A WACKY LOOK AT THE HISTORY of LAW
For all ages from child to adult.
to Mel Brooks
Thanks to my son
William Arthur Reed - child humor consultant
Rubber Chicken (may require several stunt doubles)
Og- cave man
Priest of Zir #1
Priest of Zir #2
Voice of God
Hammurabi-first king to codify Law
Peasant #1 (can be same person as Mog)
Peasant #2 (can be same person as Og)
Swen-Dark Age warrior (preferably played by same fellow as Og)
Fen-Other Dark Age warrior (preferably played by same fellow as Mog)
King John of England
12 Knights with swords
Twelve Jurors (can be same people as 12 knights)
Lawyer #1 (can be same person as Priest #1)
Lawyer #2 (can be same fellow as Priest #2)
Defendant (can be same person as Og)
Complainant (can be same person as Mog)
Bailiff (can be same person as Scribe)
Simple set which starts with several large cardboard rocks. In second scene a stone altar is added (can be a table with painted rock taped to front). And in a third scene a large chair / throne / Judge's seat is added. This completes the basic set which physically demonstrates the increasing complexity of Law.
To aid in the understanding of the basic history of law by use of humor and repetition.
Og and Mog are sitting on some of the large cardboard boulders dressed in tacky fake looking cave man outfits. Mog holds the rubber chicken. Og is the bigger guy and wants the bird.
OG: Og wants bird! Give bird to Og!
MOG: Mog’s bird! No give to Og!! [holds bird tight to chest]
OG: Give to Og! [Stands up and hunkers over Mog. Waves arms, etc.]
MOG: No give bird to Og! [leaps back]
OG: MIGHT MAKE RIGHT! [shakes fist in air] Og Bigger!! [grabs bird from Mog]
MOG: NO! NO!
OG: Og bigger! Og get bird! [dances around]
Lights dim off main set.
Light on Narrator standing to one side.
NARRATOR: [pompous] So as you can see law, much like the playground, was originally based on Might Makes Right! If you were bigger – you got the bird. But the world advanced. People came to fear and respect the unseen world and guilt or innocence was decided by "signs" from the local gods.
Light off Narrator.
Light onto main set.
Same rocks with an altar now added in the middle of the scene. The two priests of Zir have placed the rubber chicken on the altar. Two accused men sit to one side.
PRIEST #1: Oh Zir, Great God of the Sky, send us a sign! [reaches to heavens]
Stop sign falls from sky.
PRIEST #2: Not that sign!!
PRIEST #1: Sighs. [trying again] Accept our humble offering [holds up chicken].
Priest #1 places chicken on altar and pretends to hack it open with large foil covered cardboard knife.
PRIEST #2: From what we observe inside we will determine your guilt or innocence! [stares balefully at the accused]
The ACCUSED: [bows their heads, sure of doom]
PRIEST #1: So we shall see! [begins to appear to pull all sorts of things from the chicken… ropes, license plates, strings, large tree branch, yoyo and moose horns. Pauses to wipe sweat from brow]
The signs are [dramatic pause] UNCLEAR!
PRIEST #2: [Glowers at accused and points] When the signs are unclear a solution must be found! [Grabs knife and fingers it]
ACCUSED MEN: [fall on floor to beg] MERCY!! MERCY!!
PRIEST #1: Well [pause] maybe we can give it another try. [pulls more items from the chicken… wire, cups, a frying pan, a teddy bear] Great Zir, what are you telling us?
VOICE OF GOD: Cook the bird!
Light off main stage.
Light on Narrator.
NARRATOR: [pompous] As you can see like "Might makes Right" looking for "Signs" also has its problems. So the King of Babylon, Hammurabi, tried to tidy things up by writing his legal wisdom down for all to read.
Light off narrator.
Light on main scene.
Same rocks, altar, and now a throne. Hammurabi sits on throne. Scribe is seated on nearby rock.
HAM: I, Hammurabi, King of Babylon, will bring order to chaos… joy from despair, so forth…etc…etc..
PEASANT #1: Great King, someone stole my chicken. I am crying foul! [pause for effect] It was him! [points to Peasant #2]
PEASANT #2: What Chicken? [is holding bird behind back toward audience. If crowd laughs turn to shush them]
PEASANT #1: That chicken! [points to chicken behind back. Grabs it and tug of war ensues]
HAM: Stop! I, Hammurabi, King of Babylon, Giver of Righteousness, etc…etc.. Declare:
[quote from Code of Hammurabi] "If a man steals an animal that belongs to the state, he shall repay thirty times the cost. If it belongs to a private citizen, he shall repay ten times the cost. If the thief does not have enough funds to make repayment --- HE SHALL DIE."
PEASANT #2: Ten Chickens? [quickly handing over the bird] Where will I get nine more?
HAM: Consider the alternative.
PEASANT #2: Death?? Isn’t that rather [pause] strict?
PEASANT #1: Nine more. [obviously happy]
PEASANT #2: All right. All right…
Light off main scene.
Light on to Narrator.
NARRATOR: So Rule of Law –usually lots of laws…. Actually lots and lots and lots of laws came into effect for many years, until the Dark Ages. Law took a bit of a downturn as we shall see.
Two Dark Age or Viking Warriors are fighting over the rubber chicken.
SWEN: [in ethnic accent, Swedish is easy] It is my bird!
FEN: No it is mine.
SWEN: No it is mine!
FEN: Odin will decide. I call you to trial by combat. [he lays the bird on the altar]
Sword fight ensues. Would be very fun if it moves to the audience area. Swen wins the fight. Fen lays dead.
SWEN: Thank you, Odin, for the bird!
Light off main set.
Light on Narrator.
NARRATOR: While this was a quick easy solution to legal problems it was very hard on the population figures. At last King John of England with some [pause] er… persuasion… decided to reinstate not just rule of law but a "trial by a jury of equals." This was stated in a wonderfully long document called the MAGNA CARTA.
Light off Narrator.
Light on main scene. King John is being threatened by twelve Knights with swords.
KING JOHN: All right! All right!! I’ll sign! I’ll sign!! You are such bad sports!
KNIGHT #1: We demand the rights as free men! We will be judged by our equals!
KNIGHTS: [in unison] HEAR! HEAR! [raise swords in salute] Cheers!
KING JOHN: So pick twelve people and see who gets the bird. [sigh] [raises the rubber chicken]
KNIGHTS: [Loud Cheers!]
Light off main.
Light on Narrator.
NARRATOR: [pompous] So this brings us to our modern legal system which combines all the best elements of past legal practice. It has two warring opponents represented by lawyers. It is tried in front of a wise judge and a jury of twelve equals. In this way we assure that all the bases are covered and justice most generally will be done.
Light off Narrator onto main.
Judge sits on throne. Two lawyers are in front of judge. A Bailiff stands at guard by the judge´s desk, emoting silently as appropriate. The twelve jurors are to one side and the defendant and accuser are seated on chairs. The bird is on the altar, now serving as the judge’s desk.
LAWYER #1: Your Honor, my client has the best claim to the bird.
LAWYER #2: I object!
LAWYER #1: I object!
LAWYER #2: I object to your objection!
JUDGE: Order in the court! Jury, disregard their remarks!
JURY: [nods wisely] HMMMMM ... [unison]
JUDGE: Do you wish to call any more witnesses?
LAWYER #1: No, Your Honor.
LAWYER #2: No, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Citizens of the jury, we bring this case to you. As no more evidence is brought forth, you may decide the case.
JURY: Hmmmmm… [they stand up and whisper to one another for a while. They turn and sit back down]
JUDGE: Have you reached a decision?
JURY FOREMAN: Yes. We say the accused did indeed steal the bird.
JUDGE: Do you recommend a sentence?
JURY FOREMAN: Yes. He should return the bird and pay the highest fine.
JUDGE: I require you return the bird and pay a fine of $500. I also sentence you to a year’s probation. Court adjourned.
COMMENTS: If this play is done for younger children the points may be more effective if the same people play the conflicting parties. All should be played very broadly. Have a good time.