Alexander the Great
The Third Declension
I hope that has served to put you in the right frame of mind to imagine out our St Dominic’s Day play. Mother Catherine asked for it to be translated into blog format so that our readership could have a kind of vicarious experience of at least part of our delightful day’s festivities. Here’s how it began:
NARRATOR: Alice, as you all well know, once fell down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. After many adventures, she managed to get out again. Well, the tale that is never told – but will be today – is what happened the SECOND time she fell down – this time, into a penguin-box at Phillip Island while she was looking under the boardwalk when she wasn’t supposed to, but the same kind of thing happened. Despite the fact that Lewis Carroll made much of her being a sensible girl, she did have an awful lot of troubles staying out of holes and Looking Glasses and things like that. Anyway, let’s see what happened to her and how she Got Out…
That was how Alice found herself in the first of the Five Lands: the Land of Literature. Here, she met three very weird characters, Simile, Onomatopoeia and Metaphor, who only ever spoke in the literary styles they were named after. This made life a bit difficult for Alice, but fortunately Prose came along and explained what to do:
This alarmed Alice, but she did want to be home for dinner on time, so being a sensible kind of girl she got on with what she had to do, and asked for help to get out. This is what she was told:
PROSE: Well, uh, this IS the land of Literature. You’ll have to get the clues from those characters and work it out. Prose can’t tell you everything, you know.ALICE: Could you help me?
SIMILE: Your way to the next land is like a snake in the sun
ONOMATOPOEIA: gurgle gurgle
METAPHOR: Follow that which makes a path of dancing stars, ever aiming for she who ever watches the heavens with a glistening eye.
Alice liked reading, so recognizing that all this meant a stream was no trouble for her. She found one nearby, followed it, and came to the border of Literature Land. She crossed it, passing into a place full of horrible noises. She wondered what it was, and the answer was quick in coming.
And this was how Alice met the neurotic-depressive Wrong Note in Music Land, who felt that he never fitted in amongst all the beautiful music around him. This led to a great deal of wailing and crying by the Wrong Note that poor Alice had to put up with. Eventually, she had had enough.
ALICE: Calm down. Calm down! (WRONG NOTE calms down.) Now listen here – it seems you have a bit of a complex.
WRONG NOTE: I beg your pardon?
ALICE: A complex. A stagnant mindset. A persistent negative thought cycle. A complex.
WRONG NOTE: Oh?
ALICE: Now, I don’t know how you managed to get this complex, but I’ll tell you a little secret. Wrong notes don’t actually exist! They can be right notes as long as they fit into the music at the right time. It’s rather like catching a bus or a train, really.
And with this sage advice, the Wrong Note quickly learned to stay in time and from then on managed to fit into the glorious sounds of Music Land. He was so pleased that he merrily took Alice to the next border as a kind gesture, and thus it was that she crossed into the next Land – the Land of Ancient Mistakes. She made a bad entry, though.
Because she felt disoriented and was (understandably) fascinated by a Time Machine she walked past on her way in, she carelessly bumped into a tall, forbidding snake-handling lady.
OLYMPIAS: Touch me not, peasant! . ALICE: Oh, I’m frightfully sorry. I was just going… . OLYMPIAS: Silence! Did I give you leave to speak???
It was a bad start. Alice tried to use her personal charisma on Olympias of Epirus, but it was to no avail.
OLYMPIAS: Such outrageous conduct! I shall have you flogged! Alexander! Alexander!
And that was how Alice met Alexander (not the Great yet - for he was still a teenager, transported through time into the Land of Ancient Mistakes with his mother, still studying Aristotle and behaving in a generally teenager-ish way). The shock of this caused Alice to faint.
OLYMPIAS: Very strange girl.
ALEXANDER: I agree.
ALICE (returns to consciousness): Pardon me, I don’t usually faint. But I think I’ve got my head around this now. Just one question – are you – this is a bit awkward – are you alive?
OLYMPIAS: Of all the ridiculous questions!!!
ALEXANDER: How dumb is she???? (sotto voce) Are we alive or dead, Mum?
OLYMPIAS: I’m not quite sure – we got moved here so long ago I don’t really know what happened – I think there was a time machine back in Macedonia and we got in. Where is that time machine, anyway?
ALICE: I just walked past one on my way in.
ALICE: Yes, and it looked quite new too. Would you like me to show you the way?
OLYMPIAS: Well, yes, but there’s one problem (looks around sheepishly) – we can’t get in. There’s something on the door about not getting in unless you learn from the people around you. Aha! Maybe you could open the door!
Alice did this easily.
ALICE: Now, I don’t know if I’ve broken some rule by letting you in – I have a feeling you probably needed to learn something by yourselves – so here’s some parting advice: Olympias, try and get a good sleep, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t kill half-relatives, tempting as it may be. And Alexander, go see a doctor if you get a fever.
The Time Machine took off, revealing a note that directed Alice to head North to the next Land. She did so, crossed yet another border, and immediately felt dazed and confused. Little did she realize at the time she had entered the Land of Logical Fallacy.
NON SEQUITUR: So you should! Everyone here is - you’ve probably spent too much time with cats! (laughs maniacally)
HASTY GENERALIZATION: Nah, I reckon she’s confused cos she’s a girl. All girls I’ve ever seen are confused, so she must be confused too.
ALICE: Who are you people???
NON SEQUITUR: Uh Uh – can’t tell. Telling you would turn you into an orange (laughs hysterically)
HASTY GENERALIZATION: Nah, I reckon she’s stuck because she’s wearing an apron. All apron-wearers I’ve ever seen get stuck here.
After participating in this non-productive conversation for some time, Alice (who was a smart girl) cottoned on to the idea that she was up against some Logical Fallacies. From there, it was short work to correctly identify the Fallacies, thereby disabling them of their confusing powers.
You need to get to your Final Challenge.
Your Final Challenge lies to the East.
Therefore, you need to go to the East.
ALICE: 3 terms, 3 propositions, no excluded middle, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da … I do believe it is valid! East it is!
Upon arrival in this final Land, Alice almost completely lost the power of language, only able to stammer out words like “I hasten”, “I overcome”, “I have” (which may be familiar to those who have read the first few chapters of Paterson and McNaughton’s Introduction to Latin, Book I). Two cloaked figures appeared next, and proceeded to mock Alice in her disability. Being supervillains, they soon felt compelled to reveal their identities.
VI: I am – The VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT!!!!!!
ALICE recoils in horror.
VI: Our little visitor is impressed, I think. Shall I introduce you, dear chap?
THIRD: If you like.
VI: My dear, I present a nightmare come to life: The Third Declension.
THIRD (bowing): at your service, madam.
VI and THIRD together: And you’re in the Land of the Unseen Translation (laugh maniacally)!!!!
Alice was then sent to the Examination, which consisted of an (unsurprisingly enough) Unseen Latin Translation, full of words Alice had never seen in her life, let alone know how to translate into English. The discomfort was acute. She slumped at the desk. It looked like it was all over for her. However, she came to life, talking and writing furiously, finished her paper with a flourish and flung it at the two monsters.
ALICE: VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT; I have, you have, he has, we have, you plural have, they have; VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT; I have, you have, he has, we have, you plural have, they have; Ha-ha! I’m finished!
VI: What did you say??? You’re supposed to have lost the power of language!
ALICE: I haven’t, as a matter of fact. You didn’t think your very name would come to my rescue, did you? And do you know what I think, O VI-VISTI-VIT-VIMUS-VISTIS-VERUNT? I think your problem with the world – and why you became a supervillain - is that you’ve lost an old and dear friend, haven’t you! Where’s your stem? What was her name? Ama- or was it Supera-, or perhaps Festina-? Come on, you can tell me.
VI: How…how did you know?
ALICE: Come now, everybody knows that just being the ending of a Latin verb makes a verb lonely. You need a stem and an ending! As for The Third Declension -your main trouble is that people don’t understand you – am I right? So we have one lonely supervillain and one misunderstood one. I do hope think you aren’t original supervillains in any way – you’re the oldest plot devices in the book!
Having neutralized the power of the Latin verb-ending and the Third Declension, Alice easily persuaded them to take her to the portal back to her own world. Triumphant, she stepped across the threshold. But her last thought was not of success or self-aggrandizement. She simply wondered:
ALICE: I never did see any penguins down there.
Any resemblance between characters, real or fictitious, and those in this production are entirely the intention of the author.
BUT, no animals were harmed in the making of this production.