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    The Serpent’s Tale Monologue Essay

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    A monologue from the play by Leonid Andreyev


    [A WOMAN sways rhythmically. Her eyes closed, she seems to be aware of nothing but the hypnotic movement of her own body. She is terribly beautiful.]

    [After a few moments, her eyes flash open, and a half-smile creeps across her face. She places a finger gently to her lips.]

    WOMAN: Shhh! Shhh! Shhh! Come closer. Look into my eyes!
    I always was a fascinating creature, you know. Tender, sensitive, thoughtful. I was wise beyond my years. And so flexible in the writhing of my graceful body. It will give you pleasure to watch me dance—will it not’shall I dance for you’shall I coil up into a ring’shall I flash my scales and wind myself around’shall I clasp you to my steel body in a gentle, cold embrace? One of many! One of many!

    Shhh! Shhh! Look into my eyes!

    Why do you look away? Don’t you like my writhing and my straight, piercing gaze? Come closer. Come. Do you see my teeth? My white, sharp, enchanting little teeth? I used to bite when I kissed, you know. Not painfully, no—just a nibble. A tender caress. I would bite until the first bright drops of blood appeared, until a cry came forth which sounded like the tinkling of a bell. It was very pleasant—do not think otherwise; if my little bite was unwelcome, those whom I kissed would not have come back for more—would they? And they did come back! They came as if drawn by some irresistible force—by the pull of the moon! They could not help themselves! And I kissed them many times! It is only now that I can kiss but once—how sad—only once! One kiss for each—how little that is for a loving heart, for a sensitive soul, striving for a perfect union! But it is only I, the sad one, who kiss but once, and must seek love again—my lover knows no other love after mine: to him my one, tender, nuptial kiss is binding and eternal. I will not deceive you. Be patient, and when my story is ended—I will kiss you too.

    I love you.

    Look into my eyes. Is it not true that my eyes are magnificent and enchanting? Have you ever seen such a firm look, a straight look? It is steadfast, like steel forced against your heart. I look ahead and sway myself, I look and I enchant; in my green eyes I gather your fear, your loving, fatigued, submissive longing. Come closer. I am a queen now and you cannot fail to see my beauty; look into my pupil; I will narrow and widen it, and give it a peculiar glitter—the twinkling of a star at night, the playfulness of all precious stones—of diamonds, of green emeralds, of yellowish topaz, of blood-red rubies. Look into my eyes: It is I, the queen—I am crowning myself, and that which is glittering, burning and glowing—that robs you of your reason, your freedom and your life—it is poison. It is a drop of my venom. But I warned you—did I not?

    How has this happened? I cannot say. I bear you no ill-will—you nor the others. One of many!

    I love you. Do not laugh. If you do, I shall be cross. I shall not give myself to you. And I want to open my heart, my sensitive heart, I want to share with you everything, my whole being, my essence! I want you to understand my suffering. I want a consort, an equal, a perfect union … but it is not possible. All my efforts are in vain—I am alone. I will always be alone. My first and final kiss is full of rippling sorrow—and the one I love is not here, and I must seek love again, and tell my tale from the beginning, if only to hear a familiar voice—my heart cannot bare itself, and the poison torments me and my head grows heavier. Am I not beautiful in my despair? Come closer.

    I am almost ready to kiss you.

    Even now, I can taste the venom. I am preparing it for you. I am a queen! In this tiny drop, I carry death unto the living, and my kingdom is limitless, even as grief is limitless, even as death is limitless. I am a queen! My look is inexorable. My dance is terrible! I am beautiful! One of many! One of many!

    Look into my eyes. Do you see in them anything frightening—a terrible glimmer and a flash? Do you feel fear? Do the rays of my crown blind your eyes? Are you petrified? Are you lost? I shall soon dance my last dance—do not fall. I shall coil into rings, I shall flash my scales dimly, and I shall clasp my steel body to you in a gentle, cold embrace. Here I am! Accept my only kiss, my nuptial kiss—it is the deadly grief of all oppressed lives. One of many! One of many!

    I love you.


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