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Katherine and the Count

The Heart is an Organ of Fire...

"A love story is not about those who lose their heart but about those who find that sullen inhabitant who, when it is stumbled upon, means the body can fool no-one, can fool nothing - not the wisdom of sleep or the habit of social graces. It is a consuming of oneself and the past..."

From The English Patient
By Michael Ondaatje

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The Wife of Candaules - from The Tales of Heredotus

Now, Candaules conceived a passion for his own wife and thought she was the most beautiful woman on earth. So, having in his bodyguard a fellow he particularly liked whose name was Gyges, Candaules used to make him listen to eulogies of his wife's beauty.

One day the king said to Gyges: "It appears you don't believe me when I tell you how lovely my wife is. So do as I tell you - contrive to see her naked." Gyges gave a cry of horrow. "Master," he said, "what an improper suggestion! Do you tell me to look at the queen when she has no clothes on? No, no, I do not doubt that your wife is the most beautiful of women, so for goodness' sake do not ask me to behave like a criminal." The king told him not to distress himself. "There is nothing to be afraid of," he said, "either from me or my wife. I'll manage so that she doesn't even know that you've seen her. Look, I will hide you behind the open door of our bedroom. My wife will follow me into bed. Near the door there's a chair - she will put her clothes on it as she takes them off, one by one. Then, while she's walking away from the chair slip away through the door - and mind she doesn't catch you."

Gyges consented and Candaules brought him into the room. Presently the queen arrived, and gyges watched her walk in and put her clothes on the chair. Then, just as she had turned her back and was going to bed, he slipped softly out of the room. But the queen saw him. At once she realized what her husband had done. But she did not betray the shame she felt by screaming, or even let it appear that she had noticed anything. Instead she silently resolved to have her revenge.

For the moment she kept her mouth shut and did nothing, but at dawn the next morning she sent for Gyges. "Gyges," she said as soon as he presented himself, "there are two courses open to you and you may take your choice between them. Kill Candaules and seize the throne, with me as your wife, or die on the spot. One of you must die; either my husband, the author of this wicked plot, or you, who have outraged propriety by seeing me naked." Gyges begged the queen not to force him to make so difficult a choice. But it was no good, he soon saw that he really was faced with the alternatives, either of murdering his master or being murdered himself. He made his choice - to live.

"Tell me," he said, "since you drive me against my will to kill the king, how shall we set on him?" "We will attack him when he is asleep," was the answer; "and on the very spot where he showed me to you naked." She put a knife into his hand and hid him behind the same door as before. Then, when Candaules was asleep, he crept from behind the door and struck.

Thus Gyges usurped the throne and married the queen.


Click play to hear dialogue between Katherine and Almasy

Other excellent excellent stuff on the English Patient to be found on the Web:

For the soundtrack of The English Patient
The English Patient - Words & Pictures, plus real media sound clips from the movie
The English Patient Unofficial Website
Elvina's English Patient Site
Another English Patient Site
Download The English Patient Theme for your desk-or-laptop
Soundclips from the movie
A Cyber-Tour of the Novel and Screenplay
A Tour of the Novel in Cyberspace
Who's Who in the making of The English Patient