The Peasant Queen

a play by Aruneshwar A. Singh and Mark Harris


A modern rendition of the story of Esther, Queen of Persia.


Courtier (Harbona)
Haman's wife
Esther's maid (goes everywhere with Esther once she is brought to the palace).
Teresh, Bignatha (two guards)
Extras: 2 kids, 2 males, 2 females


Scene 1:
(The King is sitting at the rear of the stage with his Courtiers (Haman, 2 males, Courtier) drinking and being merry. They are congratulating him on his conquest of the provinces.)
Courtier: King Xerxes, now that we have enjoyed the favour of feasting with you these past six months, is there any other reason why you summoned us here?
King: My dear chamberlains, I have summoned you here to proclaim my reign over the 125 provinces from India even unto Ethiopia. As far as my eyes can see and even beyond, my reign is complete with the conquests that my generals have won for me, and therefore I had thrown this feast. The riches that surround you here have been brought before you to honour my greatness. Now declare to the Kingdom, King Xerxes the Great proclaims a feast for seven days for all of his people. Let every man drink as much wine as he wishes, not allowing any to force another to drink anymore than he wishes.
Hegai: As your highness wishes.
Scene 2
(As before)
Courtier: Your Highness, you have surely shown your greatness these past seven days...
King: You have not yet seen the greatest treasure of all of Persia and Media. This treasure I speak of is of such beauty that a man would eat his own heart to have it. Chamberlain, bring my wife the Queen.
(Chamberlain/Hegai acknowledges the King and exits. King socialises waiting for the chamberlain to come back.Chamberlain returns and whispers in the King ear. The King throws a tantrum.)
King: What!? The Queen would dare to ignore my command? (turning to the others) Wise men, what shall we do unto Queen Vashti according to the law?
Courtier: The Queen has not only wronged the King but has wronged all of the men of Persia and Media in refusing to come before the King this day. Before the day is through, women from the provinces will hear of her deeds and will stop respecting their husbands. Therefore she must be punished. So if it please the King, let the King write a decree of the law of the Persians and the Medes that can not be changed. It should order that Queen Vashti no longer appear before the King and that another Queen be sought to reign with him This will show the women of Persia and all other provinces of his majesty's empire that every men should rule over his house.
King: Let it be as you say. Courtiers clear away the party.
Scene 3:
(Mordecai and Esther are at front stage. Esther is cleaning when Mordecai enters.)
Mordecai: Cousin Esther, have you heard? King Xerxes seeks to replace Queen Vasti and has declared that all the beautiful virgins throughout the provinces present themselves to him. The one that pleases him the most will be appointed Queen.
Esther: But cousin, I am a Jew. And we are exiles in this land. What do you think they will do if they find an exile wanting to become their Queen?
Mordecai: Then we shall not declare you to be a Jew. And you must not say that you are a Jew. In so doing we will hide your kindred and people.
(Mordecai exits and Hegai comes from backstage to the front.)
Scene 4:
(Esther and Hegai, front stage)
Hegai: Does my lady require anymore special treatments?
Esther: Dear Hegai, that which I have received has been sufficient. these past twelve months. It has been an overwhelming experience for me. With all the special beauty treatments, I feel like a Queen already - not that I am complaining, my dear Hegai. I am so blessed to be treated so well.
Hegai: You will soon be presented to his highness the King. Do you require any adornments, my lady.
Esther: Whatever you choose, my dear Hegai, will be sufficient. And I will do as you see fit, for you have a far greater knowledge of these things than I do.
Hegai: As my lady wishes.
Scene 5:
(lights up on back stage. The Courtier and the King enter. King sits with Courtier standing by his side.)
Hegai: Your highness, may I bring my lady Esther before you.
(King whispers in Courtier's ear.)
Courtier: You may show her in.
(Hegai exits and enters with Esther in tow.)
Hegai: Your majesty, may I present Esther.
(He sweeps his hand across and Esther steps forth, walks up and down front stage and does a twirl.)
Courtier: Is your highness pleased with this one?
King: Yes, this one will do perfectly. Her beauty is extraordinary and her skin is so fair. Bring the royal crown and place it upon her head and proclaim before the people that she is my favourite and will be Queen instead of Vashti. And to celebrate the occasion we shall have a banquet in honour of Queen Esther. Gifts will be given to the servants and princes. Declare a public festival for all the provinces.
(Courtier exits and returns with a crown, places it on Esther's head and then walks her to front stage.)
Courtier: People of the empire, I present to you Queen Esther. The King in his great wisdom has declared a public holiday. May the King live forever!
(All exit with the King first.)
Scene 6:
(Bignatha and Teresh are standing at the gates at front stage, opening and closing the gates for people as they pass through.)
Bignatha:  I am so tired. Seems we have been standing at these city gates forever. First we had the great feast. Then came the virgins. Now this. When will this ever end?
(Mordecai walks in and hearing them speak hides behind backstage pillar.)
Teresh: I know what you mean. My physician reckons I'm developing a bout of R.O.S.
Bignatha: R.O.S?
Teresh: Yep. Repetitive Opening Syndrome.
Bignatha: Maybe we should go see our labor union and negotiate a pay rise?
Teresh: But we don't have a union.
Bignatha: (looks round to see if anyone is listening) I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I think we should kill the King.
Teresh: A bold stroke. But I am in agreement with you. Come, let us talk further.... (they exit)
Scene 7:
(Mordecai is still hiding behind pillar and Esther walks in.)
Mordecai: You would not believe what I just heard...
(Steps out from behind pillar - Esther jumps with fright.)
Esther: Cousin, you scared me. What are you doing here?
Mordecai: I was coming to see you when I overheard two of the King's guards talking about assassinating the King.
Esther: Which guards?
Mordecai: Bignatha and Teresh. You had better warn the King. (The King enters) Look, here he comes now. I will talk to you later.
(Esther goes to front of stage where the King is with the Courtier.)
Esther: Your majesty, I have been informed by your servant Mordecai that two of guards are are planning to assassinate you.
King: Who are they, my Queen.
Esther: Mordecai says it is Bignatha and Teresh.
King: (Turns to Courtier) Go and find out if this is so.
(Courtier leaves and the King walks over and starts talking to Esther. Courtier enters again.)
Courtier: Your Majesty, it is as her Majesty the Queen has said.
King: (Angrily) See that they are hung from the gallows.
Scene 8:
(The King goes and sits on his thrown. Esther leaves and Hegai enters and places some parchments before the King which he looks at.)
King: (To Courtier) Have Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite brought before me.
Courtier: As you wish, my Majesty. (Bows and leaves. Enters with Haman.) Your highness, may I present Haman, son of Hammadatha the Agagite. (Haman bows low.)
King: It is good to see you Haman.
Haman: The Honour is all mine, your Highness. Tell me, what is it that you require from your servant?
King: I have decided to make you Prime Minister. As you know, this would mean that you will be second only to me in the Kingdom.
Haman: Thank you, your majesty. I don't know what to say. Is there anything else?
King: No that is all.
(Haman walks towards front stage and stops midway.)
Scene 9:
Haman: (To himself) Prime Minister, me, Haman? This means every one will bow before me and I will be honored all over the whole Kingdom.
(The Courtier approaches him and bows with his face to the ground. Stands.)
Courtier: Congratulations, Your Lordship.
Haman: So you have heard?
Courtier: The whole Kingdom knows by now that you have been made Prime Minister, second only to the King.
(Mordecai enters from backstage.)
Haman: I will see you later. I must tell my wife, if she has not already heard the news. (Courtier bows respectfully. Haman goes to pillar backstage.)
Courtier: I noticed, Mordecai, that you did not bow to Haman, the new Prime Minister over the 125 provinces of our King Xerxes the great. Why are you disobeying the King's commandments?
Mordecai: It is because I am a Jew and I serve the one true God. He is a jealous God. It is forbidden by law of my people to worship any other.. be it a person or god or an idol.
Courtier: But don't you know that Haman could have you hanged for not bowing to him.
Mordecai: I would rather be hung than to disobey the law of my God.
(They leave together)
Scene 10:
Haman's Wife: Calm down my love, you don't want the whole province to hear you rave, do you?
Haman: For many day's now since the announcement, the filthy Jew still will not bow to me. Everyone except the King bows to me. But he will not.
Wife: What are you going to do about it?
Haman: I have been thinking that it will not be enough just to kill Mordecai alone. Because he is a Jew I must destroy all the Jews across the entire empire of Xerxes. I want to wipe them off the face of the earth till none is left. But I will need the King's permission.
Wife: Then I suggest we throw lots to determine when the best time for such an event to take place. And then you can approach the King with the idea.
(They exit)
Scene 11:
(The King is seated on his throne talking to Courtier. Hegai enters with Haman.)
Hegai: Your Majesty, the Prime Minister has asked to speak with you.
King: Come in Haman, my loyal subject. How are things with you?
Haman: I am well your majesty, except for a little issue which I would like to bring to your attention.
King: Well then, proceed.
Haman: There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire. Their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey even the laws of the King. So it is not in the King's best interest to let them live. If it please your majesty, let a decree be issued that will have these people destroyed. I will give 375 tons of silver to the government administrators so they can put it into the royal treasury.
King: Keep the money. Go ahead and do as you like with these people. Take this ring and place it on the decree as a sign of my authority. But before you go come, let us have some wine.
(Signals the Courtier to bring wine.)
Scene 12:
(Mordecai is at the rear of stage. He reads the note and tears his shirt, puts on sackcloth and rubs ashes on his face. He goes to front stage and starts to wail with note in hand.)
Mordecai: My God, my God why have you forsaken us. Your chosen people. Now come and save us again.
(A Jew enters front stage from the side.)
Jew: Mordecai my brother, why this sackcloth and ashes? Why are you wailing?
Mordecai: Have you not heard - we Jews are to be annihilated. The King has decreed that all Jews throughout India to Ethiopia are to be killed. There is to be none left.
Jew: When is this to happen?
Mordecai: Next year.
Jew: Oh, why has God forsaken us. How will I bear to see my daughters and wife slaughtered before me.
(He starts crying. Hegai enters from back stage, walks past and pauses seeing the two crying. He then goes and tells Esther.)
Scene 13:
Hegai: (he bows) My Queen, I have just seen Mordecai at the palace gates and he's wearing sackcloth and has ashes all over him.
Esther: What? (she is distressed. To maid) Find some clothes that will fit him and take them to him. (Maid walks to front stage where Mordecai is with the other Jew. She offers the clothes to him but he refuses. Maid goes back to Esther at backstage.)
Maid: My Queen, he will not accept.
Esther: (to Hegai) Please go and find out what is wrong with him.
(Hegai goes back to front stage and speaks to Mordecai)
Hegai: The Queen wishes to know why you are wailing.
Mordecai: Prime Minister Haman has promised to pay into the royal treasury 375 tons of silver for the destruction of the Jews. Show this decree to her majesty Queen Esther, that has been placed all over Susa, which calls for the death of all Jews. Please explain the decree to her highness and the implications of such a decree. Also urge her to go to the King to beg for mercy and plead for her people.
(Hegai returns to backstage)
Esther: Hegai, what did Mordecai say?
Hegai: Your highness, his lordship Mordecai has asked me to give this to you.
(Esther takes the decree and reads it)
Esther: The whole world knows that anyone who appears before the King in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the King holds out his scepter. And the King has not called for me to come to him in more than a month. You may go tell him, Hegai.
Hegai: As you say your highness. (Hegai goes to front stage and speaks to Mordecai.)
Mordecai: Tell her majesty: Don't think for a moment that you will escape by being in the palace when all other Jews around you are killed. And if you keep silent at a time like this, then a deliverer for the Jews will come forth from another place, but for your relatives and you, there will only be death. Who knows that your being Queen at this moment was not brought into effect for such a time as this.
(Hegai returns to Esther)
Esther: Tell Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Tell them not to eat or drink for three days and three nights. I will also fast with my maids. And then even though it is against the law of the Persians and the Medes I will go before the King. And if I am to die, than I am willing to die.
Scene 14:
(King and Courtier are at back of stage chatting. Queen Esther enters centre front stage and waits)
King: I sent one of the generals to India to see if there was yet still a land that was not under my empire. He returned to tell me that it already was but that one of the princes there had tried to cause a revolt.
Courtier: What happened?
King: The general captured him and brought him to me in chains.
Courtier: What did you do, Majesty?
King: Why I impaled him with a spear. How else am I to keep order in my provinces.
Courtier: Your majesty, you are quite magnificent.
King: (notices Queen Esther and points his scepter towards her) My dear Esther, do come and join us. (Esther enters and touches the tip of the scepter) What do you want, my dear Queen Esther? What would you like? I will give it to you, even if you request half the Kingdom.
Esther: If it please your majesty, I would very much like the King and his prime minister Haman to come to a banquet I have prepared for the King.
King: (to Courtier) Tell the prime minister to come quickly to the banquet Queen Esther has prepared.
Courtier: (bows) as you request your highness.
Scene 15:
(Esther, King, Haman are at the rear of stage lounging around eating and drinking. Hegai is serving them.)
Haman: (to Esther) Your highness has put on a great banquet.
King: Yes, my dear, you have outdone yourself. Now tell me what is it that you really want? What do you require? Whatever you request I will give you, even to half the Kingdom.
Esther: This is my desire and deepest wish. If your majesty is indeed pleased with me and wants to grant my wish, please come again to another banquet that I will prepare for you and Prime Minister Haman. And then at the banquet I will explain to you my desire.
King: I will be delighted to come. And what about you Haman, will you be here as the Queen has requested?
Haman: Your highness, how could I decline such an invitation? Of course I will be here.
(Haman rises, bows and walks to front stage where Mordecai is sitting at the gate.)
Mordecai: Prime Minister Haman. (still sitting)
Haman: (furious but restrains himself)
Scene 16:
(Haman's wife, 1 boy, 1 girl, two adults are stage rear)
Haman: (enters) Do you know from where I have just come? I have been dining with the King at a banquet prepared by Queen Esther. Have you seen how the King has favored me and he has placed me above all his princes and servants. Indeed, tomorrow I will again dine with him. (he becomes angry) Yet all this is utterly meaningless as long as that dog Mordecai sits at the palace gates. I can't bear to see him every time I go to the palace. He is always there - like a thorn in my side.
Haman's wife: Why don't you set up a gallows, my dear Haman.
Friend 1: Yes, a gallows.
Friend 2: Twenty five meters high.
Haman's wife: Tomorrow morning ask the King to hang Mordecai from it. And when you have hung Mordecai from it, then you can go and eat with the King and Queen Esther. And you will not be bothered by this Hebrew dog.
Haman: That is a wonderful idea, my dear (he walks over and cups her cheek, then turns to the two adults) See that is done by morning.
Scene 17:
(The King is lying on a couch stage rear trying to sleep. After awhile he gets up)
King: Harbona?
Courtier: Yes, your majesty?
King: I can't sleep. Bring me the historical records of the Kingdom.
Courtier: (leaves and returns with parchments) I have them, your majesty.
King: Good, now read them to me.
Courtier: Yes, your majesty. (reads) A plot to kill the King by two of his servants was exposed by one of the King's subjects. The servants were executed according to the law of the Persians and the Medes.
King: What was the name of the subject who exposed the plot.
Courtier: Mordecai, your majesty.
King: And what was done for him.
Courtier: Nothing was done for Mordecai the Jew, your majesty.
King: (notices Haman at front of stage) Who is that in the outer courts?
Courtier: That is Prime Minister Haman, your majesty.
King: Bring him here. (Courtier goes and gets Haman) Tell me, Haman, what should I do for a man that has truly pleased me.
Haman: Why your majesty, if you wish to honour such a man, than the King should take one of his own robes and have one of the King's most noble princes dress the man in it. Also let the man be paraded through the city on one of the King's own horses with the Kings emblem on the horses head, with the prince shouting as he goes, "This is what the King does for those he wishes to honour".
King: Wonderful idea. Quickly go and do all you have said for Mordecai the Jew. Make sure you do everything that you suggested. (King and Courtier leave, leaving Haman to dwell upon what has just happened. He has a look of disbelief on his face as he walks to front of stage.)
Scene 18:
Haman: I felt so humiliated. Imagine me parading the very man I hate around the city calling out, "This is what the King does for those he wishes to honour". Me! of all people. Oh how I hate that Jew!
Haman's wife: Haman, my darling. Since this Jew Mordecai has humiliated you, you can not succeed in you your plans to destroy him. You must stop your plot to oppose him, for it will be fatal for you to continue. (Courtier enters from backstage)
Courtier: Lord Haman, the Queen requests your presence for a banquet she has prepared for the King and you.
Haman: All right then, lead the way.
Scene 19:
(Esther and King are reclining on couch at rear of stage. Courtier enters.)
Courtier: Your highnesses, Prime Minister Haman.
King: It is good to see you again, Haman.
Haman: The privilege is all mine, your majesty.
Esther: Come join us, Prime Minister Haman. (Hegai serves drinks)
King: Now, my dear, what is it that you request. I will give you even up to half the Kingdom.
Esther: Your majesty if you are pleased with me and want to grant my request, then my petition is that my life and the lives of my people be spared. My people and I have been sold to those who would destroy, slaughter and annihilate us. I would not have said anything if I and my people had been sold into slavery, for that would have been a matter too trivial to bother your highness about.
King: Who would do such a thing? Who would dare lay their hands upon my Queen?
Esther: (points to Haman) It is Haman that has advanced his hand towards us. (The King, angry, rises and goes to the front of the stage.)
Haman: Queen Esther, please I beg you, save my life and the life of my family (he throws himself at her on the couch. King enters and sees Haman.)
King: What is this Haman? Will you even attack the Queen in my own presence. Before my very eyes?!
(Hegai and Courtier enter and place a pillowcase over Haman's head and the King takes his ring off Haman's finger. The servants lead him away as Haman screams for mercy)
Courtier: (returns) Your majesty, Haman has set up a gallows that stands seventy-five feet high in his own courtyard. One of the servants told me that he was going to use it to hang Mordecai, the man who saved the King from assassination.
King: Than hang Haman from it!
Esther: What?! He was planning to hang my uncle from the gallows?
King: Uncle?
Esther: Yes, Uncle.
King: Hegai, bring Mordecai before me. (thud in the background and a gasp) My darling Esther, I give you the estate of Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite. (Hegai enters)
Hegai: Your majesty, Mordecai the Jew. (Mordecai enters with Hegai)
King: Mordecai, come near. Give me your hand. (he places the ring on Mordecai's right finger)
Mordecai: I am honoured your majesty.
King: It is a fitting reward.
(Mordecai walks to front stage)
Esther: (crying) If I have found favour in your majesty's eyes, please send a decree into all your majesty's provinces reversing Haman's orders to kill the Jews. For how could I stand by to see my people and family slaughtered and annihilated.
King: Harbona, come in here.
Courtier: Yes, your highness?
King: Bring Mordecai here. (Courtier goes to front stage and brings Mordecai back with him) Mordecai come in. I have given Esther the estate of Haman, who I had hung from his own gallows for trying to destroy the Jews. Now I want you to go and send a message to the Jews in the King's name, giving any instructions you wish, and seal it with the King's signet ring. But remember, whatever is written in the King's name and is sealed with the King's ring can never be changed.
Scene 21:
(Mordecai and Esther are at front of stage.)
Esther: Uncle, what have you written?
Mordecai: I have written that the Jews have the authority to unite together to defend their lives. They are allowed to kill, slaughter and annihilate anyone of any nationality or province who might attack them or their children and wives, and to take the property of their enemies.
Esther: And what day have you chosen for this to happen.
Mordecai: March 7th of next year. We must have this decree copied and sent out through all the provinces so that all the Jews are aware of it.
Esther: I will have Hegai arrange it.
Scene 22:
(The King, and Courtier are at stage rear)
King: Harbona call Queen Esther to me. (Courtier goes to front stage and brings back Esther with him) My dear Queen Esther, today the Jews have killed five hundred people in the fortress of Susa alone, and also the ten sons of Haman. If they have done that here, what has happened in the rest of the provinces? But now, what more do you want? It will be granted to you, tell me and I will do it.
Esther: If it please your Majesty, give the Jews in Susa permission to do again tomorrow as they have done today, and have the bodies of Haman's ten sons hung from the gallows.
King: So be it. (Esther leaves for front stage) Tell Mordecai that he is to replace Haman as Prime Minister.
Mordecai: What did his majesty say? (he is writing on some parchments)
Esther: He agrees. What are you doing?
Mordecai: I am documenting what is happening now, so that future generations will have knowledge of the how the Lord came to the aid of his people by placing a peasant girl upon the throne of the Persians and the Medes. My dear niece, Esther daughter of Abihail, our people should celebrate what has happened here today and every year. We will recognise this day as the day of lots.
Esther: Or the day of Purim. Uncle do you remember it was you who told me to go to the palace that day at our house.
Mordecai: Yes, but remember, my dear, what I said to you. It was for such a time as this that you have come to the throne. The Lord saw the plight that was about to befall our people and he chose to intervene to help us. He is not a God far off, but a God who is near. He chose to use a peasant orphaned girl to set as Queen over a great foreign Kingdom so that he could deliver the oppressed. And God is still able to deliver people from their addictions and situations. If they will only turn to him for help. He is not willing that any should perish, but only that they would turn to him and follow his way. A way that will be beneficial to them and would give them a future and a hope. May the Lord be praised. Come, let us go and join in the celebrations.
(They exit.)
Copyright and all rights held by Aruneshwar A. Singh. Permission will be given if requested by e-mailing Aruneshwar,