The Old Wisdom Shop

By Trevor Fletcher


Worldly wisdom proves an empty and often destructive thing; only God’s wisdom lasts. ‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’


1 Corinthians 1:20


Shopkeeper: Female
Customer 1: Male
Customer 2: Male
Customer 3: Female
Robber (Alternative ending 2 only): Male
All interchangeable with minor modifications to script (I wrote Shopkeeper as a male part but had to acknowledge that my daughter was the best ‘man’ for the part, necessitating a swift re-write!):-


(Scene: A shop with a table/counter piled with boxes containing the products. Shopkeeper is on stage as the action begins. Customer 1 enters.)
Shopkeeper: Good morrow to you sir, how may I be of assistance to your good self on this day of exceptionally clement meteorological conditions?
Customer 1: I beg your pardon?
Shopkeeper: Good morning sir, nice day, how can I help you?
Customer 1: Ah, I’m with you now.  Do you sell wisdom?
Shopkeeper: Wisdom, sir?  Well if sir had chanced to glance up at the sign above the portal to this emporium upon making his entrance to the said establishment he would no doubt have observed that it states ‘Berkeley J Hornswoggle – Purveyor of Wisdom to the Gentry since 1776’.
Customer 1: So you do sell wisdom then?
Shopkeeper: Indeed sir, we are the foremost stockists of that very same commodity in the whole town of Loose Chippings – and the surrounding villages and hamlets.  It is in fact a veritable cornucopia of wisdom.
Customer 1: Good!  Well, I’d like some please.
Shopkeeper: (Laughs and then composes herself) I do beg sir’s pardon and trust that he will forgive my momentary and unaccustomed lapse into levity.  However, if sir will pardon the analogous reference, to enter this establishment requesting ‘some wisdom’ is somewhat akin to entering a leading bookseller’s and asking to be supplied with a book.  You see there are so many types of wisdom.
Customer 1: Well…er… (uncertainly with a question mark in his voice) Mrs Hornswoggle…?
Shopkeeper: Ah, no, alas sir, you are labouring under an understandable but unfortunate misapprehension; the last of the Hornswoggles departed this life to take up residence in the celestial department store many years back.  I am his niece, Esmerelda Charlatan, now the proprietor of this boutique.
Customer 1: Well Mrs Charlatan, I am a bit of a newcomer to the wisdom business – what sorts do you get?
Shopkeeper: Well sir, they are too numerous to list really, but to name but a few we have innate wisdom, accumulated wisdom, received wisdom, proverbial wisdom, Norman Wisdom and wisdom teeth.  At the lower end of the price scale we’ve got savvy, gumption, know-how, nous and craftiness, whilst for the more commodious purse we have acumen, sagacity and shrewdness.  But we at Berkeley J Hornswoggle deal principally in the ‘Worldly Wisdom’ range produced by Mankind PLC.
Customer 1: Oh dear, this is all rather confusing for a wisdom novice like me.
Shopkeeper: Perhaps if sir were to vouchsafe to me an indication as to the purpose for which he requires the wisdom, I might venture to tender some suggestions.  Now what are sir’s circumstances?
Customer 1: Well it’s a bit personal really… but I suppose you’ll need to know if you’re going to direct me to the right product.  I’ve just found out that my best friend has been going out with my girlfriend behind my back and I want to know what do to.  As it happens you might know my friend; a big chap with red hair and a cauliflower ear - he came in for some wisdom himself a while ago and you sold him some ‘If It Feels Good Just Do It’.  That’s what gave me the idea of coming to you.
Shopkeeper: Say no more!  I have just the thing for sir’s predicament.  (reaches for a box)  There!  ‘Sweet Revenge’; one of the best selling products from the Worldly Wisdom range.  I sell more of this than anything else.
Customer 1: (Uncertain) Well I actually had in mind something a little…er… how can I put it?  Constructive?
Shopkeeper: Constructive? – I begin to apprehend that perhaps sir is not fully cognizant with the realities of the situation; nothing is more constructive than ‘Sweet Revenge’.
Customer 1: (Faintly, unconvinced) Oh, I see.  (Pause)  I don’t suppose you have any ‘Love Conquers All’ do you?  Or perhaps some ‘Do Everything In Love’? – I’ve heard that’s very good.
Shopkeeper: No sir, I’m afraid there’s nothing of that sort in the Worldly Wisdom range.  I do recommend that sir tries the ‘Sweet Revenge’; it is most highly spoken of.
Customer 1: OK, I’ll take it.
Shopkeeper: Sir is very wise if I may say so.  Just apply it liberally to the problem area and I know it will give satisfaction.  That’ll be £125.
Customer 1: £125!  I had no idea it was going to cost that much!
Shopkeeper: The price of wisdom is beyond rubies, sir.
Customer 1: Oh well, I suppose you’re right (hands over money and receives change) Thank you.  Goodbye.
Shopkeeper: No, thank you sir.
(Exit Customer 1.  After a short pause Customer 2 enters.  He looks around for a while as if looking for something.)
Shopkeeper: Good afternoon, sir.  Do you require any assistance?
Customer 2: I’ve been looking for a bit of success, to tell you the truth and I wondered if there’s anything from ‘Worldly Wisdom’ that might help – I’ve heard a lot about it from my friends.
Shopkeeper: Sir is a most discerning consumer if I may take the liberty of saying so.  As a matter of fact I have only recently sold a product from that range to a customer; he took some of my ‘Sweet Revenge’.
Customer 2: Young hairy chap wearing a black shirt? (Or describe Customer 1)
Shopkeeper: Indeed so sir!  Are you perchance acquainted with the young gentleman in question?
Customer 2: No, it’s just that I saw him down the road carrying a bag from your shop.  He was being beaten up by a big bloke with red hair and a cauliflower ear and several of his mates.
Shopkeeper: Indeed so sir?  That can, of course, be an unfortunate by-product of ‘Sweet Revenge’.  Now sir, returning to the matter in hand, I would most certainly recommend this for your circumstances. (Hands a box to Customer 2)
Customer 2: (Reading from the box) ‘God Helps Those Who Help Themselves’.  Good, is it?
Shopkeeper: Guaranteed to bring success sir.  I have received many testimonials from satisfied customers.
Customer 2: How much is it?  Or can I just ‘help myself’?! (Laughs at his own devastating wit)
Shopkeeper: (Insincerely) Oh very droll!  Sir is most amusing I must say!  No, sir, the price is an exceedingly modest £99.99 and worth every penny if I may venture the opinion.  Is there anything else I can do for you sir?
Customer 2: Yes, there might be actually; a friend of mine was speaking very highly of some ‘Look Out For Number One’ that he bought here a while ago.  Do you have any in stock?
Shopkeeper: Most assuredly sir, we had in a new delivery of particularly good stock only yesterday.  May I take it that your friend was satisfied with his purchase, sir?
Customer 2: Very.  Though he says he’ll be back in for more tomorrow – said it didn’t last as he’d hoped.  As it happens, by pure coincidence his wife left him and he lost most of his friends shortly after he bought it.  Just one of those things, I suppose.
Shopkeeper: Indubitably sir.  There’s your ‘God Helps Those’ and there’s the ‘Look Out For Number One’.  That will be £214.99 altogether, sir.  Will sir be paying by cash or credit card?
Customer 2: Credit card. ‘Why pay today when you can put it off until tomorrow’ I always say.
Shopkeeper: Very wise sir. Thank you sir. Goodbye.
(Exit Customer 2.  Customer 3 enters after a pause.  In the meantime Shopkeeper messes around doing shopkeeper-type things – don’t ask me; I’m a writer not a shopkeeper!)
Customer 3: Good morning.  Lovely one isn’t it?
Shopkeeper: Good morning madam, the prevailing elemental conditions are indeed most congenial.  How may I be of assistance to you?
Customer 3: To be quite honest, I just came in out of curiosity.
Shopkeeper: Nothing wrong with a little honest curiosity, madam; though, of course, it did kill the proverbial cat, as a wise man once commented.  May I enquire as to the occasion of this thirst for knowledge?
Customer 3: Well... it’s just that all morning I’ve been seeing people carrying bags from your shop and I started to wonder what was in them.  The odd thing is they all seemed to be in some sort of trouble.
Shopkeeper: Indeed madam?  How very infelicitous.
Customer 3: First there was some hairy guy being beaten up by a red headed bloke with a cauliflower ear.
Shopkeeper: Indeed madam, I had been apprised of that young man’s misfortune.
Customer 3: Then there was the guy (describe Customer 2) who was being arrested for smashing a jeweller’s window and helping himself to a handful of diamonds.  Odd really, as they hauled him off to the police car he kept shouting about God helping those who help themselves. All I can say is that he’ll need all the help he can get after helping himself like that!
Shopkeeper: It would appear madam that he should have purchased another of our ‘Worldly Wisdom’ products.
Customer 3: What would that be?
Shopkeeper: ‘Do Whatever You Like But Don’t Get Caught’. Very popular.
Customer 3: Anyway, what was in those bags?
Shopkeeper: Wisdom, madam.  The house of Hornswoggle are merchants of the finest quality wisd...
Customer 3: (Interrupting) Wisdom!  That’s just what I need!  What do you have?
Shopkeeper: We stock the full range of ‘Worldly Wisdom’ products madam; ‘Only The Strong Survive’ (Darwin Edition), ‘You Only Live Once – Make The Most Of It’, ‘Winner Takes All’, ‘Do Unto Others As They Do unto You’, ‘What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You’, ‘Sweet Revenge’ as well as its companion product ‘Get Your Revenge In First’ and many others.  There is something to suit every possible…
(She is interrupted by the arrival of Robber crashing into the shop shouting)
Robber: (Brandishing a gun. Warning: in the UK it is illegal to carry even a replica gun in a public place – use an obviously toy gun such as a water pistol. In the USA you can use a nuclear device if you are so inclined.) Hands up or I shoot!  Hands up or I shoot!  (More calmly) Right take it easy everyone and no-one will get hurt!  (To Shopkeeper) You!  Slowly take all the money from the till and put it into a bag.  That’s the ticket – make sure you don’t miss any.
Shopkeeper: You’ll never get away with this!
Robber: Oh I think I will, you know.  You see, as well as the money I will be taking a few boxes of your best wisdom; ‘Look Out For Number One’, ‘Winner Takes All’, ‘Don’t Get Caught’ and all the rest – not forgetting, of course, ‘If No-one Gets Hurt It’s Not Really A Crime’ (Takes the money and grabs boxes) Thank you very much – pleasure doing business with you! (Exits)
Customer 3: I suppose after all that, you’ll be wanting to call the police and all that.
Shopkeeper: There will be time for that later, in the meantime, to name another of our products, ‘it’s business as usual’.  Can I interest you in anything?
Customer 3: I don’t know; I was looking for something more meaningful really.  I mean; these boxes, they’re all just empty really aren’t they, and often seem to make things worse.  Haven’t you got anything more, well… lasting I suppose.
Shopkeeper: Lasting?  Well I’ve never been asked for anything like that before!  I do have something at the back of the shop left over from my old great-grandfather’s day; some dusty old book with a cross on it.  (Rummages around and finally produces a dusty old Bible) Here it is.  Someone once told me that it tells about a different sort of wisdom, but to be honest the ‘Worldly Wisdom’ business has always been so brisk that I’ve never had time to look at it.  You can take it if you like.
Customer 3: (Blows dust off then turns pages to 1 Corinthians 1:20 and reads) ‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’  That’ll do nicely.  Thanks and goodbye.
Shopkeeper: (Rather dazed) Goodbye madam.
Copyright Trevor Fletcher, all rights reserved.
This script may be used without royalty payment, provided no charge is made for entrance to the performance. In return, the author would like to be told of any performance. He may be contacted at: