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A monologue from the play by Peter Shaffer
LETTICE DOUFFET (forties – fifties)
Lettice Douffet is a highly imaginative and romantic woman with a flair for the dramatic. She exploits these qualities daily in her job as tour guide at Fustian House, a sixteenth century English manor house.
To relieve the monotony, Lettice embellishes her speeches to the tour groups with her own exciting interpretations of an otherwise dull family history.
You are looking at what is indisputably the most famous staircase in England!… The Staircase of Ennoblement! On the night of February the second, 1585—a brilliant snowy night–
John Fustian laid before his sovereign here in this hall a monumental feast! The tables were piled high with hedgehogs, puffins, and coneys!—and a hundred of the liveliest courtiers stood salivating to consume it!
(Increasingly excited by her tale) Suddenly she appeared—Gloriana herself, the Virgin Queen of England!-encrusted from bosom to ankle with a blaze of diamonds presented to her by the Czar Ivan the Terrible,
who had seen a portrait of her in miniature and lost a little of his icy heart to her chaste looks! Smiling, she set foot upon the first stair, up there! Alas, as she did so-at that precise moment-
she slipped and would have plunged headlong down all fifteen polished and bruising steps, had not her host—standing precisely where I stand now, at the very bottom—leapt in a single bound the whole height of the staircase to where she stood and saved her!
(One or two gasp with amazement.) Imagine the scene! Time as if suspended! A hundred beribboned guests frozen like Renaissance statues, arms outstretched in powerless gesture!
Eyes wide with terror in the flare of torches!…And then suddenly John Fustian moves! He who up to that moment has lived his whole life as a dull turgid yeoman, breaks the spell!
Springs forward-upward-rises like a bird-like feathered Mercury-soars in one astounding leap the whole height of these stairs, and at the last possible moment catches her in his loyal arms,
raises her high above his head, and rose-cheeked with triumph cries up to her: “Adored Majesty! Adored and Ehdored Majesty! Fear not! You are safe-And your hedgehogs await!”