David Henry Hwang
with an Afterword by the Playwright
A PLUME BOOK
NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
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Copyright© 1986, 1987, 1988 by David Henry Hwang
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70 West 36th St., #501, New York, NY 10018.
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M . Butterfll' was previously published, in its entirety, in American Theatre magazine.
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"A former French diplomat and a Chinese opera
singer have been sentenced to six years in jail for
spying for China after a two-day trial that traced
a story of clandestine love and mistaken sexual
identity .... Mr. Bouriscot was accused of passing information to China after he fell in love
with Mr. Shi, whom he believed for twenty years
to be a woman."
-Tht New York Times, May 11, 1986
This play was suggested by international newspaper accounts of a recent espionage trial. For purposes of dramatization, names have been changed, characters created, and
incidents devised or altered, and this play does not purport
to be a factual record of real events or real people.
"I could escape this feeling
With my China girl ... "
-David Bowie & Iggy Pop
M. Butterfly, presented by Stuart Ostrow and David Geffen,
and directed by John Dexter, premiered on February 10,
1988, at the National Theatre in Washington, D. C ., and
opened on Broadway March 20, 1988, at the Eugene O'Neill
Theatre. M . Butterfly won the 1988 Tony for best play, the
Outer Critics Circle A ward for best Broadway play, the
John Gassner Award for best American play, and the Drama
Desk Award for best new play. It had the following cast:
Alec Mapa, Chris Odo, Jamie H.J. Guan
B. D. Wong
Marc/Man #2/Consul Sharpless
Renee/Woman at Party/Girl
Comrade Chin/Suzuki/Shu Fang
Lori Tan Chinn
George N. Martin
M. Toulon/Man #1/Judge
Scenery and Costumes: Eiko Ishioka
Lighting: Andy Phillips
Hair: Phyllis Della
Music; Giacomo Puccini, Lucia Hwong
Casting: Meg Simon, Fran Kumin
Production Stage Manager: Bob Borod
Peking Opera Consultants: Jamie H.J. Guan & Michelle Ehlers
Musical Director and Lute: Lucia Hwong
Percussion, Shakuhachi, and Guitar: Yukio Tsuji
Violin and Percussion: Jason Hwang
Musical Coordinator: John Miller
!'resent, an in reca]) duriR.g the deca de 1960 ta 1970 in
'Beijing, and from 1966 to the present in Paris.
M. Gallimard's prison cell. Paris. Present.
Lights fade up to reveal Rene Gallimard, 65, in a prison cell.
He wears a comfortable bathrobe, and looks old and tired. The
sparsely famished cell contains a wooden crate upon which sits a
hot plate with a kettle, and a portable tape recorder. Gallimard
sits on the crate staring at the recorder, a sad smile on his face.
Upstage Song, who appears as a beauti fu l woman in traditional Chinese garb, dances a traditional piece .from the Pekin
pera, surroun e
t e ercussive clatter o C inese musi .
hen, slow/ Ii hts and sound cross- ade· the Chinese o era
music issolves into a Western o era the "Love Duet" om
uccini's Ma ame Butterfly. Song continues dancing , now to
the Western accompaniment. Though her movements are the
same, the difference in music now gives them a balletic quality.
Gallimard rises, and turns upstage towards the figure of
Song, who dances without acknowledging him.
Butterfly, Butterfly ...
He forces himself to turn away, as the ima e o
an ta s to us.
GALLIMARD: The limits of my cell are as such: four-and-ahalf meters by five. There's one window against the far
wall ; a door, very strong, to protect me from autograph
ACT ONE, Scene Two
hounds. I'm responsible for the tape recorder, the hot
plate, and this charming coffee table.
When I want to eat, I'm marched off to the dining
room-hot, steammg slo p appears on my plate. When I
want to sleep, the light bulo turns itself oft the work of
fairies. It's an enchanted space I occupy. The French-we
know how to run a pnson. ·
But, to be honest, I'm not treated like an ordinary
· prisoner. Why? Because I'm a celebrity. You see, I make
I never dreamed this day would arci ve I've oevet been
considered witty or clever. In fact, as a young boy, in an
· I nfo rmal poll among my grammar school classmates, I
was v? ted "least likely to be invited to a party." It's a title
I managed to hold onto for many years. Despite some
But now, how the tables turn! Look at me: the life of
every social function in Paris. Paris? Why be modest? My
fame has spread to Amsterdam, London, New York.
Listen to them! In the world's smartest parlors. I'm the
one who lifts their spirits!
With a ourish, Gallimard directs our attention to
o the stag!.
WOMAN: And what of Gallimard.?..
MAN 1: Gallimard?
MAN 2: Gallimard!
GALLIMARD (To us) : You see? They're all determined to say
my name, as if it were some new dance,
WoMAN: He still claims not to believe the truth,
MAN 1: What? Still? Even since 'the trial?
WOMAN: Yes. Isn't it mad?
MAN 2 (Laughing): He says .
. it was dark ... and she was
The trio break into laughter.
MAN 1: S9=:what? He never touched her with his hands?
MAN 2: Perhaps he did, and simply misidentified the equipment. A compelling case for sex education in the schools.
'WOMAN: To protect the National Security-the Church
can't argue with that.
MAN 1: That's impossible! How could he not know?
MAN 2: Simple ignorance.
MAN 1: For twenty years?
A party. Present.
Lights go up on a chic-looking parlor, where a well-dressed
trio, two men and one woman, make conversation. Gallimard
also remains lit; he observes them from his cell .
:MAN 2: Time flies when you're being stupid.
.WOMAN: Well, I thought the French were ladies' men.
MAN 2: It seems Monsieur Gallimard was overly anxious to
live up t o his national reputation.
WOMAN: Well, he's not very good-looking.
,MAN 1: No, he's not.
ACT ONE, Scene Three
MAN 2: Certainly not.
Butterfly. By Giacomo Puccini. First produced at La Scala,
Milan, m 1904, 1t 1s now beloved throughout the Western
WOMAN: Actually, I feel sorry for hjm
MAN 2: A toast! To Monsieur Gallimard!
A s Gallimard describes the opera, the tape segues in and out to
. sections he may be describing.
WoMAN: Yes! To Gallimard!
MAN 1: To Gallimard!
GALLIMARD: And why not? It~ heroine, Cio-Cio-San, also
known as Buttt:;rfl , ts a fetnmine ideal, beautiful and
rave. n its bera, the man for whom she gives up
everything, is-(He ulls out a naval o cer's ca
,s crate, pops it on his head and struts about -not ver
oo - oo ing, not too bright, and pretty much a wimp:
Benjamin Franklin Pin erton o
avy. s t e
curtain nses, he's just closed on two great bargains: one
on a house, the other on a woman-call it a package deal.
Pinkerton purchased the rights to Butterfly for one
hundred yen-in modern currency, equivalent to about
. .. sixty-six cents . ...So, he's feeling pretty pleased with
himself as Sharpless, the American consul, arrives to wit- ness the marriage.
MAN 2: Vive la difference!
They toast, laughing. Lights down on them.
M. Gallimard's cell.
GALLIMARD (Smiling): Yon see? I bey toa st me. I've become patron saint of the socially inept. Can they really be
so foolis h? Men like that-they should be scratching at
my door, begging to learn my secrets! For I, Rene
Gallimard, you see, I have known, and been loved by ...
the Perfect Woman.
Alone in this cell, I sit night after night, watching our
story play through my head, always searching for a new
endmg, one Vf hich redeems my honor, w here she returns
at la st to m arms. And I imagine you-my ideal
au 1ence--who come to u
Just a ittle, to envy m e.
Marc, wearin an o
ays the character.
to desi nate Shar less, enters and
PINKERTON/GALLIMARD: Sharpless! How's it hangin'? It's a
great day, just great. Between my house, my wife, and
the rickshaw ride in from town, I've saved nineteen cents
just this morning.
He turns on his ta pe recorder. Over the house speakers, we hear
the opening phrases of Madame Rnttecfly .
SHARPLESS: Wonderful. I can see the inscription on your
tombstone already: "I saved a dollar, here I lie." (He looks
around) Nice house.
GALLIMARD: In order for you to understand what I did an
why, I must introduce you to my avorite opera: Madam!!,
PINKERTON: It's artistic. Artistic, don't you think? Like the
way the shoji screens shde open to reveal the wet bar and
ACT ONE, Scene Four
disco mirror ball? Classy. huh? Great for impressing the
SHARPLESS: "Chicks"? Pinkerton, you're going to be a mirried man! ·
PINKERTON: Well, sort of
PINKERTON: Huh? Where?
PINKERTON: You mean, America? Are you crazy ? Can you
see her trying to buy rice in St. Lams?
So, you're not serious .
SHARPLESS: What do yon mean'? _
PINKERTON: This country-Sharpless, it is okay. You got all
these geisha girls running aroundSHARPLESS: I know! I live here'
PINKERTON: Then. you know the marriage laws, right?
split for one month, it's annulled!
PINKERTON/GALLIMARD (As Pinkerton): Consul, I am a sailor
in port. (As Gallimard) They then pcoceed ro sit:ig rb e
famous duet, "The Whole World Over."
The duet plays on the speakers. Gallimard, as Pinkerton , lipsyncs his lines from the opera .
SHARPLESS: Leave it to you to read the fine print. Who's the
PINKERTON: Cio-Cio-San. Her friends call her Butterfly .
Sharpless, she eats out of m y hand!
SHARPLESS: She's probably very hungry.
PINKERTON: Not like American girls. It's true what they s~
about Oriental girls. They want to be treated bacll
SHARPLESS: Oh, please!
PINKERTON: It's true!
SHARPLESS: Are you serious about this girl?
PINKERTON: I'm marrying her, aren't I?
SHARPLESS: Yes-with generous trade-in terms.
Ecole Nationale. Aix-en-Prov~nce . .12£1-
PINKERTON: When I leave, she'll know what it's like to have
loved a real man. And I'll even buy her a few nylons.
GALLIMARD: No, Marc, I think I'd rather stay home.
SHARPLESS: You aren't planning to take her with you?
MARC: Are you crazy?! We are going to Dad's condo in
· Marseille! You know what happened last time?
ACT ONE, Scene Five
GALLIMARD: Of course I do.
MARC: Of course you don't! You never know ..
GALLIMARD: ,.Who stripped?
MARC: The girls!
GALLIMARD: Girls? Who said anything about girls?
· MARC: Rene, we're a buncha university guys goin' up to the
woods. What are .we gonna do-talk philosophy?
GALLIMARD: What girls? Where do you get them?
MARC: Who cares? The point is, they come. On trucks.
Packed in like sardines. The back flips open, babes hop
· out, we're ready to roll.
GALLIMARD: y OU mean, they just-?
· MARC: Before you know it every last one of them-they 're
~tripped and splashing around my pool. There's no moon
· out, they can't see what's going on, their boobs are flapping, right? You close your eyes, reach out-it's grab
'bag, get it? Doesn't matter whose ass is between whose
legs, whose teeth are sinking into who. You're just in
there, going at it, eyes closed, on and on for as long as
you can stand. (Pause) Some. fun, huh?
Xou go ahead ... I may come later.
MARC: Hey , Rene-it daeso 't matter that you 'ce clumsy and
got zits-they're not looking!
GALLIMARD: Thank you very much.
Marc walks over to the other side of the stage, and starts waving
and smiling at women i~ the audience.
GALLIMARD (To us): We now return to my version of Madame Butterfly and the events leading to my recent conviction for treason.
Gallimard notices Marc making lewd gestures.
GALLIMARD: Marc, what are you doing?
MARC: Huh? (Sotto voce) Rene, there're a lotta great babes out
there. They're probably lookin' at me and thinking, "What
a dangerous guy."
GALLIMARD: Yes-how could they help but be impressed by
your cool sophistication?
Gallimard o s the
less ca on Marc's head, and oints
im offstage. Marc exits , leering.
GALLIMARD: What happens in the morning?
MARC: In the morning, you're ready to talk some philosophy. (Beat) So how 'bout it?
GALLIMARD: Marc 'I can 't , I'm afraid rbey'll say 00::::rbe
girls. So I never ask.
MARC: You don't have to ask! That's the beauty--don't you
see? They don 't have to say yes. It's perfect for a guy like
M . Gallimard's cell.
GALLIMARD : Next, Butterfly makes her entrance. We learn
her age-fifteen .. . but very mature fo r her years.
ACT ONE, Scene Five
Lights come up on the area where we saw Son dancin at the
. top o t e p ay. She a ears there a ain now dressed as Maame utter y, movin to the "
upstage s ig t y to watch, trans fixed.
But as she glides past him, beautiful, laughing
softly behind her fan, don't we who are men sigh with
hope? We, who are not handsome, nor brave, nor powerful, yet somehow believe, like Pinkerton, that we deserve
a Butterfly. She arrives with all her possessions in the
folds of her sleeves, lays them all out, for her man to do
with as he pleases. Even her life itself-she bows her head
as she whispers that she's not even worth the hundred yen
he paid for her. He's already given too much, when we
know he's really had to give nothing at all.
Music and lights on Song out. Gallimard sits at his crate.
GALLIMARD : In real life, women who pudheir total worth at
less than sixty-six cents are quite hard to find. The closest
we come 1s m the pages of these magazines. (He reaches
into his crate, pulls out a stack of girlie magazines, and begins
.flipping through them) Quite a necessity in prison. For three
or four dollars, you get seven or eight women.
I first discovered these magazines at my uncle's house.
· One day, as a boy of twelve. The first time I saw them in
his closet ... all lined up-my body shook. Not with
lust-no, with power. Here were women-a shelffulwho would do exactly as I wanted.
The "Love Duet" creeps in over the speakers. Special comes
up, revealing, not Song this time, but a pinup girl in a sexy
negligee, her back to us. Gallimard turns upstage and looks at
I know you're watching me.
My throat ... it's dry.
I leave my blinds open every night before I go to
I can't move.
I leave my blinds open and the lights on.
GALLIMARD: I'm shaking. My skin is hot, but m y penis
soft. Why? ·GIRL:
I stand in front of the window.
I shouldn't be seeing this. It's so dirty. I'~
--Then, slowly, I lift off my nightdress.
What is she going to do?
I toss my hair, and I let my lips part . . . barely.
Oh, god. I can't believe it. I can't-
I toss it to the ground.
Now, she's going to walk away. She's going
I stand there, in the light, displaying m yself.
No, she must ... like it.
I like it.
In front of a window? This is wrong. No-
No. She's-why j s sbe naked?
She . . . she wants me to see.
I want you to see.
ACT ONE, Scene Five
GALLIMARD: I can't believe it! She's getting excited!
GIRL: I can't see you. You can do whatever you want.
GALLIMARD: I can't do a thing. Why?
GIRL: What would you like me to do .. . next?
Lights go down on her. Music o . Silence as Gallimard u
away is magazines . Then he resumes talking to us.
GALLIMARD: Act Two begins with Butterfly staring at the
ocean. Pinkerton's been called back to the U.S., and
'he's iven his wife a detailed schedule of his plans. In
the column mar e
return ate, he's written w en
bms nest. I his tailed to 1gmte her suspicions:
ree years have passed wit out a ee
Which b rings a res ponse from her · faithful servan.!_,
Comrade Chin enters, playing Suzuki.
SuzuK1: Girl, he's a loser. What'd he ever give you? Nineteen cents and those ugly D ay-Glo stockings ? L-;;ok, it's
finished! Kaput! Done! And you should be glad! I mean,
the guy was a woofer! He tried before, you know-before
he met you, he went down to geisha central and plunked
down his spare change in front of the usual candidateseveryone else gagged! These are hungry prostitutes, and
they were not interested, get the picture? Now, stor_
slathering when an American ship sails in, and let's make
' some bucks I mean, yen! We are brolce!
- 5 ow, w hat ahcmr j amadon? Hey, hey-don't look
away-the man is a prince--fi uratively, and, what's even
Eetter, 1tera y. e s rich, he's han some, e says e
.if.yon don't marry him-and he' s even w1llmg to~
look the little fact that you've been deflowered all over
the place by a forei gn devil. What do you mean " But
he's Japanese?" You're a anese! You th.
,_h¥--the whitey god? He was a sailor with dirty
Suzuki stalks offitage.
GALLIMARD: She's also visited by Consul Sharpless, sent by
Pinkerton on a minor errand.
Marc enters, as Sharpless.
SHARPLESS: I hate this job.
GALLIMARD: This Pinkerton- he doesn't show up personally
to tell his wife he's abandoning her. N o, he sends a
_government diplomat ... at taxpayer's expense..
SHARPLESS: Butterfly? Butterfly? I have some bad-I'm going
to be ill. Butterfly, I came to tell youGALLIMARQ: Butterfly says she knows he'll return and ifhe
doesn't she'll kill herself rather than o back to her own
peop e. (Beat) This causes a lull in the conversation.
SHARPLESS: Let's put it this way ...
GALLIMARD: Butterfly runs into the next room, and returns
Sound cue: a baby crying. Sharpless, "seeing" this, backs
SHARPLESS: Well, good. Happy to see things going so well. I
suppose I'll be going now. Ta ta. Ciao. (He turns away .
Sound cue out) I hate this job. (He exits)
GALLIMARD: At that moment, Butterfly spots in the harbor
an American ship-the Abramo Lincoln!
Music cue: "The Flower Duet." Song, still dressed as Butter.fly, changes into a wedding kimono, moving to the music.
ACT ONE, Scene Six
GALLIMARD: This is the moment that redeems he ...
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