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Ubu Roi

Ubu Roi

5.0 1
by Alfred Jarry, Barbara Wright (Translator), L. Lantier (Illustrator), F. A. Cazals (Illustrator), Pierre Bonnard (Illustrator)

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A stunning, controversial work that immediately outraged audiences with its scatological references during the 1896 premiere, Ubu Roi satirizes the tendency of the successful bourgeois to abuse his authority and become irresponsibly complacent.
Championed by Dadaists and Surrealists as the first absurdist drama, the play features a main character that is cruel,


A stunning, controversial work that immediately outraged audiences with its scatological references during the 1896 premiere, Ubu Roi satirizes the tendency of the successful bourgeois to abuse his authority and become irresponsibly complacent.
Championed by Dadaists and Surrealists as the first absurdist drama, the play features a main character that is cruel, gluttonous, and grotesque—the author's metaphor for modern man. This drama in five acts by Alfred Jarry is translated from the French by Barbara Wright, with two portraits of the author by L. Lantier and F. A. Cazals, and several drawings by Jarry and Pierre Bonnard, and 24 drawings by Franciszka Themerson, doodled on lithographic plates—all followed by "The Song of the Dismembering," and concluding with two essays on the theatre by the same author and the same translator.

Editorial Reviews

W.B. Yeats
“What more is possible? After us, the SavageGod.”

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New Directions Publishing Corporation
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5.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.60(d)

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Ubu Roi

By Alfred Jarry, DREW SILVER, Beverly Keith, G. Legman

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11255-8




[Poland — that is to say, nowhere.]



MAMA TURD. Oh! that's a fine thing. What a pig you are, Papa Turd!

PAPA TURD. Watch out I don't kill you, Mama Turd!

MAMA TURD. It isn't me you ought to kill, Papa Turd, it's someone else.

PAPA TURD. Now by my green candle, I don't understand.

MAMA TURD. What! Papa Turd, you're content with your lot?

PAPA TURD. Now by my green candle, pshit, Madam, certainly yes, I'm content. I could be content with less. After all, I'm Captain of Dragoons, Privy Councillor to King Wenceslaus, Knight of the Red Eagle of Poland, and formerly King of Aragon. What more do you want?

MAMA TURD. What! After being King of Aragon, you can settle down to reviewing fifty flunkies armed with cabbage-cutters, when you could put the crown of Poland on your head where the crown of Aragon used to be?

PAPA TURD. Ah, Mama Turd, I don't understand a word you're saying.

MAMA TURD. You are so stupid.

PAPA TURD. Now by my green candle, King Wenceslaus is still alive. And suppose he croaks — hasn't he got loads of children?

MAMA TURD. What prevents you from massacring the whole family and putting yourself in their place?

PAPA TURD. Ah! Mama Turd, you do me wrong. Watch out you don't end up in the soup.

MAMA TURD. Poor unfortunate, when I'm in the soup who'll patch the seat of your pants?

PAPA TURD. Is that so! And if you don't, then what? Isn't my ass just like everybody else's?

MAMA TURD. If I were in your place, that ass - I'd want to plant on a throne. You could make lots of money, and eat all the sausages you want, and roll through the streets in a carriage.

PAPA TURD. If I were King, I'd have a big wide-brimmed hat, the kind I had in Aragon, the one those dirty Spaniards went and stole.

MAMA TURD. You could even get yourself a great big umbrella and a magnificent cape that would hang to your heels.

PAPA TURD. Ah! I yield to temptation. Buggerly pshit, pshitterly bugger, if I ever run into him in a corner of the woods, I'll give him a bad half hour!

MAMA TURD. Good, Papa Turd! Now you're talking like a man.

PAPA TURD. No, no! Me - Captain of Dragoons - massacre the King of Poland? I'd sooner die!

MAMA TURD (aside). Oh, pshit! — (Aloud.) So you're going to stay poor as a rat, Papa Turd?

PAPA TURD. Bluebelly! by my green candle, I'd rather be poor as a thin honest rat than rich like a wicked fat cat.

MAMA TURD. And the broad-brimmed hat? And the umbrella? And the great cape?

PAPA TURD. And then what, Mama Turd?

[He leaves, banging the door.

MAMA TURD (alone). Pfft, pshit! He isn't very quick on the trigger, but pfft, pshit! I believe I've got him stirred up just the same. Thanks to God and myself, in a week I may be Queen of Poland.


A room in the house of Papa Turd. A sumptuous table is set.


MAMA TURD. Well! our guests are certainly late.

PAPA TURD. Yes, by my green candle. And I'm dying of hunger. Mama Turd, you're very ugly today. Is that because we're having company?

MAMA TURD (shrugging her shoulders). Pshit!

PAPA TURD (seizing a roast chicken). Hey, I'm hungry. I'm going to dig into this bird. Chicken, I suppose. Not bad.

MAMA TURD. What are you doing, you wretch! What will our guests eat?

PAPA TURD. They'll still have plenty. I won't take any more ... Mama Turd, go look out the window and see if our guests are coming.

MAMA TURD (going to the window). I don't see anyone. (Meanwhile PAPA TURD snitches a roast of veal.) Ah! there's Captain Bordure arriving with his men. What are you eating now, Papa Turd?

PAPA TURD. Nothing, a bit of veal.

MAMA TURD. Oh! the veal! the veal! Veal! He's eaten the veal! Help!

PAPA TURD. Now by my green candle, I'm going to scratch your eyes out.

(The door opens.)



MAMA TURD. Good day, gentlemen, we've been waiting for you impatiently. Pray be seated.

CAPTAIN BORDURE. Good day, Madam. But where is Papa Turd?

PAPA TURD. Where am I? Here I am, dammit! By my green candle, I'm certainly fat enough.

BORDURE. Hello, Papa Turd. Sit down, men.

[They all sit.

PAPA TURD. Oof! any more and I'd go through the chair.

BORDURE. Well, Mama Turd, what have you got that's good today?

MAMA TURD. Here's the menu.

PAPA TURD. Oh, this interests me.

MAMA TURD. Potato soup, drat chops, veal, chicken, dog-paste, turkey rumps, charlotte russe ...

PAPA TURD. All right, that's enough. — You mean to say there's more?

MAMA TURD (continuing). Sherbet, salad, fruit, dessert, boiled beef, Jerusalem artichokes, cauliflower à la pshit.

PAPA TURD. Hey! you think I'm an Oriental potentate, spending all that money?

MAMA TURD. Don't listen to him, he's an imbecile.

PAPA TURD. I'm going to sharpen my teeth on your calves.

MAMA TURD. Eat your dinner instead, Papa Turd. Here's some potato soup.

PAPA TURD. Buggery, but it's bad!

BORDURE. It isn't terribly good, as a matter of fact.

MAMA TURD. You bunch of savages, what do you want?

PAPA TURD (hitting himself on the forehead). Wait! I have an idea. I'll be right back.

[He goes out.

MAMA TURD. Gentlemen, will you try some veal?

BORDURE. It's very good. I'm through.

MAMA TURD. And now the rumps.

BORDURE. Delicious! delicious! Hurray for Mama Turd!

ALL. Hurray for Mama Turd!

PAPA TURD (returning). And soon you'll be shouting "Hurray for Papa Turd!" (In his hand he holds an unmentionable mop. He dashes it on the banqueting table.)

MAMA TURD. Wretch! what are you doing?

PAPA TURD. Try a little of that. (Several taste it and fall down poisoned.) - Mama Turd, pass me the drat chops. I'll serve.

MAMA TURD. Here they are.

PAPA TURD. All right, everybody outside! Out! Captain Bordure, I want to talk to you.

THE OTHERS. Hey! we haven't eaten.

PAPA TURD. Whaddya mean, you haven't eaten? Everybody outside! You stay, Bordure. (No one budges.) — Not gone yet? Now by my green candle, I'm going to murder you with these drat chops. (He begins throwing them.)

ALL. Ooh! Ouch! Help! Defend yourselves! Curses! I'm dead!

PAPA TURD. Pshit, pshit, pshit! Outside! You hear me?

ALL. Save yourselves! Miserable Papa Turd! Cheap double-crossing skunk!

PAPA TURD. There! they're gone. I can relax now, but I didn't get much to eat. Come, Bordure.

[They leave with MAMA TURD.



PAPA TURD. Well then, Captain, did you dine well?

CAPTAIN BORDURE. Pretty well, sir, except for the pshit.

PAPA TURD. Eh! the pshit wasn't bad.

MAMA TURD. Tastes differ.

PAPA TURD. Captain Bordure, I've decided to make you Duke of Lithuania.

BORDURE. But how? I thought you were terribly poor, Papa Turd.

PAPA TURD. In a few days, if you please, I shall reign over Poland.

BORDURE. You're going to kill Wenceslaus?

PAPA TURD. He's not so dumb, the bugger. He guessed it.

BORDURE. If it's a question of killing Wenceslaus, I'm in. I'm his mortal enemy and I'll answer for my men.

PAPA TURD (throwing himself on BORDURE to kiss him). Oh! oh! I love you, Bordure.

BORDURE. Ugh! you stink, Papa Turd. Don't you ever wash?

PAPA TURD. Rarely.


PAPA TURD. I'm going to stamp on your feet!

MAMA TURD. Big pshit!

PAPA TURD. Go, Bordure, I've finished with you. But by my green candle, I swear by Mama Turd to make you Duke of Lithuania.

MAMA TURD. But ...

PAPA TURD. Shut up, my sweet child ...

[They go out.



PAPA TURD. What do you want, mister? Shag off, you annoy me.

THE MESSENGER. You are summoned, Sir, by the King.

[He goes out.

PAPA TURD. Oh! pshit, bloodyblueblazes, by my green candle, he's found out! I'm going to have my head cut off! Oh! Oh!!

MAMA TURD. What a weakling! And time is short.

PAPA TURD. Oh! I have an idea : I'll say it was Mama Turd and Bordure.

MAMA TURD. You big P.U.... you do that, and ...

PAPA TURD. Ha! That's just what I'll do. [He goes out.

MAMA TURD (running after him). Oh, Papa Turd, Papa Turd! I'll give you sausages!

PAPA TURD (offstage). Pshit! You know what you can do with your sausages!


A hall in the palace at Warsaw.


PAPA TURD (entering). It wasn't me, you know! It was Mama Turd and Bordure.

THE KING. What is the matter, Papa Turd?

BORDURE. He's been drinking.

THE KING. Ah yes, like me, this morning.

PAPA TURD. That's it, I'm drunk. I've been drinking too much adequate little French wine.

THE KING. Papa Turd, I must reward you for your numerous services as Captain of Dragoons, and so today I dub you Count of Sandomir.

PAPA TURD. O Sire Wenceslaus, I don't know how to thank you.

THE KING. Don't thank me, Papa Turd. Be on hand tomorrow at the full-dress parade.

PAPA TURD. I'll be there, but - as a favor to me — accept this little reed flute. (He gives the king a flute.)

THE KING. What would a man my age do with a flute? I'll give it to young Buggerlaus.

YOUNG BUGGERLAUS. Oh, is Papa Turd stupid!

PAPA TURD. Well, I guess I'll bugger off. (He falls down turning away.) Oh! Ow! Help! By my green candle, I've busted a gut and cracked my bumbazine!

THE KING (picking him up). Did you hurt yourself, Papa Turd?

PAPA TURD. Of course, and I'm sure to croak. What will become of Mama Turd?

THE KING. We shall see to her maintenance.

PAPA TURD. You're very kind. (He goes out.) — Yes, but King Wenceslaus, all the same you're going to be massacred.


Turd's house.


PAPA TURD. Well, my dear friends, it's high time we decided on a plan of action. Everybody'll give their opinion. I'll give mine first, if you don't mind.

BORDURE. Speak, Papa Turd.

PAPA TURD. Well then, my friends, my idea is simply to poison the king by sticking arsenic in his breakfast. Then when he goes to chomp on it, he'll drop dead, and so I'll be king.

ALL. Pfui! What a swine!

PAPA TURD. What? You don't like it? All right, let's hear Bordure's idea.

BORDURE. I think we should strike him a terrible blow of the sword, and split him open from head to tail.

ALL. Fine! That's noble! That's the manly thing.

PAPA TURD. And what if he starts kicking you? I just remembered — on parade he wears iron boots, and they really hurt. If I had thought of that before, I'd've gone and denounced the bunch of you for dragging me into this mess. I'll bet I'd get a reward too.

MAMA TURD. Oh! the traitor, the coward, the scaly, scurvy son of a bitch!

ALL. Vomit on Papa Turd!

PAPA TURD. Listen, you fellows, just keep calm if you don't want a couple of black eyes. I'll tell you what — I'm willing to take the risk for you. Let's see now. Bordure, it'll be your job to split the king down the middle.

BORDURE. Wouldn't it be better for us all to jump on him at once, yelling and screaming? That way we'd have a better chance of winning over the troops.

PAPA TURD. Now look, I'll go to step on his feet. He'll jump back, and I'll say to him : PSHIT, and that's the signal for the bunch of you to jump on him.

MAMA TURD. Yes, and as soon as he's dead, you grab his sceptre and crown.

BORDURE. And I'll go after the royal family with my men.

PAPA TURD. Yes. And be sure to get that little Buggerlaus.

[They troop out.

PAPA TURD (running after them, and bringing them back). Gentlemen, we forgot an indispensable part of the ceremony. We have to swear to fight valiantly.

BORDURE. But what can we swear on? We haven't any priest.

PAPA TURD. Mama Turd will do instead.

ALL. All right. Let's go.

PAPA TURD. So do you swear to kill the king good?

ALL. Yes! We swear. Up with Papa Turd!




The King's palace.


THE KING. Prince Buggerlaus, you were very impertinent this morning to Master Turd, chevalier of my orders and Count of Sandomir. Therefore I forbid you to appear at our parade.

THE QUEEN. But Wenceslaus, it wouldn't be a bit too much for you to have your whole family protecting you.

THE KING. Madam, I never change my mind. You tire me with these trifles.

BUGGERLAUS. My father, I submit.

THE QUEEN. Really, Sire, do you still insist on going to that parade?

THE KING. And why not, Madam?

THE QUEEN. Why not!? Haven't I dreamed again of him smiting you with his horde of troops and throwing you into the Vistula, while an eagle like that on the arms of Poland sets the crown upon his head?

THE KING. Whose head?

THE QUEEN. Papa Turd's!

THE KING. What nonsense! Master van Turd is a very fine gentleman. He would let himself be torn apart by wild horses to serve me.


THE KING. Be still, you young swine. And as for you, Madam, to show how little fear I have of Master Turd, I will go on review as I am, with neither sword nor buckler.

THE QUEEN. Fatal daring! I shall never see you more.

THE KING. Come, Ladislaus. Come, Boleslaus. [They leave.

(THE QUEEN and BUGGERLAUS go to the window.)

THE QUEEN and BUGGERLAUS. May God and great Saint Nicholas protect you!

THE QUEEN. Buggerlaus, come with me to the chapel to pray for your father and your brothers.


The parade-ground.


THE KING. Noble Papa Turd, come closer with your suite, and we will inspect the troops.

PAPA TURD (to his men). Look sharp, you fellows. — (To THE KING). Coming, Sir, coming. (TURD'S men surround THE KING.)

THE KING. Ah! there is my regiment of Dantziger horse-guards. My word, aren't they fine!

PAPA TURD. You think so? They look awful to me. Look at that guy. — (To THE SOLDIER). How long since you took a shave, you dirty bum?

THE KING. But this soldier is quite proper, Papa Turd. What is the matter with you?

PAPA TURD. That! (He stamps on THE KING'S foot.)

THE KING. Wretch!

PAPA TURD. PSHIT! Come on, men!

BORDURE. Hurrah! Forward! (All strike THE KING. A CLOWN explodes.)

THE KING. Ah! Help! Holy Virgin, I'm dead!

BOLESLAUS (to LADISLAUS). What's up? Draw your sword.

PAPA TURD [rolling THE KING to the front of the stage with a stick. — Is he dead yet? No? So much the worse! (Gives him the finishing stroke.) — Now I'm king! ] Ha! I have the crown! Now for the others.

BORDURE. Death to the traitors!!

[The king's sons flee. All pursue them.



THE QUEEN. At last I begin to feel reassured.

BUGGERLAUS. You have absolutely nothing to fear.

(A horrible clamor is heard outside.)

THE QUEEN. What is that dreadful noise?

BUGGERLAUS. Oh! What do I see? My two brothers, with Papa Turd and his men chasing them.

THE QUEEN. Oh my God! Holy Virgin, they're losing — they're losing ground.

BUGGERLAUS. The whole army is following Papa Turd. Where's the king? Horrors! Help!

THE QUEEN. Oh dear, Boleslaus is dead! He's been hit by a bullet.

BUGGERLAUS. Hey! (LADISLAUS turns.) Defend yourself! Hurray for Ladislaus!

THE QUEEN. Oh! he's surrounded.

BUGGERLAUS. He's done for. Bordure just cut him in half like a sausage.

THE QUEEN. Alas! These madmen are breaking into the palace. They're coming up the stairs.

(The clamor increases.)

THE QUEEN and BUGGERLAUS (on their knees). Hospody pomilui ...

BUGGERLAUS. Oh, that Papa Turd! That miserable louse! If I had him here —


THE SAME. The door is broken down. PAPA TURD and his partisans burst in.

PAPA TURD. Go on, Buggerlaus, what would you do?


Excerpted from Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, DREW SILVER, Beverly Keith, G. Legman. Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) was a French writer of plays, novels, and poetry. His most well-known work, the play Ubu Roi (1896), was first performed in 1896 at the Theatre de l’Oeuvre. Jarry died at the early age of 34 in 1907.

Barbara Wright has translated several Raymond Queneau novels; indeed, as John Updike wrote in The New Yorker,
she "has waltzed around the floor with the Master so many times by now that she follows his quirky French as if the steps were in English." She has also translated works by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Pinget,
Nathalie Sarraute, and Marguerite Duras. She lives in London.

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