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The Inca of Perusalem

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The Inca of Perusalem

by George Bernard Shaw

Genre: Comedy
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length: 90 Minutes

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


Shaw subtitles this one-act play “An Almost Historical Comedietta.” Having fallen on hard times, Ermyntrude, widow of a millionaire, takes up a position with a Princess. A mysterious stranger claiming to represent the Inca of Perusalem arrives to visit the Princess, ostensibly to arrange a marriage between her and one of the Inca’s sons. It is Ermyntrude, however, who really catches his eye …
an excerpt:
ERMYNTRUDE [sternly]. Sit down, madam. [The Princess sits down forlornly. Ermyntrude turns imperiously to the Manager.] Her Highness will require this room for twenty minutes.

THE MANAGER. Twenty minutes!

ERMYNTRUDE. Yes: it will take fully that time to find a proper apartment in a respectable hotel.

THE MANAGER. I do not understand.

ERMYNTRUDE. You understand perfectly. How dare you offer Her Highness a room on the second floor?

THE MANAGER. But I have explained. The first floor is occupied. At least–

ERMYNTRUDE. Well? at least?

THE MANAGER. It is occupied.

ERMYNTRUDE. Don’t you dare tell Her Highness a falsehood. It is not occupied. You are saving it up for the arrival of the five-fifteen express, from which you hope to pick up some fat armaments contractor who will drink all the bad champagne in your cellar at 5 francs a bottle, and pay twice over for everything because he is in the same hotel with Her Highness, and can boast of having turned her out of the best rooms.

THE MANAGER. But Her Highness was so gracious. I did not know that Her Highness was at all particular.

ERMYNTRUDE. And you take advantage of Her Highness’s graciousness. You impose on her with your stories. You give her a room not fit for a dog. You send cold tea to her by a decayed professional person disguised as a waiter. But don’t think you can trifle with me. I am a lady’s maid; and I know the ladies’ maids and valets of all the aristocracies of Europe and all the millionaires of America. When I expose your hotel as the second-rate little hole it is, not a soul above the rank of a curate with a large family will be seen entering it. I shake its dust off my feet. Order the luggage to be taken down at once.

THE MANAGER [appealing to the Princess]. Can Your Highness believe this of me? Have I had the misfortune to offend Your Highness?

THE PRINCESS. Oh no. I am quite satisfied. Please–

ERMYNTRUDE. Is Your Highness dissatisfied with me?

THE PRINCESS [intimidated]. Oh no: please don’t think that. I only meant–

ERMYNTRUDE [to the manager]. You hear. Perhaps you think Her Highness is going to do the work of teaching you your place herself, instead of leaving it to her maid.


Promising premise. Is there enough plot and character to drive a musical?


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