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Katie & Martin

luther13.jpgAs long as I'm posting plays, I thought I'd pull this one out of the attic. I wrote this one about 10 years ago. It was the final "paper" for a class on Martin Luther. I was reminded it of it recently when I was watching Luther, the 2003 film starring Joseph Fiennes. I think the love life of Katharina von Bora and Martin Luther would make a fun romantic comedy in the mold of Tracy and Hepburn. Tell me what you think.

Katie & Martin

Dramatis Personae

Conrad - chorus and narrator
Martin - reformer, theologian, monk
Katie - an escaped nun
Koppe - a merchant
Wolf - Koppe's nephew
Jerome - a young scholar
Amsdorf - a professor
Various Nuns and Townspeople

Scene 1

Conrad - This is a tale of love and marriage, made more remarkable because the two people in question are a monk and a nun. The monk is none other than Martin Luther. (gestures toward Martin) At the beginning of our story it has been five years since he posted his famous 95 theses on the eve of All Saints' Day in 1517 and almost a full year since he appeared before the Diet at Worms. (pronounced "vorms" with an "o" as in "gore")

Voice - Martin Luther, you stand accused of writing against the pope and his teachings and so have failed to be obedient to your church fathers. Are these works in question written by you and will you recant any part of them?

Martin - Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear and distinct grounds and reasoning - and my conscience is captive to the Word of God - then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.

Conrad - The Doctor became a bit of a celebrity as he was hounded by the papists and sought by princes loyal to the pope. A theological outlaw and an ecclesial exile, he found sanctuary in Wartburg for a time and ventured out in disguise. In March of 1522 he returned to Wittenberg still wearing the black cowl of an Augustinian monk, even though his teachings on Christian freedom were causing an uproar in monasteries across Europe.

Monk - Doctor Luther writes, "One does not live for himself alone, but for all humanity."

Nun - Doctor Luther writes, "The Son of God sets free those, like monastics, who have cloistered themselves under false vows; and by means of grace joyfully welcomes any who turn to Him and renounce these former vows."

Katie - Doctor Luther writes, "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."

Conrad - Nuns and monks were reading his works and not only reading, but acting and leaving their cloisters, sometimes enlisting the aid of the Doctor Luther himself.

Katie - Doctor Luther, our consciences, enlightened by the Gospel, do not permit to live as nuns any longer.

Scene 2

(Leonhard Koppe, an elderly man, perilously walks along a ledge, helped but mostly hindered his assistant and nephew, Wolf Tommitsch. He stops, trying to reach a window just above him. He finds that he cannot. After several tries, he taps on the wall with a key, maintaining his balance on the narrow ledge.)

Koppe - (sotto voice) Miladies. (no reply; clears throat) Miladies!

Katie - (opens window; looks around to find Koppe and nephew below) There you are, Herr Koppe! We had grown concerned about your punctuality.

(Koppe and Wolf take off their hats and make polite gestures of greeting while trying to keep their balance.)

Koppe - I beg your pardon, milady, but my nephew, Wolf...

Wolf - Good e'en'.

Koppe - ...and I, we were a bit waylaid, you see, ma'am. We are merchants, not mercenaries. 'Escape' is a bit out of our league.

Katie - (frowns) I see. We have procured some rope. (She tosses it out the window, narrowly missing the two.)

Koppe - I can see how that might be quite useful. Are you and the other ladies prepared to go?

Katie - We are, assuming you are men of good character.

Koppe - What?!

Katie - I trust that Doctor Luther would not send someone who might besmirch our reputation.

Koppe - (sighs) Milady, I am an old man and a well respected merchant. I mean you and your companions only the best. There will be no doubt as to your innocence when we arrive at Wittenberg.

Katie - (nods) And the other one?

Koppe - (looks over at Wolf, who smiles) Why, he's my nephew. He's... (stammers a bit and frowns) He's harmless.

(Wolf's smile disappears, realizing he's been insulted, and puts his hat back on defiantly.)

Katie - Very well. I suppose we have little choice.

Koppe - Yes, milady. As you say, milady. I urge that we go now.

(Wolf nods his agreement.)

Conrad - Katharine von Bora and eight other nuns stole away from the convent Marienthon at Nimbschen that night - that Easter eve in 1522. Katharine had been sent to a boarding school when she was five. After her mother died and her father remarried, she was sent to the convent, where she had two aunts to look after her.

All of her life she had never had to make any decisions for herself. But now she chose freedom and all the uncertainties that freedom brings.

Koppe - (shepherding the nuns) Please, this way.

(Wolf nods and mimics his uncle.)

Katie - (recoiling) What is that stench! (nuns join in, holding their noses or waving their hands)

Koppe - (looking around) What stench? (He looks accusingly at Wolf, who is testing the air with loud snorts. Wolf locks eyes with his uncle and shakes his head vigorously, pointing at the closest nun.)

Katie - (points at the wagon) That stench, there! Coming from the wagon.

Koppe - (chuckles) Oh, that. I told milady that we are merchants. We're herring merchants. (Wolf nods with pride and relief.)

Katie - This is unacceptable. You cannot expect us to ride all the way to Wittenberg with that stench.

Koppe - It grows on you.

Katie - That's what I'm afraid of.

Koppe - If milady would prefer to go back to her cell...

Katie - (somewhat indecisive, looks to others) You have us at a disadvantage, Herr Koppe. It seems we have no choice.

Koppe - It would seem that way. (helps nuns into the back of the wagon)

Scene 3

Conrad - With the rising of the Easter sun, the nuns sang a song to the risen Christ, but their joy was soon replaced by the reality of what their choice would mean. Escaped nuns were not very popular among the common folk and were often reviled as wantons.

(The nuns huddle together to one side as Koppe and Wolf go over to speak to Martin.)

Martin - Bless you, Herr Koppe, for your aid in this matter. I trust your journey was uneventful?

Koppe - We had a guard stop us a ways back, but a strong scent of herring seemed to dissuade him of his search.

Martin - They are a wretched looking lot, are they not? Poor souls. (addresses the nuns) Ladies, welcome to Wittenberg. I will write your families immediately and apprise them of the situation. It is my hope that out of charity they will provide for you. (Nuns look dubiously at one another.) If they will not see to your welfare, I, then will do whatever is in my power to secure your futures. In any case, I will make sure that you are fed and lodged while you are here.

Nun - Thank you for your kindness, Doctor. (Nuns murmur thanks.)

Conrad - Martin then saw to it that they had clothing, a place to stay, and a little money to tide them over.

Martin - (pen in hand) And you are?

Katie - Katharine von Bora.

Martin - (smiles) Von? Your parents are aristocrats. You should be well taken care of. Your father is?

Katie - Hans von Bora of Lippendorf, but I'm not sure he'll help.

Martin - (nods) Because you broke your vows. (sighs) Yes. Well, I have been known to be rather persuasive...

Katie - (slyly) Just as you were persuasive at Leipzig?

Martin - I won that debate.

Katie - From what I heard you walked right into Eck's little trap and most ingenuously convinced everyone you were a heretical Hussite. You consider this a victory?

Martin - (angry) Christ is the head of the church, and all of snotnose's little parlor tricks can't change...

Katie - Snotnose?

Martin - (mellows) A nickname.

Katie - Mmmm... (nods) I'm sure it is one he looks kindly upon. So, what I hear about Doctor Luther's infamous anger is true. It doesn't take much to provoke you, does it?

Martin - No, not much. Just a church which leads it's faithful straight to the gates of hell through false teaching, greed, and deceit.

Katie - And so to stop this infernal migration you would pitch a fit and call the devil "snotnose"?

Martin - Do you have any other relatives?

Katie - I have two aunts, but I don't think...

Martin - Nonsense, it won't hurt to contact them. Where do they live?

Katie - Nimbschen.

Martin - Nimbschen?

Katie - Marienthon.

Martin - The convent?

Katie - Yes.

Martin - Both?

Katie - Yes.

Martin - Perhaps it would be best to let that one lie for awhile.

Katie - How uncharacteristically cautious of you, Doctor.

Martin - As for your father...

Katie - He abandoned me to the convent.

Martin - Surely not.

Katie - My mother died when I was very young. My step-mother and I, well, she thought I was impetuous.

Martin - (sarcastically) I can't imagine. For now you have been invited to stay with Philip and Elsa Reichenbach, the town burgomaster and his wife. I trust that you will do well by them.

Katie - By all means, Herr Doctor. Thank you.

Martin - Herr Koppe will show you to their house. (Koppe moves to her aid, escorting her out. Martin watches them go.) Impetuous, eh? Haughty and prideful is more like it. I wonder how sad they were to find her cell empty Easter morning.

Scene 4

Conrad - Wittenberg must have been an exciting town for a woman who had spent her entire life cloistered. It was full of students from all over and alive with the arts. Katharine found herself spending much time with Lucas Cranach, the town artist and portrait maker, and she could regularly be found at the home of the Melanchthons.

Philip was young for a professor, much closer to Katharine's age, but his status at the university was second only to Martin himself. The Melanchthons took on boarders in their house and students would regularly gather at their house to read Latin and Greek poetry, sing, and put on plays.

In this atmosphere of gaiety many changes came over young Katherine. The shorn hair of a nun turned into long golden braids, and, quite unexpectedly, her heart turned to thoughts of love.

Katie - Explain to me again why we must practice our lines in this fashion?

Jerome - (from behind wall) Because the play is about two lovers separated by a wall. She can't see him, he can't see her. They can only speak through a chink. It's very romantic.

Katie - (mutters) It's very stupid.

Jerome - (sticks his head from around wall) I heard that. (comes around to sit next to Katie) I beg to differ, lady scholar, it stands metaphorically for all lovers. We never really see each other, do we?

Katie - (slyly) I see you.

Jerome - (missing the point) But not all of me, Katie. That's the point. You only see my external wall. Jerome Baumgärtner, actor, scholar, lawyer...

Katie - You're not a lawyer yet.

Jerome - (shrugs) Soon enough. Let's get back to the script shall we? We need to practice if we're to present this before I return to Nuremberg.

Katie - "Pyramus, art thou there?"

Jerome - "Truly I am, lady fair.

Katie - "I can barely hear you, dear Thisby."

Jerome - "Press your lips, then, closer to me."

(Katie turns to see Jerome come quite near indeed; backs slightly)

Katie - (awkwardly) Come to think of it, perhaps your way of practicing has its merits. (points to wall) I'm beginning to see why you like this script.

Jerome - They say it's all the rage in England right now.

Katie - Oh, do they?

Scene 5

Conrad - The first blossoms of love are beautiful but seldom lasting. Jerome left for Nuremberg to discuss plans of marrying Katie with his parents and Katie waited. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months.

Katie - Doctor Luther, may I speak with you?

Martin - Of course. (gestures to seat) Philip tells me you haven't received word from Jerome yet.
Katie - (nods) I was wondering if you would do me a favor? Would you be willing to write Herr Baumgärtner? He respects you greatly. A word from you might prompt him to reply.

Martin - (smiles) I didn't think you trusted my powers of persuasion. (Katie smiles slightly.) I'm not sure it is my place...

Katie - Doctor, when we arrived on your doorstep over a year ago you said you would do what was within your power to secure our future. All of the other sisters have been taken in by their families, are working as teachers, or are married. Only I remain.

Martin - I will do as you ask.

Katie - Thank you.

Conrad - Martin wrote the letter...

Martin - October 12, 1524. Grace and peace in the Lord! Dear Jerome, if you intend on marrying Katharine von Bora, make haste before she is given to some one else. She has not yet got over her love for you. I wish that you two were married. Farewell. Martin Luther.

Scene 6

Conrad - But the reply was not heartening. It seems Jerome's parents had other plans for the young lawyer, plans that did not include a wayward nun that might dim an otherwise bright future. Instead Jerome was married to Sibell Dichtel, a fifteen year-old girl.

As all of this was going on, Caspar Glatz, a pastor in the nearby town of Orlamünde, had taken an interest in young Katharine and had inquired with Martin about the possibility of his marrying her. Martin asked his friend and fellow professor, Amsdorf, to approach Katie on the matter.

(Amsdorf is seated as if waiting. He fiddles with his hat. Katie enters.)

Amsdorf - (stands, clearly nervous) Good day, milady, Katharine.

Katie - You wished to see me, Doctor?

Amsdorf - Indeed, yes, I wanted to see you, or rather, I should say that I was sent to see you, you see. Mmmm... Yes. Your garden looks quite nice, I must say.

Katie - Thank you. I've never had a garden before. I find that I quite like it. You say you were sent by someone?

Amsdorf - Hmm? Oh! Yes, well, um, I'm not accustomed to, or rather, my experience has not been in the manner of the way of, well, such things as these and I find that... ahem... (suddenly solemn) Katharine...

Katie - Yes?

Amsdorf - (deliberately) Have you ever... considered... matrimony?

Katie - (taken aback) That's very kind, Doctor, but I don't think I...

Amsdorf - Oh! No, not me! Heavens! (giggling) No. Oh dear, I think I've gone about this badly. (sighs and mops forehead)

Katie - Herr Doctor, have you been asked to come to me as an intermediary concerning the subject of marriage?

Amsdorf - (startled) How very perceptive of you. As a matter of fact that is my very purpose.

(Katie gestures with hand for Amsdorf to continue. Amsdorf, confused, mimics this gesture. Katie repeats. Business ensues.)

Katie - Doctor, who have you been sent to represent?

Amsdorf - Doctor Luther.

Katie - (shocked) Doctor Luther?

Amsdorf - No! Well, yes. I mean, Doctor Luther sent me to ask for your hand on the behalf of Pastor Glatz. (takes a deep breath)

(long pause)

Katie - Glatz?

Amsdorf - Yes, the pastor from Orlamünde. He's quite fond of you, it seems.

Katie - I see. And you and Doctor Luther think... Glatz... would make a suitable mate for me.

Amsdorf - Well, Doctor Luther was concerned about your future prospects, don't you know. None of us are getting any younger, you know. (Katie stares icily at him. Amsdorf swallows hard.) Then again, there must be other prospects for a fine lady such as yourself.

Katie - (building) Tell Herr Luther that I would rather marry you, or him for that matter, before I would wed... Glatz! (storms out)

Scene 7

Martin - She said what?!

Amsdorf - She said she'd rather marry me or you before she'd marry Glatz.

Martin - Why the ungrateful, prideful...

Amsdorf - Now...

Martin - From the moment I met her, she has struck me as haughty and arrogant. This only proves it.
Amsdorf - Martin, calm. She's still young. Her prospects are still considerable, not like us old men. (chuckles)

Martin - Us?

Amsdorf - Yes, us! (pours drinks) Two old bachelors in the prime of our bachelorhood. No time for wives and children in Academia. What business have we in marriage? Preposterous. Women are a mystery to us, Martin, and a mystery best left untouched, I should think. Much better for us to go on in our grand old fashion and leave the wooing to the young. Besides, look at us! Who'd have us? (laughs) Other than Katie?! (He laughs again. Martin joins in somewhat half-heartedly.)

Scene 8

Conrad - No one can truly say what turns a person from loathing to loving, but the two often seem to be a heartbeat apart. Martin Luther had a change of heart, though, that drove him to his knees.

Katie - What?!

Martin - I am asking you to marry me.

Katie - But...

Martin - Did you not tell Herr Amsdorf that you would rather marry me than Glatz?

Katie - I'd rather do a lot of things than marry Glatz, that doesn't mean I'm going to run out and do them. I thought you thought I was impetuous?

Martin - (nods) And haughty and prideful and selfish...

Katie - And now?

Martin - Now I think perhaps that I've met my match, because I have been accused of just such things. And if I were to wed, it seems fitting that it should be with someone as full of faults as I am, that I might learn again the fruits of grace.

Katie - I thought you didn't believe in purgatory, Doctor Luther.

Martin - (smiles) Not in the next life, no.

Katie - And in this life?

Martin - I had viewed marriage as a potent remedy for sin, something to quench the burning passions, but now I imagine it might be more. Perhaps it is an estate of faith, a vocation which could provide a living parable of the faith, a life of mutual self-giving.

Katie - You do know how to woo a lady, don't you Doctor Luther?

Martin - Katie, I am not much of a romantic. I am an aging man who may very well die soon, should my enemies have their way. But if you would have me, it would be my great honor to be your husband.

Katie - Yes, Doctor Luther, I will marry you.

Conrad - They were married that night in Martin's house. The Cranachs witnessed the marriage along with a small circle of their closest friends. It was a joyous event for those celebrating, but the deed was much reviled by Luther's critics. But, as the playwright wrote, "the course of true love seldom did run smooth."

Lawrence Lee
Reformation Day
June 6, 1996
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
prepared for James Stein's Theology of Martin Luther Class

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