Professor Winslow’s living room at Hillsdale, a small New England college. A door at stage right of the back wall leads to the central hallway and the front door, and a door in the side wall at stage left leads to the Professor’s study, into which, though we do not see it, another door from the corridor gives access. The door into the hall is open. A fireplace in the center of the back wall. The room has been furnished in very good taste by the late Mrs. Winslow, a portrait of whom as a young girl hangs over the fireplace. On the table, in a silver frame, is a large photograph of her. The Professor’s nineteen-year-old daughter Fran is lounging in an arm-chair reading Mad magazine, with one shoe dangling from her toe. Chuck Chambers, a young instructor, enters from the door to the corridor. He looks more like a student than an instructor: corduroys, sneakers, a jersey, a bristling crew haircut.
FRAN (looking up but not rising or changing her position): Why didn’t you ring?
CHUCK: Your father’s always glad to see me.
FRAN: How do you know I am?
CHUCK: That doesn’t influence me. (Handling her a copy of Liberation.) If you can tear yourself away from that garbage, you might care to look at this. It’s got a firsthand account of Alabama. I suppose that we ought to have gone.
FRAN (taking the magazine): I see you’ve stopped cleaning your nails?
CHUCK: They’d just get dirty again.
FRAN: You’ve got more blackheads around your nose. You’re the most disgusting object on the campus.
CHUCK: That’s why I haven’t been around lately. I didn’t want to disgust you. Do you think I’m more disgusting than Spooky Simms?
FRAN: He at least wears a clean shirt.
CHUCK: Is that why you see so much of him?
FRAN: I don’t.
CHUCK: You went to the Middlebury game with him.
FRAN: I don’t want to get him against me. He’s trying to downgrade Father.
CHUCK: How can he? Your father’s got life tenure.
FRAN: They want him to teach Freshmen courses and give up his regular lectures.
CHUCK: Your father’s an institution. He’s been giving that Shakespeare course for years.
FRAN: But Spooky Simms is the head of the department, and he can dictate to most of the others.
CHUCK: I suppose they can’t stand having your father put on a successful show and divert attention from their goddam explications. I know that they think he’s a ham, and so in a way he is. But I can’t help respecting the old boy. Your father doesn’t give a damn about how much of a fool he makes of himself so long as he can put over good literature. When he used to give us Shelley’s Skylark, he’d flap his arms like this so you’d expect him to soar off the platform. (He demonstrates.)
“Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert”…
He’d act out every character in Shakespeare from lago to Sir Toby Belch. As Ophelia, he was absolutely priceless. When he read that last poem of Browning’s about greeting the Unseen with a cheer, half the class gave the Hillsdale yell.
FRAN: That never happened.
CHUCK: They also say he used to do a morris dance with bells on his ankles.
FRAN: That’s another legend.
CHUCK: It’s finding that unknown Elizabethan play that’s made them all furious. You think it’s genuine?
FRAN: He thinks so.
CHUCK: Were you with him when he found it?
FRAN: No. I was staying in London. He was off on a hike by himself.
CHUCK: Why hasn’t he shown it to anybody?
FRAN: He wants to edit it himself—and he wants to have it acted first.
CHUCK: Of course: he wants to wow them. He’s playing the Duke himself, I understand. Well, if it is authentic, they’ll never forgive him; and if it isn’t, they can say he’s nuts. It’s a pity that the first production has to depend on the talents of Hillsdale!
Professor Winslow enters stage right. Bone spectacles, an old-fashioned Van Dyck beard, a green velvet waistcoat, an orange silk necktie secured by a ring. He is radiant; at fifty-four, still full of almost boyish enthusiasm.
WINSLOW: Well, I think I’ve made out a good case!
CHUCK: You mean about the authorship?
WINSLOW: I think there can be no doubt that the play is by Henry Chettle! There’s nothing about it in Henslowe’s diary, but all the plays weren’t commissioned by Henslowe.
CHUCK: But Chettle was just a hack, and you say that the play is brilliant.
WINSLOW: Now, look: suppose that nothing survived except the weaker plays of John Webster, that we knew nothing about his great tragedies. Who could possibly imagine their somber magnificence—like a catafalque of rich brocade? Who could imagine from the pinchbeck of the worst of John Ford his alembicated lyric pathos? Should we not have thought of both of these writers as hacks?
CHUCK: There’s a good lyric in The Devil’s Law Case:
“Vain the ambition of kings,
Who seek by trophies and dead things
To leave a living name behind,
And weave but nets to catch the wind.”
He reads poetry well, not at all in the tone of his conversation.
WINSLOW: A few good passages,—but there are good things in Chettle, too—and why should not Chettle as well have written a masterpiece. We have, after all, only one play of his that’s not a collaboration: a tragedy of revenge, Hoffman, and it’s not unlike the one I’ve discovered—the same imagery, the same mannerisms of style.
CHUCK: How would you date your play?
WINSLOW: A reference to Queen Elizabeth as still alive shows that it must be earlier than 1603—and Chettle must have died at some point between 1603 and 1607. And the play is so much superior to Chettle’s other productions that it may well be the last thing he wrote and the culminating work of his life. (With deliberate smiling slyness, as if he were lecturing to a class.) But that’s not the whole story. I don’t think that Chettle was alone in the authorship of this play. There are passages that must come from another hand, and I don’t think it could have been anyone so relatively inferior as Middleton or Dekker or Rowley. (He pauses, but Chuck does not encourage him by asking who he thinks this collaborator might be.) Now, we know on positive evidence that Chettle had a hand in Sir Thomas More—which was also discovered in manuscript—and you know who else had a hand. The handwriting shows it conclusively.
CHUCK: You mean Shakespeare.
WINSLOW: You’ll tell me what you think when you’ve seen it. There are certain scenes in the play that, it seems to me, could only have been written by Shakespeare.
CHUCK: Where do you see the resemblance?
WINSLOW: Well, you know Shakespeare’s marvelous nocturnes: the ghost on the battlements at the beginning of Hamlet, Iachimo in Imogen’s bedchamber. There’s a hair-raising night scene at the beginning of the play. And then there’s a scene with the clown that seems to me unmistakable. It’s just the kind of thing that Shakespeare wrote for his favorite comic actor Will Kempe.
CHUCK: Who’s your clown?
WINSLOW: Terry Moran.
CHUCK: You’re running an awful risk. I hope that he turns up sober.
WINSLOW: Oh, Terry’s a glorious clown. I always had him do the comics when we read the plays aloud in class, and he had everybody in stitches.
CHUCK: And Spooky Simms is your villain, I understand.
WINSLOW: Not exactly the villain—a spy.
CHUCK: Aren’t you carrying type-casting a little too far? How did you get him to play it?
FRAN: He doesn’t want to be left out of anything, and he wants to propitiate Father.
The doorbell rings, and Fran goes to answer it.
WINSLOW: Oh, Ned’s not so bad as that. And he has one superb speech—one of the best in the play. He does have a real love of literature—in spite of what I can’t help feeling is a rather pedantic tendency to pick at texts and attempt to find all kinds of things in them that the author couldn’t possibly have put there. That’s a fashion that will soon pass. The voice of the great poets will always drown out their analysts!
Fran comes back with Spooky Simms. He is pale and blond, in his late thirties. Correct collegecampus garb: white buttoned-down shirt, conservative tie, trousers and jacket of different materials. He has earned his college nickname by a certain slightly creepy quality.
WINSLOW: Hello, Ned. I’ve just made what I think are some interesting discoveries about our play. And you, I understand, have been doing some very exciting work on Yeats.
Spooky salutes Chuck and Fran, but Chuck does not respond.
SPOOKY: I’ve cracked The Wild Swans at Coole!
WINSLOW (smiling): Not irreparably, I hope.
SPOOKY: I started off on the wrong track: I was looking for symbols of the Mass.
CHUCK: Yeats was a Protestant with a leaning toward Theosophy. He was all against Catholic Ireland.
SPOOKY: That was only incidental criticism. I think there can be no question that he was always a crypto-Catholic. I could show it to you in poem after poem: Kiltartan Cross in the Airman, the Nativity in Among School Children. But that’s not what’s important here—it’s the homosexual thing.
CHUCK: What homosexual thing?
SPOOKY: Oh, my dear boy, it’s all there! The poem is crammed with homosexual allusions. The wild swans—Wilde—remember that Yeats knew Oscar—we don’t know how well. And swans—that refers to Proust. Swann’s Way had come out in 1919—just six years before the poem.
CHUCK: Yeats didn’t read French.
SPOOKY: He had his ways: Arthur Symons.
WINSLOW: There’s the phone. (It has not been heard.) Excuse me, Ned. Rehearsal tomorrow, remember.
SPOOKY: I’ll be there.
Winslow goes into the study, closing the door.
CHUCK: That’s all a lot of crap, Spooky.
SPOOKY: Well, give it a close reading. Are the wild swans really swans? There’s no mention of any females—nothing about eggs or cygnets? (He reads flatly, with no regard for the poetry.)
“Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cool
Companionable streams or climb the air.”
“Lover by lover,” you notice.
“Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?”
“Delight men’s eyes.” You see. The swans are, of course, young men, and Yeats is quite specific about them. He tells us that there are “nine and fifty swans”—that is, fifty-nine young men. This is of great biographical interest. And then, of course, the wild swans of Hans Christian Andersen, who were all, you remember, young princes. And Andersen himself was a homosexual.
CHUCK: I thought Yeats was a confirmed hetero. What about Maud Gonne?
SPOOKY: Maud Gonne was six feet tall and had a square jaw like a New York policeman. Did you ever see a portrait of her? A bull dyke, if ever you saw one.
CHUCK: I won’t buy that.
SPOOKY: You haven’t seen the whole argument. I’m doing a paper on it for Contemporary Explications.
CHUCK: I don’t expect to see it.
SPOOKY: Of course, your discipline should really have been Classics. It’s a pity they’re so weak at Hillsdale. You had to do it all yourself and be practically an autodidact. Do you have any time for them with your teaching load?
CHUCK: Yes: I’m translating Pindar.
SPOOKY: From what point of view?
CHUCK: From the point of view of putting him into English.
SPOOKY: In verse?
CHUCK: Yes, of course.
SPOOKY: Isn’t that rather an ambitious project?
CHUCK: It’s never been adequately done, and I’m certain that I can do it.
SPOOKY: I admire your self-confidence, Chucky, but even if you can, I’m not sure that such an undertaking, quite outside your own field, which is English, is the best possible qualification for advancement in the academic world.
CHUCK: To hell with the academic world!
SPOOKY: I suppose you must have felt a temptation. to become a professional athlete. I understand you’ve had offers from some of the big teams. You’ve been doing such splendid work as coach here. It’s such a pity you lost the big game.
CHUCK: Oh, go screw yourself, Spooky—that’s the only way you’ll ever make it.
SPOOKY: In the first place, if you don’t mind, Chucky, I’d rather you wouldn’t call me by that nickname in public, as you did the other day. It might have a bad effect on the Freshmen—to whom, after all, I’m responsible in a way that you are not.
CHUCK: Don’t worry about what you’re called. They’ll soon—
FRAN: Come, come: this isn’t a play by Albee!
SPOOKY: I’m afraid I must go, Fran. But what I really called about was to ask you to go to the John Cage concert.
FRAN: A fun evening! Funny noises.
SPOOKY: One can’t be sure that there isn’t something in it. One ought to give it a hearing.
SPOOKY: Dinner first: I’ll come to get you at seven.
FRAN: Make it twenty minutes past. I’ll have to rehearse the Ophelia scene with Father.
SPOOKY: Very good. Seven twenty, Saturday.—Good-bye, Chucky.
Chuck does not acknowledge this. Fran leaves the room with Spooky, accompanying him to the front door. Chuck looks after him with angry disgust. He picks up Mad magazine, glances at it, then throws it down. In the meantime, while Spooky Simms is putting on his coat, we hear this conversation from the hall.
SPOOKY: I thought I handled that with dignity.
FRAN: He is very difficult. But you have to make allowances.
SPOOKY: Yes, of course.—Well, till Saturday.
He goes out, and Fran returns.
CHUCK: He’s getting ready to put the skids under me and your father both.
During the conversation that follows, he walks up and down the room. Fran goes back to her chair.
FRAN: I’m going to work on him Saturday.
CHUCK: Butter him up under false pretenses!
FRAN: That’s academic life.
CHUCK: I insulted him just now.
FRAN: And I have to try to defend you.
CHUCK: They’d fire me anyway.
FRAN: I’m trying to save you.
CHUCK: I’m on a higher level than they are, so they hate me.
FRAN: Well, why don’t you at least look decent?
CHUCK: What’s the use?
FRAN: Well, for one thing, I’d enjoy seeing you more.
CHUCK: You don’t give a damn about me anyway.
FRAN: I wouldn’t worry about you if I didn’t.
CHUCK: I tried cleaning up on your account, and I never got anywhere with you. What’s the use?
FRAN: That lasted about ten days.
CHUCK: I thought you promised me something.
FRAN: Conditions weren’t favorable then.
CHUCK: You’d always find conditions unfavorable.
FRAN: Then you get sulky and disagreeable.
CHUCK: I still am.
FRAN: Well, don’t take it out on other people. Why should you be so rude to everybody?
CHUCK: You’re pretty sassy yourself.
FRAN: I’m part of the picture here. You’re just barely hanging on.
CHUCK: And your delightful but dotty old father. They want to make him do Freshmen English—try to teach these delinquents to read and write till they decide to drop out at the end of the first term. That’s where they’ve got me.
FRAN: I don’t see why you didn’t go in for Greek.
CHUCK: No demand for it, and I’m an even more irritant burr for the kind of people that teach it. And by taking on a frankly menial job, I’m free to devote my time to it.
FRAN: I don’t think they can make father teach freshmen.
CHUCK: They’ll do everything possible to crab his act. Spooky’s building up a department of antihumanistic little operators like himself—handpicked as inferior to him. And you can’t go lower than that. He doesn’t want a brilliant entertainer showing the students that literature can be made exciting. He doesn’t even care about the prestige of the college. Your father used to be known as the genius who sold Shakespeare to the football men. Now Spooky has flunked half the team for not following his Talmudic interpretations. That’s why we lost the Middlebury game. God help Winky Carter this year if he won’t believe that Yeats was a pansy. He’s our prize player but a pretty smart guy.
FRAN: I’m going to make that point. I think I can save Father’s lectures.
CHUCK: What will be the price? Your hand in marriage?
FRAN: You let me worry about that.
CHUCK: I never can have a wife because I’ll never have permanent tenure.
FRAN: You’ve done everything possible to prevent it.
CHUCK: I’m living like a goddam monk working over a classical manuscript, and I can’t get anywhere with you.
FRAN: I’ve taught you to blow your nose.
CHUCK: Do you think that Spooky’s a pansy himself?
FRAN(shrugs): He’s a professional mama’s boy.
CHUCK: With a tiny little power drive.—Mrs. Simms is in the play too?
FRAN: She’s Queen Constance of Aragon.
CHUCK: God! I’m afraid it’s going to be a howl.—Whenever I see Mrs. Simms, I’m glad that I don’t have a mother. But you had a nice one, didn’t you?
CHUCK(stopping in front of the portrait): That’s her, is it?
FRAN: Yes—when she’d just come out.
CHUCK: She was a pupil of your father’s?
FRAN: She never really went to college—but she audited a course of his at Barnard. It was quite a romantic affair. Her family were all against her marrying him. He was just a poor English instructor. But they were crazy’ about one another.
CHUCK: They say she died of living at Hillsdale, I’ve never understood why you stayed here. In my case, it was the best I could do. They gave me a scholarship.
FRAN: You got your M.A. at Harvard.
CHUCK: And they hated me there worse than here.—But you could have gone to Bryn Mawr or anywhere.
FRAN: I had to stick by Father. He’s never really gotten over Mother’s death. I thought that he was going to die of despair. He sometimes still thinks she’s around. They spent their honeymoon on a walking trip in England. That’s why he went there last summer. He found some valuable books when he took that hike with my mother, and he sometimes talks as if she’d been with him when he discovered this manuscript. She was always sure that some day he’d do something outstandingly brilliant.
CHUCK: And I was a bastard and an orphan!
FRAN: You mustn’t tell people that too often.
CHUCK: That’s a very poor joke.
FRAN: What joke?
FRAN: That wasn’t a joke—it was accidental. Don’t have such a chip on your shoulder.
CHUCK: Why not?—What I meant was I can’t even imagine growing up in a loving family. And don’t you show off yourself with that coming-out stuff either. Your people had it made. I had to do everything myself.
FRAN: Don’t give me all that again.
Winslow comes in from the study.
WINSLOW: A terrible blow has fallen! Winky Carter has flunked Physics a second time, and his work is below standard. Ned Simms won’t even give him a B minus.
CHUCK (to Fran): What was I just telling you?
WINSLOW: Now they won’t let him take part in any extra-curricular activities. I’ve argued with the Dean, but he’s adamant.
CHUCK: They’re sabotaging the play. This isn’t the first evidence of it.
WINSLOW: Oh, no: I don’t think so. But what are we going to do? We’ve got to get someone for Giovanni, and the opening’s only five days off!
CHUCK: Sam Defoe?
FRAN: Oh, no: he’s a stick, and he mumbles. When he played Hippolytus in Phaedra, nobody could possibly imagine why Phaedra was so crazy about him.
WINSLOW: You made quite a terrifying Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi, Chuck, and this part needs a certain brutality.
CHUCK: Get it up in five days?
FRAN: You know Pindar and Homer by heart. I don’t see why you couldn’t do it.
WINSLOW: Yes, Chuck: you’re just the man. I was never really satisfied with Winky, and I’m sure that you can give it the noble fire and the angry strength held in reserve that is what the part demands.
CHUCK: Well, the Middlebury game is over. Let me read the script.
Winslow dashes out into the study.
CHUCK: What do I do in the play?
FRAN: You carry out a hideous revenge. You’re out to kill the man who murdered your father, but you get killed yourself instead.
CHUCK: That would be just my luck.—Who are you?
FRAN: I’m your girlfriend—so take a bath before rehearsals.
CHUCK: What happens to you?
FRAN: I go crazy on account of you’re killed.
CHUCK: A likely story!
Winslow comes back with the script.
WINSLOW: Can you read it right away? There’s not a moment to lose! But please don’t talk about it. All the actors have been pledged to secrecy.
CHUCK: I’ll let you know tonight.
He takes the script and goes out, without further ceremony.
WINSLOW: I believe that Chuck could be splendid!
FRAN: Do you think he can act with Spooky?
WINSLOW: Oh, both of them are dedicated souls. Their approaches, of course, are different; but where it’s a question of poetry, such differences are unimportant. I know that Ned doesn’t approve of my methods, but he’s glad to appear in my play—in the play. The competition between theories of interpretation belongs to the small academic world—a matter of parochial jealousies. On the great stage of Elizabethan drama, all such rivalries must be forgotten!
FRAN: I hope you’re right.—I must get on that damn sociology.
WINSLOW: How abominably they write!
FRAN: You said it.
She goes out by the door into the hall. Winslow turns to the portrait.
WINSLOW: If only Daphne were here! I feel that she will be with me on our opening night!
“Oh, lyric love, half-angel and half-bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire”—
He puts his hands over his eyes and begins to sob.
“Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died”—
The telephone in the study is heard. He turns briskly and goes back into the study.
THE NIGHT OF THE PLAY
In front of the curtain, Professor Edgar J. Creech and his assistant Warren Tisdale. They are wearing their hats and overcoats, and both carry umbrellas.
TISDALE (soft-spoken, tactful and very deferential toward Creech): I hope that that plane didn’t—shake you up.
CREECH (loud, harsh, nasal Middle-Western voice): I never let anything shake me up. I’ve been through much worse than that. I went by freighter to Uppsala in the middle of December once. I had to examine the only existing quarto of The Merry Wench of Westminster. The only time I could get away: Christmas holidays. I had to go by way of the Baltic—too expensive by train. Roughest voyage I ever had.
TISDALE: What a marvelous edition you made of the Wench. I wonder whether this trip will be equally rewarding.
CREECH: I doubt it.
TISDALE: You’re evidently the only expert who’s taken the trouble to come here. You’re also, of course, the only real expert.—One wonders why Winslow hasn’t shown it to anyone.
CREECH: One may well wonder.
TISDALE: He now thinks that Chettle wrote it. If it’s as poor stuff as what we have of Chettle’s, it was hardly worth the finding.
CREECH: All texts are of equal value—if they’re authentic.
TISDALE: If they’re authentic, of course.—I wonder whether he knows you’re here.
CREECH: He will when he sees me.
TISDALE: You know him?
CREECH: I met him once—heard him lecture.
TISDALE: What impression did you get of him?
CREECH: A mountebank.
TISDALE: Most popular lecturers are mountebanks. Scholars like yourself are almost extinct—or will be when you are gone. Who is there to take your place?
TISDALE: I’ve at least mastered your method—I hope. (A suggestive pause, but no answer.) Though I haven’t your encyclopedic learning. But someone will have to be found to carry on your tradition in the George Hamilton Pratt chair.
CREECH: You couldn’t carry it on, if that’s what you’re thinking of. Not only don’t you have the knowledge, you don’t have the necessary character. Scholarship needs lifelong persistence and uninterrupted application. I’ve refused to give courses for thirty-five years—nowadays I hardly even see graduate students. But you’ve become a popular teacher. I don’t say you’re a mountebank, but you probably will be when I’m dead. I’m not leaving you my blessing for the chair, if that’s what you’re hinting at.
TISDALE (shocked and crushed): May I ask who will have that distinction?
CREECH: Nobody: the chair will be abolished.
TISDALE: How can it be abolished?
CREECH: I’ve told Pratt I want it abolished, and the money to go thereafter to adding to the Elizabethan collection and keeping my editions in print.
TISDALE: Isn’t that something for the college to decide?
CREECH: Pratt’s on the Board of Trustees and the principal contributor of funds. If it hadn’t been for him, the little place would have folded long ago. They’ve got to do what he tells them.—Have you got the tickets?
Tisdale mutely produces them. They take off their hats and coats. A student usher from Hillsdale comes out on the stage right, tears off the stubs and takes the professors to two seats at the extreme right of the stage. During the scene backstage that follows, which they are not supposed to see, Creech examines the program and looks around at the theater, without speaking and in cold indifference. Tisdale, disappointed and miffed, constrainedly studies the program. When the performance proper begins, Creech is seen assiduously taking notes.
Backstage. Winslow, in the medieval costume of the Duke, is nervously inspecting the stage and the properties. Fran, in the costume of the Duke’s niece Violante, comes to him from a door on the right.
FRAN: Did you know that Edgar J. Creech is here?
FRAN: That Elizabethan expert from the West Coast—Edgar J. Creech.
WINSLOW (startled and rather upset): Edgar Creech from California?
FRAN: He’s flown on to see the play. Ned Simms just told me.
WINSLOW: Oh, I wish I could see him first! I’d like to have a little talk with him.
FRAN: It’s too late for that now.
WINSLOW: Yes. Dear me! I hope he doesn’t expect too much—in the way of textual scrutiny.
FRAN: He doesn’t look as if he did. I’ve peeked at him through the curtain.
WINSLOW: He’s a very rigorous scholar, and there are passages I’m still not sure of. I’ve always thought him a little uninspired.
FRAN: Don’t let him throw you off. You can always make anything go. The students are all for you.
WINSLOW: Is Terry Moran on hand?
WINSLOW: What sort of condition is he in?
FRAN: He’ll be tight as a tick, I’m afraid, unless something is done about him. You’d better have a talk with him now.
Terry Moran appears. He is dressed as the Clown and quite high.
TERRY (clapping Winslow on the shoulder): What ho, my good lord! I come from Joe Turucci’s Mermaid Bar, where a goodly company of whoreson knaves do break jests and quaff canary. They drink to my lord’s noble health. Marry come up with a wannion!
WINSLOW: All right, Terry. Are you sure of your lines? Let’s not have any improvements tonight. The play’s bawdy enough already. Remember Hamlet’s admonition: “And let those who play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them.”
TERRY: Have no fear, my good lord.
This jackanapes will not bebawd the stage,
Although the greatest clown of this or any other
(Producing a pint of whisky) Wilt drink with me, good Duke?
Fran quietly takes the bottle away from him.
WINSLOW: Try to sober up, Terry—or I’ll have to cut that scene we have together. And I know you can be so good in it. You don’t want to spoil the performance. Please.
TERRY (in his natural voice): Don’t worry, sir, I’ll be all right.
WINSLOW: Go out and get a breath of air. These tiny little dressing rooms are stifling.
Spooky and Chuck appear in the costumes of Perfidio and Giovanni di Procida.
TERRY (gesturing towards Spooky):
There struts the horrid villain, mean and base!
Dids’t ever dig so sickening a face?
WINSLOW: This is not a melodrama, Terry, but a tragedy of revenge. You’ve never seen the whole of the play. (To Fran) Take him out into the open air.
She leads Terry out.
WINSLOW (to Chuck): Are the Skeletons all sober?
CHUCK: More or less.
During the conversation that follows, seven Skeletons straggle in. They wear black dominoes, with the bones in white. They are carrying their skullmasks that fit over their heads. One has a large ewer, and two have musical instruments.
SPOOKY (pretending to joke with the Skeletons): Well, boys, if you’d tried that costume on Middlebury, you might have scared them and not lost the game.
The Skeletons give him only sour looks.
WINSLOW (after looking the Skeletons over to Chuck): Do the curtains for the inner stage work?
CHUCK: I don’t think we’ve tried them out tonight.
WINSLOW: They got stuck at the last rehearsal. We’d better see about them.
He goes behind the stage. Spooky addresses Chuck in a quiet but distinct voice, loud enough for the Skeletons to hear. They soon begin to listen attentively.
SPOOKY: Well, old boy, you’ve got some good news coming to you! (Chuck looks at him suspiciously and apprehensively.) You might as well hear it right away. You’ve been called, as the preachers say, to Steep Rock College in Tennessee. I had an interview with the President a month ago. They wanted someone for their English Department—their best man got killed skiing—and I recommended you. I’ve had a feeling that you were hoping to do Classics here—
CHUCK: No, I wasn’t.
SPOOKY: Well, there’s less and less call for them nowadays, and old Thaddeus Winterfield takes care of the few students that want them. Even when he retires, you could hardly take his place, because, unfortunately, you haven’t the academic qualifications. You know the situation here. There really isn’t any place for you. You’re frankly hostile to the policies of our department, and we’ve made the decision, with much regret, that we’ll have to let you go. On the Rock, as they call it, you’ll be supreme. You can formulate your own policies. To be sure, it’s a bit isolated—a touch of Mount Athos, they say. But it’s perfectly accessible by ski-lift, and there’s a certain dedicated spirit—teaching those mountaineers. I think it will appeal to your idealism. And then, they need an athletic coach. The President is very ambitious for the athletic side of the college. He says that the students, in general, are splendid physical specimens. The defeat of your team this fall was regrettable, but at the Rock you’ll have fresh material. You can teach them football from the ground up and you won’t be threatened by serious competition. And the salary is not contemptible. They’re handsomely endowed, you know. You couldn’t have a better stepping-stone to what I hope will be higher things.
CHUCK: Going up in the ski-lift, you mean?
SPOOKY (self-consciously laughing): Oh, in that sense, I think Steep Rock is high enough.
The first bell to give the actors notice rings. Chuck says nothing further and walks out. The Skeletons go out on the left to take their places on the inner stage.
A SKELETON: Did you hear that? He’s firing Chuck.
SECOND SKELETON: It was all Spooky’s own damn fault that we had such a lousy season. He disqualified half the team last spring.
Mrs. Simms, Spooky’s mother, appears from the dressing room. She is dressed as Queen Constance of Aragon and wears a Spanish mantilla. She is a sharp New England woman, who wears an old-fashioned pince-nez and speaks with extreme precision.
SPOOKY: I’ve just broken the news to Chuck Chambers.
MRS. SIMMS: How did he take it?
SPOOKY: Not very well, I’m afraid. He has a certain resentment against me. I hope it won’t upset him in his part.
MRS. SIMMS: It’ll be a good riddance so far as I’m concerned. That young man gives me more trouble than anybody else at the library. He keeps the books out for weeks and pays no attention to my notices. When he brings them back, they’re all scribbled up. He’s also exceedingly insolent.
SPOOKY: I know he is, Mother, but you have to remember his unfortunate circumstances—his birth and his early struggles. And you mustn’t forget that in the play itself, you and he are supposed to be on the same side.
The bell rings again.
In front of the curtain. Winslow, in the costume of the Duke, with his usual horn-rimmed glasses, which now give him something of the look of Greco’s portrait of the bearded and bespectacled Cardinal de Guevara. He reads, with vivacity and gusto, the prologue he has composed for the occasion.
In cold October, yet with blood aglow,
Like Borrow’s footloose vagrant Lavengro,
Undaunted by damp mists and murky mires,
I trudged through lank old England’s northern
By ways no blaring billboards had yet marred,
By gentle lanes no motor-horns had jarred,
Waked only by the hunter’s ringing halloo;
The grass still green when ours is sere and sallow;
Old houses that must harbor each its ghost;
Old cosy country inns in which mine host
Serves mellow ale and steak-and-kidney pie,
A faithful fire of coals bright burning nigh.
So faring, with a rucksack on my back,
Beyond the ignorant tourist’s beaten track,
I chanced upon a lovely town at last
That seemed a remnant from the vanished past:
No Boots, no modern bars, no petrol smell;
A faceless castle little but a shell;
A church with belfry steeple-lopped and squared,
The ravages of Cromwell scarce repaired—
Blackened without and mortal chill within,
The sacristan lugubrious and lean;
Old tombs of nobles lying blurred and chipped,
Squat Norman arches crouching in the crypt.
‘Twas here that, after supping hungrily,
On buttered scones, sardines on toast and tea,
Served by firm-breasted lasses, never slimmed,
Sloe-eyed and pert-nosed such as Hogarth limned,
I found a bookshop piled with ancient trash
Dragged from dark attics for a bit of cash;
The wheezing dealer, bleary-eyed and sad,
Dull-witted, hardly knowing what he had.
Yet, grubbing there in dust, I brought to light
These precious items, buried out of sight:
Clarissa, London, 1751,
“Printed for”—that is, by—“S. Richardson”;
A handful of Marprelate tracts that span
The comic quarrel of priest with Puritan.
And then the dealer—dimly perchance noting
My eyes agleam, my exclamations gloating—
A manuscript part-crumbled did produce:
Elizabethan loops and curlicues
Of which he could make nothing, but to me
The True and Lamentable Tragedie
Of sad Palermo’s Duke, a work unknown,
No date, no author—left for me alone!
Curbing excitement—what a day of killings!—
I bought the lot for two pounds and ten shillings;
And all night pored with ever-mounting glee,
Since years before I’d won my Ph.D.
On Henry Chettle—not an obscure hack,
As some suppose who true discernment lack,
But one who brought a touch of somber glory
To German Hoffman’s harsh and bloody story.
I recognized his favorite darkling phrases:
The purple blood, the windy blasts, where blazes
A fury of Satanic eloquence—
In Hoffman, still half-smouldering though intense
Which, in Palermo, might perchance arouse
A mounting horror that would rock the house!
This we present tonight, as best we may:
Our faults, our fallings-short forgive, we pray.
I have said that Chettle must have penned this
And yet two pens at work one plainly sees.
Was Chettle all unaided, we demand,
Or had he, then, the help of some far greater hand?
The subject of The Duke of Palermo I have found to be more or less historical: the rising of Sicily against the French—the so-called Sicilian Vespers—at the end of the thirteenth century. For the purposes of this performance, we are forced to omit the subplot, which, brilliant though it is in its way, has, nevertheless—as is often the case in the Elizabethan dramas—little relevance to the main story and which would involve us in too long an evening.
He bows and withdraws.
A trumpet call. The girl who plays Lucia, a small brunette, passes across the stage with a placard reading: “A Castle in Italy.” Half-way across she stops and displays it, then walks out at the other side.
The curtain goes up. Chuck and Terry, as Prince Giovanni di Procida and the Clown, at the front of a darkened stage. Terry-Clown holds up a lantern, and Chuck-Giovanni looks about him as if at a high spacious chamber.
Here where my father, German Conradin,
Kept kingly state and ruled with equal hand
Jerusalem and sun-bak’d Sicily;
Where once in childhood, munching sugar plums,
I frisk’d upon the flower’d terraces,
Chas’d butterflies and lov’d to play crusader
With mimic weapons, heedless of the wars
That France and Italy in hate did wage
‘Gainst one another. After twenty years
I come again, Giovanni di Procida,
A poor and petty prince, to find all dark,
Decayed and cobwebbed, smelling dank of death,
Ruin’d and robb’d by Charles the Angevin,
Vile Frank, the slayer of my noble sire.
Methinks Jove rages at th’ abhorrent deed! Hark how he thunders!
A prolonged flash of lightning illuminates the scene, revealing, on the inner stage, a banquet table, at which five of the Skeletons are sitting, two on either side, and at the head, facing the audience, the host, who lacks a skull. This skull, which wears a crown—also facing the audience—is set before the Skeleton to which it belongs. All are grasping large goblets, which rest on the table. Behind and to the right of the headless host, stands the cupbearer with his ewer. The two musicians stand, to the fore, on either side of the inner stage.
Look there! What do I see?
A deadmen’s banquet, by’r lady! Let’s hence ‘fore
they ask us to drink with them!
Draw nigh and light this grisly spectacle.
Terry-Clown holds up the lantern but does not approach too near.
What hollow sconces and dull orbs are these
That, mouldering, sit mumchance in this place?
What vacant cheer and dismal revelry?
Sure Charles of Anjou rigged this ghostly show,
Made thus our banquet hall a charnel-house,
In mockery of my father’s majesty.
There sit the guests, there stands the cupbearer,
There the musicians with their tuneless strings,
As many an evening, creeping from my bed
And peeping from the arras, I have seen
A richly clad and courtly company,
Wittily jesting as the wine went round,
My father leading all in lofty discourse.
I’ faith, were those fleshless chaps to drain a cup,
‘twould splash bare ribs and never bring a belk!
Thunder and lightning.
But look: that skull doth bear a rusted crown!
Terry-Clown reluctantly does so.
‘Tis the crown my father wore!
His lordly head, lopped by the Angevin—
Faith’s temple, wisdom’s tower. But he bore it
Too high for such a crouching beast to brook.
Thunder somewhat fainter.
THE CROWNED SKULL:
My son, first scion of my loins.
If I must be with bones, godsookers, I would rather
they kept silence!
Be still. (To the Skull) Speak on.
My son, thou knowest well
How, worsted by French Charles at Tagliacozzo,
Because our gluttonous troops had turned to plunder,
Leaving me ill-defended, I was ta’en,
Condemned as a base traitor and beheaded.
But now this head, dissever’d from its frame,
Set here for scorn, doth still defy its foe
And bids its seed take vengeance. Let no even
Her curtains draw on our fair Sicily
That brings you not the nearer to just vengeance
Against her ravisher and my murderer.
Now swift away! Seek out Palermo’s Duke,
Who Charles’s insolence would fain rebuke—
Our friend, who mid these ills which others whelm
Our honor guards in Charles’s bloodied realm.
Avenge, avenge, avenge!
THE SKELETONS (raising their goblets, as if to drink to Giovanni’s success):
Father, I fly to seek the Duke’s support.
A sennight sees me at Palermo’s court!
He picks up the Crowned Skull.
And thou poor head, be ever at my side
To look upon those deeds no Frenchman dare
Thunder. The stage goes dark. Spotlight on Tisdale and Creech. Tisdale, now angry with Creech, is prepared to take an opposite line from him.
TISDALE: Conradin had no issue. He was the last of the Hohenstaufens. Giovanni di Procida was not his son. But of course the Elizabethans were careless about such matters.
CREECH: What’s much more serious is that the expression “godsookers” isn’t found as early as Chettle. It first occurs in Buckingham’s Rehearsal: 1672.
TISDALE: Buckingham can’t have invented it, though. It’s the same thing as “gadzooks,” which is all through the Elizabethans.
CREECH: It is not the same thing. And what’s that Alexandrine at the end?
TISDALE: They did write them as early as that.
CREECH: Not like that at the end of a scene.
TISDALE: Wouldn’t the Spenserian stanza perhaps set a precedent for doing so?
No reply from Creech.
Lucia crosses the stage with a placard which reads:
“Palermo, Palace of the Duke.”
The Duke is seen at his writing table.
In what cribb’d crush’d condition do I dwell
Beneath these coffer’d roofs which hous’d my sires,
Behind gates, gilded with our ducal arms,
That now we scarce dare pass lest some foul insult
From jeering Frank deride our ducal state.
They flout us and degrade us. We are slaves.
We slink like timid mice that fear grimalkin
Who preened as fierce as falcons in our pride.
Our nobles must run errands for low strangers;
The flower of our youth, clapp’d in dark pantries,
Must turn the spit like scullions, fetch rare cates
For gibbering fribbles, while they sup themselves
On scraps and orts. They must e’en comb the fens
For creaking frogs, the fields for slimy snails
That furnish the pale Franks their filthy fare.
They rob the poor and pill the rich, ransack
All Sicily for the coin to pay their riots
And sate their lusts. They search the very huts
Of those sweet shepherds of Theocritus
Who pipe to their placid flocks beside the sea.
—Ah, would Enceladus, the swarthy Titan
Who sleeps in Etna’s bowels might belk forth
His burning hail and bury with these tyrants
All that was once most great in Sicily
And now is brought to measliness! Or might
Some young and molten-marrowed champion,
Whose fiery words could blister men like lava,
Break forth and spur our people to rebel!
I am too old to fulminate this foray.
A Servant enters.
A friar would have speech with you, my lord.
Whence comes he?
From Messina, my good lord.
A friend or foe? What thinkest thou?
I know not.
His dark eyes burn like coals, his breath comes
As if he were a-fevered.
Search him well.
Perchance he flees Messina, where the French
Do now most mightily prevail. If so,
I must protect him. But make sure he be not
Some fell assassin in a friar’s garb.
He carries ‘neath his robe some bulky object.
A weapon? Look to this.
I will, my lord.
He leaves by a door on the right. Fran-Violante enters at the Duke’s left through the curtains that mask the inner stage.
A letter from Lucia, good mine uncle,
By night and slyness smuggled out of Naples
By our shrewd Sicilian fisher. Much I fear
Lest she herself be spied on, apprehended,
And ne’er fly back to us, our pretty bird
That pipes so linnet-sweet yet hops as wary
As any sparrow foraging for crumbs.
He is too confident, the Angevin,
Too dull to see what stirs, too deaf to hear
The mutterings that do mount beneath his throne,
Like some dim pharos loading a sheer cliff
Which the sea, mounting, loudly undermines.
—What news from Naples?
Charles prepares his ships
To ascend the Rhone, snatch Arles, then launch
Against Byzance, and make himself the master
Of all the Mediterranean—
The Servant reappears.
The friar, my lord—he bears an ebon box,
And in that box a hollow skull—no weapons.
Such grim reminders the Franciscans cherish.
The Servant ushers in Chuck-Giovanni, disguised as a Franciscan monk. He carries a large black box.
Hail, good duke.
What wouldst thou with me?
My lord, I do but crave a privy word,
Not to be witnessèd nor overheard.
This is my lady niece. You may speak as free
When she is by as you may speak to me.
Then hark, my lord. No holy friar I!
(He throws off his hood.)
Not one who begs in dim humility,
Not one who drips Christ’s pity, but a prince
Who, clad in russet, comes to claim revenge
And princely cloth of gold. Look here, my lord!
He opens the ebony box and produces the Crowned Skull. Fran-Violante registers astonishment and horror; Winslow-Duke eyes it more coolly.
Why, what is this?
The head of Conradin
And I his son, Giovanni di Procida!
WINSLOW-DUKE (grasping his hands):
I knew thee as a babe! How cam’st thou here?
I come with Spanish Pedro at my back,
Who claims usurpèd Sicily by the right
Of Constance, Manfred’s daughter, his fierce queen,
Who sails in secret and should meet me here.
The Servant enters.
A lady waits without.
Hath she green eyes,
A queenly carriage and an emerald ring?
All three she hath, good father.
Let her come in.
Mrs. Simms-Constance comes swooping in, as the Servant turns to escort her.
Hail, madam, gracious queen.
All hail, good Duke.
I come to claim mine own, to wrest my realm,
Rough Sicily, from the Angevin.
(Seeing the skull)
Why, what’s this?
The festering presence of my murdered sire,
Who calls us to revenge.
‘Tis well, ‘tis well.
Me Manfred also summons, Tarentum’s Prince,
Conradin’s Regent, lord of Sicily,
And rightful Emperor of Italy.
In sleep he did me visit, bade me haste,
With strong and tearing talons, eagle-like,
To gripe and gut these Franks as they do frogs!
An eagle? Nay, a crestèd cockatrice,
As once I saw it on an arid plain
Transfix by its horrid look a hunter there,
Who had glimps’d it not before he met its state.
Had he seen it first, ‘twould have been the other
The man might have been living to this day.
(To the audience, falling into his classroom habits.)
If the cockatrice saw you first, you were gone.
FRAN-VIOLANTE (whose admiration for Giovanni has been obvious):
Will you not partake of some refreshment, Prince—
A venison pastry with some candied quince?
Your dusty journey must have made you dry.
Our cool Sicilian wine—
Nay, do not ply
My tensèd purpose with the dazing draught!
No wavering hand must launch the lethal shaft.
To business now!
Yes, we must lay our schemes.
He nothing braves who only bides and dreams.
CREECH: “Bulky object.” The adjective bulky didn’t come into use till the late 1680’s.
TISDALE: I wonder whether “creaking frogs” may not be a misreading for “croaking frogs.”
CREECH: One would have to see the manuscript.
TISDALE: If it is a misreading—which seems possible—the manuscript may be authentic.
He glances sidelong at Creech, who does not reply.
Placard: “The Duke’s Garden.” Spooky-Perfidio and Fran-Violante. A bench.
You do me too much honor, gentle sir,
To come so often to our stricken house,
Where rings no mirth nor music as of old,
Where sunlight scarcely enters.
My sweet lady,
No place is cheerless where your eyes do shine;
There needs no other music where your voice
Sounds softer and more melting than the lute.
Your compliments take all too far a flight:
They overshoot the mark.
They fall far short.
Let us sit upon this bench and drink the moonlight.
Bright Luna, how she silvers every leaf!
The trees are hung with tinsel; every stem
And petal is with tinfoil over-iced.
Rose, olive, e’en the tremulous mimosa
Scarce stir in this calm air that nothing sways,
Yet waft abroad their aromatic fragrance.
In this sad moment, we may envy England
For that upon her thriving state and mart
Another Dian sheds her steady radiance
And warrants peace while Sicily knows it not.
E’en Rome’s mad tyrants spake their subject’s tongue.
Chuck-Giovanni appears and stands listening.
And yet I almost think we are irked too much
By our discordant tongues. Were’t not the wiser
To learn their Frankish speech, so like our own,
And thus with courteous grace and argument
Persuade and cozen these unwise invaders,
Who scorn to learn a language not their own.
CHUCK-GIOVANNI (coming forward):
Such were the mark of vile subservience!
Our foes would scorn us for’t, believe us beaten.
Methinks your rebel spirit, my good monk,
Doth ill befit a meek Franciscan’s breast.
Christ drove the money-changers from the temple.
Saint Francis tam’d the wolf by loving kindness.
—And now farewell, sweet lady. I must leave you.
If there be aught of service I can render,
Remember that I’ve won some little credit
With those who harry us, and speak their jargon.
—Good night, good friar.
CHUCK-GIOVANNI (rather unconvincingly):
A blessing on thee, sir.
(When Perfidio has left, to Violante)
The moon is clear, yet lights it not our darkness
That lurks in arras’d hall and humble cottage.
See how the tall agave whets her spines,
Fierce as that craz’d Bacchante of old Greece
Whose name she bears—who, all unwitting, tore
Her hapless son to tatters and nail’d up
His bleeding head in Dionysus’ temple.
So, whetted well and witting well, our blades
Shall hack and rive the mazzard of no kinsman,
His kingly purple turn to purple gore!
The Duke enters.
I am unquiet, uncle and Giovanni.
I fear Perfidio: he comes too oft
And creeps too close, as if to catch our secrets,
And he doth question me while softly sighing
And pleading with his eyes, as he did woo me.
Anon his glance grows cold, his accents biting,
As when a sudden chill and nipping wind
The canker’d fruit of mellow autumn cuts.
I shrink and tremble then. I loathe his guts.
WINSLOW-DUKE (correcting this departure from the text):—“as at the sting”…
I shrink and tremble then, as at the sting
Of some much-fawning yet envenom’d thing.
I find him faithful, though he woos the Franks
As well as thee, so let us have no pranks
That might rebuff him. Bear with him awhile.
It costs but little gratefully to smile,
Avoid offense and never to reveal
We feign a friendship that we do not feel.
Alas, we all must learn now to dissemble,
No matter how we shrink nor how we tremble.
The time for trembling’s past. Thy father dotes.
Thou hast the hardier spirit, Violante.
Once we are masters here, I mean to wed thee,
And make thee mistress of thy Sicily.
And Constance? Wilt thou wrest it from her talons?
Ay, she shall have her part. But I shall stand
Its guard and guarantor, with thee beside me.
These Spaniards flash and brag but we of Italy
By intellect do snuff their filmy flame.
—Violante, with another flame thou burnest.
Thou shalt be my consort and my counsellor.
I have waited long. When I was but a girl,
Medreamt a jet-black stallion pawed the turf
Before my door and bade me mount and ride him.
‘Tis I shall ride thee.
Shall we race abreast,
And see which steed shall give the other best?
That way lies danger. When two horses race,
They strain and jostle for the stopping-place.
Nay, though I spake of reigning side by side,
The mare must carry and the master ride.
TISDALE: The reference to Queen Elizabeth is quite out of place in the thirteenth century—but of course the Elizabethans did do those things.
CREECH: The agave is a Mexican plant.
TISDALE: Yes, but there are several species, and some were brought to Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century. I’m an enthusiastic gardener, you know, and consequently a bit of a botanist. They do have agave in Sicily.—What do you make of the reference to Euripides? Of course, Ben Jonson knew Euripides, but I wonder whether such a reference could possibly have been understood by an Elizabethan audience.
CREECH: How do we know there was any such audience?
Placard: “Naples.” Charles of Anjou and Lucia. He is reading a letter which she has just brought him.
Sacré bleu! Mille Tonnerres! What news is this?
Perfidio, our man in Sicily,
Declares that a great rising of the island
Is toward—that Manfred’s widow, Spanish
And some mad monk are lurking in Palermo
To plot our overthrow. Comment diable!
Sapristi! Ventre-Dieu! We must halt our plan—
We must postpone our expedition
To far Byzance, and swiftly to Messina
Unfold an instant and a secret sail!
LUCIA (who has repressed her first signs of shock and has been thinking very quickly. She speaks in a cute little American voice, which contrasts with her fell intentions):
‘Twere better then, my liege, to feign ill health,
Masking your absence—better not to breast
With your brave galleon’s swollen wings the sea,
Nor ride at anchor with your retinue.
They must not know, the foul conspirators,
That thou hast privily received intelligence
Of their design. Harken, my liege, I know
A most adroit and trusty fisherman,
Who plies ‘twixt Naples and Sicilian shores
And like a seabird floats nor fears rough weather.
He makes the passage often, oft conveys
Poor merchants. He is known in every port.
His comings and his goings are scarce noted.
Lucia, thou first camest to our Naples
A malapert and saucy serving maid,
Yet soon thou didst subdue our royal household—
Our Franks dépaysés in this foreign place—
To order strict and partial harmony
With sullen strangers, for thou dids’t interpret,
Adept at both the tongues, for all our court,
And now, parbleu, ma chère, thou servest us
As our best prompter.
Let me then, my liege,
Stay ever by your side, and go with you.
I have, besides, another anxious reason:
By this same messenger who brought to you
These tidings came a letter from Palermo
That bore the news my agèd mother there
Is dying and would see me ere she passes.
So I would seek Palermo and receive
Her final breath. Thus, all unspied upon,
I shall spy out what machinations
May be afoot against your Majesty.
For safely I may travel as your page,
So none shall know me when we do embark,
And you, my liege, I think, must don rude garments,
Like some poor trafficker in figs and dates.
An’t please your Majesty, I’ll straight to market
And fit you with a lading of these fruits,
As if I bought provision for the palace.
Dépêche-toi, donc, and waste no moment there!
Find also the false dress for me to wear.
I’ll have the boat made ready.
Mort de ma vie, quelle situation!
He hurries out.
So far, so good. Now comes the test of it,
The trial of my swift Sicilian wit,
To lead astray this dunce and dunderhead
And, with God’s help, to leave the dizzard dead.
Backstage during the intermission. Fran and Winslow.
FRAN (nervous): I’m sorry about that slip. It’s been haunting me that way all through the rehearsals—I was afraid I was going to say it.
WINSLOW: It’s all right. It made them laugh.
FRAN: Don’t you think it might be a good idea to skip Terry’s scene with you and Lucia. I’m sure he’s had more drinks.
WINSLOW: I don’t think he’ll let us down.
FRAN: You love that scene with the Clown. It might have a scholar in stitches. But nobody who doesn’t get the allusions and the Elizabethan vocabulary is going to understand a word of it.
WINSLOW: It’s no more difficult than some of Shakespeare’s clown scenes.
FRAN: That goes for Shakespear, too. Either they cut them or they have to mug them.
WINSLOW: It’s too late to leave it out. Don’t worry, dear. It’s going to be all right.—Go and see if Lucia’s ready.
He goes on stage. Fran goes to the door of a dressing room. Lucia emerges in her page costume.
FRAN: You’re ready, little linnet?
Chuck and Terry, together, come out of another door laughing, and Terry goes on stage.
FRAN (to Chuck): Have you been drinking, too?
CHUCK: Giovanni has to steel himself.
FRAN: Now don’t actually beat Spooky up when it comes to the duel scene!
CHUCK: Why not?
FRAN: You know you mustn’t bully inferiors.
CHUCK: Inferiors? He’s just had me fired.
FRAN: You know what I mean. You were saying that you and he were on different levels. So don’t.
The bell rings. The backstage goes dark.
Placard: “Palermo.” The Duke sits looking at a miniature. Terry-Clown enters before he has finished his apostrophe to it.
‘Tis well, Ardelia, my sweet wife, that thou
Liv’st not to endure these dark and bloody days—
Thou who didst awe the people with thy beauty,
Whom after years I still beheld with wonder
The sharer of my table and my bed.
Like any common shepherd, I was dazzled;
My pride itself did vail before thy pride.
These days, I say, are dark, yet every day
Is darkling since thou went’st. There is no dawn
For my sad spirit since its sun is gone.
You are sad, my lord.
Say, where hast thou been hiding?
In some low stews, I’ll warrant, or some tavern.
Beware our sly Cataines and cunning coles,
Crackhalters quick to cozen Northern gulls.
Thy master called for thee and thou cam’st not.
TERRY-CLOWN: I’faith, a man of the North who hath scaped without a pox the bona robas of Turnbull Street and the coney-catchers of Ram’s Alley hath nought to fear from the golls of your Southern fingerers or the trulls of your Sicilian trugging-houses. No haggard like a German haggard!
WINSLOW-DUKE: (to the audience): A word of explanation here. A haggard is one who resists a cony-catcher. (Continuing) Thou boastest like a very Teuton. Look to it that thou be’st not provoked in a coil with our Mafia hacksters.
TERRY-CLOWN: Nay, for me provoked is prorogued.
WINSLOW-DUKE: How so?
TERRY-CLOWN: I strive to appease the bully, and should the rogue still provoke, eftsoons I prorogue again.
WINSLOW-DUKE: Meantime, thou may’st catch a firking.
TERRY-CLOWN: Nay, I’ll find some pat firk to firk off.
WINSLOW-DUKE (to the audience—he has been thoroughly enjoying this dialogue): Shakespeare may have written this! Firk was a common Elizabethan word. It was used in several senses: as a verb, it meant, to whip and to dart off; as a noun, it could mean a trick, a dodge. You have all three of these meanings here.—(To the Clown) What is thy business, sirrah, now that thou art come at last?
TERRY-CLOWN: A young man to see you, my lord—though he hath more the mien of a maid. He speaks our tongue, yet I fear some mischief.
WINSLOW-DUKE: Bid him enter, and do thou stay by.
Clown goes out.
WINSLOW-DUKE (putting aside the miniature): Ardelia, whom I trusted, my staunch bride, Now must I fear deceit on every side.
Clown enters with Lucia in her page’s costume.
Mistake me not in this strange garb, my lord.
Lucia! Safe from Naples? Little linnet,
How dids’t thou fly?
I shipp’d with our good fisher,
And with a passenger that will astound
Your ears to hear on. Charles the Angevin
Hath, by his agent, one Perfidio,
Got wind of what is plotted. In disguise,
He hath joined his fleet that masses at Messina
And straight moves on Palermo, where he plans
To slay our patriots, after Easter vespers,
Fresh from their prayers and pious applications
Of bread and wine that, through our Saviour’s blood,
Have purified their hearts, which shall be spitted
To shed their own; their throats that have voiced
Shall now like those of squeaking swine be slit.
We must find means to frustrate this, my lord.
All seething Sicily awaits your word.
WINSLOW-DUKE (to Clown):
Now, sirrah, babble not of this abroad.
Nay, we shall keep thee close.—I must take counsel
Of Prince Giovanni. Meantime, brave Lucia,
Stay here and see this rascal stray not forth
To gossip in the wine-shops.
Ay, my lord.
The Duke hurries out.
TERRY-CLOWN: They call thee “little linnet.” Canst thou sing? This Sicily hath nought but scrannel pipes and caterwauling fit only for the ears of goats.
LUCIA: I sing neither for goats nor knaves.
TERRY-CLOWN: I am an honest knave, forsooth.
LUCIA: And, forsooth, a sore ill-favored.
TERRY-CLOWN: Nay, Mistress Pert, I have bussed and culled better than you.
LUCIA: My lord the Duke wants discretion. He should sink thee deep in dungeon lest thou prate.
TERRY-CLOWN: If so, I’ll do as Queen Eleanor. Sunk at Charing Green, she rose again at Queenhithe.
LUCIA: Your skin should have a sound swaddling.
TERRY-CLOWN: My master loves me well, hath never swing’d me. And mayhap you will love me, for I love a lass that takes no teasing, but snap snap makes smart riposte.
LUCIA: An almond for a parrot!
TERRY-CLOWN: Woulds’t thou lead apes in Hell then?
LUCIA: Were I to play at barleybreak with you, I’d soon find myself in Hell with a knave and a cungerhead.
TERRY-CLOWN: Marry, she takes the wall and makes me walk i’ the kennel.
LUCIA: Marry mew, marry muff, marry hang you, goodman dog.
Enter Winslow-Duke with Giovanni and Constance.
WINSLOW-DUKE (to the audience): That scene really belongs to the subplot, but I couldn’t resist leaving it in. How Swinburne would have chortled over it!
Would, madam, thou hadst brought with thee from
A basket of those poisonous Spanish figs
That first bring cramps, then a convulsèd death.
MRS. SIMMS-CONSTANCE (producing one from her corsage):
We always carry one about our person.
We never know what enemy may deserve
This sovran remedy.
Take it, good Lucia,
And give it to the Angevin when the thirst
That will assail him in our streets adust
Demands assuagement. For I like it not,
My prince, the cruel means you have devis’d
To make him die in torment.
Would I were
Phalaris, that old tyrant of your island,
Who roasted culprits in a brazen bull,
Red-heated from a fire stok’d beneath it,
Whose roarings were the howls of burning sinners.
I can afford no bronze nor cunning sculptors,
But, having some skill at carpentry, have contriv’d
An engine to repress the Angevin
And make us mirthful with his mangled groans!
WINSLOW-DUKE (to Lucia):
Try first the fig. I like not deeds of horror,
E’en when provok’d by horror and deserv’d.
Wilt thou not sing, Lucia, to relieve
The heavy burdens of this somber house—
That old song that the Duchess lov’d. Alas.
‘Twill make me sadder but my rancor pass.
When the south wind doth blow
Beneath a leaden sky,
We seek, my love and I,
A nook no man may know,
And there we clip and kiss.
When fading of the gale
Unveils an azure sky,
We sleep, my love and I,
Drows’d by the sun’s dwale,
Yet wake to kiss and clip.
Might we forever kiss
In shadow or in sun,
The two that play at one,
Then were we wise, ywis,
To dwell and die like this.
How sooth and plaintive-sweet this music falls!
She was want to sing it at her virginals.
—But now a long farewell to music’s charms:
We face contention’s strife and war’s alarms.
TISDALE: “Drugged by the sun’s dwale”?
CREECH: A soporific drink. Farfetched.
TISDALE: Did the Mafia exist in the Renaissance?
Creech, not knowing, does not reply. Tisdale glances at him.
TISDALE: One would have to check on that.
Placard: “A Street in Palemro.” Charles and Lucia, still disguised.
Put off a little still your majesty,
My liege, to wear this humble merchant’s garb.
Your guards, disguisèd, too, shall seek the church
Like harmless worshippers, and till the springe be
You must not show yourself among the people,
Who, at your sight, might spit their hate like Etna.
But come to where your loyal followers,
Those of our people who defend the Franks,
Do wait to hear the trumpet of your word,
Be rous’d to ardor by your royal presence.
(Spooky-Perfidio slips in at the side and listens to
They are gathered in the darkness of the crypt,
Where none dare enter, for they fear the dead
In that most dedicate and dreadful place.
(Producing the poisonous fig)
A fig, my liege, to slake your parchèd throat,
In this our scorch’d and dusty Sicily?
—I would not send him to a death so cruel.
I have borne so long I almost come to pity
His stout and obstinate stupidity.
A fortnight on the daz’d and queasy seas
I nothing eat but figs and dates.
Did have a surfeit of this syrup’d fruit—
And when we came to port, I inly quaked
For fear we should be questioned, and our
Discoverèd, since figs as futile are
For Sicily as pilchards fetch’d to Yarmouth.
—Come then, my liege, and softly through the
We’ll make our cloakèd way.
Lead on, sweet page,
Thou hast ever proved a torch, a star, to me.
Diantre! En avant! Ventre-saint-gris!
They go out.
I like not this. This page is too glip-lipped.
Needs must I glimpse what passes in the crypt.
Perfidio follows Charles and Lucia. A noble Sicilian and his wife appear, and at the same time a Sergeant. During the scene that follows, other men and women appear, both Sicilians and French.
Sweet husband, what a winter do we face,
Sans grain, sans flesh of cattle or of swine.
Our mares and geldings they have rapp’d away
To ride against the Turks.
May the Turks mince them!
May the false Crescent of the infidel
Cut down this beast that falsely bears the Cross,
As if a carrion raven did croak forth
He were the Holy Ghost!
These dogs of Dagoes,
This scum of Sicily, sometimes carry arms
To catch their masters in a guet-apens.
—Come, fellow, what hast thou hid beneath thy
He searches the Husband.
THE HUSBAND: Lay off, thou swallower of frogs!
And thou, bold wench,
What hast thou in thy bodice?
He puts his hand in her bosom.
Touch her not!
While the Sergeant is mishandling the Wife, the Husband snatches his sword.
By thine own sword be slain and sent to Hell!
He stabs the Sergeant, who falls dead.
THE HUSBAND (to the crowd who have gathered):
Enough of Frankish insolence! Have at them!
THE SICILIANS (who begin fighting the French):
Mordanu li Franchiski! Down with the filthy Frogs!
THE FRENCH: Mort aux sales Siciliens! Down with the Dagoes!
A SICILIAN (pointing to a woman):
She lies with the Franks, this strumpet, and she
hath a Froggish baby in her womb. Do her to
They set upon the woman.
They cannot speak, they lisp!
To a Frenchman, whom two other Sicilians are holding.
Say céci, knave!
The French all try to pronounce the word and fail. The Sicilians slay them and chase them out.
The curtain descends, and while the scene is being changed, Winslow comes before it.
WINSLOW: I find that this part is historical. Though our author does sometimes take liberties, these horrors he presents were real. Today they ought not to surprise us. The language issue in Sicily—was most acute. It became a national grievance. And this ought not to surprise us either.
Placard: “The Crypt.”
A black catafalque with a coffin on top. The draperies reach to the ground. The Duke, Constance, Violante and the Clown stand around in black dominoes with hoods. Giovanni, in his Friar’s gown, presides. All are chanting as Charles and Lucia enter right.
LUCIA (to Charles):
They do but play at obsequies and dirges.
The coffin’s empty, and the hooded friar
Hath rallied here your faithful followers.
Seize him! Disarm him! Clown, do thou bar the
Look you, it is the Angevin!
Terry-Clown locks the door, then he, the Duke and Queen Constance lay hands on Charles and take his sword.
And I the son of Conradin, dread sir—Giovanni di
(Producing the Crowned Skull)
See how my father, wearing still the crown,
Doth ghastly glare and grin at his destroyer!
The curtains of the inner stage open and reveal
Behold his court who muster to avenge him!
Avenge! Avenge! Avenge!
Nay, give the boorish princeling back his sword.
‘Tis I must fit him—I in single combat!
I’ll wound and drag him to his spikèd coffin.
Ah, jeopard not thy noble spirit, prince,
With odds of such a heavy adversary!
We shall dispatch him as we first prepared.
Were we to lose thee, we should leaderless
Be left. Thou lit’st our flame to fight dishonor.
Our tears can never wash away our woes!
Nay, loyal Violante, my quick blade,
Well-schooled in glitt’ring play, shall featly pierce
And slice and barbecue this lumbering ox!
Else were it treason to my father’s name.
—Give back his sword.
The Duke returns it. In the meantime, without being noticed, Perfidio has crept down by a stair that leads on the right to the church above.
Now, Charles the Dog, have at you!
They fight. Giovanni still holding the skull under his left arm. Giovanni has the advantage, but when he has driven Charles into the corner where Perfidio is lurking, the latter trips up Giovanni, and he falls upon Charles’s sword.
Brought low by base Perfidio, the spy,
Undone by unassuagèd pride, I die.
Good Duke, sweet Violante, to whom, dead,
I’ll never, as we vainly hop’d, be wed:
Thou livest; to our lofty mission look:
See that this monstrous frog ‘scape not our hook.
Violante kneels beside him.
The Skeletons rush up behind Charles and hold him. The Duke and the Clown wrest away his sword.
MRS. SIMMS-CONSTANCE: A coffin for the tyrant: load him in.
Like Nürnberg’s Iron Maiden, the grim coffin
Is lin’d with ravenous fangs.
The Skeletons open the lid, which is seen to be studded with long spikes. The others carry Charles to the coffin.
Unhand me, goblins, Devil’s brood! Morbleu!
What make you in God’s temple, nom de Dieu?
Avenge! Avenge! Avenge!
While they are putting him into the coffin and closing the lid, Perfidio turns to sneak up the stair. Giovanni partly rises and, tackling him as at football, brings him down. For this purpose, he has to drop the Skull. Terry-Clown swiftly picks it up and, holding it under his arm like a football, plunges across the stage and makes a touchdown on the other side.
TERRY-CLOWN: Touchdown for Hillsdale! Hillsdale 13, Middlebury 9!
THE SKELETON (led by Terry):
Hillsdale! Hillsdale! Hillsdale! Avenge! Avenge!
Let vile Perfidio feel those splinters’ sting!
Impact him in the coffin with the King!
The Skeletons seize Perfidio, who struggles.
MRS. SIMMS (coming out of her role): What’s going on here? I won’t put up with this!
She tries to intervene.
TERRY-CLOWN: Take her away and have her soundly firked!
Two of the Skeletons take her arms and make as if to escort her out. Winslow tries to go to her rescue. She slaps away their arms.
WINSLOW (to the Skeletons): Don’t!
In the meantime the other Skeletons have been cramming Perfidio into the coffin. They fasten the lid and sit on it. One, however, abstains and stands aside.
Terry starts a football song, in which the Skeletons join.
So hit the line for Hillsdale,
For Hillsdale wins today!
And the Middlebury team will tremble
When they see the red and gray!
TERRY-CLOWN: Now, boys, all together. Avenge! Avenge! Avenge! Go, bid the soldiers shoot!
Winslow makes gestures to quiet them. Perfidio and Charles, who have landed on a mattress below the coffin and have come out through the open side of the catafalque, now appear behind it.
The monsters are loose again!
WINSLOW-DUKE (to Charles and Perfidio):
Please pretend to be dead.
Things are getting out of hand.
Hadn’t you better ring the curtain down?
WINSLOW-DUKE: If you’d just lie down again.
I don’t think you can handle it.
FRAN (to Chuck):
CHUCK-GIOVANNI (who is sitting up):
Lay off, Skeletons. Can it, Terry. If Perfidio and
Charles will be dead, I’ll be dead, too. Come on,
we’ll all be dead.
WINSLOW-DUKE: Yes: let us finish the play. Please. (To the audience.) I’m sorry for this disturbance.
Giovanni falls dead with a percussive flop. Perfidio and Charles subside behind the catafalque.
FRAN-VIOLANTE (going into her mad scene):
Ah, uncle, see, how like a knight he lies
In marble on some brave crusader’s tomb.
And I in the next compartment.
(She stretches out beside Giovanni.)
Now my flesh
To marble freezes. Now the footsteps pass
Above the pavement stone—and we are stone.
We hear mass chanted, supine, side by side.
Eternity drips on. Our passion passes,
Leaving us pale. Oh, never, never more
To dance i’ the spring. Our limbs are turn’d to
We lie forever in death’s long defeat.
Defeat, defeat. My child, defeat is sure.
Giovanni lost, our cause is lost. Farewell,
Dear niece. Farewell to life. Thou’rt mad, and I
Weighed down with the sad impotence of eld
That cannot keep what once my dukedom held.
He stabs her, then stabs himself. Shouts are heard from outside. The Duke, tottering, opens the door. A Sicilian comes running up.
The Duke! Oh, my good lord, the people have risen!
They storm the market-place and put to death
Those lispers who speak not our rugged language.
Their Charles was here, but now, they say, is mur-
WINSLOW-DUKE (sinking down):
Pray God, they conquer! I am old, and I
Can only, never acquiesce, but die.
Winslow comes before the curtain.
WINSLOW: And now, before delivering the Epilogue, I should like to invite my distinguished colleague, Dr. Edgar J. Creech of Pratt College—perhaps at present the world’s leading authority on the texts of Elizabethan drama—who has honored us with his presence here tonight—to favor us with a few words on his impressions of the play which we have just performed. I am sure that Dr. Creech understands that what I fear I must call the monkeyshines in the final scene were not a part of the actual text and represented a perhaps pardonable injection of under-graduate high spirits. Our actors, in their riotous behavior, had, in fact, I think, caught something of the spirit of the roistering Elizabethans. Dr. Creech, would you care to give an opinion—on the possible provenance of the play?
CREECH (rising): I don’t need to make any allowances for the alleged interpolations of the actors in order to give a verdict on this ridiculous charade. The so-called text of the play is no more authentic than these interpolations. The thing is a forgery from beginning to end. It is necessary only to indicate that—among the many outrageous absurdities—the word Dago, derived from the Spanish name Diego, originated in the United States sometime early in the nineteenth century, and that the word Frog, in the Elizabethan period, meant a Dutchman not a Frenchman. (Winslow smiles.) To try to make us accept such balderdash is, on somebody’s part, a barefaced piece of impudence. (He sits down.)
WINSLOW: Thank you, Dr. Creech, for your frank opinion. And now for our Epilogue.
My lords and ladies, may you be disposed
My fault to pardon if I have imposed
On your credulity—if believe you did:
I’ve sometimes thought that there was nothing hid
From some sharp wits—such as Dr. Creech’s—and
yet some did incline
To take for Chettle’s what was really mine.
For Shakespeare—pray forgive the blasphemy—
I hoped—no doubt, deludedly—to see
Some words of mine for his to be mistaken,
Till audience and author should awaken
To recognize that I, poor fool, was fakin’;
To know such lines no living hand may trace
Now that the master’s multifeatured face,
Behind which hides the man, may never wear
Another avatar, grotesque or fair,
Of murderer or maiden, lord or loon.
And yet we may renew that music’s tune.
We needs must live the poets that we cherish;
We needs must nurse their spirits lest they perish—
Not peer at them from scholarly removes:
Each man perhaps must forge the book he loves.
To challenge Chettle though I may aspire,
With Shakespeare’s genius I can aim no higher
Than dimly to communicate, forsooth,
Some spark of splendor to our groping youth,
And few have I found so dull they could not thrill
To some live facet of that genius still.
—Forgive my brief deception, do not grudge
My self-indulgence in a dream, nor judge
Too strictly the poor tribute that I pay
To an age that, though long gone, can never pass
—My lords and ladies, deeply thankèd be.
To our actors pray accord your plaudité.
The curtain goes up, and the actors take their bows.
TISDALE (to Creech, as they are putting on their coats): We’re invited to a reception at Winslow’s house.
CREECH: I shan’t go.
TISDALE: I’ll say you are rather fatigued.
CREECH: I tell you I am not fatigued. I don’t want to consort with that clown.
TISDALE: Since I’m destined to be a mountebank, I might as well consort with mountebanks. And I don’t think he’s wholly unsympathetic. They say he was unhinged by the death of his wife.
CREECH: A scholar should never marry: it distracts him from his work. Children! Bills! Automobiles! I had a married brother. He’d dead. It was the best he could hope for.
They walk across the stage and go out at the left, Creech stalking ahead.
The Winslow living room. On a table, whisky, soda and glasses. Winslow and Fran come back from the theater.
FRAN: I skipped the first part of the mad scene because I knew at that point they’d just laugh.
WINSLOW: I don’t know. It was a pity to lose it.
FRAN: I suspected you might have written the play yourself, but I never paid enough attention to see that you’d put everybody into it.
WINSLOW: Don’t say anything about that aspect. I doubt whether anyone’s guessed.
FRAN: You arranged to have Winky Carter disqualified, so that Chuck could play Giovanni?
WINSLOW: No: that was more or less of an accident.—That must be the phone.
FRAN: No, it isn’t. You’re so evasive. You always pretend to hear the phone.—What did you mean by the French occupation?
I’ve felt them closing in. They do not speak our
I’ve felt our home has quite become a prison,
Whence soon we scarce shall dare to stir abroad.
They seek to stifle me, to clip the wings
Of Pegasus, to blind Apollo’s radiance.
FRAN: Oh, come! It’s not as bad as that. And we’ve had enough blank verse tonight. But you held them right up to the end.
WINSLOW: The castle of Conradin might be the palace of literature, in which the nobles have been turned to skeletons.
FRAN: The part about Mother was touching.
WINSLOW: I wrote that little lyric that Lucia sings when your Mother and I were in Sicily.—It’s a good thing she wasn’t there tonight. She’d have seen me make a fool of myself.
He sits down and, as if on the verge of weeping, covers his face with his hands.
FRAN: Oh, no: you carried it off.
WINSLOW (beginning to laugh and becoming more and more hysterical): Terry and Mrs. Simms! Creech coming all the way from California!
FRAN: What a nasty old character! But the joke is on him. Why did you put in the Frogs and the Dagoes?
WINSLOW: I couldn’t resist it. Ha, ha! I wanted to see whether they’d notice. (He cannot curb his fou rire.) Charley Patterson’s French! I wrote it especially for him.
FRAN: I didn’t know you disliked Charley Patterson so much.
WINSLOW: I don’t but he’s such a dolt to be President of a college—and he’ll never have the least suspicion.
FRAN: It’s been a strain tonight. You better have a drink before people come.
She pours him one and gives it to him. The door-bell rings. Fran goes to answer it.
WINSLOW: That must be the telephone!
Wiping his eyes, he hurries away into the study. Fran brings in Warren Tisdale and Mr. and Mrs. Patterson. Patterson, who has played Charles d’Anjou, is a big burly goodnatured man.
FRAN (to Tisdale): This is President and Mrs. Patterson. Mr. Tisdale—of Pratt College in California.
PATTERSON: Oh, I know Mr. Tisdale. We met at an MLA conference.
TISDALE: Yes, of course.
PATTERSON: You were one of the shining lights.
TISDALE: Oh, hardly.
PATTERSON: I tried to tempt you to Hillsdale.
Winslow comes back from the study.
WINSLOW: Hello, Charley! Hello, Mamie! Delighted to see you, Dr. Tisdale.
TISDALE: It was great fun tonight.
MRS. PATTERSON: You’re so clever, Homer! I thought it was genuine right up to the end.
WINSLOW: I’m sorry it ran off the tracks. You were tremendous, Charley—a thousand thanks for playing that part! It was very sporting of you!
PATTERSON: I was a little bit surprised when Ned Simms was dumped on top of me.
WINSLOW: That wasn’t on the program, as you know. I didn’t mean you to get such rough treatment.
PATTERSON: Oh, I’ve never stood on my dignity. And I used to play football myself, you know. (He laughs.) I could sympathize with their outburst of college spirit.
The doorbell rings, and Fran starts to go.
WINSLOW: Take them into the dining room, Fran.
FRAN: Don’t you want a snack, Mr. Tisdale. You can’t have had time for dinner.
TISDALE: I’ve only had a sandwich. Thank you.
They go out into the hall.
PATTERSON: Could I have a word with you, Homer?
PATTERSON: Something rather alarming has broken about Ned Simms. You know that East Mansfield motel that has a bad reputation? Well, the Chief of Police came to see me today and told me that they’re going to clean it up. He told me to warn Ned Simms. He was very frank and decent about it and said that he didn’t want anybody from the College involved. But if I speak to Ned about it, I really can’t let him stay on. That’s one thing I can’t stand for. We had a scandal here years ago, when the Fine Arts man used to have the bootblack from the barbershop come to his rooms for tea—so of course I had to get rid of him.
WINSLOW: I suspected something of the kind, but I’ve always believed in tolerance.
PATTERSON: I can’t afford to be tolerant. The Trustees might hear about it, and I’d better act right away.
WINSLOW: He’s got tenure.
PATTERSON: This overrules tenure.
WINSLOW (thoughtfully): Yes: James the First was a notorious homosexual, and it was during the reign of James that the English drama ran to seed. I never could like Beaumont and Fletcher.—But of course there was the King James Bible.
PATTERSON: The police have got plenty on him, and I think I’ll have to put it to him frankly. Besides, I don’t like his influence. I’ve been to some of his lectures, and I can’t make head or tail of them. And if there should be a vacancy, it’s occurred to me that we might get Tisdale. I heard him read a paper at the MLA on the Gothic influence on Poe I hadn’t known about before. I thought it was a cracker-jack. I think I’ll sound him out tonight.
WINSLOW: I’m afraid you’re going to find that you can’t get him away from Creech. He expects to be his successor.
Some of the guests begin drifting in, with glasses and plates in their hands: among them, Warren Tisdale, who is chatting urbanely with Lucia; and a beatnikish-looking young man with a beard.
THE YOUNG MAN: Professor Winslow, I’m Ronald Pfeiffer, an off-Broadway producer from New York: the Baroque Players. You’ve probably never heard of them.
WINSLOW: Oh, yes, I have. They put, on The Honest Whore.
PFEIFFER: Did you see it?
WINSLOW: Yes, I did. A creditable production!
PFEIFFER: I must say it was an unexpected success. There’s a public for the plays of that period. And what I want to tell you is how heartily I congratulate you on your marvellous play tonight. There’s nothing I’d like so much as to have our theater do it.
WINSLOW: Of course, you must understand that the last scene was somewhat messed up.
PFEIFFER: I wouldn’t change a word of it! I’d want to do it just as it was done tonight. It combines the neo-baroque with the theater of the absurd.
WINSLOW (very much pleased): Well, we might talk about it.
Pfeiffer and Winslow continue their conversation, while Patterson brings Tisdale to the front of the stage, and they sit down to talk in a corner. Lucia is now engaged with two of the football-playing Skeletons. A pansy English instructor has drifted in alone and while quietly eating his salad and ham listens in on the following conversation.
PATTERSON: You remember that several years ago I tried to get you to come to Hillsdale. We weren’t able to offer you as much then as we can now since we’ve got a foundation grant. But I’m afraid you’re indispensable to Dr. Creech.
TISDALE: Oh; no: not by any means.
PATTERSON: Well, there’s a distinct possibility that Ned Simms may have to hand in his resignation. New England isn’t good for his asthma, and he really needs a drier climate. The idea has just occured to me that we might effect an exchange?
TISDALE: For Simms to go out to Pratt? I should think it might be arranged. They’ve been wanting an explication man out there. They think I’m an old romantic. And I’d be very glad indeed to get back to the East again. I’ve never really adapted myself to California: a certain goodnatured emptiness—I don’t speak of Dr. Creech.
PATTERSON: That’s splendid! I’ll talk to Ned Simms. (He gets up.) Could you stay over another day?
TISDALE (as they walk away from the corner): Yes, certainly.
PATTERSON: Then come to my office in the afternoon. I’ll call you up in the morning.
Their voices are lost among the general conversation, and we hear the voices of Winslow and Pfeiffer.
PFEIFFER: Would it be possible anywhere in New York to get one’s beard trimmed like that?
WINSLOW: I always go to Henri at the Vanderbilt-Plaza.
PFEIFFER: That’s a fine job, he’s done on you—distinguished and chic. I think that, as a baroque producer, I ought to look more seventeenth century. These beatnik beavers are quite old hat.
Spooky Simms comes in with a drink. The Pansy Instructor takes him by the arm and steers him toward the front of the stage. A non-football-playing Skeleton comes up to him on the way.
SKELETON: I wanted to tell you, sir, that I didn’t take part in the roughhouse. I’m grateful for the B-minus you gave me on my paper about the graveyard symbolism in Paul Revere’s Ride.
SPOOKY: But you missed the significance of the lanterns.
SKELETON: I’ll try to do better, sir.
SPOOKY: All right, Wethey. (He walks. on.)
PANSY: Mr. Patterson says you think of leaving.
PANSY: I heard him offering your job to Tisdale.
SPOOKY: Offering my job to Tisdale?
PANSY: Yes: he wants to get rid of you.
SPOOKY: That fatuous old figurehead. He can’t: What do you mean? I’ve got tenure.
PANSY: I’m afraid there’s only one explanation. I told you that they watched that motel, and it seems they’re about to close it.
SPOOKY: I only went there two or three times—
PANSY: Now, now!
SPOOKY: And that was a long time ago. He can’t do it!
PANSY: He can tell you you’ll have to resign or otherwise there’d be a scandal. The idea seems to be that you’re to take Tisdale’s job on the Coast. You wouldn’t be getting so much, but I should think it would have its advantages. They say they’re more permissive out there—it’s less puritanical than New England—and it’s not far from San Francisco.
SPOOKY: But that side of my life is finished.
PANSY: I’ve always thought it was utter madness for you to think of marrying Fran Winslow. How would she get along with your mother—to say nothing of other considerations!
SPOOKY: You want to get rid of me, too, and I brought you here in the first place!
PANSY: Well, I’ve never been an explications man, and you drive us with such a tight rein. I do think that an English Department ought to pay some attention to literature as such! I know that if I teach them to appreciate Keats, I’ll never never get tenure!
Spooky walks away. Pansy looks after him with catty malice.
MRS. PATTERSON (to Spooky): You had such a difficult part! I hope that that fall didn’t hurt you.
He gives her a sour look.
A lean and eager young man comes in from the hall and goes up to Winslow.
YOUNG MAN: Are you Professor Winslow?
YOUNG MAN: I’m sorry to barge in uninvited like this, but nobody answered the bell, and I was told that Chuck Chambers is here. I’ve got something so important to tell him that I think it really—warrants this rudeness.
Chuck, hearing his name, appears from the study.
YOUNG MAN: Oh, there he is! Hello, Chuck. I’ve got sensational news! (They come to the front of the stage.) There’s a revolution at Harvard!
CHUCK (morosely interrogative):?
YOUNG MAN: Ted Meyer’s been made President.
CHUCK: That instructor who lost his job for writing those comic songs?
YOUNG MAN: Yes.
CHUCK: You’re kidding.
YOUNG MAN: Oh, Ted is an astute character. In his songs he’s insulted everybody: the Catholics, the Jews, the Negroes, the Civil Rights protesters, the hipsters, the scholars, the snobs. That guarantees impartiality. The young people think he’s terrific.
CHUCK: How did he get by the Overseers?
YOUNG MAN: Oh, the Overseers aren’t important. It’s the Corporation—and there are only six of them. Two are in MacLean’s Sanitarium; two are on LSD; old Parker Bowditch is in his second childhood and thinks he’s a liberal again, and Forbes Peabody is even farther gone—he thinks it’s a question of freeing the slaves. And then there’s the new Student Council that votes with the Corporation.
CHUCK: I didn’t know about that.
YOUNG MAN: Oh, yes. The students, that time they demonstrated, demanded a voice in administration. Harvard has now an ambition to be known as the Berkeley of the East. You know there’s been a policy from a long time back of getting it away from the Ivy League and giving it an overall national coverage.
CHUCK: Does Ted Meyer use phrases like that?
YOUNG MAN: No, but he says “uh-huh” when other people use them.
CHUCK: It won’t last. The alumni won’t stand for it.
YOUNG MAN: Of course, there’s a lot of protest, but they can’t go against the Corporation, and Ted is very strong for athletics. He’s made fun of that, too, but now he promises to make Harvard tops in football again. The people who take football seriously can’t bear to have Dartmouth ahead of us, and Ted’s giving scholarships to near-pro’s. Half the faculty have resigned, and almost the whole of the Classics Department, and that’s where you come in. They want you to come back and teach Greek.
CHUCK: I haven’t got a Ph.D., and my discipline, as they say, is English.
YOUNG MAN: That’s one of the great innovations. Ted has made a revolutionary ruling that no new man is to be taken on who has got a Ph.D. He thinks that it destroys the intellect. And no more “publish or perish.” Anybody who publishes a book has to have a commercial contract.
CHUCK: What about the University Press?
YOUNG MAN: It’s going to print nothing but school bulletins, bulletins for the students at different ages and bulletins to teach the teachers how to teach the bulletins. So it will make a lot more money. (The guests have been seen leaving, and Fran, who has been saying good-bye to them, now comes in from the hall and listens to this conversation.) Do come! You ought to jump at it. I know you’re not at home here.
CHUCK: I’m not at home anywhere.
FRAN: What’s this?
CHUCK: Believe it or not, he wants me to come to Harvard and teach in the Classics Department.
FRAN: I don’t believe it. (To Young Man) I’m Professor Winslow’s daughter.
CHUCK: I didn’t believe it either. (To Young Man) Are you sure you’re not full of LSD yourself?
YOUNG MAN: Nothing stronger than pot. If you’ve got any doubts about it, here’s a letter from Ted himself.
CHUCK (taking the letter and looking at it): “Office of the President.” Well, I’ll be damned!
YOUNG MAN: Think it over and let me know tomorrow. I’m staying at the Old Red Coach House.
While Chuck is reading the letter, the Young Man takes his leave and goes.
FRAN: What’s happened at Harvard?
CHUCK: It’s incredible, but things do sometimes blow up nowadays. I suppose people think that if they’re going to be blown up, they might as well blow up something first.
FRAN: You’d better accept.
CHUCK: It’s possible.—You come along with me.
FRAN: As nursemaid and mistress for you?
CHUCK: Why do you want to play the old-fashioned girl?
FRAN: Somebody’s got to—
CHUCK:—keep up standards.
CHUCK: It’s that thing you’ve got about your mother.
CHUCK: Well, let’s get married, Fran. Let’s get the hell out of Hillsdale!
FRANS I’m not going to push a baby-carriage around Cambridge.
CHUCK: Who wants you to? Haven’t you heard about the new technological improvements?
FRAN: The first technological improvement for you will be to master the use of the razor—and a few other toilet accessories.
CHUCK: Well, I won’t wear tweeds, I’ll tell you, and I’m not going to smoke a pipe.
FRAN: And I suppose I take a graduate course at Radcliffe.
CHUCK: You’d have plenty to do helping me. And you wouldn’t have to bother with faculty wives the way you do here.
FRAN: You don’t know a college community.
CHUCK: I don’t care about social life.
FRAN: Yes: you’d probably never let me see anybody.
CHUCK: This sounds like Millamant and Mirabelle.
FRAN: I don’t see where Mirabelle comes in.—Besides, I can’t leave Father.
CHUCK: We’ll get him a job at Harvard—if so many jobs are going begging. It seems half the faculty’s resigned.
Winslow comes in from the hall.
FRAN: Go home now, Father’s tired, and I’m tired.
CHUCK: I’m never tired.
FRAN: I know it, but go home just the same.
She kisses him.
CHUCK (to Winslow): Good night, Duke. She’s driving me out. “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
WINSLOW: Good night, Chuck; I can’t thank you enough for pinch-hitting at the last moment! And you gave such a splendid performance! You were really the best thing in the play—though you were a little rough with Ned Simms. Poor fellow, he’s got his own cross to bear.
The devil damn him black, the cream-fac’d loon!
Where got he that goos’d look?
Winslow laughs goodnaturedly. Chuck leaves.
FRAN: That friend of Chuck’s who was here says there’s been a revolution at Harvard. Half the faculty have resigned, and they want Chuck for the Classics Department.
WINSLOW: A good idea, but rather abnormal.
FRAN: Well, everything that’s happening nowadays is abnormal from the point of view of your generation. But ours can’t afford to be surprised. We have to be ready to take anything on.
WINSLOW: And Chuck’s going to take this on?
FRAN: I think so.
WINSLOW: Well, anything of the kind is certainly unprecedented for Harvard!
FRAN: What’s even more unprecedented is that he’s just asked me to marry him.
WINSLOW: How are you going to deal with that? Don’t be too brutal about it.
FRAN: I haven’t made up my mind.
WINSLOW: You don’t mean you’re seriously considering it?
FRAN: I might.
WINSLOW: You mustn’t get married now.
FRAN: Not until after I graduate and Chuck is sure of his job.
WINSLOW: Do you think you’d be happy with Chuck?
FRAN: He needs somebody to take him in charge, and I’ve already been working at that here. If he’s left to himself at Harvard, he may simply make himself impossible even with this new regime.
WINSLOW: He’s certainly very rebarbative.
FRAN: You’re going to say, once a sorehead always a sorehead.
WINSLOW: No, I wasn’t. Not necessarily. But Chuck is so hopelessly anti-social that I can’t imagine his giving you a life that would—be satisfactory to you.
FRAN: I thought you believed in his abilities.
WINSLOW: I certainly think him brilliant—the most extraordinary man, perhaps, that we’ve ever had here at Hillsdale. I’m not sure he’s not a genius. But—
FRAN: I know that it’s a kind of excavation job, but I like to work at tough assignments.
WINSLOW: Don’t take it on just as a challenge.
FRAN: Why did you write those scenes if you weren’t thinking of Chuck and me?
WINSLOW: You and Chuck never entered my head.
FRAN: They must have come out of your subconscious.
WINSLOW: The subconscious! Since Freud, it’s been overdone.—I just don’t think you’re being realistic.
FRAN: (laughing): You’re the last person in the world to talk about not being realistic.—And what about you and Mother?
WINSLOW: That was entirely different.
FRAN: Is it true that she died of Hillsdale?
WINSLOW: No, of course, not. She wasn’t always happy here, but she’d just had that operation.
FRAN: Well, I know the academic racket, and I wouldn’t wilt away at Harvard.
WINSLOW: Well, I don’t really approve—I really can’t approve.
FRAN: I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I can’t go on forever keeping house for you here. You could come to Cambridge with us. They say there are any number of vacancies.
WINSLOW: They wouldn’t want an old performer like me.
FRAN: You could write some more plays. After all, there’s always Mother’s money.
WINSLOW: I can’t bear to think how your mother would feel about your marrying Chuck.
FRAN: You can’t actually stab me, Father. And you do make the Sicilians win. Chuck may be a big Sicilian and live to avenge our wrongs.
WINSLOW: There’s the phone!
He hurries out.
FRAN (looking after him): The phone didn’t ring.
TERRY (before the curtain):
Will Fran someday be Chuck’s unblushing bride?
—The rest of us are all quite satisfied.
Creech has made sure that no one will succeed him;
Shakespeare is sure that Winslow’s class will read
Tisdale is happy to come East to stay,
And Winslow will be acted off Broadway.
The President will find himself less taxed,
And Spooky find a climate more relaxed.
Chuck will be free at last to work at Greek,
Escaping, in conditions quite unique,
From academic mayhem, hate and rapine,
At Harvard, where such horrors never happen.
—But will our Fran for him true love confess?
And if they marry, will it be a mess?
Ah, that, my friends, is anybody’s guess.