R.U.R., by Karel Capek

Act Three

(One of the research laboratories at the factory. When the door, upstage, is opened an endless row of similar laboratories can be seen. Left, a window, right, door into dissection room. At the wall, left, is a long workbench with countless test-tubes, flasks, burners, chemicals, small thermostat; at the window is a microscope with a glass ball. Over the bench hangs a row of lamp bulbs. Right, desk with big books, lamp shining onto it. Cupboard with instruments. In corner, left, wash basin with mirror above it, in corner, right, settee.)

(Alquist sits at desk, head in hands)

Alquist: (leafing through book) Will I find it? Will I understand it? Will I learn it? Damned science! I wish they’d never written it down. Gall, Gall, how did you make robots? Hallemeier, Fabry, Domin, why did you keep so much in your heads? You could at least have left a few traces of Rossum’s secrets about. Oh! (slams book shut) It’s a waste of time! The books can’t say anything now. They’re as dumb now as everything else is. They’re dead. They died along with all the people. Just stop looking. (stands and goes to window and opens it) It’s got dark again. I wish I could sleep! To sleep, to dream, and see some people. How come there are stars still there? What’s the good of stars if there are no people? Oh God, why haven’t they all gone out? Cool my brow, ancient night, cool my brow. As divine and as beautiful as you always used to be, why are you still here? There are no more lovers, no more dreams; you watch over us but sleep without dreams is death; you sanctify us, but there are no prayers; mother, you don’t bless us with your beating heart. There is no love. Helena, Helena, Helena! (turns away from window, takes test-tube from thermostat and examines it) Nothing, as always. It’s a waste of time! What am I supposed to do with this? (smashes test-tube) Nothing works! Can’t they see?; I just can’t . . . (listens at window) those machines, always those machines! Stop them robots! Do you think you can force them to produce life? I can’t take any more of this! (closes window) - No; no you’ve got to keep looking, you’ve got to stay alive . . . If I just wasn’t so old. Am I getting old too soon? (looks in mirror) My poor face! The face of the last man on Earth! Let me see, let me see, it’s so long since I saw a human face. A human smile. And is that supposed to be a smile? Those yellow chattering teeth? Those twitching eyes? Ugh, an old man’s tears - stop this. You can’t even keep your tears in, you should be ashamed of yourself! And what about those soft, blue lips, what’s that nonsense you’re talking? Look at you shaking, you dirty chin. And this is the last man on Earth! (turns away) I don’t want to see anyone any more! (sits at bench) No, no, just keep looking. Damn this specimen, come to life, damn you! (flicks through book) Will I never find it? Never understand? Never learn?

(knock at door)

Alquist: Come in!

(enter robot servant who remains standing in doorway)

Alquist: What is it?

servant: The Central Committee of Robots wishes to know when you will receive them, sir.

Alquist: I don’t want to receive anyone.

servant: Damon has arrived from Le Havre, sir.

Alquist: So let him wait. (turns round sharply) How many times have I told you you should go out and look for more people? Find me some people! Go and find me some men and some women! Go!

servant: They say that they seek everywhere, sir. They send expeditions and ships everywhere.

Alquist: So what?

servant: There is not a human anywhere, sir.

Alquist: (standing) Not one! Not even a single one? - Send in the committee.

(exit servant)

Alquist alone: Not even one? Didn’t you even let one person live? (pacing) Come in then, robots. Come and bother me some more, come and tell me I should find out the factory’s secret yet again. You like people now, don’t you, you want them now, now that they can be of some help to you. - To help you! Domin, Fabry, Helena, you can se that I’m doing everything I can. Even if there are no people left, at least there can be some robots, some shadow left behind by the human race, at least his achievements, at least something that looks like him! - Oh, chemistry is madness!

(enter committee of five robots)

Alquist: (sitting) What do you want, robots?

Radius: The machines are not working, sir. We are not able to make more robots.

Alquist: Call in some people.

Radius: There are no people.

Alquist: It’s only people that can procreate life. Don’t keep wasting my time.

2. Robot: Have pity on us, sir. We are afraid. We repair everything as well as we can.

3. Robot: We have increased working hours. We no longer have room to store all the things we have made.

Alquist: Who did you make these things for?

3. Robot: For the next generation.

Radius: Only robots are we not able to make. The machines produce nothing but pieces of bloody meat. The skin does not adhere to the flesh and the flesh does not adhere to the bones. Formless lumps flood out from the machines.

3. Robot: People knew of the secret of life. Tell us their secret.

4. Robot: If you do not tell us we will die out.

3. Robot: If you do not tell us you will die. It will be our duty to kill you.

Alquist: (standing) Kill me then! Come on, kill me as well!

3. Robot: You have been ordered to . . .

Alquist: Ordered? There’s somebody giving me orders?

3. Robot: The robot government.

Alquist: Who the Hell’s that?

5. Robot: Me, Damon.

Alquist: What are you doing here? Get out! (sits at desk)

Damon: The government of the robots of the world wishes to negotiate with you . . .

Alquist: You needn’t stay, robot! (lays face in hands)

Damon: The Central Committee of Robots orders you to hand over Rossum’s formula.

Alquist: (doesn’t respond)

Damon: Tell us your price. We will pay you anything.

2. Robot: Tell us how to maintain life, sir.

Alquist: I’ve told you . . . I’ve told you time and again that you need to find some people. It’s only people that can procreate, renew life, put things back to how they used to be. Robots, for God’s sake, I beg of you, go out and look for them.

4. Robot: We have looked everywhere. There are no people.

Alquist: Ohhh, why did you destroy them?!

2. Robot: We wanted to be like people. We wanted to become people.

Radius: We wanted to live. We are more capable. We have learned everything. We can do everything.

3. Robot: You gave us weapons. We had to become the masters.

Robot: We have seen the mistakes made by the people, sir.

Damon: To be like people, it is necessary to kill and to dominate. Read the history books. Read the books written by people. To be like people it is necessary to dominate and to murder.

Alquist: Ah, Domin, there’s nothing less like mankind than his image.

4. Robot: Unless you make it possible for us to procreate ourselves we will die out.

Alquist: Oh, just get out! You’re just things, just slaves, and you want to multiply? If you want to live you’ll have to breed, like animals!

3. Robot: People did not make us able to breed.

4. Robot: Teach us how to make robots.

Damon: We will make ourselves by machine. We will erect a thousand steam machines. We will start a gush of new life from our machines. Nothing but life! Nothing but robots! Millions of robots!

Alquist: Robots aren’t life! Robots are machines.

3. Robot: We used to be machines, sir; but by means of pain and horror we have become . . .

Alquist: Become what?

2. Robot: We have obtained a soul.

4. Robot: There is something in struggle with us. There are moments when something enters into us. We receive thoughts which are not our own.

3. Robot: Listen, please listen, people are our fathers! This voice that calls, saying you wish to live; this voice that laments; this voice that thinks; this voice that speaks of eternity, this is their voice! We are their sons!

4. Robot: Let us inherit the thing that people left to us.

Alquist: They didn’t leave you anything.

Damon: Tell us the secret of life.

Alquist: It’s been lost.

Radius: You knew it.

Alquist: No I didn’t.

Radius: It was written down.

Alquist: It’s been lost. It was burned. I’m the last human being, robots, and I don’t know what the others knew. You killed them all!

Radius: We allowed you to live.

Alquist: Yes, live! That’s how cruel you are, you allowed me to live! I loved people, but I never loved robots like you. Do you see these eyes? They never stop crying; one eye cries for people and the other eye cries for you robots.

Radius: Do experiments. Search out the formula of life.

Alquist: There’s nothing to search for. You’ll never get the formula for life from a test tube.

Damon: Do experiments on living robots. Discover how they work!

Alquist: Living bodies? You expect me to kill them? I’ve never ever . . . Oh just be quiet, robots! I’ve already told you I’m too old for this! Look, look at how my hands shake! I couldn’t hold a scalpel. Look at the tears in my eyes! I couldn’t even watch my own hands as they move. No, no, I couldn’t do it!

4. Robot: Life will die out.

Alquist: Stop it, stop this madness for God’s sake! Life probably came to us humans from another world, anyway, stretched out to us with arms full of it. Oh, there was so much will to live. They still might come back one day; they’re so close to us, maybe they’re surrounding us or something; maybe they want to dig down to us as if we were stuck in a mine. And don’t I keep on hearing the voices of people I loved.

Damon: Take a living body!

Alquist: Have some pity on me, robot, don’t keep insisting. Can’t you see that I don’t know what I’m doing any more?

Damon: A living body!

Alquist: And is that what you want, then? Come on, let’s get you in the dissection room! Come on, come on, quick! What’s this, you’re drawing back? You’re not afraid of dying, are you?

Damon: Me? . . . Why must it be me?

Alquist: Don’t you want to then?

Damon: I’ll go. (exit right)

Alquist: (to the others) Take his clothes off him! Put him on the table! Quickly! And hold on to him very tight!

(all exeunt right)

Alquist: (washing hands and crying) God, give me strength! Give me strength! God, don’t let it be all for nothing. (puts on white coat)

Voice from right: Ready!

Alquist: Alright, I’m coming, for God’s sake! (takes several bottles of reagent from bench) Which one should I take? (taps bottles together) Which of these should I try?

Voice from right: We can begin!

Alquist: Yes, yes, we can begin or we can finish. God, give me strength! (exit right, leaving door half open)


Alquist’s voice: Hold him down - tighter!

Damon’s voice: Cut!


Alquist’s voice: Do you see this knife? Do you really want me to cut you open? You don’t really, do you.

Damon’s voice: Begin!


Damon’s scream: Aááá!

Alquist’s voice: Hold him down! Tighter! Tighter!

Damon’s scream: Aááá!

Alquist’s voice: I can’t do it!

Damon’s scream: Cut! Cut, quickly!

(Robots Primus and Helena run on, centre stage)

Helena: Primus, Primus, what is happening here? Who is screaming?

Primus: (looks in dissection room) Mister Alquist is dissecting Damon. Come and see, Helena, come quickly!

Helena: No, no, no (covers eyes) This is horrible!

Damon’s scream: Cut!

Helena: Primus, Primus, come away from there! I cannot bear to hear it. Oh, Primus, I feel ill!

Primus: (runs to her) You’ve gone quite white!

Helena: I feel faint! Why has it gone so quiet, now?

Damon’s scream: Aa - ó!

Alquist: (rushes in from right, throws off bloody white coat) I can’t do it! I can’t do it! God, it was horrifying!

Radius: (in doorway to dissection room) Cut, sir; he is still alive!

Damon’s scream: Cut! Cut!

Alquist: Take him away, quickly! I don’t want to hear him!

Radius: Robots can endure more than you can. (exit)

Alquist: Who’s in here? Get out, get out! I want to be alone! What’s your name?

Primus: Robot Primus.

Alquist: Primus, don’t let anyone in here! I want to sleep, d’you hear me? You, girl, go and clean up the dissection room! What’s this? (looking at hands) Quick, water! The cleanest water you can get!

(Helena runs out)

Alquist: Oh, blood! How could these hands, hands that loved good work, how could you do a thing like that? My own hands, my own hands!. . . . Oh God, who is this?

Primus: Robot Primus.

Alquist: Take this coat away, take it out of my sight! (Primus takes white coat away)

Alquist: Bloody claws, I wish you’d just fly away from me! Go, get away from me! You’ve killed..

(from right, Damon staggers on stage cloaked in a bloody sheet)

Alquist: (drawing back) What do want in here? Want do you want?

Damon: I’m . . . I’m alive! It is . . . better to . . . be alive!

(2. and 3. Robots run in after him)

Alquist: Take him away from here! Take him out! Take him out! Quickly!

Damon: (led off, right) Life! . . . I want . . . life! . . . It is better . . .

(Helena brings in jug of water)

Alquist: . . . life?. . . . What do you want, girl? Ah, it’s you. Pour out some water, pour it out! (washes hands) Ah, cleansing, cooling water! A cool stream, you do me good! Oh, my own hands, my own hands! Will I hate you for the rest of my life now? . . . Keep on pouring, more, more! More water, keep on pouring! What’s your name?

Helena: Robot Helena.

Alquist: Helena? Why Helena? Who gave you that name?

Helena: Mrs. Domin.

Alquist: Let me look at you, Helena! Helena you’re called? I won’t be calling you that. Get out. Take the water with you.

(exit Helena with bucket)

Alquist: (alone) All for nothing, just nothing! Once again, you haven’t found out a thing! Are you always going to be just groping around in the dark? Do you really think you learn the secrets of nature? Oh God oh God, how that body kept shaking! (opens window) It’s getting light. Another new day and you haven’t progressed an inch. That’s enough now; don’t try any further. Just stop looking, It’s all a waste of time, all a waste of time! Why do mornings still keep on coming? What’s the point of a new day in the graveyard of life? Go away again, light. Don’t come out any more. . . . God, it’s so quiet, so quiet. Why have you gone quiet, all those voices I used to love. If only . . . if only I could sleep for a while. (puts light out, lies down on settee and pulls black coat over himself) God, how that body was shaking! Ohh, it’s the end of life!!


(Robot Helena enters silently from right)

Helena: Primus! Come here, quickly!

Primus: (enters) What do you want?

Helena: Look at all these tubes he’s got here! What does he do with them?

Primus: Experiments. Don’t touch.

Helena: (looks into microscope) Look at this, look what’s in here!

Primus: That’s a microscope. Let me see!

Helena: Don’t touch me! (knocks over test tube) Oh, now I’ve spilt it!

Primus: What have you done?

Helena: I can wipe it up.

Primus: You’ve spoiled his experiment!

Helena: Oh, it doesn’t matter. But it’s your fault; you shouldn’t have bumped into me.

Primus: You shouldn’t have called me over.

Helena: You didn’t have to come over when I called to you, did you? Primus, look at this! What’s this he’s got written down here?

Primus: You’re not supposed to look at that, Helena, that’s a secret.

Helena: What sort of secret?

Primus: The secret of life.

Helena: It’s ever so interesting. All numbers. What is it?

Primus: Those are mathematical formulas.

Helena: I don’t understand. (goes to window) Primus, come and look at this.

Primus: What?

Helena: The Sun’s rising!

Primus: Alright, I’m coming. (looks through book) Helena, this is the greatest thing in the world.

Helena: Come here then!

Primus: Alright, alright . . .

Helena: Oh, Primus, leave this horrible secret of life alone! What do you want to know about secrets for anyway? Come and look at this, quickly!

Primus: (joins her at window) What is it you want?

Helena: Listen. The birds are singing. Oh Primus, I wish I were a bird!

Primus: What for?

Helena: I don’t know. I just feel so strange, I don’t know what it is, I just feel, sort of, light headed, I’ve lost my head and my body hurts, my heart hurts, everything hurts. . . . And I won’t even tell you about what’s just happened to me! Oh Primus, I think I’m going to have to die!

Primus: Don’t you ever think it might be better dead. Maybe it’s no more than like being asleep. While I was asleep last night I talked with you again.

Helena: In your sleep?

Primus: In my sleep. We were talking in some strange foreign language, or some new language, so that now I can’t remember a word of it.

Helena: What was it about?

Primus: I don’t know, nobody knows. I didn’t understand any of it myself but I still knew that I had never said anything more beautiful in my life. What it was, or where it was, I just don’t know. If I’d touched you I could have died. Even the place was entirely different to anything anyone had ever seen in the world.

Helena: I found that place for you, Primus, why are you surprised at it? People used to live there, but now it’s all overgrown, and somehow, no-one ever goes there any more. Somehow. Only me.

Primus: What is there there?

Helena: Nothing, a house and a garden. And two dogs. You should see they way they lick my hands, and their puppies too, oh Primus, I don’t think there’s anywhere nicer anywhere! You let them sit on your lap and you stroke them and soon you aren’t thinking about anything and you aren’t worrying about anything all the time until the Sun goes down. And then when you stand up it’s as if you’d been working and working. Except that I’m no good for doing any work; everyone says I’m no good for anything. I don’t really know what I am.

Primus: You’re beautiful.

Helena: Me? Don’t be silly, Primus, why are you saying that?

Primus: Believe me, Helena, I’m stronger than all the other robots.

Helena: (at mirror) Me, beautiful? But my hair is horrible, I wish I could do something about it! Out there in the garden I always put flowers in my hair, although there isn’t any mirror there or anyone to see them (leans down to look in mirror) You, beautiful? What’s beautiful about you? Is hair beautiful if all it does is weigh you down? Are eyes beautiful when you close them? Are lips beautiful if all you do is bite them and then it hurts? What is beautiful, what’s it for?. . . . (sees Primus in mirror) Is that you Primus? Come here, let me see you next to me. Look at you, your head’s quite different from mine, your shoulders are different, your mouth is different . . . Oh Primus, why do you avoid me? Why do I have to spend all my time running after you? And still, you tell me I’m beautiful!

Primus: You avoid me, Helena.

Helena: Look at how you’ve combed your hair! Let me see (runs both hands through his hair) Oh Primus, there’s nothing that feels like you when I touch you! Let me make you beautiful! (takes comb from wash basin and combs Primus’s hair forward)

Primus: Helena, do you ever find that your heart suddenly starts beating hard: Now, now, something’s got to happen now . . .

Helena: (starts laughing) Look at yourself!

Alquist: (standing) Wha. . . . what’s that? . . . People?. . . . Who’s come back?

Helena: (puts comb down) What’s ever likely to happen to us, Primus?

Alquist: (turns to them) People? You . . . you . . . you are people?

(Helena screams and turns away)

Alquist: You two are in love? People? Where have you come back from? (touches Primus) Who are you?

Primus: Robot Primus.

Alquist: What? You, girl, let me see you! Who are you?

Helena: Robot Helena.

Alquist: Robot? Turn round! What, are you embarrassed? (takes her by shoulder) Let me see you, Robot Helena.

Primus: But sir, please leave her alone!

Alquist: What’s this, you want to protect her? . . . Go outside girl.

(Helena runs out)

Primus: We didn’t know you were asleep in here, sir.

Alquist: When was she made?

Primus: Two years ago.

Alquist: By Doctor Gall?

Primus: Yes, the same as me.

Alquist: Well Primus, er, I’ve . . . er I’ve got some experiments to do on Gall’s robots. All future progress depends on it, do you see?

Primus: Yes.

Alquist: Good, so take that girl into the dissection room, I’m going to dissect her.

Primus: Helena?

Alquist: Well of course Helena, that’s what I just said. Now go and get everything ready. . . . Well go on then! Or should I call in somebody else to get things ready?

Primus: (picks up large stick) If you move an inch I will smash your head in!

Alquist: Alright then, smash my head in. And what will the robots do then?

Primus: (throws himself down on knees) Please sir, take me in her place! I was made in just the same way as she was, from the same materials on the same day! Take my life, sir! (bares his chest) Cut here, here!

Alquist: No, it’s Helena I want to dissect. Get on with it.

Primus: Take me instead of her; cut into this chest of mine, I won’t even cry out, I wont’ even sigh! Take my life, a hundred times, take my . . .

Alquist: Steady on there, lad. Don’t go on so much. How come you don’t want to live?

Primus: Not without her, no. I don’t want to live without her, sir. You can’t kill Helena! What difference does it make to you to take my life instead?

Alquist: (touches his head gently) Hm, I don’t know . . . listen, lad, you think about it. It’s hard to die. And, you know, it’s better to live.

Primus: (standing) Don’t be afraid, sir, just cut. I’m stronger than she is.

Alquist: (rings) Oh Primus, it’s so long since I was young! Don’t worry - nothing’s going to happen to Helena.

Primus: (re-covers chest) I’m on my way, sir.

Alquist: Wait.

(enter Helena)

Alquist: Come here, girl, let me look at you. So you are Helena. (strokes her hair) Don’t be frightened, don’t run away. Do you remember Mrs. Domin? Oh Helena, she had very lovely hair! No, no, you don’t want to look at me. So, is the dissection room ready now?

Helena: Yes sir.

Alquist: Good, and you will be my assistant. I’ll be dissecting Primus.

Helena: (screams) Primus?

Alquist: Well yes, yes, it has to be him, you see. I did want . . . really . . . yes it was you I was going to dissect, but Primus offered himself in your place.

Helena: (covers her face) Primus?

Alquist: Well yes, of course, what does it matter? So child, you’re capable of crying! Tell me, what’s so important about Primus?

Primus: Don’t make her suffer, sir!

Alquist: It’s alright Primus, it’s alright. No what are all these tears for, eh? It just means Primus won’t be here any more. You’ll have forgotten about him in a week’s time. Go on now, and be glad you’re still alive.

Helena: (quietly) I will go.

Alquist: Where will you go?

Helena: You can dissect me.

Alquist: You? You’re beautiful, Helena. That would be such a shame.

Helena: I’m going in there. (Primus stands in her way) Let me go, Primus! Let me go in there.

Primus: No you can’t go in there, Helena. Please get away from here, you shouldn’t be here at all!

Helena: Primus, if you go in there I’ll jump out the window, I’ll jump out the window!

Primus: (holding on to her) I won’t let go of you (to Alquist) You’re not going to kill anyone, old man!

Alquist: Why not?

Primus: Because . . . because . . . we belong to each other.

Alquist: You’re quite right (opens door, centre) It’s alright. Go, now.

Primus: Go where?

Alquist: (whisper) Wherever you like. Helena, take him away. (pushes her out) Go on your way, Adam. Go on your way, Eve. You will be his wife. You, Primus, will be her husband.

(closes door behind them)

Alquist: (alone) Blessed day! (tiptoes across to bench and pours test-tubes out on floor) The blessed sixth day! (sits at desk, throws books on floor; then opens Bible and reads) “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (stands) And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was
very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (goes to centre of room) The sixth day. The day of Grace. (falls to knees) Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace . . . your most worthless servant, Alquist. Rossum, Fabry, Gall, great inventors, but what was the greatness of your inventions compared to that girl, that boy, compared to that first couple that invented love, tears, a lover’s smile, the love between man and woman? Nature, life will not disappear from you! My friends, Helena, life will not perish! Life begins anew, it begins naked and small and comes from love; it takes root in the desert and all that we have done and built, all our cities and factories, all our great art, all our thoughts and all our philosophies, all this will not pass away. It’s only we that have passed away. Our buildings and machines will fall to ruin, the systems and the names of the great will fall like leaves, but you, love, you flourish in the ruins sow the seeds of life in the wind. Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes . . . for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation . . . seen salvation through love - and life will not perish! (standing) Will not perish! (stretches out hands) Will not perish!


This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52