The Last Words of Sycorax
libretto by Scott Guy
music by Wilhelm Kienzl
Elise Dewsberry as Sycorax
“I shall not see the morning sun again, my Caliban.”
THE STRAND OF SMOKE
Sycorax has died, but because she is a witch, she has magicked her soul to stay for a few hours longer so she can leave some final words for her sleeping son, 9-year-old Caliban.
DE KUST VAN BARBARIJE
To help Caliban understand how they came to be stranded on the island, Sycorax begins with the story of how she and her fisherman husband were attacked by pirates off the coast of North Afric. Her husband was killed, and Sycorax was raped and left for dead.
“They gutted him, like as the fish he caught.”
“I could not pay the law, nor mercenaries, nor bandits.”
Clinging to life through her desire for revenge, Sycorax is unable to find anyone willing to help her track down the pirates.
Sycorax turns to the ways of Magick to take her vengeance on the men who killed her husband by sorcerizing against their boats on the ocean.
““I would not drown them, but kept them alive with aery regrets!'”
“A short trial, and I was sentenced to be hanged.”
Sycorax describes how she was caught and tried for witchcraft.
Sycorax discovers she is with child, and agonizes over whether or not to reveal that the father is one of the pirates.
“Dared they not hang a pregnant woman, the religionists.”
“Of what to do with the mother to save the son?”
“I would have thee fisted out of me to be rid of their evil within.”
“Oh, to be cleansed and whole again!”
Sycorax tells of how her sentence was commuted to banishment to a desert island, with only a sack of millet, a flint, and a bible.
“But tricked them I. Their very Bible, ’twas no Bible it…It were one of my spellbooks.”
“I did not feel that night. My own midwifery numbed me.”
FEAR OF THE DAWN
Sycorax describes the night in which she gave birth to Caliban.
“The night were black as pitch. Oh, Caliban, I did not want to see.”
“It were not a neck held thine head to thy shoulders, it were not a human face!”
Sycorax discovers that the new-born Caliban, besides being monstrously deformed, is also dangerously ill. She is determined to find a way off the island.
“Thy life upon a boat depended.”
“From a blade of grass made I a small wood shoot, and from the shoot a plank, and from the plank a raft.”
THE BOAT OF PLANKS
Sycorax uses her book of necromancy to conjure a means of escape.
Sycorax attempts to set off on her raft, but is initially thwarted by the spirits of the sea.
“Dark grew the air, and roiled grew the sea …those thousand demons were
the spirits of the sea.”
“At their crest … was a predominance … their leader.”
“Said the vapor: ‘My name is Arial … and no such blaspheme shall upon my surface touch!'”
“Chanted I the words of entrapment meant for spirits.”
“Summoned I a ring round mine island.”
“At that moment I drew the trap!”
“He was strong, but I was stronger.”
“We battled, Arial and I, hurricane for hurricane.”
“Then saw I a cloven pine behind him.”
“Meetch ven uch’klee sh’k’tah!”
“The tree drew him unto it as scarecrow to a pole.”
“Arm for arm was met branch for branch, fingers became twigs, and toes took root.”
“Ariel was enslaved in a cloven pine, and I had won!”
Before she can leave the island, Ariel’s sister spirits (also enslaved by Sycorax) promise to transform the island into a paradise if Sycorax will not taint the ocean by the touch of her son, Caliban.
“It were bribery, I know, to keep me here. But bribery never sapped so sweet, nor nurtured the infant with such succor.”
“As thou grew strong, so did the Barbarian within thee.”
I FEAR THEE, CALIBAN
Sycorax admits that she is afraid that after her own death, the sea spirits will not continue to care for the monstrous Caliban.
Growing weaker, Sycorax goes to Arial to strike a bargain: she will release him from the tree if he promises to care for Caliban after she dies. But will he keep his promise?
“I do not trust him. And I will not his freedom give.”
“What god would allow such a thing as thee? …Such god as believes in the last it will be the good and not the evil which over thy soul will triumph.”
Feeling her last moment coming, Sycorax begs Caliban to put his trust in the god Setebos.
THE LAST WORDS OF SYCORAX
Sycorax lets go of her Magick, and bids a final farewell to her son.
“Pray thee, Caliban, unto Setebos…”