Commissioned Work: In the Castle

Background: This was a commissioned monologue-format piece based around the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, if it were done a little more darkly.

THE BEAST has taken a young woman in exchange for her father and imprisoned her in his castle. He needs the young woman to fall in love with him in order to break the curse that turned him into a beast, and he’s more than a little focused on the goal. He stands by the bed where the YOUNG WOMAN is sitting, explaining himself.

Good evening. I hope you’re feeling somewhat better than the last time we spoke.

Do you understand why I brought you to this place? Ten years ago, when I was but a boy of eleven, a witch cursed me with this wretched form because I would not allow her shelter for the night in the castle. She told me that unless I could fall in love with someone and have them love me in return by my twenty-first birthday, I would never again be human. Of course, no parent of suitable blood—no parent of any blood—would want their daughter to marry a beast. And it wasn’t as if I or any of my servants could leave the castle without being attacked by a terrified mob in search of someone willing. So I have stayed here, rotting on the inside, for almost a decade. The servants tried to help, especially at the beginning, but there was not much they could do. I was a beast, and by the look of the situation, I would be a beast for the rest of my natural life. If I even had a natural life anymore. Yes, I had to prepare for the possibility that not only was I a beast, I was an immortal beast, doomed to live forever as an outright monster with nothing but animate furniture for company, if that.

Then, your father became lost in the woods, presumptuous old man—don’t give me that, you know it’s true. He came into my home as if it were his, drying himself and having a cup of tea in front of my fire, and the servants allowed it for reasons I have trouble understanding. I suppose they were lonely, but in a house with dozens of servants, one would think they had enough company with just each other around. I put a stop to that as soon as I could. He sniveled and whimpered like a dog, begging for mercy, and I treated him as a dog, putting him in the dungeon. He was of no use to me, him and his lousy contraptions.

Then…then you came. You, who could be the one to break our curse. To break my curse. That’s why I wanted you, why I kept you here. I was hoping you would offer yourself in exchange for the old man, and when you did, I rejoiced. I had to have you—I still have to have you. You’re beautiful, you know. You seem sensitive. Intelligent. Someone who I could definitely fall in love with in a short time. Even the year I have left will be more than enough on my end. Make no mistake, I shall love you deeply.

Of course, there’s also the matter of you loving me.

I understand this is a difficult thing to ask of you. Love is…love is tricky, love is capricious, love…is hard to pin down and make cooperate. I know that from the books my nurse would read to me as a child. Especially if the one who needs your love is less than beautiful. My mother always said I would be a handsome youth when I grew older. I still wonder what I would have looked like were it not for the witch. Of course, that’s beside the point. I know you can love me, and you will in the end. Isn’t that how these things work in your favorite books? I suspect you like to read, from what I’ve seen in the past few days—you found the library quickly. The young woman falls in love with the prince in the guise of a poor farm boy, and you will fall in love with me in the guise of a beast.

If you cannot…if you cannot love me, then you will leave this entire castle and me cursed for eternity. And I cannot let that happen. I cannot run the risk that I will live forever a beast. I will do whatever is in my power to help you love me, and we do have some time—a year—but failure is not an option. Do you understand? Don’t look at me like that, I’m telling you the truth, and I’m telling you how I feel. Isn’t that desirable—being able to be honest with your partner? Perhaps you are not my partner yet, but you will be. I promise I will be a very good partner. The library is open to you—the best in the country, if I am not mistaken. I can even ask the servants to perform Shakespeare for you if you so choose. You will dine and dress sumptuously; I have money from taxes on the lands my family still owns, so I can afford to allow that. Everything you need is here.

You still want to go home? Don’t you dare speak of that. This is your home now. If you say something like that again, I will be forced to take more drastic measures. I don’t want to hurt you, not at all, but if it helps you understand what must be done, I may have to. Do you understand? Good.

If you need me, I will be in the master bedroom, though for most things I suspect my servants will be of more help. As always, you are allowed access to anywhere in the castle except the West Wing—I’ll take you there when you are more stable and understand fully what your role is. If you try to leave, I will find you and return you to your room. Good night.

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