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The Happy Prince

by Oscar Wilde
(adapted by Jean Howell)

This story is published by Penguin Books

(Extract taken from "LAMDA Acting Anthology, Volume 1", Published by Oberon).

The statue of the HAPPY PRINCE, set high in the town square, is talking to his new and only friend, the Swallow.

STATUE: I am the Happy Prince. When I was alive and had a human heart, I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter. In the daytime I played with my companions in the garden, and in the evening I led the dance in the Great Hall. Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was. if pleasure be happiness. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep. Far away, in a little street there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's maids-of honour to wear at the next Court ball. In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt. My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move. You will stay with me for one night and be my messenger? Thank you, little Swallow.

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