp−roughly]: Easy! None o’ that, me birdie. You can't wriggle out now. I got me 'oaks on yer.

WOMAN [Seeing the uselessness of struggling, gives way to frantic terror, and sinks to the ground, embracing his knees supplicatingly.]: No tell him! No tell him, Mister!

SMITHERS [With great curiosity]: Tell 'im? [Then scornfully.] Oh, you mean 'is bloamin' Majesty. What's the gaime, any 'ow? What are you sneakin' away for? Been stealin' a bit, I s'pose. [He taps her bundle with his riding whip significantly.]

WOMAN [Shaking her head vehemently]: No, me no steal.

SMITHERS: Bloody liar! But tell me what's up. There's somethin' funny goin' on. I smelled it in the air first thing I got up this mornin'. You blacks are up to some devilment. This palace of 'is is like a bleedin' tomb. Where's all the 'ands? [The woman keeps sullenly silent. SMITHERS raises his whip threateningly.] Ow, yer The Emperor Jones won't, won't yer? I'll show yer what's what.

WOMAN [Coweringly]: I tell, Mister. You no hit. They go−−all go. [She makes a sweeping gesture toward the hills in the distance.]

SMITHERS: Run away−to the 'ills?

WOMAN: Yes, Mister. Him Emperor−Great Father. [She touches her forehead to the floor with a quick. mechanical jerk. ) Him sleep after eat. Then they go−−all go. Me old woman. Me left only. Now me go too.

SMITHERS [His astonishment giving way to an immense, mean satisfaction]: Ow! So that's the ticket! Well, I know bloody well wot's in the air−when they runs orf to the 'ills. The tom−tom 'll be thumping out there bloomin' soon. [With extreme vindictiveness.] And I'm bloody glad of it, for one! Serve 'im right! Put tin' on airs, the stinkin' nigger! 'Is Majesty! Gawd blimey! I only 'opes I'm there when they takes 'im out to shoot 'im. [Suddenly.] 'E's still 'ere all right, ain't 'e?

WOMAN: Yes. Him sleep.

SMITHERS: 'E's bound to find out soon as 'e wakes up. 'E's cunnin' enough to know when 'is time's come. [He goes to the doorway on right and whistles shrilly with his fingers in his mouth. The old woman springs to her feet and runs out of the doorway, rear. SMITHERS goes after her, reaching for his revolver.] Stop or I'll shoot! [Then stopping−−indifferently.] Pop orf then, if yer like, yer black cow. [He stands in the doorway, looking after her.]

O’Neill, Eugene. “The Emperor Jones”, Three Great Plays: The Emperor Jones, Anna Christie, and The Hairy Ape, Dover Publications Inc., 2005, p.4.