Act I Pere Ubu, along with Mere Ubu and Captain Bordure, plot the killing of the King of Poland. Pere Ubu poisons Bordure’s men, who have assembled at a sumptuous feast, by providing an excrement covered toilet brush for all to taste. The act ends with Pere Ubu demanding that Mere Ubu, Captain Bordure, and the other conspirators ‘‘swear to kill the king properly.’’
Act II Pere Ubu attacks and kills King Venceslas of Poland. Queen Rosemonde and her youngest son, Bougrelas, escape to a mountain cave, but the Queen dies. The dead ancestors appear to Bougrelas and demand vengeance, giving him a large sword.
After some prompting from Mere Ubu about sharing some of his newly ill-gotten wealth, Pere Ubu throws gold coins to the crowd. Several are trampled in the mad rush. Pere Ubu’s response is to provide more gold as a prize to whoever wins a footrace. Afterwards, Pere Ubu invites the assembled multitude to an orgy at the palace.
Act III Pere Ubu and Mere Ubu discuss what to do now that they are the sovereigns of Poland. Pere Ubu has decided, now that he no longer has any need of Captain Bordure, not to elevate him to the rank of Duke of Lithuania. Bordure ends up in Pere Ubu’s dungeon but escapes to ally himself with Czar Alexis. Meanwhile, Pere Ubu executes all of Poland’s nobles so that he can then lay claim to their properties. Then, he follows suit with the magistrates and the financiers, claiming a reform in both the law and financial dealings of the government. When he realizes that all of the government workers have been killed, Ubu shrugs and simply says that he himself will go door to door to collect the taxes.
Bordure sends Ubu a letter in which he reveals his plans to invade Poland and re-establish Bougrelas as the rightful King. Ubu weeps and sobs in fear until Mere Ubu suggests they go to war. Pere Ubu agrees but refuses to ‘‘pay out one sou’’ for its expense. With the cardboard cutout of a horse’s head around his neck, Ubu leads his army off to battle against Bordure, Czar Alexis, and Bougrelas.
Act IV Mere Ubu searches the crypt that holds the remains of the former Kings of Poland for the Polish treasure. She discovers it among the bones of the dead kings but cannot carry it all out at once. When she says that she’ll come back tomorrow for the rest of the treasure, a voice from one of the tombs shouts, ‘‘never, Mere Ubu.’’ Bougrelas advances to Warsaw and wins the first battle. Mere Ubu escapes amid rifle shots and a hail of stones. Meanwhile, Pere Ubu and the czar do battle in the Ukraine. The tide shifts, first one way, then another. Finally, Pere Ubu and his army are bested. They escape to a cave in Lithuania. A bear attacks while Ubu is in the cave with two of his soldiers; Ubu climbs to safety on a rock, and, when asked for help, responds by mumbling a Pater Noster (‘‘Our Father, who art in heaven ...’’). After the soldiers kill the bear, Ubu falls asleep, and the two men decide to escape while they have the opportunity.
Act V After crossing Poland in four days to escape Bougrelas and his army, Mere Ubu arrives at the cave where Pere Ubu is sleeping fitfully. Unseen by her husband, Mere Ubu pretends to be a supernatural apparition to make Pere Ubu ask forgiveness for his ‘‘bit of pilfering.’’ Instead, Mere Ubu is treated to a litany...
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of her faults. When he discovers that it is Mere Ubu in the cave, Pere Ubu throws the dead bear on top of her. Not taking any chances that it might still be alive, Pere Ubu climbs up on the rock and begins the Pater Noster routine again. Angered that Mere Ubu laughs at him, Pere Ubu begins to tear her to pieces. But, before he can do much damage, Bougrelas and his army arrive and soundly beat the Ubus, who just manage to escape to a ship on the Baltic Sea. Pere Ubu plans to get himself nominated Minister of Finances in Paris so that the whole sordid series of events can begin again.