9M/4F (M doubling possible)

The Interrogation of
Giovanni de Martiato

120 minutes, drama.
One set change at intermission.
..interesting and well constructed...
- Playwrights Horizons, NY.
...what an impressive piece of work!
-Lee Shackleford.
Work shopped at PROPThtr, Chicago. Quarter-finalist New Century Writer Awards-2002.

A defrocked friar attempts to save the sole survivor
of a Spanish Armada wreck from the scaffold.

Based on a true story.

(PDF format)

Four months after leaving Lisbon on the Spanish Armada ship, Santa Maria de la Rosa and, after much hardship and deprivation, 12 year-old Giovanni de Martiato washes ashore near Dingle on the southwest coast of Ireland, naked on a board. In Dingle, Friar deCourcy ministers to the locals as best he can while tending to their secular needs in medicine and dentistry without offending the locals, blaspheming the Lord, or being hung by the English.

As he works to help Giovanni, painful memories resurface from deCourcy's own past that parallel Giovanni's plight and the plights of all involved in his rescue.


It is dawn and the customers of the Sack and Sow inn are rousing themselves from the previous nigh't debauchery. Among them is Fergal deCourcy, defrocked friar and town drunk. He is also the town dentist, barber, letter writer and chess partner of Rice, the town's mayor. It is 1588 and the countryside is just recovering from years of famine. The English are in charge and must not be angered (especially Rice) because any hostility toward the English will plunge the country into another famine.

Tomas MacCarthy, a member of the local garrison, an Irishman with a very weak sense of loyalty to anyone or anything, arrives at the inn with a half dead, near-naked boy on his back. Tomas claims to have found him on the beach. After some interrogation, the motley crew of drunks in the inn determine that this boy is a survivor of the Spanish armada ship that foundered of the beach that very morning. When he comes to, the bosy asks after his father who was on the ship with him.

There is in force an order that all Spaniards coming ashore off an armada ship were to be considered invaders and captured. This, despite the obvious fact that the wretches coming ashore for weeks up and down the coast were half dead from starvation and battle wounds. The order further stated that such prisoners be questioned and, if they had no perceived ransom value, be executed.

Some in the inn are for hiding the boy but most are for handing him over to the castle for summary justice and possible reward so the drinking can continue. Among the latter is Fergal (defrocked friar and main character). To help in their decision, they decide to interrogate the boy to see if any possible ransom might be larger than any possible reward. During his mock trial, Giovanni defends himself by demonstrating (fraudently) that he was a valuable gunner aboard the stricken ship and he should be spared. Fergal warms to the boy especially when Blaithin (little flower) a 55+ hag and innkeeper, suggests that the boy looks like Fergal's younger brother who was killed along side Fergal in battle with the English under circumstances that Fergal has never been able to contemplate let alone discuss. The suggestion is that Fergal deserted the fight and in his guilt became a monk only to lose his faith under the weight of alcohol.

Meanwhile, outside a scaffold is being erected to hang any survivors.

Meanwhile, the foundering of the ship has spurned Rice to action. He sends to Cork for reinforcements convinced that the suspected second armada is about to land on his beach. He also recalls the soldier-of-fortune, Gwynn, to interrogate any survivors. [In fact, Giovanni is the only survivor of 300].

Meanwhile, in the middle of his mock trial, Giovanni hears the sounds of hanging from outside and, believing that it might be his father on the rope, he rushes outside only to run smack into Gwynn on his way to the castle. Giovanni is locked up in the castle dungeon.


Gwynn interrogates Giovanni. The boy lies about the son of the king of Spain being aboard his ship. This would be a propaganda coup and Rice orders Giovanni's execution stayed until all possible information is extracted from the boy. Fergal makes failed attempts to intercede for the boy that only culminate on Gwynn's raping Giovanni (not portrayed on stage). Fergal's rage intensifies but the task of rescuing the boy falls to Catalina, the wife of a Portuguese wine importer. Catalina and Fergal are having an affair and plan to return to Spain together as soon as her husband returns from Portugal with a wine shipment. Catalina promises that her husband will reward Rice well on his return if Rice will only stay the boys execution until then. Catalina had previously lost her only son and sees Giovanni as a replacement to help restore her marriage .

This is agreed upon but when the reinforcements arrive from Cork, Rice is forced to reinstate the execution order. Her husband's ship has been sighted and will land on the morrow so Catalina now offers Rice her favors in exchange for delaying the execution once again. Rice agrees.

The ship docks and a letter is delivered to Catalina. Her husband is not aboard. He is in Portugal suing for a divorce from his wayward wife. Fergal now offers himself in place of the boy. Rice accepts based on his desire to win Catalina for himself on Fergal's demise. Rice has tasted her wares and considers them more enticing that the friendship or usefulness of his chess partner, Fergal.

Catalina and Giovanni escape to go aboard her husband's ship to flee this insane place. Fergal readies himself to die at the hands of O'Shea, the crippled gaoler and husband to Blaithin, who delights in hanging papists. Catalina reappears to plead with Fergal to save the boy. Rice has removed Giovanni to the scaffold for execution. O'Shea asks did they think that Rice would renege on his duty to the crown and allow a prisoner return to Spain to report on the total lack of defenses on the Irish coast.

Catalina and Fergal hear again, from outside, the sounds of hanging.

Cast - 8M/3F (with doubling)

Bláithín O'Shea
F 55 Innkeeper. Mater doloroso.
Róisín O'Shea
F 20 Daughter of Bláithín and maidservant to Rice. Light beauty.
Tomás McCarthy
M 22 Runner. Willing to please. Pursuer of Róisín.
Giovanni de Martiato
M 16 Genovese sailor. Feisty.
Dominick Rice
M 50 The Queen's sovereign representative in Dingle. The mayor.
Friar Fergal de deCourcy
M 45 Defrocked friar. Determined debauchery.
M 60 Runner. Simple-minded.
Séamus Fitz
M 22 Soldier. Not sure what side he is on.
Catalina Isabella Almeida
F 35 Wife of a Portuguese wine importer in Dingle. Dark beauty.
Philip II
M 55 King of Spain. Religious fanatic.
David Gwynn
M 35 Interrogator, soldier of fortune. Sadist.
M 60 Dungeon keeper. Husband of Bláithín. Poor man's sadist, Gwynn's sidekick.
Elizabeth I
F 55 Queen of England. Haughty.
Soldiers, Drummer boy

Elizabeth and Philip are seen in their private moments. Their attire is plain but well kept. If your budget can handle it, you may dress them in splendour.


The action takes place in two acts running about 110 minutes.

Three separate languages are spoken in this play: English, Irish Gaelic, and Spanish. The latter two are included briefly only to illustrate the difficulty the participants had in communicating. 95% of the lines are in English and any important line in Irish Gaelic or Spanish are repeated in English by another character (at least the gist of the line is repeated). Full translations are provided for the Irish Gaelic and Spanish lines. In addition, a pronunciation guide for the Irish Gaelic lines is included on this site (see the MISC tab on this page) and in the script.


Dingle, on the southwest coast of Ireland in late summer, 1588. Set pieces to illustrate the following:

Interior of tavern. Long table, counter, stools, window, door, shelves with bottles.
Interrogation room/anteroom in the castle. Table, chairs, door between interrogation room and anteroom. Door in anteroom to outside, small table in anteroom.
Philip's work chamber. Small altar, desk laden with paperwork, one chair, bell cord.
Rice's bed chamber. Double bed, window, door.
Catalina's bed chamber. Double bed, door.

Sound cues

Church bell, drum beat, sounds of a hanging, crowd cheering, soldiers marching, strong wind/rain.

In rewrite...

Pronunciation Guide

Modern English, Irish Gaelic, and Spanish are used throughout the play even though all three languages would have been spelled differently and pronounced differently in 1588. The table below described how the Irish Gaelic lines are spoken in County Kerry at the present day. The services of native Irish Gaelic and Spanish (Castilian) speakers are recommended.





























A' bhfuill Gailige agut, a bhuachailín? 

ă wĭl gāl’-ĭ-gĕ ă-gŭt’, ă vōō’-k«l-ēn 

Can you speak Irish, boy?

A' bhfuill Gailige agut?

ă wĭl gāl’-ĭ-gĕ «-gŭt’ 

Can you speak Irish?


ăm-ăch (guttural ch as in German auch)




Fool (male)



Female name (Little Flower)

Cad is anam duit?

kŏd iss ŏn’-ĕm dyĭt

What is your name?

Cá'duirt sé?

kô-dōōyrt shā

What did he say?

Cogar anseo.

kŏ’-gär n-shŏ’

Come here.

Conas tá's agut?

kŏn’-«s tôz «-gŭt’

How are you?

D'anam an diabhal.

tŏnŭm ŭn dē’yŭl

Damn you.



Male name (Donal)



Village name



Male name

Fan ansin

fŏn ŭn-shĭn

Stay there.

Gabh mo leithscéal.

Gŭ mŭ lĕ’shkā’-yŭl

Excuse me.



Male name (Gerald)

Níl aon nuacht agam ach go cuig sí síos.

nēl n nōō’-ŏcht «-gûm’ ŏk gŭ kwĭg shē shē’-ŏs (guttural ch as in German auch)

I have no news except that she sank.

Níl é sin Gailige.

nēl shĭn gāl’-ĭ-gĕ

That’s not Irish.

Níl focal ar bith aige.

nēl fŭk’-ŭl ĕr bĭ ăg-ŭm’

He hasn’t a word of it.

Nílim cinnte.

nēl-ĭm kĭn-tĕ

I’m not sure.



Male name (Patrick)



Female name (Little Rose)



Male name (James)


shā’-mŭs -hēn

Male name (Little James-endearment)

Sílim gur Sacsain é.

shē’-ĭm gŭr sŏx-ŭn ā

I think he’s English.



Male name (Thomas)




Tuigeann sé.

tyg-ŭn shā

He understands.