The Green Folio - Complete, with Field Notes
translation by Godewijn Cloet
with notes by S. Isa and K. Voight
Popularly known as the Folio of Green Ruin for the ill luck it supposedly brings to those who read it and the trademark green leaf, the play more neutrally referred to as the Green Folio has had a modern life just as exciting as it's recent past. Without proper title and identification, remaining copies were thought lost during German occupation of the Netherlands during the second World War; with it's graphic illustrations and bizarre depiction of the human form, the folio was a prime example of 'degenerate' art, and quickly siezed, categorized, and scheduled for destruction.
Luckily for us, at least one copy of the Folio - and likely several more - were spared by the crippling inefficency of the occupying bureaucracy, and later abandoned in warehouses scattered across Zeeland. Though only one edition was in salvageable print by the time order had been restored and the Netherlands liberated, that was enough to form a rudimentary working folio and correct some common misconceptions - for one, that the Green Folio was written during the Thirty Years' war. It seems far more likely it was written during the years of Heinreich Sudermann - as a scathing critique of the social, religious, and economic issues of the time.
Set in the household of a German family newly arrived to 's-Hertogenbosch, or the Duke's Forest, the play was considered satirical in nature, despite the somewhat surreal ending; given the amount of scholarly and lay dispute on the subject matter, Karl Voight and I have done our best to resolve matters insomuch as we are able. I would like to thank the University of Lübeck for sponsering our work, and allowing us to shed some fortune on this 'unfortunate' piece.
Notes will be designated in italic, parenthetical text; for ease of reading, citations have been delayed until publication (Or because you haven't found any good citations! - K.) (Remind me to remove this before printing, cheeky. - S.) and will be available online at the University archives.
Marvel, marvel! In all due time, all things return to dust - so too, let these written words return. Grow brilliantly and perish before the wake of day that you may find yourself held aloft; All for the world content in a moment.
(Goedwijn's translation notes mention that this verse is present in every edition, including the one across the pond. I've always wondered if maybe it wasn't snuck in by an editor at some later date - it doesn't seem to have much relevance to anything in the play. - K.)
Act I Of Foolish Ambition Wrought Now in the town where the woods grow round, there lived a family green - who had arrived from the Crownlands, Their livelihood to better earn, on Kaisers time and lien. Of this brood there were twelve children, of fallow skin and bone - Whose each and every day of birth, one child less did grow. Gentle master Friederich, the merchant proud, did of his fate despair; Educated in Genoa, Florence and battered sea, without seed to sow.
(How very ribald. So, what's the chance that this means the Austrians were still in the Netherlands at the time of publication? - K.)
(Fairly good, though I'm more interested in the line about battered sea - wouldn't battered waves be more poetic? Clearly, the writer of the folio wasn't exactly educated in Zena or Firenze... - S.)
For regardless of his skill at craft, of hewing stone to art; His children had declined to three, that no knowledge would impart The secret to good health, good wealth, and such treasures dear No safety protect his family near - From the ravages of war and famine and Kaisers' men - "God save us all," said Friederich, then. And so did his wife, weak Margarethe speak - "Teach our children before we grow too weak, Your son must know of all the skills you have so carefully honed - " '"And what of our daughters?" Said he; "They too must know."
(Apparently, this was delivered as a joke in most modern productions of the play, circa 1800 onwards. However, most evidence points to the line being delivered somberly in the earliest productions we have record of - interesting enough. Another note is that an incomplete edition lists stage directions - the nameless son and daughters should be portrayed by 'half-starved waifs'. I imagine that's half of the bad luck of the folio, there; hungry kids are dangerous. - S.)
And so with solemn look at his beloved wife To whom he would gladly have given his life Our merchant did solemnly swear to impart All the treasured secrets of his art; But no matter how much food he shared with them, Nor how life slowly returned to his children, The rosen cheeks of sweet Margarethe Were all that were red - she appeared as death. Skeletal in nature and wiry in frame, yet of swollen face, and of gait lame. All the food she did imbibe seemed to do little to improve her mind - Tears so deeply did Friederich shed "God has forsaken us; we are left as dead."
(You know, even if this was written as the Hansa crumbled and the various merchants it protected scattered across land rent by reformation; doesn't Fred seem pretty dramtic here? - K.)
(I don't appreciate that. - S.)
(Sorry. - K.)
(Don't worry about it - just know that this is where things start to get weird; I'll be listing the stage directions of note, so just let me know if you have any cultural information that seems pertinent. - S.)
"Forgive me - I could not help but overhear - The struggles of your family and wailing fear Alas! That you should suffer such lot, O' master of whom has wrought The gargoyles on such chapel heights As now are being torn and crushed in spite."
(The speaker was popularly thought to be the devil in 1800-era productions; however, earlier renditions specifically refer to the speaker as the Oldest Friend, and mention that she wears a veil at all times. I suppose it could be Lucifer in drag, though... - S.)
(Does the speaker really just enter into the play so abruptly? Weird... - K.)
"Friend, hail - " Said Friederich, "And well met!" "But my family is dying and inclement You find us lost and cast away; I have no time for such idle games as charities to my previous work - For as my family weakens, there is nothing left." "Ah, but I was not talking to you - Instead, suggesting there was much to do To save the family you hold so dear; Margarethe, to you I give this gift - Of green stone, this circlet will lift And all the troubles that lurk so near - Will wither, fester, and nourish you to good health."
(At this point, the actress playing Margarethe is led off the stage by the Oldest Friend, and is instructed to whisper her lines. We're lucky enough to be reading from the script, so we don't have to worry about a lack of enunciation. The second act begins. - S.)
Act II A Wealth of Weal And from that point on the fortunes of our family did incline So let our focus turn to that of poor Margarethe Who must duly suffer for the rest Of her families many gifts. "But I am happy," Moans she softly - "So happy, simply to be alive; Like this I could live forever - grow content and even thrive. The blisters in the back of my neck grow less painful by the hour - And I can feel the gentleness in my grow and cower. Truly, you are so great to us - but I must hesitantly ask; Why me you did so blatantly choose, When my husband would have massed All his energy to save the children and I; What is it about me, that has caught your many eyes?" "Oh, sweet Margarethe, truly you and I are as one - You need not lie to me, my dear, for I can see through them as the flies That would graze upon your unguarded flesh If it were not for what I have done." And Margarethe did ruefully smile, her eyebrows knit in pain But her gaze was confident, for she knew she had much to gain. "Truly, this is so and you are wise to see as much - But I know that you will do anything to keep me in your clutch. How lonely you must be, and how pathetic as well - If you ask me, I say bluntly- Go to hell."
(I like Margarethe. - K.)
(Don't we all? For the record, the focus is entirely on the children - the silent, nameless daughters and son - for the entirety of this scene. One by one, they leave until only Friederich remains; as the next scene progresses, he slowly falls to the ground as the curtains close. And no, that's not a scene transition, but a deliberate choice. There's supposedly a sound that accompanies the transition- some kind of clattering, or maybe chittering; no notes exist on how to reproduce it. - S.)
"How menacing are wolves, and fiercer still! Though traitorously you left the rest Of us, I bear no grudge - no, none at all! Lest You think I am cruel (you are right); know that that I am No fool, and know what you do on winter nights. With cheeks engorged on the blood of men, tasting of marrow and crackled flesh - In cities you may live, but as your children starve You feast on the sweetments of brittle creche." Margarethe, now risen from her pallor Did shine with a sickly hateful power - And her eyes were a most rueful shade of green. "Though you and I are quite the same, I quickly tire of this game - It is the nature of man and beast to eat the children of others. I would feed my own such sweet delights, But for fear my husband might Abandon I or them, I cannot say. For who are you to judge my ways?! You are old, and wish I remained as you - Mired in tradition and torn sinews Of what once was, and will never be again."
(At this point, the curtain opens to reveal Margarethe, stroking a facsimile of the green circle from before. She is not facing the audience, breaking one of the cardinal rules of theater, or so I'm told. - S.)
(I'm pretty sure this references proto-legends of werewolves, though I can't tell if this is an allegory for the desperation of camp followers and war orphans, or something else entirely. - K.)
"Can you not see? Even as I sob - That I love you, for who you are; No man will do such as I, nor human could love you as I sigh - That you will waste your life to tend to such as them. But go then, and take this gift of mine; with it you shall surely find Your problems solved, as I have thusly said." And Margarethe did hang her head Stepping forward, whispering then - But what she said was no business of you or I. "For your gift, I will do as you ask - besides, I must honestly Admit that some small part of me Has missed the old and wild ways And hoped to have one last say In the grand scheme of how the world must be." And so Margarethe did head home, and with her did Fortuna go - The commerce of her family restored.
(Sorry I've been so late in replying to your messages - I've been feeling a little nauseous recently. I'm going to leave the stage notes with you; I'll be back by next week, promise! - S.)
(Hey, by the time you read this I hope you're feeling better, Safiya. My apologies for making you deal with the tech incompetence of an old man. Until you can clean this up - stage directions are that Margarethe slowly turns around, but the curtains close again before the audience can see her face. The act closes.)
Act III Of The Way The Future Shall End And Other Misfortunes
(This is where the vernacular title comes from; I've read the damn thing several times, although admittedly in piecemeal, and the worst ill fortune I've had is losing my house keys... Unlike that certain unlucky play, this one is just an urban legend. - K.)
And Friederich did grow old and die - having graced many towers to the sky With his peculiar brand of stone artisanry; Grinning stone faces masterfully Proscribed to towers and bannisters, each one taller then the last. Each child did grew up well tutored in the arts their father knew Of clay, of stone, and earthen hew - But more importantly still did they learn instead A lesson privately taught by sweet Margarethe.
(The children return as the curtain rises, portrayed by older actors, each wearing masks. There is no description, but the masks were commonly animalistic in nature, and apparently bright in colour and significance. Grass 'scenery' is wheeled in, then stone scenery, and then at last cutouts that resemble soil, or perhaps catacombs. - K.)
Under the ground did each child go, fearfully they did grow In knowledge that they were not whole Nor are you - For the greatest lie that has been sold, Gentle Watcher, Is that you are merely children of the sky - When in fact you will find That underneath your skin and many lies You are in fact children of the earth. Do you not feel it in your pores, each granule of soil calling forth That you might even know change and sate your fill? Do you even in your dreams, hear the voice of ancient friends Asking you to wake and do your part - To join with us and rip asunder all the things that man has wrought?
(Public productions inevitably end at this point - and usually in riots. For a play that can be performed in thirty minutes, the ending here, with the four assembled - Margarethe, and her three children - had a similar reaction in audiences as the Rites of Spring. Save for two key details - this isn't the ending, and in the original, there aren't four figures; there are five. There have always been five. - K.)
FORTUNATE YOU! For you watch with bright eyes As the future descends upon the skies; Around you do dwell the Seeds Of Fortune, and good deeds shall bless those whom do rightly abide The ancient ways! Turn to the seats at your side, and with wild eyes Butcher those who do not do the same! With your sharpened fingernails, cut out their bitter entrails - And taste the sweetening scent upon your tongue. Revel, dance and dilate! Writhe, pant, and copulate! Feel the the tin and sweat upon your shameless skin. Now you are as we, And you shall forever fortunate be - so long as you remember this; Even as you celebrate now, There will come a time when your vow of service shall be called to arms; For the children of the sky do Watch and mean to do you harm And if you wish to frolic and play with all of us in the end days; You must watch us, watch them without alarm - Find the circle of verdant violent green And pursue these gifts of your own means.
(I've been feeling light-headed recently. I'm going to go home, get some rest. Safiya, when you're back, I'll return the copy of the play you faxed me with these extra notes - suddenly I feel less bad about being such a technophobe, what with you refusing to answer anyone's calls here, and choosing a fax of all methods to get in touch! Readng the complete folio back to back does have it's merits, though, that's for sure.
For refernece, neither Safiya or I could find any record of the play being performed with this last segment; though there are stage directions calling for the curtain to fall until only the Oldest Friend is staring at the audience; the last line, or last direction in any surviving folio is always the same -
The Oldest Friend Removes Their Veil.
Written by Stormlilly