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
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)
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
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
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
Customer 1: £125! I had no idea it was going to cost that
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
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
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
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!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org